- FIRE – Two Feet (1) 4th week at #1
- THE BANDIT – Kings of Leon (5)
- LEVITATING – Dua Lipa featuring DaBaby (4)
- HEAT WAVES – Glass Animals (2)
- 1ST TIME – Bakar (3)
- SLEEP – The Frontier (8)
- ALL ABOUT YOU – The Knocks featuring Foster the People (9)
- LET DOWN – Michigander (10)
- LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN – Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak, SilkSonic (17)
- SOFIA – Clairo (6)
- MY EX’S BEST FRIEND – Machine Gun Kelly & blackbear (11)
- ESTELLA – Kenny Hoopla featuring Travis Barker (12)
- ENEMY MINE – Roadkeeper (13)
- WAITING ON A WAR – Foo Fighters (14)
- BREATHE – Ships Have Sailed (15)
- DRIVERS LICENSE – Olivia Rodrigo (7)
- ALL MY FAVORITE SONGS – Weezer (19)
- ROSE HIPS – Dawning (20)
- TIME TRAVELER – Matt Jaffe (21)
- BEAUTIFUL DISGUISE – Melotika (22)
- I NEED YOU – Jon Batiste (23)
- NOT DEAD YET – Lord Huron (24)
- METRONOME – Polarizer (26)
- AT HOME IN THE DARK – Au Gres (27)
- DIRTY – grandson (16) 20th week on list
- CAN YOU FEEL THE SUN – MISSIO (18) 20th week on list
- SAVE YOUR TEARS – The Weeknd (N)
- PEACHES – Justin Bieber featuring Daniel Caesar & Giveon (N)
- YOU – Benny Blanco with Marshmello & Vance Joy (N)
- HYPOTHETICALS – Lake Street Dive (N)
Tag: Anderson Paak
Top 30 Songs for March 28-April 3, 2021
- FIRE – Two Feet (1) 3rd week at #1
- HEAT WAVES – Glass Animals (3)
- 1ST TIME – Bakar (2)
- LEVITATING – Dua Lipa featuring DaBaby (5)
- THE BANDIT – Kings of Leon (6)
- SOFIA – Clairo (7)
- DRIVERS LICENSE – Olivia Rodrigo (4)
- SLEEP – The Frontier (9)
- ALL ABOUT YOU – The Knocks featuring Foster the People (10)
- LET DOWN – Michigander (12)
- MY EX’S BEST FRIEND – Machine Gun Kelly & blackbear (11)
- ESTELLA – Kenny Hoopla featuring Travis Barker (14)
- ENEMY MINE – Roadkeeper (15)
- WAITING ON A WAR – Foo Fighters (16)
- BREATHE – Ships Have Sailed (17)
- DIRTY – grandson (8)
- LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN – Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak, Silk Sonic (28)
- CAN YOU FEEL THE SUN – MISSIO (13)
- ALL MY FAVORITE SONGS – Weezer (22)
- ROSE HIPS – Dawning (23)
- TIME TRAVELER – Matt Jaffe (24)
- BEAUTIFUL DISGUISE – Melotika (25)
- I NEED YOU – Jon Batiste (26)
- NOT DEAD YET – Lord Huron (27)
- SHAME – Saboteurs (18)
- METRONOME – Polarizer (29)
- AT HOME IN THE DARK – Au Gres (30)
- COLD – Chris Stapleton (19)
- THE ADULTS ARE TALKING – The Strokes (20)
- THEREFORE I AM – Billie Eilish (21)
Top 30 Songs for March 21-27, 2021
- FIRE – Two Feet (1)
- 1ST TIME – Bakar (3)
- HEAT WAVES – Glass Animals (4)
- DRIVERS LICENSE – Olivia Rodrigo (2)
- LEVITATING – Dua Lipa featuring DaBaby (6)
- THE BANDIT – Kings of Leon (7)
- SOFIA – Clairo (9)
- DIRTY – grandson (5)
- SLEEP – The Frontier (10)
- ALL ABOUT YOU – The Knocks featuring Foster the People (11)
- MY EX’S BEST FRIEND – Machine Gun Kelly & blackbear (12)
- LET DOWN – Michigander (13)
- CAN YOU FEEL THE SUN – MISSIO (8)
- ESTELLA – Kenny Hoopla featuring Travis Barker (18)
- ENEMY MINE – Roadkeeper (19)
- WAITING ON A WAR – Foo Fighters (20)
- BREATHE – Ships Have Sailed (21)
- SHAME – Saboteurs (17)
- COLD – Chris Stapleton (14)
- THE ADULTS ARE TALKING – The Strokes (15)
- THEREFORE I AM – Billie Eilish (16)
- ALL MY FAVORITE SONGS – Weezer (24)
- ROSE HIPS – Dawning (25)
- TIME TRAVELER – Matt Jaffe (26)
- BEAUTIFUL DISGUISE – Melotika (27)
- I NEED YOU – Jon Batiste (29)
- NOT DEAD YET – Lord Huron (30)
- LEAVE THE DOOR OPEN – Bruno Mars, Anderson .Paak, Silk Sonic (N)
- METRONOME – Polarizer (N)
- AT HOME IN THE DARK – Au Gres (N)
100 Best Songs of the 2010s – #100: “Dang!” by Mac Miller feat. Anderson .Paak
Because literally no one is reading my decade-end post 100 Best Songs of the 2010s for reasons that escape me – unlike my five-year-old post of the 100 Best Songs of the 2000s that still picks up 5-15 new views every single day – I’ve decided to post each song from the 2010s list, individually, at the rate of one per day. I worked very hard on that post, painstakingly writing about each of the 100 songs, and this will enable me to hopefully bring a bit of attention to each song by sharing my pithy discussions as to why I think it deserves to be considered among the 100 best of the decade.
