Tracks of the Year 2016

So a change from usual. Previously it’s always been 40 tracks – for the totemic British Top 40 analogue. It’s always been relatively researched, with me working on a much larger document, doing some due diligence and trying to remember what stuff actually did come out, etc. Plus lots of serious consideration of the order.

Not this year. This year it’s just what’s ended up in a playlist, arranged roughly. I probably won’t even be writing something about every single entry, as to avoid the eternal procrastination I’ve blocked out an hour or so from my schedule to write it, and whatever state it’s in is the state I send it out in.

Heh. In a real way, this has never been more like a “here are 40 or so tracks I dig” than ever. Anything below the Top 10 rapidly becomes on a level. I’m just throwing my hands in the air, arranging the playlist, and getting writing.

The rules remain. 1 track per artists. Artists who have multiple tracks I love gets one picked and boosted. Artists who collaborate with multiple people can have multiple places (So in another year, Robyn could get it for her solo work and her work with Royksopp). It has to have been ACTIVE last year in some way, so singles that released in 2015 and only came to my attention in 2016 when they dropped on an album would get in – especially stuff which only was late in 2015. And “tracks” doesn’t mean “Any bit of music” not just “Singles” though it usually does.

In terms of themes? Generally more that you can dance too, less that only my inner Belle&Sebastian kid could dance to. It was a hellish year, but music-wise, even for someone who doesn’t follow it nearly as closely as I used to, it was pretty magical.

The spotify playlist is here, though it’s missing a track.

And, yes, I laugh that despite all of the above, we’ve basically ended up with 40 tracks anyway. I’m tempted to throw one in just to round it off, but THAT WOULD BE CHEATING.

39) Pet Shop Boys – The Pop Kids
I like a lot more than the position – it just seems a tonal opening to the piece, and was forwarded to a bunch of friends. “This is basically you and Jamie, isn’t it?” Well, no, but I wish it was.

38) Radiohead – Burn the Witch

37) Anne-Marie – Do It Right

36) Akira The Don – Stranger Things

35) Croatian Amor – An Angel Gets His Wings Clipped


34) Sharon Van Etten – Not Myself

33) Super Furry Animals – Bing Bong
Came on the radio, and made me laugh, and took forever to work out – oh, obviously – it was the Super Furries. Which led to a week long Super Furry relapse. Pop Music! Bing! Also, Bong!

32) Hannah Diamond – Fade Away

31) Pale Spectres – Your Boyfriend’s Girlfriend
As far as I can work out, the only ‘orrible 80s indie style record in the list. I’ve changed.

30) Jenny Hval – Secret Touch

29) De La Soul (feat. Snoop Dogg) – Pain

28) Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Jesus Alone

27) FKA twigs – Good to Love

26) PJ Harvey – The Wheel

25) Noname – Diddy Bop

24) Mogwai – Ether

23) DJ Shadow (feat. Run the Jewels) – Nobody Speak

22) Kilo Kish – Hello, Lakisha

Discovered via Twee Tsar Charlotte’s end of year playlist, and this just makes me want to see a new very complicated and smart musical.

21) Swans – Finally, Peace

Listen to the whole album, but skip Frankie M which is oddly terrible.

20) Drake (WizKid, Kyla) – One Dance

As I am old and live in a box and spend 95% of my life listening to a single playlist to try and finish a fucking 5 year comic, I managed to avoid listening to this until the day after it had gone off number one. It’s got a good beat and I can dance to it.

19) Metronomy – Old Skool

Complicated feelings pop, basically. I’m there, man, I’m there.

18) Dorian Electra – Clitopia

Heh. Late in the year, I went on a big rant on twitter about how Discover’s algorithm, for me, is terrible. No matter how much pop music I listen to, it just gives me 90s indie band B-sides. Among this, a reader said that this has been put on her playlist three or four times. It is a pop record which is basically reciting the wikipeida history section of the Clitoris entry. The middle-section where there’s a heartfelt hailing of the history of 3D imaging is a particular wonder.

The lesson is: I should just follow random people’s Discover playlist rather than using my own. So I did.

17) Solange – Cranes in the Sky

Listening to this I can’t work out why this isn’t in my top 10, and then I remember that I haven’t actually organised these in any serious way. On every level, wonderful.

