We’re living in a world of the waking nightmare. We can’t wake up. It won’t go away. The upside-down time. The boogie-monster in the emperor’s clothes continues to disassemble forward progress. If we keep marching backward, slipping against time, we’ll soon be back in the 1950’s. And as much as that thought haunts me… at least there’ll be good music. I could see all of those original icons of jazz up close with a glass of gin in hand. We could witness the birth of rock and roll, like Marty McFly. Believe in harmony. Believe in the power of time travel to fix all that ills us. We’re in the future with the Gray’s Sports Alamanac.
Silver linings, I suppose.
I had this week marked as a prime-choice release week. January 27th did not disappoint. Though I found myself facing four fantastic records, all worth your time and needing to pick just one. And quite honestly, I’m still digesting some other releases that weren’t even on my radar at all. Those sleeper picks that will reveal themselves as the year carries on, ceaselessly.
Julie Byrne is a bit of an anomaly. A singer-songwriter with bombastic, breathy range. She can scar and she can heal simultaneously. One minute she’ll drop down into fragile, seductive Julie London come-hitherness before pulling herself gradually up, up, up, hope breaking through the haze of modern disillusion and moral distrust. The power of her voice overcomes, a fragile warble warm enough to remind you that she’s indeed a human folk singer and not an ethereal being waiting for her call back to her mothership docked in the Horesehead Nebula.
I cannot recommend this record more highly — which is why I’m placing this record at the top of your listening pile. Ahead of the new Cloud Nothings (which disappointed), ahead of the new Japandroids (which did not), ahead of — yes, indeed, the new Bell Biv Devoe (which just exists and that’s pretty cool).
Julie Byrne will seduce you. When you fall in love and stop listening to other records, I’m sorry.
Sample tracks:Follow My Voice, I Live Now As a Singer, All the Land Glimmered
Welcome to January 20th, 2017. Welcome to the future.
I believe music offers the power to heal scars, ignite fires, prop up lost and weary souls. I’ve always resisted doing a weekly recommended column because there are just so damn many. Everyone has a record to recommend. But I’m not everybody. You’re not everybody else.
I’ve consistently promoted the notion that Pitchfork is not the quality controllers of the alt-whatever music business. Now more than ever, in fact, I believe that Pitchfork is off it’s f’ing rocker. Find the voices in music blogging and bl-gging that resonate on your frequency. Discovering new music is not a solitary exercise done in the dark corners of your room while nobody is looking. Discovery is a collaboration between dozens… nay… hundreds of different voices. I read three or four blogs every week. From those investigations and my own haphazard listening, I’ll bring forth at least one record per week that’s worth your time. Maybe it’s not your new favorite. And that’s perfectly fine, but I guarantee it’ll be at least worth the time. You won’t have to be that person wandering around lamenting that nobody releases good music anymore. They do. It’s here. I’ll share it with you.
30Hz New Music Radar: Cherry Glazerr
L.A. noise pop outfit loves a good guitar drone with splendid cacophony, but Cherry Glazerr also can’t resist a great hook when the mood strikes.
Cherry Glazerr released a debut album in 2014. Since then, however, Clementine Creevy’s bandmates jumped ship. The new lineup consists of Creevy, Tabor Allen on drums and Sasami Ashworth on synths. The revamped trio brings a more focused brand of self-aware cherry-stained punk-pop that totters on the bring of self-control. It’s loud, guitar-driven music for square-ish punks.
Sample tracks:Nurse Ratched, Trash People, Humble Pro
I’m not going to come out and pick the records of 2016 that I most admired. When listening to music what good is “admiration”? I admire lots of records that don’t inspire me to toss them on the record player. What good is an intellectual exercise in choosing music that appeals strictly to your objective, rational thought? No. I’ve never been here to tell you which records you *should* listen to. I’m going to tell you the records that lived on my turntable and in my CD player — the ones I played ad infinitum, the ones I played without conscious requiring a conscious decision-making process.
