Well, it’s been another year. You already know what happened to the world in 2016, so I’ll skip the details. Besides, this is about ME, right? I guess it was a significant year for me. I graduated college, moved back home, got a desk job. I continued to live and breathe all things music.
I thought it was a great year of music. I built stronger connections with records in 2016 than I did during the last few years. Throughout a rough year, music was a constant comfort. I obsessed over the TLOP rollout and the Frank Ocean carpentry extravaganza. I delved deep into the growing east coast DIY scene. I accepted that I’ll never be someone who listens to their favorite albums on repeat and repeat; sacred things need to maintain some of their mystery. I checked Twitter way too much. I got to meet some of my heroes after their concerts.
Anyways, here are a bunch of lists and words about music that is special to me:
Favorite Albums, 2016:
1. Psychopomp – Japanese Breakfast
I feel like Psychopomp has been with me forever. I remember the day it came out, being instantly hooked by “In Heaven” while walking past the chemistry building. I biked home from my miserable internship listening to “Everybody Wants To Love You” in the newly warm spring weather and felt free. I became obsessed with the beautiful darkness of “Jane Cum” and how the intro sounded kind of like Metallica. I had quiet moments with “Triple 7,” sitting alone on a bridge in Philadelphia at night and admiring Michelle Zauner’s poetry. I was lucky enough to see her live twice within a few months. I could use a lot of adjectives for Psychopomp, but basically this album transcended the music for me and is very close to my heart.
2. Blonde – Frank Ocean
I weirdly first listened to Blonde while doing a treadmill workout the the YMCA and watching the Olympic men’s 5k final. It was not the right environment. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I really fell in love with Blonde on a long bus trip to and from Tufts, visiting for the first time as an alum, nostalgia in full force. It’s an album meant for listening alone, like peeking into someone’s dream, complicated yet comforting. I rested my head against the window and looked out, thinking about my own life and listening to Frank think about his. A really beautiful piece of art that we’re lucky exists.
3. Pretty Years – Cymbals Eat Guitars
The best band in the world keeps leveling up. When you listen to Cymbals Eat Guitars, you hear guys throwing their whole heart into every second. Even when they sound a little more poppy, a little more sugary, a distorted guitar solo will screech in to balance things out. It’s less dark than LOSE, but just as real. I’ve given up on trying to find a band as good as this one, it doesn’t exist.
4. Coloring Book – Chance The Rapper
It was April 30, 2013. I was a freshman at Tufts and I was looking at a clock on DatPiff counting down the minutes until I could download Acid Rap. A month later I saw him for free in Chicago, desperately hoping he would play “Good Ass Intro” (he didn’t.) I’ve been riding with Chance for a long time and the (now) global superstar didn’t let me down with Coloring Book. It’s not perfect (do we need “Blessings” #1 or “Juke Jam”?) BUT, he went big and kept rapping in a way that makes me very happy. Quotable, melodic, personable, smart, etc. etc. No other rapper is making songs like this, each so full to the brim with ideas and color. If Chance rapping “Man my daughter couldn’t have a better mother” on his opening track doesn’t touch your heart, then I don’t know man.
5. Puberty 2 – Mitski
No, this is not a happy album. It deals with depression, isolation, low self worth, and more. But the way Mitski owns her struggle is inspiring. She sings with poise despite her vulnerabilities. She’s the type of artist that you feel a special connection with and I can’t wait to follow her as she keeps writing what the rest of us aren’t brave enough to say.
6. 99.9% – Kaytranada
I didn’t go out much this year, if at all. But I still loved to listen to party music like 99.9% to energize the little details of my day. It would put a bounce in my step whether I was cleaning my room or shooting hoops in the driveway or working on spreadsheets. The instrumentals outshine the guest features but it’s all a great time. Buy your Kaytranada stock now because he’s only going up from here.
7. 22, A Million – Bon Iver
Bon Iver has been staple morning/night music for me for the last three or four years, but “10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄” is not appropriate for either of those times. I’ve actually found that 22, A Million is actually best consumed at loud volumes. It’s kind of anthemic and I get super amped listening to the climaxes getting bigger and bigger, rising to *that* part in “8 (circle)” when I will inevitably fist pump every time.
