It’s that time of year again where I run through the list of songs that inspired me, entertained me, or just plain got stuck in my head for amusing reasons, more than any other songs in the last 12 months. Most of these were released in 2017. Some came out in 2016 and I either didn’t hear them until this year or didn’t come to fully appreciate them in time for last year’s list. I’ve given brief explanations and YouTube links for the Top 30. For the rest… just check the reviews where they’re linked, if you’re curious.
And as always, many of these songs (limit one per artist) are collected in my 2017 in a Nutshell playlist over on Spotify.
This is the music I’ll remember the most when I think back on 2016. Not just the great singles (though these albums have plenty of those) or the dark horse picks buried deep in the track listings (tons of those too, though), but the way these records all flow from song to song, creating a continuous listening experience that makes spending nearly an hour of time with each artist (or more, in a few cases) worthwhile. On my most cynical days, I’d say that thanks to both terrestrial radio doing its thing and the ephemeral lifecycle of most songs and artists that go “viral” on social media, the single is a much more easily digestible and obtainable format for popular music nowadays, putting the album in danger of becoming a lost art. But from the very obscure to the decidedly mainstream, every record on this list would be here to prove me wrong.
The final days of 2016 are upon us, and that can only mean one thing – it’s time for some long lists that try (perhaps in vain) to sum up the best music I was listening to this year. As always, I’ll start with the individual songs that stood out to me the most. The in-depth reasons why I love these songs so much are mostly spelled out in the album reviews I’ve linked to from here, but in addition to the usual video evidence, I’ve also included a quick blurb for each of the Top 30 entries, just to keep it from being a long list with no explanation whatsoever, I guess.
I’ve also made a Spotify playlist that collects a lot of these highlights, if you’d like to spend a few hours following along. (That one’s ordered more as I discovered the songs, not so much how I’d rank them now, and it’s limited to one track per artist.)
Artist: Jimmy Eat World Album: Integrity Blues Year: 2016 Grade: B+
In Brief: Put quite simply, a strong pop/rock record with confident hooks and melodies, and intriguing, often heartfelt lyrics. Unlike their last few albums, it doesn’t need to prove that it’s in any way raw, experimental, or revolutionary. It’s simply Jimmy Eat World doing what they do best, and it’s the best they’ve done since Futures.
Not having seen Christine’s parents since late 2006, we took an “off-season vacation” in late January/early February to go back to Oahu and visit them. This was a much cheaper trip than usual – no side journeys to outlying islands or overnights in Waikiki hotels or anything like that. Just low-key relaxation in suburban Mililani – and of course the usual driving around and exploring the island that I can never resist doing. Most of these songs aren’t tied to memories of that trip in the direct sense, but any good vacation offers its fair share of moments to pause, take in the peace of a beautiful place far from home, and reflect on personal issues I’m dealing with at that point in time, ways that my beliefs and passions are being shaped and challenged, etc. Listening to this batch of songs ten years later, it’s pretty clear that I was on the verge of some of those changes.
In with the New:
Jon Foreman (as a solo artist – appears earlier with Switchfoot)
Out with the Old:
This soundtrack for the winter of 2005 is filled with songs of anticipation, but many of them also express a desire for change. I was preparing for my life to become radically different as Christine and I planned our wedding. I had to ask myself who I was now, what I wanted to be, and what things were standing in the way of that transformation. I wanted to start married life knowing that the process would make me a better man.
In with the New:
Olivia the Band
The Fiery Furnaces
Out with the Old:
Something Like Silas
Day of Fire