Monday, December 19, 2016

Top 100 Songs Of 2016, 20-1


As my weekly Loosies segment took precedent in my blog's life, a lot of songs came through my ears, like a forever revolving door of ideas, inspiration, and art. Thousands of songs, some embarrassingly weak or crass, others dripping with feeling or glory. Yet, I still can't help but feel disappointed with 2016's top-tier song output. My number one song, as you'll soon find here, is evidence of that. So while few tracks failed to floor me, forcing me to question my own tastes, a trove sat comfortably on a throne of greatness. As I was compiling this list, the final tracks towards the end of the year finding their way in, causing others to slip out, I couldn't help but feel the quality displayed here is of impressionable stature.

Much like my albums list, the top 100 songs of 2016 represent an idea in me bubbling since the year began. Everyone undergoes turmoil, and this year I encountered my toughest hurdle yet. Couple that with 2016's marred identity, with countless idol deaths and poisoned cultural events, and it's easy to see why I sought refuge in music. Don't fret, this idea never got in the way of quality. If a song deserved to be here, you'll find it. But the point remains that what can be found here, regardless of the impression the song lents to its listeners, are a collection of tunes that put me in a good place.

*These are all 2016 songs, with two rule of thumb exceptions. If it released in the final weeks of 2015, failing to make that year's list, you'll find it here. And if a single for an album this year released in 2015, never crossing my ears until 2016, then you'll find that here as well.

Also be sure to check out my best songs of 2015 and 2014.

Open Mike Eagle | Admitting The Endorphin Addiction | Hella Personal Film Festival

Hella Personal Film Festival, a joyous album that took it's name literally, moved through varied stories interwoven effortlessly by Open Mike Eagle and Paul White. It was an album that sought to define the famous quote, "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts." However, 'Admitting The Endorphin Addiction,' the album's introduction, wonderfully worked as a succinct summary of the greater sound, style, and approach at hand. It was with this track that the effortless chemistry of Open Mike Eagle and producer of the year Paul White really showed its cards. The veteran Art rapper spoke in his classic monotone delivery, all while White maneuvered beneath him with clear intentions, smooth instrumentation, and a vintage 70's vibe pursuing the brightly-lit corners.

Just like the album as a whole, 'Admitting The Endorphin Addiction' also worked best by admiring the entire piece. It wasn't that the pieces fell apart, quite the opposite in fact. It was more a case of two highly talented musicians finding connective pieces with ease, using them effectively, and creating a composed song that felt natural, organic, and crystalized. While White, who would later reveal his insane skills and diversity on Atrocity Exhibition and later on this very album, narrowed in on this one aesthetic, Open Mike Eagle further accentuated his ability to conjure emotive responses with the complacency of a man whose already been exposed to the troubles at hand. Like any powerful artistic statement, 'Admitting The Endorphin Addiction' not only worked as a conscious track, but an enjoyable one as well.

Japanese Breakfast | Everybody Wants To Love You | Pyschopomp

As many music listeners know, especially those that rely on the radio, the simplest of tunes can sometimes make the biggest impact. Case in point, Japanese Breakfast's 'Everybody Wants To Love You.' A Twee Pop smash that hits on all the pleasure principles, Psychopomp's obvious single accomplishes everything it set out to do in just over two minutes. Michelle Zauner welcomes in Sam Cook-Parrott for a delightful duet that brings about memories of 70's Pop, simple Disco melodies, and Doo-Wop. 'Everybody Wants To Love You' doesn't actually sound like those genre, it merely embodies them in another physical form, in this case, Indie Pop. 

It's the hit many musicians dream of making. In their process of complicating melodies and trying to stray from the path, Japanese Breakfast goes straight down the middle, giving listeners exactly what they come to music for. The hook, a back-and-forth riff on the song's title, may very well be the catchiest thing you'll hear all year. And if Zauner's intent feeds itself, don't be surprised when you're humming it days later. Usually, Pop songs like these thrive on their hook and nothing more, but here Japanese Breakfast weaves interpersonal tales, laced with humor, in the verses to make them equally as intoxicating.

