Monday, December 19, 2016
50 Favorite Songs of 2016
Hello friends, another year has come and gone and it's time for my annual version of The Tremagazine 50 Favorite Songs of the year. I think we got some really strong albums in 2016 and I enjoyed working on this throughout the year.
With each song posted, I'll list some of my favorite lyrics along with some personal thoughts on the song and/or artist, if I got to see that band this year I'll be sure to mention a note about the show. Once again, I've added a spotify playlist so those of you that use it can just stream the songs in one place (they're in order on the playlist but feel free to shuffle away as well).
As always, thanks for reading, listening, sharing and sending along any feedback. Really appreciate that people take the time to listen to these songs and my hope is always that you can find something to take into the following year that you may have missed in a given year.
"Welcome to Earth (Polywog)" - Sturgill Simpson
My first entry to the list this year is from one of the earliest albums I heard in 2016, Sturgill Simpson's "A Sailor's Guide to Earth". This was one of my favorite albums this year, I found myself going back to constantly. I love how he wrote this album for his young son and had several songs I probably could have picked for the list. As some of you have probably heard, Sturgill recently got nominated by the Grammys for "Album of the Year". The NY Times had a great article about his reaction to that nomination and some other background on Simpson which you can read HERE.
I've been told you measure a man
By how much he loves
When I hold you
I treasure each moment I spend
On this earth, under heaven above
"Roll with the Punches" - Dawes
Dawes is a band that's made many appearances on my lists over the years. I don't think their latest albums stack quite up with their first two but I always seem to find a few tracks I like on each one they issue. If you're not familiar with their music, I recommend going back and checking out their early albums and they're also a band I'd recommend seeing live, great show.
Every promise was negotiable
Most of all the ones they made alone
When she finally forgave
What he'll take to his grave
Learning not to pick up the phone
"In A Drawer" - Band of Horses
One of my favorite bands and I think one of the more underrated albums this year. Haven't seen it mentioned on many lists but I thought it was the best albums Band of Horses has put out in years. When I first heard this track it reminded me of something from the 90s but couldn't exactly put my finger on it..... until I read the liner notes and saw J. Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. was featured on backing vocals.
The creaking wood under my walk
Familiar like an old time song
A memory when you were young
Remembering a time long gone
"Bermuda Highway" - Rayland Baxter
This is actually a cover, one of my favorite My Morning Jacket songs. Love Rayland Baxter's take on it, listened to this track a ton in 2016.
Oh, don't carve me out!
Don't let your silly dreams,
Fall in between
The crack of the bed and the wall
"Visiting" - Pinegrove
Here's a new band I found this year, making their first appearance on my list. I absolutely loved their album, "Cardinal" and I've seen several other people mention this as a favorite as well. If you like this track I think you'll like this entire album.
After the drugs have worn off
And we're brittle in the light
Will you still be there for me?
Still do things for me?
"Death Dream" - Frightened Rabbit
I'm a longtime fan of this band and they consistently put out great songs. This album came out fairly early in the year and I found myself returning to this track quite often. I got go see them perform a couple times this year (Le Poisson Rouge and Newport Folk Festival) and thought they sounded as good as ever and even better than I had remembered. Beautiful arrangement of this song in the clip below.
Death dreams you don't forget
It's been a while since I dreamed this but
Even now, when asleep, I'll tread with care
"This Is Your Life" - Augustines
It saddened me a couple months ago to learn that Augustines would be ending their time as a band in 2016. I've been a fan going back to when members of this band were in Pela and I was thrilled a few years ago when they re-emerged as Augustines. If you got the pleasure to see them live, you know there weren't many bands that played with more energy or passion. Truly bummed to see them go but hopefully they'll continue making music in some form, one way or another. I'm glad they went out with a strong album this year, one of two tracks you'll see on my list. Love the video below, hope it gives you a sense of what they were about.
