2016. It’s been good, bad, and ugly- most would put the emphasis on “ugly.” Like the “Gross I never wanna see that again” kind of ugly. We’ve been focusing on the bad for so long, and now that the year is finally coming to an end, it’s time for us to reflect on the positives.
Some awesome music was released in 2016. We asked some of our favorite to chime in with their picks for the best songs of the year. Here’s to a brighter 2017.
“Ultralight Beam” – Kanye West
Selected by Ryan Walsh (Hallelujah The Hills)
I cannot listen to this song without getting chills, especially when Chance the Rapper sings “I’m just havin’ fun with it!” Incredible. The choir was mixed too high when he first released the album, it has since been lowered. I think I grew attached to the mix where it was too high, but I’m sure that’s still out there somewhere.
This topic, how Kanye kept tinkering with the record post-release, involves an act only made possible with the rise of streaming music. West re-releasing multiple versions of a slightly different record and re-uploading it to streaming services is a huge innovation/moment in music. Not enough has been written about it. I tried to get at its importance one night, that’s here.
“Interstate” – Big Thief
A favorite of: Stephen Konrads (Eternals, Boston)
I kept coming back to this album over the year. It’s rare when an album reinvigorates the standard guitar/bass/drums formula. Every tune is a knock-out, but “Interstate” is my favorite. The band pulls back the tempo just before the chorus, and it gets me each time.
“Intern” – Angel Olsen
“The bee’s knees,” according to: Dean & Britta (L.A.)
“Crash” – Against Me!
Put forth by: Mikey Holland (The Dazies, Boston)
I’ve walked around Cambridge a lot to this album and in particular this song. When this track comes on I always get a little misty-eyed and feel the hairs raise up. I think 2016 was actually a pretty good, productive year for my band. But it was also a year where I felt more lost than I had in a long while. When Laura Jane sings “Good times always getting older. Good times you wish could last forever”… I just feel that in every bone in my body.
“Plane” – Omni
From the library of: Arthur Velez (Clearance, Chicago)
I dig this song because it’s really just about being on a plane.
“Sleepyhead” by Lala Lala
As decreed by: Flesh Panthers (Chicago)
Here’s a track from comrades, Lala Lala. Our best of 2016 pick! Can’t wait for 2017🌴🌴🌴😎
“Beni Said” by 75 Dollar Bill
Beloved by: Eamon Fogarty (New York)
If there were any justice in this world, New York would be witnessing an explosion in reports of young music fans spray-painting “Che Chen is god” on every available surface.
“Virtue at Rest” – John K. Samson
Floats the boat of: Jake McKelvie (Crashing Your Planet)
I don’t keep up with new releases all that much, but there are a handful of bands/artists whose new records I eagerly await. John K (not the creator of Ren and Stimpy, the other one) falls under this category. If you’ve followed the saga of Virtute throughout John and The Weakerthans’ catalog, this song probably made you sad.
“Pash Rash” – Jeff Rosenstock
Championed by: Matt Bacon (Jake McKelvie & The Countertops, MA/NH)
“Drink from a Silver Cup” – Chris Cohen
I have been obsessed with the entire album but this song in particular kills me.
“Changes” – Charles Bradley
Favored by: Tyler Burdwood (Bellwire, Editor of Spark & Fizz)
I’m very late to the party on Charles Bradley–I discovered him this year via his cameo on Netflix’s Luke Cage. A James Brown impersonator turned original musician, Bradley’s soulful cover of Black Sabbath’s “Changes” hits me just right. I’m sad to hear he’s currently battling stomach cancer, this following Daptone Records’ recent loss of one of its biggest star, Sharon Jones, to cancer.
Here’s hoping Charles Bradley beats cancer in 2017.
“Best Friend” – White Mystery
According to objective critics: White Mystery (Chicago)
“Human Performance” by Parquet Courts
Picked by: Nick Murray of Babydriver
“Hold Up” by Beyoncé
Selected by: Tommy Palmer (Babydriver, Spirit Kid)
Wow. What a shitty year. Six of my favorite artists either released albums i have yet to hear (Nick Cave, A Tribe Called Quest, Kate Bush, Leonard Cohen) or ones I still don’t like (Radiohead, David Bowie). There are plenty more albums I’m sure I’ll regret not checking out too. I’ve heard Angel Olsen is great. And I’m interested in the new Frank Ocean. But probably won’t get to either before year’s end. Lemonade was on repeat throughout the spring.
Instead I opted to re-revisit the doldrums of Nick Drake and Bill Callahan. I guess attempting to trigger any comfort I could. And at one point, I grew pretty obsessive over Travis Scott’s “Antidote.” Shouting ‘Robert Horry!’ like 10 times a day. But I’m pretty sure it was from 2015.
I’m always behind the game.