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?

The Radio Dept.

The Radio Dept started a journey a number of years ago, a pop voyage (pronounced French-style) if you will, that has started a new leg. The fuzzed out bliss pop seems so very long ago, as they enter an orchestral funk pop phase, still framed with their signature techniques. Regardless of the destination, the fun is in getting there.

Second Post 5/9/2008:
The Radio Dept’s last LP Pet Grief further cemented their delicate pop sounds, built with the tools of 80’s pop (haunting keyboads, drum machines, echo pedals), as their sound. “Freddie and the Trojan Horse,” from their upcoming June EP, doesn’t mess with their formula, but it does turn up the tempo and the urgency.

Original Post 11/17/2004:
Like religious conversion or political persuasion, music can be very personal. Isn’t that why we like it? So rather than a cold, third-person blip about The Radio Dept., allow me to share something personal, which is that I just love The Radio Dept. Love. My longstanding record for the most times I’ve listened to a song in a row is Joe Jackson’s “Got the Time,” clocking in at 48 consecutive listens. But, at the rate I’m going, The Radio Dept.’s “Pulling Our Weight” is going to overtake that before the night is over.

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Just the other day, my buddy Roland from my freshman year of college said on Facebook that “Love Like Blood” by Killing Joke was the best song ever. While I think “The Fall of Because” is Killing Joke’s best song (let’s not even get started on the topic of “Best Song Ever”), it did cause me to pull out some old records of other electronic tinged artists of that era that Roland introduced me to, namely Click Click’s Rorschach Testing and Clan of Xymox’s self-titled LP. The Labrador Records site describes Pallers as “the darkest and finest electronic music we’ve heard in a long time.” That’s the perfect description of Pallers, who take the dark electronics of the previously named bands, yet add vocals with an amazing Swedish pop sensibility a la fellow Swedes The Radio Dept, making what was old new again.

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The Sound of Arrows

I just felt it in the air. It’s a warm fuzzy feeling in that glob of fat my skull houses, otherwise known as a brain. This warm fuzzy feeling reminds me to check in on the label that consistently provides me with warm fuzzy music: Labrador. They just signed a Stockholm duo, The Sound of Arrows, who dress as if they’re living on a polygamist ranch in Texas and sound like The Avalanches mixing Placebo. I look forward to hearing more from these pleasantly pastel pals when their 9-song EP is out in May.

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File under: Better Late Than Never. [ingenting] may mean “nothing” in their native tongue of Swedish, but this wonderful single, a favorite of mine since Labrador offered it for free, oh, about 11 months ago (see first sentence), is anything but. The post-punk guitar, the keyboard-driven simple melody, the disco bass, and the crisp drumming are awfully catchy and do not deserve to be horded by me any longer.

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Club 8

I feel a special numerical affinity for Club 8. The number eight holds a particular significance with me, a significance that I don’t believe I’ve shared outright with our readership, which is surprising, even to me, because I’m quite obnoxious with it in person. Put it this way, I probably would’ve been much better at math if we worked off a base eight system. OK, I’ll put it another way: I wouldn’t get very far hitchhiking. Here, you’d better just have a look (Taken, probably ten years ago, by Mr. Lifto backstage at a Jim Rose Circus Sideshow. No it hasn’t been Photoshopped.). Now that we’ve established I’m a member of Club 8, onto the music at hand (pun not intended, seriously)…

Club 8 is the Swedish boy-girl duo of Johan AngergÃ¥rd and Karolina Komstedt, homemaking music since 1995. Incessantly smooth and gorgeous, both the singing and playing, Club 8 has toyed with different takes on their cozy pop sound: ’60s folk, trip-hop, and bossa nova. It’s been five years since the last Club 8 album due to the fact that both Johan AngergÃ¥rd and Komstedt also play in Acid House Kings, not to mention AngergÃ¥rd’s work with The Legends. Their new album, The Boy Who Couldn’t Stop Dreaming, promises to balance sunshine (“Heaven”) and melancholia (“Jesus, Walk With Me”—a quiet rebuttal to Sam Harris et al). In a word, stunning.

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White Christmas in Sweden? When would it not be a white Christmas in Sweden? Guess that’s why Labrador Records’ Christmas present to us is the wishfully-titled “Christmas on the Beach” from pop masters Irene. I say pop masters since Irene’s songs display pop from every decade since the 60’s, no doubt honed and perfected on many a white Christmas Day while dreaming of warmer climes…

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The Mary Onettes

Sam, Clay and I bicker constantly about who’s gonna post the latest treat from Sweden’s ever-so-sweet Labrador Records. Thanks to Jason over at Mystery and Misery (and newly Minimal) I’ve won this round. The Mary Onettes not only have a playful ’80s era air about their name, they’ve also captured the artful earnestness of the decade’s music. “Lost” devos open with a driving drum beat that leads into a jangly, New Order guitar riff and A Flock of Seagulls keyboard flourish. On paper it sounds like a disaster, but to the ear it’s pure, um, music. They drop things down a few notches on “What’s So Strange?” an acoustic-y, track bordering on gentle, psychedelic XTC. Next time your parents complain that “They just don’t make music like they used to!” give ’em a dose of The Mary Onettes.

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Pelle Carlberg

A Swedish boy and his guitar. Former leader of the Swedish band Edson, Pelle Carlberg, is out on his own now, finding his way in the big world and singing about it all with warm, personal, and calmly infectious pop.

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