Maybe we just got left here waiting for something that will never come
But you got fight sometimes for anything in this life
Or just do what they taught you
Work all your life and die
Then die, then die
"Dusty Trails" - Lucius
If I were to rank all fifty songs on this list, I think this would have finished first or second. Absolutely loved this from the minute I heard it. Beautiful harmonies, the last couple minutes are off the charts. Incredible song.
I'm halfway to misery
Some say when you go halfway there's still plenty of time to return
Oh, am I halfway to heaven?
Some may say when you go halfway, you only have halfway to go
"White Ferrari" - Frank Ocean
I've been a big fan of Frank Ocean going back to his debut, "Nostalgia, Ultra". I'm always able to find at least a couple songs I love with each of his releases and his latest was no different. This one was well worth the wait and we even get a guest appearance from Bon Iver's Justin Vernon at the end.
I care for you still and I will forever
That was my part of the deal, honest
We got so familiar
Spending each day of the year, White Ferrari
In this life, life
"33, God" - Bon Iver
... and speaking of Bon Iver, my favorite album of 2016. I think I could have picked about 4 songs for this list but I held it at two. Just a fantastic album from start to finish.
I didn't need you that night, not gonna need you anytime
Was gonna take it as it goes I could go forward in the light
"Radio Kids" - Strand of Oaks
One of the reasons I typically put this list out in late December is that I often find 2-3 songs early in the month that I end up adding. Perfect case in point here with the new track from Strand of Oaks. The vocals on this one remind me a bit of some of Johnny Rzeznik's early work. I believe this full album will be out early in 2017 but if it sounds like this first single, I'm going to love it. Great stripped down version in the video clip below.
And play, play it loud on the radio
I got my headphones on, my parents will never know
It's something that we had, before we lost..... control
On the radio
"Never Going Back" - Caveman
Here's a track that came out early in the year but kept me coming back over and over. This song reminds me a lot of the War on Drugs who were probably one of last year's biggest breakout bands (Ironically the first time I saw Caveman live opening for the War on Drugs at Cameo Gallery).
Changed my mind
When I fell for you
I wanna know what is like
But I can't pull through
"Masters" - Local Natives
I've been a fan of this band for awhile now and have enjoyed their previous work quite a bit. I love the use of percussion in their songs, along with their harmonies. This is one of the better tracks on the new album.
Stay, I'll make sure you're safe
I don't wanna change
I love you this way
And I love you right now
"Strange Torpedo" - Lucy Dacus
Here's another newcomer to the list, Lucy Dacus. I finally listened to her album No Burden over the summer after reading some good buzz on her earlier in the year. What a great voice and sound, absolutely fantastic album and could have easily included several other tracks off the album as well. If you like this please give the entire album a listen, you may even find something you like better than this song. Really hoping to see her live in 2017.
I see the blood rushing to your head.
Your words are slurred and your cheeks are red.
You’d do anything to stop pretending.
Can’t have regrets when you can’t remember them.
"The Space Program" - A Tribe Called Quest
Back when I was in college at Villanova, I went to visit a friend at Lehigh to see A Tribe Called Quest. Even though this was twenty years ago, I remember it like it was last night. They played the basketball gym and we sat (stood) on the side in the bleachers. Unbelievable energy, the whole arena was going nuts throughout the show and I specifically remember they didn't play Scenario in the main set. They waited and shut all of the lights off only to come running out for the encore after the opening beats. I seriously thought that the bleachers might collapse but they held strong and we all celebrated one of the greatest groups to ever come along. Welcome back, Tribe.
It always seems the poorest persons
Are people forsaken, dawg
No Washingtons, Jeffersons, Jacksons
On the captain's log
Watch the SNL appearance HERE.
"There Will Be Time" - Mumford & Sons
I think this track kind of fell under the radar this year but I had it in constant rotation. Mumford and Baaba Maal put together one of the great collaborations in 2016. Love where the song really picks up at the 2:20 mark, fantastic finish to this one.
