This is my final list regarding music in 2016 and boy is it a doozy. Think of it as a giant funeral pyre – burning all the oil left in the can to exorcise my demons and start anew, with only shallow memories to remind me of times past, give or take a few albums I hang onto into 2017 and beyond.
I’ve done something like this for the past two years: a collection of 100 songs that made this year’s listening unique from other years, listed in chronological order from January 1, 2016 to December 31, 2016. But this year I thought I’d add some new features to get my list-making/data-mining brain all revved up on the dopamine it constantly craves. Below the 100 songs you’ll find my overall 2016 listening statistics (per my Last.FM) and a roundup of my favorite 15 concerts I attended in 2016. How cute! Read 2015 and 2014 to see how they stack up to this one.
My 2016 as a whole: not super great. Sure I did a few cool things here and there: traveled outside the US for the first time to see my girlfriend in Paris, I moved to NYC, I rode the train back to CT and the bus to DC a bunch of times. Visited Philly. Drove up to Cape Cod. I went through with posting at least 10 recommended albums per month on this blog. I saw a few friends sometimes, I guess. Finished THREE TV shows, a new record for me (granted, two of them were one-season anime). Watched around 10 new movies, another new high score. I am now a TV/movie person, of course. Played a bunch of Pokemon, too. Pretty modest overall.
But I don’t need to be another person to tell you that 2016 was “bad” because it was so aggressively bad that it needs no further explanation. You know this. The media especially knows this. Even your mom knows this. Like everything else in 2016, the badness of the year became a meme. A bad meme at that. Despite this badness, a lot of people said that the music was especially good this year compared to years previous. Gotta disagree with that one. There were a few records that were like “oh hell yeah” in parts, but for the mostly it was like “ok this is fine, I guess.” I had a bad 2015 and music that year was so good. But whatever. In one final flaming, grotesque burst, here are 2016’s 100 songs:
TREV’S 2016 IN 100 SONGS
- Slint – “Don, Aman”
“Don stepped outside.” I started 2016 at a New Year’s party that went almost exactly like how the one in this song went. What a way to ring in the year. “It felt good to be alone.”
- David Bowie – “Warszawa”
The first major sign that 2016 was going to be the absolute worst. RIP.
- Wild Nothing – “Reichpop”
Gotta love indie rock paying tribute to Steve Reich.
- Porches – “Be Apart”
An early 2016 obsession. Overdramatic and swoony, especially when I felt like being a sadsack. Had a very imprinted moment of driving to my girlfriend’s house late at night to see her before she went back to France & listening to this album. That was good.
- Cat Power – “The Greatest”
I was accompanied by this record on many of my cold train rides in early 2016. Warming like an embrace. This was the record that got me into Cat Power this year. Probably second or third most important song to me from this year.
- Ty Segall – “Mandy Cream”
This Ty Segall album is a janky, effed-up masterpiece and it might be my all-time favorite from him. Love how this one is groovy, crunchy, sassy, loud and fun. The best centerpiece for the record.
- Chairlift – “Show U Off”
My girlfriend said she likes this song the best off the new Chairlift record, so it makes me think about her showing me off.
- DIIV – “Waste Of Breath”
#omg #me #imawasteofbreathtoo #nogood #loser #lol #plslikecommentsubscribe
- Sunflower Bean – “Wall Watcher”
One of the best rock hooks of 2016 in my honest opinion.
- The River Empires – “Overture In Thales Summer”
Unsure of how this record ended up in my library. I just found it in my iTunes one day. A lengthy, tolling listen, but this song has some of the most angelic vocal harmonies I’ve ever heard.
- No Doubt – “Sunday Morning”
Thanks to a similar melody on Wild Nothing’s 2016 record that reminded me of “It’s My Life,” it brought me back to my favorite band of 4th and 5th grade, No Doubt, who are still amazing. I will fight you over this.
- Pantha Du Prince – “Lay In A Shimmer”
Shoveled a foot of snow from my driveway one morning listening to this record. It kept me motivated and helped me to forget about how much work I had waiting for me at my real job afterward.
- NZCA Lines – “New Atmosphere”
HUGE. Some primo synth pop right here. Oh so good. Played a lot of Roller Coaster Tycoon to this album & song, actually. Can you believe it? I knew you could. A lot of Roller Coaster Tycoon-ing took place in early 2016. I’m a big fan of that.
- Smith Westerns – “Smile”
For a bit there I dove back into Smith Westerns’ 2011 album Dye It Blonde and it brought me right back to my senior year of high school. Such good times. Pretty sure I drove home from my graduation listening to this song. I then started asking some kids in college now what they thought about it and so many of them had never heard of Smith Westerns. It blew my mind. Granted they disbanded after their last album in 2013, but frontman Cullen Omori released a solo album this year that was pretty popular, on Sub Pop no less. Had no one gone and listened to this after checking that out? Either way, great album. Don’t forget it.
- PJ Harvey – “Horses In My Dreams”
Story time. I drove home from UConn at 2am one night in February after visiting friends & exclusively listened to Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea. I was going through a bit of a personal rough patch (hell, the whole first quarter or so of 2016 was pretty tough (editors note: I’d say 3/4 of 2016 was a rough patch)) and this song spoke to me the most during the drive. It was -15ºF and dropping at that time and for some reason my car’s heater was not doing the job, so I was violently shivering for a good half of the 90 minute drive. Traveling back through the bleak, snowy expanse of northeast Connecticut, making my way down to the coast and seeing almost no one else on the road; it was an eerie feeling. This song overall is also very eerie sounding, with a plodding rhythm and Harvey’s strained croon. But there’s also a driving force behind all of it, a spiritual warmth lighting the way home. Maybe those are the thoughts of the good times. Like the ones I just had with my friends. I could get through this. “Horses In My Dreams” will be a song that will be forever connected to 2016, for better or for worse. If I ever see PJ Harvey live and she plays this song, I’ll be reduced to a pile of mush. Tied with Cat Power’s “The Greatest” as this year’s 2nd/3rd most important song.