I’ll begin at #100 – “Dang!” by the late Mac Miller, featuring Anderson .Paak. The untimely death of Mac Miller (born Malcolm James McCormick) was one of the more heartbreaking and unfortunate losses suffered by the music industry over the past decade. Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Miller was a musical genius of sorts, learning to play the piano, guitar, drums, and bass by the age of six. As he entered his teens he decided he wanted to be rapper, and started recording and releasing mixtapes at 15, becoming prominent in the city’s hip hop scene. By the time he reached 21, he was presented a key to the city by the mayor of Pittsburgh, and had a day named in his honor. He was such an amazing talent who produced an impressive catalog of music by the time of his death at 26, and we can only imagine what more great music he would have given us.
The first single from his fourth studio album The Divine Feminine, “Dang!” is ear candy from start to finish, featuring not only Miller but also the wonderful Anderson .Paak to sweeten the mix. Over a thumping retro-soul groove and shimmery synths, .Paak delivers the hook in his smooth, soulful croon: “I can’t keep on losing you / Over complications / Gone too soon / Wait, we was just hangin’ / I can’t seem to hold on to, dang!” Then Miller enters the scene, delivering his flow with swagger tinged with just enough vulnerability to reveal his consternation over the fragile state of his relationship. Initially boasting of his sexual prowess: “Yeah the dick ain’t free, I don’t give no fucks”, he later concedes love ain’t so simple: “Can’t concentrate, you always on my brain. If it’s love then why the fuck it come with pain?”
The sweet, colorful and sexy video produced for the song is superb.
Top 100 Songs of 2019
2019 was another great year for music, with so much of it being released that even the most avid music junkie couldn’t possibly keep up with it all. With all the digital music applications and software available today, as well as music platforms like Soundcloud, Reverbnation and Bandcamp, it’s easier than ever for aspiring artists to create music from their bedroom and get it out there for public consumption, and I’ve written about quite a few of them. In fact, this year a third of the songs on my Top 100 list are by indie or unsigned artists.
As a music blogger, I’m exposed to a tremendous amount of music. I receive 5-10 submissions a day from artists, PR reps and labels wanting me to review their music, so I listen to A LOT of it in the course of a year. Nevertheless, I realize I’ve heard only a fraction of all the singles and albums released in 2019. Consequently, my list includes only songs I know, and I’m certain there are some great ones that should be on this list, except that I’ve never heard them! That said, there were so many outstanding songs in 2019, and it frustrates me to have to cull them down to only 100, omitting scores of tracks I really like. And a song ranked at #40 isn’t necessarily better than one at #60.
Music tastes are very subjective, so it’s guaranteed that not a single person reading this will agree with my song choices or their rankings. My list contains my favorite songs of the year, not necessarily songs that were ‘popular’ or influential. I’m now late middle-aged, so my song picks are going to reflect that, though I do still have my guilty pleasures. But you won’t find the tiresome “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus (which was the longest-running #1 song ever on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and the #1 song of 2019) on this list.
Many bloggers and critics list songs in the year they were released, while Billboard and other charts generally place them in the year they were ‘hits,’ which is what I prefer. Most of the songs on this list were released in 2019, however, a number of them were released in 2018. Because there are always a few songs that overlap from one year to the next, I include those songs on lists for both years if they spent enough time on the charts in each year. The songs in this Top 100 that also appeared on my Top 100 Songs of 2018 are indicated with an *. I’ve created a Spotify playlist for this list, which is included at the end of the post. Hopefully you’ll find some of your own personal favorites on this list. Let me know what songs were your favorites of 2019.
1. I SEE YOU – MISSIO
It’s not often that I love an entire album at first listen, but that was exactly the case with The Darker the Weather // The Better the Man by Austin, Texas-based duo MISSIO. (Read my review here). Comprised of singer-songwriter/producer Matthew Brue and songwriter/producer and instrumentalist David Butler, MISSIO’s unique, eclectic sound is a glorious mashup of alternative electronic rock, hip hop and dream pop. In 2017, they released their outstanding debut album Loner, which generated several singles, two of which – “Middle Fingers” and the mesmerizing “Bottom of the Deep Blue Sea” – ended up on my Top 100 Songs of 2017 list. Their follow-up album The Darker the Weather // The Better the Man is equally superb; three of its songs are included among my Top 100 Songs of 2019. “I See You” was the third single from the album, and it’s my favorite song of the year. This was confirmed by my Spotify Wrapped report, which identified it as my most-streamed song of 2019.
And what a gorgeous song it is, at once sad yet hopeful, and brimming with emotional intensity and sweeping instrumentals. Brue’s beautiful, stirring vocals bring chills as he sings the poignant lyrics that can be interpreted as being directed either to a loved one or to oneself, reassuring the intended that they are understood, supported and loved despite their shortcomings. “I’m alone with you, you’re alone with me. What a mess you’ve made of everything. I’m alone with you, you’re alone with me. And I’m hoping that you will see yourself like I see you.”
2. DOIN’ TIME – Lana Del Rey
One of the most delectable songs of 2019 is “Doin’ Time” by Lana Del Rey, from her stunning and critically-acclaimed album Norman Fucking Rockwell, which she co-produced with Jack Antonoff. It’s a cover of the song originally recorded by the ska punk band Sublime, which itself samples the great classic “Summertime” from the musical Porgy and Bess, written in 1934 by George and Ira Gerwshin, with lyrics by DuBose Heyward. Del Rey’s version is faithful to Sublime’s ska vibe, but her beautiful, seductive vocals and dreamy instrumentals take the song to a whole new level, as well as capturing the languid, sultry feel of the original “Summertime”. I love that she kept the lyrics and pronouns exactly as written by Sublime, which describe a cheating girlfriend whose infidelities and poor treatment of her lover makes him feel like he’s in prison. “Me and my girl, we got this relationship. I love her so bad, but she treats me like shit. On lockdown, like a penitentiary. She spreads her lovin’ all over, and when she gets home, there’s none left for me.”
