I’m absolutely not the first person to say this, but I’m gonna’ go ahead and say it all the same: 2016 was garbage. I did a lot of thinking on the subject, and there were really only two other years in all my time on this Earth that could have eclipsed this past year in suckitude. To boot, the music in 2016 was, well, not great. I had high expectations, particularly for bands who wowed me in previous years, only to find that several of those groups really sort of shit the bed in 2016. (To be fair, America shit the bed in 2106, so maybe it had to be this way.) I should point out, too, that my iPod was stolen about a month ago. Can you get any more on the nose?!
Like 2015, I pored over a ton of music (more than 3,000 songs, easily), yet I was constantly having to go back and figure out who was who. I’d see a name on my iPod or in iTunes that I recognized, yet had no sense of what the album sounded like. It was one of the first years in which I genuinely had trouble finding songs for my mix, in that there just weren’t enough “great” ones available. Were there any standout recordings in 2016? Of course there were. I mean, there’s not once been a year in which I walked away thinking, “Everything sucked (musically)!” But on the whole, 2016 was about as meh as meh gets.
In terms of what dominated my musical landscape, there was not only the somewhat typical mix of punk and female vocalists, but yet another influx of emo-esque bands. I should say, too, that some of my favorite bands from long ago (e.g., The Thermals) had a nice resurgence after a few records that were, I thought, sub-par based on their typical standards. In looking at my top 20 records of the year, I opted to group numbers 11-20 in one big lot, as I just didn’t have the heart to rank them. And considering all of the terrible shit that took place this year, I’m honestly impressed I put anything together at all.
I. Am. Spent.
Album Cover of the Year:
Jeff Rosenstock – Worry. (If this title doesn’t say it all for 2016 and the next four years, I don’t know what does.)
Vocal Moment of the Year:
Pinegrove – “Aphasia” (At roughly 2:25, Evan Stevens Hall just belts out some shit about an octave higher than any other portion of the album. What he says exactly? I honestly don’t know, and frankly, I don’t care. The sheer emotion is momentous enough. To be fair, though, I believe the lyrics are, “But if I don’t have you by me then I’ll go underground.”)
Song I Heard Once That Implanted Itself Like a Goddamn Earworm:
PUP – “Doubts” (I started to ask myself if cutting my own ears off would help me shake it, but no.)
Lyric of the Year:
Hudson Bell – “In a Ball” (“And when the fog let up and I could see / A bunch of people around me / And some were singing down the street / A song that I repeat/ It’s good to be living again / It’s good to be alive again”)
Guitar Solo of the Year:
Connections – “Month 2 Month” (You should obviously listen to the song in its entirety, as it’s an ass-kicker, but if you want to jump to a sick guitar solo, hit it up around the 2:05 mark.)
Most Disappointing Records That I Was Highly Anticipating:
Big Ups – Before a Million Universes (I loved me some Eighteen Hours of Static, the band’s previous release. This record? Boring. The hooks just weren’t there and the aggression felt forced.)
LVL UP – Return to Love (Not a bad record, but wildly underwhelming after being floored by their previous effort.)
Angel Olsen – My Woman (I love me some Angel Olsen, but this record simply didn’t resonate with me the way her previous releases have. Critics were all over it, but frankly I just didn’t find that it worked for me no matter how many times I listened.)
Videos of the Year:
Mitski – “Your Best American Girl”
Angel Olsen – “Shut Up Kiss Me”
PUP – “Sleep in the Heat”
Ten Honorable Mentions of 2016 (all tied for 11th and thereby ranked alphabetically):
11. Astronoid – Air (Blood Music)
11. Connections – Midnight Run (Anyway)
11. Dark Thoughts – Dark Thoughts (Stupid Bag)
11. DOGBRETH – Second Home (Asian Man)
11. Explosions in the Sky – The Wilderness (Temporary Residence)
11. Hudson Bell – Yerba Buena (self-released)
11. Mourn – Ha, Ha, He. (Captured Tracks)
11. Nothing – Tired of Tomorrow (Relapse)
11. Pinegrove – Cardinal (Run for Cover)
11. Sioux Falls – Rot Forever (Broken World Media)
Top Ten Records of 2016:
10. Audacity – Hyper Vessels (Suicide Squeeze)
9. The Thermals – We Disappear (Saddle Creek)
8. Dentist – Ceilings (Little Dickman)
7. Slothrust – Everyone Else (Dangerbird)
6. Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing (Bayonet)
5. Parquet Courts – Human Performance (Rough Trade)
4. PUP – The Dream Is Over (Sideonedummy)
3. Mitski – Puberty 2 (Dead Oceans)
2. Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost (Run for Cover)
1. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial (Matador)
I was forced to keep Car Seat Headrest’s Teens of Style off of my list in 2015, if only because it was a collection of previously singles and recordings. In 2016, though, Car Seat Headrest came back with an album full of new material that, well, kicked all kinds of ass. Frontman Will Toledo can best be described as dynamic, in that his songs are ever-changing from start to finish. There is no CSH formula. Or to put it another way, the CSH formula is no formula. While last year’s “Los Borrachos” was arguably my favorite song I’d heard all year, I must point out that “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” was sung by myself, my wife and my daughter in unison with Toledo during many a road trip in 2016. Do I think Toledo the man is somewhat pretentious? Sure. But so what. He’s still very young, and what are today’s youth if not arrogant.
