Wednesday 28 December 2016

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2016 - The List (+Spotify Playlist)

For the benefit of those who like cold, hard data, here is The Metaphorical Boat's top songs of 2016 in easy to digest list form -

1. Bear's Den - Auld Wives
2. The Strumbellas - Spirits
3. Teenage Fanclub - I'm In Love
4. Meilyr Jones - How to Recognise a Work of Art
5. Draper ft Prides - Break Over You
6. Ciaran Lavery - Return to Form
7. Turin Brakes - Keep Me Around
8. INHEAVEN- Baby's Alright
9. Anteros - Breakfast
10. Town of Saints - Short Circuit Breakdown
11. Suede - What I'm Trying To Tell You
12. M83 feat. Mai Lan - Go!
13. Ten Fé - Elodie
14. The Avalanches - Frankie Sinatra
15. Walking On Cars - Speeding Cars
16. The Divine Comedy - Catherine The Great
17. Starwalker - Holidays
18. The Wood Burning Savages - We Love You
19. SOULS - Bad Girl
20. Catholic Action - L.U.V
21. Lucius - Born Again Teen
22. Courtney Barnett - Three Packs a Day
23. A Northern Light - Paranoia
24. Rukhsana Merrise - Money
25. Flowers - Pull My Arm
26. Half Japanese Half Muscle - Loose Fitting Girls
27. Porter Robinson ft Madeon - Shelter
28. Helen Love - A Boy from Wales Called Gareth Bale
29. Bob Mould - Voices in My Head
30. Radiohead - Burn the Witch
31. James - Nothing But Love
32. Jagwar Ma - O B 1
33. Enigma ft Aquilo - Amen
34. RADWIMPS - Zenzenzense
35. Paul Simon - Wristband
36. Nada Surf - Cold To See Clear
37. Wild Beasts - Get My Bang
38. Stop the wheel - Shape Up
39. The Zolas - Swooner
40. Hello Bear - We Held Hands Once, But Then She Got Embarrassed
41. Ward Thomas - Guilty Flowers
43. Biffy Clyro - Re-arrange
44. Christine and the Queens - Tilted
45. Glass Animals - Life Itself
46. Darren Hayman - I've Been a Bad Bad Boy
47. Yakima - Burn
48. Brash Isaac - In The Dark
49. Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz - Midnight Gold
50. David Bowie - Lazarus

And for those of you who do that whole Spotify thing, here is a playlist of all 50 songs in order of awesomeness -

Friday 23 December 2016

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2016 - Number One

1. Bear's Den - Auld Wives

But I swam across the ocean to find your memory,
A trace of all you've left behind.
And the Auld Wives swore that you were born to die
Without a child for to call out your name

And so, The Metaphorical Boat's Top Song of 2016 is "Auld Wives", by London based duo Bear's Den. "Auld Wives" takes its name from a group of rocks found in Scotland (funnily enough, quite close to the town of Bearsden), and lyrically the song is about band member Andrew Davie's grandfather, who suffered from Alzheimer's. 

Musically, the song combines the modern folk style that marked the band's debut album with a surprising 80s style synth-pop sound, and despite the genres being quite disparate, it works incredible effectively on this track. 

So congratulations to Bear's Den, hit "play" on the video below, and enjoy 2016's best song - 

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2016 - 5-2

We're really close to finding out just what The Metaphorical Boat's Top Song of 2016 really is. We hope you're as excited as we are to find out just what song has made it to #1. But before we get there, let's find out what fantastically brilliant songs ended up at numbers 5 through to 2 on our countdown -

5. Draper ft Prides - Break Over You

We may have been rather hyperbolic and/or incorrect back in April when we insisted that "Break Over You" was going to be a #1 hit single. Although in fairness, it wasn't the worst incorrect prediction to be made in 2016. Still, it made it to #5 in our countdown, which is something, I guess. The Draper/Prides collaboration is a wonderfully powerful synth-pop single that gives you the same kick as 2 litres of Red Bull injected directly into your eyeballs.

