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Andrew

Andrew's 2016 Retrospective

25 posts in this topic

Last Year's Thread

Last year I celebrated the year in music with a special thread dedicated to my favorite songs of the year.  This year I'm taking it a step further, not only counting down the 25 best songs of the year, but before that, I'm gonna do a running series of posts detailing a few other observances of the year.  These posts will be simply referring to "Things I Liked" or "Things I Didn't Like" in 2016, and could refer to an album or artist in particular, or a trend of some kind that I took notice of.  Since 2016 hasn't ended yet, this thread will spend the December month with Like/Didn't Like posts, and then the Top 25 Countdown will start up in January, making this a fun little two month endeavor for me.

Just like last year, you probably shouldn't put too much stock in this being an entirely rock-oriented list, because it won't be, so keep an open mind if you're playing along at home.  And of course feel free to post your own thoughts as I do.  Threads are more fun with friends.

The 2016 Retrospective:

 

 

The Top 25 Songs of 2016:

 

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Things I Liked: The Brood Pop of Banks and Tove Lo Subvert the Sophomore Slump

In news that will surprise absolutely no one who's been paying attention, I had a lot of fun with pop music in 2016.  There's plenty to talk about, good and bad, on that subject this year, but I'm gonna start by talking about some decidedly un-fun pop music.  While neither tore up the charts enough to really get anyone buzzing, the bass-heavy brooding seductress Banks, and the sex-crazed headstrong Tove Lo both dropped sensational second albums in the latter months of the year, proving that their successful debuts were far from a fluke.  Banks in particular really rose to the occasion with her second record, breaking away from some of the dark, quiet monotony of her debut with a more diverse outing.  The creepy and alluring "Fuck With Myself," the dark dance floor grooves of "Trainwreck," and "To The Hilt's" whispered agony each stand out in ways that nothing did on 'Goddess' and that's not a slight on that album at all.  Banks really grew into her own in 2016, polishing her game in all the right ways.

Tove Lo on the other hand didn't improve so much as she held steady, simply finding new ways to deliver her new crudely autobiographical stylings.  The Swedish songstress got big two years ago with "Habits (Stay High)," a wickedly truthful pop song about getting fucked up to forget heartbreak.  Tove Lo is such a fascinating songwriter for the genre because she refuses so adamantly to beat around the bush, content to write songs about fucking up at love, or fucking up other people.  Taylor Swift she ain't, she takes aim at herself as much as anyone, and that trend continues on 'Lady Wood,' her tight and irresistible sophomore release.  Not only can she make the most out of a normally dreadful Wiz Khalifa appearance on the newly minted single "Influence," she also manages to get back to her self-deprecating roots on "Cool Girl," where she implores you to understand that she's "cool" while poorly hiding her insecurities.  But just as before, she's never better than when she's head over heels, like in the standout "True Disaster."

Pop radio was awful gloomy in 2016, with mournful songs like Lukas Graham's "Seven Years" or Twenty One Pilots' "Heathens" making big impressions alongside several others.  Dance pop was maybe at it's lowest point in a few years, and tragically, two of the best at taking advantage of that went woefully under the radar this year.  I'm certainly hoping 2017 will be big years for both of these women and the records they released, because I can't think of many reasons "True Disaster" or "Gemini Feed" couldn't do reasonably well on a couple of formats.  If pop music is gonna stay downtempo and depressing, these two should be the new queens of pop.

 

 

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While I haven't listened to much Tove Lo (her lyrics I've heard have mostly been a turn-off) I certainly agree with your sentiments. I generally struggle to not be bored with pop music even when it's really good, but Banks is a definite stand-out with the incredibly dark and engaging production paired with her highly emotive voice. Her lyrics occasionally felt like they missed the mark as well ("Weaker Girl" comes to mind) but by and large the record really sunk its teeth into someone who is highly resistant to R&B. 

