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Saturday, January 7, 2017

Hype Starts Here's Top 100 Songs of 2016 (45-31)



45. All Night by Chance the Rapper***
        Coloring Book is an album all about hope, faith, and how to live a saintly life, yet somehow its highest peak is as a sinner. All Night is a minute and a half of pure audio bliss, Chance's signature array of voices and cadences all coming out to play on a song that chronicles that 'lights on in the club moment' where no one is proud, and everyone has to find a ride home. It's a winner even before those horn blasts break through the wall like the Kool-Aid Man.

44. Sister by Angel Olsen***
        Angel Olsen isn't limited to one sound, running the gamut from whispered, down-tempo laments to bustling rock and roll. Sister stands out for capturing the whole spectrum in under eight minutes, a slow burner that you don't even know is burning until the fuse is all but gone. The simple, lovely sway that occupies its first half slowly adds more and more hints of the explosion to come, and when that scorching guitar solo hits, you're more than ready to take the ride.

43. Hour by Porches
         More or less all of Porches' breakout album Pool is lovely, but Hour is utterly beautiful, and represents the moment where the album truly begins to transend its sadsack trappings. The production is just as crisp and navy blue as it is anywhere else on the record, the secret ingrediant proving to be Greta Kline, whose gorgeously simple and simply gorgeous voice seems to fuse and subsequently melt with that of frontman Aaron Maine. It's sadness of a density and richness that's hard to shake.

42. HEAVN by Jamila Woods***
        Jamila Woods is an obvious optimist, in both her words and her sonics, but she also might just be the most aware person in the room. The title track from her debut LP opens with a drum line, finger snaps, and gentle guitar plucks that feel like a massage on the eardrums, and while the musical bliss never even thinks of subsiding, the track tells a bittersweet story of love amidst oppression and poverty. By paying tribute to her ancestors, Woods casts a light on how little has changed in the subsequent years, but suggests the a deep happiness is possible even amidst suffering.

41. Pink + White by Frank Ocean
        To say that Pink + White goes down easy is quite the understatement; if 2016 saw a smoother song, I still have yet to hear it. A piano plinks an unfettered tune, bongos tap so lightly that you can hardly hear them, and Frank himself, capable of virtuoso feats as a singer, hardly raises his voice. The back-up singers that fight their way through represent a climax of sorts, but this isn't a track that's defined by its peak so much as the steady, mellow delight of listening from start to finish.

39. *tie* Villainy and Mother Emanuel by Local Natives***
         Local Natives recorded their album all over the world, locals ranging from Thailand to Malaysia to Nicaragua, but there's something about those first few notes of Villainy that's completely and inescapably Californian. Synths and drums weave in and out of one another, creating a skittering, sun-soaked structure on which to hang its anthem of a chorus. Mother Emmanuel brings slightly more grit to the proceedings, clearing out space for prodding percussion on its verses, driving forcefully into its chant-along core.

38. Why Did You Separate Me From the Earth? by ANOHNI***
        Warmer and more inviting than hardly any song on its parent album, Why Did You Separate Me From the Earth still refuses to be an easy ride, Anohni's heartbroken lyrics betraying that soft bed of production mastery. Multiple theories have been thrown around about what exactly this 'earth' represents, from thoughts as simple as romantic heartbreak all the way down to a dissection of the dividing line between males and females of which our singer has seen both sides. Regardless of intent, the feeling of loneliness and a need to reconnect permeate the track, bringing you in closer as it describes a feeling of distance.

37. In a Black Out by Hamilton Laithauser + Rostam***
        Where Hamilton Laithauser and Rostam spend most of I Had a Dream that You Were Mine playing nice and splitting the difference between the former's gruff rock aesthetic and the latter's pervading interest in beautification, In a Black Out is the song where Rostam finally just grabs the damn wheel. Powered by a bewitching guitar line and a chorus of echoing voices, the alluring dread of the song seems to put Laithauser in his place, swapping out his normative gravel for something hushed and contemplative. It's a nocturnal stunner, full of yearning and remorse.

35. *tie* Fill in the Blank and Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales by Car Seat Headrest
        Utter indifference is the calling card of many a Car Seat Headrest song, an ironic twist considering just how driven their music always is. Fill in the Blank, the lead off track from 2016's outstanding Teens of Denial, uses this juxtaposition in its favor, denying privileged kids the right to depression, and equating the accomplishment of more to that of nothing. It's pedal to the metal from start to finish, providing a perfect foil for the album's other highlight Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales, a 6+ minute romp that morphs from mellow ditty into bombastic torch-carrier. They're both designed to be played loud, and often.

34. Gemini Feed by Banks***
        When Banks demands that you open up your eyes, you do it less out of obedience than instinct. The lilting electronic notes that accompany her entrance quickly give way to elongated bass notes that predict disaster as her voice distorts and curls in upon itself. Then, the chorus hits. Some have derided Banks' sound as fitting too snuggly into familiar type of badass electronica pop, but however those fleeting seconds were constructed, they're nearly impossible to sit still through. Somewhere in a dark, dingy dance club, people are getting down.

33. Cold Little Heart by Michael Kiwanuka***
        If Cold Little Heart doesn't work as an introduction of Michael Kiwanuka for all of us Yanks, I'm truly not sure what will. The ambitious singer/songwriter from the UK has a blessed tendency to flesh out each of his songs with wave upon wave of additional instrumentation, but even that doesn't prepare you from the bombastic ambition of Love & Hate's lead-off track. Three whole minutes of cooing and swaying transpire before we even hear his voice, splintered and soulful, ready to take us on this 10 minute journey of emotion, feeling, and orchestration.

32. VRY BLK by Jamila Woods
        Bubbling to life as though emerging from the ocean, VRY BLK is yet another example of how visionary Jamila Woods is in the art of pairing pain to beauty. As comforting as a lullaby is to a baby and as hard-hitting as the protest song that it is, the track takes incredible pride in being African American, and takes no prisoners in the field of dissecting institutional racism. The name says it all.

31. Here in Spirit by Jim James***
        Simply put, Jim James sounds pretty stoned through out most of his latest LP, Eternally Even, but Here in Spirit sees him sober up for long enough to let us peer into the core of his being. Gone are all the woozy guitar licks and hazy vocals and lyrics, and in their stead is a love song whose sounds and intonations run countercurrent to the pledging of his word. It's the sound of a beloved relationship falling apart wherein neither partner wants to see its demise, but both are hopelessly unable to pick up the pieces.

***-Pictured Artist

Highlighted songs and album titles denote links to music unavailable on Spotify


Hype Starts Here's Top 50 Albums of 2016

Hype Starts Here's Top 100 Songs of 2016

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