Sounds of 2016

These aren’t the best songs of this year, or the only ones I’ll remember, but this collection of songs are the ones that found me at meaningful points along the way.

Satan by D.D Dumbo. I’ve never heard of D.D Dumbo before, and this track is head and shoulders better than the rest of the album. There’s something completely weird and magical about the layers of complex rhythms, rich orchestration, and vocals you could mistake for Synchronicity-era Sting. Was this the best single track of the year?

Which Will by Amber Arcades. Nick Drake + Smiths + Mazzy Star. I love everything about this. She’s also a lawyer for the international war crimes tribunal, which really raises the bar for artist/activists. Her album Fading Lines is somewhere in my top 20 for the year as well.

The Bird by Anderson.Paak. This year has been so turbulent for me — work, personal life, family, everything — and this album was just a breeze of fresh air. I love how much empty space is left in this track, and the way the bass line sits against the beat. This is a song for the best days of summer.

We The People… by A Tribe Called Quest. This album and everything it represents has to be near the top of any list for the year. The history, the incredible influence of these people, the pointed social commentary in this song. But that beat. Holy shit. That’s why this song is in this list. It’s just so hard. This may be my favorite thing that Black Sabbath had anything to do with.

Cranes in the Sky by Solange. This song, the album it’s on, and her live performances this year are on a totally different level than the rest of this list. There’s the string textures, the relationship between the bass and drums, and her voice. Then there’s the message — so intimate, so multidimensional, so tinged with pain and injustice — this is art that comes from the future, but it’s so much more than that.

Drive by Lera Lynn. Changing gears to some alt-country. This is a standout song on a standout album full of haunting vocal performances and memorable hooks. Whoever arranged and played the baritone guitar in this track is a genius.

True Love Waits by Radiohead. It’s probably expected to put Radiohead on a best-of list every year they release something. This year has been incredibly painful for me as my marriage fell apart. This old song, finally recorded on an album, has played in my head on repeat during the worst of it. The haunting lyrics and simple piano arrangement (reminiscent of Christoper O’Riley’s take on things) have held me at my lowest points this year, and I love it for that.

Published 20 Dec 2016