Below are our favorite albums of 2017.
For our favorite songs of 2016, we are going to let the songs do the talking. We have included music videos and live performances for them, as well as an Apple Music playlist. Enjoy and Happy New Year!
- Childish Gambino – “Redbone”
- Beck – “WOW”
- Car Seat Headrest – “Drunk Drivers / Killer Whales”
- Mitski – “Your Best American Girl”
- Drive By Truckers – “Ramon Casiano”
- Kanye West – “Ultralight Beam”
- The Avalanches featuring Danny Brown – Frankie Sinatra”
- Angel Olsen – “Shut Up Kiss Me”
- Beyonce – “Formation”
- Chance the Rapper – “Same Drugs”
PJ Harvey – “The Wheel”
Margo Price – “Hands of Time”
Radiohead – “Burn the Witch”
DJ Shadow featuring Run the Jewels – “Nobody Speak”
Thao & the Get Down Stay Down – “Nobody Dies”
Austin: Miranda lambert – “Running Just In Case”
Todd: MIA – Bird Song (Diplo Mix)
Wes: Parquet Courts – “Dust”
I’m certainly not the first person to say 2016 was full of loss and turmoil, both with losing several music legends and the world experiencing all sorts of violence and tragedy. Some of our picks speak to that turmoil, whether it be speaking to police brutality and racism in our justice system, or the fear and xenophobia against immigrants that has spread throughout the U.S. and around the world. Other picks of ours were a comfort and escape from the madness. Others were just flat-out great albums.
- William Tyler – Modern Country
Fitting firmly in the escape category, it’s rare that an instrumental album makes our list for 2016, but William Tyler’s country-guitar picking is breathtaking and cathartic. I probably listened to Modern Country more than anything else this year.
- A Tribe Called Quest – Thank You 4 Your Service
A return almost 20 years in the making, influential rap trio returned just after the passing of the late Phife Dawg with an urgent, political album for Trump’s America. It’s warm and hopeful, but still cuts like a knife.
- David Bowie – Blackstar
In truly prophetic fashion, David Bowie’s last album delivered 3 days before his passing speaks to death, mortality, and the afterlife like a man embracing it. With the help of Donnie McCaslin’s avant-jazz group, Blackstar was Bowie’s most experimental and best album in 35 years.
- Solange – A Seat at the Table
Fair to say, it was a great year for the Knowles sisters…not so much for Jay-Z (see Beyonce’s Lemonade). We had a good conversation over which Knowles sister should make this list, so we sort of split the two, Beyonce on our songs list, and Solange on our albums list, for the more poetic album statement: about what it’s like being black in America and how to persevere when life gives you lemons.
- Drive By Truckers – American Band
Not many people wrote better about Black Lives Matter, anti-immigrant sentiment, and our current political landscape than the old white Southern rockers Drive-By-Truckers. Seriously though, Patterson Hood and his Southern compatriots sound like a band on fire on American Band, almost like Crazy Horse in their peak.
- Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
A joyful and unique expression, Chance the Rapper released his 3rd mixtape Coloring Book, which is a celebration of growing up, becoming a father, and expressing faith in a child-like fashion. Few people exert more exuberance and joy about their city, their art, and their life as Chance, and the world is better for it.
- Angel Olsen – Woman
Over her work with folk singer/songwriter Bonnie Prince Billy and her first three solo albums, Angel Olsen’s music has been expanding and becoming more of her own with each album. On Woman, Angel Olsen delivers song after song with her melodramatic voice and compelling arrangements for her best album to date.
- Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered.
Even Kendrick Lamar’s scraps are better than other artist’s best feasts. Kendrick surprisingly delivered untitled unmastered, the b-sides to our 2015 album of the year To Pimp a Butterfly, and even those made for our favorite rap album of the year. Suffice it to say, I’m not sure any musician is as exciting or talented as Kendrick Lamar right now.
- Nick Cave – Skeleton Tree
The story behind Skeleton Tree is simply devastatling: Cave’s 15-year-old twin son Arthur tragically died after falling off a cliff near the family’s home. Cave, who has always dealt with death, God, and the afterlife in his music, now had to face it head on. On Skeleton Tree, the mourning and emotion is palpable in Cave’s voice, and the music is simply devastating. But there are moments of tremendous humanity and slivers of hope amidst the tragedy.
- Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
2016 isn’t exactly the golden age for rock music, but 24-year-old Will Toledo aka Car Seat Headrest delivered the most riveting album of the year, a concept album on adolescence that is sharply written, inventively composed, and full of good-old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll energy.
Beyonce – Lemonade
Mitski – Puberty 2
Anderson Paak – Malibu
Sturgill Simpson – A Sailors Guide to Earth
Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool
Wes – Jamila Woods – HEAVN
Chicago singer, rapper, and spoken-word artist Jamila Woods first became known on Chance the Rapper’s joyful “Sunday Candy”, but she showed what she’s made of in her debut album HEAVN, a beautiful, and personal expression about her life as a black woman in Chicago that also keys on musical influences from surprising places.
