Sam’s Top 23 Songs of 2016

(Sequenced for flow – not ranking – purposes.)

Tyvek “Choose Once” (In the Red)
My single of the year, from my album of the year. So raw, so good.

Mass Gothic “Every Night You’ve Got to Save Me” (Sub Pop)
Family Sing-Along Song of the Year honors go to this raucous doo-wop jam.

DIIV “Under the Sun” (Captured Tracks)
Shining down from a shimmering crack in the clouds that hung over 2016.

A Tribe Called Quest “We the People…” (Epic)
I could have chosen any of a half dozen tracks off this album but this here’s the anthem, get your damn hands up.

Francis and the Lights w/ Bon Iver “Friends” (KTTF)
Alan Parsons meets auto-tuned R&B meets, well, Bon Iver.

Half this song is impossible to dance to; the other half is impossible not to dance to.

De La Soul “Royalty Capes” (AOI)
I wish this album had been more fulfilling than my anticipation of it, but there are some real gems amidst the scattershot experiments. This one’s about why a guy can’t find vintage De La on any of the streaming services.

Homeboy Sandman “Heart Sings” (Stones Throw)
Homeboy Sandman w/ I Am Many “Real New York”
(Stones Throw)
Sometimes he rhymes slow, sometimes he rhymes quick.

Beach Slang “Spin the Dial” (Polyvinyl)
“I was born at the bottom
But I never belonged
I’m hardly ever right
But I’ve never been wrong”
Could’ve been ripped straight from Paul Westerberg’s notebook.

The Men “Dreamer” (We Are the Men)
What you’d imagine to be playing anytime a parent pounds on their teen’s bedroom door and yells, “Turn it down!”

The Radio Dept. “Committed to the Cause” (Labrador)
A slinky statement of a song with hints of Prefab Sprout and St. Etienne.

Parquet Courts “Steady on My Mind” (Rough Trade)
Mmmn, Velvet-y.

Grandaddy “A Lost Machine” (Sony)
Man, this album can’t come soon enough…

James Blake “Love Me in Whatever Way” (Polydor)
That laugh track makes this even more heartbreaking than your average James Blake song.

ot to, not to w/ Noah Smith “Regretta I” (Other People)
Listen very closely.

The xx “On Hold” (Young Turks)
I know their 15 minutes of fame should be long gone, but that Hall & Oates sample…

Sonny & the Sunsets “Needs” (Polyvinyl)
The album where Sonny fell in love with a drum machine and made some goofy babies like this one.

Sunflower Bean “I Was Home” (Fat Possum)
Critics fawned over their debut but I found most of the album kinda boring. That said, this single is some transcendent psych rock amazingness.

Terry Malts “Used to Be” (Slumberland)
Terry Malts has been to me in the early 20-teens what The Wedding Present was to me in the early 1990s – completely durable and indispensible.

The Intended “Don’t Wait Too Long” (In the Red)
Rollicking goodness from Detroit’s garage (or basement, as the case may be) scene.

Leonard Cohen “It Seemed the Better Way” (Sony)
I’m a man of faith but after a year like this one, I get it. I really do.

David Bowie “Lazarus” (ISO/Columbia)
As my grandmother was bedridden and dying of cancer she’d ask my mom to open the curtains so she could watch the birds in the tree outside her window. When I first heard the bluebird line, I crumbled into a sobbing mess. Bowie gave until the very end…ain’t that just like him?


Young Nathan Williams aka Wavves has been making a lot of…wait for it…no, I’m not going to do that to you…Williams has been making lots of friends (or enemies perhaps) over the weekend as out in Austin, Texas for SXSW as he just wrapped up ELEVEN appearances. He now makes his way out East and then back home to San Diego. Williams’ not-so-stealth appearance into the indie scene largely depends on his DIY ethic, both in production and publicity. He’s a one man bedroom band equipped with a multi-track recorder and enough instruments, harmonies and fuzz to fill said bedroom. I mentioned fuzz right? He’s full of it, but for those of you not trained to do so, be patient and listen deeper into the songs, past the noise, and you’ll be rewarded with this kid’s hooks! He’s full of them too. Plans are in the works to put out a proper studio album, but you’ll want to be able to tell your kids you were listening to Wavves “before he sold out.” It’ll be analogous to the “I was listening to Beck when he was on Bongload” conversations happening 17 years ago. Fat Possum just put out his album, Wavves, last week, but it was live on iTunes months before that. And previously Williams released a slew of cassettes and 7-inch singles on a handful of different labels. Wavves is stirring up a big tsunami in a little pond, jump on board and ride it in before the line-up gets overcrowded.

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Colour Revolt

Colour Revolt are from Oxford, and though you might think from the way they’ve decided to spell that we’re talking about the Anglo-universal seat of education in Jolly Old, we’re actually talking about the other Old Oxford, as in “Ole” Oxford, as in Ole Miss. At first pass you might not hear the Deep South in the very fuzzy guitarry sound, which actually reminds me more of Girls Against Boys and Helmet than anything to come out of the southland of late. But listen to the lyrics and you’ll get a good dose of God. And, as we all know, there ain’t no God party like a Southern God party ‘coz a Southern God party got eternal damnation. Heyyyy. Hoooo.

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Dinosaur Jr.

After a couple years of playing live shows together, the original Dinosaur Jr. — J, Lou, Murph — went into the studio and freakin’ took it back to the old school. Beyond is everything I loved about the original Dino Jr. It’s a noisy collection of reluctantly romantic rock and roll, both hopeless and hopeful, air guitar worthy and turn-out-the-lights-and-sulk worthy. Plus, look at the cover, a throwback to their Homestead/SST releases. It’s just like heaven.

Original post (from 12/10/2005):
As may have already been documented at some point on 3hive, Sean, Clay, and I met as college students. But ours was a college town with no college radio (unless you count 24/7 classical music and church sermons as college radio). So Sean decided one day to start a college radio station, with a more typical college radio format, and enlisted his friends — me and Clay among them — in the cause. To this day, there are songs I can’t hear without being taken back to that tiny booth with the temperamental cart machine and wobbly microphone. While my love for Dinosaur Jr. certainly pre- and post-dates those days, I can’t hear “Freak Scene” without feeling the impulse to punch out the two F words and back sell it with, “That was Dinosaur Jr. on AM960, The Student Underground Network…” Old habits die hard.

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Andrew Bird

Andrew Bird is back, with a new album — Armchair Apocrypha — to be released in a month or so, a prominent SXSW appearance, late-night TV gigs and a big tour (dates & locales here). Also back: musically complex, gently orchestrated and textured pop songs with obscure or unexpected lyric paths, and more whistling than a Roger Whittaker album. Some of the off-beat syncopation and general quirkiness aren’t here; in general Armchair Apocrypha sounds developed and mature. That said, Bird’s sound is still fresh and inviting, clever and complex.

Heretics [MP3, 3.2MB, 128kbps]

Original post: 05/05/05
A message from Sean to me, regarding Andrew Bird:
“Damn, you beat me to this! AB’s one of those artists that I just never took the time to listen to, even though I had access to his records….then when I do finally listen, I’m kicking myself for waiting so long…”
Incredibly fresh songwriting, with an abundance of clever lines and complex instrumentation that fits somewhere between Nick Drake and Arcade Fire. Thanks to Gordon for this suggestion.

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The Black Keys

The two-man jam might make you think of the White Stripes and the name doesn’t do anything to discourage the comparison. So you might as well just go with the roadhouse flow and enjoy some new and old from the duo with the reverb to shake your favorite parts and the quiet side to make you wanna kiss somebody sloppy.

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