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In the industry, the role of music director of any radio station is met with equal parts respect and dread. It’s a job that everybody would love to do – what’s better than curating music for a living? But when it comes down to it, listening to hundreds of new songs every week and consistently deciding which need to be played on radio, how often they need to be played, and during which segment… it’s a massive responsibility.

Stephen Goodhew has spent 2016 holding that very position at Sydney’s FBi Radio, a leading influence in the local and national music scene. If there’s one man who can dive through an entire year’s worth of music and curate a top 10, it’s him.

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After an entire year spent writing the rotations for Sydney’s premiere independent radio station, Stephen Goodhew has named his top 10 tracks of 2016.

Radiohead – True Love Waits

What a way to close an album – bringing to life a track that’s been teased live for literally decades but never properly recorded in a studio. Ostensibly about the breakup of Thom Yorke and his partner of 23 years, despite being written when their relationship was only new, this is Radiohead at their semi-opaque, achingly restrained best.

I have a sneaking feeling as well that this could be the band’s last album together, at least for quite a while. If that’s the case, then I couldn’t imagine a better way to wrap up one of the greatest musical acts of this century and the last.

Julia Jacklin – Leadlight

As a self-described old soul, there’s a maturity to Julia Jacklin’s songwriting that belies her age. Leadlight is a song of disappointment, the kind that comes when you realise that you’ve outgrown someone and that maybe they aren’t the person you thought they once were. What I love about this song is the way it captures the sense of weariness that grows when adult life chips away, little by little, at the idealism of youth. As an old soul myself, it’s something I find entirely relatable.

Frank Ocean – Ivy

I’ll admit, I did not enjoy this album when I first listened. Perhaps that’s a reflection of my job and my inherent wariness of undue hype, maybe it’s because it was, in some ways, quite a departure from Channel Orange. Either way, this album, and this song, was quite a slow burn for me.

Similar to Radiohead earlier on in this list, I love this song’s restraint – to me it’s so much more powerful than just letting rip. The lyrics are so relatable as well, it’s hard to not lose yourself a little in this song.

Middle Kids – Edge of Town

Straight up, I think I was about 1:30 into listening to Edge of Town when I realised that this was probably the best song I was going to hear from an Australian artist this year. And on a debut single as well! There’s a reason we sent Middle Kids to Iceland as winners of our Northern Lights competition and nominated them for two SMAC Awards (Best song and Next Big Thing). These guys are the real deal and you’d do well to pay attention.

The Drones – Taman Shud

I think technically this song might’ve come out in late 2015 but given it featured on their amazing 2016 album, Feelin’ Kinda Free, I’m going to include it here. No one spits venom better than Gareth Liddiard and on Taman Shud he lifts a big middle finger to the social and political establishment that seeks to define what it is to be Australian. We need artists like Gareth and The Drones more than ever and this song should prove as a stark reminder of that.

Danny Brown – When It Rain

I think it was about two or three weeks before the release of When It Rain, when I heard Danny Brown’s verse on The Avalanche’s Frankie Sinatra that I declared to my music team that I was done with the Detroit rapper. I felt like he was becoming a parody of himself and his half-hearted show at The Metro earlier in the year didn’t help matters either.

Fast forward a few weeks to me eating my own words because this song absolutely canes it. Taking a darker, more twisted route than the party tunes he’d made his name on, When It Rains proved to me, and the world, that Danny Brown remains one of the most inventive hip hop artists doing it today.

Oh Pep! – Doctor Doctor

“I know what I want and It’s not what I need.” I think there’s something really powerful and relatable in that line. Being honest with yourself is something that I think a lot of people struggle with and it’s a theme the duo tackle head on here. With lyrics and melodies this strong, I can’t help but feel like this band is criminally under-appreciated in our own country.

Nicolas Jaar – Three Sides of Nazareth

Just going to come out and say it, Nicolas Jaar is the best electronic composer in the world right now. His ability to create music that’s inventive, experimental and (somehow) accessible is almost superhuman. Three Sides of Nazareth captures all of that in one sprawling nine minute epic – shifting between latin pop, cacophonous percussion and otherworldly atmospherics. If you’re not listening on a good pair of cans, then you’re probably not getting all this song (and album) has to offer.

Kanye West – Famous

Honestly, I still have a lot of trouble working out whether I love or hate Kanye and frankly I think that’s how he wants it. It’s like he says on I Am A God, “Soon as they like you make ‘em unlike you”. This song captures that dynamic so perfectly – the Rihanna and Nina Simone intro/outro, the Sister Nancy sample, the beat – it’s all the work of a pop master.

But then, there’s the line about Taylor Swift and the conversation around the accompanying video clip which muddy the waters. I think at the end of the day I like the fact that for better or worse Kanye isn’t afraid to be provocative and that so often his work becomes part of a much larger cultural conversation that few, if any, other artists are capable of generating.

Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam – A 1000 Times

Hamilton Leithauser must be one of the most under-appreciated talents in indie-rock, so it probably shouldn’t come as any real surprise that his collaborative album with Vampire Weekend’s Rostam should be one of 2016’s most unsung gems. A masterwork in melodic dynamics (and frustrating syntax), A 1000 Times takes Leithauser’s most heartfelt, guttural yowls, pairing them with the richness of Rostam’s melodies. The result is a heartbroken sing-along that’s all too easy to leave on repeat.

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December 20, 2016