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Things I Didn't Like: The Electro-Religious Crusade of Nine Lashes

It's not news to anyone who followed my last thread and to who will follow this one, but I don't mind pop music.  In fact, I really like pop music.  I mean, there's a lot of bad pop music, we all know that, but creating a fun sing-a-long song with something actually unique and interesting behind it is still a challenge.  Nine Lashes' atrocious new album, 'Ascend' is neither unique, interesting, fun, or any good at all,.  This is extremely unfortunate considering just HOW good Nine Lashes was at what they were doing before this album.  A sellout record I can handle once in a while, but so rarely has a band ruined themselves so completely in the course of one album cycle.

The previous Nine Lashes record, 'From Water To War,' is a perfectly adequate radio rock record and the album before that, 'World We View' is legitimately great for the genre.  This is no case of a mediocre band going a different direction, this was an honest-to-god great Christian rock band losing the thread.  Now yes, I did say Christian rock band, but the thing about those previous records is that they succeeded in the same ways their comparable peers did.  Bands like Red and Skillet have carefully managed to tow the line for years, writing Christian lyrics without being overt about it, leaving just enough to the imagination to make the songs tolerable to a secular audience.  Nine Lashes in a previous life succeeded in the same way, but again, the thread is lost.

So let me just run down a quick checklist.  'Ascend' is a boring pop album, with little in the way of inventive hooks or clever music.  There's nothing on this record in terms of sound you couldn't find in a lesser One Direction song, which is especially troubling from the group who nailed the catchy part of songwriting so many times in the past, never moreso than in cuts like "Memo" or "Anthem of the Lonely."  But what really drags this from painfully mediocre to honestly bad is the way that Nine Lashes turned straight up worship band on some of these tracks.  No fault to Christian listeners who are into that sort of thing, but overt religious sentiment turns me off time and again, and it's hard for me to stomach songs like "Glorious," or god-forbid "Christ In Me" without giving up after two minutes.  "You are glorious, shining bright for us, you're our mighty savior, one and only God, and we praise you."  Bad pop songs I can forgive, but lifting your lyrics straight from hymnals is a good goddamn way to end up on my worst list.

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I'm not sure anyone around here liked that album. I'm a Christian myself and even I thought it sucked. Out of the 50 albums I currently have on my AOTY list, it's sitting very comfortably on the bottom.

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I don't know that album but I very much enjoyed that write up. 

 

So should I make another general retrospective thread, or should that just be included with this one? 

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Things I Liked: Blink-182 Re-Emerges Better Than Ever
 

Cards on the table here, I've never been much of a Blink-182 fan.  My affection for pop punk in general can be a bit hit and miss, which is also how I'd describe my feelings toward one of the genre's most notable and well-traveled bands.  For years I've struggled to pinpoint just why I'm not entirely fond of them and I think it usually came down to the playful immaturity that helped make them famous.  I'm all for tongue-in-cheek silliness, but I never entirely rallied behind the boyish charms of Mark, Tom and Travis, perhaps the reason I always favored more straight-forward tracks like "Feeling This" or "The Rock Show."  Up until 2016, I'd have said that their best work was the 2003 self-titled album, featuring a handful of more serious singles and some great deep cuts like "Go" or the band's finest work, "Stockholm Syndrome," but even then I'd never say the record connected with me completely.

Fast forward to today, with one of the Blink trio being cast aside in favor of Alkaline Trio's Matt Skiba, a band I've always admired.  With Tom out of the way, and a new singer I could get behind, Blink had my attention for their 2016 comeback record but I remained skeptical that this would be the work that finally got me in their corner.  My concerns begin to dissipate when prior to its release, they released one of the absolute best songs of the year, a classic pop-punk rager called "Bored To Death."  While some were critical of the fact that the once dueling vocals of Blink-182 now sounded all too similar, it was a change I immediately welcomed.  The matching vocal tones of Hoppus and Skiba means the two guys can trade shots over and over and over without breaking up the frenetic pace of the song and giving it a crisp, uniform sound from start to finish.  This song captured my attention instantly and gave me suddenly high hopes for 'California.'

