Here we are my 100 favourite tracks of the year with a Spotify playlist. Words by Luke Sharkey, Kelly Doherty and Niall.
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A delicate brass-toned instrumental highlight from the Chicago band’s second album.
Toro Y Moi
Chaz Bundick extols the virtues of a multi-faceted creative work life with this slippery funk dance track.
Noname’s jazzy ‘Song 31’ puts her rap chops to the front with a rhythmically challenging flow and her exceedingly buttery voice. It’s an understated number that showcases Noname’s versatility and charms with its unorthodox approach to rap.
The Light Upon Us
Eoin French takes up his calling card cinematic indie on the superb ‘The Light Upon Us’. Listening to the chorus, there can be little doubt that French is among the best vocalists in the nation right now.
Euphoric piano-lead house track from a UK duo on Alan Fitzpatrick’s Apex Faction imprint. Late night last tune on the stereo before you go home vibes.
A 9-minute bisexual anthem from The Internet musician’s solo album Apollo XXI.
Welsh native Strawberry Guy channels early Mac Demarco and vintage Japanese city pop artists like Shintaro Sakamoto on this dreamy slacker pop tune. Not reinventing the wheel but having a ton of fun with it.
Take It Easy ft. Smokepurpp
Octavian employs the help of US rapper Smokepurpp on the braggadocious, dark flow of ‘Take It Easy’. The British rapper’s distinct vocals lend a raspy quality to this syrupy trap cut that bounces between cocky statements about drugs, violence, sex and money with such a cartoonish quality that it eventually forces you to suspend your reservations to just join in on the party.
There’s so much going on here musically, that golden-era Hollywood fiddle melody and Brittney Denise Parks’ nu-R&B vocal delivery.
A storming mission statement from one of Ireland’s most promising MCs, ‘Copper Bullet’ sees Chaila putting the world to rights. Stripped back production takes a back seat to some of the best Irish hip-hop lyrics of the year with a song that immediately asserted Chaila as a bright new rap talent.
The most striking avant-garde pop tune made and released in Ireland this year. Lavelle’s shrill, sometimes ghoulish vocal is perfectly accompanied by a minimalist synth arrangement.
Cate Le Bon
Home To You
Wales’ finest had a standout year and there was no finer song from Le Bon than this one.
‘Sociopath’ is an unnervingly unorthodox love song. Pusha T’s captures the spirit of the all scamming, money-loving apple of his eye in this sinister lyrical beast that flips the script on gender roles in hip-hop.
Invoking 80s pop aesthetics, ‘Maybe’ sees SOAK flexing her pop chops with a huge chorus and a youthful sense of euphoria. Grim Town was a joy from start to finish and ‘Maybe’ is its landmark moment.
The sort of bassline the sun dreams of setting to from Rafino Murphy, on a song with smudged lo-fi pop falsetto vibes.
Signed to DEEWEE (of Soulwax), Sworn Virgins are a bit of a mystery. Nobody knows much about the hard disco act, though rumours of Paranoid London being involved are ripe. All that aside, ‘Lazer Beam’ melted faces across the city throughout the later half of the year. Undulating, unabashed disco genius.
From the Birmingham Alabama singer-songwriter’s first album in eight years. “Ooh la la / Swastika / Say Old Glory / Happy birthday / I seem my name / Spelled out in cocaine,” he sings. It’s dark but the music reels you in.
Ibitihaj ft. D’Angelo & GZA
It’s always a treat to get an encounter with D’Angelo and Rapsody is at her best on this tribute to US Olympian Ibtihaj Muhammad, the first American Muslim woman to wear a hijab whilst competing. Sampling GZA’s ‘Liquid Swords’, ‘Ibtihaj’ is buoyed by Rapsody’s irresistible flows and an overall timeless feel. Produced by another legend in 9th Wonder, ‘Ibtihaj’ is an essential hip-hop track.
Kate Tempest’s final breaths on her latest album address the seemingly staggering divisions within Brexit England with poignant empathy. ‘People’s Faces’ loves the British, even in their worst moments.
Nealo, Molly Sterling, Innrspace
Just My Luck
Nealo’s first single release following ‘October Year’ heard the Dublin MC headed in far more soulful, jazzy direction arrangement wise. Aided in no small part by guest vocals from Molly Sterling, instrumentation from INNRSPACE and the memorable use of expletives in the call and response hook.