Song lists have always been pretty difficult for me. I’m generally a very album-centric guy, so when it came to picking out my favorite songs of previous years, I could usually name one pretty easily, but everything after that was pretty difficult.
However, while I still find difficulty in ranking songs, I decided to challenge myself and finally do it this year, even limiting myself to one song per artist. So without further ado, here are my top 3 songs of 2016.
3. David Bowie — “I Can’t Give Everything Away”
David Bowie is dead. This is now a fact that we can’t try to debunk. David Bowie is dead and seemingly — the world is a worse off place for it. My first introduction to Mr. Bowie was actually the first single for this album, “Blackstar”. I had always heard about Bowie but never gave him a proper listen as he never really played on the nearby classic rock stations and my parents played a minimal role in my current music taste. Anyways, after being blown away by this song, I dug through his discography and realized that holy shit, this dude was great.
After listening to a ton of albums by Bowie, I became increasingly more excited for Blackstar as seemingly this was going to be his most out-there work yet. Once it came out, I loved it. The experimental jazz instrumentation fit perfectly over Bowie’s aged voice and arcane lyrics. Two days after Blackstar was released, David Bowie died and a lot about this album started to make more sense.
“I Can’t Give Everything Away” was one of the tracks that made almost complete sense in the wake of Bowie’s death. Before he died, I assumed Bowie had a lot left in the tank and could hit a new career peak. Bowie knew this too. However, as the song itself says, Bowie couldn’t give everything away. The man still had more to say and increasingly unique ways to say it. He was truly something special and I miss him every day. Everything feels weird now without him.
2. James Blake — “Radio Silence”
The date is May 5th. I’m currently sitting in the office of my school newspaper absolutely dreading a math final I’m about to take in two hours. Additionally, I’m three months past a breakup I’m not quite over as I hit a certain mark that made me unconditionally miss my ex. I’m browsing /r/indieheads like usual and see that… oh my god, it’s finally coming out. Radio Silence was finally here — except it wasn’t called Radio Silence, it was now called The Colour In Anything.
And — oh my god he just dropped three songs from it before it comes out tonight. Holy shit one of them is “Radio Silence” which I’ve been waiting on for year since I heard the live version. I have to listen to this immediately.
So I did. Seven months later, I’m mostly over that breakup but the pain I felt when listening to the album version of “Radio Silence” still lingers. Everytime I hear those opening ghostly vocal melodies and those glitched pianos, I know I can’t escape what I’m about to feel. I’m about to take a journey back to a worse time in my life, but one that I’ve learned that it’s okay to go back to. I have to be reminded of the pain I once felt to get better now, and no song does that better for me than “Radio Silence.”
1. Car Seat Headrest — “Vincent”
Since this song came out, I knew it was going to be my song of the year. Other songs might have briefly took its place, but I ended up always coming back to “Vincent.” The opening guitar line is hypnotizing. Listening to it build and add more layers until the release comes and the verse starts. “Half the time I want go home.” These are the first words I ever heard Will Toledo say and words that instantly grabbed me. Then, as soon you feel like you have a moment to relax as Toledo tells his dilemma, he throws a curveball at you and keeps you on your toes with the next set of lines. Then, another release comes in and you’re wondering what’s gonna happen next?
That is the beauty of “Vincent” and a majority of Teens of Denial. The sense of unknowing as Toledo changes the structure of the song before you can get too comfortable with it. In a sense, this is his allegory for life. You are never comfortable and things are constantly changing, causing you to lose your footing and stumble for a second. In that stumble, it causes you to become even more uncomfortable and and those changes to increase in frequency. Every listen to “Vincent” is a trip, it’s just as good on the 3rd time as it is on the 51st. It is an addictive song where every moment is not only a rememberable one, but simply, a great one.
Overall, 2016 was really weird. Let’s never do it again.