4. Meilyr Jones - How to Recognise a Work of Art

There haven't been many breakthrough artists in the chamber-pop genre for many years now, which is somewhat explicable, given the large expense involved in hiring and touring a full orchestra for the purposes of recording an album and/or touring isn't as easy as it was 20 years ago when there was more money available for developing emerging artists (indeed, it's not just an issue with newer artists - when 90s chamber-pop group My Life Story reconvened earlier this year, they ditched the orchestra altogether).

Perhaps that's why "How To Recognise a Work of Art" by ex-Race Horses member Meilyr Jones was such a delight. A cacophony of instruments over Mr Jones' crooning on the subject of the valuation of pictures and ornaments. It helped to catapult the parent album to the Welsh Music Prize, and we are reliably informed that they never stop playing it in Starbucks.

3. Teenage Fanclub - I'm In Love

We're always going to love anything that comes out of the minds of Teenage Fanclub, and "I'm In Love", their first single in six years, was no exception. Like most of their post "Songs From Northern Britain" material, it's a lot less noisy and more subdued, yet still has all those qualities that make us love the band - the sunkissed harmonies, the jangly guitars, and that unbridled optimism that shines through.

2. The Strumbellas - Spirits

And the song that narrowly misses out on our top spot is "Spirits" by Canadian band The Strumbellas. This was another song that we were absolutely sure would become a massive hit in 2016, although despite millions of YouTube streams, high placings on specialist radio in the United States, and playlisting on Radio X over here, it never really took off like it should have done. Still, "Spirits" is a spectacularly poppy indie-folk tune with a rousing chorus that you just cannot help but sing along to.

Wednesday 21 December 2016

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2016 - 10-6

We're into the top 10 now, and the creme-de-la-creme of all the songs that were released in 2016. We now have the songs ranked 10-6 in our countdown, alongside a few words why each of these songs are rather great -

10. Town of Saints - Short Circuit Breakdown

We kick off the top 10 with Dutch/Finnish indie-folk band Town Of Saints. "Short Circuit Breakdown" is a song that combines boogie-woogie rock with stadium-sized choruses and soaring strings to create a rock-hopping masterpiece.

9. Anteros - Breakfast

We loved "Breakfast" when we first heard it back in April, and loved it even more when we saw Anteros open their set with it at The Great Escape. A delicious indie-pop tune about being kept up late at night by a partner for all the wrong reasons.

8. INHEAVEN - Baby's Alright

On "Baby's Alright", post-punk band INHEAVEN pull off that great musical trick of hiding rage-filled, angry, vitriolic lyrical verses around a rousing sing-along chorus that doesn't seem to have anything to do with the song in question. Favourite moment in the song is the 2nd chorus, when the guitars double up and the song soars into the stratosphere.

7. Turin Brakes - Keep Me Around

Turin Brakes are one of those bands that have for years been in my category of acts that we feel we would absolutely love if we made an effort to explore their music further, but haven't yet set aside the time to do so (see also: Cold War Kids). Well, in 2016 we made the first tentative steps towards that after falling for love with "Keep Me Around". There's something about that acoustic guitar hook and soaring strings that keeps me listening to the song time and time again. Who knows? This might be the start of a beautiful friendship.

6. Ciaran Lavery - Return to Form

It almost feels like an artist is tempting fate when he names his comeback single "Return To Form", especially when it comes off the back of a highly streamed, successful debut, although Northern Ireland Music Prize winner Ciaran Lavery need not have fretted, as the song marked a new high watermark for him. It's certainly the most radio-friendly song that Ciaran has released to date ( if you exclude the polite f-bombs on the album version), and calls to mind "I'm Not The Only One" by Sam Smith, although with the choirboy swooning replaced with Lavery's trademark world-weary ragged vocals. Definitely not a return to form, but a strengthening of it.

