Best Of February 2016: Singles

For the past few years I always await eagerly the month of February which for me always heralds the first real month of exciting new music. This spawned from my internship at the wonderful AmazingRadio back in 2014 where I spent a whole month finding new gems to sink my teeth and ears into. February 2016 has been a tremendous month both for singles and albums.

What will no doubt be memorable will be the release of Kanye West’s 7th Studio Album, finally entitled, The Life Of Pablo. As an extremely huge Yeezy fan the album is of course the record I’ve been playing most but I don’t want to pick any tunes off of it to place into the best singles of the month. Instead here is a link to the album on Tidal which you should definitely go and purchase.

http://listen.tidal.com/album/57273408

With that out of the way it’s time to begin to speak about the month in music. What I’ve done is logged down every time I’ve heard a song that I’ve enjoyed but also graded it on how much I liked it, in order to review only the best at the end of the month. I’m happy to say that this month was very productive and:

Tracks Logged: 161

From those logged tracks, I’ve picked the best of the best to talk about and showcase below. I hope you enjoy and find something new that you like.

This month in the pop world started off magically with Gwen Stefani releasing her newest single Make Me Like You which had echoes of What You Waiting For and Cool which for me was her best work. The tune is delightfully upbeat with Gwen’s playful synth driven hooks on play. Towards the end of the month Fifth Harmony gifted us Work From Home, the follow up to last year’s huge hit Worth It and news that their debut album will be out in Summertime. The track is a huge trap tinted ode to innuendos about putting in work in the bedroom and at the work place. It was newer pop which shone through in February most though. Karo is a sweet sounding singer from Dundee who was actually born in Iceland. Her track Wolfbaby is a smooth soul search about the realization of an ex’s grip on your life. It’s heavy stuff but Karo delivers it in such a pleasant way.

One return which has been exciting has been the marvelously creative Santigold, whose new single Banshee doing exactly what it says on the tin, screaming around with schizophrenic production to great effect. BBC Sound of 2016 nominee Dua Lipa was a bit of a surprise for me when she was announced for the longlist but she’s proving the tippers correct with yet another delicious slice of pop with Last Dance, proving she’s heading only upwards. Outside of the UK, Swedish pop duo Icona Pop have finally brought us a worthy follow-up to I Love It with the infectious and slightly disco Someone Who Can Dance. And for the freshest Swedish pop music aside from Icona Pop, look no further than Bishat, whose second single Sober is a mature piece of synth pop with a chorus hook which grabs the ball and runs for the hills.

It’s not just European pop which has given us spectacular earworms though with the always enjoyable Kero Kero Bonito returning with the wacky Lipslap. I also really enjoyed another K-pop banger courtesy this time of Taemin. The track, Press My Number, is produced by Bruno Mars and certainly has all the right components to be a hit in any country. To round off this month’s best of pop are the veterans of the genre, Pet Shop Boys whose track The Pop Kids is a marvelous modern day synthpop treasure.

A few years back I caught wind of the band Twenty One Pilots. Whilst I couldn’t find enough for me to love them at that point I have kept a close eye on them and have been amazed at the traction their sophomore record has picked up, especially the lead single Stressed Out which is currently the biggest track around in the states. I can only predict the same will happen here in the UK with the song. It was a great month for the heavier rock aside from Twenty One Pilots, with Kaleo and Big Ups bringing me tunes I kept on returning to. HBO’s new supershow Vinyl which focuses on rock n roll in the 1970s is a great way for me to tap into how much I love a grungy six string sound and Kaleo’s No Good which is part of the show’s soundtrack is just that. The Scandinavian rockers really seem set for big things and if you’re a fan of the likes of Alabama Shakes and The Black Keys then look their way. Big Ups are a bit brasher and give us the first song from their upcoming sophomore record. The tune National Parks is an immediate return to form for one of my favourite punk bands around.
I’m also a fan of Tonight Alive’s new single How Does It Feel? which really feels like a success for the band and could well prove to be an ace radio song. Lastly one of my favourite duos DZ Deathrays have returned with their new scuzzy single Blood On My Leather which carries itself with a phenomenal riff like all good DZ tunes.

