Music Feeds Faves: 2016 Edition

Each week (more or less) we, the Music Feeds team, have delighted in wrangling together the freshest tunes that have made an impact on each of us and bringing them to you, all wrapped up with a few thoughtful and undeniably persuasive words on why our tastes reign supreme. It’s been Music Feeds Faves!

So now, for our final Faves of the year, we’ve each reflected on the fkn tumultuous year that was and the tunes that got us through 2016. This is not a definitive best-of list, but rather our individual favourite albums and songs of the last 12 months, presented to you in no particular order other than by who submitted their submissions to this editor in time for publication. So long 2016 – It’s been emotional.

Fave Albums of The Year

Ball Park Music – Every Night The Same Dream

2016 was a massive year for the Brisbane indie-rockers, as they were nominated for an ARIA off the back of their most accomplished album to date. Every Night The Same Dream showed off BPM’s incredible versatility as a rock band, exploring some darker territory and unveiling Nihilist Party Anthem (touted by Sam Cromwell as the Antithesis to It’s Nice To Be Alive) in the lead up to the release.

Having largely emerged care of their upbeat, poppier rock tracks over the early years of their career as a band, it was now time to show off a point of difference, and Ball Park certainly did so though triumphant jam-ballads like Pariah and exploitative psych-rock cut Feelings. At the same time, the record still included more familiar sounding tracks like Whipping Boy and Leaf. As a result, we were left with an album that brought together emotionally-tinged ballads, catchy pop-drive tunes and harder hitting rock tracks – in a way that was somehow both exploitative and familiar all at once. / Zanda Wilson – Staff Writer

Solange – A Seat At The Table

Even for those that haven’t actively looked into Solange’s story over the past few years, they’d feel like they have some idea of the headspace she was in. A Seat At The Table came four years after the release of True, a record that saw Solange reaching for a left-field, ’80s-tinged form of pop. A Seat At The Table is an unexpected turn following that release, stylistically. For starters, it’s not a pop record. Instead, it’s a soul record that references nostalgic R&B and hip-hop pulling in legends like Master P, Rapahel Saadiq and Q-Tip. But even in the company of greatness, it’s Solange’s story that stands out the most, as she’s crafted a beautifully interweaved record that stitches together her roots with her feelings of the present – frustration, sadness, anger and pride.

“I’m weary of the weight of the world,” she sings at the start of the record, carrying an anguish that she attempts to rid throughout. Her lyrics are poignant and direct but the narrative is helped by the presence of her mum and dad who each feature in an interlude. “I’ve always been proud to be black, never wanted to be nothing else,” Tina Knowles says and Solange regains that pride as she heals. The anger of ‘Mad’ moves through to closer ‘Scales’, a touching tribute to her son which tells him, “you’re a superstar”.

This isn’t an album to be put on in the background. It’s bravely packed with so much genuine emotion that you’ll either sympathise with it or you’ll learn from it. And if you don’t, then in the words of Master P, “this record is not for you”. / Sam Murphy, Staff Writer

Ngaiire – Blastoma

This album is named after the cancer that Ngaiire fought as a child, and the music encapsulates her ferocious resilience. We were drip-fed her four singles over the course of a year until its complete release, with Blastoma being, technically, that long in the making. But you can hear Ngaiire’s lifetime behind this release. This superhuman has done some deep, deep diggin’ through the dark in her short time here on Earth, and lucky for us, she keeps finding ways to carve spectacular songs out of it.

‘Anchor’ catapults you into eerie wavering synths and thunderous drums. Ngaiire’s powerful voice, the leading bass lines and bright piano gradually climb up and out of all the subby, murky mess. Her duet with Jack Grace is an 80’s love confession set to dizzying warped synths, fragile in its delivery and in its presence as a song. One piano key is hit over and over, numbingly repetitive, and glitchy syncopated drums build the tension in ‘House On A Rock’. This all ultimately collapses under a hook-heavy, soaring chorus that brims with luscious harmonies.

Yes, times a thousand. / Zana Rose, Staff Writer

Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

A new Radiohead album was probably always going to be my favourite album of the year. That said, A Moon Shaped Pool really impressed me with its almost overwhelming emotionality and lyrical honesty, following the groove-centric vibes of The King Of Limbs.

Only this week has AMSP’s subject matter become even more drenched in heartbreak, following the tragic death of Rachel Owen, who was Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke’s partner for over two decades, and the mother of his two children. Her passing makes the album an even more haunting listen, especially on songs like ‘Daydreaming’ and the fan-favourite ‘True Love Waits’, which finally received its own studio recording.