As always, I made two CD-length mixes this year. While I once again don’t know how many records I actually plowed through, I know that I had just under 200 potential tracks that made the final cut.
Once again, there are no CDs this year. No hard copies, that is. I once again made two mixes, both of which would fit on a standard CD. And, yes, I made my usual cover art, which you can check out below. As for the tracks below, I linked to nothing but studio versions this year. Because I opted to make my playlists on Spotify as opposed to creating actual discs, I had to give in to the fact that Spotify didn’t have every song I might have actually included on my final mixes. I made do with what was available, though, as there were only a couple bands that were unavailable to me.
As I began doing last year, I added an * to indicate songs that opened records, and a ^ to indicate those that did closing duty.
With that, I give you the 49 songs that comprise my 2016 mixes…
Ascend front cover.
Ascend (The Best “Fast” Tracks of 2016):
1. Explosions in the Sky – “Infinite Orbit” (The Wilderness)
2. Slothrust – “Rotten Pumpkin” (Everyone Else)
3. The Thermals – “Hey You” (We Disappear)
4. Audacity – “Hypo” (Hyper Vessels)
5. Jeff Rosenstock – “Bang on the Door” (WORRY.)
6. Mourn – “President Bullshit” (Ha, Ha, He.)
7. PUP – “Doubts” (The Dream Is Over)
8. Astronoid – “Tin Foil Hats” (Air)
9. Mannequin Pussy – “Emotional High” (Romantic)
10. Connections – “Month 2 Month” (Midnight Run)
11. Happy Diving – “Electric Soul Unity” (Electric Soul Unity)
12. Parquet Courts – “Outside” (Human Performance)
13. Paws – “Clarity” (No Grace)
14. Modern Baseball – “What If…” (Holy Ghost)
15. Pinegrove – “Then Again” (Cardinal)
16. Bent Shapes – “86’d in ’03” (Wolves of Want)
17. DTCV – “Conformiste” (Confusion Moderne)
18. Frankie Cosmos – “If I Had a Dog” (Next Thing)
19. Tacocat – “Dana Catherine Scully“* (Lost Time)
20. Car Seat Headrest – “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” (Teens of Denial)
21. Dowsing – “Feeling Better” (Okay)
22. LVL UP – “The Closing Door” (Return to Love)
23. Pinkwash – “Gumdrop” (Collective Sigh)
24. Sonic Avenues – “Illusions: The System” (Disconnector)
25. Dentist – “Body Slam (Move)” (Ceilings)
26. Hudson Bell – “Hey Doll” (Yerba Buena)
27. DOGBRETH – “Stunner” (Second Home)
28. Forth Wanderers – “Know Better“* (Slop EP)
29. Nothing – “Vertigo Flowers” (Tired of Tomorrow)
Dive (The Best “Slow” Tracks of 2016):
1. William Tyler – “Highway Anxiety“^ (Modern Country)
2. Mitski – “Your Best American Girl” (Puberty 2)
3. Hudson Bell – “In a Ball”^ (Yerba Buena)
4. Forth Wanderers – “Nerves” (Slop EP)
5. Angel Olsen – “Shut Up Kiss Me” (My Woman)
6. Eleanor Friedberger – “Open Season” (New View)
7. Frankie Cosmos – “Embody” (Next Thing)
8. Dentist – “Joel” (Ceilings)
9. Happy Diving – “Head Spell” (Electric Soul Unity)
10. Sioux Falls – “Practice Space” (Rot Forever)
11. Pinegrove – “Aphasia” (Cardinal)
12. Modern Baseball – “Hiding” (Holy Ghost)
13. Parquet Courts – “Human Performance” (Human Performance)
14. Slothrust – “Horseshoe Crab” (Everyone Else)
15. Julia Brown – “Bloom” (An Abundance of Strawberries)
16. Sorority Noise – “Either Way” (It Kindly Stopped for Me EP)
17. DOGBRETH – “Steeping” (Second Home)
18. Jeff Rosenstock – “We Begged 2 Explode” (WORRY.)
19. Car Seat Headrest – “The Ballad of the Costa Concordia” (Teens of Denial)
20. Nothing – “Tic Tac Toe” (Tired of Tomorrow)
Well, that’ll do it for 2016. With that, I now ask that you do the following four things:
- In the comments section, let me know your picks for the best songs, records, and anything else music of 2016. What did I miss? What do you violently disagree with? What are you wholeheartedly in agreement with? What the hell else?
- Should you choose to (or if you have already) put together a Best of 2016 playlist of your own, by all means send me a copy of the disc, or at the very least a track listing. I’ll do my best to post them on my blog.
- If you’re feeling nostalgic, go back and check out my Best of… mixes from years’ past. There’s a shit-ton of them.
- You’ve got Twitter, Facebook, and a thousand other social media outlets at your disposal. Share this with the world, even if you only have two Twitter followers (and one of them is me).
Until the Best of 2017, have at it, you vultures!