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the interns’ Best Songs Of 2016

Written By the interns on 12/23/2016

[notphone]

2016 has been a devastating year for many but amongst all of it, perhaps as a response to what’s gone on in the world, music has risen above and given us one of the best years in recent memory.

These are the songs that left an impact on us this year. Some made us laugh, others made us cry. Some made us drop and others made us throw our hands to the top.

Illustrations by Bianca Bosso.

Klangstof – Sleaze

You’d be short to find a more succulent sounding synth all year, as Sleaze is embodied with one of the most commanding of 2016. Before Stranger Things re-invited us to love all things synthy, Klangstof shared one the year’s biggest alt-electronic anthems in Sleaze. In fact their debut album Close Eyes To Exit is incredible. Through tracks like We Are Your Receiver and Hostage, the Mind Of A Genius outfit are one the year’s biggest finds. Klangstof’s signing to the record label just instills its presence as one of the world’s most daring, yet solid rosters in the music biz. Itching to share, I sat on this track about four months before it was released and it was one of the hardest new music related tasks I endured all year. The sheer power of that commanding cosmic driven synth was enough to know that this track was going to be on a year end list. Generating a sense of warm euphoria, no if, buts or maybes Sleaze is without a shadow of doubt my selection for track of the year. – Harrison Kefford

PON CHO – Frozen (Feat. Paige IV)

Despite what our Eurovision placings say, Australia doesn’t actually have a great track record with pop. There’s a certain cultural cringe surrounding it that means it lacks the same sort of ambition as the UK or Sweden. Thankfully, this year we got PON CHO and Paige IV. They gave us electronic banger Lonely Walls earlier in the year but then they delivered their moment, the sprawling anthemic Frozen. It just ticks every box. The choruses are raw and desolate and then it works its way up to a chorus that smashes through the stratosphere. It’s technically a ballad but PON CHO’s forward-thinking production colours it and adds texture. And, it wouldn’t be write to talk about this song without saying that Paige IV is fast becoming the best vocalist in the country. Her work on this positions her for Sia-level greatness. – Sam Murphy

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Porter Robinson & Madeon – Shelter

Porter Robinson proved in 2014 with his incredible album Worlds that he was one of the most intensely talented producers in the world, and joining forces with French producer Madeon in 2016 to create Shelter has proved to be an absolute masterstroke. The strength of this track is evident in that the duo have embarked on a largely sold-out world tour based around just this one song and as was the case with WorldsShelter is a veritable masterpiece in painting viscerally emotive aural images that evoke very really emotions and images in the mind of the listener. – Zanda Wilson

Rihanna – Needed Me

Upon the first few spins of ANTI, Rihanna‘s Needed Me felt limp. Amongst her wailing on Higher and forthright attitude on Consideration, it got lost in the grand scheme of things. But Needed Me is a good representation of the entire album because it grew and grew. What once felt limp, now feels icy and packed full of venom. She’s obviously hurting from a faded relationship but Needed Me explores the flip-side of that. This is a guy that pined for Rihanna and she tore him apart (“Didn’t they tell you that I was a savage”). She doesn’t want a “horse and a carriage,” type guy not the we needed her to sing it to believe it. The gritty, rawness of Needed Me says it all. We all need Rihanna and the fact that she knows it and works with it makes her all the more enticing. – Sam Murphy

Travis Scott & Young Thug – Pick Up The Phone

Explaining the appeal of the song is similar to explaining the appeal of Cadbury Turkish Delight. On paper it really doesn’t work but everytime you indulge, it just tastes so good. Sure, Young Thug and Travis Scott vocally slot together perfectly but the island-inspired synth coupled with the darkness of the auto-tuned vocal added to a hook centred on a phone is a juxtaposition so complicated it should be an inexplicable mess. And yet, Pick Up The Phone is hip-hop’s most addictive moment this year. The synth-work is deliciously melodic and it perfectly compliments Scott and Thug’s delivery, arguably two of the best hook-connoisseurs this year. For a song that coos, “it’s lit,” there’s an unexpected depth to Pick Up The Phone. “Never will I cheat on you/Never will I commit treason,” is about as earnest a hip-hop lyric as we got this year and suddenly, “pick up the phone,” becomes less of gimmicky play of music’s strange phone obsession (2 Phones, Hotline Bling) and more of a desperate plea for companionship. – Sam Murphy

ZAYN – Pillowtalk

Attention-span has never been a pop fans greatest strength. You’ve got to sell the song before the second verse otherwise the finger strikes the skip button never to return. ZAYN had to come out of the gates strong on his first solo single and he does exactly that. In fact, he sells the song in the first 30 seconds. “Climb on board, we’ll go slow in high tempo,” he sings selling the sex and darkness so simply and so effortlessly. Immediately we get what solo ZAYN is all about. He’s tense, raw and desperate to show he’s grown up. By the time we get to the chorus, we already know all this but who are we to say no to a soaring chorus with a lyric as strong as, “we’ll piss off the neighbours” ? A special compliment must also be thrown at the melodic brilliance and perfect alliteration of, “in the bed all day, bed all day, bed all day.” – Sam Murphy

Lido – Crazy

Crazy dropped ahead of Lido’s debut album this year and remains the most accessible track from it. His instrumental talent is matched only by his production ability, making Lido one of the most versatile artists going around at the moment, and Crazy is an incredible adaptation of orchestral-level textures and melodic interaction into a synth-driven banger. Although he goes on to create more complex tracks on Everything, it’s still hard to go past crazy as the ultimate representation of who Lido is and what he brings to the table. – Zanda Wilson

Tkay Maidza – Simulation

Tkay went down a very different path with Simulation from what we’re used to hearing from her. The track features very little rapping creating a catchy, clever cut that oozes a massive dancehall influence. The track was co-written with her DJ and producer LK McKay and fellow Aussie singer George Maple and it houses that warm feeling of familiarity. The song is all about overcoming complacency when aspects in your life that have been thoroughly calculated don’t go to plan and “cracks in the simulation become visible.” – Alistair Rhodes

Danny L. Harle – Super Natural (Feat. Carly Rae Jepsen)