3. SOCIAL CUES – Cage the Elephant
Cage the Elephant are one of my favorite bands of the past decade, with a long string of consistently great singles. The title track from their fifth studio album Social Cues, this song now ranks among my top favorites of their many songs. The bouncy tempo is incredibly catchy, and those chirpy synths are irresistible, but what I love most of all are Matt Shultz’s wonderful vocals that always sound so genuine. The rather poignant lyrics speak to the anxieties and insecurities of being a rock star: “Hide me in the back room, tell me when it’s over. Don’t know if I can play this part much longer. I don’t know if it is right to live this way, yeah. I’ll be in the back room, tell me when it’s over. People always say, ‘Man, at least you’re on the radio’.” The song’s production and arrangement are flawless.
4. BAD GUY – Billie Eilish
2019 was a huge year for the insanely talented young Los Angeles-based singer-songwriter Billie Eilish (her full birth name is Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell). With the meteoric success of her ground-breaking debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, one of the biggest-selling albums of 2019, she became a superstar. I was blown away by her riveting performance at this year’s Coachella Music Festival, when she was only 17 years old. “Bad Guy” reached #1 on numerous music charts in the U.S. (where it thankfully ended the 19-week run at #1 of “Old Town Road”) and around the world, including Australia, Canada, Mexico, Greece, Hungary, Norway and the Czech Republic. Musically, the song has an unusual minimalist bass-driven melody that pulls us headlong into a thumping, ominous soundscape. Eilish’s clipped, breathy vocals have a seductive, almost menacing quality as she sings the provocative lyrics that seem beyond her tender years, yet she makes them believable. “I’m that bad type. Make your mama sad type. Make your girlfriend mad tight. Might seduce your dad type. I’m the bad guy, duh.” It’s brilliant!
5. TRAMPOLINE – SHAED
Indie dream-pop band SHAED is based in Washington, D.C., and consists of lead vocalist Chelsea Lee and multi-instrumentalists and twin brothers Max and Spencer Ernst. After struggling for several years to gain traction in the music business, they struck gold with their haunting breakthrough single “Trampoline”. The song was originally released back in May 2018, but got little airplay until it was featured in an Apple MacBook Air commercial that October, and the song quickly took off. The song debuted on the Billboard Alternative Chart in early December 2018, and as I write this one year later, it’s still in the Top 10! The gorgeous track was named the #1 song of 2019 on the Alternative Chart, and finishes at #5 on my list. SHAED’s inspiration for the song came one night as the trio sat together watching old family videos of Spencer and Max jumping on a trampoline as small children. The song’s meaning has been the subject of debate, ranging from death to suicide to drug addiction, but SHAED simply wanted to write a great song loosely based on the idea of the Stranger Things alternative dimension “Upside Down”.(Genius.com). This is artfully captured in the beautiful and stylish video for the song.
6. CHLORINE – twenty øne piløts
As far as I’m concerned, twenty øne piløts can do no wrong, and are one of my favorite bands of all time. Incorporating too many different genres to mention, and a vast array of instruments and synth sounds, they combine them with intricate, complex melodies, brilliant lyrics and Tyler Joseph’s amazing vocals to create truly unique and spectacular music. “Chlorine” is the third single from their monumental concept album Trench, and their seventh single to reach #1 on my Weekly Top 30. The song was co-written by Joseph and MUTEMATH frontman Paul Meany, who produced Trench, and whose voice we hear in the opening lines. They’ve stated the lyrics address how creativity can cleanse dark impulses, but also cause pain. Like many of the tracks on Trench, the song has a complex melodic structure, and shows a growing maturity in twenty one pilots’ sound and music style. I love the sweeping, spacey synths, Josh Dun’s sharp percussion and Joseph’s haunting layered vocals. The wonderful little twinkling piano riff adds a slightly menacing vibe to the track. It’s a dark and stunning song, and Joseph’s plaintive vocals in the final chorus are exquisite as he laments “I’m so sorry I forgot you. Let me catch you up to speed. I’ve been tested like the ends of a weathered flag that’s by the sea. Can you build my house with pieces? I’m just a chemical.”
7. SUPERPOSITION – Young the Giant
Alt-rock band Young the Giant has an instantly recognizable sound unlike no other, thanks to their brilliant instrumentation and front man Sameer Gadhia’s distinctive vocals. Formed in Orange County, California in late 2009, they just celebrated their 10th anniversary as a band, and I had the pleasure of seeing them in concert this past August. “Superposition” is the second single from their fourth studio album Mirror Master, and one of their most beautiful songs. Starting with a deep bass line and a rhythmic toe-tapping drumbeat, the band layers moody synths, delicate piano keys and an enchanting ukelele riff to create a gorgeous backdrop for Gadhia’s captivating vocals, which are in turn backed by lovely vocal harmonies. The term ‘superposition’ is used in physics to describe how things or items in nature overlap or interact. For the song, Young the Giant uses the term to describe the strong pull or connection we feel to those we love, and how fate and inexplicable events can bring us together, which they artfully express in the lyrics: “Superposition aims with imprecision. But when things can’t be explained – superposition. In any universe you are my dark star. I want you to want me. Why don’t we rely on chemistry? Why don’t we collide the spaces that divide us?”