Guitar music in general actually had quite a cool month with there being several songs from mostly unknown bands that I found really enjoyable. Bent Shapes tune above instantly put a smile on my face reminding me of Belle & Sebastian which a hint of Pixies spun in for good measure. Fans of proper indie rock looking for the next big thing should look no further than Fronteers. The group who are from Kingston Upon Hull seriously deliver the most exciting indie riff I’ve heard in many months with their new single Idol. The band Cortes are also worth having a listen to as their edgy single Close To Nowhere reminded me of the first time I listened to Royal Blood. You can do a lot worse too than checking out YAST and their single I Don’t Think She Knows which has great hazy guitar and some excellent shredding which reminded me of some of the soundscapes The War On Drugs created. Cloudy indie is also something I do love to find and The Japanese Breakfast are kind of on top of the world at the moment with their new single Everybody Wants To Love You.

As I said, this month really has been spectacular for indie rock tunes and these final two are for me at the top of that list. London four piece The Hunna are already picking up a good following and angsty new single We Could Be is a proper driven song with a very full sound. A band who’ve mastered that already into their young career are Sundara Karma and the band’s new single A Young Understanding is exciting through showing consistency. This is a band that have now had four or five back to back brilliant tunes which makes them one of the best indie bands in the UK in my books.

One colossal thing that happened this month was the trickling and then full release of new music from The 1975 that in my opinion have, with their new album, which I’m not going to type the title of because it takes too long, become the biggest band in the UK. My highlight from it is Somebody Else which is a rare personal song about still being attached to somebody and being honest about the bad feelings you have with that. The Lumineers also made a return this month with the gorgeously timid but gutsy Ophelia being another big hit for the group.

In the Urban world we caught glimpses of two future superstars. Kavale arrived in the world with Hold On which certainly fills part of the gap that Frank Ocean and other silky smooth R&B vocalists have left recently. A star in the making for certain is Bibi Bourelly who has penned hits for the likes of Rihanna. Her new single released this month, Sally, is a triumph which combines 1950’s Motown inspired lyrics with music which reeks of the future. Speaking of classic music, one of my favourite musicians and voices of recent times channels the soulfulness of the likes of Sam Cooke and that is Leon Bridges. This month he released his song River as a proper single and the video alone made me realize just how powerful it is a song, and just how powerful Leon is as a musician.

I’m not going to say anything to cover just how good Kojey Radical is and how good his track Kwame Nkrumah is. The tracks is from his upcoming EP 23 Winters which you need in your life but to say that it reminded me of Kendrick when he brought us King Kunta hopefully that sets some kind of idea in your mind of what we have with this song. Kojey as an artist is far from Kendrick, his poetry unlike any other artist I’ve ever heard.
In the trap world, the song of the month is easily Desiigner’s Panda. The dude came out of nowhere to have the song covered on Yeezy’s new album and be signed to Yeezy’s label G.O.O.D Music the following day. Pretty big month for him. Puff Daddy also returned with a new moniker adding “…& The Family” to his name. The result’s best is Auction which has the brassy production you’d want on any classy sounding hip hop song.

Toning things down a bit are some gorgeous chilled house numbers. Gemini’s pop house tune Time To Share is one of the month’s best adding in Mandarin to a slow moving neon number which shares DNA with Kavinsky, but with a vocal like Years & Years. Another serious highlight is Michl who’s deadly sounding slow burner Kill Our Way To Heaven has sounds of Clarence Clarity’s glitch about it. When you get a record on the Cascine label it’s normally a winner and that’s no different for et aliae whose tune Sober flirts with the spectacular before erupting into one of the biggest choruses of the month.

