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2016 IN REVIEW: Bitter Sweet Symphonies’ Favourite Tracks of the Year

2016, I think we all can agree, has been a testing year but it has brought with it a heap of standout moments in music. We wanted to shine a light on some of the brilliant tracks that have sent us racing to the dancefloor, the one’s that left us curled up in a ball on the floor strung out with crippling emotion, and the song’s that just make us feel good. Get ready. They’re all here.

All selections were complied by Lewis Lloyd-Kinnings (LK), Joe Anderson (JA) and Charlotte Holroyd (CH).

Abattoir Blues ‘Sense’

The first testament from Brighton’s Abattoir Blues is lushly noir and searing. The post-punk band enraptured our minds, moving straight into ‘woah’ terriotory upon the first listen. This is assured songcraft: twisted dynamics match enraged vocals perfectly, giving reference points akin to that of noise makers Crows, but also showing restraint and capturing the complexity of the human condition like The National. CH

Anteros ‘Breakfast’

Everybody loves pop, some are just too proud to admit it and ‘Breakfast’ by Anteros is the perfect example of a band embracing that fact, and packaging it nice and tidily into a beautifully relistenable earworm. Laura Hayden delivers melodies laced with attitude and sweetness in equal measure, and struts the stage like a modern day Debbie Harry, whilst retaining a unique personality that carries Anteros to the forefront of emerging indie-pop. LK

EAT FAST ‘Byker Drone’

I feel like I’ve spent all year writing about these North East fuzz-nicks, but every poorly-crafted sentence and made up adjective I’ve used to express how much I love EAT FAST’s brand of garage-indie is well worthwhile. ‘Byker Drone’ was the first track I, or anyone for that matter, had the chance to experience and throughout 2016 it has stuck with me as the freshest, and most invigorating sound I’ve heard in years. LK

Albin Lee Meldau ‘Darling’

2016 was our introduction to Meldau’s magnificent folk storytelling. The Swedish singer borrows the elegance of 50’s and 60’s pop with the brave fragility of the blues, and ties it tightly in an honest ribbon of folk. The stand out moment came when he released ‘Lou Lou’, his debut single, moving onwards he opened up his catalogue of songs and shared a wonderful extended piece which included ‘Darling’. A powerful tale of immense feeling and fraught voice, with this evocative ditty Meldau proved his lasting might – songwriters like Meldau come once in a blue moon. CH

INHEAVEN ‘Treats’

The rebel collective have found prominence even more so in 2016, straight shooting single after single out of huge soaring anthems, and a rowdy live show to back it up, there’s nothing stopping this juggernaut from derailing anything in its path. INHEAVEN needn’t prove their relevance any further, the four-piece have founded a sect of devout followers, the only way forward is to build on what they’ve already achieved and this doesn’t seem like a difficult feat. Current single ‘Treats’ is their wildest grungiest effort to date, twisting the dynamics this time and featuring lead vocals from Chloe Little upfront and in-your-face. CH

Leif Vollebekk ‘Elegy’

Contemporary pop with a sultry jazz twang, Leif Vollebekk wins our approval easy with his soulful songwriting and melodic vocals. But we fell deep when we watched the visuals for ‘Elegy’, his fluid shuffles and characteristic dance moves say it all. When we crave a lazy beach day, we know where we’ll be heading straight away. CH

The Strokes ‘OBLIVIUS’

With one of the best songs released since ‘Room On Fire’, The Strokes are back and it’s easy to see why everyone still loves one of New York’s coolest exports. Drawing on Julian Casablancas’ work with The Voidz, this is the sound of a band giving the middle finger to everything that is expected of them. A booming, anthemic chorus and one the strangest yet enduring riffs ever, The Strokes have finally broken open the formula for their early successes and turned it into something alien, disgusting yet unbelievably addictive. JA

Syd Arthur ‘Sun Rays’

Canterbury’s Syd Arthur returned this year in magnificent, multi-coloured lucidity. Reinterpreting their sound with a new widescreen vision, the psych-pop shuffle of ‘Sun Rays’ startled and bewildered on the first listen, and further tempts the senses upon each subsequent listen. It’s wild avant-garde heart leaps to stunning anthemic highs – equally authentic and disparate. CH

Geowulf ‘Saltwater’

