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.
Lucy Dacus – Strange 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.
Sunflower Bean – I 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.
Ra Ra Riot – Bad 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, but it just grew on me, and now I get a little spring in my step whenever it kicks in when I’m running.