My optimism was well-deserved, 'California' is a great pop punk record from three guys who know what they're doing moreso than almost anyone in the business.  The old Blink-182 is present here, but mostly saved for small little interludes in the form of "Built This Pool" and "Brohemian Rhapsody," which is a welcome place for that classic Blink silliness.  When the three get together to write the real meat and potatoes of the record though, they mostly check their immaturity at the door and just strong, blistering tracks, like the opening "Cynical" or the wickedly hooky "Rabbit Hole."  The newest single "She's Out of Her Mind" feels like a vintage 'Take Off Your Pants and Jacket' number, "No Future" crushes the typical "na na na" sing-a-long chorus, and "San Diego" is a nostalgic road-tripper of the song that could easily be the one Halsey and that Chainsmoker were talking about, if not for the fact that it just came out this year.  All told I enjoyed 'California' more than any Blink record past, which is to say it's the first time I can proudly say I've spun one enough times to learn all the words to most of the songs.  It's a joyful party rock album that shows that Blink-182 may actually be getting better with age.  I guess this is growing up.

 

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Things I Didn't Like: Macklemore's Unruly Mess
 

Time inevitably creates bigger expectations, to the point that my expectations were at a grandiose high when Macklemore and Ryan Lewis finally released the four-year-in-the-making follow-up to their Grammy winning smash 'The Heist.'  'The Heist' was not just a commercial success, behind the upbeat and playful "Thrift Shop" and "Can't Hold Us," but it was also a uniquely pensive, self-deprecating, honest hip hop record, the kind you don't usually see, at least to that extent.  With Ryan Lewis' stunning production driving every note, Macklemore broke into the mainstream with heavy, relatable tales from the lyrics of "Same Love" and others.  The playfulness was nice, and a good way to keep the material from being bogged down with melancholy, but it never overruled the primary messages behind Macklemore's music.

Of course the biggest problem with keeping the expectations high, was knowing full well that a lot of Macklemore's stories have been told now.  It's a problem a lot of artists face in trying to come back for their second big album, trying to find new tales to tell, or at least a way to put a new spin on them.  Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' 'This Unruly Mess I Made' doesn't do much of either, and these failures make the playfulness all the more grating.  The production here is mostly still solid, so Lewis will be exempt from most of this criticism, but Macklemore himself clearly hasn't figured out how to reach those same highs of the first record.  His battle with addiction is well told after the previous record's "Neon Cathedral" and "Starting Over," and here it's an afterthought.  He even knowingly alludes to drug use in album opener "Light Tunnels," but does little to follow-up with the rest of the album.  There's nothing here about relapsing, or struggling to stay clean, so the once autobiographical Macklemore seems to care more about joking around with Idris Elba than answering the questions he himself poses.

While he doesn't stray completely away from the serious on 'This Unruly Mess I've Made,' the results are mixed at best.  The aforementioned "Light Tunnels' is the highlight, in which Macklemore describes his discomfort with fame during his night at the Grammys, but the story feels a little empty without a nod toward the well-known controversial text to Kendrick Lamar afterward.  After that it's note-by-note shots at the prescription drug industry in "Kevin," a near-cringy love letter to his daughter complete with bland Ed Sheeran feature in "Growing Up," and the notorious glimpse at white guilt from "White Privilege II," a song with a nine minute runtime in which the highlights are mostly the parts  Macklemore himself isn't a part of.  It's a stunningly boring record for the most part, which is disappointing from the man who created such an emotional gutpunch of a album years ago.  I wanted to love this one, Mack, but it turns out you were on point with that album title.

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Things I Liked: Those #SELFIE Assholes, The Chainsmokers
 

If you go back in time two years and tell me about this list, this is the entry I would most disbelieve.  I remember where I was when I first heard "#SELFIE" a god-awful pop EDM song from a pair of assumingly smug DJs who'd managed to simultaneously make the worst pop song of the year and also permanently ruin the word 'selfie' for me forever.  I'd written them off as garbage, the heir to 3OH!3 and LMFAO's throne.  A pair of talentless, hack nobodies.

Oops.

Earlier this year I had the incredible fortune of hearing "Don't Let Me Down" on my Spotify Discover playlist well before it became one of the biggest songs of the year, and well before Daya became one of pop's breakout stars of 2016.  After one listen I was charmed, after ten I was hooked.  Once I learned the name of the artist involved I almost refused to believe it, my mind told me I was thinking of a DIFFERENT Chainsmokers.  I wasn't.  These were the #SELFIE assholes with a fresh coat of fucking gorgeous paint.