There’s also some nice funky low tempo tunes around this month leading with Mayer Hawthorne’s Cosmic Love which paints what a sunset would sound like so well. As well as this Moi Je’s Profite needs to be checked out but make sure it’s the Kazy Lambist remix which really does the song the most justice. There’s also some love to be found in Wing Tip’s glitch funk of With Me which has a great vocal sample and house piano.

And finally, let’s end this month with something loud. Two songs in fact starting with Leeds’ Krrum who brings brass to play along in what sounds like a Bon Iver number at first before scrapping that for some seriously devilishly dirty RL Grime bass. Fans of TNGHT are going to love this banger which is called Evil Twin. And to conclude this month’s highlights is the return of Chase & Status who have partnered with 2015’s liveliest new band Slaves to bring us Control which sounds like peak Prodigy at play. It seems for sure that this might be Chase & Status’ year.

February’s Top 10 Singles Are:
1. Kojey Radical – Kwame Nkrumah
2. Michl – Kill Our Way To Heaven
3. Twenty One Pilots – Stressed Out
4. Krrum – Evil Twin
5. Japanese Breakfast – Everybody Wants To Love You
6. Sundara Karma – A Young Understanding
7. The Lumineers – Ophelia
8. Chase & Status ft Slaves – Control
9. Pet Shop Boys – The Pop Kids
10. Fronteers – Idol

Why not check out all of my tipped songs in this super handy YouTube playlist! Thanks for reading.

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Best Of January 2016: Singles

Music in January 2016

Tracks Logged: 133

Hey it’s been a bit of a while hasn’t it. All month I’ve been doing my best to attach my ears to everything I can and I’ve found an insane 133 tracks that I liked this month. Out of those I’ve picked out real highlights which I want to share with you.

Starting January off strong was the brilliant Troye Sivan who I think will be an A-Star pop singer in Britain by Summertime. His album Blue Neighbourhood was the last album I got into in 2015 and as such the first song I fell in love with this year was his new single Youth. The track is unavoidable with Troye’s usual soft tones expiring into a cataclysmic chorus crush of synths and vocal samples.

As I recorded in my last blog post, the first great song of the year went to Savages with Adore, taken from their sophomore album Adore Life which has been with us for a few weeks now. The album itself is a step forward for the band who didn’t need to turn down the raw energy in order to produce a stronger record with many memorable moments. Adore is the ultimate highlight of course, and from the moment dead silence turns into a Himalayiac intensity build, it was always going to be a point in time. I will definitely come back to this one at year’s end.

Lighter in pace was Beaty Heart’s first piece of music in 2016, the magical Flora. I’ve already been a fan since hearing the wonderfully poppy and smiley Seafood last year and Flora continues this taking a seemingly mellow affair into a tribal chant reminiscent of earlier Everything Everything.

With a dark and broody electronic bassline straight out of a Nicholas Winding-Refn movie, Tender slides smoothly into the fold with Afternoon, a tune which is actually probably best listened to in the wee hours. In the same way I got excited about SOHN the first time I heard him, Tender seems an artist who is now next in line to get picked up by a big label. I expect Afternoon will be getting a proper release further in the year and I wouldn’t be surprised if we heard it all over the airwaves and streaming charts.

A critics favourite, there are few albums as eagerly expected than new Flume. The Aussie producer who is a frontrunner in vibey electronics certainly started off the campaign properly in 2016 with Never Be Like You, a song which has been produced in the same way the sea carves a chunky stone into a perfectly rounded pebble. The production tempts to jump off into dark territory through-out and the lyricism from Kai is raw and maybe a bit too honest for a dance banger, which makes it all that much more special that is a smooth as hell tune.

If you’re a DJ of hip hop, or if you curate or present hip hop there’s one song you should really have been playing all month. If you haven’t been playing Elf Kid’s anthem Golden Boy, you’re not really worth knowing about. The tune which samples Amerie’s 1 Thing and mashes it into a Boy In The Corner-esque beat is a real triumph. As Elf Kid says through-out, he and his crew seem to be going straight to the top.