- Holy Fuck – “Shivering”
Great washing melodies on this track. Wish the Holy Fuck album as a whole stuck with me for longer, but this song definitely did. Thought Cuushe was doing the female vocals on here but apparently not. Listen and check if I’m not crazy.
- Massive Attack – “Risingson”
I put on Mezzanine when I had to do a lot of data entry so that I could feel like a hacker from a late 90s/early 00s movie. Or when I was going to make a lot of subway transfers in one trip. Something about walking underground listening to trip hop puts me right into a silly action movie.
- Kedr Livanskiy – “Sgoraet (Burning Down)”
Possibly the best soundtrack for watching heavy snowfall from a train, plane or automobile.
- Hiroshi Sato – “Say Goodbye”
Shout out to Ross and Popforum. This put me in a huge city pop whirlpool. City Pop is another name for pop music that came out of Japan in the 80s and 90s, associated with the post-industrial boom of personal wealth and glitz/glamor. Everything I’ve heard from that scene has been amazing, saccharine 80s pop that cash in on all the best things American 80s pop had to offer. This song in particular has a stellar hook and puts a heavy Yellow Magic Orchestra touch onto a typical pop song formula.
- Kanye West – “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1”
I remember watching the Life Of Pablo streaming event and being impressed by “Ultralight Beam,” but when “Father Stretch My Hands” came in I was like hoooookay. This is going to be something else. It’s really unfortunate Kanye has such trash verses on this and the beat kind of farts around during the latter half of it. Otherwise it’s an otherworldly vision. Keep Kid Cudi doing hooks and that’s it. Hooks like this, that is. Nothing else.
- Sarah Neufeld – “Where The Light Comes In”
Heart-achingly beautiful. The kind of music I simply adore. Watching light refract and move in natural ways. Feeling life pass you by. Sinking or progressing? It all feels the same.
- Frankie Cosmos – “Embody”
You ever hear a song that just grows you a big smile the first time you hear it? This was also the first track I rang in 2017 with. Hoping it’s a good omen!
- Mitski – “Your Best American Girl”
The song that electrified the indie music media world, establishing Mitski as a new queen of “indie rock” in 2016. Was my favorite song of the year for a good portion of it.
- Joe Hisaishi – “Yamadas, Takashi and Matsuko’s Tango”
In 2013 or 2014 I bought this awesome collection of songs from Studio Ghibli soundtracks as performed by the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra pressed on vinyl. Cool enough – but then I found a digital copy of it which I could then listen to anywhere. Pretty cool. I’ve never seen My Neighbors The Yamadas, but this song is probably the best song on the compilation. I love the dynamic shifts between dramatic climaxes and fierce elegance. It really sets up a scene well for a goofy, yet well done dance scene. At least I think so. I should really get around to seeing what it really soundtracks.
- Tim Hecker – “I’m Transmitting Tonight”
Dove deep into Tim Hecker’s back catalog – found this gem. A lot more in your face & glitchy than most of his other material.
- Ducktails – “Sunset Liner”
Pinnacle of chill. Like a really comfortable wooden rocking chair on a front porch.
- The Beach Boys – “I Just Wasn’t Made For These Times”
A bit cliche and ‘I was born in le wrong generation,’ but my first Pet Sounds phase of 2016 chose this song as the anchor point of my emotions.
- Baauer – “GoGo!”
The number of times I cruised down my street straight blasting this song in February and March is probably too high.
- Ytamo – “Sensorial Area”
If you haven’t read how much I’ve gushed about this Ytamo record on here yet, please go look it up. It’s such a treat. I listened to it over and over again on a rainy Sunday in March while reading through every volume of a classic slice of life manga called Yokohama Kaidashi Kiko, or Yokohama Shopping Log. This album was the perfect soundtrack to this slice of life manga, which I highly recommend. It was a little moment of zen during a very un-fun portion of my life.
- Röyksopp – “Poor Leno”
Decided to give this mid-00s classic a try and found “Poor Leno” was my fav for sure. Gotta trust the Scandinavians to supply the best grooves, I guess.
- Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – “When I Try, I’m Full”
Could have picked any of the songs on Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith’s fantastic record to be on here to define my year, but I thought this one would suffice. It’s just so fun to listen to. So many twisting and overlapping layers, slowly revealing hidden treasures within the textures. You gotta check this one out for sure if you haven’t already.
- Kevin Morby – “Destroyer”
Singing Saw was an alright album, I thought after my first listen. Later that day, I kept on hearing the “destroyerrrr” part of the song echo in my head, like a siren beckoning me back into its clutches. Only in this scenario, it’s a cool indie rock album. Glad everything turned out okay. The album is good.
- Whitney – “Dave’s Song”
This accompanied so many hangouts this year, which in turn brought memories of them back to me whenever I’d listen on my own. Healing music.
- Real Lies – “Dab Housing”
Came back into this Real Lies album, which was real good to listen to as I introduced rolling down my car windows back into my behavior for 2016.