There is a time, a time to love
A time to sing, a time to shine
A time to leave, a time to stay
There is a time, a time to cry
A time to love, a time to live
There is a time, a time to sing
A time to love
"California" - Robert Ellis
Sometimes you see an artist live and hear something new that you weren't familiar with, something that jumps out and sticks in your mind until you're able to hear it again. Such was the case with this song, I saw Robert Ellis last year in nyc and absolutely loved this song. The following day I searched all over and found some live clips online which I listened to constantly until this album came out in 2016. This is one of my top ten songs from the year and really an excellent album all around.
Which way to go
When every road leads away from the things you wanted
Which way you go
When every memory is built like a home that's haunted
Closing your eyes
Dream of a place where things turn out the way you planned it
Dream of a place where the living resides again
"Fisher Road to Hollywood" - The Avett Brothers
The Avett Brothers are truly one of the great live bands around, each time I've seen them has been fantastic. I think it's tough for their studio albums to match the energy of their live show but there are always some absolute gems on the albums that jump out to me. This track was by far my favorite on their latest release.
And I didn't really say goodbye
They'll walk their path and I'll walk mine
I will find other ways
To tear my body down
"Punks in a Disco Bar" - Beach Slang
I wrote something about these guys a few months ago and I'm just going to post it here because I don't think I could write something better....
Back in my freshman or sophomore year of high school, one of my friends told me about a band he thought I should check out called the Goo Goo Dolls. At first I thought it was a joke, there's no way a serious band would choose that as a name. As everyone now knows, I was wrong. What most people may not know is that the early Goo albums were drastically different than the pop style that they eventually transitioned to, most of their early work had a much larger punk influence. I first borrowed Superstar Car Wash and then moved backwards to Hold Me Up and Jed, almost burning those CDs out listening to them over and over. It was unlike anything I had heard before but I loved them almost instantly and more so, I felt that music, it made me feel alive.
A little over a year ago, I was taken back to those high school days when I was introduced to a new band out of Philly named Beach Slang. I've been trying to see them for the last year and finally got the chance last night in Brooklyn, it was everything I had hoped for. It's almost eerie how I got the same exact feelings I had when I first heard the Goo Goo Dolls and it had been such a long time since something reminded me of those days. That's the beauty of music, it can take you back to an exact time and place, remind you of people and experiences you've been through. Hearing those songs come to life reminded me of being a teenager again and not exactly knowing where my place in this world was, just knowing that there indeed was a place for me. Reminding me that there's a place for all of us. The clip from below is from the show I saw.....
I'm nothing clean
I'm garbage thoughts and dirty knees
A fucked-up punk
I'm a bastard light I ain't no one's son
"Cal" - Silver Torches
I think this was the first song I put on the list this year, came across it back in January. I don't think Silver Torches has even put out a full length album but I really dug this whole EP.
I know we haven't talked in a while
I haven't seen your face in three years
Somehow it's hard to pick up the dial
It's so easy to disappear
"St Anne's Parade" - Shovels & Rope
I was lucky enough to see Shovels & Rope this past summer at the Newport Folk Festival and they just have an incredible chemistry on stage. I think this shines through in their studio work as well, this is one beautiful song.
We been riding down this highway, now, for all these years
Breathing in the dust along the way
But it's the kindness of a friend is what's remembered in the end
It is a debt that is a pleasure to repay
"Lost Weekend" - Pete Yorn
Another song that came out early in 2016 and stayed in my rotation. I'm a long time Pete Yorn fan and have been following is work for years (his album Music for the Morning After is a classic), real solid singer/songwriter.
Is there reason not to change
Stay the same, become a new thing
Walk backwards, step beyond
Never forget where we come from
"Parking Lot" - Anderson .Paak
Another newcomer to the list this year, this song (and really this album) is so cool, such an original sound. Funny enough, I actually found Anderson .Paak through this great interview with Nardwuar (watch HERE). One of the best new artists I heard this year, excited to see what else his career has in store.
Coming closer to midnight
And I'm wide awake
And ain't you afraid to fade?
