Kansas City local band ZIION unleashed a monster near year’s end when they dropped their Pure Heart EP. The entire album is extremely high-quality, but the opening salvo of Raindogs is a minute-long mission statement (OK, technically 2 minutes, but the spoken-word sample is half of that). It charges downhill with a ferocity unmatched by all but the year’s heaviest songs, showing up signed hardcore bands everywhere with 30 seconds of breakneck speed before shifting into one of the nastiest breakdowns you will ever hear. These guys ARE going to be headlining major tours within 2-3 years, so now’s the time to get obsessed.
Vanna’s “All Hell” didn’t come anywhere near the heights of 2014’s “Void”, but thankfully “Circle The Flame” sounds like a throwback to that album. Besides, that chorus chant of “The world is going to hell/oh well, oh well, oh well!” instantly secured it a spot representing the year 2016. How could it not?
Indie-pop artist Islands released 2 albums simultaneously in 2016: the drifting, dreamy “Should I Remain Here At Sea?” and the more dance-focused “Taste”. Both albums were surprisingly solid, and wonderfully different, but no song on either collection even approaches “No Milk, No Sugar”. It’s hard to break the song down into parts because none of them make the song work individually: the lyrics are clever but not stunning, the 80s synths are the It Sound right now, and the melody is simple, but combined they are far more than the sum of their parts. Stick some headphones on and if you are so inclined take your favorite substance(s), then drift away to this.
DVP is Pup at their most natural: fast, fun, and joyfully reckless. The entire song is a deathwish disguised as a punk sing-along, and the maniacal laughter in the face of danger that comes along with “doing 180 on the Don Valley Parkway” is exhilarating even if it’s merely a story.
Direct Hit!’s second appearance in the top 25, Paid In Brains is a whirlwind of crazy, incoherent shouting over a 50s swing horn section and a ragtime piano line. It’s intentionally abrasive party music that condenses the fuck-off attitude and bug-eyed, wild id of Aussie troublemakers The Vines into the smart, slick pop packaging of well-dressed Swedish weirdos The Hives. The result is the musical embodiment of binge drinking, and you don’t even have to deal with the hangover.