- Prince – “Computer Blue”
I mean, not much to say here. I’m pretty sure everyone was listening to Prince in late April. I hadn’t listened to Purple Rain since high school, so I forgot how good “Computer Blue” and “Darling Nikki” were, two oft-forgotten songs for me. RIP.
- J Dilla – “Reckless Driving”
Listened to a lot of things on the flight to Paris, but the Ruff Draft EP yielded the most surreal feeling. Mostly about listening to material I had never heard before from one of my favorite musicians, surrounded by people who didn’t speak my native language, rocketing through the air across an ocean. Just little things.
- The Mars Volta – “Eriatarka”
Rediscovered my love for The Mars Volta’s Deloused In The Comatorium on my flight back from Paris. What an amazing album. I hadn’t listened to it since mid-high school, so coming back to it was a crazy feeling. Also I got knee deep in the lore and story behind this album, which is absolutely insane. There are a few diehard fans that break each lyric and riff down to nuclear components to tell its story. Back in the day my favorite song was definitely “Inertiatic ESP” but now I’d say this one now takes the spot.
- Nujabes – “Flowers”
Two of my dear friends picked me up from the Boston airport when I returned from Paris and then took me out to ice cream. Good introduction back into America. We then drank a lot of wine, listened to a lot of Whitney and Prince and danced a lot of goofy dances. Also fantastic. But what stuck out to me most was us messing around & playing basketball in a drizzle the next morning, listening to Nujabes. I felt like a little kid again.
- Holy Ghost! – “Stereotype”
Loved to strut down the train platform to this track, something that I did at least once a week during the summer.
- LUH – “$ORO”
A mid-year revelation. Ultra cathartic.
- Radiohead – “Burn The Witch”
First taste of new Radiohead, holy moly. Good to have them back.
- Death Grips – “Bottomless Pit”
“I FUCKED YOU IN HALF” has never sounded so good. I remember listening to this a lot when I got stranded in NYC for a night when a fire melted the overhead tracks for Metro North trains, stopping all travel in and out of the city via Metro North. Walking around midtown at night in spring getting pumped to new Death Grips was fun.
- Jessy Lanza – “Oh No”
A more-than-serious jam. I absolutely love the bits of Yellow Magic Orchestra worship thrown in near the end. What a cool way to make a synth pop song unique.
- Chance The Rapper – “No Problem (ft. Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz)”
A legit song of the summer. Maybe THE song of the summer. Drove up to the MA cape to spend a weekend with some lovely friends on the beach. We played pool, ate a lot of snacks and had some seriously good hangs. An incredible start to the summer.
- Kaytranada – “Lite Spots”
Essential vitality added to the summer playlist and 2016 beyond. Music video for this song is also essential viewing material.
- Korallreven – “Honey Mine”
Washed my car to this on one of the first really nice days of the year. Truuu bliss.
- Clams Casino – “Blast”
The first taste of Clams Casino’s debut LP. Colossally mind-blowing. Called back to some of my favorite Clams material, with really thick bass and cut up vocal samples. Wished there were more songs like this on the record itself but hey, dude’s still making music. It’ll come.
- Clams Casino – “Natural”
New Clams had me venturing into old Clams territory again and reaping previously uncached benefits from his Rainforest EP. So insanely good, especially as the temperatures starting rising and the humidity became ignorant. The world needs more Clams production like this!
- The Avalanches – “With My Baby”
With news of a new Avalanches record finally coming after 16 years, I dove back into whatever material from the Australian group I hadn’t listened to already that I could find. One really interesting thing I found was an alternate, more “complete” version of Since I Left You, simply titled The Album. The Album and SILY are essentially the same, save for a few samples the band either failed to clear or ended up cutting from the final draft. Little bits of newness pop up here and there, adding little refreshers on parts of an album you’ve heard hundreds of times. But the main difference is the inclusion of “With My Baby,” a total barnburner of a track that’s nestled in between “Stay Another Season” and “Radio.” Not only is it large and in charge, boisterously rollicking down a cobblestone path converting every open facade into a deep party destination, it has multiple layers of some of the best grooves Avalanches have ever put on record. There’s just so much to process here, but included is a giant horn section, a distorted choir, robotic Beck-like effects, patois-esque rapping similar to that on “Flight Tonight,” ultra-funky bass & rhythm guitar, familiar samples from the rest of the album and other crazy sights and sounds around every turn. The most satisfying of them all though is a deep, western/surf guitar line that just hits all the best spots when it comes in. It’s perfect. It’s like that moment of a movie when the brave hero comes out of hiding to confront the bad guy in one final standoff. Heck, this could even be just a fan’s knockoff version of an Avalanches-like song posed to look like a real one and I would still give it this high praise. It’s that good.
- John Maus – “Cop Killer”
I had jury duty for the first time this year and We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves was the only record I listened to that entire day: the train ride to New Haven, walking to the court house, the endless hours of waiting, the lunch hour & the train ride home. The only time I listened to something else that day was when I was released from duty, so I exited the building to Daft Punk’s Discovery. Felt like I going to jump into a freeze frame after that slog of a day, but John Maus was able to keep me company and staved off complete insanity.
- Frank Ocean – “Nature Feels”
Around this time rumors were really sizzling about upcoming Frank Ocean material. I’ve listened to Channel Orange pretty consistently since 2012, but hadn’t returned to Nostalgia Ultra in a good while. Completely forgot about this one, which also in turn reminded me that “Electric Feel” is the only MGMT song I like.
- Let’s Eat Grandma – “Rapunzel”
A breakout hit in my books. Something so mystical, so mesmerizing about it.
