Friday, December 16, 2016

50 Favorite Songs of 2016 (Part Three)

30. "Punchline" by Josef Salvat

Josef Salvat has a thing for slow-burning, extended release climaxes – and I'm totally okay with that. "Punchline," a clear standout from his debut album, opens with the fragility of a piano run before building to a breathtaking haze of vengeful guitars and drums. Salvat evolves emotionally throughout, killing away his self-blame upon realization of his former relationship's true foundation.

29. "Boyfriend" by Tegan and Sara

Tegan and Sara are very much pop now, but they haven't lost the passive-aggressiveness that allowed them to thrive in the pop-punk space that they dwelled in for so long – and that's what makes this such a great tune. It backhands the false standard to have a "man" and a "woman" archetype in lesbian and gay couples with the eye-rolling, "You treat me like your boyfriend, and you trust me like a, like a very best friend." The irritation of the matter, though, is glossed over with spiked synths and a bouncy vocal delivery, almost as to distract from the inner urge to scream.

28. "Moth to the Flame" by Chairlift

It's quite hard to wrap my mind around the fact that "Moth to the Flame," while lacking Chairlift's typically blatant experimental touch, was an afterthought to the duo's third album, found in the bowels of Caroline Polachek's hard drive as a "dummy song." Built on the admittedly cliché expression for the relentless gravitation towards a bad influence, it's the second cousin to modern house music that thrives in the power of lyrical repetition over a dancing synth groove, interrupted by a declarative plea: "He's just that kind of man, mama." 

27. "Dancing on Glass" by St. Lucia

Okay, so listen: The chorus of this song is kind of everything. The jubilant hook springs into action with gusto, spurring a certain essence of optimism among its lyrics that point blame at an unhealthy chase for perfection and self-fulfilling excellence for clouding the raw human experience. I feel like I'm on top of the world when it slams into place each and every time.

26. "Conscious" by Broods

The goal of Broods' sophomore album is to show us exactly what the Kiwi duo can do. It's filled with adventurous power pop – a far stretch from the quaint little retreat of Evergreen. If there is a culmination point to the set, it is easily found at its closing and title track. Closing with spirals of bulky, gritty synthesizers and vocal howls, "Conscious" would make for the perfect closer to a sold-out stadium show. Oh, and that staccato "wake me up and keep me conscious" bit haunts listeners even after the track has closed.

25. "Us" by Anna of the North

In line with Anna of the North's minimalist synthpop template, "Us" blends spurs of electronic dance into her ever-important sonic aesthetic standards. The production works in coordination with her pastel-tone, paper-thin voice to craft an encompassing, yet not overpowering, soundscape.

24. "Think Twice" by Emily Vaughn

What a hidden gem this track is. When a friend sent me the link to this track, I was hooked instantly. Emily Vaughn's smooth vocals are countered with a snapping drum machine and deep crashes of a chunky synth line as she claps back to an ex who destroyed a relationship and has now realized that he messed up – big time.

23. "True Disaster" by Tove Lo

Minimalist club vibes are kind of Tove Lo's thing now, but that's certainly not a bad thing. This track revels in its grimy atmosphere and rapid drumbeats before its chorus comes to life, pulsating like a rush of lust-induced adrenaline. Never have I heard somebody exclaim, "I'm going to get hurt!" in such anticipation, but Lo is a different kind of girl: While she dives headfirst into a relationship knowing damn well how things are going to end, the sheer anticipation of its demise is all part of the fun.

22. "Good Grief" by Bastille

Bastille's "Good Grief" fits its name, juxtaposing bright, upbeat alternative rock production with lyrics covering the mind's unexpected reactions to saddening situations. Upon its release, it signaled the slight shift in sonic direction to come with their sophomore album: a lessened reliance on the deep bellows of melancholy production and an implementation of more organic elements in the mix without the loss of identity.

21. "A-Yo" by Lady Gaga

Alright, so I was a Joanne skeptic upon for my first few listens. I'll admit it; I'm guilty as charged. But I grew to like it quite a bit as time drove forward – especially "A-Yo." Leave it to Lady Gaga to create a 21st century party track without the staples of a 21st century party track: no prominent synthesizers, no automated drums, and no mad electronic breakdown. Instead, she settles for hand claps and a raw but raring vocal performance – and executes the style like a champ.

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