Wednesday, January 4, 2017
Hype Starts Here's Top 100 Songs of 2016 (70-46)
70. Redbone by Childish Gambino***
Red Bone isn't just a slight departure from the old Childish Gambino sound; it's a complete overhaul from top to bottom. A mellow, 70's-style baby-making slow-jam that even disallows Donald Glover from using his own voice, instead funneling it through a pitched-up vocorder.
69. untitled 06 l 06.30.2014.
For a guy who famously made a 79 minute album with barely a guest artist in sight, Untitled 06 allows Cee-Lo Green an awful lot of spotlight. On a billowy beat complete with flute musings and gentle percussion, Green's singular voice takes center stage for almost two whole minutes before Lamar finally breaks through, relaying his many reasons for loving the woman of his choice that are as playful as they are romantic
68. Female Vampire by Jenny Hval***
By Jenny Hval standards, Female Vampire counts as a driving rock song, attaching a forward-moving drum-and-horn interplay to her wispy, intangible sonics. Her voice floats around the edges of the track like and angel or a ghost, looping in and out of itself as the pace picks up, and the sounds gain force.
67. Shivering by Holy Fuck
Shivering is just as intense and insane as the next Holy Fuck song, but this time the proceedings start with an almost muted tone instead of diving straight into the madness. Lonely bass plucks echo in space, but are soon surrounded my rickety drums, incomprehensible voices, and splaying synths, each evolving and gaining momentum until the track's bombastic finale finally hits.
65. *tie* T5 and No Fly List by Swet Shop Boys***
That South Asian squeal that blasts through in the opening moments of T5 is no joke; Swet Shop Boys, a newly-minted pairing of Heems and Riz MC, bring a wholly unfamiliar sound to American Hip Hop, exotic enough to gain attention and dexterous enough to keep you coming back for more. Its tale of ever-present racial profiling hits home, all while No Fly List would prefer to look at those same inequalities in a joking manner, focusing most of its energy on an absolutely monster chorus.
64. Steer Your Way by Leonard Cohen***
The last proper track on Cohen's final album provides yet another example of the troubadour's knack for augmenting our sonic expectations. Voice broken and battered, Cohen surrounds himself with a fleet of violins, and while their strings certainly conjure up beauty, they also serve as a looming threat, pressing down on the singer's wounded shoulders, and powering the track.
63. Hold Up by Beyonce
After hearing opener Pray You Catch Me's stately lament, one would be forgiven for assuming all of Lemonade might be such a somber affair, but Hold Up erases those notions wholesale only a few moments later. The song provides a spacious, almost tropical sound scape for Queen Bey to work out her confusion and frustration while smirking all the while
62. Love on the Brain by Rihanna***
Love on the Brain is a song unlike any other in Rihanna's career, a tender, earnest slow-burner that shows the singer doesn't need to go full ballad in order to sound vulnerable. A gentlly bounding slice of sublime Doo Wop that allows Rihanna to explore every corner of both her vocal and emotional range.
61. Dang! by Mac Miller feat. Anderson .Paak
As if Anderson .Paak wasn't having a big enough year on his own, he's out here stealing other people's songs too! With a cocky swagger imbuing each horn blast and nifty guitar lick, Miller and .Paak prove perfect foils, the former's raspy raps forming a delicious sun-drenched cocktail with the later's laid-back come-ons.
60. untitled 08 l 09.06.2014. by Kendrick Lamar
There's a looming threat that seems to permeate almost all of Kendrick Lamar's latest disc, but not Untitled 08, a bright, bouncy funk throwback that serves as one of the MC's most dance-floor ready tracks to date. Then there's Lamar's flow, hopping from one idea to another with aplomb, as strong an orator as he is a party host.
59. Solid Wall of Sound by A Tribe Called Quest
Just a few songs ago, I made a big deal about marrying South Asian sounds to hip hop (#65); somehow doing it with Elton John feels like a step even further. But Solid Wall of Sound is a triumphant beauty, Q-Tip crafting an alluring, inviting beat which his raps seemingly glide across, while Phife Dawg digs deep into his Trinidadian flow, and the two finally invite Busta Rhymes to join the proceedings.