Anohni | 4 Degrees | Hopelessness

There's just something about sending a message using the opposition's own hypocrisy that gets to me. Antony Hegarty, who now goes by Anohni, did just that on Hopelessness' lead single '4 Degrees.' Like the rest of the immensely political album, she tackled a subject matter that's rife with controversy, in this case global warming. Taking on the perspective of an unconcerned citizen, something, at one point or another, we've all been convicted of, Anohni delves into the seriousness of the issue at hand by making a mockery of those who make a mockery of it. By denying climate change, you effectively want to see this world boil, you want to see the fish go belly-up, you want to see those big mammals crying in the fields.

Driving her message even further is the production team of Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never who clash with each other using electronic instrumentation. At times, it's OPN who takes charge with tribal drums, in another instance though, it's Mohawke and his sterile synthetic horns. The growing fight between the two only goes to emphasize Anohni's point further, as '4 Degrees' itself explodes with fiery passion. What's perhaps most interesting about '4 Degrees' though, is the two-faced message it sends. On one end, the chorus ("it's only four degrees, it's only four degrees") takes the perspective of a denier who couldn't care less about the 'minimal' changes occurring. On the other end though is Anohni, pleading with herself, trying to come to grips with the small number, despite knowing the drastic consequences it has. True songwriting on display here.

Kendrick Lamar | untitled 02 | Untitled Unmastered

Considering the impeccable nature of Kendrick Lamar's music, we knew the leftovers of such a monumental project as To Pimp A Butterfly would still be well worth our time. Out of those eight efforts, including a couple that premiered to thirsting fans in live television performances, the track that stood out the most was 'untitled 02.' Understandably, given its lack of direct context to To Pimp A Butterfly's overall picture, it wasn't on that album, however the music itself is just as good, sporting a wildly dark beat lording under Lamar accentuating his voice further than he ever has.

More than anything else, 'untitled 02' captures the potential for tension in music perfectly. Why? Well, most everyone's favorite part is Lamar's incendiary verse where, for the first time in the song, his voice turns dark to match the beat, spitting with unmatched dexterity using a spotless flow that effortlessly moves through the bass hits. The song is well over halfway done before that moment happens, leaving you with the sole hook over and over, which draws out so much unease that it's honestly remarkable. Also, can't go without mentioning the assertive backing vocals that occur on the back half of each hook, adding yet another layer of enjoyability to the already cacophonous track.

Childish Gambino | Me & Your Mama | "Awaken, My Love!"

It was possibly the most unexpected single of the year, at least in terms of pure sonics. Sure, there was the over-the-top return of The Avalanches with 'Frankie Sinatra,' and there was the floor-stomping confidence of Beyonce's 'Formation,' but no one jumped ship from their safe genre quite as much as Childish Gambino on 'Me And Your Mama,' and his ensuing Funk and Soul risk "Awaken, My Love!." It was the lead single though, which would become the album's strongest moment, where Donald Glover not only embraced his unknown Funk roots, but drowned himself in them so deep the only thing left showing was his new-found afro.

'Me And Your Mama' was also one of the rare songs on Awaken that featured Gambino's experimentation with song structure, moving fluidly (or abruptly) between pieces, starting reserved and mystical thanks to some dazzling production and an out-of-this-world female voice, diving headfirst from Olympic heights with a ferocious lead appearance, and then ending somber and tense with after-storm ambience. The cherished act here, Gambino himself found in the middle, openly welcomes Funk into his life. And rather than mimic the styles, as he did elsewhere on Awaken, he created a path entirely his own. 

Beyonce | All Night | Lemonade

Earlier this year, Beyonce lit the music industry up when she did the same to her husband, Jay-Z. Now, yes, this was likely an orchestrated publicity stunt with some, not all, facts based in reality, but that didn't stop Lemonade from being one of the more interesting concept albums in recent memory. Acting as the conclusive finale to her solace, 'All Night' finds comfort in Yonce's determination, confidence, and contention. Not only that, but it's a damn good song that just so happens to sample the infamous horns from Outkast's 'SpottieOttieDopaliscious.' Who knew Diplo had subtlety imbedded in him.

