The year in music: Best songs of 2016

December 29, 2016
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Ugh, my heart just isn’t in this post this year. But I’ve made a tradition of listing my favorite songs of the year, and I don’t want to skip posting now only to regret it later. (For previous installments, see 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011.)

Almost every musician I’ve ever loved died this year, so I spent the bulk of 2016 listening to musical tributes for those artists. But there were a few bright spots in new music.

“Alaska” • Maggie Rogers

I don’t remember which one of my friends introduced me to this song, but I was instantly hooked. (I’m in good company.) Maggie Rogers is dazzling with a sound that’s part-folk, part-electronic, totally captivating. Plus the song’s message is fitting on the brink of a new year: Leave that old shit behind.

“Go!” • M83 (featuring Mai Lan)

This one didn’t quite hit me the same way as “Midnight City,” but I’ll always love the sweeping, epic sounds of M83.

“In Heaven” • Japanese Breakfast

A syrupy sweet song, but I swear it’s about my mom’s death.

“Somebody Else” • The 1975

Ignore the fact that the song doesn’t begin until 3 minutes into the video. It’s worth it.

It’s been a long time since I’ve felt the kind of isolation and heartbreak Matt Healy sings about, but I still feel like I’ve lived this song 1,000 times.

“River” • Bishop Briggs

Explosive song and powerful pipes. What’s not to love?

“Best to You” (feat. Empress Of) • Blood Orange

Here’s how things work: Blood Orange releases an album. That album becomes one of my favorites of the year.

This year’s Freetown Sound album is equal parts soothing and searing, but always dreamy. This song is a particular favorite for writing, sipping coffee, and staring into space.

“Lazarus” • David Bowie

Not my favorite Bowie song, because it forces me to reckon with all the things about life and death I don’t yet want to confront, but a masterpiece all the same. When the rubble of 2016 settles, this is the song that will endure.

“Hold Up” • Beyoncé

Someday, entire libraries will be written about Beyoncé’s Lemonade, and nothing I say could ever compare. So I’m just gonna leave this song here without comment. Let it wash over you.

“Higher” • Carly Rae Jepsen

You know her as the “Call Me Maybe” chick, but to me she’s the queen of the new New Wave movement. All hail pop royalty.

“Boyfriend” • Tegan and Sara

I don’t listen to cassettes anymore, but if I did, this song would’ve worn out my tape.

“Drunk Drivers / Killer Whales” • Car Seat Headrest

Singer/songwriter Will Toledo reminds me of one of my exes, but talented. It makes me vaguely uncomfortable, but thankfully his music is fine enough to transcend that. This is confessional songwriting at its very best.

What were your favorites from 2016?

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1 Comment

  • Reply Vee January 1, 2017 at 7:34 AM

    Thanks for sharing these! I’m generally more of a folk/acoustic/americana type, (although who doesn’t love Bey?) so I hadn’t heard of most of these artists, but will definitely listen for more Maggie Rogers this year.

    I love the idea of compiling a “soundtrack” for the year! I would have to think a lot more on mine, but I would say that the Beyonce/Dixie Chicks “Daddy Lessons” rendition was a highlight along with Maren Morris’ “My Church,” Elle King’s “Ex’s & Oh’s” and “When All You Got is a Hammer” by Gretchen Peters. I rediscovered my love for Sheryl Crow this year too and “Riverwide” has been on most of my playlists. Happy 2017!

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