The last 12 months have been a whirlwind. And while the music community has suffered greatly through the loss of David Bowie, Prince, Phife Dawg, Leonard Cohen and so many more, 2016 has still produced some stellar tunes. Whittling my picks down to just 10 songs was nearly impossible. With new albums from Two Door Cinema Club, Beyonce, Watsky, A Tribe Called Quest and Matt Corby, just to name a few, I was thoroughly inundated with great melodies from unmatched talent. In no particular order, here are my top picks:
“Love Letters” – Watsky
Lyrically, this is the best work George Watsky has done to date. With words like “man sees what he has when it’s leaving / You gone is as asthma to breathing” and later, “And though we like to worship a genius in a coffin / We often forget that there’s prophets among us walking,” it’s no doubt that Watsky’s newest release “x Infinity” features a more serious and introspective look than his previous work.
“We the People” – A Tribe Called Quest
Although it was written before much of the political turmoil of 2016, this song will be remembered as a tribute to the fierce contention of the year. Despite the tragic loss of Phife Dawg, Tribe managed to put out some of their best work yet.
“Mercury in Retrograde” – Mise
Mise is new on my radar in 2016. This song is nuanced and amazing. I’m very much looking forward to hearing more from him.
“Radio” – Sylvan Esso
Sylvan Esso came on the scene in 2014 with their self-titled release that featured the hit “Coffee.” This year they followed up with this satirical single, preceding their 2017 release.
“On My One” – Jake Bugg
This year I had the pleasure of talking to Jake Bugg over the phone about his new album, also titled “On My One.” His third release, this album was the first that features Bugg as the main writer on each track. This song has the acoustic intensity that we have come to love from him, while hinting at a more mature writing style than before.
“Nihilist Party Anthem” – Ball Park Music
Ball Park Music’s Australian perspective on indie-pop/rock sets them apart from other bands in a way that is immediately apparent when you listen to their latest release, “Every Night the Same Dream.” “Nihilist Party Anthem” is just that, an ode to indifference.
“The Factory” – Little Green Cars
“Ephemera,” released in early 2016, was an album full of songs that could have made this list. The live performance of this song is what pushed “The Factory” ahead of the others. The band formed a circle in the middle of the crowd and sang an acoustic version, the whole song a crescendo with some moments fully a cappella, that sent shivers down my spine.
“Sooth Lady Wine” – Matt Corby
Matt Corby, a former runner-up on “Australian Idol,” finally released his debut album at the beginning of the year and it is everything I hoped it would be. The multi-instrumentalist’s guitar sings through the solos in “Sooth Lady Wine.”
“Water (Acoustic)” – Jack Garratt
Jack Garratt’s “Water” is a departure from his usual electronic synth-pop genre. However, it does not disappoint. With his soulful singing, you will not want to miss this track.
“I Still Mind” – Hubbard Hustle
I’m rounding out my list with Milwaukee’s own Hubbard Hustle. “I Still Mind” is a tribute to avoiding your exes, and it is beautiful for that. According to their Facebook page, Hubbard Hustle will be releasing their first full-length album in 2017.
Here’s to an even better year for music come January!