1. Magnets - Disclosure ft. Lorde
Lorde's voice pairs well with the big, striding beat here.
2. One Time - Marian Hill
I like the idea of a vocal jazz group with an electronic mien. The Jeremy Lloyd's manipulation of Samantha Gongol's voice fills the role that a sung improvisation might take in a traditional jazz song.
3. All The Young Dudes - David Bowie
I struggled with what to put on here to represent Bowie. Something from "Blackstar" seemed the logical choice. But the early-70s Bowie is my favorite, and though for a while I had his cover of Pink Floyd's "See Emily Play" in this slot, I've gone with "All the Young Dudes," maybe his most famous song that was originally recorded by someone else (give or take having co-written "Lust for Life"). Bowie famously gave the song, originally intended for "Ziggy Stardust," to the band Mott the Hoople to help prevent their breakup. The song became something of a gay pride anthem, despite being part of the apocalyptic story line of "Ziggy." I was delighted this year to have found a fully-produced version of the demo Bowie gave MtH.
4. Lake Song - The Decemberists
I hate that I love this song. It's so twee and precious and pretentious and is even kind of about being twee and precious and pretentious and I just love it and want to take a nap in my college dorm room with the window open on a spring afternoon while it plays. Stupid Decemberists.
5. I'll Be Haunting You - They Might Be Giants
TMBG mined their yearlong 2015 Dial-a-Song project for three albums worth of content, and though that year's "Glean" represented the best of those, their 2016 release "Phone Power" had a few gems, including this one and their cover of Destiny's Child's "Bills Bills Bills." Incidentally, I'm just watching the "Haunting You" video for the first time, and I love it.
6. Tempest - Lucius
My song of the year, hands down. I love how Jess Wolfe & Holly Laessig shift back and forth between a tight unison and harmonies. I love the gently driving beat. I love the lyrics, about a couple with one partner wanting to work on their issues and one (the male vocal in the bridge) insisting they bury their problems.
7. Get Myself Arrested - Gomez
I wonder sometimes what kind of indie rock stuff I missed after Rev 105 disappeared from Twin Cities airwaves. This seems to be the answer. I'd have taken this over Eve 6 any day of the week in 1998.
8. I Am Chemistry - Yeasayer
Took notice of this song when it made its left turn into the apparent children's chorus at the end. I made the mistake of reading up on the lyrics late one night after watching a Frontline documentary about ISIS, when I was already in a really dark head space. The whole song is about poisons, including incredibly specific references to particular toxins, both natural and man-made, in some cases using full chemical formula. I found this both fascinating and incredibly disturbing, and though this song was on the bubble for inclusion, I spent so much time thinking about it, it felt dishonest to leave it off.
9. untitled 06 | 06.30.2014. - Kendrick Lamar ft. CeeLo Green
Smooth as hell.
10. Sometimes It Snows In April - Prince
Prince's passing was the kick in the pants I needed to finally move beyond just knowing his hits + Purple Rain and dig into the albums. This song got a lot of play in the wake of his death, both locally on The Current (which was amazing to listen to last spring), and nationally, as when D'Angelo covered it on The Tonight Show a week later. It's a sad and beautiful song about the death of a friend, with a B flat suspended 2nd chord (I had to look this up) in the chorus that feels like a stab of grief in the middle of a search for acceptance and closure.
11. Alone Again Or - Love
Shortly after Prince died, The Current ran their 893 Essential Albums list, as voted by listeners. I'd be interested to know how the list would change had the voting come after he died -- I suspect it would have shaken things up a bit. Anyhow, it was a fun week of radio to listen to, and hipped me to this song from the mid-60s I couldn't remember having ever heard (turns out I had, years ago; it's used to great effect in Wes Anderson's debut film Bottle Rocket), and it's gorgeous. The trumpet solo is on the list of bits I'll sit down and puzzle out on my horn when I'm old.
12. The Chain - Fleetwood Mac
I'd long resisted Fleetwood Mac as Dumb Music for White Boomers: music for Al and Tipper to make out on stage to. I liked Gold Dust Woman and Tusk, the latter because of its use in The Americans' pilot, but that was about it. Rumours ended up near the top of that 893 albums list, and I finally watched Dave Grohl's Sound City documentary, which I recommend to all, and which talks about the Nicks-and-Buckinghamification of the band and the recording of their self-titled album. So, I finally gave that disc and Rumours a shot, and, dammit, I loved about 2/3 of both. The bass in this one is especially great.
Update: I forgot that The Americans had also used The Chain. (Warning: some violence in that clip)
13. Burn the Witch - Radiohead
I've run hot and cold on new Radiohead for a while now, but really like this one, in large part because of Jonny Greenwood's orchestral arrangement. The percussive orchestral thrum throughout is a string section playing "col legno battuto," literally "striking with wood," meaning they play with the wooden backs of their bows, rather than the bow strings. The technique tends to produce a more brittle sound, and is typically used to create a feeling of harshness or tension. It was used most famously near the finale of the "Witches' Sabbath" movement of Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique (at 9:16 in that clip), but I've just today learned is also indicated at the opening of "Mars, The Bringer of War," from Holst's The Planets. Not quite sure how I made it 20 years with that as one of my favorite pieces of music without knowing that.
14. I Decide - The Julie Ruin
It's always good to hear from Kathleen Hanna. The lyrics aren't explicit about any issues, but are an important statement of independence: I might be in a bad situation, but it's my choice, not yours.
15. Changes - Charles Bradley
Learned after I'd picked this song that it's a Black Sabbath cover. Huh. Go figure.
16. Step Into My Office, Baby - Belle and Sebastian
The guitar line as the song winds back up after the bridge reminds me a bit of The Beatles' "For You Blue," from Let It Be.
17. These Words - The Lemon Twigs
More songs need to have a xylophone-and-guitar-led freakout jam in them. If Zappa had lived longer, more songs would. I was not surprised when I found out the D'Addario brothers of The Lemon Twigs are a couple of NY theater kids.
18. Smile More - Deap Valley
This song sounds like a lost track from the early/mid 90s.
19. Ball of Confusion (That's What The World Is Today) - The Temptations
Heard this on The Current the morning of the election. Swiftly became more appropriate.