Eric Prydz is set to finally release his debut album, which is absolutely mad due to him being around since the stone age, but hey ho that means we hopefully get some proper bangers right? Absolutely! This month a song called Breathe came into existence and it’s exciting because it’s Prydz and Swire. It’s no secret that Rob Swire makes the best kind of dark EDM hits, and hopefully this is a taster that the reformed Pendulum might be thinking of making new music.

January’s best song, and I think this more and more after every listen, is Miike Snow who returned with a great alt-pop sing-a-long tune Genghis Khan. The idea of the song itself is clever and creative and the music video is a classic twisting the James Bond/Blofeld rivalry into a love story.

Whilst I’ve been big on Danny L Harle for a small eternity now, and I tipped him for big things this year on my 20 for 2016, I did not expect Broken Flowers to take off in such an enormous way. We genuinely have our first big commercial breakthrough from PC Music now which is ace.

Guys, JoJo is still a recording artist and she’s actually really bloody good at making music now. If you’re expecting pop music like Leave Get Out (Right Now) then this won’t be for you but if, like me, you love a huge ballad then come on in. Following a similar sort of sound and style to Kelly Clarkson and Leona Lewis, Save My Soul is simply huge and that’s why it deserves a spot on this post.

When I think of expertly produced 50’s and 60’s samples and modern day reinventions I normally go to Yeezy. However the best old-turned-new stylings this month came from Brandy (yes, that Brandy) with her new single Beggin and Pleading which takes a gorgeous liquor soaked bluesy guitar line and spins Brandy’s powerful, confident voice all over it.

“Mark my words, 2016 will heavily involve reggae and dancehall vibes. I can see Popcaan being a big artist” – Scott Hastie Dec 2015.
Example 1: Rihanna’s Work
Example 2: This superb brand new banger from AlunaGeorge and, wait for it…Popcaan! Called It!

The marvelous Polica returned this month with their menacing shadowey vocals and hall filling synths with new single Wedding. Unlike a Wedding, there’s little joy to behold here but the song does go extremely hard and is an exciting return.

One song which immediately worked for me was Bonzai’s Doses which is picking up a fair amount of specialist radio play. If you liked Tiga’s Bugatti then this will also work for you. You never quite know what’s around the next four bars as the song transpires through-out different sections of brash electronics. Extra points for the line “All I’m counting on is a quick fix, lickity split” into a drop.

I heard Lukas Graham’s 7 years at the start of the month and jesus is it picking up pace rapidly. It’s going to be a worldwide hit, it kind of already is, and to me people need to start throwing “US Ed Sheeran” tags all over this guy. If this song is any indication then Graham should be able to have a similar career trajectory.

Something Soon was definitely one of 2015’s best records but I missed it back then and I still see a bunch of people picking it up so I have faith it will do something in the near future. Car Seat Headrest are an exciting band, taking bits of pure indie and grunge. There’s bits of American Football and Pavement in there and there’s huge chunks of The Strokes in there which for me gives them a lot of promise. Get familiar with them now, you won’t regret it.

Just because a song is tamer than its contemporaries doesn’t at all mean it’s any less good. Proof is The Range’s Florida which is the best dance record of the month despite being glittery and understated. Featuring steel drums, a lovely clappy percussion and distant bassy beeps the tune is like Jon Hopkins on a Sunday drive, and hey Sunday drives are sometimes the best kind.

Picking up really interesting hits on streaming sites, Kiiara is fast becoming an internet darling and Say Anymore is a lovely accopanyment to her early 2016 dominance. It’s fast paced and soft in tone, reminding me a bit of Purity Ring.

I’ve said for the past few years that The Chainsmokers are full of hits and America seems to get it but we don’t which annoys me. It’s a crime that their tune Kanye never picked up in the UK but from what I can see Roses is going to fare a bit better. Rightfully so as the song is gorgeously life affirming. Can we seriously make Chainsmokers a thing over here please!

