Year in Music 2016: 30+ Favorite Songs

The yearly tradition continues! Here is a Spotify list with the Top 30.

First, we have our “honorable mentions”. These aren’t numbers 31 through 40 or anything. Just some other songs that I like and want to bring attention to. YouTube links for these.

  • Annabel Jones – Happy (k?d remix)
  • The Avalanches – Subways
  • Caveman – Never Going Back
  • Chance the Rapper – All Night (feat. Knox Fortune)
  • Deftones – Rubicon
  • Forndom – Den grymma hästen
  • Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein – Stranger Things
  • Lucy Dacus – Strange Torpedo
  • mewithoutYou – Red Cow (Golden Calf Version)
  • Mind Spiders – Cold
  • Rihanna – Same Ol’ Mistakes
  • Strumbellas – Spirits
  • The xx – On Hold

30. Sturgill Simpson – Pollywog (Welcome to Earth)
29. Lushlife + CSLSX – This Ecstatic Dream (feat. Killer Mike)
28. Casey Mecija – Palm Lose
27. Porches – Be Apart
26. Jimmy Eat World – Sure and Certain
25. Bon Iver – 8 (circle)
24. Glass Animals – Life Itself
23. Kendrick Lamar – untitled 7 / Levitate22. Pinegrove – Size of the Moon
21. Animal Collective – Floridada


20. Childish Gambino – Me and Your Mama

The intro let you know something else was up. The soulful howling was quite the shock, though. Goodbye, rapper. Hello, soul man.

Let me in to your heart, indeed.



19. Paul Simon – Cool Papa Bell

The tone of this song is sort of all over the map, but it’s so chill, and in 2016, words like “…you stay and explain the suffering and the pain you caused. The thrill you feel when evil dreams come true.” have a little extra bite to them.




18. Moses Sumney – Lonely World

It takes this one a bit to really get going, but by the time it does, it’s well worth the wait. The second half of the song is so warm, you want to curl up and let it wash over you.




17. Mick Gordon – BFG Division

It’s been a while since I’ve heard original video game music that I would consider the best of its respective year, but I’m fairly certain that there has never been a video game score ever that was this….metal. This is the super obvious standout, a tour de force that chugs and pummels and rips and tears. It’s a remarkable achievement – which feels weird to say about a song from a video game, but here we are.


16. M83 – Go! (feat. Mai Lan)

This was just about the only salvageable song off of the otherwise-dreary Junk. Quite the song, though. It captures the exuberant tempo and hooky greatness of M83’s best work. That he handed it off to Mai Lan is great. That he handed off a treacly kid song to Susanne Sundfør is…not. But Go!… Go! is good.


All you black folk, you must go...

15. A Tribe Called Quest – We the People

There may not be a more damning hook in 2016.





14. White Lung – Dead Weight

The wall of guitars that starts this song (and the album it’s on) off with a thundershock. Then singer Mish Way starts singing with her best sneer as the guitars chime down around her. This is a great, tight, punch of a punk song.




13. Bon Iver – 666 ʇ

This is the song where Bon Iver comes closest to replicating the sound of his self-titled album. There are guitars, though there is obviously some distortion going on. The drums come and go without much warning, the other elements of the song do, as well. Yet it ends up feeling the most full of all the songs on 22, a million.



12. DJ Shadow – Nobody Speak (feat. Run the Jewels)

“Picture this, I’m a bag of dicks. Put me to your lips.”

God, I love Run the Jewels. I do enjoy El-P’s production on each of their albums, but this shows that some collabs could be very interesting.

The video is great, too.


11. Car Seat Headrest – Drunk Drivers / Killer Whales

Self-destruction is an ugly thing, and “Drunk Drivers / Killer Whales” doesn’t shy away from that ugliness or flinch in the face of it. Luckily, it also doesn’t shy away from rocking out. The breakdown, where Will Toledo pleads that “It doesn’t have to be like this!” is maybe the most cathartic moment of the year.
592893010. Aesop Rock – Blood Sandwich

It’s just about impossible to not be in a near constant state of awe while listening to Aesop Rock twist words and phrases and internal rhymes into insane patterns and unleash them, but it tends to turn into a bit of word salad sometimes. “Blood Sandwich” offers the remedy for that, as Aes tells two stories about his brother from this life growing up. It’s relateable, it’s kind of heartwarming, and yes, it’s got a million word pretzels to drop jaws.


9. Pinegrove – Then Again

By far the most straightforward “indie rock” song in Pinegrove’s young history, this is the song that first caught my ear. I don’t know that anyone would consider it to be their “best”, per se (most seem to lean toward either “Old Friends” or “Cadmium”, both worthy choices), it’s nonetheless my favorite.



8. Massive Attack – Voodoo in My Blood (feat. Young Fathers)

There’s a menace to this song that I just love. The chanting, singsong cadence to the vocals and the low, ominous singing of “barely barely breathing. keep the front door open” is intoxicating. This song sticks with you.



7. Harakiri For the Sky – Thanatos

A lot of more extreme metal songs sort of end up having a similar sound to me. “Thanatos” has a main riff that is distinct to me. In dropping most of the “gaze” from their “blackgaze” sound, Harakiri For the Sky manage to create a beast that is as nimble as it is powerful.



6. Bon Iver – 10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄

First of all, that is a ridiculous title for a song (“deathbreast”? Dice?? give me a break)

Second, the almost industrial-sounding beat to this is killer. The weird little bleats that keep popping up keep you off guard as Bon Iver launches his own Age of Adz into the stratosphere.



5. Floating Points – Kuiper

The band all showed up for this one. The buildup here is fantastic, little elements being added, like layers on a cake until suddenly the big reveal happens…and then the song goes on for another twelve great minutes, storming and ebbing and flowing until it feels almost like a living thing.

And goddamn I love those guitars that show up around minute five.


4. White Lung – Kiss Me When I Bleed

Mish Way has described this as a love song. Most love songs don’t feature choruses with lyrics like “I will give birth in a trailer, huffing the gas in the air”, but as long as they keep the pummeling guitars and catchy as hell melodies coming, write as many creepy, crazy love songs as you want.



3. Radiohead- Burn the Witch

My friend sent me the link to the (rather excellent) YouTube video and I was hooked the instant the opening strings kicked in. The paranoid lyrics and dissonant ending further sucked me in, and at this point, this is one of my very favorite Radiohead songs, which at this stage in the game is frankly amazing.



2. Operators – Cold Light

I had the pleasure of seeing these guys live in the Spring, and this song (and its accompanying album) soundtracked the spring and early summer wonderfully. The kind of ragged, but perfect synths and guitars blend as well as I think this band could ever do. This might be my favorite Dan Boeckner song.


1. Mitski – Your Best American Girl

I’m not a big Mitski fan. Her strummy songs feel overly slight and bore me, and her noisy songs sound sort of aimless and muddy. Puberty 2, beyond having a terrible name, was merely “better than older Mitski”.

This song, on the other hand, is amazing. The quiet parts carry weight and passion, and the big parts sound in control and quite honestly rock better than just about anything I heard all year.

The lyrics have some real depth to them, and the idea that there are certain differences that love can’t overcome is a gut punch, but a emotionally involving one.

I don’t know if I’ll ever really become a true fan, but she’ll always have this song in her corner, and that’s more than I can say for most artists.


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