And as usual, I wouldn’t want to disappoint with a litany of selections cribbed from Pitchfork or NPR or god forbid Rolling Stone or SPIN. I will change the channel faster than you can say Car Seat Headrest. I didn’t toss on Solange or Beyonce when I needed a groove. I found both of those records to be pretty much just sorta overrated. And I was unable to really connect with David Bowie’s final album beyond a couple of gutpunch songs. Leonard Cohen’s climbing my favorites but I just haven’t spent enough time with it. I know. I know. Heresy. But it doesn’t just get a bye because it’s Leonard Cohen’s last record either.
Since Parquet Courts probably released six or seven records this year, it was only a matter of time before this Brooklyn “Americana punk” band found its way back onto the 30Hz countdown.
“Do You Need My Love” – Weyes Blood
The second Weyes Blood track on the Best of 2016 channels Dusty Springfield and Aimee Man and just makes me swoon. Natalie Mering shifts nimbly between vocal genres, even within the same song.
“Warning Call” – CHVRCHES
AHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAH. And you thought because CHVRCHES didn’t release a record in 2016 I couldn’t put them on the countdown. IT AIN’T A 30Hz PARTY WITHOUT CHVRCHES. HEYYYY HOOOOO. Even their afterthought video game soundtrack songs own my universe.
“Time Moves Slowly” (feat. Samuel T. Herring) – BADBADNOTGOOD
Experimental jazz trio channels Isaac Hayes-era soul and groove. Instant chill that makes you feel at least three times cooler than you really are.
“Dust” – HAELOS
UK trio aims to update trip-hop for the 21st century. Whimsical Portishead, perhaps. Maybe the “ae” in their name aims to suggest general joviality.
“Blood On Me” – Sampha
I don’t know if you’ve noticed but these blurbs are growing increasingly lesser. 70 blurbs is approximately my breaking point for new thoughts. Most “Best of” lists would have a number of different writers tossing out blurbs. Divide and conquer. The staff at 30Hz numbers 2. I count my cat as an employee because he likes to sit on the keyboard when I write bl-g words. So now that I’ve padded the word count on this blurb to make it look more legitimate and change the brief / brief / brief cadence, I’ll tell you all I know about Sampha. He made guest appearances on every record in 2016 (no fibs), released this song and plans to release a debut full-length in 2017.
“Frankie Sinatra” – Avalanches
Was there a more anticipated release in 2016 that was met with more deafening indifference? Listen, I know we all wanted a world-changing record from Avalanches. After all, they made us wait 16 years for their follow up to the actual world-changing Since I Left You. Avalanches just needed us to listen to Wildflower with reasonable expectations. I first greeted this track with a little bit of side-eye. 16 years and this is all you’ve got? But the more that record played and the more Danny Brown’s unpredictable lyrical flow infiltrated my brain, the more essential “Frankie Sinatra” became. The only bad thing about Wildflower is that it isn’t Since I Left You — which remains *the* landmark record of sampling innovation.
“Drive It Like You Stole It” – Sing Street
What’s special about this song? Well, let me return to a concept that I consider essential to pop-culture appreciation — the notion of synesthesia nostalgia. I first wrote about the connection between music and film as one of the first bl-g posts I published on this site. Back when I wrote and thought about things more deeply to purge demons and whatnot. “Drive It Like You Stole It” stands as a testament to that connection. John Carney’s film provided one of the few truly authentic feel good moments of my 2016 — and this soundtrack, in its pitch-perfect echoes of the 1980’s popular music that I adore — just makes me smile. Music should do that from time to time. Gleefully reveling in a kind of nostalgia as a way to escape the demons chasing you.
“Scattered Ashes (Song for Richard)” (feat. James Graham) – Minor Victories
I didn’t even add this song to the preliminary 2016 Hits list until late in the year. After one particular spin of the Minor Victories record I finally focused in on the vocals. “Is that James Graham?” I asked my 4yo. She said, “Yes!” without even hesitating. She likes to be agreeable when it has no bearing on her ability to have or not have dessert or go to the playground. James Graham, of course, is the lead singer for the Twilight Sad. Once I focused in on the “Scattered Ashes” vocal track, I was smitten. “Tell me what it’s all about / Shed tears for God’s rejected / Cut the cord, rewind the ending / Take my life back to the start” fronting an impenetrable wall of sound.
