Beyonce (featuring Kendrick Lamar) – Freedom
Listen, I make no bones about being a Bey fan. When Destiny’s Child reunited at the Super Bowl, I was riveted. You just can’t doubt the woman’s talent.
I took way too long to listen to Beyonce’s Lemonade. It’s got at least three great tracks.
Hot damn. This is just so good. It’s angry, in a year when we need women to be angry. It’s an anthem for black women, in a year when we need black women to be angry. Yet, it’s still very much a Beyonce track.
It’s got a fantastic, 60s tinged beat. And a fantastic verse by everyone’s favorite guest star, Kendrick Lamar.
This is the best I can do … do yourself a favor and go buy it on iTunes or your music service of choice.
Frightened Rabbit – Get Out
The annual appearance of a moody, melodic, Scottish rock band on the list! I think “Get Out” is another one that first showed up on a KEXP podcast for me, and then I think it popped up on Pandora for me a few times. And it’s just one of those songs that keeps growing on you.
It’s got this great opening line (“I’m in the arch of the chuch, between her thumb and her forefinger, I’m a worshipper”). It’s Frightened Rabbit’s typical melancholy style, and then it hits the chorus, and you get that great “Get out of my heart, she won’t, she won’t” for the first time. How can you not be hooked?
They also know that this little beauty could run out of gas, so it bows out before you even get to three and a half minutes. A little bit of brooding perfection.
Nada Surf – Believe You’re Mine
Nada Surf just keeps cranking out these great albums full of power pop songs, stadium anthems, and heartfelt rock songs. This falls in the last category. It’s a breakup song (or almost breakup song?), but it’s got such a sweet, singalong chorus (like a lot of Nada Surf songs).
Lyrically, this is one of my favorite Nada Surf songs, with lots of great imagery (“but this oven is burning coal, I got a big supply”) and some nice harmonies hiding out behind the choruses.
It’s got everything you could want from a Nada Surf song, which is why I love it.
Lucius – My Heart Got Caught On Your Sleeve
I’m a sucker for harmonies. Lucius’ particular brand of nearly identical, overlapping vocals just works for me. This one, a somewhat sparse piano ballad that is really there just to hang beautiful vocals off of. The lyrics aren’t amazing, but they serve their purpose. You can’t help but feel the emotion of this song.
(Come on, at the end when the strings pick up and there’s a little burst of soprano? Fantastic.)
Twin River – Settle Down
Canada might produce some of my favorite music, just behind Scotland (don’t know what it is about the Scots, but they know my sweet spot).
“Settle Down” is such a glimmering, shiny song. This is one of those rock songs that you could imagine being a hit in pretty much any era. There’s some Smiths-Blondie sound to it; it definitely could have been one of the videos that popped up on MTV in the late 90s; and it certainly fits right in with 2000s indie rock.
I’d never heard of Twin River before, but this song (and a good bit of the album) just hits in the right way. If you asked me tomorrow, I might tell you this was my favorite song of the year.
Haley Bonar – Called You Queen
Figure out the pattern? This was a great year for solo women cranking out awesome poppy rock songs. This one’s another one that I think I picked up from KEXP. And it’s another one where the power-poppy-bounciness of the track underplays the more gloomy lyrics.
This really feels like it could fit in on Anna Waronker’s solo album from 2002, and I mean that in the best way. Haley Bonar’s Impossible Dream fits in nicely with Lucy Dacus’ No Burden as one of the better albums of 2016.
Angel Olsen – Shut Up Kiss Me
I wasn’t kidding on this whole females ruling the world thing. On a day like today, when an awful human being is taking on a sacred role in the United States, consider this my little act of defiance.
This one is pretty straightforward. There’s nothing terribly subtle here. It’s just a great little rock song, clocks in at less than 3 and half minutes, and there’s not really a wasted second.