8. WANDER – Vox Eagle*
Vox Eagle is the music project of Australian-born and now Colorado-based singer-songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist Andy Crosby, an indie artist I’ve featured numerous times on this blog over the past three years. One of the tracks from his outstanding 2018 album TriumAvium, “Wander” is the highest ranking song from an indie artist on this year’s list. It’s an enchanting mashup of melodic dream rock and hip hop, and when those magical keyboard and string synths wash over us like a shower of tiny diamonds, I’m covered with goosebumps. Eventually, a trip hop beat ensues as Andy freestyles about how communication has broken down in his relationship, his vocals going from sultry to falsetto as he sings: “We don’t talk no more, baby girl, we just wander.” Guest vocalist Pierre Fontaine’s smooth rap vocals take over for the last third of the track, adding another element of texture as he freestyles “We don’t try hard no more. / Where we all gon’ go, where we all gon’ go? We just wander, we just wander.” I love this spectacular song so much I’ve probably listened to it five hundred times.
9. THE HYPE – twenty øne piløts
I love every song by twenty øne piløts, and “The Hype” is no exception. The fourth consecutive single from Trench to reach #1 on both my and the Billboard Alternative charts, it topped the charts more than a year after “Jumpsuit”, a testament to the album’s high quality and staying power. “The Hype” is a beautiful and compelling song about remaining hopeful through difficult times, both mentally and physically. Tyler Joseph told Coup de Main magazine that the lyrics are told from the point of view of a younger version of himself. “Nice to know my kind will be on my side. I don’t believe the hype. And you know you’re a terrible sight, but you’ll be just fine. Just don’t believe the hype.”
10. UNDER THE COLD LIGHT OF THE MOON – Crystal Cities
Australian dream rock band Crystal Cities have come a long way over the past three years, from a garage in Sydney to Abbey Road Studios in London, where they recorded their extraordinary debut album Under the Cold Light of the Moon. The gorgeous, similarly titled lead single is my #10 song of 2019. Crystal Cities consists of Geoff Rana (Vocals, Guitars), Jared King (JK) (Bass, Backing Vocals) and Daniel Conte (Drums). The song was inspired by the courageous North Korean girl Yeonmi Park, who bravely escaped North Korea in search of freedom. After seeing her moving speech at the One Young World Summit 2014 in Dublin, Ireland, where she told the audience “When I was crossing the Gobi desert, scared of dying, I thought nobody in this world cared. It seemed that only the stars were with me. But you have listened to my story. You have cared. Thank you very much”, Rana felt compelled to interpret her story through a song. The uplifting track features vibrant, layered guitars, driving bass and galloping percussion that conjure up dramatic images of Park escaping on horseback. The addition of lush orchestral strings create a stirring, cinematic wall of sound that does justice to Park’s epic tale of survival. The beautiful animated video tells the adventure of her harrowing nighttime escape.
11. READY TO LET GO – Cage the Elephant
Cage the Elephant are back with their second song on this year’s list, “Ready to Let Go”. The track was the first single from Social Cues, and reached #1 on both the Billboard Alternative and Adult Alternative charts, as well as my Weekly Top 30. The song has a slower, bluesy melody, with a strong thumping drumbeat, deep bass groove and terrific guitar work. The lyrics speak to the realization that their relationship is broken beyond repair and the time has come to end it: “Don’t you worry, baby, no sense trying to change it. I’ma strike these matches, never had control. I’m ready to let go, no, was I fooling myself? I’ma spread these ashes, never had control. I’m ready, I’m ready, I’m ready to let go.”
12. CIRCLES – Post Malone
Post Malone (born Austin Richard Post) is one of the biggest music artists today, churning out hit after hit since exploding onto the music scene five years ago with “White Iverson”. His wonderfully eclectic sound draws from hip hop, rap, R&B, rock, pop, grunge and country, and Malone himself has referred to his music as “genre-less.” “Circles” is the fourth single from his phenomenal, critically-acclaimed third album Hollywood Bleeding. The song reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was a huge hit worldwide, reaching #1 in Iceland, Malaysia and New Zealand. I’ve seen a few complaints that it’s too ‘pop’, but I love it, and it’s my favorite of his many songs. The sweetly strummed guitars, deep bass, keyboards and thumping drums are all exquisite, and set to an infectious, hauntingly beautiful melody. Malone’s impassioned vocals lament of a relationship in which the flame has gone out: “Seasons change and our love went cold. Feed the flame ’cause we can’t let go. Run away, but we’re running in circles. Run away, run away.” It’s perfection from start to finish.
13. FEAR THE FUTURE – IAMWARFACE
British electro-rock band IAMWARFACE are one of the best indie bands in the UK right now. Based in Brighton and London, their aggressive name is a fitting metaphor for their bombastic groove-based sound, and I’ve been thrilled to feature them on this blog many times. From the moment I first heard their debut single “Say My Name” in 2016 – which I likened to being hit by an atomic blast – I’ve been a devoted fan. Since their debut, they’ve continued to deliver one incredible song after another; three of their singles – “Say My Name”, “Closer” and “Fear the Future” – have reached #1 on my Weekly Top 30 chart. “Fear the Future” is a scathing attack on all the banal music and entertainment, bullshit and fear-mongering being fed to the masses in a pernicious attempt to dumb-down and divide us, making us more willing to be controlled. Musically, the song features the band’s signature explosive instrumentation and massive, driving rhythms, making for a incredibly exhilarating song that slams us against the wall. Front man Matt Warneford has a commanding powerhouse singing voice, and raises our adrenaline with his dramatic impassioned vocals. The disturbing video brilliantly brings the dark lyrics to life.
14. GO – The Black Keys
What can I say about The Black Keys other than that they’re fucking awesome! Friends since childhood, Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney have been putting out fantastic blues/garage rock for almost 20 years. “Go” is from their ninth album “Let’s Rock”, and saw The Black Keys return to their roots after a three year long hiatus that had some speculating they had, or were considering, splitting up. It was their first release since their previous album Turn Blue in 2014, marking the longest gap between studio albums in their career. The two were simply burned out from touring, and Carney had also seriously injured his shoulder in a swimming accident, which took longer to recover than anticipated. During their hiatus, they were involved in numerous projects of their own or with other artists, including Auerbach’s band The Arcs, with whom he released an album in 2015.
