What can you do in 3 minutes 30 seconds. Yes, the average length of a song heard on commercial radio. Make a cup of tea? Take a quick shower? How about, discover something that will change your year?
When you find that perfect song, one that stays for the entirety of the time it takes our planet to move around the sun, or longer, the feeling’s great. Yesterday we had albums, today we have tracks. The Melodic Distraction writers break down their favourite songs of the year.
Midland – “Final Credits” (ReGraded)
Chosen by Toby Taylor
This was a really easy one for me. ‘’Final Credits’’ was the highlight of what was an absolutely cracking Essential Mix from Midland all the way back in Feburary. I know I’m not alone in my admiration for this track either – it’s proved immensely popular with both punters and DJs alike, featuring heavily during the European summer festival circuit – and not without good reason. Its synthy disco sound is in fact heavily sampled from Lee Alfred’s ‘’Rockin- Poppin Full Tilting’’ (released in 1980), but it’s the vocal sample, taken from Gladys Knight & the Pips ‘’Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)’’ that really is the star of show. It gives the track a deeply melancholic and emotive feel, that’s sure to tug at even the hardiest of heartstrings. For myself, the track has added poignancy, because just as it was released in June, I was preparing to say goodbye to those closest to me as I embarked on a year abroad to New Zealand. The track seemed to perfectly encapsulate what I was feeling and going through at at the time. ‘’Final Credits’’ is what music is arguably all about – it was Plato after all who said that music stirs the soul. ‘’Final Credits’’ does just that, inspiring an emotional reaction from the listener, and it firmly establishes Midland’s reputation as one of the best producers in the business, and ReGraded as one of the most exciting and innovative labels out there.
Badbadnotgood – “Speaking Gently” (Innovative Leisure)
Chosen by James McElhone
The track I have chosen as my favourite may not be one of the stand out tracks of 2016 but it comes from one of the great modern jazz talents – Badbadnotgood. “Speaking Gently” is a psychedelic voyage which truly shows the horizons that this band operate in. With an absence of lyrics, we are treated with crisp synths, electric drumming and limitless basslines with the newly added saxophone bringing different levels of sound to the experience. One thing that really captivates is the pure energy of the track, their musical talents are mockingly good and the synergy between the members just puts them into a different league to a lot of musicians out there. It’s very hard this year to pick an outright best track but for me this song proves there is still original music being created with true enthusiasm.
Massive Attack – “The Spoils” (Virgin EMI)
Chosen by Chris Cannell
Topping my list of best tracks is “The Spoils” by Massive Attack. In what has been their most productive year since 2011, the Bristol duo have released two EPs, Ritual Spirit and The Spoils, with The Spoils EP featuring both Ghostpoet and Hope Sandoval. Hope Sandoval’s vocal contribution to “The Spoils” blends faultlessly into the typical Massive Attack sound of, almost sinister, mystery. There is a significant level of competition in my list for top track however, for me, Massive Attack rises to the top for the simple reason that this song is such an intricate development of their sound while still retaining its Massive Attack essence.
Mall Grab – “I’ve Always Liked Grime” (Unknown To The Unknown)
Chosen by Aiden Brady
Mall Grab has been making waves recently and is at the forefront of the growing lo-fi and left-field house scene. This track has been stuck in my head since first hearing it this summer. It’s fairly rare for a house track to have such a pronounced socio-political statement. Mall Grab uses a synth prominent in grime tracks such as Wiley’s “Jam Pie” and the track features an acapella in which a black man discusses the stigmas and judgement placed on him because of ethnicity. These aspects, combined with the name, make for an interesting social commentary on how grime’s position within pop culture and public opinion has shifted while prejudices still remain.
Mark Seven – “The Fatal Flaw in Disco” (World Building)
Chosen by Jaxon Eastabrook
Narrowing down a favourite track from this year is a mammoth task. Where do I start…there’s been a myriad of soulful goodness on Rhythm Section; there’s been cosmic house releases from the likes of Mood Hut and Project Pablo. On the harder side of things there’s been stellar techno and breaks releases like Senate’s “Pugilist Dub” and this year’s output from Illian Tape…not to mention Midland’s raved about release “Final Credits” which seems to have taken the dance music world by storm.
But for me, a personal favourite has to be the track that sums up my first Dekmantel experience. Sound tracking one of the most euphoric moments in the journey that was Pender St Steppers B2B Beautiful Swimmers, is Mark Seven’s “The Fatal Flaw in Disco”. Released in late August following the hype it had generated at Dekmantel, this track appears in the inaugural release on Ari Goldman’s (of Beautiful Swimmers) label: World Building. I think the best way to describe this track is to set you a challenge… 1) Play Track. 2) Try to stop yourself making stank face when the sax comes in… Good luck.
