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

2016

Man, what a shit year, right?

I’m way behind on my end of year music list, but I have some time off next week and hope to work my way through it. There’s so much music I haven’t listened to (my “to listen” list is 40 items long), that I’m hoping to get through at least some big stuff (Beyonce, Car Seat Headrest) in the next few days. I probably also need to give a relisten to the new Childish Gambino album (liked it, but it just didn’t resonate with me) and this year’s Angel Olsen album, which I think I liked, but honestly, don’t remember.

I do have a bunch of stuff that I’m pretty sure will end up on the list (really liked Haley Bonar, Lucius, Nada Surf, Frightened Rabbit), but I need to spend some time just listening.

In the meantime, a couple of recommendations for podcasts:

The Bugle came back this year, minus John Oliver (what, is he busy?) but with a bunch of guest hosts (Nish Kumar has been the best so far, but they’ve all been pretty great).

The West Wing Weekly is a weekly rewatch of The West Wing, but it’s so much more than that. It’s funny, is a great lens on current events, and is generally just a happy hour each week. I rewatched The West Wing a couple of years ago, and it is still so relevant and fresh.

Science vs. is one of Gimlet’s many podcasts, and I think it’s easily the best. It’s clever, funny, and is not afraid to tackle tough issues. I’m guessing that, like most things, folks who disagree with the outcome of the discussion will chalk it up to bias (the gun episodes, in particular), but for a 30 minute listen, it really does strive to cover the facts. Also, Australian accents.

Anyway, year end music list coming soon.