My 9 Favorite Songs of 2016 (that I discovered in 2017)

It happens, okay?

9. “Caroline” – Aminé

My only excuse is that I was on another continent at the time.

8. “Reminder” – The Weeknd

Hey look, a Weeknd song I don’t loathe.

7. “Velvet Ring” – Big Thief

Time for the annual “I discovered I loved this band this year and have to put something on the preview list” song.

6. “Bad and Boujee” – Migos, Lil Uzi Vert

Count me among the millions who wouldn’t have found this song without Donald Glover.

5. “Flamingo” – Kero Kero Bonito

Yes, it’s a song about a flamingo. But it’s also a song about individuality and personal expression, some of it in Japanese. About a flamingo.

4. “Free Lunch” – Isaiah Rashad

I find it hard to believe that Section .80-era Kendrick now qualifies as a throwback, but Isaiah Rashad treats his TDE rostermate’s oeuvre like a history lesson. Or maybe it’s just inspiration, I don’t know.

3. “JoHn Muir” – Schoolboy Q

Fun fact: my grandmother went to the still-operating John Muir High School nearly 70 years ago. Funner fact: that’s the only reason I clicked on this song to begin with.

2. “Everybody Wants To Love You” – Japanese Breakfast

Michelle Zauner really loves getting eaten out, but apparently not as much as eating breakfast, which she mentions twice on her breakout hit.

1. “Problems” – 6LACK

Hmm, emo sounds different now. I like it.

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Three Jams 12/8

A Jam That Came Out Yesterday – “Ponyboy” – SOPHIE

While My Little Pony themed BDSM seems like a weird topic for a song, I’m honestly surprised English DJ SOPHIE hadn’t tried it yet. After all, the mix of pain, pleasure, and ponies fits perfectly into her sinister manipulation of bubblegum pop, so compelling that even the non-Bronies have to at least find it interesting. And if you are a Brony–woof—I suggest you have some paper towels in hand.

A Jam That I’m A Little Late On – “Krippy Kush” – Farruko, Bad Bunny, Rvssian

I think it’s important to address the cultural colonialism bleeding into Puerto Rico, a country that basically invented Latin American hip-hop, when it’s biggest rap song of the year is not a homegrown Reggaeton jam, but basically a Spanish language Atlanta trap banger. Even 21 Savage hopped on the remix as if the track didn’t need another drugged-out zombie to lend a voice. At least it’s catchy.

A Jam That Was A Jam When It Came Out And Is Still A Jam And Will Always Be A Jam Even When It Gets Remixed – “Rock With You” – Michael Jackson

My favorite MJ single needs no introduction, so here’s a solid update on a classic song:

Three Jams – 10/21

Been a while!

A Jam That Came Out This Week – “200”

Maybe the new Super Slimy mixtape exists just to prove that Young Thug and Future don’t want to kill each other, but these are two talented artists regardless, and it actually shows on a couple of tracks. “200” brims with Thugger’s consistently outstanding melodies, while Future’s rasp keeps up with his counterpart’s brilliance.

A Jam That I’m A Little Late On  – “Pills”

St. Vincent makes consistently challenging art pop, but her first two singles (“New York,” “Los Ageless,”) felt so conventional next to her consistently bonkers discography. Fortunately, her third single squares up with her past.

A Jam That Was A Jam When It Came Out And Is Still A Jam – “Speakers Push Through The Air”

A little emo, a little riot grrl, a little post-punk. Pretty Girls Make Graves sure made their Smiths forefathers proud.

 

10 Midyear Favorites

10. “Harry” – Macseal

So there was this song last year called “Caitlyn” by this band called JANK that I really liked. The band balanced humor with super serious jangly guitars, creating this three-movement emo masterpiece that stood out in a crowded field of grief. Anyway, “Harry” sounds a lot like “Caitlyn.”

9. “I’m The One” – DJ Khaled, Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper, Lil Wayne

I fully support Justin Bieber replacing Chris Brown as the industry’s hook-maestro, just as I fully embrace Khaled’s cartoonish positivity, Quavo’s rise to the chart-topping elite, and Wayne’s semi-functional retirement tour. But Chance’s verse drives the song, integrating Chicago’s finest MC into the mainstream without dropping any of the charm. Plus, he rhymes “coochie melt” with “Gucci belt” like it was nothing.

8. “Stay Happy” – Broken Social Scene

I’ve thought about this for a while, and I can’t think of a reason why Broken Social Scene has remained this good for this long.

7. “The Fall of Home” – Los Campesinos!

