There were two types of people at the end of last year; those who knew how to properly respond to “raindrop” and those who had no clue why you just said that. With the widespread influence that “Bad and Boujee” achieved in only two months in 2016, I wouldn’t trust anyone who belongs to the latter group. I say that with no exaggeration as the track even got a nod as “the best song ever” at the Golden Globes by Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino), having no relation to the award in acceptance. Except that it inspired him personally, the state of Atlanta and the rise of trap within hip hop music. On top of that, the success of the song marked a cultural importance of the symbiotic relationship between music and the Internet age by capitalizing on meme culture. Overall, Migos have been trendsetters for years, and this song has finally rewarded them their proper credit deserved. Whether you love it or hate it, there’s no doubt that you’ve heard it. Its catchy, its simple, its fun (and it already has me apologizing to my children for my dance moves when I hear Offset say “you know…” 20 years out).
Queens-based hardcore group Show Me the Body gave fans something to talk about yet again this past year with the release of their latest record Body War. The unforgettable album throws the listener into a metaphorical mosh pit—ever present are themes of resistance, mortality, and the cold, hard truth. The sixth track, “Metallic Taste,” is nothing short of a battle cry. A slow tempo combined with invigorating lyrics provides the perfect contrast, adding an extra spice that the NYC natives are so well known for. The chaotic manner in which the song is sung flawlessly embodies the nearly unbearable adrenaline that comes along with vexation, while also maintaining an element of slow-cooked mystery. Needless to say, the underdogs of the underground scene have outdone themselves yet again.
Green Day always seem to get timing right when it comes to releasing socially conscious albums at the most relevant times. Revolution Radio was once again one such album, and as big as they have become, they kept true to their punk rock ethics with a club tour that sold out in seconds leading up to the release. Their hitting the road again this year in support of the record but this time around they’re selling out stadiums. Nearly 30 years into their career has the world had enough of their brand of punk? Answer is an empathic no, and their song “Bang Bang” embodies what we love about Green Day’s sound the most.
Like my previous song picks, this song is sexy and raw. Majid Jordan has been fuckin’ me UP since 11th grade with their EP A Place Like This. Since 2014 they have come a long way to include more unique samples and trance vibes to make a modern and more electronically influenced R&B sound. The magical duo that is Majid Jordan is consistent with their catchy but mellow vibe and romantic themes throughout their first album, released in 2016.
Mysterious notes start off the track and bass and drums pick up soon after. Majid Al-Maskati’s voice has a nice flow as it changes from an initially mellow tone to wispy and sincere falsetto in the chorus. This song is chill and romantic, a nice mix of two pleasant feelings.
Majid Jordan sample all of their own sounds and one can notice how unique the sounds are that comprise the overall track along with the album.
A pick from our 3rd Jukebox back in June, Phantogram’s “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” comes off the New York-based band’s aptly-titled third EP, Three. Phantogram, A.K.A. Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel, have been very open about the inspiration for this “fucking boombastic and heavy” record, as Barthel puts it. The duo “had a tough year” to say the least, and their sound especially conveys the heartbreak and dark emotions they’ve experienced. It’s hard to believe that “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore,” with its sample-heavy background beats and Barthel’s haunting voice crooning emotional lyrics about addiction and redundancy, could make you want to dance. But it just does.
The most victorious song of 2016 by the band rightfully credited as the saviors of rock n’ roll, “OBLIVIUS” hailed The Strokes going at it on their own through Julian Casablancas‘ Cult Records. The centerpiece of their Future Present Past EP, this delectable piece of music refuses to lose power no matter how many times one listens to it. The chorus in particular––Casablancas’ howling “What are you standing on?”––feels as self-reflective and personal as it does full of hope. This is a song to blast down the highway, to keep one standing upright in the biggest pits of fear, to make one feel almost heroic in the face of despair. The Strokes are back, as cohesive as ever, and looking forward to the future; here’s to 2017.
Many say music is cyclical, and Palmas have brought back the surf rock vibes of the 60s and 70s to current times. The good thing is, they’re not trying to be that- it’s just the type of music that came natural when these particular individuals formed a band. Even though “Flowers” displays a more experimental side of the group, you can tell that it was something that happened organically. Keeping their identity intact but yet exploring the infinite possibilities music has to offer.
 UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA – “FIRST WORLD PROBLEM”
Unknown Mortal Orchestra surprised us with this track after I had just come down from the high of “Multi-Love”, one of my favorite albums of 2015. The infectous rhythm that UMO masters in every song caused this track to quickly become one of my faves of 2016. It’s one of those perfect dance track/dark lyric combos, reminding us of how minimal our problems are as we try and dance them away.
While Beyonce’s album was packed with endless anthems around the theme of infidelity, “Sorry” has to be the ultimate revenge gospel. This song takes betrayal lemons and serves empowerment lemonade by existing as a musical embodiment of a huge f*** you to romantic partners who’ve done you dirty in the past. With a short lived intro of poetry for reflective mourning; the rest of the song develops into a bumping beat that begs for a dance party filled with a lot of middle fingers. Its vulgar, raw and unapologetic; all while celebrating the reclamation of self-love at no remorse. A song that proves you can be flawless even when your life is far from perfect is one everyone, even the Becky’s with the good hair, needs in their music libraries.
Upon waiting six years since their last 2010 release, Clinging to a Scheme, there were a lot of expectations awaiting The Radio Dept. – and they delivered. “Swedish Guns” is their dreamy return to form. This track hasn’t left my daily rotating playlist since it was released – and with it’s mesmerizing riffs and wistful vocals, it’s not going anywhere any time soon.
Metronomy’s Summer 08 was my top album of the summer, as I confessed in my [FAVORITE ALBUMS 2016] post, and this track was my favorite of the summer. The song combines the old school Metronomy funk basslines and percussion, but is almost pop, with the lyrics and mid-song “conversation” that goes on Joe Mount and himself (as a girl). It was my summer anthem of 2016 but I still can’t stop listening to it in 2017.
“All Night” is the Chicago house throwback that breaks up Chance the Rapper’s hip hop gospel mixtape Coloring Book. It’s a summer track, a pass-me-the-aux track, a rap-along-in-the-mirror-while-you’re-getting-ready-to-go-out track. Stand out lyrics? Chance crooning “Is you is or is you aint got gas money” to the tune of the classic “Is You Is You Aint My Baby” into the mic. With “All Night,” Chance put out 2 minutes and 20 seconds of playful and witty lyrics set to a dance beat you can’t help but bounce to as soon as it kicks in.
The newly crowned kings of Ska The Interrupters had an entire album (Say It Out Loud) full of amazing tunes, but “She Got Arrested” was the song I put on repeat the most. It’s the best example of their exemplary story telling ability with catchy hooks and anthemic chants. The vocal harmonies are killer on this song too, take a listen!
Yeah, sure it is ubiquitous now, but when it first came out, you gotta admit it was a welcome surprise. With its John Carpenter-esque synths courtesy of the Ear Drummer’s sound architect Mike-Will-Made-It and braggadocios rhymes from frontman Swae Lee, Gucci Mane, and the other guy, “Black Beatles” was the anthemic song of the year. It is what pop music should be – brash, catchy, slightly cringe. But it is also a little off-kilter and weird by modern hip-hop standards. Like most of the songs off of their shockingly good album SremmLife 2, “Black Beatles” showcases their likability, and yes, talent. No one should feel guilty about liking this song. However, if you are somewhere doing the mannequin challenge right now, yes you should be embarrassed.
South Florida native Helado Negro released one of the most politically charged, captivating releases of the year with Private Energy. The lead single, “It’s My Brown Skin”, gives agency to the color of our identity. With lines like “It’s tough as it goes and it won’t rub off on you”, the ethereal groovy track will surely stay with you.
The first single off of the mysterious dub pop trio’s recently-released I See You, “On Hold” sees The xx coming out of their shells. The notoriously private band––who we’ve missed dearly as a trio while watching producer Jamie xx conquer the music world––open themselves up once more, but the affair feels like a more awake effort than the hushed, intimate music that put them on the map. The deep, droning club beats of the chorus play well with Oliver Sims and Romy Madley-Croft, who continue to be a match made in heaven. If The xx’s cuts dug deep into our emotional cores before, the vibrant new sound is a celebration of feeling and an iridescent vibration of a lead single.
A favorite album needs to have a favorite song, and it’s hard to choose from such a great album like Glow In The Dark, but “I’m A Man Too” may edge out the rest just because it makes the biggest statement. I love songs that can make a statement without making a statement, and the beauty of this song is the simplicity in its message- “If you’re a man, I’m a man too.” Death Valley Girls, please just keep ruling!