Ambala – “Calypso Beach” (Music For Dreams)
Chosen by Tom Lye
Music for Dreams, alongside labels such as Melody as Truth and Music from Memory, are consistently releasing wonderfully obscure balearic bits and pieces. This year has been on the rougher end of the scale and I’ve been reaching for loads of boogie and dreamy house music to escape from it all. Without doubt, the one record that I can pick out as track of the year is “Calypso Beach” by Ambala. This record works in pretty much any situation; waking up, going to sleep, peak time in a set or warming up in the bar. Ambala is a new project between Phil Mison, the balearic maestro behind Cantoma, and producer Thomas Volmer Schulz. Following this killer release, the duo have also brought out a full length album on the same label.
When I started writing bits for Melodic Distraction I hastily wrote up our little bio, ‘Melodic Distraction is exactly that: A wonderful escape from the grind. Allowing you to drift on a broad policy of funk, jazz and eclectic noises.’
This year has seen Melodic Distraction grow as an online platform and I look forward to being involved throughout 2017. Calypso Beach embodies what a melodic distraction should be to me. A blissful track with a rolling bassline and emotive keys laid over the top of dreamy electro chords. Escapism, whilst quite terrible, has been a major attraction to music for me in 2016. Maybe next year I will face the facts and highlight the poignant music released by artists such as Borders by M.I.A. For anyone digging Ambala, Music for Dreams also released the beautiful ambient album The Swan & The Lake by Moments a couple of months ago.
FKJ & Tom Misch – “Losing My Way” (Red Bull Music Academy)
Chosen by Josh Aitman
While searching for a favourite track of this year, I’ve found myself blockaded by my digging habits of old funk, soul, disco and house records. However, with the release of some incredible albums including Yussef Kamaal’s Black Focus and A Tribe Called Quest’s re-emergence after 18 years, it is the excitement of two upcoming albums in 2017 that helped me choose my top track of the year:
A new collaboration between electronic-funk producer, FKJ and hiphop producer and vocalist, Tom Misch, their debut track, “Losing My Way”, gets my vote for track of the year. Incorporating FKJ’s unique live-sampling skills and funk-enthralled melodies with Tom Misch’s experimental tendencies, this track displays both artist’s profound improvisational abilities and to me, it is mind blowing for artists this young to hold such talent.
With both announcing heavy studio time over the next few months to complete their solo albums, 2017 is no doubt the year for both FKJ & Tom Misch as they unveil the sounds they have been nurturing through 2016…
Mystep – “Juz Try” (Apparel Music)
Chosen by Mar Kio
In all honesty, I don’t know very much about this mystery European producer who prefers to keep his personal side hidden from the public – or at least save it for later, and let the music speak for now. What I do know, is that during this chaotic, memorable and most outrageous year for music and quite frankly everything else on this planet, this track kept a sense of freshness in my spirit every time I put it on. Jazzy chords laid over a funky groove, supported by progressive and almost wobbly synths. Not to mention the female vocal introduced at the bridge where an upright piano melody gives off the energy of a smokey bar in the 30’s. Within no time at all everything explodes and assumes the form of this deep and yet dancefloor-ready track, in which the piano and a fuzzy guitar seems to answer each other back and forth in a riff-based conversation. Everything is confusional and methodical at the same time. The track has to be my highlight of the year as it expresses the profound versatility of this producer’s capability all within a single production.
De La Soul – Pain ft. Snoop Dogg (A.O.I)
Chosen by James Zaremba
An easy choice in the end: I always find a useful measure of a great release is if you can remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when you first heard it. For me…a coffee shop in the Wirral. At the time I was living nomadically between a friend’s house and my girlfriend’s place over the water. With post-university blues kicking me in the ass daily, this song served a strong purpose in getting me through some tough times.
The track’s message is simple; without pain, we can’t evolve. A story so true for a group releasing their first music in 12 years, De La Soul’s mission statement of: “Pain gon’ make it better”, resonated with a broke, post-university, twenty-something trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life.
Still getting a daily spin from me, this song is notably as powerful as it is funky.
A Tribe Called Quest – “Enough” (EPIC)
Chosen by Rory Connaughton
I was really sceptical about Tribe’s new album after over a decade out the game and needless to say the huge loss of Phife. However, We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service, came through like a blessing from the skies, wrapping itself as the the perfect 2016 anaesthetic. I loved how it didn’t try and do too much, everything was vintage Tribe and as little attention was put on the colossal names that featured as possible. With all that being said, my favourite track of the year would have to be “Enough!!”, a spaced-out slow number that a severe lack of US hiphop artists wouldn’t bring nowadays. The track describes the duality of time and love spent between being a lover and the living the life of a musician, Q-Tip classily weaves through each bar with allegory so that you’re never quite sure if he’s talking about his love for music or the individual – naturally packing sex-heavy lyrics glossed with that elegant Tribe shine that was typical in the likes of classics like “Bonita Applebum” and “Butter”. Much like those tracks “Enough!!” retains that happy-go-lucky vibe which continues to make Tribe the absolute mecca of everyday easy listening.