- Steve Hauschildt – “Batteries May Drain”
I went on a hike to this album. I felt like I was in my own brain, piloting a giant robot version of myself as I clambered up rocky cliffs and stumbled down steep hills. I was in a really weird mental state at this time in my life as well, so I think that had something to do with it. Haven’t felt like that while listening to this song since.
- Beck – “Solider Jane”
Beck always sounds so much better to me in the early summer. This is an overlooked song I love off of an overlooked album that I love.
- Ice Choir – “Afar”
Discovered that this record is basically the sonic sequel to Ford & Lopatin’s Channel Pressure, one of my all-time favorite albums. Some serious synth wizardry happening here.
- The Avalanches – “Subways”
Literally released/leaked days before moving to NYC, The Avalanches Wildflower was the soundtrack to the film adaptation of the newest chapter of my life. As corny as that sounds, I’m serious. It couldn’t have been timed any better. The first weekend I was there, 4th Of July weekend, I went to Central Park on my own and just walked around listening to Wildflower. I could do whatever now. I’m in a city that an obnoxious amount of people idolize. Absolute madness. Listened to it while watching people shoot fireworks off their roofs. “Subways” on the subway? Cmon now dude you kidding me?
- Clams Casino – “Witness (ft. Lil B)”
Listening to this walking around NYC made me feel like such a badass, holy smokes. 32 levels based.
- Dirty Projectors – “Impregnable Question”
Spent a weekend with Amy for her birthday and listened to a lot of Dirty Projectors while driving around. This is by far our favorite song by them to listen to together and it always makes me think of her when it comes on.
- Cole M.G.N. – “If U Let Me”
Distorted, warping, shifting, mutant retro/futuristic pop. I mean, I really can’t describe it any other way. One of the best songs of the year by far. Haven’t heard anything else like it and likely never will.
- Omni – “Wire”
Omni was my addiction for the latter half of July & first half of August. I guarantee you’ll see why if you listen to the whole record.
- Jay Som – “I Think You’re Alright”
Saw Jay Som open for Japanese Breakfast and Mitski and Jay Som put on the show I enjoyed the most. With only her and a guitar, she hypnotized the audience. I got chills multiple times during the performance, especially during this one.
- Jessy Lanza – “Keep Moving”
Had to keep on moving, keep on moving, gotta keep on moving, keep on keep on…
- Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein – “Stranger Things Theme”
The inescapable Stranger Things theme. Thought the soundtrack wasn’t mind-blowing, but it was very well done and appropriate. The theme was definitely the GOAT though, regardless if its blatant 80s synth worship or not. A well-done theme for a TV show, that’s it.
- Ryo Fukui – “It Could Happen To You”
Saw this continually recommended in the Youtube sidebar of synth demo videos. Decided to check it out and wowie zowie it’s a real good piano-based jazz album.
- D.R.A.M. – “Broccoli (ft. Lil Yachty)”
“I’m beyond all that fuck shit” is a phrase that kept me going through a cruel summer. Prevented me from having a total nuclear meltdown after I got laaaaaaid ooooffffff!!
- Danny L Harle – “Super Natural (ft. Carly Rae Jepsen)”
All hail queen Carly and HUGE Danny.
- Dntel – “Anywhere Anyone”
The most important song for me in 2016. Discovered Dntel’s 2001 album Life Is Full Of Possibilities one weekend in mid-August and haven’t stopped listening to it since. It’s a fantastic record in a very subtle way. This song in particular is a masterpiece. Makes me feel sterile and floating in space, a preferential feeling of mine when it comes to music (see: Laurel Halo, Majical Cloudz). The main repeated whirring synth throughout the song in particular is so underhandedly powerful – as soon as the song starts you’re sucked into its gravity, orbiting in its universe. It reminds me of ugly, fluorescent light bulbs at a gas station late at night. I remember reading somewhere about some kind of term like “transitional spaces” like gas stations or rather, the spaces and places in between more important periods of life, and how the memories made in and around those spaces are filed away in the mind. I’m totally flubbing this up, but do you see what I’m saying here? Like thinking of those little stops on a family vacation, or even a daily commute. You’re in a transitional space, going from one place (say, work), to another place (home). Your subway commute is still a space, but it’s not your own. Anyways, this song really reminds me a lot of that conscious feeling of transition and liquid space. I hope you feel the same or feel some sort of unique emotion listening to this. This song is something special.
- Baroness – “Take My Bones Away”
Baroness put on one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen. It was an incredible tour de force from start to finish. It’s just so refreshing to go see a band that so clearly gives a shit about literally everything; from how they play, to how the audience is doing, and how they’re doing. They’re not just zombies up there. They’re there to rock your fucking face off. Hell yeah, WOW. It was so incredible. Read more about it in my concert recaps at the bottom of this post.
- Maria Usbeck – “Uno De Tus Ojos”
A refreshing drink to resurrect me from the gruesome summer heat. Her show at Manhattan Inn was splendid.
- How To Disappear Completely – “The Language Of Dreams”
A go-to sleepy time cut. Zzzzzzzzzzz…
- The Radio Dept. – “Domestic Scene”
Instead of listening to the 2016 Radio Dept. album, I dove back into 2010’s Clinging To A Scheme, which was a real smooth move. I think “Domestic Scene” neatly sets the stage for the rest of the album. Like, it’s not only good, but appropriate as well. Need more of those going forward. If anyone else knows of any other good appropriate album openers, please point me in their direction.
- Carly Rae Jepsen – “The One”
Rivals “Gimmie Love” as my favorite CRJ song. That chorus hook is just too good. This might be my favorite song from 2016, but who’s to say. I guess that would be me. Hmm… I’m gonna have to think on that.
