The Top 100 Songs of 2016

Top 100 Songs of 2016

White Lung Paradise40. White Lung – “Hungry”
from Paradise (Domino)

White Lung’s evolution from gritty punk act to, well, a more nuanced and melodically playful gritty punk act has been fascinating to watch. Early this year, when “Hungry” dropped, the band’s shift in tone and approach was both obvious and invigorating, showcasing a slight drop in tempo and a focus on more complex, Johnny Marr-like guitar playing. But none of this means Mish Way and company have dialed back their ferocity. In fact, the more clear presence of Way’s vocals here makes them all the more striking. All the ‘80s rock influence in the world can’t take the bite out of a line like “Burn the girl up, shoot from her line/Cue the curtain, pull out your spine.” Are White Lung still a punk band? Are they playing post-punk? Who gives a fuck when the tracks slay this hard? – A.T. Bossenger


overlooked albums 2016 Anna Meredith39. Anna Meredith – “Taken”
from Varmints (Moshi Moshi)

You could read me praise Anna Meredith’s DIY synth joyride, which I listened to nearly everyday since it came out, but I think instead you should hear the proud and happy voice of New York singer/songwriter Tiffany Topol, who likes “Taken” even more than I do. Tiff? “Upon hearing this song, I felt how I imagine a feral child would feel hearing music for the first time—confused, kind of scared, completely entranced, and then immediately taken over by a ravenous hunger for more. There’s an exhilarating unfamiliarity to it that makes it feel like it’s been pulled out of a time capsule from the future.” – Stephen Chupaska


beyoncelemonadealbumartwork62038. Beyonce – “All Night
from Lemonade (Columbia)

Lemonade is arguably flawless, Beyonce’s magnum opus, and one of the best pop albums of the year. But hands down, “All Night” is the best closing—or at least penultimate—track I’ve heard in a long time. At the end of a beautiful and painful rollercoaster of love, heartbreak, misogyny and feminist response to said misogyny, Beyonce settles on redemption with this perfect pop song. How Beyonce shifts from “Give you some time to prove that I can trust you again” to “I’m gonna kiss up and rub up and feel up on ya all night long” showcases both her deep hurt from and deep love for Jay Z in a single moment, and that dramatic potency is thick in every line here. And, on top of that, this song has a relentless groove. From the incredible, OutKast-sampling chorus to that incredible bass line to Beyonce’s own stellar performance, it’s truly a pop gem. The fact that it made this list before it was even released as a single is proof enough of that. – A.T. Bossenger


overlooked albums 2016 Modern Baseball37. Modern Baseball – “Apple Cider, I Don’t Mind”
from Holy Ghost (Run For Cover)

Did you ever love me?” asks Modern Baseball’s Brendan Lukens at the beginning of “Apple Cider, I Don’t Mind.” That’s how the Philadelphia four piece rolls—honesty and blunt lyrics are their forte, as proven throughout their catalog. “Apple Cider, I Don’t Mind” is a quick, spunky track, the kind you want to sing at the top of your lungs while you drive down the highway, nodding along to the heavy guitars. Their signature melodic, emo-revival punk rock sound resonates throughout, as they make sad sound so freaking good. – Virginia Croft


Drake VIEWS36. Drake – “One Dance” (feat. Wizkid and Kyla)
from Views (OVO/Young Money/Cash Money)

OK, so, while I don’t plan on defending any of Drake’s questionable musical or personal decisions this year (and I actively reject one of them—his unprovoked attack on Kid Cudi’s mental illness), I’m going to briefly ignore them. “One Dance” is an outstanding pop song, one that adopts the Jamaican dancehall rhythms that have permeated Toronto’s scene in a reverential fashion. Its staying power on the charts is no accident—it’s just as suited to the dancefloor as it is to aimless late-night drives or subway rides through the city. Like all Drake songs, there’s an unshakable twinge of pathetic sadness to what should be a straightforward let’s-fuck anthem. At this point Drake has internalized and simply exudes the knowledge that his lurid delights have lurid ends. House vocalist Kyla’s sampled hook and Drake’s earworm refrain are alluring enough to make you briefly forget all that. – Liam Green


summer jams 2016 Chance the Rapper35. Chance the Rapper – “Blessings”
from Coloring Book (Self-released)

