74. Hopium – Cut
Willie Bee 25 word (or under… whatever brahhmen) comment: Sombre, trepidatious bass drum track from this mysterious Melbourne duo. The most poignant and stunning lyric in the song is ‘Everyone here is just a bad version of you’. The video clip is one of the best of the year too.
73. Sticky Fingers – Gold Snafu
WB comment: Australian rock ‘n roll hitting the spot, just the way it should be. It has been an astronomical rise to relevance for these lads, and this is a pretty good indication as to why. The Gold Snafu is a compulsory Summer BBQ accompaniment.
72. Schoolboy Q (ft. BJ the Chicago Kid) – Studio
WB comment: Sly, sexy hip-hop from Schoolboy who released an album on par with A$AP Rocky’s Long Live ASAP, this year. Oxymoron was a full and dense release that would have pleased many hip-hop tragics. Collard Greens is also worth a listen.
71. Todd Terje – Inspector Norse
WB comment: Scoooooby Doo, scoooooooooooooby doo. Damn good jiving music. So many elements meshing together to make a crisp lead single for Todd Terje’s banging ‘It’s Album Time’.
70. Owen Pallett – Chorale
WB comment: One of the most underrated album releases of the year, Owen Pallett brings a certain unorthodox approach to his music that is compelling. The following is an excerpt from the song and it is quite jaw dropping:
He is a creature of song, In his voice a model of the kingdom of heaven, But he comes from another world, A world I could not could never believe in.
69. Fractures – It’s Alright
WB comment: A slow-builder from up and coming Melbourne singer-songwriter Mark Zito, going by the moniker of Fractures. Bobbing up in the saturated alternative soul market, Fractures’ ethereal vocals and glossy production has seen him rise quickly to prominence. It’s Alright will be a delicate first exposure to the artist who with time will thrive.
6s8. TV on the Radio – Ride
WB comment: It’s no Wolf Like Me but when was the last time a track as good as that was produced by anyone let alone TV on the Radio. With a piano riff reminiscent of Rebellion (Lies) from Arcade Fire, Ride is literally a ride through the ups and downs, celebrating humanity’s ability to battle through hard times. A powerful anthem.
67. Sam Smith – Stay With Me
WB comment: Overwrought, sentiment dripping from every line and very simple lyrical content. So what gives? Well, Sam Smith just happens to have the most incredible voice that is an absolute mystery to me. Stay With Me is doused with a serious desperation for immediate human intimacy. To be fair, it is a damn special pop song.
66. Kendrick Lamar – i
WB comment: The man who would be king surprised with a preview of his new album with he dropped ‘i’ a couple of months ago. Self-affirming, self-love, is this the new Kendrick Lamar? I think it is evident from good kid, m.a.a.d city that he vouches for independent thought and a firm self-awareness. i is just another indication that the next chapter of Lamar’s story is his continued journey out of the darkness.
65. Zola Jesus – Dangerous Days
WB comment: This is a banger. I don’t know what else to say. So I’ll just tell you to listen to it and let you hear the driving drum beat and the irrepressible power in Zola Jesus’ voice. It will have you walking on water… Lol?
64. Dan Sultan – Kimberly Calling
WB comment: A taste of outback Australia from Indigenous artist Dan Sultan. It really makes you long for the careless days back home. Rockabilly stylings, recorded in Nashville, Sultan’s growl is a voice as good as Australia has produced for many years.
63. Chet Faker – 1998
WB comment: Speaking of Australians, Nick Murphy aka Chet Faker has delivered on his promise with an excellent first LP release. Australian alternative soul is well served by a bunch of accomplished bands and musicians, but it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge its spiritual leader. 1998 croaks in a numb and alarmingly effortless vocal performance by Chet… but it just works. His accompanying beats are also still refreshingly simplistic but arranged in such a blissful way.
62. The War on Drugs – Red Eyes
WB comment: It is difficult to stray from the Boss comparisons when listening to the Philadelphia-native band, The War on Drugs. Driving synth riffs, the rapturous ‘woos’ throughout and the strong internal monologue that blasts here, there and everywhere, feature in this belting and motivating number.
61. Damon Albarn – Lonely Press Play
WB comment: Prolific musician, Gorilla lover and gifted songwriter all blurred into one. That’s pretty lame. This song, etched in the shadows of our digital obsession, is certainly not. With its morose tone and sullen beat, this illustrates that Albarn is at his best when his music just, excuse my ambiguity, hurts.
60. Beck – Morning
WB comment: Beck, ladies and gentlemen. No words could really do the genius that is Beck justice. So just listen to this slow burner and smile.
59. Cold War Kids – First
WB comment: the quirky Californian four-piece have had a torrid time attempting to replicate their excellent first album, Robbers and Cowards, released almost a decade ago. At times CWK come across as a band confused about what they are here to achieve, whilst on other occasions they effortlessly capture human uncertainty in a quirky and humorous manner. You only have to look back to Hang Me Out To Dry and Hospital Beds to come to this realisation. First returns them to the revered latter position with this clever exploration of the human condition.