Austin – Lucy Dacus – No Burden
Richmond’s Lucy Dacus debut No Burden was a true surprise: a well-written rock album fronted with Dacus’s classically beautiful voice.
Todd – Whitney – Light Upon the Lake
Chicago duo Whitney is as soft and soothing as it gets, sort of a 70’s soft rock throwback, which makes this pick extra surprising for former wannabe-punk Todd. I guess he’s becoming a softy in his old age.
There are only a few acts in rock history that have been able to shape-shift and stay both relevant and innovative over a 20 year span. American chameleon Beck is certainly one, with his incredible new summer jam “Wow” certainly being an example of that, but Radiohead is the most notable from across the pond. Radiohead’s new album A Moon Shaped Pool is an extension of that continued innovation, building out beautiful and dissonant orchestration into the band’s sound, influenced by the experimental film scores done by guitarist Jonny Greenwood (There Will Be Blood, The Master, Inherent Vice). All three of us were at the perfect ages for Radiohead to really take hold (though it only took hold with two of us), with Kid A, Amnesiac, and Hail to the Thief releasing during our high school years and In Rainbows releasing in our college years. So without further ado, our 10 favorite songs for a band we hold dear.
10. “Give Up the Ghost”
Radiohead has built its reputation on being weird, electronic, and experimental, but the band does beautiful ballads as well as anyone. The hypnotic looping of “Give Up the Ghost” is the perfect example of Radiohead at their most emotionally resonant. The first time I saw this live a year before the release of King of Limbs, there wasn’t a single person not transfixed to the stage during it.
9. “Burn the Witch”
The lead track off of the Radiohead’s latest, “Burn the Witch” combines beautiful yet jarring orchestration with piercing political commentary. Thom Yorke often speaks caustically to the political climate of our time, but he has never done so more poetically than “Burn the Witch”
8. “There There”
In the beginning of the George W. Bush’s presidency, Radiohead released Hail to the Thief, calling out our world’s leaders years before the reality of all the corruption, greed, and unjust war became clear. “There There” comes off as snappy and playful as Radiohead gets, but its soaked with the impending doom right around the corner.
7. “Pyramid Song”
Like I said before with “Give up the Ghost”, Radiohead does piano ballads in a way that just makes you float off your feet. “Pyramid Song” feels like floating into another dimension.
The crash of percussion and the still, harp-like guitar riff announces “Reckoner”, one of Radiohead’s most arresting songs off of their most colorful album, In Rainbows. The way “Reckoner” grows and shifts is just picture perfect: every piece of instrumentation in just the right place.
“Electioneering” is Radiohead at their most manic and chaotic. Early in their years of writing politically, the band sounds as urgent as ever on “Electioneering”.
4. “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi”
One look at the alien-like individual that is Thom Yorke, and you wouldn’t think of him as a hopeless romantic. And certainly he’s not, but Yorke writes some of the most moving love songs around. “Weird Fishes/Arpeggi” is a simply gorgeous love song that is hard not to get wrapped into.
Inspired by The Beatles “Happiness is a Warm Gun”, “Paranoid Android” is really three different songs fused into one blazingly epic song cycle.
As much as Radiohead breaks ground on every album, Kid A may be the only one that truly transformed music, ushering in an era where electronics, experimentation, and rock all belonged together. “Idioteque” is a disco for the apocalypse.
“Everything In It’s Right Place”
“Everything In Its Right Place” is really a perfect song. It’s beautiful, alarming, and creepy all at once. It combines all of Radiohead’s best elements: bold experimentation, arresting vocals, and abstract yet expressive lyrics.
Austin – “Codex”
Austin is the only one of us that isn’t a Radiohead nut, but he does find enjoyment in King of Limbs. “Codex” sort of hearkens back to the best piano ballads from Pink Floyd, a band that Austin certainly cherishes.
Todd – “Life in a Glass House”
Todd loves his jazz and “Life in a Glass House” is a swinging, messy jazz tune and an interesting genre departure for Radiohead.
Wes – “Street Spirit…Fade Out”
The Bends may have been Radiohead’s second album in 1995, but it was really their first as the bold, experimental band we know today. “Street Spirit…Fade Out” is one of my favorite album closers period: its pacing, restless and just doesn’t want you to leave or stop listening.
Editor’s note: With the shocking and sudden death of Prince, the best way we know how to mourn is share his songs that we loved the most. With that, here is our list from 2014 of our favorite Prince songs of all time. Let all the doves cry out.
I am sure that if you told Prince that you could order ten of his best all-time songs onto a list of ten, he would make the exact face above and sink it deep into your soul. It is hard to put together a list of such a beloved artist’s songs, especially after releasing thirty-three albums. His thirty-third and thirty-second of which were recently simultaneously released on September 30th. For the occasion (although late), we decided to take on the daunting task of trying to list our favorites anyways. The result is quite a crowd-pleasing list I would say. If you are looking for some serious deep tracks you should probably look elsewhere, but if you can argue the legitimacy of these legendary wonders of pop music, we would love to hear those arguments below. Now onto the list:
Continue reading “The 10 Best Prince Songs or: The List Formerly Known as Our Favorite Songs by the Artist Prince”