In true PC Music style, the label/collective inevitably took two steps forward and one step back in 2016. Though some of their less accessible artists continued to alienate the uninitiated; the likes of Danny L. Harle and A. G. Cook continued to open up a sad and joyous world of nostalgia in their music for a broader range of listeners, and bringing the likes of Carly Rae Jepsen, Caroline Polachek and Charli XCX into that world played a huge part. Super Natural still champions all of those intricacies that define PC Music but through Jepsen’s predictably yet no less catchy contribution, we’re left with a track that you might not want to like – yet you can’t help but enjoy. – Zanda Wilson

James Blake – Radio Silence

Brooding? Check. Eerie? Check. Swoon worthy? Double check. Album openers really don’t get much better than this. James Blake has a knack for all the above, and Radio Silence from his third album The Colour in Anything, continues the trend with flying colours. Underpinned by a haunting and reverb heavy vocal loop, the track builds with atmospheric intensity as Blake relays his frustrations over a relationship unexpectedly turning sour. The tension, coupled with Blake’s anguish filled delivery makes for some powerful listening. Radio Silence is another slice of effective, moody electronica and highlights yet again why the classically trained Blake is one of the most diverse artists kicking about the scene the days. Beautiful stuff. – Ben Kyi

.

[/notphone]

[phone]

2016 has been a devastating year for many but amongst all of it, perhaps as a response to what’s gone on in the world, music has risen above and given us one of the best years in recent memory.

These are the songs that left an impact on us this year. Some made us laugh, others made us cry. Some made us drop and others made us throw our hands to the top.

Klangstof – Sleaze

You’d be short to find a more succulent sounding synth all year, as Sleaze is embodied with one of the most commanding of 2016. Before Stranger Things re-invited us to love all things synthy, Klangstof shared one the year’s biggest alt-electronic anthems in Sleaze. In fact their debut album Close Eyes To Exit is incredible. Through tracks like We Are Your Receiver and Hostage, the Mind Of A Genius outfit are one the year’s biggest finds. Klangstof’s signing to the record label just instills its presence as one of the world’s most daring, yet solid rosters in the music biz. Itching to share, I sat on this track about four months before it was released and it was one of the hardest new music related tasks I endured all year. The sheer power of that commanding cosmic driven synth was enough to know that this track was going to be on a year end list. Generating a sense of warm euphoria, no if, buts or maybes Sleaze is without a shadow of doubt my selection for track of the year. – Harrison Kefford

PON CHO – Frozen (Feat. Paige IV)

Despite what our Eurovision placings say, Australia doesn’t actually have a great track record with pop. There’s a certain cultural cringe surrounding it that means it lacks the same sort of ambition as the UK or Sweden. Thankfully, this year we got PON CHO and Paige IV. They gave us electronic banger Lonely Walls earlier in the year but then they delivered their moment, the sprawling anthemic Frozen. It just ticks every box. The choruses are raw and desolate and then it works its way up to a chorus that smashes through the stratosphere. It’s technically a ballad but PON CHO’s forward-thinking production colours it and adds texture. And, it wouldn’t be write to talk about this song without saying that Paige IV is fast becoming the best vocalist in the country. Her work on this positions her for Sia-level greatness. – Sam Murphy

Porter Robinson & Madeon – Shelter

Porter Robinson proved in 2014 with his incredible album Worlds that he was one of the most intensely talented producers in the world, and joining forces with French producer Madeon in 2016 to create Shelter has proved to be an absolute masterstroke. The strength of this track is evident in that the duo have embarked on a largely sold-out world tour based around just this one song and as was the case with WorldsShelter is a veritable masterpiece in painting viscerally emotive aural images that evoke very really emotions and images in the mind of the listener. – Zanda Wilson

Rihanna – Needed Me

Upon the first few spins of ANTI, Rihanna‘s Needed Me felt limp. Amongst her wailing on Higher and forthright attitude on Consideration, it got lost in the grand scheme of things. But Needed Me is a good representation of the entire album because it grew and grew. What once felt limp, now feels icy and packed full of venom. She’s obviously hurting from a faded relationship but Needed Me explores the flip-side of that. This is a guy that pined for Rihanna and she tore him apart (“Didn’t they tell you that I was a savage”). She doesn’t want a “horse and a carriage,” type guy not the we needed her to sing it to believe it. The gritty, rawness of Needed Me says it all. We all need Rihanna and the fact that she knows it and works with it makes her all the more enticing. – Sam Murphy

Travis Scott & Young Thug – Pick Up The Phone

Explaining the appeal of the song is similar to explaining the appeal of Cadbury Turkish Delight. On paper it really doesn’t work but everytime you indulge, it just tastes so good. Sure, Young Thug and Travis Scott vocally slot together perfectly but the island-inspired synth coupled with the darkness of the auto-tuned vocal added to a hook centred on a phone is a juxtaposition so complicated it should be an inexplicable mess. And yet, Pick Up The Phone is hip-hop’s most addictive moment this year. The synth-work is deliciously melodic and it perfectly compliments Scott and Thug’s delivery, arguably two of the best hook-connoisseurs this year. For a song that coos, “it’s lit,” there’s an unexpected depth to Pick Up The Phone. “Never will I cheat on you/Never will I commit treason,” is about as earnest a hip-hop lyric as we got this year and suddenly, “pick up the phone,” becomes less of gimmicky play of music’s strange phone obsession (2 Phones, Hotline Bling) and more of a desperate plea for companionship. – Sam Murphy

ZAYN – Pillowtalk

Attention-span has never been a pop fans greatest strength. You’ve got to sell the song before the second verse otherwise the finger strikes the skip button never to return. ZAYN had to come out of the gates strong on his first solo single and he does exactly that. In fact, he sells the song in the first 30 seconds. “Climb on board, we’ll go slow in high tempo,” he sings selling the sex and darkness so simply and so effortlessly. Immediately we get what solo ZAYN is all about. He’s tense, raw and desperate to show he’s grown up. By the time we get to the chorus, we already know all this but who are we to say no to a soaring chorus with a lyric as strong as, “we’ll piss off the neighbours” ? A special compliment must also be thrown at the melodic brilliance and perfect alliteration of, “in the bed all day, bed all day, bed all day.” – Sam Murphy