R&B music has been going through a creative resurgence with newfound experimentation and futurist influences that have pushed the genre into a sonically lush space. With his EP The Everlasting Wave, Xavier Omar (aka SPZRKT) let it be known that he is someone to watch. The strongest track, “Lost in Nostalgia” captures the back and forth dialogue examining a lost love. With production by Hit-Boy, the song features Omar’s trademark vocal layering that highlights newfound maturity in his lyricism. Now that The Weeknd is off being a pop star, there is a vacancy in the R&B space for an introspective voice and in 2016 Xavier Omar staked his claim to that spot.
The somber, synthpop sound of Porches’ “Mood” perfectly embodies the content of his sophomore album Pool, released this year. “Mood” is the fourth track on the record—the title of the song is self-explanatory, detailing a narrative of loneliness and melancholia. When played, this track brings to the mind a foggy, ethereal morning spent peering out of the window. The mystical themes present in “Mood” are indicative of doom and gloom in the most relatable of ways. Every human on earth has experienced this sort of mood—a longing for reciprocity from a loved one, or maybe even “the good news.” Pool is certainly not an album to sleep on, and “Mood” is without a doubt one of the top tracks from it.
Many critics disliked Glass Animals‘ latest album How To Be A Human Being, but as you may already know, it was one of our favorite albums of the year. Regardless of what naysayers have to say, they are playing several major festivals this year including Coachella, Bonnaroo and Panorama. “Life Itself” was their first single from this album and it really is representative of what Glass Animals do best. It’s a head nodding modern take on indie rock complete with traditional instruments flawlessly infused with electronic elements.
Savak was one of the bands I was lucky enough to interview in 2016, and I listened quite a bit their record Best Of Luck In Future Endeavors. I picked “Alive In Shadows” as the intro track for the interview video I cut but it’s also my favorite tune on this album. It’s just a well written song with gritty yet audible tones throughout. The verses are menacing but I love the contrast of it as is transitions into the melodic chorus.
The Avalanches are a classic techno band of the late 90’s and are known for pulling sounds from all different kinds of sources. They’re coming back into the spotlight after a brief hiatus but they haven’t missed a beat with their latest album Wildflower. If my mom were to listen to this song, she would call it “groovy” *cringes* but it’s a pretty accurate word no matter how lame. Once the chorus drops, a heavy bass guides you along with enveloping CHANDRA samples, mystical chimes, and astro beams.
“Subways” is a feel good song. Happy chimes and melodies flood your ears and lyrics that don’t really make much sense become enough to satisfy your groovy needs.
While I’m not going to pretend to be a long time fan, after seeing beloved beach goth idols The Growlers play this fall I was completely won over. Their latest release City Club unveiled a new look and a new sound for the band; and “Dope On A Rope” is definitely one of its hidden gems. If electronic surf rock is a thing, “Dope On a Rope” is it. “Dope On a Rope” is a love song dedicated to the reckless beauty of idiot youth—it’s fast, catchy, and fun, perfect for midnight drives down empty highways when the road, your life, and its endless possibilities stretch out in front of you.
 HUNNY – “VOWELS (AND THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING ME)”
April 2016 saw the release of SoCal six-piece HUNNY’s first single following their debut album, Pain/Ache/Loving, from October 2015. A song loved by hipsters and frat boys alike, “Vowels (And the Importance of Being Me)” is one of our top songs of 2016 for its widespread appeal. Its catchy, self-aware lyrics are just the icing on top of a cake made with awesome drum beats and symbol crashes and surf-synth guitar riffs. Upon its release, HUNNY said, “We spent 20 of 24 hours in the studio to give you this song. We all got sick. Enjoy.” Yikes. For the listeners, though, it was really, really worth it.
 KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD – “GAMMA KNIFE”
“Gamma Knife” is the first single off of Australian psychedelic rock group King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s eighth studio album Nonagon Infinity. The wild, frenetic banger consists of vicious instrumentals and vocals which, when combined, create the perfect mood for some good, old-fashioned head banging. King Gizzard never fails to deliver mind-bending, perception-altering music, and this track is far from an exception of this fact. With “Gamma Knife,” the listener is yanked into a world of exciting existentialism and invigorating uncertainty. This tune will have any psych rock fan on their feet in no time.