Even with a wonderful assortment of instrumentation swelling behind the queen, it's still her show, and she puts together one of her best performances of all-time. Not that there's only a floor-shaking falsetto, or a devilish tenacity, but 'All Night' supports all her greatest assets. Just look to the hook and bridge where, in a matter of seconds, she goes from sultry to seductive. Her voice cascades like butter over the horns, easily making 'All Night's' chorus one of 2016's best. A smart decision to dedicate a good chunk of the track to its magnificence.

Car Seat Headrest | Cosmic Hero | Teens Of Denial

There have been rumblings over the past few years of Indie Rock's declining notoriety. After excelling for the better part of the last two decades, the old heads once hailed for being pioneers are now falling into cliches, the new heads too ordinary or too nonchalant to make a formidable impact. That's where Car Seat Headrest comes into play, and especially the monumental Teens Of Denial. Simply hearing such ambition from the genre is cause for excitement. And amongst two handfuls of stellar songs stood one that echoed Will Toledo's entire goal succinctly. Traveling through multiple, increasingly paranoid passages, 'Cosmic Hero' excels at bringing the impact of Indie's past to the present.

Beginning with small origins, as a single trumpet toots lazily, the ensuing eight minutes lifts Toledo up to the next plane. Utilizing the classic quiet-loud-quiet structure, 'Cosmic Hero' plays with emotions more than it has any right to. Toledo, acting as the arrogant personality he's reflected upon in the rest of Teens Of Denial, screams out in the chorus "I will go to Heaven, you won't go to Heaven, I won't see you there." Harsh, but just one of many memorable set pieces found not just on 'Cosmic Hero,' but the LP as a whole. 

clipping. | A Better Place | Splendor & Misery

I've spoken many times in the last half year about the utter uniqueness of Splendor & Misery. No album sounds, moves, or unfolds quite like it. As far as futuristic Hip-Hop albums go, it may be one of the most left field records of all-time. Obviously the story of a sole slave overtaking a ship is eccentric enough, but the fact that clipping's underlying message embraces futility and hopelessness over fate is another demon indeed. Rather than return to governing systems who accepted his current slavish state, he felt comfort, on the grand finale 'A Better Place,' to fly into the unknown, facing certain death. Many artisans find beauty in death, and clipping. is no different, selectively choosing to make 'A Better Place' the only lovely song on Splendor & Misery.

Why? Because they understand living under the control of others is worse than death, so to Cargo #2331, 'A Better Place' is the best possible outcome. The radiant array of synths dancing along one another, and Daveed Diggs' rapping style, which jukes right along with it, makes for a reassuring finale that's both eye-opening and conclusive. The previous 14 songs found our lead worrying over everything, from his own life to his own past to his current situation. This is his misery. 'A Better Place,' even though the oblivion means permanent death, is his splendor. This all goes without mentioning the song's own value as a riveting piece of Hip-Hop, one that's joyous not just in content, but for entertainment purposes as well.

Frank Ocean | Self Control | Blonde

Frank Ocean's Blonde was celebrated by many for not only pushing his talents to a seemingly endless limit, but also for branching out in ways many seemed unfit. I was one of those. And while Blonde, as compared to the immaculate channel ORANGE, was a disappointment, one of its respectable centerpieces was not. 'Self Control' finds Ocean at an impasse, wanting love from one party as that same party starts to vanish from his life. You'd never know that from the first 15 seconds that finds Ocean setting the scene with a cartoonish vocal effect, or the fact that Yung Lean, yes, that Yung Lean, is featured on the song.

The point still remains, after the silly intro wears off we're left with Ocean, a guitar, and a broken heart to mend our differences. Like many moments on Blonde, 'Self Control' succeeds in its creases. Whilst Alternative R&B right now is all about the excess, 'Self Control's' bare, stripped down approach sets it apart. The pitch shifted vocals, the sincere, almost naive chorus, and the riveting finale that sees Ocean's voice reach a new plateau, all amount to a work that's stellar for being nothing more than what it wants to be. 