“River” – Bishop Briggs
Ballsy Scottish diva drops killer beats and befriends a gospel choir.
“Common Sense” – School ’94
Pop-friendly Swedish shoegaze. Nifty bassline and easy-breezy vocals from Alice Botéus. Perhaps a founding member of the Norwegian happy-time indie-rock movement along with the above-featured Sun Days and 2015 favorite Makthaverskan.
“Wardenclyffe” – S U R V I V E
Austin, Texas based analog electronic quartet has answered our pleas for a modern Goblin. (Maybe we didn’t necessary beg for a new Goblin, but a little revisionist history won’t hurt in this particular instance.) After contributing songs to The Guest (which in my mind were the best things about the movie), two members — Kyle Dixon and Michael Stein — produced the soundtrack to Stranger Things.
“Don’t Worry About Me” – Frances
Place yourself in a quiet room. Turn on “Don’t Worry About Me” and just sit.
“We the People…” – A Tribe Called Quest
Socially conscious, imminently relevant and a killer beat. This Tribe record will lead us through the fog of 2016 and beyond.
“Modern Act” – Cloud Nothings
More lo-fi guitar-driven pop rock from Cloud Nothings. I should dislike this track. The band exchanged a slight case of head-banging for a Top 40 hook… but goddamn its just so f’ing catchy and still boasts some exquisite scuzzy guitar work.
“Sister” – Angel Olsen
FINALLY! The Top 10. Everyone breathe a sigh of relief. Only a few more of these to go and then we can go our separate ways. Angel Olsen’s vocals on “Sister” transcend the rest of MY WOMAN… and I really really really like everything she’s ever done. This is a tempered, calculating Angel — using breath and silence to amplify the highs and provide extra depth where her fragile voice trails away, desperate, lonely, before building back up, hopeful, motivated. Cue guitar. Cue raucous jam. Check out her XMU Session live recording for this track if you can track it down.
“Life Itself” – Glass Animals
I’m in for a conga line. I tried to onomatopoeia the drum beat in this track; I just can’t. You try. Post your best Glass Animals onomatopoeia in the comments. Best one gets a free album download. Go. This is the reader participation segment.
“Hurts” – Emili Sandé
I’ve been trying to come up with a worthy title for Emili Sandé. Something like the Grande Dame of Gospel Hip-hopera. What do you think, sirs?
“Radio Kids” – Strand of Oaks
I’ve been to Goshen, Indiana so I feel comfortable suggesting that Tim Showalter is easily second best thing to ever come out of Goshen, Indiana. Howard Hawks also hails from the Elkhart County seat so I’m pretty sure he’s got the market cornered on most amazing Goshen export. This visceral, angsty rock track feels more War on Drugs than Strand of Oaks — but both bands are 30Hz countdown staples so no love lost here.
“Weak” – Wet
Listening to my 7yo perform Kelly Zutrau’s layered and repetitive echo-chamber vocals provides endless entertainment. A song of beautiful minimalism and subtle underlying synth.
“Burn the Witch” – Radiohead
I sometimes try to justify putting “Fake Plastic Trees” in my countdowns, at least this year I actually get to place a newly produced Radiohead song.
“Best to You” (feat. Empress Of) – Blood Orange
Rumor has it that Blood Orange (aka Devonté Hynes) thought this was a tossaway beat and didn’t know what the hell to do with it. He gave it to Empress Of (aka Lorely Rodriguez) and she came back with this vocal track. Reaction #1: Consider the fleeting and magical process by which artists create music — great music. How this track seems so natural, yet almost never came to pass. Reaction #2: Everyone needs better nicknames because Blood Orange and Empress Of are killing it.
“On Hold” – The xx
To me, Jamie xx is like the Wizard of Oz. I would love to sit in on a session to see how he works and creates. On the other hand, I don’t want to peek behind the curtain. He operates on an entirely different level than the rest of us mortals.
“Come Down” – Anderson .Paak
Speaking of beats. James Brown’s going to return from the dead to take this groovy-ass shit back.