Lido – Crazy

Crazy dropped ahead of Lido’s debut album this year and remains the most accessible track from it. His instrumental talent is matched only by his production ability, making Lido one of the most versatile artists going around at the moment, and Crazy is an incredible adaptation of orchestral-level textures and melodic interaction into a synth-driven banger. Although he goes on to create more complex tracks on Everything, it’s still hard to go past crazy as the ultimate representation of who Lido is and what he brings to the table. – Zanda Wilson

Tkay Maidza – Simulation

Tkay went down a very different path with Simulation from what we’re used to hearing from her. The track features very little rapping creating a catchy, clever cut that oozes a massive dancehall influence. The track was co-written with her DJ and producer LK McKay and fellow Aussie singer George Maple and it houses that warm feeling of familiarity. The song is all about overcoming complacency when aspects in your life that have been thoroughly calculated don’t go to plan and “cracks in the simulation become visible.” – Alistair Rhodes

Danny L. Harle – Super Natural (Feat. Carly Rae Jepsen)

In true PC Music style, the label/collective inevitably took two steps forward and one step back in 2016. Though some of their less accessible artists continued to alienate the uninitiated; the likes of Danny L. Harle and A. G. Cook continued to open up a sad and joyous world of nostalgia in their music for a broader range of listeners, and bringing the likes of Carly Rae Jepsen, Caroline Polachek and Charli XCX into that world played a huge part. Super Natural still champions all of those intricacies that define PC Music but through Jepsen’s predictably yet no less catchy contribution, we’re left with a track that you might not want to like – yet you can’t help but enjoy. – Zanda Wilson

James Blake – Radio Silence

Brooding? Check. Eerie? Check. Swoon worthy? Double check. Album openers really don’t get much better than this. James Blake has a knack for all the above, and Radio Silence from his third album The Colour in Anything, continues the trend with flying colours. Underpinned by a haunting and reverb heavy vocal loop, the track builds with atmospheric intensity as Blake relays his frustrations over a relationship unexpectedly turning sour. The tension, coupled with Blake’s anguish filled delivery makes for some powerful listening. Radio Silence is another slice of effective, moody electronica and highlights yet again why the classically trained Blake is one of the most diverse artists kicking about the scene the days. Beautiful stuff. – Ben Kyi

[/phone]

See numbers 20 to 11.

[notphone]

Kanye West – Father Stretch My Hands Pt.2

Kanye‘s The Life of Pablo is a gorgeous, sprawling mess that was just dripping with creative juice, almost to its own detriment. Ideas were splattered across the project that alternated between laborious commitment (No More Parties in LA runs over six minutes), subdued introspection (Wolves, FML, Ultralight Beam) and, perhaps best of all, the warpspeed blurs of sheer chaos.

Pt. 2 captures that anarchy in a bottle, then proceeds to throw said bottle at a brick wall. It bursts out of the gate as an intense, unravelling confessional before darting to Desiigner’s Panda, cutting across to Caroline Shaw channeling Laurie Anderson and before you can blink, Pt. 2 wraps with the Pastor T.L. Barrett sample that it opened with. Contrary to most pieces on this list that were finely curated, refined pieces of carefully handled art, Pt. 2 shines because it lets itself be a mess. Kanye West welcomes it. This excursion into the mind of music’s most polarising mastermind is brief, but it’s impactful enough to still be a highlight at the end of 2016. – Reece Hooker

Blood Orange – Best To You

Blood Orange‘s Freetown Sound was so expertly weaved together that it feels criminal to break it apart but if one songs survives solely on its own it’s the Empress Of-featuring Best To You. Its sonic backdrop is flirtatious and light-hearted but the lyrical content is heartbreak. Best To You is a cry for attention, a desperate attempt to save a relationship that may not even be worth it in the end. Throughout, Hynes acts a steady-hand and a friend to Empress Of, serving as the voice in her head that asks whether it’s all worth it in the end. Empowerment runs deep through Hynes’ Freetown Sound and even though his backing vocals on this track are a minute detail, it’s him telling a friend (and everyone who is giving more that they’re getting) that she’s better than this and that’s the main takeaway here. – Sam Murphy

Tourist – Run

Retaining a spot amongst our favourites from the mid-year placings, there is a reason Run has instilled itself as one of this year’s premium dance tracks. It’s a track that beckons movement through all the emotion packed in the sound. Alone or in the club, it’s a jack-of-all-trades, euphoric anthem that has had us talking all year. Dance music needed something fresh, better yet the scene lacked a producer like Tourist and what he has embodied in both Run and his incredible debut album U is nothing short of a masterpiece. Everything we said about Tourist and Run mid-year still sticks, and if his return down under for Laneway Festival early next year doesn’t get you excited than you best go lock yourself away in a room and chuck on U because we cannot wait! – Harrison Kefford

Ariana Grande – Into You

Honestly, the fact that this didn’t become an instant smash hit should have been our first warning that 2016 was doomed. While our latex-bunny-eared heroine came through on a dick bicycle with Side to Side later in the year and lit up the charts, I can’t help but feel Into You didn’t get the commercial acclaim it deserved. From the opening notes to the soaring chorus, Into You is one of the most perfect slices of ‘big’ pop perfection we’ve had in years. – Matthew Fiacchi

Bon Iver – 33 “God”

33 “God” is a direct descendant of the dark twisted fantasy era of Kanye West. The piano has a hip hop bounce to it, and then it fades into a spectacular clusterfuck of momentary disruption followed by a musical restoration in the form of Justin Vernon’s scattered falsetto. Lyrically beautiful, it leads you to the very common escapism you want from Bon Iver. The melody crashes in the end and goes running off into the night. 33 “GOD” is the pre-drinks song for the lives of the broken hearted and obscure. – Jack Cain

Rihanna – Kiss It Better

After a slow, moody start to ANTI, you’d typically expect a Rihanna album to take off around track three but instead we got Kiss It Better. It’s not a dance track or an urban club track or even single-worthy for that matter. Instead, it’s a howling, laid-back scorcher that may ooze the most feeling of any RiRi track ever. Instead of extrovert Rihanna which we’ve been given so many times, this is her as an introvert, singing only about what’s going on inside her four walls. “Man, fuck your pride,” she sings, as you get the feeling RiRi’s the one that could strip any man of his ego inside the bedroom. She’s in total control and she glides above that guitar like her voice is a magnet to it. She’s had plenty of brash, bedroom anthems (think S&M) but never has she been this honest and intimate. – Sam Murphy

