Music Lists 2016

16 min readOct 30, 2019

As published on a now-deleted Facebook page on 12/31/16

Everyone I know is getting an Amazon Echo, and I don’t like it.

My parents were first. Then the CEO of my company. Now my roommate has one. Amazon reportedly sold millions this month. I don’t like it.

There’s something unsettling about a non-sentient being talking back to you on a consistent basis, and there’s something especially unsettling about a machine that records and archives everything you ask.

It comes as no surprise, then, to see police requesting Amazon Echo data in a murder investigation, presumably recorded during a moment when the subject of inquiry felt completely alone. I do not like this. Also, this probably goes without saying, but murder is bad. Bad!

But look at me (“look at me” — quote of 2016 btw), I’m whining about my privacy while simultaneously publishing this project on The Facebook, which knows nearly everything about me. And then some.

Hypocritical, right? It’s kind of like needing to see a video to understand what domestic violence means.

Or, I don’t know, like needing to hear an audio recording to know how the former owner of Miss Universe thinks about women. Vicious viscerality.

In the weeks following the election of Donald Trump, people started talking a lot about how filter bubbles caused the spread of “fake news.” (At least, they did in my filter bubble.)

Our newsfeeds give us media/news based on what Facebook thinks we want, meaning we only get exposed to ideas, concepts, and stories that reinforce what we already believe. This happens everywhere Online.

And it’s happening with music, too.

According to this year’s Nielsen Music 360 Report, published in September 2016, “80% of music listeners used an online streaming service in the last 12 months”

I assume the online streaming services referenced were Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, Pandora, Amazon Unlimited, and let’s say Deezer.

Here’s where things get interesting. Despite different options with roughly similar catalogues, Spotify’s algorithmic playlists have more listeners than Apple Music and Tidal combined.

This news broke in May and may have changed between now and then, but it doesn’t matter. Facts don’t matter. People, in general, make decisions with emotions. Not facts. Facts don’t matter. And, like him or not, Donald Trump is brilliant for exploiting this fact, and that seems to matter.

I’ll get to the point. Spotify, like Facebook (and others), identifies what type of music people like and feeds them more of that music, meaning, as the trend toward algorithmic music discovery continues, unless people actively seek out different genres, they will never be exposed to different genres.

Now obviously the stakes aren’t anywhere close to news consumption, which, despite the emotional power of music, has I assume a much bigger effect on
t h e z e i t g e i s t.

This isn’t new. People have “always” picked their ideas/beliefs/music/etc and stuck with them — think about your parents Grumbling At The News or only listening to your favorite channels on the radio.

When different ideas conflict with your worldview, it’s easier to dismiss them than listen and understand. Nobody wants to be wrong. I don’t want to be wrong.

However, with limited media options in the past (limited both functionally and in choices), it was nearly impossible to avoid differing opinions.

Now, with The Power Of Online, we ignore ads and rely on algorithms to reaffirm what we think, effectively creating worlds and realities for ourselves where we are always right. I’m generalizing, but that’s 100% a fact.

If the Amazon Echo is any indication, we generally prefer convenience to privacy. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say we generally prefer convenience to different ideas, too — hope I’m wrong.

Let’s end this bad boy on a positive note. In spite of how convenient and easy and desirable it is to individualize your life, there’s something to be said about singing your favorite songs with a bunch of people who are increasingly different but all feel the same way in that moment. (I wrote all of this to say: Concerts Are Good.)