Dreamier than a cuppa tea on a rainy day but as sun flecked as boozy cocktails on the beach, ‘Saltwater’, the debut single from Aussie raised and Europe based duo Geowulf is (in my humble opinion) an instant classic. The office stereo, often reserved for dealing with your colleagues truly awful music taste, was in fact the discovery point for this gem. After only 20 seconds I was up on my tip-toes like a fool waving my phone at the speaker attempting to activate my dodgy Shazam knock off: worth it. LK

Prides ‘Are You Ready’

Glasgow synth-pop behemoths Prides waltzed back in as a duo this year, bringing us two massive tunes. The second of the pair, ‘Are You Ready’ leads the pack, with its huge arena-worthy chants, emotional plea and minor chord-turned-euphoria. It’s a banger, if we’ve ever heard one. CH

Shy Nature ‘Eyes So Cold’

London’s Shy Nature are a band we hold very dearly in our hearts, their jubilant return with the stunning ‘Eyes So Cold’ was a huge moment for us. Razor sharp Circa Waves-esque guitars and surfy fuzz lead the pessimism of Will Blackaby to reach a rational conclusion: “She never wanted you to fall in love.” Lyrically, they paint a picture of a bleak relationship but backed with a zingy musical backdrop, it’s just too good for any souring to occur. CH

Black Honey ‘Hello Today’

One of the acts I’m most excited about from these fair shores, Black Honey have delivered indie hit after indie hit since they emerged to the masses in 2015. Tarantino inspired soundscapes, massive choruses and stomping verses, Black Honey’s simplistic yet inspired formula for great tunes is perhaps apexed on the 90’s inflected ‘Hello Today’, the band’s most recent track. If that’s anything to go on, 2017 could most definitely be Black Honey’s year. LK

James Blake ‘Radio Silence’

In classic form, James Blake has created four minutes of delicate chaos – drum machines juxtaposed with pianos, heavy house synths juxtaposed with soft falsetto vocals. There is no other way Blake could open his magnificent album, ‘The Colour In Anything’. An introspect on modern relationships, Blake has mastered tapping into deeper emotions through minimal yet poignant production and simple lyrics mixed with harrowing vocal textures. It’s easy to get lost in the vast uninhibited spaces, leaving the imagination to its own devices. JA

Yonaka ‘Ignorance’

Brighton group Yonaka stole the show when we ran into their tribal rock at the top of the year. Anything but sedate, ‘Ignorance’ thrashes and trembles, brought to life by leader Theresa Jarvis’ disarming call. It’s an elaborate dance between austere desperation and brute whirlpools of voice, which leaves Yonaka etched, if not lodged, in the mind. CH

Chemtrails ‘Aeons’

Sometimes a track get’s served up to you when you least expect it, and totally blindsides you. For me, this was totally the case with ‘Aeons’ by Chemtrails – a Gold Flake Paint find (honestly a treasure trove of sweet indie nectar), and being released on the uber cool PNK SLM label, who are backing some of the raddest around right now. Just this December the band have released their debut ‘Love in A Toxic Wasteland’ EP, a must listen for fans of hooky lo-fi scuzz. LK

Forth Wonderers ‘Slop’

New slacker darlings Forth Wonderers slipped into existence in 2013 and released their ‘Tough Love’ album a year later, but really burst into tastemaker consciousness with this year’s ‘Slop’ EP. The title track of which is a delightfully wonky, tired and emotional portrait of youth and the confusions that this brings: “I love too much, to hurt this bad, and I laugh too much, to be this sad”, a painful lyrical highlight. The natural heirs to the sofa-throne of Generation X indie stalwarts Alex G, LVL UP and others. LK

Delaire ‘Healing in Love’

London artist Delaire brought us show-stopping ethereal electronica with ‘Healing in Love’, evocative of Jessie Ware‘s soulful R&B. This is pristine pop with a towering female vocal at its helm; precious, intense, uncontrollable, visceral. Delaire stunned us with her precision and devotion to her songcraft, we have a good feeling about what the future holds. CH

Lists ‘Autumn’

Scottish artist Lists falls somewhere between Radical Face and Sufjan Stevens, his lo-fi wispy folk consumes in enlightening melancholy. ‘Autumn’ caught our ear almost instantaneously, its driving patchwork of guitar, synth, glockenspiel and strings move its listener to the core. Simple songs like this one can wield so much power that it’s too impossible to ignore. CH

Baskervillain ‘It’s a Love’

