Thursday, December 22, 2016

Top Songs of 2016: 1-20

Apple Music Link
Spotify Link

20. “Waves” 
Kanye West 
(The Life of Pablo)

The best part of The Life of Pablo is the back half of "Famous" but Kanye's rapping on the first half is so terrible it gets disqualified. We also fail to understand the universal love for "Ultralight Beam", which feels C+ execution against the (very good) idea of a Kanye gospel track. 

19. “Touch of Grey” (Grateful Dead cover) 
The War of Drugs 
(Day of the Dead)

First album to appear twice on this list since the last Dessner brothers compilation (Dark Was the Night)

18. “Ice Cream and Sunscreen” 
(Blisters in the Pit of My Heart)

Thanks to FX's excellent You're The Worst, both for this and The Rental's "It's Time to Come Home"

17. “Statues in a Gallery” 
Kishi Bashi 

The only concert we made it to this year. The late 30's are pretty much as advertised...

16. “Tearing Me Up (A-Trak Remix)” 
Bob Moses 
(Days Gone By – Never Enough Edition)

15. “Hard For” 
Kevin Gates 

One of the better uses of a mid-song "skit" -- very short, relevant and flows right back into the song. Low bar, we know. Chorus is an oddly effective mix of the profane and the sensitive

14. “Waves (Tame Impala Remix)” Miguel 
(Rogue Waves EP)

13. “Friends” 
Francis and the Lights ft. Bon Iver 
(Farewell, Starlite!)

Another great song with an oddly hypnotic video from Francis (love the shot of Kanye just sitting there at the end), though it can't quite match the beauty of sunset riverdancing + crop duster

12. “Hold Up” 

Beyonce co-writes a song with Ezra Koenig (originally intended for Vampire Weekend) and inspired by an early Yeah Yeah Yeah lyric? Yeah, that works. 

11. “No Problem” 
Chance the Rapper ft. Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz 
(Coloring Book mixtape)

Mixtapes are weird. Chance has been around since 2010, has been on the top 15 of this list 3 times, been an SNL musical guest two (and a half) times, and yet he is talking about a "debut" album in 2017?

10. “it’s difference for girls” 
Of Montreal 
(Innocence Reaches)

Thanks to Of Montreal for making focused music for the first time since Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? (2006)

9. “Cold Light” 
(Blue Wave)

There was no new music we were more excited for in 2016 than Dan and Spencer working together again on a new Wolf Parade EP. It disappointed. At least Spencer's new Moonface would result in his 12th top 10 appearance, right? Decent, but missed the list entirely. So it was wonderful that Dan saved the day with his new side project (and 10th appearance across Wolf Parade, Handsome Furs, Divine Fits and Operators). Play loud, drive fast. 

8. “Beautiful Strangers” 
Kevin Morby

Formerly the bassist for ATHoM staple Woods (though they also missed the list this year), Morby released a strong album in the spring and then topped it with this gentle protest song this fall: "if I die too young / or if the gunmen come / i'm full of love"

7. “Sour Candy” 
(Welcome the Worms)

Sounds like the best of 70's (X-Ray Spex), '80's (Joan Jett) and '90's (Breeders) female-driven pop punk all blended together. 

6. “Freedun” 
M.I.A. ft. ZAYN 

Long semi-instrumental fade-outs can kill, or at least limit, a good song (see our earlier mention of ATCQ's "The Donald"). Here, the outro over the closing minutes makes an OK song into a great one. 

5. “Nobody Speak” 
DJ Shadow ft. Run the Jewels 
(The Mountain Will Fall)

Grabs you from the opening line and then spares no baby bears, lions, or Trumps.

4. “In Care of 8675309” 

"NIV" was as good as just about anything elese this year. But it was this track's weary 12 minutes that got us through November. 

3. “Your Best American Girl” 
(Puberty 2)

Song moment of the year: <wall of sound> "your mother wouldn't approve of how my mother raised me / but I do / I finally do"

2. “Come Down” 

So smooth. 
1. “(Joe Gets Kicked Out of School For Using) Drugs With Friends (But Says This Isn’t a Problem)” 
Car Seat Headrest 
(Teens of Denial)

A song that is filled with moments that hang together like a misspent afternoon. A song that unfolded with repeated listens, and is our favorite track in a very top-heavy year. Choice lines:

"I get to know myself every weekend / and I'm weak"

"Last Friday I took acid and mushrooms / I did not transcend / I felt like a walking piece of shit / in a stupid looking jacket"

"Filled with loathing a religious fervor / I laid on my friend's bedroom floor for an hour / and tried not to piss my pants"

"and then I saw Jesus / and he said / 'Wooooooo' "

"no, we ARE just / we ARE just / we ARE just / Teens of Style / oh, we are JUST / we are JUST / we are JUST / we are JUST Teens of Style"

"and I said mmm hmmm a lot"

"so there I was just another shitbag civilian / afraid the cops when I was outside / afraid of my friends when I was inside"

and of course: "drugs are better / drugs are better / with friends are better / friends are better / with drugs are better..."

