10. Giggs (Feat. Donae’o) – Lock Doh: The last we heard of Donae’o was on the b-side of The Streets “Fit But You Know It” single. This track instantly takes us back to club nights in London from many years ago. In the last few years, we remember those nights fondly but this one actually makes us want to go back and stand in a darkened corner of a club, pound back vodka shots while shuffling to the beat and staring at our feet.
9. Angel Olsen – Intern: It’s almost a case of which song from the album to pick. While most others have gone with the great “Shut Up Kiss Me” as THE track on the album, we always gravitated towards the opening song on My Woman. Driving to work in the dark at 7AM on autumn mornings, barely awake, the lyrics “Still gotta wake up and be someone” always sounded just right.
8. case/lang/veirs – Best Kept Secret: In five years we have no idea how we will feel about most of the songs on this list. What we do know is this one will never fail to make us smile, shimmy our shoulders and sing along. “You’re the best kept secret in Silver lake…. ba da ba da ba da ba da ba”. Unabashedly, this kind of stuff is right up our alley.
7. French Montana (Feat. Kodak Black) – Lockjaw: In our house, the “got a monkey on our back” became a classic line when it was changed to “got a Michael on my back” . Much discussion has happened about what the lockjaw metaphor actually means but it doesn’t matter. Perhaps because it sounds like it could have come out in 1993, this is one of favourite rap tracks of the last few years.
6. The Strumbellas – Spirits: …But sometimes those beardy bands we mentioned at #13 put out some good songs! This is one of them. Infinitely catchy, The Strumbellas scored a big hit with “Spirits” which got us nodding in appreciation all throughout 2016.
5. Minor Victories – Folk Arp: Without fail, every time this track came on in the car we would have to look to see who it was. This beautiful song takes us back to the best of shoegaze pop from the 90s, with Rachel’s voice floating on top. Like a light summer rain that turns into a black thunder storm, the hushed whisper of the first half turns into a roar for the second.
4. Lil Yachty (Feat. Quavo, Skippa da Flippa, & Young Thug)– Minnesota: The piano hook could not be simpler, at times it doesn’t rhyme and Yachty’s voice sounds like SNL’s Brian Fellows. However, the infectiousness of “it get cold like Minnesota” never fails to make us smile while we shout “I love my Motorola!!” 5x in a row for absolutely no reason whatsoever.
3. Hamilton Leithhauser + Rostam – A 1000 Times: The first single from the I Had a Dream album was a classy rock tune with extra sandpaper thanks to Leithauser’s voice. At times sounding like a lost Mercury Rev number: there is a gentle swing of the first bridge and the soft vocals at the beginning before giving way to energy then weariness all help create an atmosphere that is easy to get lost in. A rollicking number for those of us on the wrong (good?) side of 40.
2. Laura Gibson – Damn Sure: For anyone who’s been in a failed relationship that they were so sure would work out, against all odds and probably ignoring everyone else’s question marks, this track hits like a sledgehammer. But no matter how hard the break-up is, we eventually get through it and start to visit museums again. Somehow, it always works out… if we let it.
1. Rae Sremmurd (Feat Gucci Mane) – Black Beatles: When we first heard this track in August, it instantly became a strong contender for our song of the year. Little did we know that 4 months later every 12 year old in the city would be playing it on their lousy cell phone speakers. “That girl is a real crowd pleaser” became lodged in our heads for months. Elongating words to make it fit the music is charming and the lyrics make it all the more memorable – “like clockwork, I blow it all then get some more”, “she thinks she love me I think she trolling”, “euro step around a hater like I’m Rondo”, and the one that still baffles us “so much money on the floor we buyin’ school clothes”. Even after it inspired a meme and we heard it 1500 times, “Black Beatles” never fails to shine.
20. Naps – Social Skills: Back when we were bachelors, there were weekends we wouldn’t have any meaningful contact with the outside world. Coming on like a modern day Belle and Sebastian, Naps broke up soon after this single was released. Our only quibble is that the band really should have realized that after repeating “three full days without speaking” ad nausea, the last one should have been “three full days without speaking UP”
19. Desiigner – Panda: More than any other track here, this will always remind us of the summer of 2016. Listening to it in the car on the way to soccer games, it never failed to get heads nodding. “I got broads in Atlanta” is surely an anthem that every Winnipegger knows far too well.
