This year was the first in three years that I’ve bothered to put together a year end best of compilation annual CD, as we had for so many years before. For whatever the reason, I got bored with current, nowaday music. I started listening to classical! It was bad. This year, maybe because of the many social justice issues, economic factors, and political insanities that arose, people seemed more inclined to put out brave new records with actual lyrics that say something. At the same time, my partner and I started a radio show here in Brattleboro called Bubble Wrap on WVEW LP/FM. It was a potent combination of better music and more interest that combined to give us this year’s two part list of notable tunes.
This week on Bubble Wrap, we played selections from our Best of 2016 Part 1 comp. Here are some comments followed by the tracklist.
Trend: We ran into a lot more hip hop this year than usual, which is a very good thing. For starters, there were the big 90s artists popping back up including our huge faves De La Soul with And The Anonymous Nobodies and Tribe Called Quest with We Got It From Here…Thank You For Your Service. Frank Ocean finally released Blonde! And Rare Essence, a DC Go Go band that might remind modern ears of hip hop / r& b, put out Turn It Up. There was one Native American hip hop artist in the mix — Tribe Called Red — and a bunch of artists from Chicago including our pick of the year Jamila Woods whose HEAVN album was refreshingly original as well as beautifully arranged and performed. The most unusual hip hop track of the year goes to Acid Arab, a French group, for their song “Gul L’abi,” which features an amazing pseudo-island-style rap sung entirely in the most R-rolling Arabic you ever heard.
Guilty Pleasure: Bruno Mars, “24K Magic” We know, it’s derivative as hell but that’s part of the fun. List all the 80s dance artists checked in this song! (Here’s two to get you started: Maurice Day and the Time, Dazz Band. Have fun!)
This Year’s “Happy”: Lady Wray, “Smilin'” This song is actually better than (Pharrell Williams’) “Happy” because it’s more honest. “Mama said there’d be days like this,” indeed.
Local Heroes: After living in the Connecticut River area for many years, I somehow managed to miss the Winterpills until this year — despite having songs by them in my playlist that I’d highly rated myself. Well, I finally listened to their latest records, Echolalia (from 2015) and Love Songs (2016), and promptly smacked myself right upside the head. They’re great, no bones about it. Love Songs is one of those records where all the songs are good…. Ditto for And The Kids’ new record Friends Share Lovers, which wears its eccentricity like a crown and rocks just as hard. Find both on Signature Sounds…
Best Indie Songs of 2016
And The Kids – Strange To Be
Winterpills – Strange To Be
Jamila Woods – LSD (feat. Chance The Rapper)
The Avalanches – Harmony
Chicago Farmer – Farms & Factories
Rachel Mallin & the Wild Type – Dropout
El Perro Del Mar – KoKoro
RUMTUM – Hemispheres
Acid Arab – Gul L’Abi (featuring AWA) [ed note: sorry for mangling the name — duly corrected]
oddCouple – Visions (feat. Joey Purp)
De La Soul – Pain (feat. Snoop Doggy Dog)
A Tribe Called Red – Virus (feat. Saul Williams and Black Bear)
79.5 – ooo
The 1975 – Love Me (from last year)
Rare Essence – VIP
Bruno Mars – 24K Magic
Lady Wray – Smilin’