So if you don’t know me, I’m Nic, I run this website and I like music a lot! I wrapped last year’s best songs with a thing called the #NK40, but because the first quarter of 2016 has been so good to us musically, I thought I needed to contain it in a 10-song post about its best songs. Here are those.
#10: PACES X JESS KENT – 1993
As someone who’s floated around the electronica world for a while now, it was so nice to see PACES really cut through in the first quarter of the year, with his penchant for tropical ~vibes~ in his choice of synths and choice of past-times (he surfed a wave that went for a kilometre yesterday, the fuck!) really becoming an integral part of why Vacation made such euphoric listening. The record’s breakthrough moment was his first commercial radio crossover, 1993, a perfectly timed collaboration with one-to-watch Jess Kent, dropped smack bang in the middle of summer… it just made sense, and never got boring to listen to.
#9: CHARLI XCX X HANNAH DIAMOND – PARADISE
A lot of artists experiment when they’re an album or two in, and frankly if you’re not, you’ll die. But what Charli XCX does with her experimentation is fascinating, because it doesn’t stop at adding an element of another genre here or there like popstars past, she takes it full boar – her fully produced, fully mastered, ready-to-roll punk album that we’ve only heard the occasional snippet of being one example. This time, her fascination with the pristine, synthetic perfection of SOPHIE and the PC Music sound became a full EP’s worth of collaboration with the elusive beauty, and the highlight of the Vroom Vroom EP (the title track’s been floating around for like 9 months so doesn’t count rly) was Paradise, a simple but effective duet with Hannah Diamond which paints the prettiest colours and emotions in the skies for you. Love heart emojis everywhere.
#8: BIG WILD FT TOVE STYRKE – AFTERGOLD
Despite only finding this the other day, it’s one of the best songs the year’s served up so far. Magical, brassy, glittery beats from Cali-based Big Wild copped him over three million plays of the song’s instrumental, before Sweden’s second best Tove, Tove Styrke, popped her angelic vocals and some fuckin peculiar lyrics on top for a bit of a radio-ready re-work. “you want some of that green rain? you want a 20 karat ball and chain? you want a pilot and a jet plane?” YES I FUCKING DO THANKS! I’m excited to see how this might continue to explode across Q2, because it’s pretty bloody perfect.
#7: FAVORITE CHILD X ERIK RAPP – JUST WANNA BELONG
With Eurovision fast approaching, expect me to be playing a lot of euphoric, giant European music over the next few months. This one won’t be at Eurovision, but a production duo called Favorite Child – who’ve worked with Tove Lo, Icona Pop and Erik Hassle in the past – might have put together the most obnoxiously perfect hard-pop song of the year to date. There are many horns, triple stacked harmonies running throughout, unnecessary yet incredible electric guitar solos, and a killlllllllllller vocal from noted hot Swedish guy Erik Rapp. Fav Chld (my abbreviation not theirs tbh) still only have 125 likes on Facebook, so go and like them and make sure you’re on the second single whenever it comes out, not that they really need one with any urgency.
#6: THE MAGICIAN X BRAYTON BOWMAN – SHY
The Magician is the man responsible for introducing Years & Years to the Australian squad in late 2014 after Olly chucked some vocals on his radio smash Sunlight. Magic Man’s had a couple of other tunes floating around but nothing really hit-worthy, until last week, when Shy emerged. His production has been updated to be a bit darker and whack you in the face a touch more, and his choice of vocalist to introduce to the world is impeccable, in that he’s got our pal Brayton Bowman to sing his lungs out. Ryan Ashley is on the co-write as well (Bray’s been working a lot with him) and I’m sorry, but I’m not shy around you, deserves to be screamed in clubs for decades to come.
#5: THE KNOCKS X JUSTIN TRANTER – TIED TO YOU
OHHHHHHH GOD THIS SONG!! So like I was having a shitty day a few weeks ago and The Knocks had just dropped their album 55, a long-awaited debut after 239457648 remixes and singles. The collaborator list was ridonk – Carly Rae Jepsen, Fetty Wap, Phoebe Ryan, and I was particularly interested in the song with Justin Tranter. Old mate used to be the lead singer in Semi Precious Weapons, but has spent the last couple of years as the most important writer in pop music, alongside his counterpart/BFF Julia Michaels. They did Sorry, they did Good For You, they did Hands To Myself, songs that need no further context. But Jussy hardly sings anymore! So he let The Knocks keep the vocal he did in the session on Tied To You, the most perfect disco-banger of all time, deserving of 150 dancers in a perfect 74-part choreographed dance routine including TRIBAL DRUMMING section at the bridge. “I discovered, broken dreams, fix themselves, when you’re with me,” AWWWWWW. This song made me so happy on that shitty day, nothing else mattered, and for the 4:20 (lol) it goes for, nothing ever will.
#4: LIL AARON X SOYSAUCE – BOUT TIME!
lil aaron has, of late, become my favourite person alive. His Twitter is lit, he just owned SXSW popping up seemingly anywhere, and he’s one of the only guys who’s simultaneously working as a public-facing rap game god and a pop writer under the same banner. No day is the same – one day he’ll be working on Hailee Steinfeld (her rumoured next single Fragile has Aaron’s involvement), next he’s making music with Australia’s Chase Atlantic, then he’ll get a call that he’s got the comeback single for DEV (see Lowkey), and then he jumps in a room with his friends and makes a beautiful, melodic rap song about how it’s fucking Bout Time the world knows about him and his friends, how he’s got a couple hundred thousand bucks in a hair-tie, and that his Uber needs to pull up already. Surrounded by the 145 and Milk & Honey teams, two of music’s most forward-thinking houses in the States, Aaron is shining on his own and this song was a beautiful reminder that he’s got his shit together big time.
#3: MURA MASA – WHAT IF I GO?
Mura Masa has been on every ‘one to watch’ list in human history (of the last 6 months) and he might have just secured his first proper hit single with What if I go?. I love the lightness of this, it’s just a pretty pop song that cuts through all the heavy stuff that’s trying too hard to be ‘big’ and Bonzai‘s vocal is perrrrrrfect, it’s got so much personality and strength to it. That magical glittery bit to close the song off at a respectable 3 minutes flat wraps up one of the year’s best pop releases in a special way.
#2: CHASE ATLANTIC – OBSESSIVE
This will be the year that Chase Atlantic truly dominate. The way they smacked this on the internet one random weeknight – with no warning – sending #OBSESSIVE to #1 on the Australian trends and making serious, lasting noise, was nothing short of genius for a pop band who GET IT. They’ve set up an incredible foundation by being one step ahead of the curve musically with their past EPs, and what we’re hearing from the upcoming one, they’re impossible to ignore. Obsessive was a perfectly crafted pop song – the shameless saxophone slayage from the band’s mastermind Clinton Cave was a bold and brilliant move, and no vocalist on the planet sounds like Mitchel.
#1: LONTALIUS – GLOW
“Glow is about feeling like you should have negative feelings for an ex but realising they were actually alright,” Lontalius told Nylon on its release. “People are beautiful and relationships are too. I just wanted to write a pop song.”
With vocals recorded in his bedroom, relatively simple instrumentation and a whole lot of heart, Lontalius pretty much told the story of the last dude I properly fell for. Maaaaaaaan he messed me round, but maaaaaaan, he was good for me. When you can find solace in a song that genuinely completes the narrative of the relationship you had with someone, you’ve found your favourite song. That’s Glow for me. Thanks for writing it, Eddie.