Monday, December 19, 2016

Top 20 Songs of 2016 (20-11)

Christmas is less than seven days away, and so it's list week here on The Album Wall! Here's what to expect between now and the weekend:
  • Monday 19 December: Top 20 Songs of 2016 (20-11)
  • Wednesday 21 December: Top 20 Songs of 2016 (10-1)
  • Friday 23 December: Top 10 Albums of 2016
Below is the first half of my 'Songs of 2016' countdown. All of these songs (to the best of my knowledge) were released on full-length albums for the first time this year; some selections, such as #17, were available on singles/EPs prior to 2016, but as this is primarily a blog about albums I'm using the release date of each song's parent album in order to determine eligibility for this list.

(The above rule does mean that a few great songs are sadly absent from this top 20. Most notable are Phoebe's Lips by CHUCK, which first appeared on Happy New Years Babe in 2015 and was re-released as part of the My Band is a Computer compilation this year, and Fuck the Government, I Love You, which was the second track on Ariel Sharratt & Mathias Kom's Don't Believe the Hyperreal several months before it was the third track on The Burning Hell's Public Library. Fuck the Government was actually my 19th favourite song of 2015, so it would be kind of weird to include it in the 2016 list too.)

Without further small print, then, here are my top 20 songs of 2016 (part one):

20) Attached to the Lamp by Sat. Nite Duets
(from Air Guitar)
This is one heck of an opening track. I love the chugging pace, and I love how the words and the tune fit together like two pieces of K'Nex. "Maybe we could go back to Cleveland and play for the sound guy and the other band..." Playing a gig to an empty room never sounded like so much fun.

19) Can We Be Friends? by MJ Hibbett & The Validators
(from Still Valid)
A great - and catchy - song about how difficult it is to make new friends once you reach a certain age. Great for raising a smile, as are pretty much all of the other tracks on Still Valid. The video, consisting of a series of 'then and now' photos, is lovely too.

18) Take it All by Lisa Prank
(from Adult Teen)
Lisa Prank only needed an electric guitar and a drum machine to make the ultimate 'I don't care' break-up song. Take it All is infectious as hell, and features a superbly cheesy key change near the end.

17) Chekhov's Hangnail by Martha
(from Blisters in the Pit of My Heart)
Practically every song on Blisters in the Pit of My Heart has one of those 'aw yes!' moment where your the music grabs you by the stomach and you realise just what an ace band Martha are. In the case of Chekhov's Hangnail, that moment arrives 28 seconds into the video, when everything except the guitar drops out for a moment and it's like the audio equivalent of jumping over a canyon on a skateboard. Then you land safely on the other side and the vocals kick in and it all sounds totally triumphant in a paradoxically defeated sort of way.

16) The Stranger by The Burning Hell
(from Public Library)
The best opening track of 2016 is also, not coincidentally, the most amazingly verbose opening track of 2016. Some people have apparently criticised Burning Hell frontman Mathias Kom for writing songs with too many words, but those people are bonkers - this is a brilliant tale, flawlessly delivered, and it's even got a nice little twist at the end.

15) Comes Indiana Through the Smoke by Okkervil River
(from Away)
Away wasn't my favourite album of 2016 like I expected it to be - frankly, I think the whole second half lets it down a bit - but it does undoubtedly contain this year's finest run of three tracks. Comes Indiana Through the Smoke is nestled snugly in between The Industry and Judey on a Street (both of which I'll come to on Wednesday), and it serves as something of a breather between the former's achingly nostalgic indie and the latter's sprawling Springsteenisms. This isn't just an interlude, though: it's a gorgeous, sumptuous song that unfolds beautifully and includes some wonderfully warm brass parts to boot.

14) In the Next Town (Same Old Radio) by Robberie
(from Beneath Your City; As You Dream)
Sheffield three-piece Robberie were one of my favourite discoveries of 2016. What their album lacks in slick pop production values it more than makes up for in heart and hummable tunes, and In the Next Town, a melancholy critque of local commercial radio, is one of the most heartfelt and hummable of the lot.

13) Treaty by Leonard Cohen
(from You Want it Darker)
The highlight of (what we now know to be) Leonard Cohen's final album. Treaty is all about a love that has run its course and needs some sort of closure; it's heartbreaking to hear this song and wonder what romantic loose ends Len might have left when he died, though not as heartbreaking as the experience of listening to the string-led reprise that closes both You Want it Darker and the Cohen catalogue as a whole.

12) Do Whatever by Martha
(from Blisters in the Pit of My Heart)
I mentioned that every song on Blisters has a 'Martha moment' that makes you grin and pump your fists - Do Whatever's moment can be heard at 2:03, as Naomi Stephens-Griffin sings "it's not like we all have to fall in love" and the plinky lead guitar grows from nothing to something completely irresistible over the course of just two or three lines. Poppy punky indie rock bliss.

11) Dead Sea Scrolls by Yeasayer
(from Amen & Goodbye)
A badass anti-capitalist anthem that you can dance to. The perfect antidote to all the crap that 2016 has dumped on our heads,

Come back on Wednesday for the top 10!

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