Brisbane’s Baskervillain released ‘It’s A Love’ in late 2016, and honestly I can’t remember how I heard it first. What I do know however is that it has found its way into my heavy rotation Spotify playlist, and is the single song that makes me sit up and take notice every single time it comes on. It’s chilled out, but still incredibly emotionally involved, every vocal part, guitar lick, bass note and drum hit seems perfectly postponed to generate a calmly exhilarating song. LK

MYZICA ‘Endless Love’

Nashville’s MYZICA march to a different beat, in what’s almost an ode to 80’s-era Madonna, the duo hand us ‘Endless Love’. Possessing a classy modern, contemporary touch that recaptures that sound in all its pop glory. A feel good ditty that swoons romantic assurances and sweet vocals. One for the movie montage collection. CH

Strange Collective ‘Super Touchy’

Liverpool’s Strange Collective fell quite fortuitously into my life and since hearing the collection of song’s they’ve let loose online, I’ve not been able to shake the lingering visuals that lodge in your brain when watching one of their moving montages. All are magnificently original and each feature their own distinguishable spelling point, from the pressured gorging of takeaway food on ‘Heavy’ to the drink-a-thon of ‘Super Touchy’, it’s highly unlikely that these video’s won’t leave a lasting impression on their viewer. ‘Super Touchy’ feels its way through a battlefield of garage pysch, triggering a groovy shuffle from the get-go with supple bass holding down the fort, while manic drums rage and infectious vocals ooze out of its every pour. It’s a maniacal force. CH

Hovvdy ‘Problem’

‘Problem’ by Hovvdy is one of my picks of 2016 because of the emotional depth and breadth it manages to inspire and imbue in the listener in two and a half minutes. I knew very little about the band, and still don’t know much more really, but I kinda like it that way. And they remind me of Grandaddy which is always cool. LK

Causes ‘Teach Me How To Dance With You’

This song holds a moment, it lingers and creeps into memory until there’s nothing left to do but graciously submit. It’s a brilliant pay-off; the epitome of a sentimental pop song. Causes found a home in the Netherlands, each member a transplant, travelling there to pursue a dream. The music they make is infectious, sensual and meaningful – ‘Teach Me How To Dance With You’ is Causes at the pinnacle of their powers. CH

IRAH ‘Fast Travelling’

The dream pop of Copenhagen trio IRAH lands in the realms of Kate Bush and Enya. ‘Fast Travelling’ enthrals and enchants with the means of expanding the mind through spiritual transcendence. Ceremonial drums pound in the distance, while haunting windswept synths float around the ether reciting a calming mantra. CH

Bad Sounds ‘Avalanche’

Fun in a non-landfill Brit-poppy way, ‘Avalanche’ by Bad Sounds has all the best bits of Beck, Blur, Superfood, LCD Soundsystem et al. through its bouncy three and a half minutes. Curiously British in tone, not a little dance inducing and eminently sing-along-able, ‘Avalanche’ is one of the smiliest songs of the year that can’t help but to lift your mood, in spite of its slightly dark lyrical content. LK

Otherkin ‘Yeah, I Know’

Ireland’s Otherkin charge down the highway at breakneck speed on ‘Yeah, I Know’ A throwback to the frenzied rock of Kings Of Leon in the early days, blurry and robust, it’s a thrill ride. An easy listen that will undoubtedly lead to a full-on rave/mosh-pit in any given situation. CH

October Drift ‘Cherry Red’

Somerset’s October Drift propel into jet-stream mode with ‘Cherry Red’, a sleek super-charged surge of impenetrable force. That combines the band’s ambition with a search for perspective and a heap of indiscernible unknowns. Somehow they manage to retain a sense of melody throughout this frenzy of noise, making the downcast lament sound somewhat uplifting and revitalising. It’s invigorating to say the least. CH

Hazel English ‘Make it Better’

Perhaps one of the artists most poised to take 2017 by storm is Oakland based Aussie expat Hazel English. Working with Day Wave’s Jackson Phillips, English has crafted a delightfully hazy and recognisable sound, capped by her own easy-to-warm to voice. ‘Make it Better’ is her most recent offering, and my favourite because as well as the omnipresent sense of yearning, there is a quiet sunniness to it (in a dim August evening sort of way). LK

Charlotte Holroyd
Editor, Creator and Founder of Bitter Sweet Symphonies. A lover of music and cinema, who's constantly attending gigs and in search of a great experience.

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