Thursday, January 7, 2016

Zrbo's Favorite Songs of 2015

Another year, another top 5. Here we go:

#5:  Halo 5 - "Kamchatka"

In my review of Halo 5 I didn't really touch upon the music. If you'll recall, for Halo 4 they brought in Neil Davidge of Massive Attack fame to do the soundtrack and, well, it wasn't received terribly well. As Endgadget said: "Think of it like Disney replacing John Williams' iconic Star Wars score with something by Randy Newman and you're about halfway there."

For Halo 5 343 Industries set about rectifying that mistake by bringing in composer Kazuma Jinnouchi. Luckily it worked out and the music in Halo 5 is brought back in line with the sound of other Halo games. Kamchatka is perhaps my favorite off the new soundtrack. I like how it how it incorporates the more electronic sound from Halo 4 while still being its own thing. Also, the build up at the beginning reminds me a bit of Vangelis's "Chariots of Fire".

#4:  VNV Nation - "Standing (Moderato Declamando)"

VNV Nation finally made the album that frontman Ronan Harris has been wanting to make for years: VNV songs accompanied by an orchestra. As I said in my review of Resonance, I was left mildly disappointed. The songs didn't quite have the bombast I had wanted or expected. I have however found myself frequently listening to the Moderato Declamando version of "Standing". It doesn't hurt that "Standing" is also one of my favorite songs by the group. Gone are the pulsing beats of the original that made it a dance floor hit, replaced instead with Ronan's voice and classical instrumentation. While I still prefer the original, this is the only track off of Resonance that's managed to make it's way into my regular playlist.

#3:  Diana Ross - "Ain't No Mountain High Enough"

Time for the retro pick. I've never paid much attention to Motown or Diana Ross before (shoot me) but I completely dig this song. And though I'm not usually the biggest fan of spoken word, I really like it here, and the moment at 4:18 is pure bliss. Listening to this song is like going to church, I feel the soul.

#2:  Carly Rae Jepson - "All That"
You may have noticed Carly Rae Jepson's E-MO-TION album on other end of the year lists, and as pop albums go it surely deserves to be there. Similar to my top pick from last year, the production on this album is superb. With a definite nod to the sounds of the 80s (which seem to be quite in vogue), E-MO-TION would make a young Debbie Gibson or Tiffany weep in envy.

Really, I could have picked any one of several tracks. I could have chosen the exuberant "I Really Like You" (with its bizarre video featuring Tom Hanks), and I've seen other reviewers choose dark horse "Run Away With Me" as best pop song of the year (that chorus!). But in the end I went with "All That", a song best described by AMG as a "seemingly long-lost slow jam". And what a slow jam it is! It makes me feel like I'm back at a junior high dance with my arms strapped awkwardly around some girl's waist. It brings to mind other late 80s jams like Stevie B's "Because I Love You (the Postman Song)". Now, where did I put my Hypercolor shirt?

#1:  Psy'Aviah- "Long Way"
If you bothered to read my review of Psy'Aviah's The Xenogamous Endeavor then you would have seen this pick coming. This is my favorite album of the year, showing a diversity of sound but still rooted in electronic/EBM/industrial. Like my #2 pick, I could have chosen any number of songs. There's "Sacrifices", or "On My Mind" (which came very close to being my #1), or any other number of tracks. But in the end I went with the album opener "Long Way". It's not the most lyrically dense song, but what I like is that it's short, punchy, and gets to the point. There's no flab, no extended outro, just a quickly building dance track. And like all the best songs, the louder you turn it up, the better it sounds. It also fits my life this year as I underwent some major life changes (like moving to a new state and buying a house), so it seems fittingly appropriate.

That's it for 2015, thanks for reading!

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