Tuesday 20 December 2016

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2016 - 15-11

It's getting more intense now, as we approach the songs ranked 15 to 11 in the countdown. We've got some Irish emotional-rock, a sample-happy band back after a 15 year hiatus, last year's chart-toppers, French electro, and of course, the greatest band of all time -

15. Walking On Cars - Speeding Cars

14. The Avalanches - Frankie Sinatra

13. Ten Fé - Elodie

12. M83 feat. Mai Lan - Go!

11. Suede - What I'm Trying To Tell You

Monday 19 December 2016

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2016 - 20-16

We are getting even more serious now (not that we've ever been that serious, mind you), as we enter the top 20, with songs from 20-16 in our countdown. We've got some rollicking good garage-rock, some trip-hop with samples with 1930s blues, face melting rock from Derry, a side-project from 1/2 of Air, and Neil Hannon being his whimsical, sarcastic self -

20. Catholic Action - L.U.V

19. SOULS - Bad Girl

18. The Wood Burning Savages - We Love You

17. Starwalker - Holidays

16. The Divine Comedy - Catherine The Great

Sunday 18 December 2016

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2016 - 25-21

If you thought the music on offer in between numbers 50 to 26 were amazing, well you'd better get yourself strapped in, because the music is only going to get a whole lot better, as we enter the songs in the top half of our 50 favourite songs of 2016.

Next up are songs from 25-21, which includes luscious indie-pop, alternative hip-hop, Belfast based drum & bass rock, an ode of noodles, and some powerful alt-rock -

25. Flowers - Pull My Arm

24. Rukhsana Merrise - Money

23. A Northern Light - Paranoia

22. Courtney Barnett - Three Packs a Day 

21. Lucius - Born Again Teen

Saturday 17 December 2016

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2016 - 30-26

We're almost at the half-way point in The Metaphorical Boat's Top songs of 2016, as we count down the songs we ranked 30 to 26 on our list. Incidentally, this particular section features our two favourite music videos of the year, from Porter Robinson & from Radiohead. It also features an alt-rock legend, a surprisingly good Euro 2016 song, and some great electro-pop -

30. Radiohead - Burn the Witch

29. Bob Mould - Voices in My Head

28. Helen Love - A Boy from Wales Called Gareth Bale

27. Porter Robinson ft Madeon - Shelter

26. Half Japanese Half Muscle - Loose Fitting Girls

Tuesday 13 December 2016

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2016 - 35-31

We're coming along nicely now, as we enter the songs ranked 35-31 in this countdown. We've got  rock legend, a song taken from the best film of the year, Your Name, a collaboration between a chart topper from 1990 and a blogger's favourite, psychedelic rock & Brit-rock legends -

35. Paul Simon - Wristband

34. Radwimps - Zenzenzense

33. Enigma ft. Aquilo - Amen

32. Jagwar Ma -  O B 1

31. James - Nothing But Love

Monday 12 December 2016

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2016 - 40-36

Numbers 40 through to 36 in this part of the countdown next. Contained within this golden five is some confectionary-based pop-punk, Canadian indie-pop, Italian multi-tracked melodies, artsy Kendalites, and some alternative-rock legends -

40. Hello Bear - We Held Hands Once, But Then She Got Embarrassed

39. The Zolas - Swooner

38. Stop The Wheel - Shape Up

37. Wild Beasts - Get My Bang

36. Nada Surf - Cold To See Clear

Sunday 11 December 2016

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2016 - 45-41

After our first five songs in the countdown, the next five naturally follow. Because it would be rather silly if we went from 50-46 straight to 15-11, wouldn't it? Indeed it would.

So songs from 45-41 in our countdown next. Contained within are some art-rockers, a French artist whose captivating choreography captivated so many of us this year, one of the biggest British rock bands about, a Japanese band who've brought the worlds of metal and J-pop together, and the leading lights of contemporary British country -

45. Glass Animals - Life Itself

44. Christine and the Queens - Tilted

43. Biffy Clyro - Re-arrange

42. BABYMETAL - Karate

41. Ward Thomas - Guilty Flowers

Saturday 10 December 2016

The Metaphorical Boat's Top Songs of 2016 - 50-46

Time for the annual listageddon here at The Metaphorical Boat. Over the next few days we will be counting down the blog's top 50 songs of 2016. There will be songs that have featured on the blog, songs that didn't feature on the blog, songs that have graced our lovely Spotify playlists over the last 12 months, and songs that really should have featured. But regardless, they are all awesome, and hopefully there will be a few songs here that will float your Metaphorical Boat.