58. Taylor Swift – Shake It Off
WB comment: Catchiest song of the year. Taylor Swift has copped plenty of hate over the years but she writes/co-writes the most infectious pop tunes. As a good pal stated the other night, ‘Life is too short to pretend you don’t enjoy catchy Taylor Swift songs’. Too true… and that aerobic video really should be the official film clip. #fuckdahaterz
57. alt-J – Nara
WB comment: Nara is a special place and this song sums up the serenity of Japan’s deer-populated former capital, as well as commenting on a pretty volatile social issue in gay marriage. ‘Love is the warmest colour’ has been uttered many a time in reference to this issue but alt-J seem to have a penchant for making non-chalent comments that strike home pretty hard.
56. Little Dragon – Pretty Girls
WB comment: Little Dragon’s second appearance on the countdown comes with a beat heavily influenced by Robyn’s ‘With Every Heartbeat’. It was bizarre for me hearing this song for the first time at Terminal 5 in New York City and coming to the conclusion that it was a stripped back cover. After more research and a clearer mind, it was clear that this was just a really good song with very similar chords.
55. Andras & Oscar – Everytime I Go
WB comment: Andras Fox and Oscar Key Sung have combined to revolutionise the house music world with their minimalist and equally impressive first album together. Cafe Romantica doesn’t try too hard, and succeeds in providing what it seemingly set out to do. Romantic songs that are best had whilst consuming a damn good latte.
54. Andy Stott – Faith in Strangers
WB comment: File in between Jon Hopkins and James Blake. Pretty high praise from me considering that both Hopkins and Blake produced near-masterpieces last year. The lead track from the album of the same name holds an aggressive and unwavering beat that contrast with the distorted vocals. It feels like something straight out of that horrific come down ‘Train Spotting’ scene. Very cool.
53. Sharon Van Etten – Your Love is Killing Me
WB comment: Van Etten has a voice that is as large as it is haunting, and in this tragic wavering love-lost song, she captures instinctively something that many cannot. Love is as much about death as it is about life, and no matter how many permanents we place on it, we cannot escape the fact that love that has gone sour is a slow killer.
52. FKA Twigs – Pendulum
WB comment: Breakout year for FKA Twigs who set fire to the crowded alternative soul scene with an album that had unique perspective and vision. Pendulum is a tragic tale decorated by an ethereal backing track. I’m in awe of what this young woman has produced. It is sexy, without being overt, tragic without being overwrought with emotion and extremely poignant. And I’m not just talking about Pendulum.
51. Ariana Grande (ft. Zedd) – Break Free
WB comment: Ariana Grande makes me froth… Her huge vocals, her tiny frame, her terrible dancing… Spectacular. With her Mariah Carey-esque voice, the bouncy backbeat reminiscent of Robyn and her reputation as pop’s next big thing, Grande comes through with the goods and then some on this cracking pop song.
50. Beyonce (ft. Jay-Z) – Drunk in Love
WB comment: No need to introduce the two megastars in the song, they combine for their best co-appearance since Crazy in Love. Beyonce’s powerful voice tingles with anticipation and longing, whilst Hov just raps about Anna Mae eating cake. As soon as Beyonce whispers ‘I bin drinking, I bin drinking’, you know shit is getting real.
49. Run the Jewels – Oh My Darling, Don’t Cry
WB comment: This album is huge, this song is fucking destructive. ‘I’ve smoked the cush, I’ve eaten the puss, I’ve read the books, don’t need a preacher preachin’ on my behalf, no teacher can teach my arrogant ass.’ In-your-face and volatile, this is Killer Mike and El-P in beast mode.
48. Asgeir – Torrent
WB comment: Asgeir has taken the Bon Iver notebook and put his own spin on it with this uplifting track. This Scandinavian singer/songwriter’s pleasing falsetto is the highlight, but you will stay for the crashing, anthemic percussion section.
47. Grimes (ft. Blood Diamond) – Go
WB comment: Although Grimes copped mass criticism from fans of her quirky and almost indefinable first album release, this is still a fair dinkum jam. Whilst we are not accustomed to her dropping da bass and launching into breakdowns, the story goes that Rihanna turned down the song and thus the rest is history. It is a decadent summer jam in my book.
46. How To Dress Well – Repeat Pleasure
WB comment: Tom Krell has a voice as true as Maxwell and produces instrumental backings that just leave you transfixed. I am unashamedly taken by his most recent album, What is This Heart? and after listening to Repeat Pleasure, it is hopefully pretty clear why. Disco-pop in this heartwarming affirmation of polygamy… or at least that is what I took out of it!
Next up, the stunning conclusion to Wilhelm Bee’s 103, stay tuned and Merry Christmas.