#20 – Sia “Cheap Thrills”/”The Greatest”
Stepping away from my usual alternative-genre focus to give “two-fer” props to one of my fave pop releases this year. I was quite impressed with Sia’s “Some People Have Real Problems” CD (her 4th studio release) back in 2008, so I’ve enjoyed watching her come into her own. The fame-shy Australian singer, songwriter, producer and director has been on the scene since the mid 90s, and had intended to abandon performing to focus on her very lucrative songwriting career – but fate had other plans. David Guetta added Sia’s demo vocals to his hit song “Titanium” (which she wrote), and then her 2014 album “1000 Forms of Fear” (featuring the huge hit “Chandelier”) made it to #1 on the Billboard chart. Her 7th album “This Is Acting” features the dance-party anthem “Cheap Thrills” – a song originally penned for Rihanna – which became her first #1 single (as a singer) on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2016. “The Greatest” is another “rapturously exuberant” dance tune, with a video (featuring teen dancer Maddie Ziegler) that pays tribute to the victims of Orlando. Both are more than deserving of inclusion on the “Best Songs of 2016” list.
#19 – POP Etc “What Am I Becoming”
It’s fun to discover that a new band you like is really an old local band you liked. POP ETC is an indie rock band from Berkeley California, formerly known as The Morning Benders. Their new album Souvenir took three years to make but feels worth the wait. Described as “polished anthem-pop” with a sprinkling of other genre influences (that would be the “Etc”), the new single features a funky bass line, appealing harmonies, and a catchy chorus that keeps you coming back for more.
#18 – 21 Pilots “Heathens”/”Ride”
I have a tendency to focus on the less established/crossover bands here, but the appeal of this particular band across the genres is undeniable. “Ride” got a mention from me last year, but spent most of its time topping the charts in 2016.
If it’s possible for 21 Pilots to release a sub-par song, I have yet to hear it. Their latest track “Heathens” is a moody, edgy tune that continues the band’s penchant for philosophical, introspective lyrics and metaphors. We’re all “broken weirdos with issues” in one way or another. The song is a perfect fit for the “Suicide Squad” soundtrack – a DC comics fantasy/crime anti-hero film– on which it is featured.
Countdown 2016: #17 – Wild Belle “Throw Down Your Guns”
Wild Belle is a Chicago-based band known for its incorporation of reggae and ska grooves into a psychedelic pop sound. The band is comprised of Elliot and Natalie Bergman, siblings born into a musical family. Their debut album “Isles” was released in 2013. The follow up, “Dreamland”, features “a set of moody, groove-oriented songs with a deeper emotional impact”. The single “Throw Down Your Guns” started as a love song that morphed into a compelling yet peaceful protest against gun violence. In keeping with the band’s signature mixing of influences, the song incorporates elements of hip-hop with backing vocals by the Chicago Children’s Choir.
#16 – Two Door Cinema Club “Bad Decisions”
The track “Bad Decisions” by Irish indie rockers Two Door Cinema Club has been compared to offerings from the Bee Gees and the Scissor Sisters, which may go a long way towards explaining why I can’t get it out of my head. Today’s music seems thoroughly infused with the funk-disco sounds of the 70s and I don’t care how cheesy that may sound, I’m lovin’ every minute of it! Everything old is new again…. This fun song is from the band’s 3rd album “Gameshow” released on October 14.