We start with the songs from 50-46 on the list, which includes the final single from one of the greatest songwriters of the last 50 years, Glaswegian indie-rock, a young Northern Irish upstart, some throwback balladry, and...a song that took part in this year's Eurovision Contest!?

50. David Bowie - Lazarus

49. Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz - Midnight Gold

48. Brash Isaac - In The Dark

47. Yakima - Burn

46. Darren Hayman - I've Been a Bad Bad Boy

Saturday 3 December 2016

The Metaphorical Boat Spotify Playlist - November 2016

For those of you who like your musical recommendations in playlist-able Spotify form, 
The Metaphorical Boat posts a selection of songs that we have been enjoying over the past few weeks, new songs that we haven't written about but are enjoying nonetheless, and a few older but fantastic tracks that are currently floating our Metaphorical Boat.

Below you can find our playlist of songs that we really enjoyed in November 2016. Although we usually post this every two months, given that December is usually thrown over to year-end listageddon, we've condensed the list to just what we discovered in November time. If you like what you hear, or just want another playlist to add to your growing list of playlists, then we really hope that you'll take the time to visit the playlist on Spotify and give it a follow. You never know, your new favourite song of all time could be somewhere on this playlist!

This month's playlist is shorter than others from this year, but no less brilliant, featuring songs from established artists like The xx & Enigma (the latter in collaboration with the highly rated Aquilo), songs from recent discoveries to us, like Henry Jamison & Earwig, and local acts Hannah McPhillimy & The Jepettos. Plus, some great songs from Japanese artists courtesy of Shiggy Jr. & RADWIMPS, the latter of which wrote the theme song for my favourite film of the year, Your Name. Lots of great music from lots of great people for your ear-based amusement.

Saturday 19 November 2016

Hannah McPhillimy - Ruins

It has been a while - nearly four years in fact - since we last mentioned local singer-songwriter Hannah McPhillimy on these pages. Not that she's been silent the past few years mind you - she joined synth-pop band Go Wolf, whom we've talked about quite a bit, and has still been plugging away on her own material, most notably the "Disappear Here" EP released in 2015 in collaboration with author Jan Carson.

Her most recent release is "Wind Machine", which came out in June. Produced by Julie Mclarnon, who's worked with Neutral Milk Hotel & King Creosote among others, the E.P mixes folk and jazz influences into a package topped off by Hannah's plaintive and honest vocals.

Taken from the E.P is "Ruins", which for lack of a better term, is the most accessible song on the E.P, with it's familiar chord structure and emotive and endearing chorus, so it's no surprise to see that it receive the video treatment. The video sees Hannah singing in the forest, interspersed with scenes of what can only be described as the most intensive game of Jenga ever played. We were under the impression that the video is a pastiche of the chess game from the Ingmar Bergan film The Seventh Seal, although we've been since informed that it's most likely a coincidence.

The "Wind Machine" E.P from Hannah McPhillimy is out now.

Sunday 30 October 2016

The Metaphorical Boat Spotify Playlist - September/October 2016

For those of you who like your musical recommendations in playlist-able Spotify form, on a bimonthly basis The Metaphorical Boat posts a selection of songs that we have been enjoying over the prior eight weeks or so, containing songs that we've written about, new songs that we haven't written about but are enjoying nonetheless, and a few older but fantastic tracks that are currently floating our Metaphorical Boat.

Below you can find our playlist of songs that we really enjoyed in September and October 2016. If you like what you hear, or just want another playlist to add to your growing list of playlists, then we really hope that you'll take the time to visit the playlist on Spotify and give it a follow. You never know, your new favourite song of all time could be somewhere on this playlist!

