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?


Since I first posted Ratatat four years ago all the original MP3s have been taken down. See, you gotta grab the goods while there are goods to grab (you can still download their second mixtape here). You’ll notice also my short and sweet review. I stand by it. Ratatat remains one of the tastiest instrumental groups groovin’ on U.S. shores. Their first two albums are in regular rotation in Alisa’s car as the beats and riffs of Mast and Stroud work magic soothing our three savage beasts. She’s gonna go giddy when I tell her about new Ratatat. Hey, the new album is out June 8th, the same week as her birthday. I’m gonna hold off on the news until I can wrap it up in fancy paper and bows. Shhhhh. Don’t say anything to her. No, I don’t need to worry about her reading this. She never does. 3hive to Alisa means her husband butt-planted in front of the computer for hours listening to music too loud while she’s trying to get some shut eye. Though, when I dig up gems like this for her 3hive’s a bed of roses…

Mirando [MP3, 5.5MB, 192kbps]

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Jack Peñate

I run the risk of dating myself, my better half specifically, when I report that upon hearing “Second, Minute Or Hour” she promptly compared Peñate to The Housemartins. An apt comparison. It’s the frantic, breathless delivery, the quick, jangly guitars, they heavy accent, and the playful lyrics, although Peñate lacks the acerbic subtext of many Housemartins’ songs, a fact Peñate is more than comfortable with. In his bio he says, “I like stuff that’s soulful, happy and intelligent—and I don’t like music ironically.” I should mention Ted Leo in an effort to bring a more recent artist to bear on the comparison. Another recent artist (and XL labelmate), RJD2 contributed to the song “Learning Lines.” A fine pairing when you’re working towards a soulful and intelligent sound. Jack Peñate’s making quite a stir in the UK, with the press and the young ladies in particular, but when the masses here in the U. S. of A. consider American Idol to be soulful and intelligent, Jack Peñate may fly undeservedly low, avoiding the radar, when his album touches down here next month.

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