Top 10 of 2016: #8 Lucy Dacus – Strange Torpedo

Lucy DacusStrange Torpedo

I think Lucy Dacus’ album No Burden was one of the best of 2016. The best song off it, “I Don’t Wanna Be Funny Anymore” was the best track, but it also came out on an EP in 2015 and made my list last year. The album has four or five legitimately great songs. Great lyrics, fun guitar lines, and a warm voice that makes listening to the album just a bit more fun.

“Strange Torpedo” is the second best song on the album, and it’s a rollicking little rock song, that just starts chugging along up into it’s sing-along bridge. If you just heard it playing in the background of some TV show, you could easily be mistaken that it’s just another good indie rock song. Sit and listen to the lyrics, though and you’ll get surprised by the depth of the song.

Top 10 of 2016: #9 Sunflower Bean – I Was Home

Sunflower BeanI Was Home

One of many tracks I think I heard on KEXP’s podcasts this year, I would have bet you a million dollars this was The Subways when I first heard it. The guitars, dueling male/female vocals. Coming in at four minutes, it’s a bit lengthy given the content, but chop 60 seconds off this song (the prog rock jam at the end), and this thing is a little punk-pop masterpiece. Slackers talking about not doing anything over driving rock riffs is a winner every time.

Top 10 of 2016: #10 Ra Ra Riot – Bad Times

Ra Ra RiotBad Times

This is probably the one I went back and forth on the most. (Makes sense, since it’s at the ten spot. Not the old MTV 10 Spot, but remember those days?)

This song just works for me. The lyrics are goofy, but easily to sing along with, and who doesn’t love singing “Barbasol”. It incorporates enough strings so that you know it’s a Ra Ra Riot song, but it’s got a nice little synth kicking it along.

I really dig the tempo changes too. I don’t think I loved this song when the album first came out[1], but it just grew on me, and now I get a little spring in my step whenever it kicks in when I’m running.


  1. I also think seeing it live helped, as it had a slightly different arrangement and kind of won me over.  ↩

Finally .. only one month late … the Top Songs of 2016

2016 was truly a shit show. It took me until almost two weeks into 2017 to finish listening to the stuff I wanted to check out before finalizing my list.

Then another week just to start getting some stuff posted. I’ll move faster this year, since I’m already three weeks behind.

So … here we go.

In a year where we almost elected a woman president, and then somehow elected … whatever the hell we elected … it’s only appropriate that the majority of my list is ass-kicking women or bands fronted by ass-kicking women. Between the top ten tracks and five honorable mentions, nine are women-led.

Small victories?

This is also a year where a lot of the hip hop didn’t work for me as standalone tracks. It worked better as albums, or in chunks, but individual tracks didn’t really stand out.

Honorable Mentions

WeezerSummer Elaine and Drunk Dori

Weezer made a new album, and it was mostly good poppy fun. Some tracks felt like a bit of a reach to imitate the stranger rhythms of Pinkerton, but mostly, it was just good fun. And Weezer will almost always make my list, because Rivers Cuomo can craft a slightly uncomfortable pop song. This is one of those, and it’s an easy one to imagine singing along to the way you sing along when Say It Ain’t So or El Scorcho comes on.

SolangeCranes in the Sky

In a year that was dominated by the Knowles sisters, Cranes in the Sky is not a big banger, but a sly little song, sparsely instrumented and backed by a simple beat. Solange’s voice and intonation betray the song’s sense of loss and despair.

Letters to Cleo4 Leaf Clover

It’s Letters to Cleo. They’re back. This sounds like their best power-poppy songs. Even better, you could 100% imagine this being a track on the Josie & The Pussycats soundtrack, one of the supremely underrated albums of the early 2000s.

Tokyo Police ClubNot My Girl

Tokyo Police Club put out two nifty EPs this year, with a wonderfully punny name (Melon Collie and the Infinite Radness), and full of great pop music. This is my favorite, a song with a fantastic, sing along chorus, and one of those beats that makes you bob your head or bounce in your seat without even realizing it. A great song to drive around to with the windows down.

Car Seat HeadrestFill in the Blank

On an album full of a bunch of songs that are not always the most accessible, this is the most catchy and accessible. And what an opening line … “I’m so sick of (fill in the blank)”.

Better Late Than Never

It’s been a challenging end to 2016 (both on the geopolitical front and on the home front), but here we are, 5 days from 2017. Plenty of time to get my year end list of my favorite music out.

I’ve still got some work to do over the next day or so to finish up (a couple of albums I need to listen to), but I think I’ve got the skeleton of the list figured out.

As always, there’s some rules:
* Album/single came out in 2016
* One song per artist

I make some exceptions. An artist who was on in 2015 for a single gets on in 2016 (probably … ) for a track off the full length album that single eventually ended up on.

With so much new music, I didn’t have time to revisit a lot of things this year. So if an album didn’t catch me the first time through (for example, Childish Gambino’s “Awaken, My Love!”), it probably won’t be here, even if it ends up being a favorite of mine in a couple of weeks or months. I’ve been running about a year behind on a lot of my hip hop (though there’s a couple of albums I intend to listen to in the next 24 hours). This year’s list has been the hardest for me, but it’s coming into focus.

In the meantime, as always, links to the previous lists:

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

Apple Music Killer Feature: My Favorites Mix

There was a lot of noise about Apple Music competing with Spotify in iOS 10 with the algorithmically generated New Music playlist. I’ve been doing more driving than usual lately and got a chance to check out the New Music playlists. There’s been some gems, but there’s a lot of stuff I don’t like. That’s alright though—you want to have your boundaries pushed.

The Favorites Mix playlists, however, have been amazing. And that really makes sense. I’ve been putting music into iTunes since 2002, and I’ve been a stickler about rating songs over the years. When Apple Music came out, I took everything I’d rated 4 or 5 stars and “loved” it.

Apple has my ratings, songs I’ve loved, everything I’ve bought from the iTunes Store, and (if they pass this data to the cloud) my play counts and last played data. That’s almost 15 years of data, probably somewhere north of 100,000 played songs (last.fm has me at about 64k plays, but that doesn’t cover everything).

So, yeah, Apple should be able to make good playlists of my favorites. They’ve done a pretty good job. There’s some exceptions (interstitial tracks from albums I like), but they’ve been unearthing songs I may not have listened to in years. When I’m not sure what to listen to, the Favorites Mix has been a go-to, and it hasn’t really missed yet.

I just need to make sure I leave room for the New Music mixes …

The 50 Best Indie Rock Albums of the Pacific Northwest | Pitchfork

Sean Nelson, talking about Built to Spill’s There’s Nothing Wrong With Love:

“The shadow Nevermind of post-boom NW indie rock was unquestionably Built to Spill’s There’s Nothing Wrong With Love, which came out September 13, 1994—not so very long after a certain tragic event—and soon became the North Star to a great many bands that came along after. The songs were exuberant and melodic, but they were also, somehow, intensely private. Even the artwork—a white and gray cloud floating over a muted palette of cream and yellow—was a masterpiece of understatement. You might not even see it the first time, but when you caught it at just the right moment, just the right angle, you could recognize the solitary statement that you had been let in on, and you treasured it all the more.”

I discovered this album in college, my gateway the 1998 B-sides album Naked Baby Photos by Ben Folds Five, which had a cover of "Twin Falls, leading me to buy a copy of TNWWL at the Record Exchange in Blacksburg.

And then I was that guy coming back and putting Built to Spill songs on mixtapes (and CDs, because I was ahead of the times) for everyone.

Sean Nelson also, humbly, left at least one album by his own band off his list.

(Via Pitchfork.)