“Hurt” – Låpsley
Not my typical choice for a #1. There’s no bombast. No melodramatic movements in four parts. Where’s the orchestra? Where’s the marching band? The toy instruments? “Hurt” is just the voice of British electronic singer/songwriter Holly Låpsley Fletcher and few ethereal electronic manipulation. But within apparent simplicity came bravado and depth and one of those choruses that makes you close your eyes and fancy yourself a tremendous chanteuse. “So if you’re gonna hurt me / why don’t you hurt me a little bit more / just dig a little deeper / just push a little harder than before.” In many ways these lines perfectly soundtrack our dumpster-fire year. Try harder, 2016, because you’re not going to break us.
Zero idea how this relates to scientist, astrophysicist and author Carl Sagan but it’s catchy enough that we should all be sufficiently distracted from investigative journalism.
“Breathe A*gain” – Couros
I fell for this track at the 52-second mark when this bit of ball-busting synth kicks in behind the placid vocals. I know nothing about this fellow who calls himself Couros but I’m going to need more than this four song EP, buddy.
“What You Get” – DIANA
Did you noticed I changed the color of the flames behind the numbers when I hit #50? Nice, huh? I thought change was in order. Back on topic. I became an instant DIANA fan after their 2013 record Perpetual Surrender. Super breezy, light-as-air vocals with the weight of a thousand heartbreaks and some nice musicianship that could have snuck into a late 70’s Hall & Oates hit.
“Black Crow” – Beyond the Wizards Sleeve
This ranks among the best non-Bond Bond songs in the history of James Bond. So much so that I retrofitted it into the opening for The World is Not Enough. Even Beyond the Wizards Sleeve liked it. “Black Crow” remains an oddity on the Wizards Sleeve record, which is a combination 60’s psychedelia and some electronic movement called “acid house.” If I were more hip with my electronic sub-sub-genres I’d explain what that actually meant.
“X-Communicate” – Kristin Kontrol
Kristen Welchez, aka Dee Dee from the Dum Dum Girls, decided she needed more thumping synths and less wall of guitar.
“Kogarishi” – Kikagaku Moyo
Tokyo-based low-key psych-folk pleasantries in the mold of the Fleet Foxes. Their broader range of influences found on their album includes Krautrock, Indian ragas and psychedelia. Music for people who want to bop idly.
“Doing It To Death” – The Kills
“It” is what you think, and the Kills barely veil “it” with any innuendo whatsoever… which is why it’s so comical/horrifying when my daughters (4 and 7) walk around singing “Double six’ing it night after night / we’re doing it to death / oh oh oh oh oh oh oh oh” — which in a weird way is a step up from their obsession with Tove Lo’s ode to wasted nights and recreational drug use.
“Heaven Sent” – Parker Millsap
Another late 2016 arrival on my countdown. Parker Millsap writes bluesy Americana songs with a slice of gospel. He sings like a weathered baseball glove. Cognitive dissonance strikes hard when you actually see Parker Millsap and he looks like he’s gone AWOL from his high school glee club. A remarkable talent with three records already under his belt.
“Sunday Love” – Bat for Lashes
Natasha Khan channels Kate Bush, fancies herself more grounded Bjork. On her fourth record (all of them excellent), 2016’s The Bride, Bat for Lashes proves she’s equal to those lofty influences.
“Beneath Fields” – Heron Oblivion
100 songs is a lot of blurbs. Trust me. I’m writing them. And I’d be impressed/flattered if you’re still reading them at this point. You probably started at the beginning intending to read them all, sure… but then the 60’s hit and you scanned a bunch of those, growing very weary of all of this, before skipping this page entirely in order to get to the prime-time 25. I get it. I do. You’re busy. I’m busy. It’s the holiday season. Tell you what. If you’re reading this, post a comment below telling me your 41st favorite song of the year. I won’t fact check. But it’ll be a personal understanding between the two of us. You care enough to read through the 40’s and I cared enough to write them for you. I’ll send anyone that posts their 41st favorite song one of my extra album download codes (while supplies last). Shhhhh. Don’t tell any of the arbs. It’ll be our secret. Also, this impressive debut record from psych-rockers Heron Oblivion sneaks up on you. Elaborate orchestration, sweeping, melodramatic movements. More than worthy of being your #41.