After collaborating with producer Danger Mouse for their previous four albums, the duo decided to self-produce “Let’s Rock”, scrapping the keyboards in favor of just guitar, drums, and vocals. The guys got together at a recording studio in September 2018 to begin working on “Let’s Rock”, and within a few minutes, they were playing together as if no time had passed. “Go” is a short song, running only two and a half minutes, and features fairly sparse lyrics about getting out of one’s rut and hitting the open road. But man, Auerbach’s blazing riffs in the bridge are positively spine-tingling! The hilarious video pokes fun at the rumor they hated each other.
15. DARK PLACES – The Frontier
I realize I’m sounding like a broken record as I keep describing so many of the songs on this list as “gorgeous”, but dammit, the term applies to “Dark Places” by Virginia indie pop/rock band The Frontier in spades. I’ve followed The Frontier for several years, and am immensely proud of them for producing such a wonderful track as this. As the title implies, the song is dark, but also quite stunning, with a captivating sensual melody and shimmery synths, accompanied by subtle guitars, thumping bass and crisp percussion. Front man Jake Mimikos’ smooth, ardent vocals are enthralling as he sings of the internal struggles many of us experience with our darker side, and the attendant fears, anxieties, anger and even bad thoughts we must grapple with: “I’ve been to dark places in my mind. Seeing shadows in the night. It gets a little lonely when I’m in dark places in my mind, falling further from the light.” Jake stated that he was inspired to write the song by a show he watched on Netflix about serial killers.
16. COMING UP FOR AIR – Mars Motel
Mars Motel is an immensely talented alternative dream rock band hailing from Brooklyn, New York, and they make some of the most captivating music of any band I’ve heard. Their single “Coming Up for Air” is a real stunner of a tune, with swirling riffs of chiming guitars backed by shimmery synths and a pleasing rhythm section of gentle bass and thumping drumbeats. They all meld into a lush, sweeping backdrop for lead singer Sarik Kumar’s beautiful soaring vocals. He explained “This song is about an android-like being longing to be human and attempting an alteration. It captures the universal need for connection and the loneliness one can feel in being viewed as an outsider.”
17. UNDERGROUND – MISSIO
I’ve already gushed about how much I love MISSIO and their album The Darker the Weather // The Better the Man, and another of my favorite tracks from that album is “Underground“. The song instantly hooked me with its irresistible hip hop beat, trippy vibes and deliriously catchy melody. MISSIO combines an array of synthesizers, instruments and textures to create a dense, almost psychedelic sound, and I love Matthew Brue’s distinctive vocal style that registers in the higher range, just below a falsetto. He fervently croons of his frustration that success and money haven’t brought the happiness and peace of mind he expected: “I’m down. I should be on top, but I’m always underground. Things are lookin’ up, but I’m making myself drown. High anxiety that money just compounds. I’ll be right here, just waiting underground.”
18. YOU? – Two Feet
Ever since first hearing his dark and sultry “I Feel Like I’m Drowning” early in 2018, I’ve had a huge man crush on Two Feet. Based in New York City and born Zachary William “Bill” Dess, Two Feet is a soulful singer-songwriter who’s become one of the finest blues guitarists today. His songs are slow burns, characterized by scorching bluesy riffs and intense, booming basslines that cut straight to the core. I had the pleasure of seeing him live in Los Angeles in November 2018 (you can read my review here), and he spent the first few months of 2019 touring with Panic! At the Disco, which exposed him to a whole new audience who hadn’t heard of him previously. I relished all the tweets from fans who’d gone to see PATD, and came away excited new fans of Two Feet. In the fall of 2019, he began releasing new singles in advance of his forthcoming album Pink. One of those singles is “You?”, which is fucking incredible, and his guitar work and vocals sound better than ever. He had an official video made for the song, but I like this live performance better, as it features a killer extended guitar solo that really showcases his guitar skills. You can hear the original version on the Spotify playlist at the end of this post.
19. ESCAPE – Ships Have Sailed
Los Angeles-based duo Ships Have Sailed have built a huge following over the past several years with their pleasing style of alternative pop-rock, characterized by infectious melodies, uplifting lyrics, and sublime instrumentation. This past February, they released their deeply moving anthem “Escape”, which I loved so much it spent five months on my Weekly Top 30, going all the way to #1. Vocalist Will Carpenter has a beautiful voice with an impressive range. As the music intensifies in the third verse, with drummer Art Andranikyan’s crashing cymbals and assertive drumbeats adding drama to the track, Will’s vocals rise to the occasion, becoming raw and impassioned, and raising goosebumps on the back of my neck. “Escape” is about a person struggling with personal demons and addiction. About the song, Will explained “Born as the stark expression of an especially trying year, ‘Escape’ represents a shift from what we’ve become best known for, exposing a more vulnerable angle. It represents musical honesty in its most raw form, and we truly hope it makes you feel something.” It certainly resonated with me.
20. FALLING WITH STYLE – Heist At Five
Heist At Five is a wickedly talented and undeniably charismatic electro-rock band based in London, but with an international pedigree. Band front man and lead vocalist Oskar Abrahamsson is from Sweden, bassist Marco “Fuzz” Paone is from Italy, guitarist Jozef Veselsky is from Slovakia, and drummer Josh Needham is from England. Together, they play an aggressive, innovative style of alternative rock that borders on experimental, with complex melodies, intricate chord progressions and spine-tingling electronic and guitar-heavy instrumentation. I’ve featured them a number of times on this blog, most recently when I reviewed their magnificent single “Falling With Style”. The band states that the song “is about fully embracing the idea of failure and finding comfort in it.” The imaginative and surreal video tells the story of a young woman who sees moments of her life in flashbacks, which ends up changing her perspective about life, and in the process breaks her old pattern of decision making.
