Under the name Woodes, Elle Graham has spent 2016 running from strength to strength. Declaring her sound with a stunning debut single The Thaw, she has gone on to release her debut, self-titled EP, a highly vocal dreamscape peppered with constructed harmonies and upheld by a bottom line of tight-knit production.
The attention to detail evident in Woodes’ EP was what made us choose her for our next tastemaker of the year. Her top 10 tracks for 2016 follows similar lines to her own tunes, a rich collection of heavenly vocals, unbelievably diligent percussion work and the odd smattering of an electronic influence.
Much like her own music, Woodes’ top 10 songs of 2016 is a heartfelt collection of vocal masterpieces, entwined with emotion and bearing meticulous production from around the world.
Radiohead – Daydreaming
I listened to this song and album on loop when I was in LA around my birthday in May. I was in writing sessions each day, but on my days off I went and explored. Hazy sunlight, people watching, exploring empty streets downtown…
I saved the first full listen for my time at the MOCA, there was a light installation by Hito Steyerl called Factory of The Sun where you sit in a dark room, boarded with a grid pattern of blue lights. It felt like being in the set of a dream or like something from the matrix. There were all these deck chairs, and I sat there listening to the album like a continuous story.
I walked around the gallery looking at other rooms, playing it through for the second and third time. There’s something about this record that’s quite cinematic, with the strings in the instrumentation and backing vocals. Once I walked outside I felt I was noticing every light flare, every pocket of light.
Buoy – Clouds & Rain
This is up there in my top tracks of the year. If you haven’t seen Buoy’s live show… it’s incredible. One of my favourite solo acts in Australia. The production is top notch and I love how her vocals are both vulnerable and confident. The ‘space’ in this track is interesting, too. The way she plays with reverb to open up the track and then the way the drums progress towards the end.
James Blake – I Need A Forest Fire feat. Bon Iver
This year I went overseas for the first time for my music and spent a week exploring Toronto. I read one morning that James Blake had just dropped two new tracks and was about to launch an album, and so I headed back to the Art Gallery of Ontario to find a power point and wifi for my phone and listen to the first singles.
I sat on the light timber floor of the gallery lobby and hit play. The moment the intro started in I Need A Forest Fire a smile broke out on my face. I watched people come and go from the gallery. I love how lazy the beats and bass are and how conversational and raw the vocal takes are. I felt so much of Blake’s last album was so tightly put together… no room for imperfection. There weren’t as many of those loose moments that I loved in his first record. But this track has that.
All of my friends back in Australia were sleeping (due to time difference) and there was something beautiful about having no one to hit up straight away to analyse these new songs with. Just me and my headphones and a big birch coloured lobby. The album dropped shortly after and it became my soundtrack whilst in Canada. The film clip is my favourite film clip of 2016, too.
Big Scary – The Opposite Of Us
I love this song. The piano tone and the roaming bass line are great. It makes me want to sit down at a piano and play along. Big Scary always give me a communal feeling like they’re a really tight family band. I like the sneaky little bongoes in the background too. I’ve heard a few tracks in 2016 that have amazing sneaky bongoes. LANKS is another sneaky bongo master.
Blood On Me – Sampha
I’ve been following Sampha’s career for years, but hearing him on triple j (finally) makes driving so much better. This song has a great amount of cowbell. The film clip is so interesting. I want to know the logistics of how they got that car in the tree. I remember watching old studio and writing videos of his and he has a really interesting and inspiring writing space. Also his label Young Turks are awesome.
Solange – Cranes In The Sky
This song and film clip combo was one of my favourite visual pairing moments this year. I watched the BTS video posted up on Pitchfork of Solange making this record and it gave me goosebumps seeing the initial pieces of this song forming.
There was a room with Patrick Wimberly from Chairlift and Sampha. I’m really into BTS studio videos, this one resonated with me in particular because it was so sweet to see Solange in the chair, overlooking the whole process. It was apparent just how imbedded she is in her art and music.
She has production credits on the whole record and through the video you can really see how important the technical/writing/jamming side of creation is to her. I like that, away from the smoke and mirrors, it’s just a group of humans in a room, creating music.
Kllo – Walls To Build
Simon and Chloe are killing it this year. At the moment they’re touring the USA after a UK tour and it’s so awesome to watch how Kllo just keeps going from strength to strength. Two extremely hardworking people.
Simon has done a lot on the Woodes project with mixing, mastering and production on Rise. I’ve been a fan of theirs since their first track You Make me Wonder. Usually when I meet new musicians or people I take over the Aux cable at some point and put on Kllo. It’s essential musical education.
Emma Louise – Underflow
Emma and I both grew up in North Queensland. For a lot of young musicians there it was cool to see that progression of her career, to see how far music could travel. This song and West End Kids were two of my favourites on her latest album.
One of my very favourite parts about Emma is that she writes the most beautiful, mature songs, yet on social media she is unapologetically herself, which is so often hilarious and clumsy. There’s this awesome juxtaposition. It’s really apparent in her live show, too.
Frank Ocean – White Ferrari
The best outro of 2016. “You say we’re small and not worth the mention.”
Since it’s release White Ferrari has crept into my top played tracks playlist on iTunes. There’s so much happening sound-design wise in the background of this track. Little beeps and distortion. The little drum fill in the last couple seconds.
I find myself taking one ear off and staring around the room trying to work out what’s in the track and what’s room noise. One of those songs that as soon as it ends, I click play again just to relive the end all over again. It was really hard to choose a favourite from this record. I have had it in my car for a couple months.
AURORA – Through The Eyes Of A Child
My favourite. I binge watch so many of Aurora’s live interviews and videos. Warriors and Weirdos, that’s what she calls her fans. I’m so excited for her first Australian live dates. Got my tickets. So keeeeeen.