“Somebody Else” – The 1975
Fun fact: I hated this record the first time I heard it. Last week I considered three different songs from the 1975 for this countdown. That’s tied for the most with Minor Victories, Weyes Blood, A Tribe Called Quest and Savages — 4 records that will definitely appear on my Best Albums of 2016 list. We hear and digest music in strange ways. So much of that initial impression relies on mystic things like biorhythms (a word I first learned while playing Double Dribble for the NES) and appropriate presentation and venue and a willingness to let the music present itself on the artist’s terms — not according to your own rigid routines. It’s remarkable, really.
“Tuck” – Katie Gately
Experimental electronic musician that trades in beats, eccentric mixology and abstract international soundscapes. “Tuck” feels discordant, mismatched samples and loops that slowly settle into something perfectly aligned. You might not hear the unified harmony on the first or even second listen, but let it simmer, let the music come to you.
“Highway Anxiety” – William Tyler
Tyler has popped up on Best of 2016 lists from both NPR and Pitchfork. He’s worked with artists like Bonnie Prince Billy, Silver Jews, Lambchop and Hiss Golden Messenger. His father wrote songs for Kenny Rogers, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and the Oak Ridge Boys. William Tyler’s music is acoustic, melodic, post-rock country guitar. Gorgeous melodies, patient crescendos. A soundscape for the chapless urban cowboy of 2016.
“Your Best American Girl” – Mitski
One of the worthiest buzz records of 2016. Mitski released an excellent record in 2014 called Bury Me at Makeout Creek, but people have finally properly discovered this dynamic, vibrant indie-rock songstress.
“So Here We Are” – Gordi
Australia’s Sophie Payton steals some voice modulator mojo and sneaks into my 2016 countdown with an emotional gutcheck track that bests anything produced by modulator-lover Bon Iver this year. I’m sorry, Bon Iver fanboys and girls, but it’s true.
“Don’t Need to Be Them” – The Sun Days
After some emotional turbulence I need to turn this countdown around with a happy fun time track designed to get your head nodding. This accessible slice of indie-pop craftsmanship from Sweden’s The Sun Days features a constant wall of jangly guitars behind Elsa Fredriksson Holmgren’s sturdy vocals. You probably won’t think about it after the final snare, but you’ll dig it in the moment. Great music doesn’t always leave scars.
“You Ain’t a Star” – Psychic Temple
Thanks to Aquarium Drunkard for turning me onto this excellent album. I’m tired of using the term “psych” to preface anything that even remotely channels 1960’s-era psychedelia, but the band put it right there in its name so maybe it doesn’t nee repeating. Complex and layered musicianship rewards with full immersion and great amplification. Immerse yourself in Psychic Temple.
“Nobody Speak” (feat. Run the Jewels) – DJ Shadow
Whenever Run the Jewels appears they’re worthy of a countdown. DJ Shadow provides the beats. Run the Jewels provides a flow that punches like f’ing Mike Tyson. “Picture this / I’m a bag of dicks / put me to your lips / I am sick / I will punch a baby bear in his shit”
“Everything Is Happening Today” – Flock of Dimes
Flock of Dimes elevates me. Wye Oak’s singer/guitarist Jenn Wasner channels Tracy Thorn (much more so than Wye Oak), and there’s just something about this music that resonates at the frequency of 30Hz. We all need music that resonates at our own personal frequencies. To pick us up. To marshal us through our bad. To provide insurance during the good.
“Same Old Blues” – Phantogram
Other than that Big Boi collaboration last year I’ve never felt this widespread Phantogram love. Until now. “Same Old Blues” serves up soulful electro-pop that’ll turn the strongest willed humans into delusional shower crooners.
“What You Really Mean” – Violent Femmes
I could do karaoke to this song. I wouldn’t do it justice, but it fits into my vocal range. And for that I’ve always loved the Violent Femmes.