21. GUIDING LIGHT – Mumford & Sons*
22. SIGUE CON EL AMOR – John Defeo
23. DISAPPEAR – Western Jaguar
24. POWER OVER ME – Dermot Kennedy
25. LONGSHOT – Catfish and the Bottlemen
26. BURY A FRIEND – Billie Eilish
27. SOMEONE YOU LOVED – Lewis Capaldi
28. GOOD THINGS FALL APART – ILLENIUM with Jon Bellion
29. SUNFLOWER – Post Malone, Swae Lee
30. RUBBING SHOULDERS WITH THE DEVIL – Revolvers
31. DELTA BLUES – Jetstream
32. HIGH HOPES – Panic! At the Disco
33. MISSED CONNECTION – The Head and the Heart
34. ALLIGATOR – Of Monsters and Men
35. 3 NIGHTS – Dominic Fike
36. DISSOLVE – Absofacto
37. WHEN AM I GONNA LOSE YOU – Local Natives
38. IN THE WATER – The Underground Vault
39. HURT – Oliver Tree
40. CRINGE – Matt Maeson
41. ROOM TO BREATHE – Made of Eyes
42. LOVE IT IF WE MADE IT – The 1975
43. VOLCANO – Feather Weight
44. STILL FEEL. – half-alive
45. CHANGE – The Revivalists
46. ASSUME FORM – James Blake
47. YOU’RE SOMEBODY ELSE – flora cash*
48. BACK DOWN – Bob Moses
49. FIGHTER – Joseph
50. UNDER THESE SCARS – Falling Into Red featuring Dev
51. OLD MAN’S WAR – Roadkeeper
52. STAY HIGH – Brittany Howard
53. RAGGED TOWN – Second Player Score
54. SEVENTEEN – Sharon Van Etten
55. MIGHT BE RIGHT – White Reaper
56. THE MIDDLE – Agency Panic
57. S.O.S. (Sawed Off Shotgun) – The Glorious Sons
58. HARMONY HALL – Vampire Weekend
59. RAD DRUGZ – MISSIO
60. HOME – morgxn featuring WALK THE MOON
61. PATIENCE – Tame Impala
62. TWILIGHT – Anderson .Paak
63. APOCALIPSTICK – Lazy Queen
64. THESE ARE MY FRIENDS – lovelytheband
65. TIME – Morosity
66. DRIFTING AWAY – Stereohaze
67. WHITE LIES & PALM TREES – The Lovepools
68. HEAT OF THE SUMMER – Young the Giant
69. FAST TALK – Houses
70. BELOVED – Mumford & Sons
71. I’LL BE AROUND – Morning Fuzz
72. PRESSURE – Muse
73. NORTHERN LIGHTS – Death Cab for Cutie
74. LOVE CRAZY – Karolina Rose
75. “99” – Barns Courtney
76. FOUR WINDS – Unquiet Nights
77. GOODBYES – Post Malone featuring Young Thug
78. OBSESSION – Joywave
79. LONELY – Secret American
80. CALM DOWN – Pete Yorn
81. SECRETS – The Million Reasons
82. EXITS – Foals
83. SAW LIGHTNING – Beck
84. WANNACRY – Darksoft
85. MOVEMENT – Hozier
86. NOVOCAINE – The Unlikely Candidates
87. REWARD – Paul Iwan
88. LIGHT ON – Maggie Rogers
89. HERE WE GO – Ben Priory & Charlie Pereira
90. THIS LIFE – Vampire Weekend
91. THANK U, NEXT – Ariana Grande
92. GENERATION Y – Guide Dog
93. CELLOPHANE – FKA Twigs
94. 16 – Highly Suspect
95. SECRET THAT LIES BEHIND – The Gear
96. STORM WILL COME – Morgendust
97. LO/HI – The Black Keys
98. DESERVING OF LOVE – Lyia Meta
99. BROTHERS – Harroland
100. SPAZTIC ROBOT – Spaztic Robot
Top 100 Songs of 2016
2016 was a year of music highs and lows. Lots of excellent music was released, yet the year also saw an unusually high number of untimely and significant losses of legendary musicians – most notably David Bowie, Prince, Natalie Cole (on New Year’s Eve), Glenn Frey, Maurice White, Paul Kantner, Phife Dawg, Merle Haggard, Bobby Vee, Leon Russell, Sharon Jones, Leonard Cohen, George Michael on Christmas Day and, most tragically, the entire promising young band Viola Beach.
There were a lot of great albums, but I’ve honestly heard only a fraction of the hundreds released in 2016. My personal favorites are the gorgeous albums by Radiohead (A Moon Shaped Pool), The 1975 (I Like It When You Sleep For You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware Of It), David Bowie (Blackstar) and Matto Rules (What Comes Around, which I reviewed previously on this blog). A few other highlights were the eagerly anticipated albums from Green Day, Metallica, Kings of Leon, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Frank Ocean, A Tribe Called Quest and Bon Iver.
Now I unveil my 100 Best Songs of 2016. These are my favorite songs of the year, and I’m confident everyone seeing this list will disapprove of some of my selections, and that’s fine. Music is very subjective and what sounds good to me may not sound good to someone else, and vice versa. My favorite genres are alternative and hard rock, so my list reflects that. However, I never expected that a Justin Bieber song would end up in my top 40 -lol. There were hundreds of songs that I really liked, so picking only 100 was difficult. Some songs on this list were released in 2015 (and “Walking on a Dream” from Empire of the Sun was released in 2009, but didn’t get airplay in the U.S. until seven years later), but they were “hits” or appeared on my Weekly Top 20 in 2016. A few songs overlapped both 2015 and 2016, and are therefore in my Top 100 for both years. Those songs are marked with an *.