Kaytranada – Lite Spots

Among two or three other songs from his debut album 99.9%, Lite Spots emerged as one of the songs that truly defined 2016 for Kaytranada. Based around that ridiculously infectious vocal sample (that’ll still be in your head in two years’ time), Lite Spots is a perfectly crafted house track that faultlessly manages to reference glitchy hip hop and funk, all the while still retaining the essence of a danceable banger. That it’s so different from the rest of the tracks on his record yet became one of his most well-known this year says a lot about how talented and versatile Kaytranada is, and holy crap dat video clip tho. – Zanda Wilson

The Range – Copper Wire

Euphoria and sadness are juxtaposing emotions and yet on Copper Wire, The Range’s emotional dedication to his late mother, they feel as if they go hand in hand. There’s a certain point in the grieving process when you lose someone when you’ve healed enough to truly feel some comfort and jubilation in the memories that you have of them. It’s an uneasy balance between wishing for them back and celebrating your memories. Through expertly placed vocal sample and a soundscape that gradually elevates, The Range beautifully captures that balance. It’s heartbreaking at times and uplifting at others, crystalising a beautifully fragile emotion that he’ll probably carry with him for the rest of his life. The voice he’s sampling is a 13 year-old internet rapper Kruddy Zak who was also mourning the loss of a loved one, as The Range later found out. It explains why the voice connects so effortlessly with the sonic feeling of the song but it also goes to show that while loss can feel like a solitary emotion, it’s being felt all around the world by people of every age. – Sam Murphy

Frank Ocean – Solo

Let’s be honest. 2016 was the year for Frank Ocean. Granted, he frustrated the hell out of us with his sporadic updates and cryptic woodworking escapades, the man sure did deliver with his long awaited sophomore album Blonde. The sheer talent of Ocean is on full display with Solo, which greatly utilises both the simplicity and minimalism of a single church organ for backing, as well as the unbridled intricacy of Ocean’s always impressive vocal aerobatics. The verses flow well and serve for a casual warm up to a glowing and heartfelt swelling chorus. And when it hits, it really hits. I challenge you to not feel weak at the knees as Ocean belts out some of the best vocal work of his career. Truly in his element, Frank Ocean has yet another notch to add to his ever impressive belt with Solo. It’s good to have you back, Frank. – Ben Kyi

Beyoncé – Freedom

From Survivor to Flawless, Beyoncé has never had a problem creating an empowering anthem. Freedom is Lemonade‘s empowerment anthem but it has more dimensions than those aforementioned hits. This isn’t a hit. It’s a rally-cry. It’s a call for the black woman to rise up and rightfully claim their bodies, their speech and their freedom. There’s only so long you can silently protest before the tears turn to flame and this is the exact moment where Beyoncé has had it. Every piece of imagery in Freedom from breaking chains to fighting a storm feels like a fist clenching. Then Kendrick Lamar comes through with the same thought-out fury that he harnessed on To Pimp A Butterfly, sounding like a giant as he raps, “open our mind as we cast away oppression.” Freedom isn’t destined for merch tees like Flawless, because it hits deeper than that. It crawls under the skin of anyone who truly needed that strength and anger. – Sam Murphy

.

[/notphone]

[phone]

Kanye West – Father Stretch My Hands Pt.2

Kanye‘s The Life of Pablo is a gorgeous, sprawling mess that was just dripping with creative juice, almost to its own detriment. Ideas were splattered across the project that alternated between laborious commitment (No More Parties in LA runs over six minutes), subdued introspection (Wolves, FML, Ultralight Beam) and, perhaps best of all, the warpspeed blurs of sheer chaos.

Pt. 2 captures that anarchy in a bottle, then proceeds to throw said bottle at a brick wall. It bursts out of the gate as an intense, unravelling confessional before darting to Desiigner’s Panda, cutting across to Caroline Shaw channeling Laurie Anderson and before you can blink, Pt. 2 wraps with the Pastor T.L. Barrett sample that it opened with. Contrary to most pieces on this list that were finely curated, refined pieces of carefully handled art, Pt. 2 shines because it lets itself be a mess. Kanye West welcomes it. This excursion into the mind of music’s most polarising mastermind is brief, but it’s impactful enough to still be a highlight at the end of 2016. – Reece Hooker

Blood Orange – Best To You

Blood Orange‘s Freetown Sound was so expertly weaved together that it feels criminal to break it apart but if one songs survives solely on its own it’s the Empress Of-featuring Best To You. Its sonic backdrop is flirtatious and light-hearted but the lyrical content is heartbreak. Best To You is a cry for attention, a desperate attempt to save a relationship that may not even be worth it in the end. Throughout, Hynes acts a steady-hand and a friend to Empress Of, serving as the voice in her head that asks whether it’s all worth it in the end. Empowerment runs deep through Hynes’ Freetown Sound and even though his backing vocals on this track are a minute detail, it’s him telling a friend (and everyone who is giving more that they’re getting) that she’s better than this and that’s the main takeaway here. – Sam Murphy

Tourist – Run

Retaining a spot amongst our favourites from the mid-year placings, there is a reason Run has instilled itself as one of this year’s premium dance tracks. It’s a track that beckons movement through all the emotion packed in the sound. Alone or in the club, it’s a jack-of-all-trades, euphoric anthem that has had us talking all year. Dance music needed something fresh, better yet the scene lacked a producer like Tourist and what he has embodied in both Run and his incredible debut album U is nothing short of a masterpiece. Everything we said about Tourist and Run mid-year still sticks, and if his return down under for Laneway Festival early next year doesn’t get you excited than you best go lock yourself away in a room and chuck on U because we cannot wait! – Harrison Kefford

Ariana Grande – Into You

Honestly, the fact that this didn’t become an instant smash hit should have been our first warning that 2016 was doomed. While our latex-bunny-eared heroine came through on a dick bicycle with Side to Side later in the year and lit up the charts, I can’t help but feel Into You didn’t get the commercial acclaim it deserved. From the opening notes to the soaring chorus, Into You is one of the most perfect slices of ‘big’ pop perfection we’ve had in years. – Matthew Fiacchi

Bon Iver – 33 “God”

