Saturday, December 24, 2016

50 Favorite Songs of 2016 (Part Five)

10. "Winterbreak" by Muna

Self-proclaimed dark pop girl band Muna is one of my latest but most promising discoveries of the year. With "Winterbreak," these three young women deliver a dreamy track that is equal parts electronic and organic, blending the hums of guitars with watery, synthesized layers of vocals. Despite a clear desperation behind the track's lyrics, lead vocalist Katie Gavin brings a level of cool serenity to the track, insinuating the discovery of comfort in the on-again, off-again cycle of an unsteady relationship.

9. "Tilted" by Christine and the Queens

Technically speaking, a French version of "Titled" was originally released in 2014, followed by an English-French hybrid dub late last year, but you know, it's my list and I can do as I wish. This track's hypnotizing nature is astonishing, considering its true simplicity: one constant electronic drumbeat, intermittent sputters of a few synthesizer lines, and Christine's sturdy vocals are all that is needed to spark the magic here. Although being pieced together from three different tracks and open to interpretation, the track's lyrics seem coherent, potentially acting as a misunderstood dedication to productivity, creativity, and her fans.

8. "Love is Blind" by Låpsley

More often than not, Låpsley shoots for minimalism to admirable results. "Love is Blind," however, offers enough competition in the soundscape for her to really let loose with that heavyweight voice of hers, but not enough that she is overshadowed; her voice projects as far as the ear can hear at the peak of the pre-chorus before the chorus' melody line forces it into gracious dips and turns, as if matching the layout of winding country road, over sweeping synths and a subtle, twinkling harp.

7. "Formation" by Beyoncé

This year, we watched Beyoncé transform from an entertainer to an advocate before our very eyes, and it all started with "Formation." While it's hard to notice at surface level, the track's lyrics bear enough symbolism regarding the Black Lives Matter movement and Beyoncé's personal and marital struggles that they can be (and have been) dissected in a collegiate-level literature class. Its thrives on heavy bass and utmost confidence, spiraling into a new, unexpected direction at every separate section of the track.

6. "Touch" by Shura

Yes, I know that this song is technically two years old at this point, but to my defense, it was re-released this year and was included on Shura's debut record this year. While Nothing's Real is great in its entirety, "Touch" is far too infectious not to be considered for this list. One of the most organic-sounding electronic songs of recent history, the track builds upon into a trance slowly but surely; the tickled synth line and sampled ambiance that draw listeners in and initially keep the track in line get swept away as wispy vocals and warm synths blur it into a fuzzy dream.

5. "Into You" by Ariana Grande

Let's get real: this thing is the banger to end all bangers. Fueled on jagged synths, double-tracked vocals, and sex appeal, it's a supercharged punch to the senses that serves as the pinnacle of the theme on which Ariana Grande's Dangerous Woman is based: her self-serving sexual liberation. And more importantly, through this track, she further proves that she can still showcase her showstopping vocals while having a blast in a super-produced pop environment courtesy of Max Martin and his protégé, Ilya Salmanzadeh.

4. "Same Ol' Mistakes" by Rihanna

So I'm thinking Kevin Parker and the rest of Tame Impala owes Rihanna a card and some flowers, at the very least. She not only introduced me, and surely countless others, to the psychedelic rock band, but also put Parker to shame on his own track. Her cover of the band's "New Person, Same Old Mistakes" is a carbon copy instrumentally – which isn't a bad thing – but vocally, she nails it. A sprawling six and a half minutes long, the track is a hypnotic journey from start to finish that casts a relationship as an addicting tribulation.

3. "Somebody Else" by The 1975

This track is a trip, to say the least. It hums like a lit neon sign at each end, with a sweeping wave of automated drums, pulsating synthesizers, and reverberated vocals taking control in between. Reeking of jealousy and perceived betrayal, Matt Healy's lyrics recount feelings associated with a ex who left him with the false hope that reconciliation was possible – and they're lyrics that he delivers with appropriately fluctuation, expressing emotions that range from sorrow to frustration.

2. "Hotter Than Hell" by Dua Lipa

If there's one thing I spent the most time doing last year, it was spreading the word that Carly Rae Jepsen is one of the best pop artists of our generation. This year, most of that time has been reallocated to listening to Dua Lipa and (more importantly) convincing others to listen to Dua Lipa – and "Hotter Than Hell" is the track I've been shoving into my friends' ear holes to convert them into fans. One late June night, I composed a very important list of reasons that justifies "Hotter Than Hell" in its position on this list, and I stand by it. If you don't follow the link to that list, I'll give you a short synopsis: It's a tropical house banger that will remain as timeless as the artist who birthed it.

1. "Gemini Feed" by Banks

While any given track from Banks sophomore record could have easily taken the top spot on my list, I felt it was appropriate to hand it to "Gemini Feed" – the spark that ignites the bonfire that is The Altar. It marks the beginning of an album of personal evolution as Banks takes control back into her own hands with a swift, fiery hand. Accompanied by the snarling dissonance of a synthesized vocal line, she croons over bubbling verses before letting her emotions take control over the chorus – a storm of unexpected aggression from the woman who had spent the entirety of her last album wallowing in heartache and self-blame.

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