"Oh, the Sadmakers" - Rob Crow's Gloomy Place
You may not recognize the name Rob Crow but he's been in several bands, probably best associated with Pinback. This is a great tune, listened to it a ton this year. Kind of reminds me of something out of the 90s, really dig his vocals.
Innocent Man, Innocent child
Paying your sins out of pocket
Might take a while
"Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales" - Car Seat Headrest
I believe I actually had a Car Seat Headrest on my list last year but he really took off in 2016 and his album has gotten a ton of buzz. I've seen several lists having it as a top 10 album for the year and I think it's excellent as well. This was the track that really stood out to me, one of my favorite songs of the year.
It's too late to articulate it
That empty feeling
You share the same fate as the people you hate
You build yourself up against others' feelings
And it left you feeling empty as a car coasting downhill
"Present Tense" - Radiohead
This song has such a classic Radiohead sound, I feel like it could have easily been included on Kid A years ago.
I won't get heavy
Don't get heavy
Keep it light and
Keep it moving
I am doing
As my world
Comes crashing down
Deaf, dumb, and blind
"Eyes on You" - Kings of Leon
My favorite track on the new Kings of Leon album, this one reminds me a lot of their older stuff, feel like it could have been an extra from Youth and Young Manhood.
You're a misfit and I'm your freak
Dance all night till our knees go weak
We could shut this place down
No one else is around
"The Forgotten Way" - Augustines
Another great one from Augustines, going out with a bang.
Around here is getting harder to breath
What doesn't kill you make you stronger indeed
Ride the subway alone, drunk on Christmas eve
Look at all the misplaced faces
Baby it will be alright, you'll see
"Christine" - Martha
Here's a band that has I didn't discover until later in the year when a friend passed along. Some really good songs on this album, my favorite was this one. Hoping I get to see this live sometime.
I’ve been messed up in my head,
Since I finished watching threads,
When I couldn’t sleep for weeks,
Seeking shelter in the sheets.
Have I always been like this?
Like a toothy teenage kiss?
Like the Labrador we miss?
Like the tape hiss?
"Everything All At Once" - Local Natives
Another standout from the latest Local Natives album, beautiful song.
No one, no one, no one, no one
No one, no one, no one, no one
Has ever made me feel the way you do
Like you do, like you do, like you do
"Ivy" - Frank Ocean
Another appearance by Frank on this list, probably by second favorite song on Blonde.
We had time to kill back then
You ain't a kid no more
We'll never be those kids again
"Near to the Wild Heart of Life" - Japandroids
A few months ago, a buddy of mine and I got to see Japandroids in the tiny Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. Easily one of my favorite shows of 2016, Japandroids played a mix of their older material along with about five new songs that will be on their upcoming release. I can't wait for this album, looking forward to it more than anything else in 2017. What a perfect song to release as the first single.....
It was last call at my local
And I stalled saying goodbye
So the girl behind the bar came over
And she took me aside
She kissed me like a chorus, said
“Give ‘em hell for us
The last drink of the night, last night in town
Baby, this one is on the house”
"All We Got" - Chance the Rapper (featuring Kanye West & Chicago Children's Choir)
Here's an album that is appearing on many "best of" lists, and rightfully so. Chance is an incredible talent, this is a phenomenal album. Great live clip from the BBC below....
Wish I could tell you it's ready
Tell you it's ready today
They don't give nothing away
You gotta fight for your way
And that don't take nothing away
Cause at the end of the day
Music is all we got
"On Hold" - The XX
I'm really liking the new single from the XX, I decided to include a clip from their SNL performance which I thought sounded great.
And every time I let you leave
I always saw you coming back to me
When and where did we go cold?
I thought I had you on hold
"White Lights" - Rural Alberta Advantage
I've seen these guys live a few times and have always enjoyed their work. This is probably an album that flew under the radar a bit this year but they've got some great songs.
I'll be waiting up there for you
Tonight under the hard lights
I'll be staying up late for you
Never knew the harm it took on you
Never knew the mark it put on you
"Young Hearts" - Beach Slang
Another appearance from Beach Slang for one of my favorite albums of the year.