1. STRESSED OUT – twenty øne piløts *
2016 was clearly the year of twenty øne piløts, as the duo saw their fame skyrocket with their enormously successful Emotional Roadshow World Tour and the immense popularity of their magnificent album Blurryface. I think they’re one of the best bands to emerge in many years, with a totally original sound that is like no other act around today. Their song “Tear In My Heart” was my #1 song of 2015, and their follow-up single “Stressed Out” is my #1 song of 2016 – and one of my favorite songs of the past 10 years. It’s a brilliant song about facing the burdens of responsibility of adulthood while longing for the simplicity of one’s childhood: “Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days. When our mama sang us to sleep, but now we’re stressed out.” I also think it’s a particularly appropriate song to top the list, as 2016 was certainly a stressful year on many levels. “Stressed Out” was #8 on my Top 100 for 2015, but it had such staying power that it ends up at #1 for 2016. twenty øne piløts have three songs in my top 10, a feat accomplished by only two other artists: the Beatles in 1964 and Foster the People in 2011.
2. DARK NECESSITIES – Red Hot Chili Peppers
The Red Hot Chili Peppers have been making music for 30 years, and have had scores of hits. But “Dark Necessities” is their greatest song yet and a masterpiece in my opinion. The complex music and meaningful lyrics show a real maturation of their sound, which is totally appropriate for a band whose members are now in their late 40s to early 50s. Without question one of the best songs of 2016.
3. RIDE – twenty øne piløts
The exhilarating “Ride” was the fourth track from Blurryface released as a single, and is further proof of the high caliber of the songs on the album. Literally every track could be a hit song. The song’s lyrics speak to uncertainties and anxieties over the meaning of life. Tyler Joseph fervently sings “I’ve been thinking too much, help me.“
4. MOUNTAIN AT MY GATES – Foals *
Let me just state up front that UK band Foals is awesome and I passionately love their unique sound. “Mountain At My Gates” is a gorgeous anthem about overcoming life’s obstacles. Lead vocalist Yannis Philippakis has an amazing and immediately identifiable singing style that smolders, wails and soars. The powerful song builds to a climactic flourish that gives me chills every time.
5. BURN THE WITCH – Radiohead
The release of Radiohead’s amazing album A Moon Shaped Pool was one of the music highlights of 2016. The brilliant single “Burn the Witch” has dark lyrics, hauntingly sung by Thom Yorke’s beautiful falsetto, and set to a gorgeous arrangement by Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood and lush strings performed by the London Contemporary Orchestra. The clever, stop-action animation video, directed by Chris Hopewell, pays homage to the 1973 horror film The Wicker Man.
6. BANG BANG – Green Day
Green Day proved their staying power with the release of their 12th studio album Revolution Radio, 26 years after their first album 39/Smooth in 1990. The album’s hard-driving first single “Bang Bang” stays true to the band’s penchant for topical themes, with lyrics that speak to America’s culture of gun violence and mass shootings in an era of narcissistic social media. The song’s high points are the furious guitar riffs and Tré Cool’s awesome drum solos.
7. ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME – Coldplay *
Coldplay pulled out all the stops with their joyously upbeat “Adventure of a Lifetime.” Jonny Buckland’s gorgeous swirling guitars, Will Champion’s spot-on drums and Chris Martin’s signature soaring vocals make for a truly great song. Guy Berryman’s strong bass gives the feel of a heart beating and the mandolin at song’s end is stunning. The whimsical video has the bandmembers as gorillas cavorting about in the jungle.
8. LIFE ITSELF – Glass Animals
“Life Itself” is one of the most interesting and musically complex songs on this list and I adore it. Glass Animals employs all kinds of instruments, from harps and tom toms to tambourines, piano and unusual guitar synths to create an exceptionally strong track. Lead singer Dave Bayley’s vocals are hypnotic and mesmerizing, and the lyrics about being a millennial slacker are superb: “I can’t get a job, so I live with my mom. I take her money but not quite enough. I sit in the car, and I listen to static. She said I look fat, but I look fantastic.“
9. HEATHENS – twenty øne piløts
The brilliant “Heathens” was recorded for the Suicide Squad film soundtrack. The dark song has a haunting arrangement set to a slow hip hop beat. Mournful piano, rough scratching sounds, Tyler Joseph’s monotone vocals, and a mysterious disembodied voice chanting “watch it” contrast with the sweeping orchestration, creating a menacing sense of danger.
10. TROUBLE – Cage the Elephant
Another one of my favorite bands, Cage the Elephant returned at the end of 2015 with their album Tell Me I’m Pretty. Produced by Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, the album really shows his strong influence. “Trouble” was the second single to be released (after the uneven “Mess Around”) and it’s absolutely brilliant. The song features beautiful piano, xylophone and guitar instrumentation, accompanied by Matt Shultz’s incredibly beguiling vocals. The song’s video was shot at Joshua Tree National Park, which is near my home and one of the most popular places to make music videos.
11. THE SOUND OF SILENCE – Disturbed
When I first heard Disturbed’s “The Sound of Silence” I thought meh. I gave it another listen and thought “well this is actually good.” By my third listen, I was totally blown away by the song’s magnificence. It’s hard to believe anyone could do a respectable cover of this iconic Simon & Garfunkel song, but David Draiman and his band accomplished the feat and then some. Wow, just wow!
12. ALL WE EVER KNEW – The Head and the Heart
“All We Ever Knew” is one of the most beautiful and heartfelt songs on my list, which seems quite appropriate given the band’s name. The beautiful melody, instrumentals and vocals belie the bittersweet lyrics about a broken relationship that cannot be fixed.
13. WASTE A MOMENT – Kings of Leon
Kings of Leon came roaring back with their gorgeous anthem “Waste A Moment.” The song features Caleb Followill’s signature soaring vocals and the band’s lusty guitars.
