My favorite songs of 2016

I have been woefully negligent of this website, and while it pains me to disappoint my three regular readers, I’ve been busy, injured, the down arrow on my keyboard doesn’t work and there haven’t been many releases I’ve felt positively compelled to write about.

However, I thought it would be worth recording my thoughts on my favorite songs of the year, and since I’ve been so derelict in my blogging duties, I’m going to run down my 40 favorite tracks from 2016.

These aren’t going to be particularly deep insights, but here they are along with the required Spotify playlist in no particular order.

  • “Have You Ever?”- Twin Peaks

    This is probably my most listened to song of the year. It’s a perfect homage to ’60s rock while also being shout-along barroom perfection.

  • “Real Friends”-Kanye West

    The non-Chris Rock parts of “Blame Game” are my favorite Kanye song. Introspective Kanye is best Kanye,

  • “You Can’t Fire Me, I Quit”-Tacocat

    A funny, insightful and ridiculously catchy song about an unexpected breakout and the anti-climax of not getting to exercise any righteous fury.

  • “Sex & Drugs”-A Giant Dog

    The jauntiest tune on a lively, awesome rock album filled with them. Naturally, the very next track is titled “& Rock & Roll”.

  • “Oh Sarah”-Sturgill Simpson

    This song embodies everything that was awesome about Simpson’s self-produces, excellent psych-country album from this year. “Oh Sarah” is sweet, it’s deeply personal, Simpson’s voice sounds fantastic and the instrumentation is varied in a way that is simply absent from a lot of modern country.

  • “Fool”-Frankie Cosmos

    I always forget she’s Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cate’s daughter, but always remember she’s an expert at crafting quirky, wonderful guitar-driven pop.

  • “Cherry”-Chromatics

    I involuntarily head bob when I hear this song. It hasn’t happened in public yet, thankfully.

  • “Back Into It”-Islands

    My dad injured is back in a severe car accident this year, haven’t gotten around to showing him this song, which is simple joy of a rock song.

  • “Unforgiving Girl(She’s Not)”-Car Seat Headrest

    Teens of Denial was not a lean, taut effort, and this is often cited as one of it’s shaggiest and expendable songs.  I love its improvised vibe, call-and-response lyrics and  varied styles. It sounds like live rock music.

  • “Door”-Nice As Fuck

    Drums, bass and Jenny Lewis come together for an excellent piece of post-punk dance music.

  • “Piano Player” The Hotelier

    Don’t judge an album by its cover, these songs are equally appealing as Goodness‘ NSFW cover art was repellent.

  • “Vroom Vroom” Charli XCX

    This song has some of the corniest white girl rapping this side of Fergie, but Charli kills the hook as she’s wont to do, and the SOPHIE production gives her both some of the sweetest and most aggro music she’s ever worked with.

  • “No Matter Where We Go”-Whitney

    I was a big fan of the Smith Westerns up to their third album and was sad when they disbanded. This whispy, summery rock scratched an itch I thought was here to stay.

  • “Strive”-A$AP Ferg

    I’d take Ferg over Rocky any day.

  • “(Girl we Got A” Good Thing”-Weezer

    The best song on Weezer’s best album in  more than a decade is a beach-ready ode to a promising relationship just starting to bloom. It’s a Blue Album type song with some Maladroit-esque guitar shredding and melody changes reminiscent of Pinkerton. Just a phenomenal track.

  • “Can’t Get Enough of Myself (Feat. B.C.)-Santigold

    In my perfect world, this song would’ve dominated Top 40 radio in spring.

  • “Audrey’s Dance”-Xiu Xiu

    I once saw Xiu Xiu open for Swans. For some reason, it was just a buff silver fox type and a machine that made pulsating sounds. This is much better

  • “We The People…”-A Tribe Called Quest

    RIP Phife Dog. Q-Tip’s flow has always been one of my favorites.

  • “Big Body”- ScHoolboy Q

    Blank Face had a lot of dark moments, but oddly the Tyler, The Creator-produced song was the party jam with a Dogg Pound feature.

  • “Learn in School”-Muncie Girls

    This is a damn fine self-empowerment punk anthem about carving your own path.

  • “Ice Cream and Sunscreen”-Martha

    It’s clear from the opening guitar strums this song is an ascendant bottle rocket destined to explode, but it is still so very satisfying when it does.

  • “To Be A Ghost”-Jeff Rosenstock

    I love that a kiss off to the internet includes a gut-punching lyric about police brutality. That a song this incredibly cynical has a soaring chorus is a testament to the weird lane in which Rosenstock operates very proficiently.