I mean, not to worship them too hard, The Chainsmokers are not ground-breaking, they're just damn good at what they do.  Anyone who listens to their 'Collage' EP or any of the songs that preceeded it will track down the formula quickly.  Niche female artist, slow build to the chorus, drop, crescendo, repeat.  It's tried and true within their genre, and The Chainsmokers, god bless 'em, have turned the formula into a legitimate pop moneymaker.  Where once EDM and dubstep seemed like a passing phase in the pop eye, The Chainsmokers broke out bigtime in 2016 with two monster hits, the second being a breezy summertime feature with Halsey.

Honestly, given the chance, I'd gush about the 2016 output from The Chainsmokers until the cows come home.  "Don't Let Me Down" has one of the best final minutes in pop music this year, utilizing Daya's young powerhouse of a voice to bring together an amazing hook.  "Setting Fires" utilizes indie pop duo XYLO to craft a wanting, pleading EDM power ballad with a bouncy beat.  "All We Know" with Phoebe Ryan is a quiet and light-hearted track, damn near subdued by the formula's standards.  Again The Chainsmokers haven't reinvented the wheel this year, but they polished it beyond belief and made themselves stars, somehow putting their god-awful past, well, in the past.  When the year began I wanted nothing to do with them, I wanted them forgotten forever.  Now?  I can't wait to hear their next song.

 

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I'm aware this has taken a very extended break while I'm busy doing not this.  I'll be rounding out a few more likes/dislikes and starting my top 25 in February.  Maybe I'll finish by the time 2017 is over.

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Actually, scratch that, here's the start of the top 25 (or 30, I guess), cause here in no particular order are the five honorable mentions, songs that were JUST missing that spark needed to get onto the countdown.

Honestly this song just isn't super good.  Cash Cash are fairly standard dance EDM producers that basically made an album full of stuff just below Chainsmoker level.  Couple that with a fairly middling singer and this is really unremarkable, if not for the fact that it's STUPID catchy.  This was never going to make my list but was always going to make my honorable mentions because I can't stop listening to it.
The Chainsmoker feature was the highlight of her year but her solo debut wasn't too bad either.  The singles are a little heavy-handed, but "I.C.Y.M.I." is the sort of defiant anthem that would make Beyonce proud, and is the song on Daya's first record that shows the most promise toward her blossoming career.
This album started strong on my countdown but faded with relistens as it became relatively clear that it was a very formulaic record.  Still, for what it's worth, the hooks are strong enough to make it a great, easy listen, and "Crazy Heart" is the shining star of the bunch.  It's a fierce power ballad that Rachel Taylor's emphatic and emotive singing style really helps deliver and it's hard not to jam the repeat button on.
I REALLY wanted to find at least an honorable mention for this song because it's honestly really damn good.  Skillet's track record has been very poor since they broke out with Comatose, but "The Resistance" was their new album's token reminder that there's a bit of greatness inside them.  Jen's vocals are used but not overused to prove the hook with some variety, and it's a classic Skillet anthem for the chorus.  Were it not for the weirdly unneeded jam session at the end, this crisp, rockin' tune would have fit perfectly on Comatose.
This was legitimately the final cut for the list and I'm disappointed there was just no room for it, if not for the fact that I want to talk more about this record.  These guys weren't on my radar at all but on their new record Dark Matter, they struck that perfect balance of metalcore loyalty with a pinch of mainstream appeal.  How "Made This Way" didn't blow the fuck up on some rock radio station somewhere is a crime, it's one of the most thrilling rock songs of the year on an album where it's hard to stand out.

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25.

"Break" - I See Stars - 'Treehouse'

"We all lose ourselves along the way."  No shit, dudes.  I've been a vocal opponent of many of the famous metalcore bands of the last few years watering down their sound for the sake of radio play, and on paper I See Stars is another one of those cases.  After their outstanding 2013 album 'New Demons' put them on the map in a big way and made them one of the most popular bands on the scene, the electronicore pioneers lost their screamer and in lieu of finding a new one, simply retooled their sound.  The resulting 'Treehouse' is a mixed bag, that's certainly lighter than their previous record, but it does still FEEL like I See Stars, and perhaps no where more evidently than "Break," a raucous bit of pop metal that spits out one of the year's most sensational choruses.  It takes two whole runs to get the stunning hook trapped in your head, but unfortunately, two is all you get.  "Break" had all the makings of a top 15 or even top 10 song, but only giving me that hook twice?  Unforgiveable.  Instead the song peters out where that final crescendo should've been, leaving me with the biggest case of musical blue balls I had all year.  This song is a damn strong four minutes from a band that's still got a hell of a creative spirit, but it should been a damn strong four and a half minutes.

