In honor the official meme of 2016 — the dumpster fire, I’ve also shifted my Best Songs of 2016 title from Killer Jams to Smokin’ Tracks. (Get it? Because the tracks are on fire!) I’m more than happy to light the fuse on this m’f’er known as 2016 and close the blast doors. As 2016 dealt blow after blow, many of us turned to music for solace. The year produced some of the most amazing music of the last decade. From the opening volleys of January until these last, merciful breaths of December, artists turned out beautiful, meaningful, socially conscious, melodic, energetic, hopeful, angry, militant, soul-affirming music — the soundtrack of 2016, the reminder that all is not lost — that all is never lost as long as there is music steering our ships through the blackest night. As one of hundreds (thousands?) of music writers churning out their “year end” lists, it’s our job as a collective community to make sure that all of this good doesn’t gets consumed by the quaking quagmire.
Commence the 30Hz 100 Best Songs of 2016 Countdown
Every year since 2005, my friend Mike at bsidesnarrative.com and I have been compiling our “Best of” lists. It’s a competition without a winner or a loser. It’s a way for us to communicate about music and share our thoughts without being able to chat as much as we’d like anymore. The above link will take you to his list.
2016 could have been known as The Year the Music Died. David Bowie, Glen Frey, Phife Dawg, Merle Haggard, Prince, Guy Clark, Ralph Stanley, Leonard Cohen, Sharon Jones. The innovative. The inspirational. The poetic. Instead of mourning these legends, let us celebrate the music they gave us and the music they still inspire. Three of these artists appear on Best Songs of 2016 list, but their ongoing influence cannot be measured.
I always use this pre-show countdown to enter a disclaimer about how I consume and sample new music. I see no reason to quit a solid holiday tradition. My preliminary “Hits List” of any track that might fill a final spot on the countdown swelled past 300 this year, a new record… and I’ve been doing this for 11 years now. I obsessively listen to new release lists every single week in order to appear competent while compiling my “Best of” lists. This is serious business. And yes, it stresses me out, especially now, as I’m filling out the final roster with brutal, gut-wrenching cuts to songs that have been with me nearly all year.
Even if I were exhausted from listening to new music every week — and I am — I couldn’t stop. They never stop making new music. I do this because I listen to so many people tell me that “nobody releases good music anymore.” When someone tells me this, I can’t help but shrug and try not to offend. What they’re telling me is that they’re too lazy to do anything but turn on the radio or tell Pandora to play an algorithmically generated (read: soulless) playlist. The music is out there. You just have to look. A little.
Music is as vibrant and creative as its ever been… probably more so due to the unlimited avenues available for independent distribution. Here’s the flipside, however — there’s so much volume that it might be overwhelming. Find a writer or a blog or a bl-gger (ahem) that you trust, whose tastes align with or challenge your own. There are many great blogs out there that filter through the seas of information to pick their favorite tracks. A few times a month I visit Said the Gramophone and My Old Kentucky Blog. I read and consider reviews at Consequence of Sound and mock Pitchfork whenever possible. I write reviews infrequently for the Toronto-based Spill Magazine (as time permits). It’s out there.
Even if all you do is check in at the end of the year for my Best of 2016 list, I’m good with that, too. I put a lot of work into these countdowns and I’m happy you’re stopping by to hear/discover/enjoy music. After all, “Best of” is really just a misnomer. These are the tracks that moved me — a small cross-section of the music that filled my year, unfairly distilled into individual bullet points and rankings.
Commence the countdown. No skipping ahead.
101 – 76 / 75 – 51 / 50 – 26 / 25 – 1