  • “Lump Street”-Frightened Rabbit

    Icy synthesizer backs much of this depressing look at a pair of ragged, impoverished lovers. Cancer and violence metaphors abound. Still, things finish with a triumphant sprint celebrating flourishing love despite a total lack of nourishment from the environment.

  • “Have a Heart”-Cymbals Eat Guitar

    Remember that catchy Goteye song? What if it was about a lifetime of personal shortcomings before finding love and becoming a better person? Listen and find out.

  • “Casket Pretty”-Noname

    This already sounds classic.

  • “Pain”-LVL UP

    Tell your friends it’s Neutral Milk Hotel, and they’ll probably believe you.

  • “Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams”-Camp Cope

    A pitch black comedy of a song about a woman disillusioned by sexism becoming a conspiracy nut.

  • “Fear O The Light”-Katie Dey

    A woozy cacophony, lots of reverb and chipmunk vocals somehow make a very compelling pop song.

  • “Here in Spirit”-Jim James

    I’ve never been a big My Morning Jacket song, but James’ newest solo album struck a chord. This song’s piano and hip-hop drumbeat particularly got a hold of me.

  • “Home”-Common

    Wish I could tell 14 year old me that both Common and Weezer would one day put out quality albums in the same year. This is the most engaged Common has sounded in years, and the beats are gorgeous.

  • “Come Down”-Anderson.Paak

    This puts the jam in “James Brown pastiche”.

  • “Dumb Baby”-The Coathangers

    This sparse punk number simply rocks. Like the rest of  the one-time The Black Lips sister band’s 2016 release was thoroughly enjoyable, and for me this was the stand out track.

  • “No Problem(Feat. Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz)”-Chance The Rapper

    It just sounds like Chano has fun making music.  A great chorus and interesting guest spots from Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz make this one of the most memorable songs of the year.

  • “Trying to Lose Myself Again”-Bleached

    Just a gnarly rocker from the band I like to imagine as what would happen if HAIM spent time in the Thunder Dome instead of California.

  • “Ready for the Magic”-Honeyblood

    If you like Bleached and the Coathangers, you’ll like Honeyblood.

  • “Ivy”Frank Ocean

    I didn’t appreciate this hazy, perfect crooning about growing old and growing apart until I listened to the Katie Dey album. Somehow it calibrated things just right and made me open to a shoegaze R&B marriage.

  • “Patriot”-Crying

    Chiptune and cheesy, ’80s guitar licks are somehow a perfect match. Haven’t seen this hyped anywhere outside of Stereogum, where this album was super revered for some reason.

  • “A 1000 Times”-Hamilton Leithauser+Rostam

    If the Walkmen had covered the old folk tune “500 Miles” made famous by Perter, Paul & Mary it would sound a ton like that. I mean that in a really good way. Plus, Leithauser’s voice sounds great.

  • “Gamma Kinfe”-King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard

    Including  cut off of an infinitely looping concept album was pretty difficult. If thise sounds good to you, listen to the whole thing.

  • “A Loving Feeling”-Mitski

    I now realize how badly I need a Mitski version of 69 Love Songs. Her hilarious and profoundly sad take on love, lust and relationship power dynamics is 92 seconds of absolute bliss.

My 10 favorite albums of 2014

Happy holidays, I come bearing good tidings. After much soul searching, I’ve compiled a list of my 10 favorite albums of this year. Of course, this is an entirely subjective process, totally based on my taste. As always, this is not a cheer-ocracy.  In order of excellence, here are the 10 best albums 2014 had to offer.

10. Tacocat- NVM

It’s sort of brazen for a Seattle-area punk band to christen an album with an abbreviation of the phrase never mind, but with songs about teenage drug trips, menstruation and skewering suburban anarchy, Tacocat are kind of a brazen band. Like a slightly more well-known album called Nevermind by a slightly more popular Seattle-based band, NVM is packed with slick, catchy rock music. NVM is such an incredibly fun record, it can feel slight. However, the tunes are great, the songs have a unique perspective and the lyrics are wildly entertaining.

9. Vince Staples- Hell Can Wait

Hell Can Wait is an exceptional Hip-Hop album. It’s an uncompromising look at a life of knowingly doing wrong to survive. The lyrics are angry, socially charged, introspective and occasionally sad. There is even a pinch of broader social commentary on “Hands Up”. Production is crisp and interesting. Unfortunately, Vince Staples released this album the same year a pair of releases(see No.8 and No.2 on this list) used similar premises to greater effect. If you have a soft spot for West Coast gangsta rap, this is still a must listen.

