33 reasons 2016 wasn’t all bad

metronomy

I’ve collected my favourite songs from last year in a 2 hours and 8 minutes long playlist. That might sound long. But that’s before you start listening, here.

  1. Frida Hyvönen – Imponera på mig (First single and an immediate female empowerment classic from one of the best Swedish language albums in years.)
  2. Metronomy – Night Owl (2016’s best pop song from England’s most under-rated pop song masters.)
  3. Kanye West – Waves (Say what you will about his person, but his musical genius is undisputed. This is just one example from a brilliant album)
  4. Tindersticks – Second Chance Man (Perhaps last year’s most important song on a personal level, a brooding theme song for my own self reflection.)
  5. Snakeships, Anderson Paak – Money On Me (2016’s best argument to buy a convertible or move to the US West Coast.)
  6. Frank Ocean – Nikes (The musical universe on ‘Solo’ took a while to get into, but when Frank sings “I’ll let you guys prophesy, we’ve gone see the future first” it’s an apt metaphor for the level he is operating at.)
  7. Willie West – I’m Still A Man (Lord Have Mercy) (Released by a Finnish label (!) in the autumn on 2015 – with the instrumental version appearing in the trailer for the 2016 film Paterson – this minimalist soul jam about being left for another man, sung with verve by 78 year old Willie West, is retro soul at its absolute best.
  8. Blood Orange – Best to You (Perhaps 2016’s most immediate start to a song, which is then followed by Dev Hynes’ melodic and airy disco funk sounds.)
  9. Håkan Hellström – Pärlor (A shameless attempt by Sweden’s biggest artist to become Bruce Springsteen, but as an outcast anthem it’s impossible to discard.)
  10. Angel Olsen – Intern (She used to be a bit too brooding, but on her 2016 album Angel got the balance just right. “I don’t care what the papers say, it’s just another intern with a resume” is one of my favourite lines from last year.)
  11. Anderson Paak – Come Down (2016’s best Kendrick Lamar replacement.)
  12. Rae Sremmurd, Gucci Mane – Black Beatles (A frustratingly uneven duo, but when they get it right, as they did with this unexpected mega hit, they‘re addictive.)
  13. Parquet Courts – Human Performance (This arty Brooklyn post-punk orchestra keeps moving the needle forward in their own way, here with one of last year’s best guitar driven choruses.)
  14. Amanda Bergman – Blue Eyes (One of my favourite voices in music, this is a slow burner that seems ready made for driving at night.)
  15. Skepta – Shutdown (The definite London anthem of 2016 (even though it came out in 2015); an in your face aggressive and hilarious flag bearer for the current grime revival.)
  16. Nick Waterhouse (feat. Leon Bridges) – Katchi (unapologetically catchy retro rnb/funk from a ridiculously underrated artist.)
  17. Eleanor Friedberger – Open Season (Perfect 70s sounding easy listening rock, a playful nod to Neil Young’s masterpiece ‘On the Beach’.)
  18. Basia Bulat – Infamous (A perfectly crafted folk pop number with a strong chorus that I thought would (and should) become a hit.)
  19. The Comet is Coming – Space Carnival (Psychedelic jazz funk is not normally my cup of tea, but Space Carnival packs one of the catchiest trumpets I’ve ever heard. One of the most pleasant surprises last year.)
  20. Alexis Taylor – I’m ready (The Hot Chip singer’s album is a minimalistic gem that is about the most soothing thing to be released in 2016. Beautiful, understated and underrated.)
  21. Vince Staples – Pimp Hand (Perennially angry and publicly feuding West Coast rapper who continues to avoid melodies and catchy hooks, which is just fine with rap skills like these.)
  22. Maria Andersson – Lift Me Up (2016’s best build-up, it’s actually pretty much all build-up, wrapped around one repeated verse.)
  23. Pusha T – H.G.T.V. Freestyle (Dry beat, dry flow, ominous base, and that excellent rhyme “9 to 5 money is just as sweet as the grave shift / El presidenté, Blowbama, blow by ya /Chopper next to me in every picture, Osama”.)
  24. Klangstof – Hostage (Smooth. Ridiculously smooth.)
  25. Fekky, Giggs – Gossip (2016’s best siren/gunshot/cowbell grime tune.)
  26. Bon Iver – 33 “GOD” (It seemed too ambitious and convoluted at first, but the emotions that Bon Iver manage to evoke are simple and difficult to escape.)
  27. PARTYNEXTDOOR (feat. Drake ) – Come and See Me (Turns out that this year’s best Drake song was not made by Drake, although he did play his part in this relationship melodrama.)
  28. Lambchop – NIV (These alt country veterans deliver a surprisingly light and catchy gem with some brilliant synth hooks and unexpected auto tune.)
  29. Okkervil River – Okkervil River R.I.P. (What better way to return to form than with a lighter sound and an eulogy for your own band?)
  30. Peter Bjorn & John – Breakin’ Point (another lecture in pop song writing from my Swedish favourites.)
  31. Lee Fields & The Impressions – Never Be Another You (Lee Field’s old man soul continues to hit a nerve with his honesty, brilliant band and a voice that has lived.)
  32. Marlon Williams – Dark Child (Retro alt-country that makes the most of Marlon’s voice, an effortless croon that is difficult not to get caught up in.)
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It takes an ocean not to break part 2: Drake and morning sex

Rap music took a bigger place in my world of music this year than during many other years. I saw Talib Kweli, who I have long admired for his amazing flow and his guest appearance on my favorite Kanye West track Get Em’ High, rap his way through a nice Way Out West set together with Hi-Tek.

The biggest new name for me in 2010 was without a doubt Drake. After releasing his 2009 mixtape So Far Gone, where he samples both Peter Bjorn & John’s Let’s Call it Off and Lykke Li’s Little Bit, he released his first proper full length debut in 2010 with Thank Me Later. I’ve struggled to pin point what it is that makes Drake so good, except for his indisputable skills both as a raspy rapper and as a soul full RNB singer. One appealing thig with Drake is his self-depreciating side, he doesn’t mind taking swings at himself, as in The Resistance where he raps about the disillusionment of fame:

‘I heard they just moved my grandmother to a nursing home.
And I be acting like I don’t know how to work a phone.
But hit redial you see that I just called, some chick I met at the mall,
that I barley know at all and..
Plus this woman that I messed with unprotected
Texting saying that she wish she would’ve kept it.
The one that I’m laying next to just looked over and read it.
Man I couldn’t tell you where the fuck my head is, I’m holding on by a thread it’s..
Like I’m high right now, the guy right now, and you can tell by looking in my eyes right now.
That nothing really comes as a surprise right now,
’cause we just having the time of our lives right now.

Even though his lyrics are no masterpieces he always delivers a sincere attitude which is refreshing, and with beats that almost always deliver the groundwork is made in songs like Miss Me, where Drake and Lil Wayne battle it out in five minute banger that manages to both be party and romantic longing in one. In Shut It Down Drake and The Dream goes on some serious RNB style ‘I love woman praising’ and I buy it all, even the overblown chorus.

In Over he goes grand with marching drums and strings as he if is the new Kanye West while Kareoke shows of his smooth voice as he worries about a girlfriend he has lost. Drake gets away with everything on Thank Me Later and his blend of pop, rnb and rap has not been done this brilliantly since Justin Timberlakes’ 2006 masterpiece FutureSex/ Lovesounds.

Other impossibly amazing rap musicians included Black Milk (Black and Brown with the early Amsterdam reference and relentless tempo an outstanding example), Jay Electronica (who I wrote about in this remembering Spain post) and J. Cole who is signed to Jay-Z’s label (where Jay Electronica is also present) and who has made the best songs about morning sex ever together with Drake.