Danny Brown | Ain't It Funny | Atrocity Exhibition

Hip-Hop's community must've been fooling themselves around 2013. Don't get me wrong, Old was a solid project. With 2011's XXX in tow, people were calling Danny Brown one of the most creative artists in the game. Those two albums didn't prove that. Atrocity Exhibition did. While the two lead singles, 'When It Rain' and 'Pneumonia,' set fans on a crash course of what to expect, the album starts off on relatively safe footing. It isn't until 'Ain't It Funny' where the walls of Danny Brown's demented circus come crashing down. Imagine the music video for Outkast's 'The Whole World' in music form.

Much of this is thanks to Paul White, who absolutely solidified himself as one of the best producers in Hip-Hop today. Not just with 'Ain't It Funny,' or the other nine songs he produced here, but his work in 2016 as a whole. But it is 'Ain't It Funny' that shows off his creative chops the best, easily putting him right alongside Danny in that respect. So while White floors listeners with a rambunctious one-two, it isn't until the gap-tooth rapper emerges, guns a blazing, to annihilate the unusual beat. When people say Danny Brown can rap over anything, this is what they're referring to.

Xiu Xiu | Falling | Plays The Music Of Twin Peaks

Either in anticipation of the third season of Twin Peaks, or Jamie Stewart of Xiu Xiu just felt like expressing his love, the Experimental Rock group released a series of covers entitled Plays The Music Of Twin Peaks. The result was epic, re-envisioning already unique soundtrack music to make a full-length release that works perfectly in Xiu Xiu's absurd canon. The centerpiece of Play The Music just so happens to be the centerpiece of the entire season, 'Falling.' By design, of course, as if you've seen the series you know how often that unforgettable melody is repeated. Used in almost every instance of the show, the song, with the unescapable lyric of "something's different, are we falling in love?" screeches through 'Falling' like a wrecking ball that's aimed at destruction. As many know, of all the themes twisting through Twin Peaks, the most prominent of those was love and the impact it can have, both positive and negative.

'Falling' replicates that emotion perfectly. It is an absolute mammoth, reaching over the six-minute mark, using a breadth of instrumentation and orchestration to reach the highest possible climax. Like a roller coaster whose biggest drop is at the end, 'Falling' remains intoxicating throughout its duration, leading to the devastating chorus that gets overtaken by a bevy of noise. Of course, it's shocking, impactful, and breathtaking, but it's also, in true Twin Peaks fashion, romantic. The true ramifications of 'Falling,' as was the case back in 1990, have never been fully understood, and on Plays The Music, Xiu Xiu continue to confound the beautiful melody by bearing down on simple emotions with drudging fears, painful memories, and immediate death.

The Weeknd | I Feel It Coming | Starboy

Pop music, to snobs of the medium, has always been a pointless endeavor. Or at least, that's how it used to be. With the explosion of the Internet, more people are coming together than ever before to discuss what's trending. Couple that with the fact that more fans, artists, and the like are being introduced to varying forms of art through globalization, and the small, but necessary Pop resurgence has been something many music critics have taking a liking to. Hell, Beyonce's topping end of year lists left and right, and those aren't bound by any sort of popularity threshold. Maybe, just maybe, a select handful of Pop artists are actually making music worth diving into.

That's where 'I Feel It Coming' enters. To me, it is Pop perfection. There's nothing inherently special about the song. Even the chorus, which is to die for, is just a simple repetition of an overused cliche. There's no shocking topics, no unusual sounds, and really, Daft Punk's potent collaboration, as we all know, was essentially already executed by Pharrell back on 2013's 'Get Lucky.' But there's just something about 'I Feel It Coming,' something so undefinable, that immediately attracts attention. It's pure, in the truest of sense. The Weeknd, more than any other artist creating any other song this year, makes it effortless. It's as if he dug into your brain, found the ear worm that lost sight of your auditory cortex, and gently eased it back into place.

