Welcome to my list of my favorite music of the year. Continuing the precedent set last year, I’m no longer publishing a CD, but instead offer links to playlists on Apple Music and Spotify.
This was an interesting year for my listening habits. Towards the beginning of the year, I started a Grateful Dead kick. I think it started on a trip to Joshua Tree National Park. There was something very relaxing about driving the roads listening to those mellow tunes. I don’t listen to music when I hike, but the songs burrowed into my head and stayed there. A group called The National put out a Grateful Dead tribute album, Day of the Dead, that became my favorite of the year. I explored a large amount of their back catalog and at press-time am working my way through the Dick’s Picks collections. There are enough live shows to last me for years.
This year’s collection has a little Dead interlude in the middle of it, but the majority of it remains an eclectic mix of rock, blues, country, jazz, R&B, and electronic. I continue to find and explore new music through a variety of sources. This year I added Apple Music’s A-List playlists to that list. These are regularly updated mixes of a particular genre- I spent time listening to Americana, Alternative, Rock, and Jazz.
If that sounds like a lot of music, you’re right. Last year I tried to stay within the same 78 minute span of time that can fit on a CD. I tried again this year, until I found myself stressing over what songs to cut to keep the length down. “Self”, I said to myself, “that’s a really stupid thing to stress about.” Now that I’m curating a streaming playlist, I can toss out the 78-minute length along with the CDs and cases.
- Playlist on Apple Music Service costs $10/month, $15/month family plan. Three-month free trial membership available.
- Playlist on Spotify Basic service is free; $10/month to listen to music ad-free and to download tracks to mobile devices for offline use.
This list, my 12th annual, is a sampler of my favorite music that I discovered this year. I hope you enjoy it.
1. Oh Daniel
Civil Twilight, Story of an Immigrant (2015)
Civil Twilight is an alternative rock band originally from Cape Town, South Africa. This song starts out quiet, before slowing building up to an anguish of emotion and heartache.
2. Pedestrian at Best
Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (2015)
Smart, sarcastic, deadpan Australian singer. And what a wonderfully zen album title.
Also good : Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party, Three Packs a Day (a song about Ramen noodles, not cigarettes)
3. No Good
Kaleo, A/B (2016)
Kaleo is a blues-rock quartet that could easily be from New Orleans, but actually hail from just outside Reykjavik, Iceland. Their album A/B was one of my favorites of the year.
Also recommended: the rest of the album
4. The Less I Know the Better
Tame Impala, Currents (2015)
More Australians- Tame Impala adds some relaxing psychedelia to the mix.
5. Run Runaway
Slade, Greatest Hits (1984)
Big-hair tiger-print-pants rock. There’s no doubt this is a song from the 80s. How can it be that I never heard it before this year? Crazy guilty-pleasure fun.
This song is not available on Spotify.
6. Let Me Be Mine
Spoon, They Want My Soul (2014)
Alternative band Spoon appeared previously in my 2010 collection.
7. Da Funk
Daft Punk, Homework (1997)
Not a new song, but a new one to me. Working while listening to electronic music can be productive. The high-energy beat keeps you moving, and there are no distracting lyrics.
8. Dream Bigger (Radio Edit)
Axwell ^ Ingrosso, (single) (2016)
Swedish duo Axwell & Ingrosso contribute a second electronic track to the mix. (Contains some explicit lyrics)
9. Pen to Paper
Modern Space, Before Sunrise (2016)
10. Mary Go Round
The Struts, Everybody Wants (2016)
The Struts are similar to the Darkness, sort of a retro-eighties, Queen-inspired rock band. Importantly, they pull it off. This was one of my favorite albums of the year.
Also recommended: Roll Up
11. Throw Down Your Guns
Wild Belle, Dreamland (2016)
Alternative rock with reggae influences. Also good: Dreamland
12. Pretty Pimpin
Kurt Vile, B’lieve I’m Goin Down (2015)
I really like this song, but am unfortunately bored by the rest of the album.
13. Things Will Never Be The Same
Sam Lewis, Waiting on You (2015)
Also recommended: 3/4 Time, I’m Coming Home
Paul Simon, Stranger to Stranger (2016)
This song tells the story of Paul Simon getting locked out of his backstage, and a security guard who didn’t recognize him.
And I said “Wristband? I don’t need a wristband
My axe is on the bandstand, my band is on the floor”
By the end of the song, Simon turns the incident into a social commentary.
15. Follow Your Arrow
Kacey Musgraves, Same Trailer Different Park (2013)
Yes, the saccharine Kacey Musgraves writes lyrics that would be at home on a Hallmark card… I like it anyway.
16. Get Right with God
Lucinda Williams Essence (2001)
Another old song that I never heard before this year.
17. Growin’ Pain
Peter Wolf, Sleepless (2002)
I’ve been slowly, very slowly, working my way through Rolling Stone magazine’s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. This album clocked in at #432. Peter Wolf is, of course, the former lead singer for the J. Geils Band back in the 1970s, but has had a prolific solo career after that.
Also recommended: Too Close Together.
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats (2015)
19. Twistin’ & Groovin’
Leon Bridges, Coming Home (2016)
Classic R&B sound by a modern artist. In the same genre, I also enjoyed songs by Michael Kiwanuka (Cold Little Heart), Pops Staples (Somebody Was Watching) and old-school Sam Cooke (Twistin’ the Night Away (Live)).
20. Determined Soul
Daniel Freedman, Imagine That (2016)
Relax with a little jazz interlude. I found this song thanks to Apple’s A-List: Jazz playlist.
This song is not available on Spotify.
21. Pride of Cucamonga
Grateful Dead, From the Mars Hotel (1974)
I listened to a lot of live Dead this year. Europe ’72 was one of my favorites. For this collection, I picked a fun studio song that I heard for the first time in 2016.
22. Me and My Uncle
The Lone Bellow & Friends, Day of the Dead (2016)
23. Rubin and Cherise
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy & Friends, Day of the Dead (2016)
24. I Know You Rider (live)
The National & Bob Weir, Day of the Dead (2016)
As mentioned in the introduction, The National it together a Grateful Dead tribute album this year. Not everything worked, but many did. These were my three favorites.
Also recommended: Sugaree, Jack-A-Roe
25. Street Dogs for Breakfast
Widespread Panic, Street Dogs (2015)
Might as well keep the jam band theme going for one more song.
Joe Satriani, The Essential Joe Satriani (2010)
This song starts off quiet, then ramps up to set the tone for the remainder of the collection.
27. Tidal Wave
Taking Back Sunday, Tidal Wave (2016)
28. Way Too Much
Wavves, V (2015)
29. Wake Up Call
Nothing But Thieves, Nothing But Thieves (2015)
Also recommended: Trip Switch
To native English speakers, Zweitausendsechszehn looks intimidating, but it breaks down as follows:
- Zwei (2)- pronounced with an “s” sound, followed with “veye” (rhymes with eye), all packed into a single syllable
- tausend (1000)- pronounced like the English word “thousand”, replacing the “th” sound with a straight “t” sound (there’s no “th” sound in German)
- sechs (6)- pronounced like “sex” if “sex” started with a “z”
- zehn (10)- pronounced like “czain”, with the “cz” from “czar”, rhymes with “pain.” German has a habit of switching the last two digits of their numbers- for example, “twenty-four” in English becomes “four-twenty” in German. It used to make my head hurt. But then Nate’s kindergarten (oops- another German word) teacher told us that her kids struggle with the numbers 13-19. Think about it…
Now mash that all together in one single word. There you go, that wasn’t so hard, was it?