Without further ado, here’s my favorite music of 2016:

Favorite Songs

50. Flume, Vince Staples — Smoke & Retribution

49. M83 — Go! ft. MAI LAN

48. Kendrick Lamar — untitled 02 | 06.23.2014

47. Local Natives — Masters

46. Rihanna — Work ft. Drake

45. STRFKR — When I’m With You

44. Angel Olsen — Shut Up Kiss Me

43. A Tribe Called Quest — Solid Wall of Sound ft. Elton John

42. Whitney — Follow

41. Run The Jewels — Thursday in the Danger Room ft. Kamasi Washington

40. Sylvan Esso — Radio

39. Two Door Cinema Club — Lavender

38. The Weeknd — Starboy ft. Daft Punk

37. Beyoncé — 6 Inch ft. The Weeknd

36. Policá — Lime Habit

35. Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam — A 1000 Times

34. NEEDTOBREATHE — HAPPINESS (Disclaimer: My company helped promote this song #sponsored?)

33. Anne-Marie — Alarm

32. Frank Ocean — Nikes

31. Drake — One Dance ft. WizKid, Kyla

30. Justice — Safe and Sound

29. Chance The Rapper — All We Got (ft. Kanye West and Chicago Children’s Choir)

28. Bon Iver — 33 “God”

27. Twenty One Pilots — Heathens

26. Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals — Lite Weight

25. Glass Animals — Cane Shuga

24. ZHU, Skrillex, THEY — Working For It

23. Chairlift — Polymorphing

22. Rae Sremmurd — Black Beatles ft. Gucci Mane

21. Sia — The Greatest ft. Kendrick Lamar

20. The Weeknd — I Feel It Coming ft. Daft Punk

19. Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals — The Waters ft. BJ The Chicago Kid

18. Kanye West — No More Parties In LA ft. Kendrick Lamar

17. Glass Animals — Life Itself

16. Desiigner — Panda

15. Japanese Breakfast — Everybody Wants To Love You

14. Local Natives — Fountain Of Youth

13. Blood Orange — Best To You ft. Empress Of

12. Two Door Cinema Club — Are We Ready? (Wreck)

11. Kiiara — Gold

10. Car Seat Headrest — Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales

09. Beyoncé — Freedom ft. Kendrick Lamar

08. STRFKR — Dark Days

07. Kanye West ft. Chris Brown — Waves

06. YG, Nipsey Hussle — FDT

05. Maggie Rogers — Alaska

04. A Tribe Called Quest — We The People…

03. Car Seat Headrest — The Ballad of Costa Concordia

02. Frank Ocean — Ivy

01. James Blake — Timeless

Spotify Playlist of Brian’s Top Songs of 2016

Favorite Albums

Disclaimer: A few friends contributed to my album list this year. For the most part, they did this without knowing what I would write or what tracks I would callout as my favorites or the general order of everything. If you disagree with my order or any of the things I have said anywhere in this note, take out your anger on me, not them.

Or maybe don’t get angry because this is just some guy’s list and he doesn’t have time to listen to everything ever and also he uncompromisingly belongs to “Indie Rock and Hip-Hop” Filter Bubble because who cares about hearing different music. If your different then your wrong. And nobody wants to be wrong. #FACTS

25. Two Door Cinema Club — Gameshow

Favorite Tracks: Are We Ready (Wreck), Lavender, Le Viens De La

24. Ariana Grande — Dangerous Woman

Favorite Tracks: Dangerous Woman, Into You, Greedy

23. Japanese Breakfast — Psychopomp

Favorite Tracks: The Woman That Loves You, Everybody Wants to Love You

22. Local Natives — Sunlit Youth

Favorite Tracks: Villainy, Fountain Of Youth, Masters, Coins

21. The Avalanches — Wildflower

Favorite Tracks: Because I’m Me, Frankie Sinatra, If I Was A Folkstar

From Kristian Mundahl, co-host of the yet-to-be-acclaimed-,-or-even-noticed-at-all podcast The Knowledge is Power Hour (which I also co-host):

