Even the first half of 2016 has shown us that it’s going to be a year for brilliant songs. That’s not to say nothing good has happened in other recent years, but the last six months do seem to be something special indeed. From established acts like Radiohead to lesser-known artists like Loyle Carner, there could well be something for everyone here.
If you don’t have time to settle yourself down with a whole album but you want to know what you might have missed, these songs should sort you out.
Blink-182 – Bored to Death
The band may now be without their usual guitarist Tom Delonge, but the quality of this track renders his absence almost irrelevant, thanks to powerhouse drumming that has been par for the course for Travis Barker and brilliant pop-punk song-writing including the introspective lyrics that feature in most classic Blink tracks.
Minor Victories – ‘Breaking My Light’
Here strings mix with guitar, piano, a DJ Shadow-esque drum pattern and beautiful singing. One of those parts would be a highlight on its own, but, together, the indulgent amalgam positively soars. Basically, it sounds like some of the songs from UNKLE’s first album, but even more magnificent.
Red Hot Chili Peppers – ‘Dark Necessities’
After one of the best intros of recent years comes a ‘Can’t Stop’-esque bass riff, and those elements are enough to let you know that this is one of the songs of 2016, complete with the surprising presence of piano and just one of several excellent efforts by guitarist Josh Klinghoffer on the new album The Getaway.
Badbadnotgood featuring Samuel T. Herring – ‘Time Moves Slow’
This mellow but mournful-sounding joint from modern jazz/hip-hop/soul instrumentalists Badbadnotgood and Future Islands’ Samuel T. Herring is the perfect accompaniment to – and cause of – melancholy introspection. It features sleek guitar, a smooth lead vocal and the funereal sound of an organ.
The Strokes – ‘Threat of Joy’
The song on the Future Present Past EP most reminiscent of the classic Strokes sound, ‘Threat of Joy’ is driven mainly by chirpy guitar riffs invoking both a coolness and a summery feeling, complete with a gorgeous ending. There is even the usual, but always interesting, highlight of intertwining guitars.
Foxes – ‘Scar’
‘Scar’, as brilliant as it is as a pop song, is only one of many greats written by Louisa Rose Allen. It is her reaction to a relationship that ended in hurt, but still manages to sound triumphant, simultaneously both commercial and artistically grand. It even has what sounds like gospel-influenced backing vocals at the end.
Pretty Vicious – ‘Down My Way’
An excellent and emotional description of a grim town where “nothing seems to change”, this track from the Cave Song EP, despite probably being about somewhere in England, might as well have described somewhere in Washington State given the depressing lyrics and the contrasts in sound of sullen/angry and quiet/loud.
Stone Roses – ‘All For One’
Expectations were high for new Stone Roses material, but the band certainly delivered with ‘All For One’. It features a mostly-shimmering guitar line that is still capable of delivering a beefy solo, one apparently straight out of the 1970s. Overall the performances here send the Roses to the heights of their eighties and nineties material, if not something beyond that grandeur.
Loyle Carner – ‘Stars & Shards’
Storytelling has always been important to hip-hop. However, except for, perhaps, Plan B, few have had as much success spinning webs of narrative in the UK rap scene as Loyle Carner, who here, with a streetwise style reminiscent of US emcee Guru, chronicles dark realities with a talent suggesting he has a bright future.
We Are Scientists – ‘Too Late’
This is surely the most commercial-sounding song from We Are Scientists. It may only be catchiness and a traditional structure that such a song shares with the likes of this band’s brilliant indie gems ‘Nobody Move…’ or ‘The Great Escape’, but the eighties-evoking ‘Too Late’, complete with its synths and large drums, is great in its own way.
Radiohead – ‘Daydreaming’
With so much expected of every Radiohead album after the success of ‘Creep’ , it is easy to fail to fully appreciate the true beauty of the majesty of their music when they get it right so often. With ‘Daydreaming’ they do not disappoint: even Pink Floyd or Beethoven arguably struggle to match its prettiness.
Black Foxxes – ‘I’m Not Well’
With an instrumental backing that sounds like moody Soundgarden songs circa 1996 or the rock tracks of early Nineties Pearl Jam, ‘I’m Not Well’ is, as one might expect, full of darkness, melancholia and anger. It exploits grunge’s often-mentioned capacity to facilitate subtlety and explosion, tension and release. One only wishes this song were even longer.
Biffy Clyro – ‘Animal Style’
‘Animal Style’ is rather straight-forward, with its 4/4 time signature, which is not always a given with Biffy, and a quite simple structure. However, the song is complex enough to keep things interesting. Instrumental parts dance in and out of each other’s way, angularity is on display at times, and even synthesizers and/or similar effects find a way into the mixture.
Michael Kiwanuka – ‘Black Man in a White World’
Having penned such high-quality songs as ‘Worry Walks Beside Me’, Kiwanuka returned in 2016 with this funkier effort from the forthcoming album Love & Hate. Although some may assume the singer-songwriter is talking about his race here, the song, while probably about that in part, seems much more profound than simply being concerned with someone’s origins or skin colour, as important as those things can unfortunately be.
A Day to Remember – ‘Paranoia’
Metal shot through with the energy and anger of punk, ‘Paranoia’ also features a brilliant lyric sheet, really letting you inside the head of song’s the main character. Its brilliant way of instrumentally building and releasing tension and continually piling it on with words recall the excellence of Foo Fighters’ ‘All My Life’.
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