Coloring Book was a statement of hope amidst a chaotic, disheartening year. It comprised multitudes of cheer, and Chance fused “Blessings” with gratitude and joy. Chance invited us into his soul for a moment, reflecting on all he has been blessed with in his own life. The track is relaxed, a break from his usual fast-paced verses. Accompanied by a bright brass section and mellow vocals from Jamila Woods, it’s a wholesome expression of thanks to his fans, friends, and family. – Virginia Croft


Avalanches Wildflower34. Avalanches – “Because I’m Me” (feat. Camp Lo)
from Wildflower (Astralwerks)

When The Avalanches first demanded our attention in 2000, it was through the conduit of “Frontier Psychiatrist,” a plunderphonic experiment that reshaped words into a new psychedelic story against a processed alt-rock rhythm. “Because I’m Me,” an early salvo from their long-awaited sophomore album Wildflower, does essentially the same thing. It mashes up a Smithsonian Folkways recording of Six Boys in Trouble with new bars from Camp-Lo, over a backing track lifted from The Honey Cone’s “Want Ads.” The results are a carefree R&B-revival statement of self-affirmation and self-love, as strong a reminder as any on this album of just how good The Avalanches can be at breaking stuff to fit and painting it to match. – AB


6-17-dj-shadow33. DJ Shadow – “Nobody Speak” (ft. Run the Jewels)
from The Mountain Will Fall (Mass Appeal)

All that critical love shown to DJ Shadow’s debut Endtroducing…, and it took almost two decades for it to get licensed somewhere? Game-changing turntablism and nobody throws Josh Davis a bone until Chevrolet a few years back? So you’ll forgive me if I show a little extra love to this stomper from arguably his best album since then. It features Shadow’s gift for hip-hop assemblage—massive funk horns, street beeps, so-unhip-they’re-hip guitar samples—and the subversive ego-tripping of El-P and Killer Mike that riffs off of Eazy-E (himself riffing off of Yellowman). A microcosm of The Mountain Will Fall, I’ve seen this particularly embraced by the NFL in their commercials and multiple networks’ highlight montages. To quote another hip-hop legend: “All the bullshit? Yeah, now that’s progress.” – Adam Blyweiss


Emma Ruth Rundle Marked For Death32. Emma Ruth Rundle – “Protection”
from Marked For Death (Sargent House)

“Protection” is a continuous downward spiral into hopelessness and despair. On a record in which darkness is a constant, draped over anything and everything instead of merely nipping at the heels, “Protection” finds something climactic and anthemic about hitting a low. Emma Ruth Rundle portrays an unreciprocated dependency in terms both evocative (“Heaven sends him down to me“) and unglamorous (“I am worthless in your arms“) while finding a sort of romantic irony in it all: “But you offer this protection no one has given me.” As she grazes rock bottom, it explodes into a powerful, almost metal climax. Each echoing guitar riff parallels the comfort of those coldly protective arms, delivering triumph where there should only be defeat – Jeff Terich


most anticipated albums of spring 2016 mothers31. Mothers – “It Hurts Until It Doesn’t”
from When You Walk a Long Distance, You Are Tired (Grand Jury)

Perhaps Mothers’ greatest appeal is Kristine Leschper’s ability to turn poetry into song—not to suggest that it’s just words set to music but instead something that can be felt as much as it is heard. “It Hurts Until It Doesn’t” starts charged and straightforward before ripping itself open as the instrumental all but disappears to make room for Leschper’s eerie vocals, the end of each note lingering around the edges before delivering the final confession of “I don’t like myself / when I’m awake.” – Matt Perloff

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