2016 was an overwhelming year. Despite the equality frustrations and political turmoil and universal problems surrounding our globe, a massive amount of great music was released. More so than last year. Or maybe I just listened more. Regardless, below is the list of my 25 favorite songs of the year. I'm sure I missed one or two tracks, and I'm sure this list will change next week, but as it stands, these are the tracks that impressed my ears the most this year.
01. Josh Pan – "Opus"
A fourteen minute original remix of 'It G Ma' featuring a handful of highly talented producers and vocalists. Josh Pan went nuclear after enlisting sakuraburst, MISOGI, X&G, Medasin, and Oshi to craft the sprawling backdrop for vocalists like A$AP Ferg, Father, Dumbfoundead, Waka Flocka Flame, and Anderson .Paak. Any other 2016 songs pale in comparison and ambition, not to mention .Paak's verse on this song is the hottest verse of the year.
02. Frank Ocean – "Nights"
I couldn't tell you how many times I listened to this song. Frank's finest number off his acclaimed album, blond(e). Frank does a great job combining two tracks into one, with lengthy progressions and production switch-ups. I'm looking at you, "Pyramids". On "Nights", he does exactly that, creating a medley of heater in five minutes. Shout-out to Michael Uzowuru for assisting with the production and Gangster Doodles for the above Post-It art.
03. Anderson Paak - "The Bird"
Yes, I'm aware that I have three Anderson .Paak songs in the top three. Four if you count how "The Season/Carry Me" is technically two songs. Regardless, he was the most talked about artist at SXSW and he later molded into 2016's MVP, with two incredible albums, a massive outpouring of great singles, and plenty of memorable performances along the way. I couldn't pick just one song from his album, Malibu, as "The Bird" is such an incredible opener, but I couldn't turn down the above art for "The Season". Shout-out to Dewey Saunders for the vision.
04. Alicks – "Deathly"
Alicks takes the cake for my most listened to artist of 2016. Alongside numerous EPs and loose tracks, he also unleashed a 50+ song zip file known as A Mess. The six minute track "Deathly" can be found inside this zip file and it later was reuploaded to SoundCloud. Listen to this one while the snow falls. I tried to limit this list to one song per artist. Had that not been a rule, this list of 25 would contain about 20 Alicks songs, including "Don't Die", "My Dad Wants to Fight Me", and "Left in the Snow".
05. Whitney - "No Woman"
This song has my heart. The first official single and music video from Chicago country soul darlings Whitney had me hooked. With the video clocking in at over one million plays, and the SoundCloud track passing 600k, it's obvious I wasn't the only one slow dancing on my bed to this track, trying my best to emulate lead singer/drummer Julien Ehrlich's touching falsetto.
06. the fin - "Divers"
As I mentioned with Frank Ocean's "Nights" and Anderson .Paak's "The Season / Carry Me", songs that feel like two songs in one are always up my alley. Such is the case for "Divers" by the Kobe, Japan dream pop act The fin. The song approaches six minutes, and hits the spot every time the beat switches up and returns. You know the part. After listening 500 times, I still have no idea if "Divers" is in English or Japanese.
07. Charlotte Day Wilson – "Work"
Oh boy, this song. This is like if Cat Power played around more with R&B. Stripped down and pretty bare, the church-like track from Charlotte Day Wilson is her finest piece of work, one that fits in nicely on her self-titled 2016 EP. It only makes sense that this release led to her touring with Local Natives. Shout-out to Froyo Ma for featuring CDW last year and catching my ear for the first time.
08. Monte Booker & Naji - "Mona Lisa"
Here is a song that skyrocketed into my top ten after only being released for a week. The collaborative track between producer Monte Booker and multitasking talent Naji is a soothing, lush number, one full of layered harmonies and relaxed percussion. Give me another week and this song will probably be even a few more slots up on this list.
09. Iris Temple – "Ferns"
Chicago duo Iris Temple had a great year. Along with appearing on Appleby and Elias Abid's EP Down Down (on the track "Random Love"), they also released the five song Duality EP, which stands as one of my favorite EPs of the year. The standout song on this project was "Ferns", one that feels like a hammock in a vineyard somewhere inside Jumanji. It's also worth mentioning their most recent track, "Lemonade", which is equally as enjoyable.
10. Slow Skies – "Winter Night"
Press play and try not to cry. This came out at the top of 2016, back when it was freezing cold, but I didn't discover it until the summer. Even in the sunshine of July, the song sounded cold. Nostalgic yet optimistic. Now that winter has returned, the song sounds better than ever. Much love to Ireland based Paper Trail Records. Their SoundCloud is a gold mine.