14. SAY MY NAME – (IAM)WARFACE
I was literally blown over the first moment I heard this incredibly powerful hard rock song by the appropriately-named UK band (IAM)WARFACE. It was like being hit by an atomic blast, and I never tired of hearing this gem!
15. ONE DANCE – Drake, Kyla, WizKid
Drake hit the mark with this simple but oh so awesome hip hop dance song. He had assistance by the sultry vocalist Kyla and rapper WizKid. The song spent many weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
16. TRIP SWITCH – Nothing But Thieves
“Trip Switch” by UK band Nothing But Thieves is an incredibly catchy song with outstanding instrumentation. Lead singer Conor Mason’s distinctly seductive vocals are mesmerizing.
17. STARBOY – The Weeknd
“Starboy” is a beautiful, rather mysterious song from the amazingly talented The Weeknd. His slightly falsetto vocals are really captivating in this song.
18. SPIRITS – The Strumbellas
I seem to love gorgeous anthems, because “Spirits” by Canadian band The Strumbellas is certainly that. Everything about this song is perfect – orchestration and arrangement, instrumentals, lyrics and the band’s beautiful harmonizing vocals, led by lead singer Simon Ward.
19. PRETTY PIMPIN – Kurt Vile
I really love this quirky song. Great lyrics and guitar, plus Kurt Vile’s wonderful vocals.
20. WAY DOWN WE GO – Kaleo
This hauntingly beautiful song by Icelandic rock/blues band Kaleo is from their second studio album A/B, and one of the most compelling singles of 2016. The bluesy melody is almost funereal, but in a torch song kind of way, with a strong drumbeat that propels the song forward. The guitars and piano are gorgeous, and JJ Julius Son’s raw, impassioned vocals bring chills.
21. OPHELIA – The Lumineers
22. BORED TO DEATH – Blink-182
23. 7 YEARS – Lukas Graham
24. WHEN WE WERE YOUNG – Adele
25. GENGHIS KHAN – Miike Snow
26. FEEL INVINCIBLE – Skillet
27. 24K MAGIC – Bruno Mars
28. OFF THE GROUND – The Record Company
29. HELLO – Adele *
30. CHEAP THRILLS – Sia featuring Sean Paul
31. GOOD GRIEF – Bastille
32. HYMN FOR THE WEEKEND – Coldplay featuring Beyoncé
33. SEND MY LOVE (To Your New Lover) – Adele
34. WALKING ON A DREAM – Empire of the Sun
35. YOU DON’T GET ME HIGH ANYMORE – Phantogram
36. SORRY – Justin Bieber
37. CHANGES – MUTEMATH
38. COLOR – Finish Ticket
39. HAPPY SONG – Bring Me The Horizon
40. SOUNDCHECK – Catfish and the Bottlemen
41. CAKE BY THE OCEAN – DNCE
42. HARDWIRED – Metallica
43. PRAYERS/TRIANGLES – Deftones
44. SOMEBODY ELSE – The 1975
45. BAD DECISIONS – Two Door Cinema Club
46. KISS THIS – The Struts
47. 10,000 EMERALD POOLS – BØRNS
48. UNDER THE INFLUENCE – Elle King
49. WELCOME TO YOUR LIFE – Grouplove
50. NIGHTLIGHT – Silversun Pickups
51. CLEOPATRA – The Lumineers
52. SURE AND CERTAIN – Jimmy Eat World
53. JUGGERNAUT – Partisan
54. THANK GOD FOR GIRLS – Weezer
55. MESS AROUND – Cage the Elephant
56. SMOOTH SAILIN’ – Leon Bridges
57. I TOOK A PILL IN IBIZA – Mike Posner
58. TONIGHT – Matto Rules
59. FIRE – Barns Courtney
60. DESTRUCTION – Joywave
61. RIVER – Bishop Briggs
62. WOMAN, WOMAN – AWOLNATION
63. LET IT GO – James Bay
64. WAKE UP CALL – Nothing But Thieves
65. LOVE YOURSELF – Justin Bieber
66. SOMETHING TO BELIEVE IN – Young the Giant
67. REAPERS – Muse
68. BAD REPUTATION – Adelitas Way
69. MAGNETS – Disclosure featuring Lorde
70. WISH I KNEW YOU – The Revivalists
71. LOVE ME – The 1975
72. DARK OLD HOUSES – Chris Watkins & Drunk Poets
73. CLOSE – Nick Jonas & Tove Lo
74. DANG! – Mac Miller featuring Anderson .Paak
75. JUST LIKE FIRE – P!nk
76. CAN’T STOP THE FEELING! – Justin Timberlake
77. VICTORIOUS – Panic! At the Disco
78. DEVIL’S BLEEDING CROWN – Volbeat
79. STARS – Wons Phreely + the Horses
80. THE POP KIDS – The Pet Shop Boys
81. THE SHAKES THAT YOU MAKE – Dyslexic Postcards
82. AWAKE – Acrylic
83. WOW – Beck
84. THE SOUND – The 1975
85. YOUR SATURDAY NIGHT – Bryan Howell & the Standalones
86. BELONG – Shelita Burke
87. OBSOLETE – Agony in the Garden
88. RED SUN – Whale House
89. EVERYTHING IS ALRIGHT – Neil and Adam
90. ASKING FOR IT – Shinedown
91. UNSTEADY – X Ambassadors
92. CLOSER – The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey
93. THIS IS WHAT YOU CAME FOR – Calvin Harris featuring Rihanna
94. RETURN TO THE MOON – El Vy
95. HAND CLAP – Fitz & the Tantrums
96. AIN’T NO MAN – The Avett Brothers
97. FIRE AND THE FLOOD – Vance Joy
98. DON’T LET ME DOWN – The Chainsmokers featuring Daya
99. BRAZIL – Declan McKenna
100. DON’T THREATEN ME WITH A GOOD TIME – Panic! At the Disco