This month's playlist feature songs from established artists like Teenage Fanclub, My Life StoryTurin Brakes & Jagwar Ma, songs from newer bands such as Catholic Action, The Rhythm Method, The Shimmer Band & JR Green, and local acts The Wood Burning Savages & Son of The Hound. Plus, now that Spotify has extended into Japan, we've got some great tunes from that country, with electro disco-jazz from Lotus Land, and ska-punk from Gotch. Lots of great music from lots of great people for your ear-based amusement.

Sunday 2 October 2016

Blisss - Porcelain/Chalk Air

You've got to love it when an artist picks a name for himself that encapsulates the sound of their music so perfectly. So when it comes to the music produced by London based Tom Greenwood, the moniker he chose for the project, Blisss, couldn't be a better fit (the additional "s" in the name presumably there for improved Google-ability).

Blisss have released two singles to date. The first, "Chalk Air", was released at the end up August and has picked up quite a bit of love from the blogosphere for its psych-pop sound. It's the follow-up single however, "Porcelain", which has really impressed us. The song is a powerful, enrapturing song that reminds us strongly of Primal Scream at their most blissed out (for lack of a better term), or more contemporaneous influences like Jagwar Ma, plus you really can't say no to a towering guitar coda that would make "The Four Horsemen" proud.

Thursday 22 September 2016

Northern Ireland Music Prize 2016 - Who's The Most Popular?

As we mentioned last week, the nominees for the 2016 Northern Ireland Music Prize have been announced. To recap, here are the twelve albums to make the cut for this year's prize -

The Bonnevilles – Arrow Pierce My Heart
Ciaran Lavery – Let Bad In
David C Clements – The Longest Day In History
Documenta – Drone Pop #1
exmagician – Scan The Blue
Foy Vance – The Wild Swan
Girls Names – Arms Around A Vision
Jealous of the Birds – Parma Violets
Michael Mormecha – LOFi LiFE
Ports – The Devil Is A Songbird
Ryan Vail – For Every Silence
Sea Pinks – Soft Days

As has been the case for the NI Music Prize the past few years, I decided to do a bit of number crunching using data gleamed from available resources to see which artists and albums nominated are the most popular. Due to its near ubiquity in the streaming world, as well as the fact that it makes its data about listening readily available for anyone to read, I will be relying solely on information taken from the world's most popular music streaming service, Spotify.

First, I wanted to find out which individual track taken from the 12 nominated albums is the most popular. Below you can find the most popular song from each of the nominated artists, as well as a ranking from most to least popular -

 Most popular individual track from each nominated album on Spotify (streams):
(Snapshot from 21/09/16): 

Foy Vance 
She Burns
Ciaran Lavery 
Okkervil River
Jealous of the Birds 
Miss Misanthrope
Kiss That Wealth Goodbye
Girls Names 
Sea Pinks 
Depth of Field
Love As a Ghost
Ryan Vail 
David C Clements 
My Dear Mother
The Bonnevilles 
No Law In Lurgan
Michael Mormecha 
Less than 1,000

(For comparison's sake, one of the most popular songs of 2016, "One Dance" by Drake, has been streamed over 807 million times) 

As I'd somewhat expected, the artist whose most streamed song tops the rankings is former NI Music Prize winner Foy Vance with the lead single from his album, "She Burns", which has amassed over 3 million plays for the track taken from his Ed Sheeran-signed album. It's also unsurprising to see Ciaran Lavery ranking #2 with "Okkervil River", the only other artist nominated to have a song collected over 1 million streams to date. Lavery's recent success has been largely as a result of his music becoming incredibly and unexpectedly popular on the platform over the past few years, to the extent that he even recorded a live album for them. What's more surprising is to see Jealous of The Birds at #3 on the list - having only started recording music barely a year ago and being quite an unknown quantity even when the album was released this year, it is still surprising to see her song "Miss Misanthrope" outstream the top songs from more established names like Girls Names, Sea Pinks & exmagician (albeit under a different name for the latter). 

