Monthly Archives: December 2016

The Sunday Best 2016

As I stare out onto the balcony of my small third floor apartment outside of Philadelphia, I notice the Christmas lights I have wrapped around the posts are starting to lose their luster. It’s only 4 o’clock, so the winter sun has not completely set yet, but I can still tell the lights are fading, if they aren’t completely black yet. I didn’t bother taking down my Christmas lights last year. Part of it was laziness (ok, most of it), but I also wanted to keep them up for the summer, when I sit out on the balcony at night listening to the ocean-like drone of I-76 humming in the background. The warmth of the colors was comforting, even if they did seem out of place in the middle of July. It was like having a miniature beach bar in your own home, where the company is always good and the DJ always plays your favorite song.

In any normal December, the summer feels distant. But in December of 2016, this past summer feels like another point in time all together. This summer was a well-deserved breather in the middle of what was a tumultuous year. In any given year, the calendar flip to June begins a brief reward for surviving the winter and all that it brings. This year, it seemed like we really deserved it. It was halftime in the biggest, weirdest game of our lives, and since then, we’ve just been grinding it out to the finish before the lights fade.

It’s hard to say whether 2016 has been a good or a bad year. In many, many cases, this year has been a bad one. But some good stuff happened too! I think when it comes down to it, 2016 has been the most surreal year I’ve ever experienced. According to Merriam-Webster, “surreal” is the 2016 Word of the Year, and looking back, that is the only way to describe it. Name any major, newsworthy event to happen this year – Bowie, the Chicago Cubs, Trump, Pokemon, Prince, Brexit – it’s all so damn surreal.

A lot of the music released in 2016 reflected the growing unease of the world at large, as artists like Kanye West, Car Seat Heardrest, Beyonce, Danny Brown, and Parquet Courts followed their muse in ragged directions that made for jarring, schizophrenic listens. On the other hand, you had veterans like A Tribe Called Quest, Iggy Pop, Radiohead, and David Bowie releasing some of the most razor sharp and vital albums of their careers. Plus, Radiohead finally released a studio version of “True Love Waits,” proving that life isn’t so bad sometimes.

If 2016 taught us anything, it’s that music is still needed to keep balance in this world. Music still and always will be the most accurate representation of human nature and emotion. For those who felt alone or overwhelmed with the events of 2016, music was there to comfort and to relate, and it always will be. Nobody can take it away from you.

Best 50 Songs of 2016

… but first, some honorable mentions!

Charles Bradley – “Changes” (Black Sabbath cover)

Phosophorescent, Jenny Lewis, & Friends – “Sugaree” (Grateful Dead cover)

Margaret Glaspy – “You & I”

CRX – “Broken Bones”

Case/Lang/Veirs – “Best Kept Secret”

Hurry – “Nothing To Say”

and now the list:

50. Fine Me, Kings of Leon

49. No More Parties In LA (feat. Kendrick Lamar), Kanye West

48. Vertigo Flowers, NOTHING

47. U-Turn, Tegan and Sara

46. Into You, Ariana Grande

45. Feel Right, Esme Patterson

44. Young Hearts, Beach Slang

43. Two Deliverances, The Hotelier

42. Drunk Drivers / Killer Whales, Car Seat Headrest

41. Pimp Hand, Vince Staples

40. Gardenia, Iggy Pop

39. Human Performance, Parquet Courts

38. Below, White Lung

37. Cheap Thrills, Sia

36. Thank You, White Denim

35. All Night, Beyoncé

34. Heart Shaped Face, Angel Olsen

33. Heart Like A Levee, Hiss Golden Messenger

32. Dreams of Flying, Mudcrutch

31. Piano Player, The Hotelier

30. Daydreaming, Radiohead

29. Back, The I Don’t Cares

28. I Can’t Give Everything Away, David Bowie

27. Ablaze, School of Seven Bells

26. When It Rain, Danny Brown

25. Same To You, Lydia Loveless

24. Secrets, The Weeknd

23. Fill in the Blank, Car Seat Headrest

22. 4th of July, Philadelphia (Sandy), Cymbals Eat Guitars

21. Brace For Impact (Live A Little), Sturgill Simpson

20. Decks Dark, Radiohead

19. Ha Ha Ha Ha (Yeah), White Denim

18. Sunday, Iggy Pop

17. Pink + White, Frank Ocean

16. Sun, The Hotelier

15. Really Doe (feat. Kendrick Lamar & Ab-Soul & Earl Sweatshirt), Danny Brown

14. Same Old Blues, Phantogram

13. Ultralight Beam, Kanye West

12. Kiss It Better, Rihanna

11. Sister, Angel Olsen

10. Lookers, The Menzingers

9. Solo, Frank Ocean

8. Goodness, Pt. 2, The Hotelier

7. DVP, PUP

6. Burn The Witch, Radiohead

5. We The People…., A Tribe Called Quest

4. Real Friends, Kanye West

3. The Ballad of the Costa Concordia, Car Seat Headrest

2. Lazarus, David Bowie

1. Freedom (feat. Kendrick Lamar), Beyoncé

Here it is in Spotify form, sans Beyonce because she’s mean and doesn’t provide her songs anywhere except for Tidal and HBO… neither of which I’m shelling out the dough for:

 

Best Albums of 2016

30. Ritualize, Lushlife & CSLSX

29. Tired Of Tomorrow, NOTHING

28. City Sun Eater In The River Of Light, Woods

27. We Were Wild, Esme Patterson

26. New Skin, CRX

25. Revolutionaries, You Won’t

24. Love You To Death, Tegan and Sara

23. A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings, Beach Slang

22. Guided Meditation, Hurry

21. The Life of Pablo, Kanye West

20. Real, Lydia Loveless

19. Post Pop Depression, Iggy Pop

18. Wild Stab, The I Don’t Cares

17. A Sailor’s Guide To Earth, Sturgill Simpson

16. Blonde, Frank Ocean

15. Human Performance, Parquet Courts

14. Paradise, White Lung

13. A Corpse Wired For Sound, Merchandise

12. SVIIB, School of Seven Bells

11. The Dream Is Over, PUP

10. Pretty Years, Cymbals Eat Guitars

9. My Woman, Angel Olsen

8. Stiff, White Denim

7. A Moon Shaped Pool, Radiohead

6. Goodness, The Hotelier

5. Lemonade, Beyoncé

4. We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service, A Tribe Called Quest

3. Atrocity Exhibition, Danny Brown

2. Teens of Denial, Car Seat Headrest

1. Blackstar, David Bowie

With all due respect to the fantastic albums and artists listed here, David Bowie’s Blackstar is the best album of 2016, and it’s not even close. No other artist has released an album like this in decades, let alone 2016. David Bowie stared down the face of death, molded it into his image, and created his best album in two decades. He turned his own death into performance art. There is so much going on Blackstar, it’s going to take WAY more than one year to digest the whole thing. There are secret doors hidden all over the place on Blackstar, and we may never find them all. While David Bowie’s death hovers over every last note here, the music on this album is absolutely alive. Album highlights “Lazarus,” “Dollar Days,” and Bowie’s beautiful final transmission, “I Can’t Give Everything Away,” provide a fitting send off to one of music’s true pioneers. There will never be another artist like David Bowie, and there is certainly nothing like Blackstar. God’s speed, Starman. Thank you for your service. We got it from here.