33 “God” is a direct descendant of the dark twisted fantasy era of Kanye West. The piano has a hip hop bounce to it, and then it fades into a spectacular clusterfuck of momentary disruption followed by a musical restoration in the form of Justin Vernon’s scattered falsetto. Lyrically beautiful, it leads you to the very common escapism you want from Bon Iver. The melody crashes in the end and goes running off into the night. 33 “GOD” is the pre-drinks song for the lives of the broken hearted and obscure. – Jack Cain

Rihanna – Kiss It Better

After a slow, moody start to ANTI, you’d typically expect a Rihanna album to take off around track three but instead we got Kiss It Better. It’s not a dance track or an urban club track or even single-worthy for that matter. Instead, it’s a howling, laid-back scorcher that may ooze the most feeling of any RiRi track ever. Instead of extrovert Rihanna which we’ve been given so many times, this is her as an introvert, singing only about what’s going on inside her four walls. “Man, fuck your pride,” she sings, as you get the feeling RiRi’s the one that could strip any man of his ego inside the bedroom. She’s in total control and she glides above that guitar like her voice is a magnet to it. She’s had plenty of brash, bedroom anthems (think S&M) but never has she been this honest and intimate. – Sam Murphy

Kaytranada – Lite Spots

Among two or three other songs from his debut album 99.9%, Lite Spots emerged as one of the songs that truly defined 2016 for Kaytranada. Based around that ridiculously infectious vocal sample (that’ll still be in your head in two years’ time), Lite Spots is a perfectly crafted house track that faultlessly manages to reference glitchy hip hop and funk, all the while still retaining the essence of a danceable banger. That it’s so different from the rest of the tracks on his record yet became one of his most well-known this year says a lot about how talented and versatile Kaytranada is, and holy crap dat video clip tho. – Zanda Wilson

The Range – Copper Wire

Euphoria and sadness are juxtaposing emotions and yet on Copper Wire, The Range’s emotional dedication to his late mother, they feel as if they go hand in hand. There’s a certain point in the grieving process when you lose someone when you’ve healed enough to truly feel some comfort and jubilation in the memories that you have of them. It’s an uneasy balance between wishing for them back and celebrating your memories. Through expertly placed vocal sample and a soundscape that gradually elevates, The Range beautifully captures that balance. It’s heartbreaking at times and uplifting at others, crystalising a beautifully fragile emotion that he’ll probably carry with him for the rest of his life. The voice he’s sampling is a 13 year-old internet rapper Kruddy Zak who was also mourning the loss of a loved one, as The Range later found out. It explains why the voice connects so effortlessly with the sonic feeling of the song but it also goes to show that while loss can feel like a solitary emotion, it’s being felt all around the world by people of every age. – Sam Murphy

Frank Ocean – Solo

Let’s be honest. 2016 was the year for Frank Ocean. Granted, he frustrated the hell out of us with his sporadic updates and cryptic woodworking escapades, the man sure did deliver with his long awaited sophomore album Blonde. The sheer talent of Ocean is on full display with Solo, which greatly utilises both the simplicity and minimalism of a single church organ for backing, as well as the unbridled intricacy of Ocean’s always impressive vocal aerobatics. The verses flow well and serve for a casual warm up to a glowing and heartfelt swelling chorus. And when it hits, it really hits. I challenge you to not feel weak at the knees as Ocean belts out some of the best vocal work of his career. Truly in his element, Frank Ocean has yet another notch to add to his ever impressive belt with Solo. It’s good to have you back, Frank. – Ben Kyi

Beyoncé – Freedom

From Survivor to Flawless, Beyoncé has never had a problem creating an empowering anthem. Freedom is Lemonade‘s empowerment anthem but it has more dimensions than those aforementioned hits. This isn’t a hit. It’s a rally-cry. It’s a call for the black woman to rise up and rightfully claim their bodies, their speech and their freedom. There’s only so long you can silently protest before the tears turn to flame and this is the exact moment where Beyoncé has had it. Every piece of imagery in Freedom from breaking chains to fighting a storm feels like a fist clenching. Then Kendrick Lamar comes through with the same thought-out fury that he harnessed on To Pimp A Butterfly, sounding like a giant as he raps, “open our mind as we cast away oppression.” Freedom isn’t destined for merch tees like Flawless, because it hits deeper than that. It crawls under the skin of anyone who truly needed that strength and anger. – Sam Murphy

[/phone]

See numbers 10 to 1.

[notphone]

Chance The Rapper – All Night

If there was anyone having more fun than Chance the Rapper in 2016, we didn’t find them. All Night was a neon-soaked ray of pure positivity in a year that largely inspired anything but, skipping to the tune of Michael Jackson’s iconic “Mama-say mama-sah ma-ma-coo-sah” refrain and showcasing Chance the Rapper’s infectiously affable personality.

At its heart, All Night is an incredibly stupid song about chatty, farting drunks that take advantage of Chance’s car. That shouldn’t work, but the parties involved do too well a job for it to not. Kaytranada’s ever-eclectic production jags out even further than usual, blending Chicago house with a teaspoon of country and a dash of Nico Segal. Plucky upstart Knox Fortune feels right at home on his biggest stage yet and Chance takes charge like the superstar he was born to become. – Reece Hooker

Anderson .Paak – Am I Wrong

Few tracks have painted as vivid an image as Am I Wrong did in its opening few instrumental bars. The head-bobbing drums, the clink of ice cubes in a scotch glass and a shimmering, subtle synth line that invites us to cruise down Sunset Boulevard in an Oldsmobile Cutlass all combines to make for one hell of a first impression.