Perhaps I had to choose a song from my favorite band’s most recent record, or maybe because I, too, left my hometown for somewhere new this year (okay it’s the same town, different neighborhood, though). But “The Fall of Home’s” brilliance lies in its delicacy, a trait the band hadn’t the maturity to pull off until just recently.

6. “Gold” – Brockhampton

Let’s not pretend that LA hip-hop heroes Brockhampton represent anything more than potential at this point. But if “Gold” indicates anything, it’s a staggeringly high ceiling for even the non-Kevin Abstract members of the group.

5. “HUMBLE” – Kendrick Lamar

Sometimes I like to imagine Kendrick Lamar returning to the studio for the first time after releasing the greatest album in a generation and wondering what in the world to do next.

4. “Witness” – Benjamin Booker, Mavis Staples

Rarely does a plea for social justice sound this timeless. “Witness” would’ve been a hit record in the 50s, 70s, 90s, and hopefully will be today.

3. “Creature Comfort” – Arcade Fire

After an underwhelming past few singles, Canada’s finest returns with a jam that reaffirms Regine Chassagne as the world’s best backup singer, Win Butler as the world’s tallest rock star, and Arcade Fire as the biggest band in the galaxy.

2. “Mary” – Big Thief

Adrianne Lenker’s cadence on “Mary” could haunt the most hardened of woodsmen, raining forest melancholy from the band’s Brooklyn habitat.

1. “XO TOUR Llif3” – Lil Uzi Vert

Could it have been any other?

 

Two Jams 6/28

A Jam That Came Out Yesterday – “Stay Happy” – Broken Social Scene

Of all the mid-aughts rock titans releasing an album this year–LCD Soundsystem, Arcade Fire, Queens of the Stone Age–Broken Social Scene excites me the most. Why? you ask. Well, jeez, have you listened to these singles?

A Jam That I’m Pretty Late On – “Magnolia” – Playboi Carti

When the DJs on my local hip-hop top-40 station introduced “Magnolia” last week as “the hottest track in the country,” I knew I was way behind. 15 seconds in, however, I realized I had heard it before in a Dragon Ball Z parody video. So yeah. I’m totally hip.

 

 

Two Jams 6/17

A Jam That Came Out This Week – “Creature Comforts” – Arcade Fire

I know, I know, more Arcade Fire. But this one is also a jam, I promise. A shiny disco jam, too, so shiny that it makes the shiny disco jams on Reflektor seem rather scuffed.

A Jam That Came Out Eight Days Ago So I Just Missed Out On Saying That It Came Out This Week – “Waste” – Brockhampton

LA’s biggest thing is Brockhampton, a collective of rap enthusiasts turned indie darlings turned eventual cult leaders headed by the super-talented Kevin Abstract. You will be hearing their album Saturation in bakeries and barbecues all summer, especially the booming machismo of “Heat” and the laid-back groove of “Gold.” But do yourself a favor and get to the end, where Northern Irish singer Bear//Face croons Frank Ocean lullabies over a sexy guitar lick, and make sure your popsicle doesn’t melt in the process.

Three Jams 6/12

A Jam That Came Out This Week – “Mary” – Big Thief

Brooklyn’s Big Theif’s new album Capacity tenderly touches touchy subjects, and the band saves their softest approach for “Mary,” the powerful penultimate track on their subdued, fantastic sophomore record. With an old gospel structure and singer Adrianne Lenker’s strained whisper, “Mary” clears out the haze of the previous nine tracks and plants its flag on songwriting perfection.

A Jam That I’m A Little Late On – “Bambi” – Jidenna

You’ll have to forgive me for the reasonable assumption that 2015’s “Classic Man” was a one-off hit from an industry plant, but alas: Jidenna released an album this year. I’ll grant you, listening to Bambi on the radio for the first time, I thought it might have been Jidenna, but the black-and-white island sample was so polished and the vocals were so smooth that I needed to get to the Migos flow in the third verse to ask myself, “who’s that well-dressed pop-hop dude?”

A Jam That Was A Jam When it Came Out And Is Still A Jam – “Cemetry Gates” – The Smiths

Morrissey is an asshole; he basically said so himself many times. As if luring you to a romantic encounter in a boneyard isn’t asshole-y enough, he deigns to tell you that the poetry you read is the wrong poetry, as if there ever were such a thing. But “Cemetry Gates” measures your love: can you hold someone dear who constantly insults you? If Johnny Marr is there to back him up, the answer is, sure, why not?