Preoccupations | Memory | Preoccupations

Much like Viet Cong, Preoccupations has a unmissable mammoth standing tall around its companions. On Viet Cong though, 'Death' represented the finale, a massive collapse at the end. For their 2016 effort, Preoccupations jarred listeners by putting 'Memory's' 11-minutes smack in the middle of the piece. More than that, it's three distinct parts varied wildly in terms of stylistic approach, all coming together under the idea of memories. Part one captures Matt Flegel over vintage Post-Punk instrumentation reliving drastic events in what can be presumed as a emotional breakup. However, the bread and beauty of 'Memory' falls in the interim period where feelings aren't as definite. Bringing in Dan Boeckner for vocals, the sailing swoops of the Wolf Parade singer, combined with the rivetingly vivid instrumentation, makes for a moment 2016 won't soon forget.

They, like any Post-Punk band in existence, has been compared to Joy Division. Nowhere else in Preoccupations' discography though have they sounded most like them, finding improbable beauty in ugly instruments, 'Memory's' mid break hallucination is a godsend. An overwhelming snare, with scaling guitars breaking down walls, makes for one of the year's best choruses too. Unfortunate it only happens once, because the final four minutes of 'Memory,' while prudent to their dissection, meanders in empty Drone. By no means does it miss the mark though, as the ashes of what came before can only be explained by dark, brooding, ambient tones. It's a cry not to relive, but to forget, no matter how beautiful it may be.

Deakin | Good House | Sleep Cycle

Years ago, when first creating his Kickstarter for Sleep Cycle, part of the package came in the form of a trip and concert to Africa to help the enslaved black Tuareg people of Mali. While it took the album a full decade to come to fruition, the finances coming out of Deakin's personal pocket, the venture wasn't wasted, as his trip to Mali clearly influenced the works found within. His journey halfway across the world was a soul-seeking venture, and on 'Good House,' the album's final track, you can see the distance he's covered, not just physically, but spiritually as well. Like old Animal Collective works, lingering in the depths of some unearthed atmosphere, 'Good House' maneuvers its way across creeks, valleys, and famished pools of water.

The slow-churning epic feels empowered by some foreign miracle, as if the ambient sounds around him formed cohesive melodies, tangible instrumentation, and tragic emotional tugs ringing on Deakin's own heart. The song just barely eclipses seven-minutes, and yet it feels fully contained, cruising along with landmarks dotting every minute or so. 'Good House' doesn't build to an eventual climax, nor does it mull about just to satisfy the length. Instead, it acts as Deakin's enlightenment phase, speaking with himself about the turmoils that ran rampant in the creation of the album. Beyond that, 'Good House' returns listeners to the Animal Collective days of yore, reliving nostalgia in physical form, a formidable task to complete, and one Deakin does with ease.

Yoni & Geti | I, Testarossa | Testarossa

In one of the more tight-fit concept albums of the year, Yoni Wolf and Serengeti entered the life of a struggling musician on the road, his family worse off than him, stuck back home. The album wove intricate plot points throughout the two's casual, boundary-pushing Hip-Hop. No where else were these two halves more prevalent than the album's magnificent climax 'I, Testarossa.' In one foul swoop, Serengeti embarks on a return trip home, either in real life or fantasy, the illusion only heightens the appeal. The single verse is a blur of slowly escalating emotions, as the tension pouring from Geti's deluded lyrics match the instrumentation going aflutter.

The two unequal apexes cause 'I, Testarossa' to reach a fervor point, one that I can't help but get emotion towards. The album's cover, that of a model car, specifically a testarossa, with ghostly ooze seeping from it becomes all too clear the moment our protagonist realizes that's him; a ghost haunting his own family, hardly there but forever making a presence. In the track's penultimate climax, Serengeti yells out "I'm a poltergeist, I'm a poltergeist, but I might return tonight," as the clashing of a thousand weary souls erupts in a cacophony of pure ecstasy. The children are laughing, there's acoustics abound, and the feeling of warm celebration masks any previous doubt. 'I, Testarossa' knows how to represent emotion in music.