Then came Anderson .Paak, the star of the show and the reason this song has enduring as one of 2016’s most charming. As he questions his subject’s ability to dance and if she can ooh, it became crystal clear that the former Breezy Lovejoy had grown into a rare force of charisma, talent and perfectionism. As good as Anderson is, what makes Am I Wrong one of the standouts from the excellent Malibu album is the ensemble surrounding him: Vancouver wunderkind Pomo’s production is energetic and atmospheric, BrassTracks’ horns give the track an oomph, Omarion is a nice touch on the backing vocals and ScHoolboy Q drops by on a half-break to play the cool older brother, adding another dimension an already impressive song. Add in The Free Nationals, Anderson’s trusty band, and it equates to an ensemble effort that manages to stay lively, fresh and fun even after a few hundred plays during 2016. – Reece Hooker

Charli XCX – After The Afterparty

While it may not be as zany as the relentless Vroom Vroom earlier in the year, After the Afterparty managed to take the wonky and fuse it with the mainstream to make 2016’s most interesting radio track. It doesn’t necessarily break any new ground but it’s extremely refreshing to see an artist willing to drop a track that’s fun, catchy and unapologetically pop. 2016 really needed to take itself less seriously – here’s hoping XCX3 is gonna show us how to have fun again in 2017! – Matthew Fiacchi

Solange – Cranes In The Sky

As consumers of music, we tend to make our own assumptions about lyrics, reading into them and pulling out meaning that would even perplex the creator. We can’t do that with Solange’s Cranes In The Sky though. Sure, it resonates differently with everybody but the lyrical work on this song is so direct and brave that we’d only be watering it down if we tried to over-analyse it. Solange is devastatingly hurt and lost on Cranes In The Sky and yet instead of channeling that into anger she chooses minimalism. The beat is spacious and raw and Solange’s vocal work is careful and restrained. Sonically, everything she does shines on a spotlight on the lyrics which are so powerful. She tried to drink the hurt away, she tried to dance it away, she changed her appearance, let go of her lover and yet it still loomed. Cranes In The Sky doesn’t offer an explicit solution. Instead, in an almost meditative state she repeats, “away”. She re-centres herself, refocusses and blocks out the noise in order to recover. – Sam Murphy

Francis And The Lights – Friends

Wherever Friends ranks amongst our end of year best ofs, it won’t be high enough. Music was great in 2016 but it’s difficult to find a better discovery than Francis And The Lights. This guy has been making music under this alias since ‘13 but Friends was his moment, along with his incredible 2016 record Farewell, Starlite!. Setting the record straight, the track does indeed feature not just Bon Iver but also Kanye West but despite the giant guests, the tune is so contained and heartwarming that no body stands taller than the other. Friends is accompanied by one of the year’s best video clips, and it had people talking not just for its A+ dance moves by both Francis and Justin Vernon but because many people were puzzled by Kanye and exactly his contribution to the song was (listed as a feature). Head to 1 minute 25 seconds in and you will notice an extra set of vocals layered, all for about 2 seconds that is indeed the voice of Kanye West. Finally, we’ve solved that little 2016 wonder. – Harrison Kefford

Dawn – Not Above That

Electronic music holds so much anxiety and tension but so often that feeling is harboured to lead towards a huge drop and once it’s released its forgotten about. DAWN’s Not Above That lives for the tension. Sure the Machinedrum-produced drop is mighty and euphoric but that’s not what Not Above That is about. It’s a desperate song that captures that relentless feeling of loneliness that can haunt you in the early hours of the morning, in the club or in the bedroom. “I’m countin’ on this fuck, To hold me, love,” she sings in a totally dependent state before letting her mind wander to the possibilities, “If we’re birds, we’ll fly together.” That’s when the euphoria kicks in, but it’s only momentary. After all, the strobing lights of the dance floor can only mask reality for so long. – Sam Murphy

Kanye West – Ultralight Beam

As you do with most things Kanye says on Twitter, we all shrugged it off when he said that Pablo would be a gospel album. And yet, with the tweet a mere distant memory in the back of our minds, he pressed play for the first time on the record at Madison Square Gardens and we heard, “We don’t want know devils in the house,” followed by, “we on an ultralight beam, this is a God dream.” Ultralight Beam is a gospel song. It’s packed with notions of faith and religion but it’s more than that. It’s a song about hope and ambition driven by this imagery of an ultralight beam – something you can’t really describe but you know is illuminated and guiding.

Egotistical, self-centred, psychotic – Kanye’s been treated to labels like this all year and yet he gives the best moments of the best song on his album to Kelly Price and Chance The Rapper. Kanye is omnipresent on the track though. His friendship is felt is Chance, his passion is felt in Price and when he does appear vocally he simply nudges the track in the right direction. Chance gives his best verse ever on Ultralight Beam. He’s ambitious, charismatic and comedic, even prematurely predicting a Grammy. He’s nominated for Grammys now and has a good chance at snatching the prize. That gives even more power to Ultralight Beam because it’s about everyone realising what they’re capable. “Father this prayers for everyone who feels they’re not good enough,” Kirk Franklin says in the song’s final moments and you can bet that this song made a lot of those people feel good enough. – Sam Murphy

Beyonce – Sorry

The start of Lemonade is devastating and then angry but even though Beyoncé wields a baseball bat in Hold Up, it’s Sorry where she really takes control of things. She’s cocky, mirroring the same egotistical nature that would lead a man to cheat in the first place. “Middle fingers up,” she sings giving us the first true fuck you moment of an album that’s full of them. She colours a beat that barely wavers from the monotonous bringing out the rapper inside of her and crafting a club anthem out of heartache. Sorry would be nothing though without its final minute – the moment where the cockiness turns to sadness over a desolate skype tone. “Me and my baby gonna be alright, we’re gonna live a good life,” she sings with vivid imagery before laying down the best lyric of 2016, “you better call Becky with the good hair.” In the eyes of many she may be a perfect human being but even she’s got to compete with someone simply with, “good hair”. – Sam Murphy

Frank Ocean – Nights

Frank Ocean stripped most of Blonde of beats. Ivy, Solo, Seigfried, many of the record’s highlights, are completely bereft of drums. Nights is one of the few moments where he chooses to use them and instead of the ethereal nature of songs like Solo, we plunge into darkness. The beats aren’t to give us something to dance to, they’re used to haunt. “I’m fuckin’, no I’m fucked up,” he sings depicting a nightime robbery but just after he sings, “no sleep in my body,” the ethereal creeps back in – “new beginnings”. Every moment on Nights is made more effective by what precedes it. His sequencing is masterful and while there’s barely any traceable structure to the song, he crafts these beautiful melodies to latch too. As much as you crave a beat on Blonde, when it drops out in the dying seconds of Nights, that’s when the beauty shines through. As the voices swell, we’re plunged into momentary bliss before it’s morning again. We’re back to the harsh reality that, “Every night fucks every day up.” – Sam Murphy

Rihanna – Work

People crave huge Rihanna singles like they do carbs. We expect a monstrous banger in November of every year and for a good five years that’s exactly what we got from Rihanna. In those five years we had EDM soarer Only Girl (In The World), the greatest hands-in-the-air moment of all time We Found Love and RiRi’s most anthemic ballad Diamonds. It was almost like our bodies had been set to expect a huge first single at the same time every year but 2013 came and went and she gave us nothing. Then 2014 and 2015 – nothing. In 2016, she was ready to drop that album. The album that had been affectionately been referred to by frustrated fans as R8.