“The best part about Wildflower, the 2016 offering from The Avalanches is that it defies description. You could start out by saying that it’s an album made up entirely of samples — but that fails to really put into words the sheer library of songs that make up this mosaic of an album. You could point out that it’s the first album from The Avalanches in sixteen years, as the group of Australian DJs poured over actual libraries of vinyls to craft it but you might still not grasp the titanic achievement represented by Wildflower. Each song is stitched together from snippets and bass lines and bridges of other songs, an insane song-writing style that Wikipedia calls “plunderphonics.” As each song weaves to and fro from seventies R&B to fifties doo-wop, you feel like you’re zooming out on a work of pointillism and discovering that by god, this is just one big, vivid masterpiece that creates an image all its own. And none of this would really work if the songs themselves weren’t catchy as all hell. They bounce and groove and yearn and the spare live vocals from Danny Brown and others feel like they actually belong in these kaleidoscopes of musical history. Near the end of the album, there’s a spoken word song, three words that would normally make my ears glaze over immediately. But goddamn, does it work and this passionate reading of “A Cowboy Overflow of the Heart” over synths and warped vocals gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.”

20. Noname — Telefone

Favorite Tracks: Sunny Duet, Forever

19. Radiohead — A Moon Shaped Pool

Favorite Tracks: Burn the Witch, Ful Stop, Identikit

18. James Blake — The Colour In Anything

Favorite Tracks: Radio Silence, Timeless, I Need A Forest Fire

17. Chairlift — Moth

Favorite Tracks: Polymorphing, Ch-Ching, Moth to the Flame

16. Parquet Courts — Human Performance

Favorite Tracks: Dust, Outside, Berlin Got Blurry

15. Solange — A Seat at the Table

Favorite Tracks: Cranes In The Sky, Don’t Touch My Hair

14. Chance the Rapper — Coloring Book

Favorite Tracks: All We Got, Summer Friends, All Night, How Great

“If Chance found his voice with Acid Rap, he found his team in the star-studded release of Coloring Book. In some ways, Chance’s third release resembles the work of others in the genre. (Guests like Kanye West, 2 Chainz, and Justin Bieber grace the album with their familiar sounds.) But Chicago’s Pride and Joy continues to defy convention with his firm anti-music-label position and one-of-a-kind sound. Coloring Book is a fitting title for this sonic rainbow that moves between hip-hop, gospel, and R&B. Up-tempo songs like “No Problem”, “Angels”, and “All Night” highlight Chance’s charisma, energy, and humor. While “How Great”, “Blessings”, and “Same Drugs” center on more serious topics of family, spirituality, and growing up. Despite his quick rise to fame, it’s clear Chance is staying true to his roots. Coloring Book’s thematic diversity, wholesome positivity, and stylistic range give the album its widespread appeal.”

-Patrick Buggy, who runs Mindful Ambition, which gives very good advice about achieving goals and balancing life in the process

One other cool thing about Coloring Book: the group that puts on the Grammys updated their rules for it.

13. STRFKR — Being No One, Going Nowhere

Favorite Tracks: Open Your Eyes, When I’m With You, Dark Days

12. Run The Jewels — Run The Jewels 3

Favorite Tracks: Down, Call Ticketron, Thursday in the Danger Room, A Report To The Shareholders / Kill Your Masters

This one was hard to place because it was released a week ago. It’s full of bangers, though. I suspect it would be higher with more time to listen. Tried not to put it too far down the list because people overvalue things they’re paying attention to / listening to at the moment they make decisions.

11. Danny Brown — Atrocity Exhibition

Favorite Tracks: Tell Me What I Don’t Know, Ain’t It Funny, Golddust, Dance In The Water

10. Angel Olsen — MY WOMAN

Favorite Tracks: Intern, Shut Up Kiss Me, Not Gonna Kill You

9. Bon Iver — 22, A Million

Favorite Tracks: 10 d E A T h b R E a s T, 715 — CREEKS, 33 “GOD”, 29 #Strafford APTS

Very experimental but still retains The Bon Iver Essence. Gets better with each listen.

8. A Tribe Called Quest — We Got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service

Favorite Tracks: We The People…, Solid Wall Of Sound

Very insightful, chill, and feels like a classic. First album they’ve put out this millennium (hard word to spell, by the way!).