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Top Songs of 2016: 21-40

Apple Music Link
Spotify Link

40. “Are These My Jets” 
(30 Days, 30 Songs project)

Troubled political climates can have a musical upside, at least. The EL VY entry in Dave Egger's anti-Trump project had the benefit of being less on-the-nose than Death Cab's "Million Dollar Loan" and Franz Ferdinand's "Demagogue" 

39. “Starboy” 
The Weeknd ft. Daft Punk 

38. “Burn the Witch” 
(A Moon Shaped Pool)

A Moon Shaped Pool is a great listen, but it works better for us as a full album than as a collection of individual songs, "Burn the Witch" excluded

37. “Only Child” 
(Jet Plane and Oxbow)

36. “Need to Know” 
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Chance the Rapper 
(This Unruly Mess I’ve Made)

35. “Way We Won’t” 

First new music in over a decade, with an upcoming album to be produced by Danger Mouse, ensuring a level of pleasant competence

34. “Kanye West” 
Young Thug ft. Wyclef Jean 

33. “I Love My Lawyer” 
Ofelia K 
(Chaos Cave EP)

32. “Self Control” 
Frank Ocean 

31. “Still the One” 
Ingrid Michaelson 
(It Doesn’t Have to Make Sense)

30. “Rings” 
Aesop Rock 
(The Impossible Kid)

Slap a better chorus on this and it's a top 15 song easy

29. “And We Bid You Goodnight” (Grateful Dead cover) 
Sam Amidon 
(Day of the Dead)

28. “Sexual” 
NEIKED ft. Dyo 

If the Marvin Gaye family collected royalties on "Blurred Lines", they should clean up here

27. “Bellevue” 
Andrew Bird 
(Are You Serious)

26. “BWU” 
Tegan and Sara 
(Love You to Death)

25. “Welcome to Earth (Pollywog)” 
Sturgill Simpson 
(A Sailor’s Guide to Earth)

2:43 --"and if some time / daddy has to go away"

24. “Death Dream” 
Frightened Rabbit 
(Painting of a Panic Attack)

A ridiculously strong album, from start to finish

23. “I’ll Be the Night” 
(Suicide Songs)

22. “Tha Crossroads” (Bone Thugs-n-Harmony cover) 
Cold Chilling Collective 

How did this weird Starbucks-fodder album of glossed-up hip hop covers manage to sort of, kind of improve on the classic source material?

21. “No Divide” 
You Won’t 

Top Songs of 2016: 41-60

Apple Music Link
Spotify Link

60. “Come Home” 
Cloud Cult 
(The Seeker)

Cloud Cult is perhaps the most unpretentious, sincere band out there. It can be a bit much, but we love them for it. 

59. “California” 
Childish Gambino 
("Awaken, My Love!”)

Those who like the album hate this song because it calls bullshit on the whole affair. As talented as Glover is (and Atlanta would top our list of new television), "Awaken, My Love!" feels like mimicry to us. Which makes this a Ween album. And "California" is a damned fine Ween song. 

58. “The Big Big Beat” 
Azealia Banks

Maybe the least likable person on this list, but that Biggie sample kills. 

57. “Warning Call (Theme from Mirror’s Edge Catalsyt)” 
(Every Open Eye – Extended Edition)

56. “On Hold” 
The xx 
(I See You)

55. “8 (circle)” 
Bon Iver 
(22, A Million)

To our ears, Lambchop did alt-folk reinvention better in 2016

54. “untitled 08 | 09.06.2014” 
Kendrick Lamar 
(untitled unmastered.)

53. “No Hard Feelings” 
The Avett Brothers 
(True Sadness)

52. “Youngblood” 
Green Day 
(Revolution Radio)

"Are you broken / like I'm broken? / are you stranded? / she said: 'fuck you I'm from Oakland' "

51. “Older and Taller” 
Regina Spektor 
(Remember Us to Life)

50. “By Design” 
Kid Cudi ft. Andre Benjamin 
(Passion, Pain and Demon Slayin’)

Welcome back to making decent music Kid

49. “Open Your Eyes” 
School of Seven Bells 

48. “It’s Heaven” 

With two albums released in 2016, this is an under-performance from one of our favorite bands

47. “Love is Blinds 
(Long Way Home)

46. “Cool Papa Bell” 
Paul Simon 
(Stranger to Stranger)

Despite much critical love, Bowie and the Stones didn't make it this year -- but Paul Simon can represent for the '60s/'70s well enough

45. “Silly Me” 
(Amen & Goodbye)

44. “Reaper” 
(This is Acting)

43. “Laughter is the Best Medicine” 
Cass McCombs 
(Mangy Love)

Spoken word lyrics are reminiscent of Alan Ginsburg on The Clash's "Ghetto Defendant"

42. “There Will Be Time” 
Mumford & Sons and Baaba Maal 

41. “Good House” 
(Sleep Cycle)