8. Schoolboy Q- Oxymoron

This is another California gangsta rap album that displays complete awareness of its deplorable moral vacuum. However, Schoolboy Q has a magnetic charisma and sense of humor that make the bleakness of his subject matter both more palatable and more interesting. This is a rapper who has single handedly revived the bucket hatOxymoron is Q’s major label debut, and “Collard Greens” is the best possible result a studio mandate for a Schoolboy Q hit single could possibly have. Deep self-examinations of what it means to be an opiate-addict, drug-pushing gangsta and a dad mingle with oddball dance tracks, and despite some bloat, it totally works.

7 and 6.(tie) White Lung- Deep Fantasy and Perfect Pussy- Say Yes to Love

If you have a taste for noise rock made by angry women and can stomach some absolutely acrid lyrics, 2014 was a great year. It’s hard for me to talk about Deep Fantasy or Say Yest to Love without referencing each other. Perfect Pussy’s album features more fuzz and screeching, while White Lung’s album is more in-focus and aggressive, but these are two sides of the same exhilarating rock coin.

6. Protomartyr- Under Color of Official Light

Protomartyr’s sophomore effort, Under Color of Official Light is an amazing, offbeat piece of art. The album is the exact sonic intersection of KYUSS and Joy Division. Heavy, murky guitar riffs with post-punk drum beats and angular, brooding vocals. Somehow sludgy and energetic, it’s one of the year’s most original releases and definitely worth a few spins.

5. Cloud Nothings- Here and Nowhere Else

Cloud Nothings found the perfect balance between Attack on Memory‘s raw aggression and the bubblegum hooks of Dylan Baldi’s earlier work. These are hummable melodies created by a full-fledged rock band absolutely pummeling their instruments. In modern rock music, there are few things capable of eliciting as much involuntary body movement as the spastic head nods caused by the moment on any given track on Here and Nowhere Else when Baldi and Co. decide to kick things into the next gear.

4. St. Vincent- St. Vincent

St. Vincent’s eponymous release is a perfect encapsulation of everything Annie Clark does extraordinarily well. There’s angular robo-rock, spacey dance tunes, oddball lyrics and, of course, exquisite guitar work. If there is room in your heart for interesting art-rock, you’ll love this album.

3. Ex Hex – Rips

This is a power pop album ripped straight from ’70s AM radio in the best possible way. Everything slightly derivative, but it’s impossible to listen to without a dumb grin plastered across my face. At any given moment, Rips is never more than 20 seconds from the next near-perfect guitar lick. Everything is driving, catchy and instantly familiar in a wonderful, comfrotable way. Because it already sounds classic, Rips is probably this year’s most re-listenable album, and the fantastic, catchy melodies make those repeat listens downright compulsive.

2. Run the Jewels- Run the Jewels 2

RTJ2 is maybe the most intense release of the year. It tackles large social concerns–race relations, police brutality, poverty, etc– while also hurling some of the most colorful, hilarious insults of the year toward anyone, usually deemed a “fuck boy” who dares to oppose Killer Mike and El-P. The chemistry between Mike and Jaime is jaw-dropping as the two MC’s fluidly drop tag-team rhymes. Once again, El-P’s production is spot on, and the beats sound like no one else in rap music. This album is positively visceral. Run the Jewels made the perfect soundtrack for an often tumultuous year and committed fully to filling the airwaves with their own angry truth.

1. Strand of Oaks- Heal

From the opening moments of “Goshen ’97” I strongly suspected Heal would be my favorite album of the year, and I was 100 percent correct. It’s a snapshot of a man’s head space as he moves past addiction, isolation and marital issues. It explores a variety of a sonic terrain ranging from ’90s alt-rock radio to shimmering synthesizer rock to piano balladry. The common through lines are giant choruses and an unapologetic love for musics. References to artists, media formats and respected musicians dot the entirety of Heal, and the album’s first five songs form an incredibly satisfying emotional arc. It combines the “beer commerfcial” guitar of a War on Drugs album with the weightier meditations of Sun Kil Moon in a year, when it was decided those two qualities were dichotomous. Heal is a deeply personal statement made in the most broadly appealing way, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Honorable mentions(in no particular order): War on Drugs- Lost in the Dream; Sun Kil Moon- Benji; Sturgill Simpson- Metamodern Sounds in Country Music; D’Angelo-Black Messiah; First Aid Kit-Stay Gold; Perfume Genius-Too Bright; and Jenny Lewis-The Voyager