“Florida” – The Range
An electronic music producer from the hotbed of…. Providence, Rhode Island? The Range’s claim to fame is the thousands of samples he pulled from YouTube to assemble this record. The album’s a masterpiece of modern digital obsession. “Florida” provides a layman-accessible entrance into virtuoso kitchen sink electronica.
“The Spoils” – Massive Attack, Hope Sandoval
The Japanese have a word for the meaningful silence in music — ma. Massive Attack understands ma. They embrace ma in order to create masterpieces of melancholy electronic soundscapes. With the right vocalist these minimal compositions will stop time. “The Spoils” brings us to the painful, immediate present. The beautiful torture of being aware of your own humanity.
“Get Out” – Frightened Rabbit
Wondering who I can get in touch with to become the Hype Man for Frightened Rabbit. I imagine it involves drinking and telling everyone you know about this amazing band called Frightened Rabbit. I already do this; I just think I should get paid for it.
“Yesterday” – Yumi Zouma
Every so often you happen across a record, a record that comes out of nowhere to cause shock and disbelief. It’s the “it’s 4am, I’m drunk and every record sounds like when I heard Pet Sounds for the first time” kind of awesome. Only it was 3pm, I was undercaffeinated and staring at 10 pages I needed to copyedit for 5pm. This New Zealand band clubbed me upside the head with electro-pop and I’m still dizzy from impact.
Another hard-driving thumper from an indie-rapper who can do no wrong. Also, I have quite literally no idea what this song is about.
“Alaska” – Maggie Rogers
The result of a singer/songwriter weened on Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill. Berklee School of Music songwriting champion. Crafty electronic production and a simple hook.
“Wrong” – Big Smoke
Diagnosed with terminal esophageal cancer in 2015, Adrian Slattery rushed to finish Big Smoke’s debut album in between surgery and chemotherapy. Before Slattery passed in May of this year, he asked Alabama Shakes producer Shawn Everett to come down under to help the band finish the record. The record’s a posthumous testament to a talent taken too soon, and “Wrong” is the earnest, Americana-esque rocker that swells with heart and hope in the face of the heartless human condition.
“Eva” – HAERTS
The first time I heard HAERTS — sometime in 2013 — I couldn’t stop raving about the song “Wings.” I tossed that little pop ditty into the 2013 Best Songs countdown. This is the evolution of HAERTS from accessible, pop-forward melody to sweeping, melodrama indie-pop that remains immediately engaging, largely due to Nina Fabi’s fragile voice that sounds as if it might crumble right before your ears.
“Casual Party” – Band of Horses
I’m one of those assholes that scoffs when someone tells me that they’re a fan of Band of Horses, because they haven’t made a decent record since 2007, maybe 2010 if I’m being generous. See? An asshole. I wrote off 2016 Why Are You Ok before even hearing a single track. So… my bad.
“Lost Boys” – Still Corners
We last heard Still Corners in 2013, when they released an underrated, dreamy record called Strange Pleasures. The band’s readjusted their focus on 2016’s Dead Blue, which emphasizes synths and cinematic revelry. “Lost Boys” is straight up 1980’s glam, flickering neon and glow-in-the-dark fluorescence.
“I Know That You Know” – Leslie Odom, Jr.
The world works in strange ways. Like how I watched the PBS documentary on Hamilton and learned the next day that the guy playing Aaron Burr had released a jazz vocals album with a Willie Nelson cover. While most of the record isn’t exactly my speed of lite contemporary jazz, “I Know That You Know” serves up a piece of vibrant, rage-against-the-dying-light piano composition that serves as a bombastic crescendo for Odom’s love-weary vocals.
“Higher” – Carly Rae Jepsen
Putting modern pop stars to shame with a B-sides record that’s better than most other divas’ A-game. Tricky little synths, a steady beat and Jepsen’s infectious hooks.
Shamelessly stolen from The Guardian’s list for the Best of 2016. If Guy’s timbre sounds familiar its because he fronted a little band called Elbow. (Don’t call me, Guy, buddy.) “Open the Door” is alt-rock Carnival, a roving, percussive band of minstrels sharing joy and a steady rhythm. I’ll admit in advance that if I’d had more time to absorb the record this track would have likely further climbed the charts.