The first time I listened to AMSP was on a train between Edinburgh and London on the day of its release, and I’ll always remember that moment. It was one of pure excitement and joy, but also one of confronting realisations as Yorke sang about lost love and concrete faces while sun and the sound of children’s laughter filled the train carriage behind me. And that’s why I love AMSP; it’s a perfect balance between light and shade. / Tom Williams, News Editor

Soft Hair – Self Titled

I’ve been dying for new Connan Mockasin since Caramel came out, and judging from our interview with him earlier this year, Soft Hair is the closest thing we’re going to get until at least midway through next year, if not much much later. A team up between Mockasin and LA Priest, the album is brilliant, if wildly inconsistent, with their creative collaboration resulting in both genius and folly.

If I’m honest it’s really only three songs that I love on this album (‘Relaxed Lizard’, ‘Lying Has To Stop’ and ‘In Love’), but I love them more than almost anything else that came out this year. There is a certain effortless silkiness to this music, an electric sleaze rife with faded synths and glimmering falsetto vocal harmonies that are just so irresistible and charming that it makes up for the album’s frequent forays into indulgent nonsense. The stand out tracks are so strong they even draw you into the freaked out fair of its filler tracks, at least on first listen. And while Soft Hair may plumb the depths of sonic madness in parts, it’s never too far away from a catchy vocal hook or sexy guitar lick. / Michael Carr, Contributor

Beyoncé – Lemonade

In a manner that Beyoncé herself championed (though did not pioneer) years earlier with the release of her 2013 eponymous visual album, Lemonade fell into our laps this year and quickly engulfed the cultural-political zeitgeist, as a fully-fledged, fully conceptualised, stunning piece of work. While similar in its visual format to its 2013 predecessor, Lemonade saw Beyoncé take the visual album concept to a whole new artistic realm, delivering us not only her most musically adventurous album to date but also a conceptually challenging, visual feast. A film in fact. Both the album and its visuals are an opus on the themes of infidelity, injustice, power, struggle, resistance, resilience, femininity, strength, blackness and force, conveyed through 12 songs that are woven together with poetry and prose of Somali-born poet Warsan Shire and a Malcolm X speech.

Beyoncé didn’t just release a great album. She is a master of the long game.

Before we even knew of the existence of Lemonade the album, there was the unveiling of ‘Formation’. The song and its provoking visuals a rallying cry of affirmation and a commentary on police brutality, oppression, civil rights and identity. The very next day Beyoncé took ‘Formation’ to the Superbowl halftime stage – the most hallowed of American sporting traditions – with a fiercely choreographed routine that invoked the Blank Panther movement. 2016, by the way, marks the 50th anniversary of the movement’s inception.

I recount all this to emphasise the sheer brilliance of it all.

As an artist who rarely sits for interviews, who posts carefully curated images on social media – mostly devoid of captions – Beyoncé does nothing by accident. She constructs her narrative through her art and, yes, commercial endeavours (“best revenge is your paper”).

That infamous elevator footage with Solange and Jay Z now seems, in hindsight, like a precursor to this record. Whether the overarching theme of infidelity on Lemonade is derived from true events does not matter. Beyoncé is turning the tables on the tabloids, reclaiming her own narrative and blurring the lines between reality and fictionalised drama. For Beyoncé the personal is political. / Nastassia Baroni, Managing Editor

Fave Songs of The Year

Porter and Madeon – ‘Shelter’

Joining forces with French producer Madeon in 2016 to create Shelter has proved to be an absolute masterstroke for Porter Robinson. Upon deciding that he’d had enough of EDM and then going and creating his incredible 2014 album Worlds, we’ve seen a new maturity to Porter’s production and a certain untenable emotion that penetrates the gorgeous complexities of the tracks he produces.

The contribution of Madeon can’t be understated either, with the producer/singer/prodigy adding a more raw element to production and textures of the track. The incredible strength of Shelter is evident in that the duo have embarked on a largely sold-out world tour based around just this one song./ Zanda Wilson – Staff Writer

The Range – ‘Copper Wire’

You may not know The Range’s story behind this song but it doesn’t matter because you’ll feel it from the first vocal sample. ‘Copper Wire’ is about the loss of his mother and it’s buoyed by a devastating vocal sample that howls, “without you”. There are few words in the song but it revolves around that phrase, each time carrying more weight as the time before as the rollicking percussion swells and floats.

