Favorite Music of 2016

The Bad News: There were not as many albums that I loved this year

The Good News: I loved more individual songs than usual this year

I reworked the rankings to account for that crazy ass 2016. Having a set criteria sucks anyway.

Best Music Videos:

3) Beyonce, Hold Up

I had to include something from the Knowles sisters, because if I didn’t the Internet could explode, and I won’t be responsible for that. The video is obviously impressive, but more importantly, the repair jobs needed for the many cracked or broken windows on classic cars should help boost the economy!

 

2) Jamie XX, Gosh

I haven’t been too into Jamie’s work since the XX’s self-titled album. I still enjoy many of his songs, but this video features some amazing large-scale choreography. Imagine the opening to the Beijing Olympics, but with better music

 

1) Bonobo, Kerala

I’m not familiar with Bonobo, but this video is amazing. The on-beat loops are great, but the fragmented breakdown is truly compelling. As you watch the video closely to anticipate the subsequent events, you start to see some strange things. A rewatch is needed to catch all the subtle delusions packed into the video. A great song too!

 

Runner Ups: Radiohead – Daydreaming, DJ Shadow ft. Run the Jewels – Nobody Speak

 

Best Songs:

10) Ultralight Beam, Kanye West

The composition is amazing. West’s meticulous work on the album is evident. In addition, Chance the Rapper and Kelly Price nail their parts. However, Mr. West has delusions of being some holy crusader. Due to a lack of authenticity, the song will stay at #10. Internet Justice!

9) Gold, The Handsome Family

The Americana duo have been making music for decades, but they are relatively new to me (thanks True Detective). Gold stands out from the rest of their songs mostly because of Rennie’s beautiful lyrics depicting a robbery gone wrong: “Got a tattoo of a snake and a ski mask on my face…Lying in the weeds with a bullet in my gut. Watching dollar bills fly away in the dust.”

 

8) Old Friends, Pinegrove

This song is anchored by poetic lyrics about leaving adolescence and losing touch with friends and lovers. I expect more good things from Pinegrove in future releases.

7) Vacation, Florist

Vacation is a song that could have been on the Juno soundtrack, it yearns for the simplicity of childhood: “When a swimming pool in a hotel was a gift from God.” But I was hooked when she begins to doubt her core beliefs and the security of the world around her, ending by her acknowledgement that her house could burn down tomorrow for all she knows.

6) The Wheel, PJ Harvey

The song is driven by guitar, but the accompanying saxophone provides a sinister counterweight creating a unique and interesting sound. Harvey sings about the aftermath of the ethnic cleansing in Kosovo or maybe she is singing about the larger cycle of violence to children worldwide. Either way, she’s not fucking around.

5) Pentecost, Kyle Craft

The ever-changing fast paced song implements a variety of instruments to propel the lyrics forward. The passion in his vocals is stirring, especially after learning that the song is about wishing he could have prevented his friend’s suicide driven by religious guilt.

4) Doing the Right Thing, Daughter

The minimalist song is from the perspective of an Alzheimer’s patient who is slowly losing the world around her. It builds for three minutes, and when the song finally breaks open we are rewarded with a heartbreaking insight into the burden put on the families of Alzheimer’s patients. Feel good song of the year!

3) Burn the Witch, Radiohead

My appreciation for Radiohead always outweighed my enjoyment of the music. However, they occasionally can knock me out with an individual song. Burn the Witch was a knock out. The haunting sounds generating by pulsating strings match the lyrics that engulf you in a paranoid world. “Cheer at the gallows” is an especially chilling line…especially given the changes in world politics since the album was released.

2) Bad Art and Weirdo Ideas, Beach Slang

I think this is the best pure rock song I’ve heard in years. The building guitars and the raspy vocals will make you forget what decade we are in. While they have a fresh and explosive sound, don’t mistake them for teenagers. Frontman James Alex is in his 40s, which means that you still have time to get that grunge band together and crank out some hits.

1) Are These My Jets?, El Vy

El Vy is the new collaboration with Brent Knopf (from Menomena and Ramona Falls) and Matt Berninger (from the National). So far their project has been disappointing, with the exception of this one fantastic song. The song has the feel of an old school Menomena song, but with vocals and presumably lyrics from Berninger. The song is written from Trump’s perspective. In the song, when not feeding on the fear of others, Trump confesses his inclination to mix ladies drinks with his fingers. A song of defiance!

Runner Ups: Human Performance – Parquet Courts, Your Best American Girl – Mitski, Doctor Doctor – Oh Pep!, Back in the Ring – Chris Pureka, Can’t Get Enough of Myself – Santigold

 

Best Albums:

3) Hamilton Leithauser – Rostam Batmanglij, I Had a Dream That You Were Mine

Take two great musicians who left two great bands (The Walkmen, and Vampire Weekend) and sometimes they can make something great together (just like the #1 song listed above). Leithauser’s strong vocals are now accompanied with an assortment of innovative sounds courtesy of the instrumentals and producing of Batmanglij. I can’t say I love every track, but I’m hoping that the album will continue to grow on me, just as my appreciation for Modern Vampires of the City increased the longer I listened to it.

 

2) Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate

Kiwanuka’s sounds seems to have taken a big leap forward with this album. Instead of songs revolving around a acoustic guitar, he now seems to be building layers from the foundation of his trusty acoustic guitar. The result is an album full of rich melodies that sound like they could have been plucked from the 70s.

 

1) Anderson .Paak – Malibu

This album is fresh and soulful from beginning to end. .Paak’s second album is deeply personnel addressing his childhood, his career, and the struggles of his young family. Each track brings a new sound, ranging from modern sounds to grooves that could have been mistaken for classic Motown. Despite this incredible variety, the album seemingly has no weak points. Malibu is favorite album of the year by a large margin.

Runner Ups: Local Natives – Sunlit Youth, Beach Slang – A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings