I am not ashamed to say that this year I started going to a meditation class and I find it really helpful. I’ve really leaned on this song to help me, especially post the election. The opening line “Close your eyes and remember I am not in control,” it was like Daniel Blumberg managed to capture the concept of meditation in a song without pulling some cockamamie tricks involving sitars and/or sampling people chanting or something. There was a period of time where I would listen to this song every morning when I got into my car before going to work. Thanks Daniel!
Micachu & the Shapes
I can’t remember if I saw Mica Levi play live in Philadelphia in 2016, or if it happened in 2015. Either way, I believe she is a true arteest and I like how gritty and growly and dudeish she is while being simultaneously melodic and always Beatley. Just tonight I was talking about her and I compared her to Brian Wilson and my husband said, “But she’s not crazy,” and I said, “Oh come on! She’s totally crazy. She’s a genius.” I meant it all as a compliment.
“Dancing in the Moonlight (John Peel Session)”
Sometimes I get really sick of the music on my iPod and when I put it on shuffle I just skip, skip, skip over tracks. It’s both the pro and con of living in a time period where you can carry around thousands of songs in your pocket. This is a song I never skip….ever. I can’t skip it because it’s just too good. No matter how many times I listen to it I pretty much always laugh when Phil Lynott says, “It’s so goddamn hot!” Also, writing lyrics about getting chocolate stains on your pants, who does that?
Department Store Cassette Company
It might seem like an easy thing to take samples and put them into songs, but I don’t think it is actually easy at all. I think it is really difficult and takes a lot of time and attention to detail. This song has great samples and the music that binds it together is fun too. I am simultaneously terrified and intrigued by Tony Robbins. If you haven’t watched that “documentary” (which is really a long commercial) about him on Netflix, hop to it.
This is another song with samples, but the real mind blowing fact here is that this song is circa 1982. How did people sample things then? Cassette tapes? Reel to reel tape? I don’t know. Apparently the audio is from Gomer Pyle which is a show I am aware of, but really know nothing about, and have never watched. This song makes me laugh every time I listen to it. I also have to be honest, I have a penchant for repetitiveness and this song is certainly soothingly repetitive.
Also (I know I’m breaking the rules) but I would also like to mention “The Big Ship” by Brian Eno. I think that song might capture what it sounds/feels like inside of my heart. And, for a wham/bam combination of major sadness and super good production there’s also “Pops” by Angel Olsen.”The Hills” by the Weeknd impressed me as well because there is a part of it that sounds like “Running up that Hill” by Kate Bush and it’s got that dope beat drop. As an aside, I do have some concerns about your mental health/lifestyle choices Mr. Weeknd but I will never question your use of beats. And let’s not also forget….. okay, I’ll stop!
Beyoncé feat Jack White
“Don’t Hurt Yourself”
I honestly wish Jack White weren’t singing on this, but he helped write it and damn that music video is everything. Wait maybe I should’ve said Formation. [I mean, Every. Single. Thing. on Beyoncé’s Lemonade is a shattering revelation. oh, Except for Sandcastles. I mean, really.]
Recommended pairing: righteous rage.
(This is a live performance. . . let’s just watch the visual album right now together real quick)
The Velvet Underground
I never got this band before. But then. . . I had an experience early this year with this album and since then I refuse to return to the planet. It’s beautiful out here.
Recommended pairings: snow, nighttime.
Chance The Rapper feat Lil Wayne & 2 Chainz
“Same Drugs” AND “No Problem”
Hard to pick a track from this album (almost went with Blessings). I’m just so grateful for everything he’s given and is giving us. Praise.
Recommended pairing for “No Problem:” driving around with friends.
Recommended pairing for “Same Drugs:” driving around after seeing old friends.
“Fools Rush In”
This is the best cover I have ever heard in my life (okay, barring a few exceptional exceptions) and I listen to this song every single damn day and so should you, maybe particularly if you’re throwing yourself headlong into love, which I sincerely hope you are.
Recommended pairing: early morning.
“Good as Hell”
This song and music video has helped me reach for joy this year.
Recommended pairing: end of workday drink.
2016 was kind of a hard year. My playlist was full of people I couldn’t believe died, show tunes, covers, and older songs that make me feel not so tired.
Prince (but also Lydia Lovelace’s version is great, too)
“I Would Die 4 U”
I would also accept it in pretty much any form, particularly the original Hedwig Boardway recording, Neil Patrick Harris, Andrew Rannells
Lin-Manuel Miranda et al from Hamilton
“I’m young, scrappy and hungry / And I’m not throwing away my shot.” Oh youth…
Karl Hendricks Trio
“Thank God We Have Limes”
I mean really.
“The Wrong Band”
Put on your raincoat again.
“Ready for the Magic”
“Watching the Waiting”
Them Are Us Too
“The Problem with Redheads”
Gorgeous and transcendent. This song, co-written by one of the artists who perished in the Oakland warehouse fire, is what helped me get through the emotions of that close-to-home tragedy.
“Fornicate with the Dragon”
Solo project from the vocalist of “cholo goth/killwave ” duo Prayers. I’m so in love with this beat.
The Vainest Knives
“Whirl My Way”
I feel weird about putting one of my own songs on my list, but it’s a very meaningful song for me, and I’ve listened to it repeatedly throughout the last half of this year.
Dreamy. Catchy. Garage-y. Psych-y. Style-y.
“Liquor and Whores”
I challenge anyone to listen to this song from the “Trailer Park Boys” and not get it stuck in your head for a week.
Stay tuned for Part II of “Top 5” picks from more of our beloved writers (Friday 12/30)