Best of 2016: Music



Writing or talking about music has never been one of my strong suits. So instead, I present a series of video/audio links to an arbitrary number of songs (61) from 51 musical artists (more than that if you include featured artists on particular tracks). It surprised the hell out of me too that Drake makes three appearances on my 2016 playlist.


Jenny Hval

Keep in mind that just because an artist appears in the general 2016 playlist but not on the list of LPs below doesn’t mean I didn’t care for it as a whole; often it means I didn’t listen to it as a whole. These are just the start-to-finish albums that left the strongest impact on me during 2016 (in no particular order). Among the albums, you’ll find: a concept album about menstruation (Blood Bitch), the second LP from a band who renamed themselves following cries of racial/historical insensitivity (Preoccupations, formerly known as Viet Cong), an album a friend of mine described best as a “lost 4AD album from the ’80s” (Will), a famously-dark-as-night musician finding a new layer of grim, foreboding sound following the death of his teenage son (Skeleton Tree), and an album that impeccably captured the zeitgeist of the political, racial, and cultural environment that defined 2016 from an artist unfairly living in the shadow of her superstar sibling (A Seat at the Table).




Bertrand Bonello’s Nocturama

In terms of film scores, two stood out among the rest: Jóhann Jóhannsson’s for Denis Villeneuve’s alien invasion feature Arrival and Bertrand Bonello’s for his own controversial terrorist flick Nocturama (which would have made my best of 2016 list had I seen it in time). Jóhannsson’s score was annoyingly disqualified from this year’s Academy Awards, though his previous, brilliant collaboration with Villeneuve (Sicario) was at least nominated. Bonello adds to Nocturama‘s slick veneer with a haunting, pulsating electronic score. Having studied music in school, Bonello has composed music for nearly all of his films. With each one, he seems to be slightly amping up the importance the score itself in relation to the film, though borrowed songs, like Lee Moses’ “Bad Girl” and The Moody Blues’ “Nights in White Satin” in House of Tolerance (L’Apollonide: Souvenirs de la maison close), have always played a major role in his work. For Nocturama, which Bonello titled after the 2003 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds album, he memorably uses songs from the likes of Blondie and Willow Smith.


Frank Ocean

Without further adieu, here are a bunch of songs I loved in 2016. Again, here’s the Spotify playlist link, which is now updated with Andy Stott‘s “New Romantic,” which only showed up on the streaming service in the U.S. last week (if you were wondering about the +1). If you know of a better way to share playlists, please let me know. The songs are in no particular order, though my favorites tend to gravitate toward the top of the list and the duplicate artist tracks are at the bottom. Happy listening.


Julianna Barwick


Rihanna & Drake


Bat for Lashes


Gold Panda


PJ Harvey


Angel Olsen


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