The nothing kids
The restless and forgotten
We never fit
It's been our bravest weapon
"In Bloom" - Sturgill Simpson
I thought this was one of the best and most unique covers to come out this year. Sturgill was a guest on Marc Maron's WTF Podcast earlier this year and spoke about his love of Nirvana and how they were an influence on him.
He's the one
Who likes all our pretty songs
And he likes to sing along
And he likes to shoot his gun
But he don't know what it means
Don't know what it means to love someone
"Bleeding Heart" - Regina Spektor
I'm a big fan of Regina's voice, this was a catchy tune that's stuck with me the last couple months.
You can't help but stare at everyone there
It's you versus everyone else
Your outfit's a crime, you feel their cold minds
Placing you under arrest
And you serve your time drinking all night long
Staring at the walls of your jail-like home
Listening to that song, cause it hurts just right
Till everything is gone tonight
"Solid Wall of Sound" - A Tribe Called Quest
One more from the Tribe album, love the use of the Elton John sample here. Can't find a streaming video so here's a piano cover (listen to the spotify version for the real thing).
Sound checking, a million watts are shaking the room
In just a few hours you're gonna feel the burn
"My True Name" - Bloc Party
I don't think Bloc Party has put anything out recently that's on par with their debut, Silent Alarm but this is one of the better songs I've heard from them lately. This came out early in 2016 but spent a lot of time on my playlist throughout the year.
Into your eye line
Keep me in your sights
I asked about you
And how to get into your life
Like daylight through a stained-glass window
Our colours run
Her voice seems like the Thames in the morning
It makes me strong
"666" - Bon Iver
One more from the new Bon Iver album, probably my favorite track from this one.
No, I don't know the path
Or what kind of pith I've amassed
Long lines of questions
"Tennessee Song" - Margo Price
I got to see Margo this past summer at the Newport Folk Festival and she put on a great set. Spent a good amount of time with this album when I got back home and it's real strong, if you like the sound of this track, you'll love the whole album.
The future ain't what it used to be
Let's go back to Tennessee
Mountain high and valley low
Let's build down where the waters flow
"Hag" - Band of Horses
Another one from the latest Band of Horses album, beautiful song.
It unfolded like a dream
Dazzled by the very thought of it
Like the way dreams are supposed to be
"What It Means" - Drive-By Truckers
This was an album I meant to listen to when it first came out but didn't get around to giving a good listen until the end of the year, and I'm glad I did. This track is one of the best I've heard this year, both lyrically and musically. Just a wonderful song.
We trust science just as long
As it tells us what we want to hear
We want our truths all fair and balanced
As long as our notions lie within it
"Terrified" - Childish Gambino
Childish Gambino's album is one of the more unique I heard this year and it's worth a listen the whole way through. There are a few standout tracks, this being one of them.
There's a bottom to the top of the moment
You won't always be around
"Size of the Moon" - Pinegrove
Another one of my favorites from the Pinegrove album, really can't recommend this whole album enough, absolutely one of the best things I listened to this year.
i dont know what
i’m afraid of
but i’m afraid
one day it all
will fall away
"Do You Still Love Me?" - Ryan Adams
Another late entry to the list, this song was just released about a week ago. Always look forward to Ryan's work and can't wait to hear this full album in 2017.
Another year will pass
I will count the days
Another sun goes down
And I'll never see the rays
"Waste a Moment" - Kings of Leon
This was the first single off the latest Kings of Leon, one of the standouts on the album to me.
Oh, take the time to waste a moment
Oh, face it where the lines are broken
Oh, name a price to all that's living
Oh, never ask to be forgiven
"Tomorrow" - Shakey Graves
The last song on the list this year and an appropriate title to send us into 2017. Love this song and great video below.
You used to tell me we'd turn into something
You said life was much better than this
Oh, but the closest I've come
To perfection is when you turned around
To steal a kiss