Work came the day before the album. It was the first time we’d heard Drake and RiRi together since 2011’s Take Care. While their chemistry was undeniable, this wasn’t the first single of a Rihanna album that we’d become accustomed to. Instead it was laid-back and gradual with a nonsensical chorus that gave every doubter a superficial and frustrating argument for why pop lyrics mean nothing. Much like the first listen of ANTI, it was a disappointing first impression.

First impressions are often wrong. Work flourished more slowly than any hit this year and gradually made its way, unexpectedly, to the top of the charts as it revealed itself. A nonsensical RiRi single was suddenly the most lyrically heartbreaking. This isn’t a party track, it’s a song about loneliness and that’s delivered with one of the most beautifully vivid lines of the year, “nobody text me in a crisis.”

In public, Rihanna is one of the most comfortable popstars around. She wears coats falling halfway down her back and never attracts the same commotion that other popstars seem to with fans. And yet, previous singles have been shined within an inch of their life. On Work, she embraces her Caribbean roots and that laid-back attitude she promotes in public. She slides through the verses with ease and yet still makes an impact – “I believed all of ya dreams, adoration”.

When Drake comes knocking he declares, “I need you.” The chemistry flares once again and it feels like they’re ready to do it all over again. But, just as this song demands consecutive, repeat listens, the lyrics of the song are cyclical. “We just need a face to face, You can pick the time and the place,” Drake raps in the dying moments of the song and yet we can only assume the next chapter is Rihanna singing, “I believed all of ya dreams, adoration.” Maybe despite all the work, it’s never going to work.

Work was a layered, slow-revealing masterpiece that only grew in appeal as Drake and Rihanna’s relationship played out over the year. – Sam Murphy

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Chance The Rapper – All Night

If there was anyone having more fun than Chance the Rapper in 2016, we didn’t find them. All Night was a neon-soaked ray of pure positivity in a year that largely inspired anything but, skipping to the tune of Michael Jackson’s iconic “Mama-say mama-sah ma-ma-coo-sah” refrain and showcasing Chance the Rapper’s infectiously affable personality.

At its heart, All Night is an incredibly stupid song about chatty, farting drunks that take advantage of Chance’s car. That shouldn’t work, but the parties involved do too well a job for it to not. Kaytranada’s ever-eclectic production jags out even further than usual, blending Chicago house with a teaspoon of country and a dash of Nico Segal. Plucky upstart Knox Fortune feels right at home on his biggest stage yet and Chance takes charge like the superstar he was born to become. – Reece Hooker

Anderson .Paak – Am I Wrong

Few tracks have painted as vivid an image as Am I Wrong did in its opening few instrumental bars. The head-bobbing drums, the clink of ice cubes in a scotch glass and a shimmering, subtle synth line that invites us to cruise down Sunset Boulevard in an Oldsmobile Cutlass all combines to make for one hell of a first impression.

Then came Anderson .Paak, the star of the show and the reason this song has enduring as one of 2016’s most charming. As he questions his subject’s ability to dance and if she can ooh, it became crystal clear that the former Breezy Lovejoy had grown into a rare force of charisma, talent and perfectionism. As good as Anderson is, what makes Am I Wrong one of the standouts from the excellent Malibu album is the ensemble surrounding him: Vancouver wunderkind Pomo’s production is energetic and atmospheric, BrassTracks’ horns give the track an oomph, Omarion is a nice touch on the backing vocals and ScHoolboy Q drops by on a half-break to play the cool older brother, adding another dimension an already impressive song. Add in The Free Nationals, Anderson’s trusty band, and it equates to an ensemble effort that manages to stay lively, fresh and fun even after a few hundred plays during 2016. – Reece Hooker

Charli XCX – After The Afterparty

While it may not be as zany as the relentless Vroom Vroom earlier in the year, After the Afterparty managed to take the wonky and fuse it with the mainstream to make 2016’s most interesting radio track. It doesn’t necessarily break any new ground but it’s extremely refreshing to see an artist willing to drop a track that’s fun, catchy and unapologetically pop. 2016 really needed to take itself less seriously – here’s hoping XCX3 is gonna show us how to have fun again in 2017! – Matthew Fiacchi

Solange – Cranes In The Sky

As consumers of music, we tend to make our own assumptions about lyrics, reading into them and pulling out meaning that would even perplex the creator. We can’t do that with Solange’s Cranes In The Sky though. Sure, it resonates differently with everybody but the lyrical work on this song is so direct and brave that we’d only be watering it down if we tried to over-analyse it. Solange is devastatingly hurt and lost on Cranes In The Sky and yet instead of channeling that into anger she chooses minimalism. The beat is spacious and raw and Solange’s vocal work is careful and restrained. Sonically, everything she does shines on a spotlight on the lyrics which are so powerful. She tried to drink the hurt away, she tried to dance it away, she changed her appearance, let go of her lover and yet it still loomed. Cranes In The Sky doesn’t offer an explicit solution. Instead, in an almost meditative state she repeats, “away”. She re-centres herself, refocusses and blocks out the noise in order to recover. – Sam Murphy

Francis And The Lights – Friends

Wherever Friends ranks amongst our end of year best ofs, it won’t be high enough. Music was great in 2016 but it’s difficult to find a better discovery than Francis And The Lights. This guy has been making music under this alias since ‘13 but Friends was his moment, along with his incredible 2016 record Farewell, Starlite!. Setting the record straight, the track does indeed feature not just Bon Iver but also Kanye West but despite the giant guests, the tune is so contained and heartwarming that no body stands taller than the other. Friends is accompanied by one of the year’s best video clips, and it had people talking not just for its A+ dance moves by both Francis and Justin Vernon but because many people were puzzled by Kanye and exactly his contribution to the song was (listed as a feature). Head to 1 minute 25 seconds in and you will notice an extra set of vocals layered, all for about 2 seconds that is indeed the voice of Kanye West. Finally, we’ve solved that little 2016 wonder. – Harrison Kefford

