(My) Best Songs of 2016

I felt left out.

All of these 'best of' lists are coming out, encompassing some aspect of entertainment occurring over the course of 2016 - which was an interesting year to say the least (a point we won't belabor).

Sure, I can do best albums, but inspired by a friend I thought, “why not make it harder on myself?”

Of all the hours and hours of new music I absorbed over the last 365 days, what are my favorite tracks? Single songs that are not always a part of the best album, and not all of my favorite albums have stand out tracks. For weeks, I'd spend spare moments combing through the music I purchased, concerts I attended, and the bands I discovered. I flicked through lists of albums released in the calendar year, matching them up with what I had heard (and putting a pin in things I want to revisit). 

I finally came to a playlist and here it is… 15 songs; a top 5 with 10 contenders (a follow up post), in no particular order aside from those two distinctions. Best case scenario – you agree. Better case scenario, you disagree, wonder why, and give some stuff more consideration. Worst case scenario – you don’t give a shit. If that’s the case... why are you reading this?

TOP 5:

Phantogram - Funeral Pyre, THREE

This melodic opener to Phantogram’s third full-length album acts as a beautiful three-minute build towards a darker – but not bleak – journey. There exists a broad spectrum of human emotion, all of which are laid bare through 10 impeccably produced tracks. Even though the entire album has favorably attached itself to me, I constantly come back to Funeral Pyre. It’s that rare song that can act as either be a beginning or an end - like so much this past year.

Favorite lyric: "My ship of fire, as it sinks I rise."


Blink-182 - Cynical, CALIFORNIA

At barely two minutes, Cynical ramps up to what is essentially a reintroduction of Blink-182. Starting with just Mark Hoppus and a single riff evolves to harmonizing w/ Matt Skiba (replacing original member Tom Delonge) before culminating in an aggressive sing-along. Cynical is over before you know it, but with it, Blink-182 proves to be more memorable than most counterparts half their age. 

Favorite lyric: "Lost my voice while fighting my way out."


American Football - I've Been Lost for So Long, LP 2

I never heard of American Football before this year, so I was lucky enough to have two albums of theirs to absorb. While LP 1 from 17 years ago is better, LP 2 is great, with this track rising to the top for me. You know that feeling you have when something seems so effortless, but you know it’s special and couldn’t do it yourself without training or a gift – like expertly grilling a steak. There’s an art to seeming that, for lack of a better word, simple. That to me is the sound of American Football – obvious and comfortable but complex and challenging - which probably speaks to their level of influence over this particular genre. 

Favorite lyric: "You can't trust a man who can't find his way home."


Run The Jewels - Talk to Me, RUN THE JEWELS 3

I listened to Run the Jewels more in 2016 than the years in which their albums met release, which made this early fall single all the more pleasant. The aggressive philosophy of good hip-hop just flows through Killer Mike and El-P like it’s breathing. Their collaboration with DJ Shadow (Nobody Speak) and this track made me excited for RTJ in 2017 more than almost anything else. To add an exclamation point to my excitement, they released their new album three weeks early (on Christmas day, no less) and it does not disappoint. If you haven’t heard, get on board – even if you aren’t a “hip-hop person,” there’s intricate language and a pristine placement of beats at play that would make any appreciator of music impressed. RTJ can not be your thing, but it deserves every ounce of respect available. 

Favorite lyric: "Brave men didn't die face down in the Vietnam muck so I cannot style on you... DO you think Baby Jesus killed Hitler just so I'd whisper."


The Naked and Famous - The Water Beneath You, SIMPLE FORMS

I’ve been enjoying The Naked and Famous since Passive Me Aggressive You, but early in 2016 I noticed a sizable gap since their last album. Apparently, all kinds of heartache happened behind the scenes and they almost were no longer a band. But from those (almost) ashes rose Simple Forms, a wonderful expression of pop sensibilities juxtaposed with spectacularly mature and on-the-nose lyrics. There are easily five or six tracks that find their way on my playlists, but this one bubbles to the surface. 

Favorite lyric: "I can't fill the emptiness but I can find a way to be the water beneath you - the waves that catch your fall."


OTHER 10:

Japandroids - Near to the Wild Heart of Life, NEAR TO THE WILD HEART OF LIFE
Favorite lyric: "She kissed me like a chorus and said, 'Give 'em hell for us. The last drink of the night, the last night in town - Baby, this one is on the house'."

Kishi Bashi - Can't Let Go, Juno, SONDERLUST
Favorite lyric: "Many of the things I said were made from the beautiful things I regret."

We Are Scientists - Buckle, HELTER SELTZER
Favorite lyric: "I wish I could bottle everything you need."

Two Door Cinema Club - Lavender, GAMESHOW
Favorite lyric: "Not that I'm giving living not a chance - giving luck a chance. I'll find something someday."

Bear Hands - I Won't Pay, YOU'LL PAY FOR THIS
Favorite lyric: "My money ain't my master, miss. Watch it go from red to black, to black, to black."

Verite - Somebody Else, SINGLE (The 1975 cover)
Favorite lyric: "I don't want your body but I hate to think about it with somebody else."

Frightened Rabbit - I Wish I Was Sober, PAINTING OF A PANIC ATTACK
Favorite lyric: "My love, you should know, the best of me left hours ago. Shove it right into my mouth and let me smolder." 

Kings of Leon - Waste A Moment, WALLS
Favorite lyric: "Take the time to waste a moment, never ask to be forgiven."

Tegan and Sara - Stop Desire, LOVE YOU TO DEATH
Favorite lyric: "Take this passion, turn it into action."

Bloc Party - The Love Within, HYMNS*
Favorite lyric: "Lord give me grace and dancing feet as I conquer all anxiety."

*Double points for having my favorite video of the year (nearly tied with this one).