By: Cole Henry
2016 has been a pretty great year for music and here are the 10 songs that stood out to me the most.
10. Call Me Up by HOMESHAKE
HOMESHAKE is the musical endeavor of Peter Sagar, ex-Mac Demarco guitarist, and his sound is rooted deeply in the temporal plane of lo-fi aesthetics, smoky basements, and rainy days. Call Me Up is about love, as most of Peter’s songs are, and it is about always being there for the one you love. The synthesizers and subtle bass give the song a sexual overtone in that it has a sensual rhythmic groove. It is quite possibly the catchiest song of the year, in my opinion.
9. Human Performance by Parquet Courts Parquet Courts need no introduction because anyone who enjoys modern indie rock knows these guys are the best of the best. Their sound is methodical and layered, their lyrics meandering and poetic, and their sound is wholly distinct. On this track, Adam Savage’s abrasive voice sings of a love that is leaving him. We have all felt what he sings about. The song is about breakups, and it is realistic. It masks immense sorrow/longing under a veil of anger. Love is beautiful yet ugly when it has to be, and this song captures that idea perfectly.
8. Sometimes by Oscar Oscar Scheller is a London based indie rocker whose sound is upbeat, energetic, and fun. He has a similar deep baritone to that of Morrissey but he chooses to sing about the fun aspects of life rather than the gloomy or the macabre. Sometimes is about how a lover can make everything better and keep you happy, but only sometimes. Scheller confidently sings over deceptively simple guitar and drums to create a liberating indie jam for the ages.
7. Cinnamon by Cullen Omori Cullen Omori, ex-frontman of the Smith Westerns, has been open with his struggle with drugs post band split. Cinnamon is an 80’s infused dark pop ballad to overcoming those struggles, and thank god he did because Cinnamon and the album it belongs to are brilliant. Omori invites us to find the light in his darkness.
6. Heart of Life by Marching Church Marching Church is lead singer of Ice Age, Elias Bender Ronnenfelt’s, side project. Elias’s grasp over English, as a language, has grown and thus he sounds more confident in his poetic musings and screams/croans which is important because Heart of Life features lyrics such as “fist fucked by destiny.” His confidence in the lyrical delivery of such bombastic lines makes it feel warranted in the narrative of the song, and Heart of Life features immensely layered production. It is a surprisingly upbeat and fast paced song for a band that dwells in misery. It is an endearing breath of fresh air.
5. Security (Water Version) by Porches Porches’ 2015 ep Pool was a beautiful dark lo-fi dance record. 2016’s Water is an ep full of samples from Pool. The standout track on it is Security. It is a beautiful song about desperately wanting to feel secure in one’s chaotic life. Anyone could relate to it. The minimalist production that backs up Aaron Maine’s baritone vocals helps to create a vibe of solitary sadness that everyone, no matter how happy they are, knows all too well.
4. Before the Wall by Kyle Craft Kyle Craft might be the biggest surprise, musically, to come out of 2016. The Louisiana native sounds like a man out of time torn between Bob Dylan and Neil Young, and he just might be the savior folk rock desperately needs. He channels Bob Dylan on this track singing about the fucked up part(s) of American society. He crafts an allegorical tale about our next four years under the rein of our newly elected megalomaniac, Donald Trump. The scathing black humor on display in the song is all to real, and Craft is using music as a stark form of protest.
3. Sister by Angel Olson
Angel Olson has one of the best voices I have ever heard, and the song Sister lets her sing her heart out for over seven minutes. The song meanders both lyrically and sonicly as we follow Olson on her journey to find her sister. Yet, in the end this sister character turns out out to be the care free spirit hidden deep inside Olson’s fragmented self. It is a deeply personal and ultimately beautiful song.
2. Destroyer by Kevin Morby
Kevin Morby is, without a doubt, the Bob Dylan of my generation. His folk tendencies are beautiful and yet he can still dive headfirst into a rock ballad. Morby’s lyricism is poetic and full of deeply profound musings on life, love, and society. His music is both tragic and beautiful. Destroyer falls somewhere between tragic and beautiful as it is about a long lost lover that parted ways with him and how she is gone from him. Yet, the song is also about where he is going and how he’ll move on. The piano and saxophone on display give the song a beautifully fleeting and melancholic soundscape.
- I Need You by Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds Nick Cave has crafted songs about death and sorrow for decades and yet they have always had some emotional disconnect to them. That is not true anymore as Cave’s latest album Skeleton Tree is one of the most personal and intimate records about sadness and death ever recorded. In 2015, Cave’s 15 year old son passed away after falling off a cliff in Northern England. In “I Need You” Cave muses on about how he needs his son and longs for him. You can hear him on the verge of breaking down, and he always seems to be holding back tears. It is a song that will move anyone and yes it is haunting but there is a fleeting beauty in it that anyone who knows or has dealt with loss will be able to find.