8. iiiDrops – Joey Purp
Joey Purp was vaguely on my radar because of his super fun verse on “Go” from Surf last year, but this was still a surprise for me. iiiDrops sees him in full force, with his strongest quality being his confidence. He recounts dark memories of gang violence and poverty while celebrating his success today. My mind never wanders when I listen to iiiDrops, every word is captivating. I’m obsessed with this subset of the Chicago rap scene and many of them show up here: Saba, Mick Jenkins, and Chance all kill it and Vic Mensa is even tolerable. Purp is a super smart MC and I can’t recommend this one enough.
9. Camp Cope – Camp Cope
Of all the albums in my top ten, I listened to this one the least. I think it’s incredible, but it’s too real for frequent listens. Georgia Maq bares all in her lyrics and it feels like someone my age talking about things that could easily be issues in my own life. Everything is presented as a conversation, whether it’s her inner dialogue, talking to a best friend, or confronting an ex-partner. This style is refreshingly candid to the point that I feel like I’m eavesdropping on a late night heart-to-heart. It’s such a moving album and if you’re a 20-something lost in the world like me, get ready to feel things.
10. Turn Into – Jay Som
I’ve developed a super annoying habit where I’m constantly thinking “this sounds like this song,” “what artist does this remind me of?” “this is such a ripoff of blah blah blah.” I was doing that with Jay Som for a while, who I checked out because she toured with Mitski and Japanese Breakfast, who I infinitely trust. After trying to pin down the various Beach House/Mac Demarco/Alex G/My Bloody Valentine (aka “vague shoegaze sound”) vibes I was picking up for a while, I realized there I kept coming back to Turn Into because of what made it unique. An endearing bedroom sound with swirling guitars and vocals and rock roots that really jams. I heard a bunch of other artists because there were so many sounds, both big and subtle, within this little album. And these are apparently just random demos?? Watch out world.
11. Front Row Seat To Earth – Weyes Blood
12. Teens Of Denial – Car Seat Headrest
13. Atrocity Exhibition – Danny Brown
14. Telephone – Noname
15. WORRY. – Jeff Rosenstock
16. Goodness – The Hotelier
17. Heart Like A Levee – Hiss Golden Messenger
18. A Moon Shaped Pool – Radiohead
19. Still Brazy – YG
20. Holy Ghost – Modern Baseball
21. Flood Network – Katie Dey
22. Beyond The Fleeting Gales – Crying
23. Light Upon The Lake – Whitney
24. untitled unmastered – Kendrick Lamar
25. Fall Forever – Fear of Men
26. Blackstar – David Bowie
27. I Had A Dream That You Were Mine – Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam
28. My Woman – Angel Olsen
29. Sremmlife 2 – Rae Sremmurd
30. Cardinal – Pinegrove
Favorite Songs, 2016:
- “Everybody Wants to Love You” – Japanese Breakfast
- “Your Best American Girl” – Mitski
- “Pain” – LVL UP
- “8 (circle)” – Bon Iver
- “Real Friends” – Kanye West feat. Ty Dolla $ign
- “Well” – Cymbals Eat Guitars
- “I Need A Forest Fire” – James Blake feat. Bon Iver
- “Self Control” – Frank Ocean
- “The Ballad of the Costa Concordia” – Car Seat Headrest
- “Wool in the Wash” – Crying
- “Finish Line / Drown” – Chance the Rapper feat. Noname, Eryn Allen Kane, T-Pain & Kirk Franklin
- “Cracked Windshield” – Hiss Golden Messenger
- “Golden Chords” – Deakin
- “Photobooth” – Joey Purp
- “Black Beatles” – Rae Sremmurd feat. Gucci Mane
- “Island” – Fear of Men
- “Sister” – Angel Olsen
- “Wat’s Wrong” – Isaiah Rashad feat. Kendrick Lamar
- “Daydreaming” – Radiohead
- “Reaper” – Sia
- “Kanye West” – Young Thug feat. Wyclef Jean
- “Shadow Man” – Noname feat. Phoelix, Saba & Smino
- “I Feel It Coming” – The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk
- “A 1000 Times” – Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam
- “Tookie Knows II” – ScHoolboy Q feat. Traffic & TF
- “Still Brazy” – YG
- “Dance In The Water” – Danny Brown