Also, this is not why I included this album in the list, but it didn’t hurt that “We The People…” contains a lyric about Tony Romo and Jason Witten. Miss ya, Tony

7. Frank Ocean — Blonde

Favorite Tracks: Nikes, Ivy, Nights, White Ferrari

Don’t have a lot to say about Frank Ocean that hasn’t already been said, but this album is great, the rollout was fascinating, and it’s impressive that he (while burning every bridge in the process) almost singlehandedly made the biggest label group in the world rethink its position on exclusive streaming releases.

6. Anderson .Paak — Malibu

Favorite Tracks: The Waters, Am I Wrong, Lite Weight

“In a year of sweeping generalizations and panic from all sides, the sophomore album from rapper and songwriter Anderson .Paak was a much-needed departure from the hysteria. Malibu is intensely personal and reflective, honoring the history of .Paak’s own life and the history of music in America. Between expansive grooves, crooning vocals and the snap of the drums, the album showcases a diversity of sound in one smooth, insanely listenable package. Plus, with collaborations with folks like ScHoolboy Q, The Game and Talib Kweli, it’s no wonder Malibu was one of the hands down best albums of the year.”

-Riley Beggin, who neglected to mention that she saw their NPR Tiny Desk performance firsthand!

Also, they were my favorite live act this year.

5. Glass Animals — How To Be A Human Being

Favorite Tracks: Life Itself, Pork Soda, Cane Shuga, Agnes

I was hyped to learn Glass Animals had a new album coming out and was immediately disappointed when they released a statement that opened an explanation about the album with

“Its called How to be a Human Being and its about people. The idea came from a bunch of recordings I made of conversations. “


Regardless, it’s infectiously catchy and has a handful of songs I would repeat 20+ times. Two other cool things:

-Glass Animals is/are (Is the is are?) a fun underdog.

-They do something really cool with their album’s concept at live shows.

4. Whitney — Light Upon The Lake

Favorite Tracks: No Woman, Golden Days, Polly, Follow

I have a tendency to get pretty anxious from time to time. Running has always been a reliable antidote. I’ve found this album to be helpful, too. Not quite sure what it does exactly, but it’s soothing and relaxing and very catchy.

3. Beyoncé — Lemonade

Favorite Tracks: Hold Up, 6 Inch, Freedom, All Night

If we’re speaking solely about Lemonade, I would say that Beyoncé has mastered the art of production. She gathers some of the strongest minds in the industry with a vision and then goes forth and not only produces music that has depth in lyric, sound and features but that has detailed visual accompaniment. While many argue that she lacks the artistry of someone who plays the instruments and writes every lyric of their album, she has the gift of voice and vision. Few artists make an album that shows as much completeness as Beyoncé does, especially when considering that Lemonade follows a plot line unlike the previous visual album. Also important is the political and social comments she continues to make that have clearly helped charge the conversation in music and culture.

-Natalie Maggiore, a cool person and the biggest Beyoncé fan I know (as far as I know)

I ranked this album so high because it sounds pure/powerful and has awesome collaborations. I liked that she was willing to potentially alienate fans at the Super Bowl and the Country Music Awards by being honest. Finally, “the release of Lemonade proves again that innovating in the industry means changing the way music is created, distributed, and promoted.”

2. Car Seat Headrest — Teens of Denial

Favorite Tracks: Drugs With Friends, Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales, The Ballad of Costa Concordia

“Teens of Denial” is a stellar album that surprises me on every listen with just how many punches it packs. It starts good and it stays good for 70 whole minutes. But the reason I love this album is one song and yes it’s the obvious one. “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” is one of those songs I’ve listened to so many times that I don’t need to anymore but still do. On the first couple listens I was like, “Hm, what does it mean? What are the whales?” But then I realized that was a stupid question and not everything has to be a goshdarn enigma. The Drunk Drivers are drunk drivers. The Killer Whales are killer whales. Or cars. Whatever. The point is, the song tells you to your face, “It doesn’t have to be like this.” To me, it takes on more meaning as a literal example than a metaphor. We don’t have to kill people with cars. We don’t have to do whatever it is we do to whales. (I was just at Sea World, don’t @ me.) Consequences exist, inertia isn’t momentum, and all main choruses should start at 3min. ha!”