To show just how ubiquitous Spotify has become for artists, this year the top 7 artists all have at least one track which broke through the 100k stream barrier, compared to just one from the list in 2015. The others have at least 1 song with a five-figure stream count, with the exception of Michael Mormecha's "Lofi Life", which fails to get a single song even to the four-figure amount on Spotify. 

Of course, as I mentioned last year, there are a few disclaimers to go with this data - this is just a snapshot from a certain point in time before the contest - for all I know, Michael Mormecha could get a song featured on a popular Spotify playlist tomorrow, gain 30,000 streams overnight and parachute into the top 10, so this shouldn't be treated as scientifically rigorous. Also, I have only included versions of songs taken from the parent album on Spotify, so I haven't taken into account other versions of any of the songs (There is a single version of Ports' "Ancient Wave" which has been streamed over 130k times, but as it seems to be slightly different from the album version I have excluded it from the above table. If included, Ports would have moved from 6th to 4th).

After looking at individual tracks, I decided to see how popular each of the albums are as a whole on Spotify. As each of the albums have different track numbers, I thought that the fairest methodology to decide which album is the most popular as a whole is to take the same amount of tracks streamed from each album, then divide it by itself to get an average amount of streams overall.

Therefore, I picked the six most popular songs from each album (6 were chosen, given that the album with the least amount of songs, "Drone Pop #1", contain 8), added up the totals, then divided by six to give an average amount of album points for each. The results of my findings were as follows -

 Most popular nominated album on Spotify (stream average):
(Snapshot from 21/09/16):   

Foy Vance 
 The Wild Swan
Ciaran Lavery 
 Let Bad In
Jealous of the Birds 
 Parma Violets
 Scan The Blue
Girls Names 
 Arms Around A Vision
Sea Pinks 
 Soft Days
 The Devil Is A Songbird
David C Clements 
 The Longest Day In History
 Drone Pop #1
Ryan Vail 
 For Every Silence
The Bonnevilles 
 Arrow Pierce My Heart
Michael Mormecha 

*All songs on this album have been played less than 1000 times on Spotify, so for the purposes of working out an average, I assigned all tracks a play amount of 500. 
(For comparison's sake, one of the most popular albums so far in the same period, "25" by Adele, has an average of nearly 163 million based on this methodology). 

So once again, Foy Vance & Ciaran Lavery find themselves well ahead of the rest of the pack, with album stream averages of well over over half a million for each of them. The top five remain identical to the highest track table, and there's a couple of shifts around the mid-table positions (David C Clements is #8 in this table compared to #10 in the single track rankings, which would seem to imply that more people are likely to listen to his album in full compared to his peers), whilst Michael Mormecha remains firmly anchored to the bottom position.

What is notable about this year's averages is that last year's average appear to be lower than those of this year, even though last year's list had more higher profile names. I'm guessing that the fact that most of the names on the list have managed to find themselves on some popular Spotify playlists has really helped (particularly Jealous of The Birds, which explains the explosion in popularity in such a short space of time). It seems even getting onto a playlist for an upcoming festival can be quite beneficial (quite a few of these artists have managed to amass pretty hefty streams from these self-made playlists), so one can never underestimate the power of the playlist, regardless of its size.

Once again, I should stress that due to the nature of the working, this is not entirely scientific, given that it only takes into account the top 6 streamed songs on Spotify. It also doesn't take into account when the album was released - a few of these albums were released near the beginning of the cut-off period for the prize, whilst others were released much more recently. 

Still, I hope that this gives an interesting overview as to which album nominated for the prize has the largest number of fans, and therefore might give some indication as to who we might see take home the prize come November 11th. To give you a flavour of the nominees, here's a Spotify playlist of the most popular song (as of today) from each of the twelve nominated albums - 

The Northern Ireland Music Prize will be awarded in the Mandela Hall on November 11th. Ports, Jealous of The Birds & Girls Names will perform at the ceremony, as will Ash, who will receive the Oh Yeah Legend Award & perform their album "1977" in full.