- Jenny Hval – “Conceptual Romance”
Blearily watching a Wawa billboard through a bus window pass by at 8am while listening to this song was a defining moment of 2016.
- Young Thug – “Wyclef Jean”
“OK my money’s way longer than a Nascar race.” This was played almost every day on the office speakers at my new job.
- IAN SWEET – “2soft2chew”
Hits me in all the right spots. Or in this case, SWEET spots. Heh heh heh hehhh…
- Merchandise – “Right Back To The Start”
Rekindled my love for Merchandise, a love that was lost back in 2014. I guess I went… right back to the start.
- Momoko Kikuchi – “もう逢えないかもしれない”
This couldn’t really translate well online so I left it as is in Japanese. A dive back into “city pop,” this being of the ultra dreamy variety. A totally random find that proved to be one of my favorite discoveries of 2016. So dramatic and catchy. I love how they layered synthetic strings over real strings in some parts – it makes a really unique, ultra-80s sound that I just eat up wholeheartedly. Watch a live version here.
- Vesuvio Solo – “Mirror Held To The Flower”
My first project I brought in on my own at Tell All Your Friends PR and I couldn’t be more happy to work with these guys. Silky, smooth jams. It’s like a sonic bathrobe. Oooooh yeaaahh.
- Nicolas Jaar – “No”
A good mantra for 2016, as well as the perfect rainy day song.
- Big Star – “O, My Soul”
Dove back into Big Star, specifically Radio City. Boy howdy it rips.
- Crying – “Well and Spring”
Never thought Crying could get this mystical and dreamy but here we are. One of my favorite songs on the new record.
- Sam Evian – “Carolina”
A good adjective to pair this song with is “oozing.” I mean that in the best way possible. Gotta love that talkbox!! You gotta love it!!
- Aldous Harding – “Titus Groan”
Aldous Harding’s opening set for Deerhunter totally floored me. Absolutely see her live if she comes to your town. The emotion and humor she puts in her sets is super refreshing. Not to mention the music is fantastic as well.
- Deerhunter – “Twilight At Carbon Lake”
Finally saw Deerhunter live (on my birthday, no less) and this was their closer. Apparently they hadn’t played this song live for a very long time, so I feel honored to have seen it live. Bradford jumped down to the audience and let one of his friends play guitar during the final part, which I thought was really sweet.
- The Replacements – “Left Of The Dial”
- The Replacements – “Here Comes A Regular”
- The Replacements – “Androgynous”
- The Replacements – “Answering Machine”
Went through a massive Replacements phase in late October/early November after I listened to Tim for the first time. I know I’m super late to the party, but what a great band. Or rather, what a great duo of albums Tim and Let It Be are. I’d say Let It Be is still my favorite, but “Left Of The Dial” and “Here Comes A Regular” are definitely my favs off of Tim. These albums highlighted a time where I was actually feeling good about myself for once. Haha!
- The Smiths – “Rubber Ring”
I’m always listening to The Smiths, but I revisited Louder Than Bombs and marveled at how strange “Rubber Ring” is as a single. Granted it’s a b-side, but still. Hard to choose an overall MVP that makes the song hook so well, but I’d say the drums are the underdog.
- Kero Kero Bonito – “Trampoline”
THE MOST FUN. THE MOST FUN OF ALL TIME.
- Rae Sremmurd – “Black Beatles (ft. Gucci Mane)”
Bless the mannequin challenge. “Sounds like space,” according to one of my friends. A true product of 2016. There is no way this could have existed even in 2012 or 2013. But in 2016 it became a major hit. I’m glad it did.
- Guided By Voices – “Game Of Pricks”
Listened to Alien Lanes for almost the entirety of a bus ride to Philly, where I had an amazing, revitalizing weekend with two very dear friends.
- Weyes Blood – “Generation Why”
That damn Weyes Blood concert in a church was so amazing. You’ll find more on that way down below. Then, it might have been the weekend after that, but I walked on the beach near my house to this album on a bright late fall day. It was a perfect fit.
- Andy Shauf – “Quite Like You”
Andy Shauf and Weyes Blood were really the only artists I listened to in November. Thankfully I got to see both of them this year and both shows were fantastic. So if anything, those shows for 2016 were pretty great.
- A Tribe Called Quest – “We The People….”
NEW TRIBE. RIP Phife.
- Guernica – “水晶宮 (Crystal Palace)”
The last album I downloaded before What.CD shut down for good was this insane Japanese cabaret pop album from the 80s by this band Guernica. It was included in a collage entitled “Euphoria-Inducing Albums,” so why not download it? It’s unlike anything I’ve ever heard and is completely ridiculous. Tons of fun, though. I recommend you listen to it at least once.
- Codeine – “Cigarette Machine”
Helped my sister move out of her college apartment to Codeine’s Frigid Stars and Sonic Youth’s Sister, appropriately enough. The lyric “Not even star-crossed, just unlucky” was a lyric that stood out to me from this song. Sad dude stuff.
- Cross Record – “The Depths”
Just when I thought my Best of 2016 list, this record had to come out of nowhere and shock my system. This is the most Grouper-esque of the songs on here, which is very likely the reason why it’s the song that stuck with me the most.
- Orbital – “Halcyon + On + On”
Heard this song for the first time in a Brooklyn comfort food restaurant. Then I realized it was a song featured in the ending scene of Mean Girls, so it wasn’t actually the first time. Great story right? Got props for helping someone achieve cred for knowing this song after I introduced it to them. I described it as if Grimes guested on a The Field song.