Lil Yachty | Wanna Be Us | Lil Boat

Today I can relate to Dido. Because in the case of Lil Yachty, I will go down with this ship. Some would say that the ship, or yacht, or boat, was already sinking to begin with, but none of that will change my adoration of Hip-Hop's newest, strangest, and most confounding screwball. Unofficially, it's called Bubblegum Trap, taking the bass and hi-hats of the South and infusing it with a sing-a-long, tongue-in-cheek melody that's easy to follow, elementary, and wholly infectious. The best result yet is 'Wanna Be Us,' 2016's most unorthodox banger. And when the stage has been reached that you can appreciate both lyricists and non-lyricists alike, Lil Yachty's off-kilter brand of music consumption may stimulate your ears as well. No, he can't rap. Yes, that's part of the fun.

Last year, I asserted the belief that ILoveMakonnen's appeal came directly as a result of his own, self-curated misshapen image. On tracks, he acted as the friend flaring his nostrils and belting his chords on a late night blunt ride. He wasn't good, but you couldn't help but sit back and enjoy the show. Lil Yachty, and Burberry Perry who appears here, accomplish the same feat. He's a lovable loser, a fearless reject who's not afraid of impending torment. 'Wanna Be Us' sports braggadocios bars, nothing new for Trap, but it's the way the synths hit, the female backing vocals compliment his tone-deaf delivery, and the deliriously fun vibe overall that puts 'Wanna Be Us' over the top. You'd expect a critic to condemn Lil Yachty for disdaining the sacred name of Hip-Hop, but that would imply one took it too serious in the first place. Music, like all forms of art, are meant to be enjoyed.

Bon Iver | 8 (Circle) | 22, A Million

The penultimate track on Bon Iver's perplexing 22, A Million, '8 (Circle)' is the most immediately resonant song, and with good reason. A beautifully evocative track that drips, oozes, and sweats atmosphere. Each passing breath is bigger, larger, more resilient than the last, as the same statement could be attributed to Vernon's vocals, which scale the rising edifice of '8 (Circle)' with confidence. As per Bon Iver's discography, the lyrics are as shrouded and elusive as ever, but they clearly come from a place of deep contention, making it one of 22, A Million's most emotional tracks as well. The real beauty of '8 (Circle)' lies not in the pieces however, but the sum of its parts. Vernon's vocals, his lyrics as well, the tinge of a downtrodden guitar, the swooning of synth measurements, and the distant, but wholly impactful drums, all collide in harmony, taking the sanctity of Art Pop and lamenting it on a plateau.

With the future of 22, A Million, and Bon Iver, still dancing in limbo, the immediate impact of '8 (Circle)' can't properly be felt, but one can surmise its importance. The range is astounding, taking into account Bon Iver's own past, something the rest of 22, A Million hardly does, the minimalistic nature of Art Pop and the genre's obsession over ambiance, and Alternative R&B's inclusion of electronic elements that build tension on one end, ceasing it on the other. We've learned, through the recent evolution of Hip-Hop that lyrics aren't essential when building a track with meaning. And while I'm sure Vernon's words evoke certain sentiments, especially to himself, the lines can be a mess of blurred and meaningless nonsense and yet, with how organically orchestrated '8 (Circle)' is, none of that would matter. Music, and art, has reached a new plateau that will surely isolate many, as 22, A Million certainly has.

The Avalanches | Because I'm Me | Wildflower

In a year that saw giants like David Bowie, Radiohead, and Kanye West release albums, nothing could compare to the first few moments on The Avalanches' second magnificent opus. 16 years had passed, almost enough time to follow a child from birth to graduation, and when 'Because I'm Me' kicks on, with a poverty-stricken minority singing praises of love out of New York City's most dilapidated tenements, the feelings of abandonment wash away in a wave of bittersweet nostalgia. The worry, the fear, the trepidations that they could never supersede 2000's Since I Left You vanished the second a surge of trumpets, acting as their own welcoming party, erupted around this innocent, unnamed boy. In musical terms, 'Because I'm Me' is pure euphoria.

