Song of the Year - presented by Fireball Cinnamon Whisky

When they came over our airwaves, which of eight bona fide ballads caught your ears and held on tight? All of them? Well you can only vote for one so maybe just choose the one that pays the least rent to live in your brain – maybe it even resides there rent-free.

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Mike Akox – More Love Less Ego

Based between Sydney and Ghana, Mike Akox has been at the forefront of the worldwide Afro-fusion scene for years, with a guiding philosophy to motivate audiences and musicians alike to “feel it spiritually and touch the world with music”. More Love Less Ego is a full-hearted expression that urges us all to embrace selflessness, resilience and gratitude. Mike Akox’s well-honed intuition for writing emotive and silky melodies is beautifully delivered throughout the track and calmly encourages us to move away from self-gratification and instead draw on the universal power of love.

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Milan Ring – Sydney Hue (feat. BLESSED)

Milan Ring has an ultimate sense of what it means to world-build. Every one of her songs demands you step inside a narrative she has written for you. ‘Sydney Hue’ is no exception. Guitars wail as you scream down the M5, Milan’s vocal bounds across the cityscape, stopping only to soak in a night sky marked by smoke tendrils and punctured by the rumble of traffic. Milan converses with rapper Blessed, they look upon a city laid out beyond them which is pregnant with potential, and unknowable, and glowing in gold.  

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Loose Fit – Exhale

A playful bassline takes the lead on what is Loose Fit’s most compelling piece of songwriting yet. Angular, percussive, off-kilter, ‘Exhale’ has a way of laying down a sense of rhythm that is irresistible to the ear. Floating atop is Anna Langdon’s vocal, knowing exactly when to let a melody bloom and when to step back and join the rhythm section. Amongst the playfulness of the track is a thread pulled taut, revealing a tension between two sides of the lyrical content – letting go and giving in to desire. It’s the kind of push and pull that typify the insatiability of a Loose Fit track. You want to listen again and again.

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Chanel Loren – Playlist

Chanel Loren delivered one of the most unforgettable debut singles of the year in the form of ‘Playlist’. A bouncy, UKG-inflected earworm that’s a testament to knowing your worth even when someone else pretends not to know it. An end to end masterclass in addictive vocal hooks, Chanel Loren self-assuredly reflects on a faded past flame who has moved on, but who she knows won’t be able to forget about her. She’s right. Even if that jerk changed their ‘Playlist’ – this one will be stuck in your head daily.

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Skeleten – No Drones in the Afterlife

‘No Drones In The Afterlife’ is a life-affirming anthem that challenges us to abandon our fear of the future and cast aside the lazy trappings of cynicism. Adorned by striking, fluid synth sequences and propelled by a warm, laidback breakbeat groove, ‘No Drones In The Afterlife’ allows Skeleten’s sweet vocals to take centre stage. In his characteristically smooth and rhythmically-driven delivery, Skeleten delivers a heartfelt, vital ode to experiencing life in the present and an affirmation of the power of collective goodwill.

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Tasman Keith – TREAD LIGHT

Grief and familial love are strong through lines on Tasman Keith’s debut LP, running parallel within the record and finally meeting on the last track ‘TREAD LIGHT’ in a powerful eruption. In a visceral and moving explosion of emotion, Tasman describes a conversation with death, told from both his own perspective and that of his late family members. Beginning as a stripped back and twinkling piano-ballad, the track builds through soaring saxophone melodies towards its impassioned and cathartic climax; Tasman Keith vowing that despite all challenges “I will step right but I will tread light.”

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BAYANG (tha Bushranger) – IZZIT!? (feat. Jamaica Moana, prod. Ryan Fennis)

An undeniably tropical heat radiates from this track. It’s BAYANG and Ryan’s joint love of Kulintang, the gong and drum ensemble indigenous to the Southern Philippines, which rings steadily throughout. It’s Jamaica Moana’s verse – one of her best – unrelenting and sizzling. It’s the meeting of Māori and Tagalog, “Hit him back with the Kia’Ora / He said Kamusta / F*****g with the chosen Kings.” And the heat radiates from Bayang, Jamaica and Ryan coming together, harnessing the fire of a collective history and struggle, to imagine a new future. 

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Wytchings – Fata Morgana

An ever-transforming apparition, ‘Fata Morgana’ lulls us into a space devoid of earthly constraints. Wytchings’ transcendent vocal melodies float weightlessly above the horizon, gently and reassuringly guiding us through the clouds. Crystalline arpeggios shoot past with dazzling force and break up in the atmosphere before vaporising into a lush, reverberant sonic aurora. Fata Morgana is a perfectly sculpted sonic abstraction that showcases Wytchings’ singular talent for composition and sound design.

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