- Grouper – “Headache”
What better way to end this terrible year than a comfy Grouper song? Pretty sure I was knee-deep in Grouper this time in 2015 as well. Tis the season. This is a beautiful song, my immediate reaction is to label it my favorite, or at least in my Top 3. There we go, more lists to think about now that this one is over.
…but wait, there’s more!
2016 LISTENING STATS:
2016 didn’t really have as many deep, life-changing discoveries as 2014 or 2015, mostly just heavy listening in new records and personal staple bands. What can I say? In these tumultuous times, you gotta stick with what you know. The Smiths, for example. I’m continuously listening to them. Mr Twin Sister’s self-titled record from 2014 was also a constant companion, as always. Laurel Halo’s 2012 album Quarantine stayed in my most-listened for another year. But let’s take a closer look.
Top 25 Most-Listened Albums in 2016:
- The Avalanches – Wildflower  (434 plays)
- Jenny Hval – Blood Bitch  (405 plays)
- Kaytranada – 99.9%  (384 plays)
- Weyes Blood – Front Row Seat To Earth  (359 plays)
- The Smiths – Louder Than Bombs  (353 plays)
- Jessy Lanza – Oh No  (345 plays)
- Mr Twin Sister – Mr Twin Sister  (339 plays)
- The Smiths – Meat Is Murder  (335 plays)
- Dntel – Life Is Full Of Possibilities  (266 plays)
- The Range – Potential  (266 plays)
- Clams Casino – 32 Levels  (259 plays)
- The Beach Boys – Pet Sounds (259 plays)
- Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – Ears  (249 plays)
- The Range – Nonfiction  (246 plays)
- NZCA Lines – Infinite Summer  (237 plays)
- Laurel Halo – Quarantine  (223 plays)
- Kanye West – The Life Of Pablo  (222 plays)
- Baauer – Aa  (205 plays)
- Joe Hisashi & The Czech Philharmonic Orchestra – Studio Ghibli Symphonic Collection  (205 plays)
- Crying – Beyond The Fleeting Gates  (199 plays)
- Omni – Deluxe  (194 plays)
- Grouper – Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill  (190 plays)
- Ice Choir – Designs In Rhythm  (186 plays)
- John Maus – We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves  (186 plays)
- Kedr Livanskiy – January Sun  (181 plays)
No surprises here. One of my most-anticipated albums ever (Wildflower) was finally released, so of course I listened to that the most. Also listening to “Subways” on the subway? Get outta here. Got more into Louder Than Bombs this year than others. Dntel’s Life Is Full Of Possibilities was by and far my biggest discovery, which you’ll see more of coming up in all the lists on here. Very happy I started listening to that. Aside from those two, not too much outside of 2016, aside from my usual haunts. John Maus’ We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves shot back into my listening repertoire midway through the year and has stuck there ever since. Such an easy record to listen to over & over.
Top 25 Artists Listened To In 2016:
- The Smiths (766 plays)
- The Avalanches (710 plays)
- The Range (522 plays)
- Tim Hecker (510 plays)
- Clams Casino (490 plays)
- Grouper (485 plays)
- Jessy Lanza (484 plays)
- Jenny Hval (409 plays)
- Beck (404 plays)
- Kaytranada (399 plays)
- Weyes Blood (388 plays)
- Mr Twin Sister (345 plays)
- Dntel (301 plays)
- The Replacements (294 plays)
- Kanye West (273 plays)
- Death Grips (270 plays)
- Deerhunter (268 plays)
- The Beach Boys (259 plays)
- Ice Choir (252 plays)
- Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith (249 plays)
- Frank Ocean (243 plays)
- Laurel Halo (237 plays)
- NZCA Lines (237 plays)
- Arca (226 plays)
- Mitski (214 plays)
Again, not surprising. Lots of Smiths, primarily my favorite Meat Is Murder and Louder Than Bombs. Also not surprising, new Avalanches and the discovery of The Album. I didn’t realize I had listened to that much The Range, but his two albums are very, very easy to listen to a bunch and not realize it. Winter revolved around a lot of Tim Hecker, Laurel Halo, Kanye West and NZCA Lines. Spring was Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, The Range Mitski, Beach Boys & Death Grips. Summer was heavy on The Avalanches, Jenny Hval, Jessy Lanza, Clams Casino, Beck, Kaytranada & Ice Choir. Then fall/winter was all about Weyes Blood, The Replacements, Grouper, Deerhunter & Arca. The Smiths, Dntel, Mr Twin Sister were constantly in rotation, Dntel being the only newcomer.