See Also: "All In" | "Running With Scissors" 

Further Research: "Violent Bounce (People Like You)"

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On 1/28/2017 at 6:35 PM, Andrew said:

"Crazy Heart" by She Is We

This album started strong on my countdown but faded with relistens as it became relatively clear that it was a very formulaic record.  Still, for what it's worth, the hooks are strong enough to make it a great, easy listen, and "Crazy Heart" is the shining star of the bunch.  It's a fierce power ballad that Rachel Taylor's emphatic and emotive singing style really helps deliver and it's hard not to jam the repeat button on.
 

What did you do to her Andrew? She used to be happy and then it's like you locked her up in a room with Meg Myers for a year writing music and then Lady Gaga gave her a haircut.

 

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24.

"Nothing Personal" - Night Riots - 'Love Gloom'

The first time I heard Night Riots, I thought that "Contagious" was a funky alternative EDM track with a Davey Havok feature.  I was kinda off on that, but it does weirdly sum up the sound of the California newcomers.  Their debut album 'Love Gloom' is a wistful and gloomy alternative record with unbelievable production and a hint of that AFI-esque emo that really stands out on that format in this current climate.  "Nothing Personal" is the record's big single and for good reason.  Though the verses would have you think it's a minimalist song, the absolute eruption of the chorus turns it into a wildly theatrical and weirdly dance-able number.  It's super groovy and really hard not to lose yourself into, and is sure to leave an intense first impression, not entirely unlike the one I had.

See Also: "Contagious" | "Don't Kill The Messenger"

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On 2/4/2017 at 10:55 AM, jmg05005 said:

What did you do to her Andrew? She used to be happy and then it's like you locked her up in a room with Meg Myers for a year writing music and then Lady Gaga gave her a haircut.

She got a disease that required chemo-therapy and got kicked out of her band.  Ass.

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23.

"Division Symbols" - Hands Like Houses - 'Dissonants'

I've talked a lot over the last year about promising hardcore and metalcore bands turning in their creativity cards for the sake of radio play, and how the troubling trend has tanked a lot of recently promising albums.  While some of their contemporaries give up what made them so great to get into the spotlight, the Australia-based Hands Like Houses have pushed themselves into the active rock scene without compromising their intriguing sound.... too much, anyway.  There's no denying that 'Dissonants' is a more straight-forward rock album than Hands Like Houses have previously produced, but flourishes of their original sound are still present in songs like "Division Symbols."  The new album is famously more hooky than previous efforts and "Division Symbols" is among the main culprits, but it's a truly great hook brought together by Trenton Woodley's amazing vocals and a string of lyrics that flow smoothly off the tongue.  One of the Hands Like Houses' greatest strengths is their ability to craft great lyrical hooks without repetition and that's never more clear than on this track, which manages to be absurdly catchy despite a chorus that gets from point A to point B with a very diverse road.  The furious bridge is just that, a perfect bridge from new to old Hands Like Houses, staying loyal to the roots of their sound without selling out TOO hard.  This band deserves to be huge.

See Also: "Colourblind" | "Motion Sickness"

Further Research: "A Fire On a Hill"

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"Don't Let Me Down" sounds really good for the first 30 seconds but that chorus drop just ruins the whole song

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22.