“Control” – The Operators
Dan Boeckner could front a middle school band that only covers Smashmouth and I’d probably still chart it.
“With Her” (Chad Valley Remix) – Banoffee
Banoffee (Martha Brown) released “With Her” on her 2015 EP Do I Make You Nervous. Chad Valley’s made a living of late remixing and improving other artists’ work. Here, Chad Valley, aka Hugo Manuel takes Banoffee’s “With Her” and brings out the natural ebb and flow of the song, bridging the gaps in Banoffee’s uneven production with constant, fluttering background synth. The isolation and simplification of Banoffee’s vocal track further streamlines, creating a unified, more perfect version of the original track.
“Go!” – M83 (featuring Mai Lan)
I’ve changed my mind about this song so many times that I’m just going to go ahead and write this really fast so I don’t boot it off the charts again. Do not let my complicated love/hate relationship with this song somehow misrepresent my uncomplicated feelings about the disaster of an M83 record from which this hails.
“Settle Down” – Twin River
It’s not a 30Hz “Best of” countdown without some Canadian indie-rock jangle-pop up in your face.
“Faces” Damien Taylor Remix – David Hollebon
Hollebon’s greatest asset is his voice. He undermines his voice, which actually shares a register with Spoon’s Britt Daniel, with a tendency towards overproduction. Producer Damien Taylor introduces a slow build to the track, drawing anticipation for the grand crescendo, and final cathartic release of Hollebon’s full vocal capacity.
“In Heaven” – Japanese Breakfast
One of many sweet little ditties from Michelle Zauner. As Japanese Breakfast, she crafted one of the finest pieces of pure pop or indie-pop available in 2016. Original hooks, tinkly synths, grounded lyrics. She walked a dangerous tightrope above a saccharine pit of failed pop artists and came out with one of the finest records of the year.
“Tearing Me Up” – Bob Moses
High-school chums from Brooklyn bond over a love of 90’s punk, go their separate ways, re-team after individually working in the far off lands of Euro-techno and singer/songwriterdom to create a bouncy, bluesy, home-cooked killer jam.
“Turn Me On” – Dinner
Electro-pop Future, meet Electro-pop Past. It’s all about the primal pairing of toms and synth and lusty lady whispers.
“Used to Be” – Weyes Blood
Weyes Blood aka multi-instrumentalist Natalie Mering released the singer-songwriter record of the year. Sorry, Angel Olsen. Soaring vibrattos, layered instrumentation, complex emotional transcripts. Karen Carpenter backed by Angelo Badalamenti.
“Lying Has to Stop” – Soft Hair
Experimental sexy time music that fancies Flight of the Conchords and Marvin Gaye in equal measure.
“The End of Reason” – Kate Jackson
Kate Jackson, former frontwoman for the Long Blondes, 1990’s Debbie Harry, noughties fashion icon, crafts pop about driving on the U.K. highway system. Honest. It’s great to have her back — no matter the source of her inspiration.
“Take the Wheel” – Fort Frances
The best song you’d ever hear on a Starbucks coffeeshop playlist. I’m guessing. I get that chill, too-cool for drip coffee vibe from this band, purveyor of edgy Americana.
“Giant” – Banks & Steelz
I get all kinds of warm and fuzzies when rock artists team with rap artists to make a record. I still consider the Judgment Night soundtrack one of the best records ever released. I’m that delusional. Overall, I didn’t love the Banks & Steelz record, but I couldn’t shake this track despite how “easy” it felt. Like the chorus was just a tossaway Paul Banks (Interpol) scribble and the bits in between were filled with RZA being RZA. On the flipside of that — what the hell’s wrong with tossaway bits of Paul Banks songs and RZA being RZA? Not a damn thing. I surrender. Turn it up, maybe.
“Breaking My Light” – Minor Victories
Gloomy, otherworldly shoegaze supergroup featuring members of Slowdive, The Editors and Mogwai. Fly, decadent sadness, fly.
“Badges” – Yohuna
Sober, minimal soundtracking for sad sacks staring at the rising sun with the reluctant acceptance of a new day.