Sigala had a brilliant first year in the limelight with the super debut Easy Love before the Bryn Chrisopher assisted Sweet Lovin tore everything apart. With added dancehall (ahem told you so) they return in 2016 with Say You Do featuring Imani, DJ Fresh and a Mariah sample. Dead cliché to say but if anybody can bring about Summer in the middle of January, it’s Sigala.

For some reason a few people have taken interest in chill waving up Tracey Chapman’s forever covered Fast Car this month but the one to really work was Jonas Blue’s effort with Dakota. And when I say it works, it really, really works with nothing else sounding quite as pleasant this month.

LCMDF have all the ingredients that make bands like Icona Pop and Sleigh Bells, with indie sensibilities on top of synths which are a call to arms. Their January effort Rookie is quite like Hollaback Girl with a bit more danger about it and is all about having the confidence over haters. This reeks of awesome though so I can’t imagine there are many haters.

It was going to take a lot for Grimes to follow up the marvelous Flesh Without Blood effectively but Kill V Maim does that exactly turning in one of the weirdest pop hits ever but making it so addictively listenable. The video is unavoidable too, with Grimes’ own Mad Max vision coming to life.

Normally when I tune in to a Tourist track I expect a few minutes of fairly laid back vibes, which makes To Have You Back an absolute triumph. Ahead of his debut album he has changed his game up to have a lurking monster in wait. The one line vocal builds up getting more tense and loud as the tune goes on before dropping into a distorted beautiful cascade.

Luke Christopher’s Lot To Learn for me is a number one waiting to happen. The track first appeared last year but a video only cropped up this month and with his positive rap and Biz Markie like piano I can see this being a mainstream hit for sure.

Zendaya folks, where did that come from?! The young Disney superstar has written probably the most high key tune for the new Neverland album and bagged the title track. The video featuring Bryan Cranston is a lovely watch and this is a rare fresh sounding pop ballad. It’s absolutely memorable and hopefully the start of a great music career.

Lapsley returned in January with Love Is Blind, another fine single. I’m pretty proud of her after hearing the demo for Station a few years back. Her ability to write and create lovely big moments in her music is growing with every release and I’m so excited hear her album later in the year.

Fans of Imagine Dragons and Mumford And Sons will probably love Magic Giant whose song Set On Fire was a stand-out this month with the most perfect of choruses. I’d love to see this become a mainstream hit but actually I’d love even more for the group to make it over to the UK to perform this one live as I could see it being an “oh my lord I love live music” moment.

If you’re looking for the next feel good Radio jam look no further than SNBRN who’s Nate Dogg sample Gangster Walk will be blaring out of cars all across the country soon enough.

Whilst I don’t wish to get into what I think about the bigger issue at hand, I can’t say enough how much I respect Macklemore for White Privilege 2. I include it here because by chance if you’re reading this and you haven’t heard the song yet you need to. It’s the most important piece of music released all month.

Kicking off like one of Alt-J’s more personal moments, Klangstof’s Hostage is great for reaching a skyscraper height with heavenly strings before allowing it’s synth basslines to pace from the background to the foreground, revealing itself to be closer to Sigur Ros’ power. An undeniable wow moment in music this year.

To conclude this month’s lengthy highlights (sorry about that) it’s Zayn. His track Pillowtalk is an interesting release as I actually didn’t dig it on first listen at all. The track lacks the chorus it deserves for me and whilst I still think he can do better, it is still an incredible song. I do think it’s also more pop than I imagined after he teased going full blown R&B.

January Top 10
1. Miike Snow – Genghis Khan
2. Savages – Adore
3. The Range – Florida
4. Elf Kid – Golden Boy
5. Sigala – Say You Do
6. Zayn – Pillowtalk
7. Grimes – Kill V Maim
8. Klangstof – Hostage
9. LCMDF – Rookie
10. Lukas Graham – 7 Years