THE TOP 10 SONGS OF 2016

#10: Parquet Courts/ Two Dead Cops

In a year that rightfully placed so much focus on police brutality, it was important to be reminded of the other side of the story, which is equally disturbing. On the best song from their best album to date, Parquet Courts use a powerful riff to tell the tale of walking upon murdered police in a New York City neighborhood. It’s a propulsive, powerful punk song, and about as dark as this band’s music gets.

#9: Kevin Morby/ I Have Been To The Mountain

2016 wasn’t overly generous in terms of providing transcendent indie rock, but this might have been the single best song that used a guitar as its primary instrument. Folksy acoustic chords turn more dramatic as the song evolves, complete with a horn section and lifted back-up harmonies. It’s a masterful balance of triumph and melancholy.

 #8: Anderson Paak/ The Season-Carry Me

The most complex track on Anderson Paak’s stunning concept album Malibu, “The Season” begins as a somewhat dark R&B track before shifting suddenly into the swanky, effortless groove of the hip-hop section “Carry Me.” Paak’s ability to straddle the line between genres with his raspy vocal is on full display here as he appears poised for even bigger things in the future.

#7: Blood Orange/ But You

The highlight track on Dev Hynes’ epic Freetown Sound probably best demonstrates the overall theme of the album, as he appears to be singing internally and offering himself encouragement as he grapples with his own self-image and construction- “You are special in your own way.” Tonally, it’s a masterpiece that evokes Michael Jackson’s more reflective, optimistic work, and brings together a devastating, perfectly executed bridge with jabs of electric guitar through its coda.

#6: Chance The Rapper/ No Problem

This bright summer anthem highlights Coloring Book and somehow seems to make what would sound from a lot of rap artists like a threat or warning to the music industry instead bounce along with positivity and confidence. Chance’s decision to avoid signing with a label and to base his income strictly upon performances based on word of mouth has been an unorthodox one, but has worked just fine up to this point, and it’s a rare thing indeed in this day in age for rap as a genre to provide so much joy and cheer.

#5: The Avalanches/ Frankie Sinatra

On first listen, you either loved this track or you hated it. Considering it features guest appearances from Danny Brown and MF Doom above an impossibly playful carnival beat, it should be pretty clear where my mentality lies. The calypso sample from Australian artist Robbie Chater perfectly balances the line between being kooky and brilliant, in the same way that classic Avalanches tracks like “Frontier Psychiatrist” did, complete with elements of electro-swing that make it a repeatedly fun and addictive listen.

#4: Danny Brown/ Really Doe

The standout track from the Detroit rapper’s unsettling, menacing and unrelentingly dark and introspective Atrocity Exhibition, this was the posse track to end all posse tracks, as Brown, Earl Sweatshirt, Kendrick Lamar and Ab-Soul lend verses that showcase the diversity between each of their styles all behind a horrifying bell chime loop. It’s a whirlwind of a rap song that will leave your head spinning, but still flows perfectly together.

#3: Bon Iver/ 8 (Circle)

Of all the tracks on Bon Iver’s experimental offering 22, A Million, it’s “8 (Circle)” that is most reminiscent of their immediately prior work, and given that their self-titled album is a lock for Top 3 Albums of the Decade, that’s a very good thing. Straightforward but bursting from the seams with emotion and melody behind impeccable production, it’s a reminder that sometimes what isn’t broken doesn’t need fixing. Also: That HORN.

#2: ANOHNI/ 4 Degrees

ANOHNI’s other-worldly voice absolutely soars on Hopelessness standout track “4 Degrees”, and has there ever been a song about the impending apocalypse that sounds this beautiful? It’s clearly a sarcastic commentary on global warming, as the artist attempts to convince us that if we are going to continue to destroy the planet, we should do so because we want to-“I wanna see this world, I wanna see it boil.” It all builds behind a percussion sample that sounds as to have been fired out of a cannon, picking up horns and violin that cascade upon themselves through the coda.

#1: Radiohead/ True Love Waits

It’s a strange thing indeed to land on a track that’s been in existence for over two decades as my song of the year. By definition, it wasn’t a song that defined the year’s mentality or that felt timely or of the moment- which should quantify the significance that this particular Radiohead classic was actually, FINALLY given the official, committed-to-album recording that it always deserved. The band did so by stripping the song of its acoustic guitars and instead revitalizing and freshening it with hypnotic, haunting pianos. What remains is a slower, emotionally darker, more lyrically powerful ballad than existed before. It’s the perfect closer, greatest song and most welcome surprise on the year’s best album, thankfully still containing one of my favorite Radiohead lyrics of all: “I’m not living/ I’m just killing time.”

Leave it to Radiohead to take a song they’ve been playing for 20 years, change its primary instrument entirely, remove a chord, slow it down to a virtual halt…and in the process create a piece of music that perfectly ties together, both thematically and musically, a collection of other pieces with far more recency. That, my friends, is true genius.

 

 

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