To coincide with this year’s Belwood Awards we’re introducing a new annual list of the top songs of the year. Apologies for the terrible oversight of not starting one sooner! After re-exploring numerous albums and playlists from January onwards, this list eventually formed after countless shuffle rounds and rethinks. Most of this year’s biggest tunes were from up-and-coming artists which needless to say is a very good sign of a thriving music scene. So without further ado, let’s get down to it:
10. Bear’s Den – ‘Dew on the Vine’
With their new album Red Earth & Pouring Rain, London folk band Bear’s Den have expanded their sound and seem completely rejuvenated. Especially here on the album’s finest moment they sound like a perfect amalgamation of folk heroes Mumford & Sons and the atmospheric Americana of The War On Drugs.
9. Billy Bibby & The Wry Smiles – ‘Are You Ready?’
Former Bottleman Billy Bibby has certainly made a solid start for his solo career. While his old band have faltered slightly this year, Billy has been busting out the kind of anthemic indie rock that won over Catfish and the Bottlemen’s loyal fanbase on their debut. ‘Are You Ready?’ is pure sing-along, fist-pumping perfection and a sign of greater things to come.
8. Michael Kiwanuka – ‘Cold Little Heart’
The opening opus from his stunning second album Love & Hate. One of my most memorable music moments of 2016 was the awe I felt when first hearing this track. Like some long lost collaboration between Pink Floyd and Marvin Gaye, to my mind it’s the most grand and ambitious track of the year.
7. Hannah Grace – ‘Mustang’
The stunning title track of her latest EP, the fierce blues fury of ‘Mustang’ features some of the finest vocals of the year. She gives a powerful performance that is brimming with attitude as she sings about breaking free of expectations. Hannah has one of the best voices around and is definitely one to watch. If your life needs a badass soundtrack, this is it!
6. Rag’n’Bone Man – ‘Human’
Having followed his career for a few years now I’m immensely proud of how far Rag’n’Bone Man has come this year, and ‘Human’ was the song that brought him into the spotlight. His Earth shaking vocals have already earned him a BRITS Critic’s Choice Award and he has skyrocketed up the charts. 2017 is all his for the taking.
5. Jonny Carroll – ‘When I’m Alive’
Belwood Music is all about supporting rising stars, and as such I’ve discovered a lot of amazing acts through music submissions. Jonny Carroll is the best act thus far that’s ever found its way into my inbox. The highlight of his brilliant debut album Leaving on the Light, ‘When I’m Alive’ slowly builds into the perfect embodiment of Jonny’s mantra “pop hook, folk heart”.
4. Rationale – ‘Something For Nothing’
Fusing together electropop, R&B and indie rock into a faultless hit is no easy task. Doing so with an inescapable air of effortless cool is even more difficult. Doing all that and still coming across as totally down-to-Earth? It can only be Rationale. ‘Something For Nothing’ was the first and finest of his new singles this year and if it’s anything to go by then his upcoming debut album is going to be something very special.
3. David Bowie – ‘Lazarus’
“Look up here I’m in heaven, I’ve got scars that can’t be seen.” If you asked someone what the most powerful lyrics were of 2016, you’d be hard pressed to escape the pull of the opening lines of Bowie’s swansong. It’s a song that took on a whole new meaning with his passing just two days after the release of Blackstar, but cruel twists of fate aside it’s still one of the finest moments of his incredible career.
2. The Anchoress – ‘What Goes Around’
This slick and witty track from Welsh wonder Catherine Anne Davies has an addictive hook and shows off her trademark lyrical witchcraft. One of the highlights of her glorious debut album Confessions of a Romance Novelist, ‘What Goes Around’ is one of my most loved and listened to tracks this year and one that I find myself returning to time and again.
1. Mystery Jets – ‘Bubblegum’
From the moment I first heard this song I knew it would find its way into this list, but it took a few glorious months of heavy rotation to secure its place at the top. It simply has everything; the memorable lyrics, the rising tension, the driving beat, the bright hopeful synths and the unique little bursts of guitar. There have been plenty of amazing tracks this year but for me there is no question, ‘Bubblegum’ wins by a country mile.