Rather than tread down the same path as their much, much older brother, Wildflower, and 'Because I'm Me,' featured artists. Actual living artists to help feed the project. Camp Lo, 90's Boom Bap luminaries and clear inspirators for Chater and Diblasi, happily jive around memories of their past, not concerned with the future or present. And we can't talk The Avalanches without mentioning samples, yet another reason 'Because I'm Me' excels. A cultural triumph, shaping together samples from the 50's, 60's, 70's, and even 2000's, the sublime alignment of forces might be 'Because I'm Me's' best selling point. With Camp Lo representing the 90's, every point in history The Avalanches hold dear to their hearts is accounted for, spanning not just time, but the globe too. Better yet the fact that 'Because I'm Me,' and the rest of Wildflower, is completely unaffiliated with the times helps to bolster its eminence as well. A shape-shifting Hip-Hop monument that doesn't try to bring people together, because it already has.

Kanye West | Ultralight Beam | The Life Of Pablo

There comes a time when the mentor learns from the mentee. Despite arguably being the most egotistical person in music, fans of Kanye West know just how open he is to other artist's ideas and input. Growing up in the impoverished streets of Chicago, Chance The Rapper, and a litany of emcees just now coming into their own, admired their city's chosen one. Bred off chipmunk vocals, impersonal tales of anguish, and unmatched ambition, West's power in the city, while enormous, wouldn't be fully realized until the storm of positive-preaching children matured enough to enter the game. Between mentor and mentee, 'Ultralight Beam' is the passing of the torch. The symbol song for a new generation led, once again, by a man fighting for the people and the art. 

Kicking off the notorious Life Of Pablo, Chance's verse, along with his true-to-heart Gospel carried over from his days in church, pushed the album, the song, and the artist into territory never before traversed. With a stupefying SNL performance, 'Ultralight Beam' embarked on a mission to celebrate the accomplishments in black culture whilst simultaneously praying for a better day. For the first time in his life, Kanye took a backseat, content with Chance and the power of faith to run the show, something you'd never, ever see an artist with the recognition of Kanye do at the start of his most-hyped album. But the risk worked. And while 'Ultralight Beam' failed to encapsulate 2016 as a whole, the vision it portrayed aimed to justify what the year could've been if our squabbles were put aside. Mixing old black culture with the dawn of a new age, seeing a visionary officially endorse his newest protege, and pushing the limits of Hip-Hop overall, 'Ultralight Beam' deserves all the attention it got.

Lil Ugly Mane | Leonard's Lake | Oblivion Access

I know, I know. You sifted through this list (or scrolled to the top, you know who you are) and the best track of the year didn't even come out this year, nor does it even have lyrics. What am I to do when Lil Ugly Mane, whom I had known for making epic genre collages and Memphis Rap, dropped a monumental Experimental Hip-Hop send-off to end his career two weeks before 2015 ended. Following the mental collapse of LUM on 'Collapse & Appear,' where a robotic female voice has to explain his emotions, the noisy scratching of chicken bones on surgical trays to kickstart 'Leonard's Lake' helps put Oblivion Access further into nonconformist territory. Let it be known, 'Leonard's Lake' does not start out pleasant. However, that's exactly what makes the track so immaculate. Within four minutes, using nothing but instrumentation and an incredibly employed sample, Lil Ugly Mane turns jarring wretchedness into harmonic bliss.

There's just something about 'Leonard's Lake' and how each piece slowly musters enough courage to enter the cacophony that resonates with me more than any song in 2016. Admittingly I, and others, salivated over Oblivion Access when it first dropped, declaring it a landmark Experimental Hip-Hop album. And while that'll remain to be seen, and may not even be heard by enough to make a dent, the unclassifiable nature of 'Leonard's Lake' truly deserves to enter the discussion. Centered around a Jazz quartet medley from the 1920's and utterly obliterating it with ear-curdling noise, jangled keyboard arpeggios, and apocalyptic bass, there's no denying 'Leonard's Lake' stands on its own in Hip-Hop for sheer abrasiveness. Every time I sit down with it I slink back in my chair, close my eyes, and just languish in the absolute insanity. All that for a simple instrumental. That's the power of music.

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