58. No Woman by Whitney***
The horns that open No Woman sound like the rising of the sun, which isn't quite fitting seeing as the rest of the track plays out like an impossibly beautiful sunset. As lo-fi and patiently-paced as one could possibly imagine, Light Upon the Lake's lead-off track is irrepressibly kind both in sound and sentiment, sending us home with a gift bag full of slippery guitar lines, resplendent strings, and gorgeous horns.
55. *tie* Lyk Dis and What More Can I Say and Get Bigger/Do U Luv by NxWorries***
Picking between these three Yes Lawd! standouts is like choosing between children, and while that may be easy for some of us, I'm going to just go ahead, and seat them all at the big kids' table. Lyk Dis is an easy-going boast of romantic abilities with confidence oozing out of its every pour, while What More Can I Say shows .Paak begging for sympathy for unsympathetic things over a slew of strings that almost make his indiscretions seem romantic. Get Bigger/Do U Luv rides the line right between them, a summer cookout jam that sashays its way from start to finish.
54. I Feel it Coming by The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk***
Literally the first Weeknd song that could ever be described as sweet, I Feel It Coming does for Abel Tesfaye what Man in the Mirror did for Jack-O all those years ago. Daft Punk's cozy production and signature vocal distortion delight but refuse to take center stage, allowing The Weeknd every ounce of spotlight while he makes his plea for love.
53. Prima Donna by Vince Staples feat. A$AP Rocky
While much of Staples' stand-out 2016 EP makes its bones off of striking eardrums from unexpected places and angles, the title track is basic, hard-hitting hip hop goodness, prostrated on its hand and knees, begging to be blasted out of car speakers. The track's propulsive, throbbing beat is perfect for the MC's unrelenting nihilism, his impatient flow bouncing ideally off of A$AP Rocky's amoral chorus chant
52. Consideration by Rihanna
The finest song off of Rihanna's latest never really had a chance at being a radio single due to its outright simplicity, but nothing would improve the boom bap production and its pairing immaculately with the singer's caribbean-infused croon. Consideration proves an age-old musical lesson; sometimes you have to strip it all down to reveal your greatest strengths.
51. One Dance by Drake***
The single most ubiquitous track of 2016, it's more than understandable if this radio behemoth has worn out its welcome in your headphones or car speakers, but try to remember when your first listen, and you just might fall for it again. The dance hall vibes surround eardrums like the mild heat of evening Hawaii, all while Drake's nonsense lyrics manage to wedge their way into your mind for days on end, having you singing along under your breath.
50. Cranes in the Sky by Solange***
Don't let the almost unthinkable levels of gentility fool you; Cranes in the Sky might play nice, but at its core, this is a song working through a whole lot of turmoil. With a voice as soft and warm as blankets, Solange relays all the methods with which she'd attempted to push back an onslaught of depression and misery, though the embrace of the song's loving arms softens the blow by half.
49. Three Sides of Nazareth by Nicolas Jaar
A surprisingly straight-forward rock song by Nicolas Jaar standards... which is to say not really a straight-forward rock song at all. Clocking in at almost 10 minutes, this Sirens centerpiece is just as brooding and contemplative as many a song in the electronic producer's resume, but this time the engine never switches off, a sinewy pulse turning the track into a dark, brawny standout.
48. Rings of Saturn by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds***
Nick Cave is now 59 years old, and judging by the sound of his voice, you'd think he'd seen even more life than that. But on Rings of Saturn, Cave trades out his modest singing for spoken word, and the way his words drift atop the open, repetative production is a marvel. More poem than literal song, Saturn is the sound of the famed singer/songwriter working through any number of issues through turns of phrase, and gorgeous word combinations.
47. Dis Generation by A Tribe Called Quest
From the outside looking in, no one would have predicted that A Tribe Called Quest would ever make another album, but all of their widely reported interal strife takes a seat in the way, way back on Dis Generation, a welcome back party disguised as a song. Doubling as a torch passing to the next generation of hip hop superstars, the track still never allows you to forget about the group's brilliance, or the overwhelming sense of fun they've always exuded.
46. Cool Girl by Tove Lo***
The verses on Tove Lo's Cool Girl sound great, and could prop up a fine song in their own right, but its that chorus that sticks in your head like water stuck in your ears. A half-hearted affirmation of sorts, the track slowly leads us into a swamp of warped bass lines, a dark dingy sound world that's nearly impossible to sit still through.
Highlighted songs and album titles denote links to music unavailable on Spotify