- “Breakdance Lesson N.1” – Kaytranada
- “Playin’ Fair” – Towkio feat. Joey Purp
- “Lost (Season One)” – Camp Cope
- “Let It Bang” – A$AP Ferg feat. ScHoolboy Q
- “Fake I.D.” – Joyce Manor
- “Higher” – Rihanna
- “Conceptual Romance” – Jenny Hval
- “I’m On” – Kamaiyah
- “DVP” – PUP
- “No Woman” – Whitney
- “Drowning” – Mick Jenkins feat. BadBadNotGood
- “Mad” – Solange feat. Lil Wayne
- “Drunk and On a Star” – Kevin Morby
- “Crying in Public” – Chairlift
- “untitled 08 | 09.06.2014” – Kendrick Lamar
- “Work” – Charlotte Day Wilson
- “I Can’t Give Everything Away” – David Bowie
- “Dinosaur Dying” – Sioux Falls
- “Paul” – Big Thief
- “Dang!” – Mac Miller feat. Anderson .Paak
- “Get to Know Ya” – Nao
- “Parking Lot” – Anderson .Paak
- “Bad and Boujee” – Migos feat. Lil Uzi Vert
*limited to one song per artist*
The Year in Lyrics:
“I’m loving all races, hell nah don’t discriminize” – Quavo
“Unbomfortable” – YG
“Skrrt skrrt skrrt like a private school for women” – Kanye
“Just wrote a book on how NOT to fit into social norms” – Saba
“Get god on the phone!” – Kendrick
“Pray for me, I’m about to hit the Ye button” – Kanye (the Ye button turned out to be a horrible, horrible thing)
“Didn’t I tell you that I was a savage?” – Rihanna
“I got a lot to be mad about
Got a lot to be a man about
Got a lot to pop a xan about
I used to rock hand-me-downs
And now I rock standing crowds”
– Lil Wayne
“Man my daughter couldn’t have a better mother
If she ever find another, he better love her” – Chance
“I Eurostep past a hater like I’m Rondo” – Gucci
“Sluggish, lazy, stupid, and unconcerned” – Frank Ocean’s mom
“Jumping in the pool with no swim wear gear” – Wyclef Jean
“I’m at your house like, ‘Why you got your couch on my Chucks?'” – Earl
“And white kids deal with problems that we never knew to bother
Arguing with they dads, we pray we ever knew our fathers”
“Inside of the Maybach look like it came out of Ikea” – 2 Chainz
“Play Metro Boomin at my funeral” – Smino
VEEP Character Power Rankings:
Best Live Performances, 2016:
T-1. Car Seat Headrest
T-1. Father John Misty
T-1. Julien Baker
T-1. Kevin Morby
I wish Kanye didn’t record his “All We Got” feature while he was brushing his teeth.
I have never knowingly listened to a song by Bryson Tiller.
I started driving a lot this year after four years of walking and biking everywhere. We don’t have an aux thing in our car, so good CDs are essential. Rap radio is also surprisingly fun these days as long as you can avoid “Controlla.” I have decided that Funeral by Arcade Fire is the best road trip album of all time. I got really into the Replacements’ Let It Be and Tim. Pavement’s Slanted and Enchanted is great but I always inadvertently turn it way too loud trying to hear the vocals. Used CDs are dangerously cheap.
I’ve listened to Endless maybe three times max.
How long until we put Ty Dolla $ign’s verse on “Impatient” in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame?
I love how the parental advisory on Telefone matches the color scheme of the cover art.
We need way fewer H*rambe references in rap lyrics.
I had an interview with a really solid company back in March. As I sat on the plane to go back to Tufts, where I was pretty broke, I listened to Kamaiyah sing “I’ve been broke all my life / Now wonder / How does it feel to be rich?” As we took off, I optimistically wondered the same thing, looking back on my day with a confident smile. I did not get the job.
Why did I download a 100 song Kool A.D. mixtape?
The hardest thing I did all year was try to recite Chance’s verse on “Girls @” in the car.
Prince is the greatest musician of all time to me. My dad introduced me to so much great music as a kid but Prince was the most important. I learned about how he changed his name to a symbol (which is a crazy concept when you’re like 10) and we watched Purple Rain together (when I was older than 10, don’t worry.) No music will ever be as fun as “I Would Die 4 U” and “Baby I’m A Star” back-to-back. This was tough to swallow. RIP.