Top 25 Songs Listened To In 2016:
- Sarah Neufeld – “Where The Light Comes In” (97 plays)
- Mr Twin Sister – “Sensitive” (90 plays)
- Jenny Hval – “Female Vampire” (87 plays)
- Jenny Hval – “Conceptual Romance” (78 plays)
- Dntel – “Anywhere Anyone” (77 plays)
- The Smiths – “The Headmaster Ritual” (69 plays)
- Carly Rae Jepsen – “The One” (69 plays)
- Cole M.G.N. – “If U Let Me” (63 plays)
- The Avalanches – “Subways” (63 plays)
- Weyes Blood – “Generation Why” (62 plays)
- The Range – “Five Four” (60 plays)
- Vesuvio Solo – “Mirror Held To The Flower” (56 plays)
- NZCA Lines – “New Atmosphere” (54 plays)
- Weyes Blood – “Away Above” (53 plays)
- Mr Twin Sister – “In The House Of Yes” (53 plays)
- Jessy Lanza – “Never Enough” (53 plays)
- The Smiths – “Rubber Ring” (53 plays)
- Mr Twin Sister – “Rude Boy” (53 plays)
- Jessy Lanza – “Going Somewhere” (51 plays)
- Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – “When I Try, I’m Full” (51 plays)
- Clams Casino – “Blast” (50 plays)
- Weyes Blood – “Do You Need My Love” (50 plays)
- Merchandise – “Right Back To The Start” (50 plays)
- Jenny Hval – “Secret Touch” (50 plays)
- Kornél Kovács – “BB” (49 plays)
Although I love the #1 & #2 songs on this list, I’m know they’re at the top because of a last.fm glitch. There’s no way I listened to anything more than the two Jenny Hval songs and Dntel’s “Anywhere Anyone.” They’d likely still be on there, but a bit lower. The Avalanches might have had my most-listened to album of 2016 on lock, but Jenny Hval was a close second with those two great singles. And like I wrote earlier in my 100 song segment, “Anywhere Anyone” is by and far the song that defined my 2016, for better or for worse. Good part is that it’s a beautiful, numbing song that will always be a favorite of mine. Bad part is that it’s real sad and is too real to my situation. For the most part though it’s pretty much only songs from 2016. I am obsessed with the moment, bay-beeeeeeeeee.
TOP 15 SHOWS OF 2016:
It was no coincidence that almost all my favorite shows I saw this year came from artists whose albums from 2016 are some of my absolute favorites. That’s how it went in 2015, too. Joanna Newsom & Björk were #1 & #2 on albums and shows attended. The only non-2016 release bands that I saw this year were Baroness, Deerhunter, Aldous Harding, Mr Twin Sister & TOPS. I guess that’s a decent amount, but as a whole, it’s mostly 2016 bands.
1. Baroness & Pallbearer @ Webster Hall
As soon as the show ended, I knew no other concert I saw in 2016 was going to be better than that. I had a feeling that they put on a great live show, so I went by myself to check them out. Holy smokes. There are two pieces to why they put on the best show I saw in 2016: for one, their musicianship was off the charts. They were melting everyone’s faces at Webster Hall, sounding exactly like the record, if not more vibrant. Secondly, they really cared about what they were doing. They engaged with the crowd a bunch and came off as genuinely wanting everyone, themselves included, to have a good time. I had gotten into a habit of seeing so many bands not give a rat’s ass about what they’re doing or how the crowd felt. These guys put on a wicked clinic and made everyone feel included while being in a violent, throbbing sea of humanity. I’d see them again in a heartbeat. You should too.
2. Weyes Blood @ Park Church Co-op
I don’t think I’ll ever forget this concert. Just two days after the election and the night of news of Leonard Cohen’s passing, the world was very, very tired and upset. Instead of holing themselves into their homes, people came and crammed a church to its gills, with a line rolling out the door for standby tickets, to see Weyes Blood perform new songs off of her visionary 2016 album Front Row Seat To Earth in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. With people sardined into rows of pews & sitting on the floor, with designated incense runners going up and down the aisles spreading the good vibes, and with Drippy Eye Visuals providing a mind-blowing psychedelic backdrop, Weyes Blood soothed our fresh wounds gained from the week’s happenings with her siren songs. I’m not sure if I would have found the show to be as amazing as I did if the circumstances were different, but either way, it was definitely what I needed in that moment. I’m sure that’s the case for many other people that attended as well.
3. Mr Twin Sister, Caroline Polachek & Maria Usbeck @ Manhattan Inn
One of the first things I did when I moved to NYC was go see Mr Twin Sister perform a “deconstructed” set in the back room of the Manhattan Inn, the first of a series of shows Mr Twin Sister put on throughout the summer of 2016. You’ll find that show recap a little further down. This show, however, was the last in the series. A nice way of symbolically tying up my first summer in NYC. The concert space was a perfect, candlelit square, with inward-facing booths around the outside and a lowered section with a grand piano in the middle, making for a very intimate show space. First was Maria Usbeck, who charmed the audience by cracking jokes and crushing songs off her debut record Amparo. Caroline Polacheck of Chairlift was billed as the special guest and performed previously-unheard songs of her own, holding a candle to the lyric sheet she brought with her. Then, the main event of Mr Twin Sister came on and they were astounding. If you ever get to see them, pay attention to how together the band is. They bleed musicianship, closely following each other and throwing in jazzy flourishes when they can. The intimate nature of the performance only boosted their musicality, making the show one that seemed not only special for the audience, but special for the band as well.
4. Jenny Hval & serpentwithfeet @ Le Poisson Rouge
Happened to catch Jenny Hval at her album release show, which proved to make her already unique show an even more special performance. She played Blood Bitch all the way through, interlude-esque tracks included. I can see how this might have been disappointing for fans of her other material, but I was peachy. Hval had her two dancers onstage with her like most of her other live sets, along with her usual electronics guy in the back. The two dancers would accompany the dreamy music with interpretive dance, including moves like wrapping themselves in cling wrap and sending it out into the audience, pouring confetti and garbage on each other, mimicking an exercise video and covering each other in cabbage leaves. Standard stuff. At one point, though, they decided to take a break because “it’s a party, after all,” and starting eating and drinking the food laid out on a table onstage, along with handing out fake flowers and letters spelling “blood bitch” to the crowd. After that small intermission, it was back to the last three or four songs on the record, which were great. Definitely one of the most unique shows I’ve ever seen. And last but very not least, I can’t count out the opener serpentwithfeet, who astounded me with his amazing vocal skill, hilarious wit and ability to improvise lyrics. Both excellent sets that I’m really happy I got to see in 2016.