-Brandon Foster, who also made a list

I chose this album because it’s completely honest and every track (and whale) is a killer.

1. Kanye West — The Life of Pablo

Favorite Tracks: Ultralight Beam, Waves, FML, No More Parties In LA

From Emily Treadgold, editor-in-chief and founder of The New Nine:

Kanye has never strayed from controversy. His highly-hyped 8th studio album rolled out during his Yeezy Season 3 fashion show. You’d be hard pressed to find another album that influenced our culture so much this year. Of course, the album itself is a masterpiece. “The media said he’s way out of control, I just feel like I’m the only one not pretending, I’m not out of control, I’m just not in they control,” and “Check my Instagram comments to crowd source my self esteem,” Kanye was playing on everything we were saying about him and controlled the conversation. His lyrics have defined the zeitgeist of the year. Every moment of this album became a trending topic. The lyric about Taylor Swift, Kim Kardashian’s take-down of Taylor Swift, the floating stage on the tour, and finally his inevitable check in to a hospital. Everything he does makes headlines and he’s well aware of that. That’s what made this one of the biggest and best albums of the year.”

The New Nine represent the muses, fangirls, and tastemakers that empower the music industry.

From Demi Adejuyigbe, A True Savant of Content:

Kanye made a name for himself by leading new trends in hip hop, be it through his lyrics or once-famous production style. The Life of Pablo is the first album he’s made where he eschews that and instead opts to show the world that he’s good at doing the same thing everybody else is- which is disappointing… but not entirely wrong. Kanye is still a master of the craft. He just doesn’t seem interested in reinventing what that craft is anymore.

I, Brian, chose Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo as my favorite album of the year because it was the most dynamic release of the year. On-demand streaming is the future of music listening, and Kanye exploited the medium by making “edits” to his album, weeks and months after he initially put it up. His label released the following statement:

“In the months to come, Kanye will release new updates, new versions and new iterations of the album,” calling it a “continuous process.” (New York Times)

Some people compared this tactic to patching software. Regardless, it was different and it was fascinating.

There are so many people competing for our attention at all times. The overstimulation gets exhausting. For better or worse, and I’m sure that many people are rolling their eyes because It’s Definitely For Worse, Kanye West commands attention. And he gets it because you trust that he’s saying exactly what he thinks.

Kanye ended 2016 by canceling the second leg of his tour and checking into a hospital for mental health. This shouldn’t affect how his music is perceived, but considering he views his life as “walking performance art,” it’s unnerving.

Then he met with Donald Trump. I don’t get it, and I have no idea what to expect. It’s a strange cap to a strange year. I’m still paying attention.

Honorable Mentions

  1. Weird Darryl & The Gusty Winds — “Weird Darryl left too soon. He and the Gusty Winds, with the surprising help of Ringo Starr, created some of the best and most formative country tunes in the history of the Southwest. This bootleg of his last concert contains the legendary “Both Kinds,” whose chorus The Blues Brothers famously borrowed for their cult film.” -Robert Langellier

2) Jeff Rosenstock, whose album “WORRY.” I listened to a little bit too late.

3) The Hamburger Helper Mixtape

4) Drake, for having the first song to pass one billion streams on Spotify. Way to go

Thanks for reading, and to all of the people who helped make this happen. 2016 got a bad rap, but I think it got a lot of good rap (and hip hop and indie rock). I’m looking forward to next year (this year). I think we all are. Let me know how bad my lists were and how stupid I am below.