"Take It All Back 2.0" - Judah & The Lion - 'Folk Hop N' Roll'

Much like last year's entry from Stephen, this is a song that I heard too late in the year to give strong number one consideration, but I was happy to slot it into a low spot on the list because of how much I loved this song in the last month of the year.  "Take It All Back 2.0" is, as the title suggests, a revamped version of the original "Take It All Back" which was a fun folksy alt-rock tune that got the doors blown off by this smoother, bouncier version.  Judah & The Lion's Folk Hop N' Roll is a mostly inconsistent and at times plain and boring record, but you'd never know that by just hearing this one song, which is a huge breath of fresh air on the alternative format and just a fun and interesting song in general.  True to the name of their record, it combines Mumford and Sons-y type folk alternative and blends it with some inspired hip hop esque sound, creating a chorus that's maybe the most sing-a-long friendly of the year and an epic crescendo where the song descends into pure folksy madness in it's final minute.  This song is a blast, and I hope this band takes more lessons from it going forward.

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21.

"Woke The Fuck Up" - Jon Bellion - 'The Human Condition'

The strong-voiced Jon Bellion rose to fame by writing an Eminem hook and featuring on vocals for a Zedd song in the years leading up to his debut release.  On songs like "Woke The Fuck Up," Bellion fuses his penchant for hooks with his unique lyricism to create a candid, bombastic mid-album track that also strikes at my weakness for random profanity.  Here, the profanity isn't QUITE random, as Bellion's hook describes the stunning revelation where he realizes how foolish he's been regarding a relationship, or in his words "Last night, I woke the fuck up."  It's a strongly relatable, and again quite candid, song that is really driven by it's somewhat minimalist feel and a hook that, albeit repetitive, is a sheer pleasure to take in again and again.  This song went toe to toe with his lead single on the album for a spot on this list, and "All Time Low" is certainly a must-listen for fans of this one, but this song is where Bellion most shone on his ecclectic and fascinating debut.

See Also: "All Time Low" | "Overwhelming"

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20.

"Traitor" - Cavo - 'Bridges'

For too long have Cavo been underappreciated by the active rock community.  Though their debut had a smash single, the 2009 record had plenty of stronger tracks than "Champagne," and Cavo doubled down on their quality with a stunning sophomore effort a few years later.  With two albums of under-the-radar greatness in their rearview, Cavo firmly cemented themselves as rock's best kept secret with the sneaky good Bridges.  Though it's a bit more down-tempo overall than their previous works, it's a rewarding record with some really strong tunes tucked into, chief among them being "Traitor."  With a traditionally strong Cavo chorus that drills its way into your head with emphatic lyrics rather than an easy repetitive hook, "Traitor" is a song that doesn't take low road to success, and it also doesn't take the easy way out in the music department.  The verses are minimalist with a teasing guitar just ready to run hog wild, and while it doesn't quite get the chance to shine like it wants to, the song does ultimately get to a really funky bridge that's downright Incubus-esque.  Bridges isn't Cavo's best work, but tracks like "Traitor" made the wait well worth it for a third record, and definitely left me wanting for Cavo's fourth journey.

See Also: "Get Away" | "Straight To The Bottom"

Further Research: "War Within"

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19: "Black Honey" - Thrice - 'To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere'

On their big comeback album, Thrice dabbled with a lot of sounds that made them the band they are today, and few of them deftly blended styles like the melancholy second single.  With it's brooding tempo and it's increasingly furious build, it feels like the perfect cocktail of 'Beggars' and 'The Artist In The Ambulance,' and is one of the clear standouts on a good but not great comeback effort.

See Also: "Blood On The Sand" "Whistleblower" | Further Research: "Hold Fast Hope"
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18. "Tennessee" - Kiiara - 'low kii savage'

Kiiara's unique vocals and subtly smooth brand of electropop made her one of the fascinating up-and-comers of the 2016 alt scene.  "Tennessee" is an infectious and eclectic song with some sort of hook seemingly every five seconds, creating some sort of bizarre, busy cocktail that somehow works out to one of the most listenable songs of the year.  Kiiara's entire six song debut is worth a listen but this is the biggest earworm of the batch.

See Also: "Feels" "Say Anymore" | Further Research: "Heavy" by Linkin Park

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17. "FML" - Kanye West - 'The Life of Pablo'

Kanye's most controversial record since '808's and Heartbreaks' packs its fair share of fascinating punches, and it was distressingly hard choosing one to highlight.  Ultimately I chose a song that echos '808's' in it's gloomy, contemplative stylings.  Distinctly barren of rapping except for Kanye's electric second verse, "FML" is by and large just a moody and hypnotic mid-album track with impeccable production and a sublime, modest hook from The Weeknd.

