December is best-of list time. The big hits of this year, from Drake’s “Hotline Bling” to “I Can’t Feel My Face“ by The Weeknd, will be included in most of the ‘The Year In Music’ reviews. Here, we want to focus on the overlooked masterpieces and shine some light on ten great songs you should really know.
Read Part One here.
6. Fantasma – “Shangrila”
Listen if you like: M.I.A.
Think: Poolside cocktail party
Info: When South African rap maestro Spoek Mathambo introduced his new band Fantasma with the album “Free Love” back in January, this joyful pop gem stood out. And still, almost one year later, it charms the listener with lively guitars, Moonchild’s sweet and hypnotic vocals and an energetic beat.
7. Jay Rock – “Traffic Jam” (Easy Bake Remix)
Listen if you like: Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar
Think: A lowrider cruise
Info: In 2015 there was Kendrick Lamar and no one else. His album To Pimp a Butterfly was so huge and omnipresent in the hip hop world that 99059, the record of fellow TDE crew member Jay Rock, wrongfully escaped a lot of people’s notice. Let’s make it right by shining some light on this excellent tune, which by the way features a Kendrick co-sign, shall we? It’s the relaxed beats, the stunning soulful chorus sung by SZA and Jay’s smooth raps that make Easy Bake’s remix of “Traffic Jam” the dopest old school anthem of the year.
7. Moses Sumney – “O Superman”
Listen if you like: James Blake, Bon Iver
Think: Robots at choir practice
Info: We won’t hold your auto-tune aversion against you, no worries. To be fair, the voice effect has been fairly overused in the last ten years. And yet, you should give this amazing little pop tune a chance. Sumney, a young songwriter from California brings Laurie Anderson’s classic into the present, flanked by a choir of robot angels playing ground electronics and psychedelic gospel effects. It’s an accumulation of sounds that don’t seem to work together, but in Sumney’s hands they turn into pure magic.
9. Protomartyr - “Why Does It Shake?”
Listen if you like: Nick Cave, Joy Division
Think: Waking up after a night on the town
Info: Admittedly, this secret hit isn’t all that secret. But as it’s probably the best rock song of the year, it’s a must on every good best-of list. The Detroit band’s songs are chilly as well as vigorous, singer Joe Casey’s lyrics are poetic as well as disturbing. This dichotomy is what makes Protomartyr one of the most exciting bands at the moment. You can’t just listen to their music on the side, it demands your full attention. This song is a brilliant example: right after the two-minute-mark a distorted guitar cuts in and makes your ears bleed.
10. Sheer Mag – “Button Up”
Listen if you like: Thin Lizzy, The Strokes
Think: The first day of the summer holidays
Info: We can’t think of a song this year that put us in a better mood than this one. Hidden on the B-side of the second, eponymous single by this young Philadelphia band, “Button Up” turned out to be a slow-burning indie-rock hit. Christina Halladay’s rough voice, the 1970s rock affine guitar chords and an extra large portion of lust for life give this tune a solid good mood guarantee, raising high hopes for Sheer Mag’s debut album early next year.