Saturday, 31 December 2016

Top 40 Songs of 2016

This is my last blog post for the year - my favourite 40 songs of the year. These are not actually the 40 songs I listened to the most - I tried to limit myself to 1-2 songs per artist so as to be more representative of what I listened to throughout the year. Here is the spotify playlist (with a few songs replaced, because spotify still doesn't have everything) - I think it makes for a nice playlist to listen to between the two holidays.
In any case, whether you read the (extremely long) music list below - Happy New Year!

It's a progressive metal ballad, almost a little too slow, but it picks up on energy in a really nice arc, and brings it all down in the end - I'm a sucker for songs with this structure.
A fuzzy and pressing song that is greatly elevated by the beautiful vocals.
As much as I'm relatively disappointed with the new Gojira, some of their songs still kick arse, and this is one of them.
Warm guitars and a nice atmosphere make this a standout song, even though I'm not the biggest fan of the genre.
Interesting and jumpy in a true progressive fashion, but done so that it almost makes you want to dance (to progressive metal, yes).
I admit that I probably like this so much because I fell victim to the predictabe structure of starts-out-slow and then slams-you-hard, but I honestly don't mind.
Since Wintersun refuses to release Time II, we just have to contend ourselves with other Finns incorporating blatant Japanese instrumentalisation and imagery - although they aren't all that similar. This song is a lot less melodic and a lot more frantic, at times even veering slightly metalcore-ish.
33. The Vision Bleak - Ancient Heart (the song is not on youtube in any form)
Generally, I find gothic metal too soft, and lacking in anything ingenious musically; that is not the case here. The consant, foreboding drums give a beautiful, much needed layer to the song, which is otherwise carried on a rather simple riff and delightfully deep vocals.
This song is so beautiful and calming in such an incredibly understated way - probably the farthest we're going from metal on this list, but at 10 minutes, it just goes to show what an expertly crafted song this is that it still manages to engage me throughout.
Several meandering melodies make this a song that needs repeat listens for full comprehension, but the first thing that captures and will stay the highlight of this is the vocals.

It's hard to sum up a 16 minute song that relies heavily on the mood it builds, but let's just say Moonsorrow doesn't disappoint.
A beautiful, heartbreaking song whose melodies burns into your mind at the first listen.
A beautifully crafted melodeath song, from the promising keyboard intro through the unforgettable melodic riffing to the sweeping outro.
This one is harder to comprehend as one song, as it comprises several different parts, but it's an engaging journey - science-fiction veering at times space opera or quirky action flick.
Now this is really not my genre, but there's something I really appreciate about the raw emotion of this song - apart from the fact that the riffs are truly excellent in this one, paired with perfectly timed blasts.
I love Katatonia's new album, and it's hard to choose favourites from this album, so I'll readily admit that this specific one I love because it reminds me of one of my favourite books series. (It's the Raven Cycle, it always is.)
I slightly feel like I've heard that riff somewhere before, but it doesn't stop me from loving this. I especially like the soft transitions.
The song is so full of aggressive energy and fantastic riffage that it even makes me ignore the fact that I don't like the vocals all that much.
You thought Eurocheese was best cheese? You thought wrong! Seriously, the Prince of Persia level campiness is unreal, but this song is unbelievably catchy and fun.
I admit that I didn't like that OG went a little harder on their new album - in a way, they lost that reliance on melody that makes me love this particular brand of melodeath. However, this one song was close to perfect to me, a great infusion of a faster, more energised approach and the keyboard-y deliciousness they had before.