For his entire record, he sampled unknowns off YouTube – just voices that he was attracted to. Kruddy Zak is the voice sampled on ‘Copper Wire’, an amateur rapper from London. The Range later found out that the Zak song he’d sampled was also about losing someone in 2009, the same year The Range’s mother died. Zak was 13 when he wrote the rap but it goes to show age doesn’t matter when it comes to universal emotion. Those two words, “without you”, resonate with anyone who misses somebody and that’s where the beauty lies in ‘Copper Wire’. It’s a sprawling, sometimes euphoric track that grieves but also celebrates. / Sam Murphy, Staff Writer

BV – ‘Huh’

This track just blew my damn pants off when I heard it for the first time. Luckily for me that was live at the excellent Volumes Festival with BV’s Marcus Whale and Lavurn Lee absolutely destroying the main room of Oxford Art Factory with a brooding intensity the likes of which I’d never seen from anyone other than the likes of Rage Against The Machine, Public Enemy or Cypress Hill and I don’t say that lightly. The music itself, however, is totally its own thing, fusing influences from various different strands of hip hop and electronica in a progressive yet direct sound. This is music to make you lose your shit without wading into it, if you know what I mean, proving that precise and considered production and ruthless minimalism can be just effective as over the top pop bombast. / Michael Carr, Contributor

Trophy Eyes – ‘Chlorine’

This flagship tune off the Newy punks’ Chemical Miracle LP is a perfect example of how heavy music can still appeal to pop ears without compromising a skerrick of its integrity. A tightly structured piece of melodic alt-rock, Chlorine’s powerful hooks don’t water down its crushing themes of human mortality and suicide, but rather add even more force behind them. Frontman John Floreani’s lyrics are poetic in their simplicity and heart-wrenching in the light and shade of their delivery, and even those who might not know what this song was specifically written about (a guy who saved Floreani from drowning when he was a kid, but who then went on to commit suicide over a relationship gone wrong) will still get punched in the feels by lines like: “You gave it all away for a girl” (what straight man on earth hasn’t thought about doing that?) But even if you ignore the fact that — lyrically — this tune is deeper than the swimming pool that Floreani almost drowned in as a youngster, ‘Chlorine’ is still a perfectly crafted song that manages to be uplifting, not to mention catchy AF. / Emmy Mack, Staff Writer

Anderson .Paak – ‘The Bird’ (Malibu)

‘The Bird’ is my 3am existential crisis’ antidote. It’s my hand-holder and my go-to angst soother. ‘The Bird’ is my trusty softener of 2016’s bounty of blows – it’s been right there beside me from the very start.

It’s a slow brew of RnB, funk, soul and hip-hop. From the first softly hit snare drum and sparse, slinky guitar riff, to the gentle piano fills and Paak’s honey-husky singing and infectious “uh”’s, this song is a teleportation tool. It’s an airlift straight out of wherever you may be to somewhere better. Any nasty little niggles left in a semi-hermitic brain will surely vanish once the brooding, airy trumpet drifts in and out of those little hanging gaps left after .Paak so soulfully sings.

He tells the story of finding comfort and clarity when a bird “with the word” sweetly sings secrets in his ear. ‘The Bird’ is this story reshaped into a perfect song, with the very same effect; it offers comfort and clarity. But, ‘The Bird’ trumps the actual bird’s words ‘cos it can be set to repeat.

And it gives me goosebumps on my face. / Zana Rose, Staff Writer

Sløtface – ‘Take Me Dancing’

Norwegian punk-poppers Sløtface undertook a bit of a moniker alteration this year, but they managed to do so in a manner that assuaged their detractors while sticking it to the man. Pressured by “social media censorship”, the band changed, ever so sneakily, their original name Slutface to the (albeit less-Googleable) Sløtface – a move which, all at once, deals with those pesky censorship issues, tips a hat to their Nordic roots AND, somewhat ironically, reinforces their feminist message and riot-grrrl-inspired attitude. Turns out, there’s a lot in a name.

Taken from their 2016 Empire Records EP, ‘Take Me Dancing’ is an irresistible jam. Unapologetic in its pop hooks and youthful abandon, its energy instantly transports you back to the joy of your pre-teen years, dancing around in your bedroom with blissful abandon, hairbrush-as-microphone in hand. The track is a perfectly balanced pop-punk recipe, taking that Bikini Kill-style riot-grrrl ideology and sifting it through a Scandanavian pop sensibility. In a year that’s presented more than enough anxiety-inducing issues for me to loose sleep over, jamming out to blissful pop-punk tunes like this has certainly provided a welcome reprieve.

Hey Sløtface, Australian fans are waiting. / Nastassia Baroni, Managing Editor

Radiohead – ‘Burn The Witch’

Yes, I’m going with a Radiohead track for my favourite song as well. I genuinely tried to make it so that it WASN’T a Radiohead track this year, but I couldn’t lie to myself. Sorry.

‘Burn The Witch’ is the song that instantly takes me back to that train ride I mentioned earlier, and its clever mixture of strings, electronics, icy stabs and paranoia make it my favourite three minutes and 41 musical seconds of the year. / Tom Williams, News Editor

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