The Top 100 Songs of 2016

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Top 100 Songs of 2016

Oranssi Pazuzu Varahtelija giveaway50. Oranssi Pazuzu – “Hypnotisoitu Viharukous”
from Värähtelijä (20 Buck Spin/Svart)

In Treble’s interview with Oranssi Pazuzu from earlier this year, the word “cosmic” is thrown around its fair share of times. And for good reason, too. “Hypnotisoitu Viharukous” is positioned at the nucleus of the Finnish black metal band’s colossal fourth studio album, centralizing the release in a wildly dense and boundless atmospheric gamut. By shaking genre tags and glossing over stylistic definitions, the track combines death and stoner metal with a more sonically packed template resembling post hardcore acts such as Drive Like Jehu and Unwound. Despite “Hypnotisoitu Viharukous” being Värähtelijä’s most fleeting moment, Oranssi Pazuzu are able to compress a flurry of potent, pane-shaking metal into five-and-a-half paralyzing minutes. – Patrick Pilch

9-2-angel-olsen49. Angel Olsen – “Intern”
from My Woman (Jagjaguwar)

While some might call blasphemy over Olsen shelving her guitar for a synth, it’s what gives “Intern” a haunting quality. The more sentimental may claim it’s a song about love, but really it’s about something more universal, the moment between bed and getting out of it, the repetition of reconstructing ourselves each day. In each “some-day/one/thing” is an uncertainty that there is any value in experience at all, a fear that always hangs beneath the surface of everything. – Matt Perloff

49-vincent48. Car Seat Headrest – “Vincent”
from Teens of Denial (Matador)

On an album which “makes you wish you were still in high school so you could write its lyrics all over your notebook,” “Vincent” has some of its darkest lines: “If I’m being honest, I haven’t been honest with myself,” “I don’t have the strength / I don’t have the time / I poured myself a drink / I told myself a lie / don’t you know if I’m not strong? Don’t you know I’m not kind?” The song is a tour-de-force, a sledgehammer of guitar-based rock with blaring horns and self-deprecating, snarky wit. It leaves me breathless. – Ben Braunstein

best songs of 2016 Anderson Paak47. Anderson .Paak – “Am I Wrong” (feat. Schoolboy Q)
from Malibu (Steel Wool)

Paak’s album Malibu was the kickstart that the year needed back in January, bleeding together the most playful elements of hip-hop with predominantly horns-driven R&B. The mood of the record was encapsulated in this club banger, which plays like a classic OutKast cut reimagined for the post-To Pimp A Butterfly generation. Nowhere is that former comparison more striking, however, than when Schoolboy Q’s verse explodes into life, and the immediate bounce and eye-twinkling high-pitched energy is eerily reminiscent of Andre 3000. The entire track is bursting with movement—the frenetic trumpets and rhythmic backing vocals are all laser-designed to keep you on your feet. In an album not lacking in energy, this is still the high point. – Max Pilley

sfb46. Sunflower Bean – “Easier Said”
from Human Ceremony (Fat Possum)

Brooklyn trio Sunflower Bean were not setting out to reinvent the wheel in 2016—they like wheels, they think wheels still work perfectly well, and decided to honor the very foundations upon which the wheel phenomenon has been so successful. Even the most wheel-skeptic among us must surely not be beyond admiration for a perfectly crafted new model though, and with this unimaginably infectious earworm, Sunflower Bean have created one of 2016’s simplest and most addictive thrills: the three-minute indie pop gem that you cannot leave alone. Yes, it sounds like The Primitives or The Vaselines, but the truth is that there are still hundreds of bands striving for what Sunflower Bean have done here, and none with the same success. That they were effortlessly cool as they did it was, of course, a given. – Max Pilley

galf45. Glass Animals – “Life Itself”
from How To Be A Human Being (Harvest)

There was some concern that Oxford-based troupe Glass Animals wouldn’t be able to follow up the success of debut album, Zaba, but the first single from How to Be A Human Being quickly dispelled these concerns. Ripe with panglobal vibes, this near-five-minute track follows a fictitious character failing to get the most out of a life that was supposed to be much better than it was. It is a succinct narrative that is wonderfully packaged into a composition filled with tambourines, infectious guitars and keyboards. – Cody Davis

Radiohead A Moon Shaped Pool44. Radiohead – “Identikit”
from A Moon Shaped Pool (XL)

The long-gestating “True Love Waits” aside, “Identikit” was the first real look we got at A Moon Shaped Pool. It popped up, almost fully realized, on Radiohead’s King of Limbs tour, and its layered vocals and unconventional structure quickly made it a standout. Lyrically, the song’s a synthesis of the album’s two main themes—Yorke’s heartbreak over the end of his longtime relationship and his growing political anxiety. Lovers are rendered into duplicitous, potentially malicious figures (“Sweet-faced ones with nothing left inside”), and Yorke’s personal helplessness is writ large as he sings of “pieces of a ragdoll mankind.” But the real draw here is the song’s bridge, when the song’s churning menace gives way to a bright, neon-colored wash of synthesizers. It was an arresting surprise when Radiohead first performed it in 2012, and it’s just as arresting now. – Sam Prickett

best songs of 2016 Blood Orange43. Blood Orange – “Best To You” (feat. Empress Of)
from Freetown Sound (Domino)

Fellow New York émigré Empress Of jumps on this track for one of the most spot-on features of the year. The chemistry between the two is undeniable, Lorely Rodriguez’s vocals perfectly complemented by a Dev Hynes beat. Despite the less-than-cheerful subject matter (losing your sense of self in a relationship), it’s totally danceable and even has a marimba solo at the end. – Matt Perloff

best songs of 2016 Animal Collective42. Animal Collective – “FloriDada”
from Painting With (Domino)

With all the members of Animal Collective having successful solo careers, it never quite feels like they’ve been absent for long. “FloriDada” is a perfect encapsulation of Animal Collective’s skills proving that the sum of their parts make up a greater whole. It’s an impossible task to choose a favorite part of “FloriDada.” It may be the quirky call-and-response vocals, the bizarre children’s show instrumentation or the point where the music breaks down to blatantly sample The Surfaris’ “Wipe Out” only to cut off the sample just before the climax. There’s so much bombastic good here that by the time the four-minute track concludes, you’re left riding a sugar high that proves to last at least for another hour. – Chris Willis

formation41. Beyonce – “Formation
from Lemonade (Columbia)

“Formation” is complex. “Formation” is the power discrete individuals hold when coming together in support of Black Lives; it is the culmination of  the never-ending circulation of fresh hashtags on 2014-15; it is the natural next step of an angry, deeply wounded community. It is perhaps the most iconic call to arms of 2016. And, despite all the awful shit that compelled its creation, “Formation” is wrought with pride. The song is backed by spirited drumline sequence and repetition of the phrase, “I slay.” Beyonce’s wealth of self-worth is clear behind lines like “You mix that negro with that Creole, make a Texas bama / I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros/ I like my negro nose and Jackson Five nostrils.” The nature of Lemonade is such that it’s pointless to speak of “Formation” without mentioning its visuals. The most powerful images from the “Formation” video are these: a collection of ladies sitting in Creole formal dress, fanning themselves formidably; New Orleans in glory and in crisis, crawfish and Katrina footage side by side; a small black boy in a black hood, dancing alone before a line of faceless police; the flash of graffiti that follows this sequence (“STOP SHOOTING US”).

This complexity sustains “Formation”’s enduring relevance: it holds the political heft, power, and pride we’ll need to carry with us into 2017 to survive. – Paula Chew

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