Canada's best export this year. The instruments are at times too fuzzy, but it's alright, because it only makes you think of warm blankies and chilly winter forests. For me the enveloping blast beats work very well, with the low guitars.
Clean and crispy and as honest about true cheesy metal as one can be. I dare you not to sing along with the chorus, I double dare you.
Oh, Dark Tranquillity, how I love you, and how much more I love you when you try something new and it works so good I could literally cry. How is Stanne such a good vocalist?
A one minute classical intro! Slam in the face with low-tuned guitars and lots of bass! Obviously I'm sold. There's some particularly delicious parts at around 2:00 and 4:00.
The best thing about this song (and record) is that it's incredibly recognisable. I'm incredibly uneducated on music, so I can't tell why, but their sound is just simply very unique.
Another hugely catchy power metal song. Probably ranked the highest because to me, it's the catchiest.
I'd say it ellicits similar emotions to The Absolute - the difference being precisely the difference of their genres. It's progressive, so there are more embellishments, and it's power metal, so it ups the cheesiness factor, and it works incredibly well.
This probably isn't an objectively good song, but I always liked Fallujah's approach to tech-death. There's just enough trance-y material to make it perfect for me.
So many interesting things stuffed into one song - the overall doomy atmosphere ties everything together in a perfect blend.
This song doesn't hesitate. It approaches for a few seconds, and then, in true Fleshgod Apocalypse fashion, it kicks you in the face and keeps kicking. A bit pretentious, yes, but this times, it fits the subject just right.

This song wins first place for most emotional vocal performance. A raw, stripped down voice set against nothing but soft piano notes, that kickes you to the curb at 4:30, grief in seven minutes.
Takes the understated, clear beauty of Kodama and blends it with the heavyness of post-black that was so prevalent on Écailles de lune and Les voyages de l'âme in a perfect amalgam.
I normally don't fancy jazz in my metal, but there really isn't any other way to describe certain parts of this song. It's a bit impromptu and avantgarde - there's the disturbing changes in vocals, the hurrying riffs, the guitars that sound like brasses, and then the true brasses - but it isn't as unpalatable as true avantgarde would be.
I love when beautiful voices are accompanied by beautiful music, but I love it even more when there's just that hint of danger, the foreboding drums, the ever-present warning of the distorted guitars that makes that beauty pop that much more by the contrast.
It's unbelievable how well this song builds up the atmosphere - or more accurately, how it crafts it so that you get immersed in the few seconds, and then it doesn't let go. It's hard to understand how the same riffs repeated with little variations still remain engaging, but they do. The galloping at 3:00, and then the beautiful, haunting chorus, and the same thing again, only to let out a little around 7:00, and then to come back in a swirling, springy motion - it's a masterfully crafted piece.
A lot more understated piece, but maybe the heaviest from the album - it showcases some of the best guitar work of Katatonia, all the while maintaining that fragile, yet quotidian beauty that they managed to capture here.
I'm cheating a bit, because Winter's Gate is in seven parts, but it's technically one song. Nobody who loves metal should miss out on this album, and as it is, it really isn't nearly the same if one doesn't listen to it in one sitting.
To be fair, I love many songs on Atoma, but this stands out as a very well-balanced one, between the Golden Age of DT and their new, modern, crisper sound. It makes me nostalgic, even though I'm really fairly young, especially considering DT's fanbase. It is easily among their best songs, although that is probably a collection of many, many songs.
I'm a huge, unrepenting fan of the style of melodeath the likes of Insomnium or Be'lakor make, but even knowing that, I can't stop myself from describing this song as a masterpiece. It has a beautiful arc, both musically and lyrically, the heavier parts and the melodic, atmospheric reprise is perfectly distributed, and it all culminates in an almost-acoustic bridge leading to one of the most cathartic endings I've ever heard.
I love, love this song. It's hard to get past the emotional reaction, because it resonates with me so much, but I'll try to dissect. It's atmospheric and melodic, which I love. It has that perfect compositional arc that's my weakness - it builds through several variations to let out in cathartic end tied together by a near-acoustic bridge. What really elevates it for me is how the lyrics perfectly follow the musical act - I realise not all of us are hipsterish tree-huggers (could've been, if not for the fact that I love luxury and metal), but even then one can appreciate the artistry in that.

Run with me. We will hunt the spirit of the land.
In the solar glow, we will hunt.
Hunt with me where topos, mythos, anthropos collide.
Woven to our souls we take our prize.

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