The Top 100 Songs of 2016

Top 100 Songs of 2016

best albums of 2016 so far Big Ups60. Big Ups – “National Parks”
from Before A Million Universes (Exploding in Sound)

I talked a bit about this song and its probable meaning earlier this year for an Endless Playlist column. There’s an ominous frustration in “National Parks,” despite (or perhaps given by) all the odd, almost atonal shit these guys are doing with their instruments. I hear Slint at first (obviously), but then the band, uh, ups the (emotional) punx and goes to a very cathartic place—one that would’ve had more impact had the buildup been longer, but I’m not quite convinced that’s their rulebook. They all just sound so dispirited, and damn, don’t we all feel that nowadays. :/ – Ben Braunstein

case-lang-veirs59. case/lang/veirs – “Best Kept Secret”
from case/lang/veirs (Anti-)

Supergroups always present the promise of something special, coming from different dynamics of contrasting musical experience. For case/lang/veirs, consisting of k.d. lang, Neko Case, and Laura Veirs, their self-titled collaboration album provided us with a taste of the sweetest mash-up. “Best Kept Secret” is melancholic but bright, dabbling in a variety of emotional approaches. Strings bellow post chorus, featuring Anna Fritz (cello), Kyleen King (viola) and Patti King (violin). The track evokes images of fresh starts, new journeys and is only a sneak peek into the glorious creations that descend from three career talents. – Virginia Croft

Rihanna ANTI58. Rihanna – “Consideration” (feat. SZA)
from ANTI (Roc Nation)

In a particularly powerful and empowered year for pop music—and one full of plenty of distractions outside of music—it’s easy to forget what a powerful statement Rihanna released in January with ANTI. Opener “Consideration” wasn’t a single, but the striking, SZA-featuring track served as a thesis-statement of sorts for ANTI, stirring biblical and fantastical references to describe Rihanna’s own reclaiming of her career. While Rihanna’s been slowly breaking from the modern pop mold for years, ANTI is a bold step forward for her in terms of innovation and creative control alike. “Consideration” proclaims that she’s done covering other writers’ “shit in glitter” and fully focused on her own artistic desires. – A.T. Bossenger

Underworld Barbara Barbara57. Underworld – “I Exhale”
from Barbara Barbara, we face a shining future (Caroline International)

Nine months later, and I’m still amazed and thoroughly entertained by this song’s “Blah blah, blah blah blah, blah, blah blah blah blah” lyric. Not concerned with living up to their “Born Slippy” legacy or the critical goodwill built up by most of their catalog—although the track does both—the British intelligent techno duo use this lark of a song to introduce a lark of a ninth proper album. Hidden among the guitar strums and bleating woodwind sounds (!) are Underworld at their casual best, Karl Hyde reciting a cryptic paean to a night on the town as he and Rick Smith assemble an epic electro track that growls, shuffles, and shapeshifts. – Adam Blyweiss

Beach Slang A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings56. Beach Slang – “Atom Bomb”
from A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings (Polyvinyl)

As the fastest song on an album bursting at the seams with energy, “Atom Bomb” packs a metric ton of punk-rock power into its two minutes. It’s probably the most straightforward punk Beach Slang has ever made. This shows through as blatantly in the lyrics—frontman James Alex talks of how his “heart is set on ‘77”—as the double-time rhythm section and chainsaw guitars. In our recent conversation with the band, Alex spoke of wanting sophomore album A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings to retain the band’s live sound as developed over two years of continuous touring, and that’s certainly clear in the relentlessness of “Atom Bomb.” – Liam Green

fdt55. YG – “F.D.T.”
from Still Brazy (Def Jam)

No, really. Fuck Donald Trump. – Jeff Terich

best songs of 2016 Danny Brown54. Danny Brown – “When It Rain”
from Atrocity Exhibition (Warp)

Until recently there was a clear distinction between Danny Brown’s split personalities: lucid Danny and manic Danny. With this year’s Atrocity Exhibition, the lines between the clear-eyed pessimist and hyperactive speed-freak have become irrevocably blurred, converging into a rapid-fire detail-oriented chimera on standout single “When It Rain.” Ostensibly a dancefloor banger that fires on every last cylinder, “When It Rain” is one of the bleakest tracks on an album full of horrors both true to life and hallucinated. It’s a less than flattering depiction of a Detroit where the “whole damn city probably got a couple warrants” and bullets seemingly come pouring down from the sky. So what’s an emcee to do? “When it rain, it pour get your ass on the floor.” It’s about survival—funny how it sounds a lot like hedonism. – Jeff Terich

But You Caint Use My Phone53. Erykah Badu – “Hello” (feat. Andre 3000)
from But You Cain’t Use My Phone (Self-released)

This gem from Badu’s late-2015 mixtape slipped past last year’s deadline, becoming one of the strongest R&B cuts of 2016. It’s a psuedo-cover of The Isley Brother’s “Hello It’s Me” (originally performed by Todd Rundgren), with the notable addition of a psych-soul-leaning intro and verse from Andre. Together, the duo take the classic tune to stranger heights, morphing the song into a sleek duet and amending the final words from “don’t change for me, girl” to “don’t change for me, squirrel.” While it was Badu’s take on “Hotline Bling” that got the most attention, it’s this jewel that set the tone for both R&B and Andre 3000’s increased profile in 2016. – A.T. Bossenger

overlooked albums 2016 Japanese Breakfast52. Japanese Breakfast – “Heft”
from (Yellow K)

Heft is a song of longing, from Michelle Zauner’s dreamy “what if’s” to the spacey, echoey guitars. Equal parts pleasant as it is “fuck it,” it creates an instant nostalgia for summer at every listen, somehow turning fears into a soft couch to lay down on. – Matt Perloff

Kendrick Lamar untitled unmastered51. Kendrick Lamar – “untitled 07 | 2014-2016”
from untitled unmastered (Top Dawg Entertainment/Aftermath)

The shortened version of this song is fine, but it’s the eight-minute-plus edition included on untitled unmastered that’s best. After four verses by Kendrick on the topic of levitation, Egypt, the 5-year-old son of producer Swizz Beatz, provides a brief sung interlude about Compton. Next, Lamar returns for a verse on the swift rise of his career. Finally, the track changes direction again for an informal jam session that features Kendrick riffing on rhymes that would end up on the song “untitled 04.” When all this is combined into one track, we get a view into Lamar’s creative process, and proof that there’s no direction in which he can’t take his music. – Adam Ellsworth

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