5. Jay Som, Japanese Breakfast & Mitski @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
Mitski and Japanese Breakfast were great, don’t get me wrong; but Jay Som is the one that completely stole the show for me on this star-studded lineup. With only her voice & a guitar, she came out and had the early crowd at Music Hall totally silent, intently listening to her songs. Not often do you see the an opener with a modest setup command that much attention of an audience, but woah, she did it handily. I definitely teared up a bit when she played “I Think You’re Alright,” too. Woof. I cannot wait for a new full-length from her.
6. Kero Kero Bonito, Skylar Spence & Ice Choir @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
By far the most fun show I attended in 2016. Ice Choir started things off well with their brand of ultra-slick, 80s kitsch synth pop. Skylar Spence had a technical-difficulty laden DJ set, but redeemed it by playing a remix of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams.” But Kero Kero Bonito, holy cow. They were electric. Frontwoman Sarah has a great persona that help the super-charged tracks come to life even more in the live setting with props, dance moves & a splendid energy about her. The two DJs of the group, Gus & Jamie, subvert the usual role of “background guys” by being goofy as hell, doing things like making a face at a weird sound effect, posing dramatically and constantly interacting with each other and Sarah. Holy moly. Go see this band live.
7. Aldous Harding & Deerhunter @ Webster Hall
Yeah sure Deerhunter was the headliner. They were great. Bradford got really mad at the sound guy. They played a lot of songs off their 2015 record. Didn’t play “Nothing Ever Happened.” Cmon now. But the brightest jewel of the show was Aldous Harding. She commanded the same sort of attention that Jay Som did, primarily performing solo, only in this case at dang old Webster Hall. Her stirring songs kept everyone fully enraptured and her wit in between songs helped move things along: “this one’s about my crippling alcoholism and how it’s tearing my relationships apart,” as the crowd nervously chuckles. She’s a highly animated performer as well, constantly contorting her face alongside the wrenching emotion of her songs. A deeply furrowed brow, harshly sloped frowns, pained grimaces, sarcastic grins, all potentially displayed in one song. I overheard people in front of me complaining about the faces she made, how it’s “pointless.” Well I thought it greatly enhanced the performance. So there, random people in a city of millions. To you, though, my lovely reader: you’re great.
8. Jessica Pratt @ Trans-Pecos
A simple, superb show. Not much else to say. Pratt blasted through her set of cosmic ballads with little interruption, save for her asking a photographer to stop taking pictures, since the shutter sound was distracting her. Other than that, it was an undisturbed set of pure sonic wonder.
9. Chairlift @ The Space
My second time seeing Chairlift was quite different from my first. My first was at the MoMA PS1 geodesic dome during CMJ 2012, playing for a large audience in a extravagant space. In this case, it was at one of CT’s smallest venues (literally a basement) playing to as many people that could fit into the room. It was truly a grand old time: the band was pumped up because it was the eve of their album release and they hadn’t played a room that small in a while and they loved it. Caroline Polachek was snatching phones from the front row and taking selfies with them, which some may see as obnoxious, but I thought it was killer. I loved Moth so it was awesome to see the band so excited about playing it.
10. Jessy Lanza @ Baby’s All Right
Moving & grooving, Jessy Lanza brought her busy synth pop tunes to life with just a two-person ensemble, her on electronic wizardry/vocals and a drummer. She effortlessly had the room of awkward white people, myself included, dancing the only way they know how: awkwardly. But hey, everyone in the crowd was moving. No statuesque observers from what I saw. That’s always a great sign that you’re at a great concert.
11. Andy Shauf & Chris Cohen @ Rough Trade
I’ve never seen people get so hyped up for soft rock before. These boys played it real good, I tell ya. Shauf’s band was amazingly tight; stopping on a dime in multiple moments and had complete dynamic synchronization when it mattered most. The songs off the new album sounded real good and I, along with the rest of the audience, was completely entranced.
12. Mr Twin Sister (Jul. 6) @ Manhattan Inn
My first time seeing Mr Twin Sister was a bit unorthodox, since it was billed as a “deconstructed” set. It started off as their keyboard player performing a goosebump-inducing solo piano set, then two more members joined in on percussion and saxophone, then finally the full band formed after about an hour and a half. Euphoric doesn’t even begin to explain how it sounded. Lusciously jazzy and well-executed. Definitely a special moment that I’ll always think of when reminiscing of my early days in NYC.
13. Fear Of Men & Florist @ Silent Barn
Finally saw Fear Of Men after three years of being a giant fanboy and they absolutely delivered. Played tunes spanning both albums & initial single collection with a great amount of energy. I also grabbed a setlist. Ballin’. Florist was also great and meditative.
14. Omni, EZTV & Muuy Biien @ Rough Trade
Muuy Biien & EZTV were fine enough, but Omni matched the knotty energy supplied on their debut 2016 record in the live setting, blasting through almost all of the songs on their record, plus a cool cover of something I can’t remember.
15. TOPS @ Baby’s All Right
Even though I love TOPS with all of my heart and back, this was probably my least favorite concert I’ve seen from them. This wasn’t because they played poorly, but because the venue’s A/C was out in the thick of summer, making this gig the sweatiest I’ve ever been with the least movement involved. They sounded fine, but the feeling of sweat racing down my back while standing completely still was distracting. TOPS, come back and bring a fan!
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Congratulations on making it to the bottom of this giant blog post! Let’s make 2017 a good time, eh? Woo! Thanks for reading! :^*