18. Clams Casino – All Nite: This menacing track from Clams Casino featuring Vince Staples was certainly not our most played in 2016 but it never failed to grab our attention every time it came on. The violent flow of Staples gets extra energy from the muffled cymbal in the second verse and onwards.
17. Lee Bannon – 3m12 disc 2 – side D: Given away for free on Soundcloud – this demo from Lee Bannon would not sound out of place on Moby’s great 90s album, Everything Is Wrong. The synths, the digital squiggles and echo on a few of the percussion notes evoke a feeling late night sadness.
16. Weyes Blood – Do You Need My Love?: Sounding like it came straight out of 1975, this Carpenters like track is hard not to like. It grabbed our attention right from the get go. At over six minutes this one never drags and still sounds as mysterious now as it did back in the summer. “Do you need my love? babababa” indeed.
15. Mick Jenkins – Drowning: This would not sound out of place in a 70s Blaxploitation flick, however, the subject matter is still just as relevant today as it was way back then. Comparing police brutality to drowning, this is powerful stuff. “I can’t breathe” is the haunting phrase used by Eric Garner that sticks to the listener long after the music is over.
14. lil Peep and lil tracy – White Wine: Not every song on this list is high art and this is one of them. lil Peep and lil tracy take the melancholy of Drake and mix it with the drugginess haze of Salem. Lyrics like “I’m going to get a Maserati just to take my life inside” and “when I get a castle I’ll let no one inside” make this a sad, sad bleak anthem.
13. The Lumineers – Ophelia: There’s nothing we enjoy (hate?) more than handsome young men wearing beards and looking like they are sixty…. Maybe girls in high waited shorts but we digress. We initially heard this on the great Song Exploder podcast. “Ophelia” instantly had us humming along and with a charming video, it never gets old.
12. Michael Kiwanuka – Cold Little Heart: The lead off track from Kiwanuka’s second album that clocks in at over 10 minutes long. This modern soul masterpiece takes half that amount of time before we even get to hear from the man himself. The beauty and grit go hand in hand throughout. This is truly timeless stuff.
11. Margo Price – Hands Of Time: A very late entry into the mix. We started reading about Ms Price a few months ago and then finally heard this track in December. The autobiographical track tells it like it is, warts and all. While we’re not experts and our knowledge of the genre is limited, this is the best country song we’ve heard in a while.
5. Minor Victories – Minor Victories: With members of Slowdive, Mogwai, and Editors – this super group’s debut album got OK reviews but it was an album that we loved front to back. “Folk Arp” is the standout with cinematic “The Thief” and Mark Kozelek feature on “For You Always” being among the other highlights. An instrumental version of the album is being released this January.
4. Solange – A Seat At The Table: When it comes to R and B, we’ve always been far more into the dancefloor ready rave-ups vs the quiet storm jams. Maybe its because we’re getting older and life is slower or its because Solange’s second album is just that good that on this one, we love all of it. “Cranes in the Sky” is a lovely track and the insistent stuttering beats of “Don’t You Wait” are solid. We haven’t heard the Beyonce album yet in full (for shame) but at least one Knowles sister caught our ear in 2016 and wouldn’t let go.
3. Michael Kiwanuka – Love & Hate: The sophomore album from the London singer is a showstopper. After battling creative issues for the past few years, Kiwanuka blasts out of the doldrums with two instant classics in Cold Little Heart and A Black Man In A White World. Elsewhere – the title track and One More Night both shine. We are behind the times as Kiwanuka’s first album passed us by but we’re glad we caught up to him on this gritty soul classic.
2. Laura Gibson – Empire Builder: Reading review for Gibson’s fourth album was the first time we had actually heard of her or remember hearing of her. Glad we did – “Damn Sure” rated high on our tracks of the year while the title track is simply beautiful. A sharp, smart lyricist – Gibson is able to catch a range of human emotions. After reading about her journeys and education pursuits we think we like her even more.
1. Angel Olsen – My Woman: Our favourite album of 2016 starts off with the synth drone of “Intern”, contains the giddy rock of “Shut Up Kiss Me” and features an epic centrepiece in “Sister”. There’s a few artist that just seem like “ours” and Olsen is one of them. While her albums aren’t quite as great as the first few Liz Phair ones from the 90s, that is who she reminds us of. A talented songwriter that keeps getting better, we can’t wait to see where Angel Olsen goes next.