11. Weird Inside – "Little Angels"
Weird Inside started the calendar year with As We Know, a five song EP that did nothing but impress. While that project is front to back greatness, it was actually his loose summertime single "Little Angels" that topped my list of Weird Inside's 2016 releases.
12. Smino - "Lemon Pon Goose" (Ft. Jean Deaux)
Smino had a strong 2016, reissuing his blkjuptr EP and touring around the globe. While his newest number, "blkswn", might deserve to be on this list, I've better digested his groovy track "Lemon Pon Goose" with Jean Deaux. With production from Sango, this is the perfect song to play when you want to be reminded of summer.
13. The Last Artful, Dodgr - "Squadron"
Portland-based rapper The Last Artful, Dodgr killed 2016 with numerous loose singles, guest appearances, and music videos. Her most standout, in my opinion, was "Squadron", which sounds like 2,000 tanks driving down your block after midnight. I can't wait to see what she does in 2017 alongside producer Neill Von Tally.
14. tnght/tmrw – "4AM" (Ft. JSSX)
Producer tnght/tmrw had a plethora of great instrumentals this year, but '4AM' reigns supreme. It was one of the first tracks I posted on this blog and I still haven't stopped listening.
15. Mulherin – 'Leagues"
I sing along so loudly to this track, most assuredly missing every single note. Twin brothers Mulherin absolutely slay the track "Leagues", one that has me anticipating their 2017 moves more than most new acts.
16. Kweku Collins – "Ego Killed Romance" (Ft. Jamila Woods)
The production on this song gets me every time. It wasn't until I played this in my car that I really got hooked. This track fits nicely as Kweku's finest off of his 2016 album, Nat Love, one that will be making an appearance on some lists later this week.
17. Leslie Marie – "Tranquility"
19-year-old Hyde Park singer/songwriter Leslie Marie impressed this year by releasing her debut single as well as her debut EP. The song 'Tranquility' found on her Merci EP never loses its magic, even after 100+ listens that I tend to rack up while I eat breakfast.
18. Appleby & Elias Abid – "Castles"
A massive track that spread both through SoundCloud and Spotify, the song "Castles" was one of many shining stars on Down Dance, a collaborative EP between vocalist Appleby and producer Elias Abid. According to folklore, they have plenty up their sleeves for 2017.
19. Hot Sugar & Baghdaddy – "Mercy"
I heard a variation of this song a long time ago and it was great to finally hear it on Seductive Nightmares 3, Hot Sugar's incredible (and free) 2016 mixtape. On this song, Hot Sugar and Baghdaddy (of Weekend Money) share production duties, crafting one of the hottest instrumentals of the year.
20. Izzard & Merival - "Secret Garden"
I started 2016 not knowing about collective Soda Island and they quickly became one of my favorite online labels around. As part of an incredible compilation, producer Izzard and singer Merival wowedwith the majestic track "Secret Garden".
21. Jon Bap – "Don't Run Into The Dark So Quick"
Jon Bap popped out of nowhere and dropped like four albums in three months. The multi-faceted artist handles all duties on the song "Don't Run Into the Dark So Quick", a song that might fit inside a Wes Anderson film. This song is part of his album What Now? which you should listen to as soon as this sentence is over.
22. su na - "Complexion" (Ft. Dizzy Fae)
Minnesota producer su na had a fantastic 2016. On top of releasing a collaborative EP with singer DUVV, he also released an EP called Surface, which featured plenty of talented vocalists. The standout on this project is the track "Complexion" which features the quivering vocals of Dizzy Fae. Spin it back twice.
23. Childish Gambino – 'Baby Boy"
I've only heard Childish Gambino's new album twice at this point, but it wouldn't be right to not include the track "Baby Boy". It sounds like a pristine Al Green song. As time passes, this song will most likely climb the charts.
24. Qari – "Szabo (Fortress)"
Qari had a strong 2016 which included his first solo music video, a collaborative EP with roommate Morimoto, and plenty of singles scattered throughout. My favorite of these loose tracks is the track "Szabo (Fortress)" which switches halfway through and sounds like two powerhouse tracks in one.
25. Elias Abid & Aura - "Falling Seas"
I hate that I'm including a song off of a project I curated, but the song can't be ignored. "Falling Seas" is a collaborative track between producer Elias Abid and vocalist Aura, both of whom are featured elsewhere on this list. This track brings the rain every.damn.time.