Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Top 20 Songs of 2016 (10-1)

My top 10 songs of 2016 are listed below. Be sure to read numbers 20 through 11 first!

10) Drive Anywhere by Lisa Prank
(from Adult Teen)
The sound of your life hurtling headlong into the jaws of adulthood like a car speeding towards the edge of a cliff. A rushing thrill of a song with a kernel of time-waits-for-no-man melancholy hidden somewhere in the middle.

9) The T-Shirt Song by Robberie
(from Beneath Your City; As You Dream)
This song is all about being in your early teens, having a crush on someone at youth club, and doing your best to woo them. However, the sting in the tail arrives exactly 3 minutes in, when we find that the entire lyric thus far has actually been a memory, recounted by someone whose youth club years are long in the past. Stirring stuff.

8) Cold Night by Yeasayer
(from Amen & Goodbye)
My favourite album closer of 2016 (okay, so it's technically the penultimate track on Amen & Goodbye, but the one after it is just a brief choral 'amen' so I think it still counts). The narrator sings his message to a friend who committed suicide - "It's been one year since you turned yourself back into dust...was there something I could have told you?" - over an awesome groove that just builds and builds. My favourite part is at 2:26, when the piano starts doing this little jingle that sounds like the noise you hear in a Mario game when you get an extra life.

7) The Industry by Okkervil River
(from Away)
Away's closest thing to a big pop song. I love songs that start with a single snare drum bash, and this is one of the best - a romantic, nostalgic, bittersweet song about how magical music sounds when you're young and how awful it feels when your friends turn out not be your friends at all. "I though I had a lot of friends, I guess I just had people pissed at me for shit" is one of my favourite lyrics of the year.

6) My Body's Made of Crushed Little Stars by Mitski
(from Puberty 2)
Unhinged, unabashed, overdriven brilliance. This song sounds angry, ecstatic, nervous, proud, miserable, defeated and victorious all at once. It's the purest, most unrefined example of Puberty 2's whole 'your twenties can be just as crazy as your teens, if not more so' mission statement.

5) Gossamer Thin by Conor Oberst
(from Ruminations)
Quite possibly the best Bright Eyes song since I'm Wide Awake it's Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn came out all the way back in 2005. And it's not even a Bright Eyes song. The way Oberst articulates first the jealousy of a celebrated musician's partner, then the secrecy of a cheating couple, and finally the fragility of his own mental state - all over that glorious waltzing piano line - is really quite jaw-droppingly superb.

4) Judey on a Street by Okkervil River
(from Away)
Away's sprawling centrepiece is a blinding seven minutes of music that initially sounds a bit Springsteeny but eventually starts running and eventually takes off, soaring into an orchestral autumn sunset. One of the most astonishing compositions in Okkervil River's oeuvre, and that's saying something.

3) Your Best American Girl by Mitski
(from Puberty 2)
Few things brought me as much pleasure in 2016 as cranking up the volume on my iPhone at the exact moment this song's chorus comes crashing in. It makes me want to buy a speaker the size of a house and turn it right up and play Your Best American Girl so loud that the sheer force of the sound pins me to the opposite wall like the strongest, noisiest gale ever recorded.

2) Men Without Hats by The Burning Hell
(from Public Library)
Another verbose wonder from the latest Burning Hell album. This one's all about getting into music for the first time, charting the journey from buying your first album (Pop Goes the World by Men Without Hats in this example) through writing out lyrics in your school planner and finally forming a kickin' rock band of your own.

1) Nesting Behavior by Mothers
(from When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired)
And here it is: my song of 2016! Nesting Behavior is unlike anything else in this year's top 20: it's stripped-down, it's slow, and on first listen, it may not even be particularly gripping. But this is one to devote every pixel of your attention to. Stop what you're doing, put on your headphones, close your eyes, and listen to it - listen so closely that you feel each rise and fall inside yourself.

Nesting Behavior is a gorgeous hymn to self-pity and self-minimisation, but for a song about feeling forced to make yourself scarce, it features one of the most show-stopping vocal performances of the year. When Kristine Leschper hits that high note on the word 'not' at about 5:40, you'll get goosebumps like never before, trust me.

Be sure to come back on Friday, when I'll be sharing my top 10 albums of the year!

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