Dawn – Not Above That

Electronic music holds so much anxiety and tension but so often that feeling is harboured to lead towards a huge drop and once it’s released its forgotten about. DAWN’s Not Above That lives for the tension. Sure the Machinedrum-produced drop is mighty and euphoric but that’s not what Not Above That is about. It’s a desperate song that captures that relentless feeling of loneliness that can haunt you in the early hours of the morning, in the club or in the bedroom. “I’m countin’ on this fuck, To hold me, love,” she sings in a totally dependent state before letting her mind wander to the possibilities, “If we’re birds, we’ll fly together.” That’s when the euphoria kicks in, but it’s only momentary. After all, the strobing lights of the dance floor can only mask reality for so long. – Sam Murphy

Kanye West – Ultralight Beam

As you do with most things Kanye says on Twitter, we all shrugged it off when he said that Pablo would be a gospel album. And yet, with the tweet a mere distant memory in the back of our minds, he pressed play for the first time on the record at Madison Square Gardens and we heard, “We don’t want know devils in the house,” followed by, “we on an ultralight beam, this is a God dream.” Ultralight Beam is a gospel song. It’s packed with notions of faith and religion but it’s more than that. It’s a song about hope and ambition driven by this imagery of an ultralight beam – something you can’t really describe but you know is illuminated and guiding.

Egotistical, self-centred, psychotic – Kanye’s been treated to labels like this all year and yet he gives the best moments of the best song on his album to Kelly Price and Chance The Rapper. Kanye is omnipresent on the track though. His friendship is felt is Chance, his passion is felt in Price and when he does appear vocally he simply nudges the track in the right direction. Chance gives his best verse ever on Ultralight Beam. He’s ambitious, charismatic and comedic, even prematurely predicting a Grammy. He’s nominated for Grammys now and has a good chance at snatching the prize. That gives even more power to Ultralight Beam because it’s about everyone realising what they’re capable. “Father this prayers for everyone who feels they’re not good enough,” Kirk Franklin says in the song’s final moments and you can bet that this song made a lot of those people feel good enough. – Sam Murphy

Beyonce – Sorry

The start of Lemonade is devastating and then angry but even though Beyoncé wields a baseball bat in Hold Up, it’s Sorry where she really takes control of things. She’s cocky, mirroring the same egotistical nature that would lead a man to cheat in the first place. “Middle fingers up,” she sings giving us the first true fuck you moment of an album that’s full of them. She colours a beat that barely wavers from the monotonous bringing out the rapper inside of her and crafting a club anthem out of heartache. Sorry would be nothing though without its final minute – the moment where the cockiness turns to sadness over a desolate skype tone. “Me and my baby gonna be alright, we’re gonna live a good life,” she sings with vivid imagery before laying down the best lyric of 2016, “you better call Becky with the good hair.” In the eyes of many she may be a perfect human being but even she’s got to compete with someone simply with, “good hair”. – Sam Murphy

Frank Ocean – Nights

Frank Ocean stripped most of Blonde of beats. Ivy, Solo, Seigfried, many of the record’s highlights, are completely bereft of drums. Nights is one of the few moments where he chooses to use them and instead of the ethereal nature of songs like Solo, we plunge into darkness. The beats aren’t to give us something to dance to, they’re used to haunt. “I’m fuckin’, no I’m fucked up,” he sings depicting a nightime robbery but just after he sings, “no sleep in my body,” the ethereal creeps back in – “new beginnings”. Every moment on Nights is made more effective by what precedes it. His sequencing is masterful and while there’s barely any traceable structure to the song, he crafts these beautiful melodies to latch too. As much as you crave a beat on Blonde, when it drops out in the dying seconds of Nights, that’s when the beauty shines through. As the voices swell, we’re plunged into momentary bliss before it’s morning again. We’re back to the harsh reality that, “Every night fucks every day up.” – Sam Murphy

Rihanna – Work

People crave huge Rihanna singles like they do carbs. We expect a monstrous banger in November of every year and for a good five years that’s exactly what we got from Rihanna. In those five years we had EDM soarer Only Girl (In The World), the greatest hands-in-the-air moment of all time We Found Love and RiRi’s most anthemic ballad Diamonds. It was almost like our bodies had been set to expect a huge first single at the same time every year but 2013 came and went and she gave us nothing. Then 2014 and 2015 – nothing. In 2016, she was ready to drop that album. The album that had been affectionately been referred to by frustrated fans as R8.

Work came the day before the album. It was the first time we’d heard Drake and RiRi together since 2011’s Take Care. While their chemistry was undeniable, this wasn’t the first single of a Rihanna album that we’d become accustomed to. Instead it was laid-back and gradual with a nonsensical chorus that gave every doubter a superficial and frustrating argument for why pop lyrics mean nothing. Much like the first listen of ANTI, it was a disappointing first impression.

First impressions are often wrong. Work flourished more slowly than any hit this year and gradually made its way, unexpectedly, to the top of the charts as it revealed itself. A nonsensical RiRi single was suddenly the most lyrically heartbreaking. This isn’t a party track, it’s a song about loneliness and that’s delivered with one of the most beautifully vivid lines of the year, “nobody text me in a crisis.”

In public, Rihanna is one of the most comfortable popstars around. She wears coats falling halfway down her back and never attracts the same commotion that other popstars seem to with fans. And yet, previous singles have been shined within an inch of their life. On Work, she embraces her Caribbean roots and that laid-back attitude she promotes in public. She slides through the verses with ease and yet still makes an impact – “I believed all of ya dreams, adoration”.

When Drake comes knocking he declares, “I need you.” The chemistry flares once again and it feels like they’re ready to do it all over again. But, just as this song demands consecutive, repeat listens, the lyrics of the song are cyclical. “We just need a face to face, You can pick the time and the place,” Drake raps in the dying moments of the song and yet we can only assume the next chapter is Rihanna singing, “I believed all of ya dreams, adoration.” Maybe despite all the work, it’s never going to work.

Work was a layered, slow-revealing masterpiece that only grew in appeal as Drake and Rihanna’s relationship played out over the year. – Sam Murphy

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The list doesn’t end here. We’ve put our top 100 songs into a Spotify playlist, ranked, in order. It’s actually 98 songs because a certain album named after a refreshing drink isn’t on the platform.

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