See Also: "Ultralight Beam" "No More Parties In LA" | Further Research: "Say You Will"

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16. "Bulletproof" - Young Guns - 'Echoes'

Active rock's best kept secret bangs their way onto the list for the second straight year, with a blazing lead single off another underappreciated record.  Most of what I said last year about "Speaking In Tongues" can apply nicely to "Bulletproof" as well.  It's simply a tried and true formula that shows of the Guns ability to write inspired hooks that don't lean on easy sing-a-long lyrics or repetition.  It's fun and uptempo but not insulting, exactly what these guys do best.

See Also: "Living In a Dream Is So Easy" "Buried" | Further Research: "Speaking In Tongues"

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15. "Kiss It Better" - Rihanna - 'ANTI'

It really irritated me when Good Charlotte's new single took a potshot at there being no guitars on the radio, even though their song was as flat, insipid, and guitar-less as a bunch of other shit.  You know what song has rocking guitar?  This kick-ass Rihanna single.  This is the best she's been in almost ten years.

See Also: "Same Ol' Mistakes" "Desperado" | Further Research: "Cold Case Love"

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14. "Believe" - Normandie - 'Inguz'

This was a really good year for clean vocal bands in the vein of Hands Like Houses.  In their debut record, Normandie dropped some absolute jams, the best of them all being the thunderous "Believe," an addicting sing-a-long tune with great use of falsetto to bring the hook home.  This record is jam-packed with a lot of great songs, but this was the one I kept coming back to.

See Also: "Collide" "Loop Hole"

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13. "Trainwreck" - Banks - 'The Altar'

If there was anything Banks WASN'T good at on her first record, it was producing a legitimately loud banger, not that she tried mind you.  Still, color me surprised when on her follow-up she produced a track as overwhelmingly emphatic as "Trainwreck," a legitimate dark dance hall song that showcases Banks' signature brood in a whole new light.  While Banks was still great at her moody downtempo ballads on her sophomore success, but songs like "Trainwreck" really demonstrated her evolution.

See Also: "Fuck With Myself" "This Is Not About Us" | Further Research: "This Is What It Feels Like"

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12. "I Always Knew/Slow Me Down" - Issues - 'Headspace'

Though it doesn't particularly FEEL like an album closer, "Slow Me Down" succeeds as one by being the song on the new Issues record, a tough task to achieve on an album full of surprisingly great cuts.  Issues really came into their own in 2016 with a legitimately great follow-up to a guilty pleasure debut.  "Slow Me Down" is a titanic song that has a great intro to build into it, before it dazzles with an emotional build into a powerful chorus that the band has never matched in their previous works.  Tyler Carter's prowess as a vocalist has  never been more clear than in this stunning display.

See Also: "The Realest" "Made To Last" | Further Research: "Disappear (Remember When)"

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11. "Wasteland" - Against The Current - 'In Our Bones'

Wouldn't be one of my lists without a trademark foray into female power pop.  Against The Current wasn't as strong as some of the previous bands I've obsessed over, but their album was a significant grower for me over 2016, and their legitimately great songs like "Wasteland" stack up with some of the best cuts of the year.  This mid-tempo tune manages to do a good job with the balancing act of quiet to loud, eventually climaxing with a cinematic bridge and an explosive finale.  This one went blow for blow with "Running With The Wild Things" for this spot on my list, but ultimately won out thanks to it's impressive scope.

See Also: "Running With The Wild Things" "Chasing Ghosts" | Further Research: "Gravity"

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1) I really enjoyed reading all the retrospection and the depth of analysis you gave. I have always enjoyed the way you analyze and discuss what you like about music, so this read was a nice way to put myself back into the past before 2016 while also doing a pick of introspection of my own on 2016.

2) Admittedly, I did not fully peruse the archives for additional posts, but I am glad someone else has nice things to say about Against the Current. They have been in my head the last couple of days, and I found myself thinking, "Man, I wish I knew someone else who liked this type of music so that I could have someone nod and say, 'I feel ya, dawg.'"

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