Top 50 Tracks of 2016 (10-01)

#10 Florist “Thank You”

Florist’s “Thank You” distinguishes itself amongst the ten other songs that make up The Birds Outside Sang by being the stunning album’s only spoken word track. Over a gently repeated keyboard part reminiscent of a warped circus calliope, Florist’s singer, Emily Sprague, matter-of-factly delivers thoughtful, poetic lines like, “This beautiful thing happens every day, it’s called the sun, it’s called my blood, and it’s the only thing making us want to be alive. I’m really grateful for the people I’ve met, but that won’t make me die any less.” Sprague’s ruminations on the futility of mortality, delivered within a song whose title suggests gratitude, emphasize the mysteriousness of the experience that is living. – Andy Mascola

#9 Deakin “Good House”

Field recordings, a hypnotic vocal progression, and a simple guitar riff that sounds like it is being strummed from the heavens, Deakin’s “Good House” is one hell of a blissed out track. Spanning 7 minutes, those seeking enlightenment can get a helping hand from Josh Dibb’s lyrics that ponder life’s metaphysical elements with a reassuring tone, and an ambience that creates a feel of natural balance. Tune in and slip out into the participatory oneness that is “Good House.” – Jay Gostynski

#8 Unkle Funkle “Magic Woman”

In 2016, Portland, Oregon’s Unkle Funkle (Christopher Uehlein) used his boundless imagination and mastery of musical mimicry to create Supernatural, an original concept album based on a fantastical adventure story about an exiled king sent back in time to defeat the forces of evil. Using a pitched-up version of his own voice in order to harmonize with his synthetically feminized self, the song “Magic Woman” frees Uehlein to ingeniously ride his pulsing, electro-pop soundscape in dual genders. “Magic Woman” cleverly manages to work both as an integral piece of Supernatural’s story and a brilliant standalone indietronic club track. – Andy Mascola

#7 Radiohead “Present Tense”

Radiohead’s ninth full-length album, A Moon Shaped Pool, provided more than a few standout moments, but perhaps no song exemplified the adaptability of the band’s surreal arrangements and ever-evolving eclecticism better than the Latin-tinged “Present Tense”. Over a hypnotic, gently plucked lead melody, Thom Yorke sings about blindly dancing in order to protect his heart while his love life comes crashing down around him. Halfway through, during the second verse, the song takes an unexpected turn. As strings and haunting background vocalists float in to help drive home the final repeated chorus, the double meaning behind the track’s title is never more obvious. – Andy Mascola

#6 Desiigner “Panda”

Somehow Desiigner bought a beat off of youtube for $200 and turned it into a #1 single. The repetitive mumbled lyrics made for a song everyone could sort of singalong to regardless if you knew what the 18-year-old rapper was saying or not. – Adam Morgan

#5 Beyonce “Hold Up”

Coopting the chorus from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs‘ “Maps,” Beyonce finds herself not quietly pining for this man but being unapologetically pissed. “Hold Up” acts as a refutation of calling a woman “crazy” as an insult; it is a celebration of madness and the specific gendered criticism that comes along with it. The message of the Diplo-produced track is the centerpiece of Lemonade: Beyonce is mad as hell and she’s not going to take it anymore. – Adam Morgan

#4 David Bowie “Girl Loves Me”

“Girl Loves Me” is Bowie at his most opaque. With lyrics referencing both A Clockwork Orange and 1984, Bowie deals with the fleeting nature of time by endlessly posing the question “Where the fuck did Monday go?” References to his medication and rounds of drugs, makes “Girl Loves Me” the most revealing song on the album about what Bowie’s final days were like. Somehow Bowie tells the tale of listlessness and pain in full vibrato make the track one of the biggest triumphs of the album. – Adam Morgan

#3 Solange “Cranes in the Sky”

Solange lists the ways she deals with her position in America; She “ran it away,” she “cried it away,” she “sexed it away.” “Cranes in the Sky” is like an ethereal exhale in the struggle for personhood over Raphael Saadiq’s lush orchestral beat. There may not have been a more pretty or poignant single this year. – Adam Morgan

#2 Kanye West “Ultralight Beam”

After making an incredibly ugly album with Yeezus, Kanye West begins The Life of Pablo with his most beautiful song to date. Although Kanye feels like an afterthought on “Ultralight Beam,” he deserves credit for not making the opening track all about him. Instead the real stars of “Ultralight Beam” feel like Chance the Rapper dropping 36 bars, The-Dream, and the gospel choir. The track shows Kanye at his most spiritual since “Jesus Walks” and should be just as highly regarded in his catalogue. – Adam Morgan

#1 Avalanches “Frankie Sinatra”

It took the Avalanches 16 years to release the follow up to their debut masterpiece, Since I Left You. The first tease they gave their fans of Wildflower was “Frankie Sinatra.” It was the first song in the group’s history to feature vocals recorded specifically for the song. With guest verses from Danny Brown and MF Doom, it would be easy to say that “Frankie Sinatra” is a hip hop track but that doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story.

In the sixteen years between albums, one of the project that group members worked on was “a hip hop version of Yellow Submarine.” In that context, “Frankie Sinatra” makes total sense with its German-inspired oompah band beat and King Houdini sample which is used as the chorus. The mixture of the bohemian and hip hop makes gripping track and brings a challenge to the table: if the Avalanches are creating hip hop beats, all other producers need to step up their game. – Adam Morgan


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