16) Vanishing Twin – Vanishing Twin Syndrome

This turned up on a friends’ Discover playlist and it’s an enchanting music box exploration that I know nothing about than i) I approve of the album title ii) I like it a lot.

15) A Tribe Called Quest – We The People….

The they’re back and it’s great whispers across the Internet was just glorious.

14) Kanye West – Real Friends

We’ll learn, Kanye. Though probably not.
13) Anderson .Paak (feat ScHoolboy Q) – Am I Wrong

12) CHVRCHES (feat. Hayley Williams) – Bury It


At the Thought Bubble party, Jamie asked me whether it’d be too much to play this. I basically said I’d kill him if he didn’t. In writing there’s the idea of the necessary scene than an audience will actively feel cheated if you don’t show them. Once you’ve made the promise, it’s basically the one thing that can’t be broken – at least, without giving up the audience. Jamie dropping Bury It was one
Jamie did good, and they did good, and when he followed it with Kill Vs Maim, the dancefloor bled.
11) Shura – Touch

I believe Jamie also did good when he alerted this to me. Complicated feelings pop is the best pop, or at least in positions 11 and 10 in this chart.

10) Frank Ocean – Ivy

Complicated feelings pop is the best pop, or at least in positions, etc, etc.

9) Formation – Beyonce

Not on Spotify. I remember the days when the songs which weren’t on my Top 40 playlists were the hyper-underground bands. Now it’s the best pop star in the world. Life, eh?

8) Car Seat Headrest – Destroyed By Hippie Powers

I was going to select (Joe Gets Kicked Out of School For Using) Drugs With Friends (But Says This Isn’t a Problem) but it takes three minutes to get to the sing along bit, so probably has to be kicked out (but it’s the best sing along that Pavement never wrote. DRUGS! FRIENDS! DRUGS! FRIENDS!)
So this will do instead.
7) David Bowie – Blackstar
I feel the “would you have listened to it as much if Bowie hadn’t died?” question is missing the point. Bowie wouldn’t have recorded it if he wasn’t going to die. It’s pop’s great requiem mass, and startling.

6) Christine and the Queens – Tilted

I DJed four times this year. When we DJed in France, Jamie played the English Language version of this, and everyone sang along in French anyway. Beautiful to see. I got into her at the Latitude festival that we were invited to (erk) perform (i.e. Speak) at, and immediately understood the appeal of the vision-of-pop-created-from-your-bedroom of her. Her surprise at how much she was loved was sincere, inspiring.

5) Mitski – Your Best American Girl

Instantly forwarded by multiple people upon release, Mitski swiftly filled a similar niche that Susanne Sandafor did in 2015 (and for 2016 too. It’s a good niche to be in, and a hard one to escape from.) Huge, passionate, smart

4) Rihanna (feat. Drake) – Work
Generally speaking, one track a year gets added to my “things to reach for when you really need to dance” magic chest. This was 2016’s, and finds it nestling in Seth Bingo and the Silent’s Girl DJ Bag Of Holding, alongside Atomic, Milkshake, Call Me Maybe, Et al.

3) Blood Orange – Best to You

For the last few years, Dev Hynes’s production has basically been my aesthetic, his aural signifiers my mood. Bojack Horseman without the jokes, and an added awful, beguiling glamour. This is wonderful. This is awful. The two sentiments chase each other. Art bondage. This is just a stunning piece of music. The moment of course comes when the song unwinds, the beats drifting apart to reform around your throat, and as you can barely breath it whispers its punchline: “I can’t be the girl you want, but I can be the thing you throw away” before there’s nothing left to say, and it transforms into a fountain of notes. When there’s nothing left to say, we’re left with music, and this understands that.

Depending how things go, mark this down for the Planet Earth III soundtrack.

This could have easily been the track of the year. I normally pick tracks of the year to how they speak to the mood, and this most apocalyptic and conflicted of records speaks to that shock. The music dreadfully seductive, Galadriel having decided to wear all the rings, and the skin of her foes. And above it, repeating and repeating, Anohni’s delivery speaks to the response to it all – and most of all that, on some level, we must want this, or we’d do something about it. “It’s only four degrees,” saying many things, but most fearfully “Hey – it’s only four degrees. Think what we could do if we really tried.” It summons horrors and sounds excited about it, as we must be. We could have stopped this at any time, but we must want the world to burn. The awful fundamental choice between mild convenience and a future, we’d choose convenience every time.

It articulates the darkest part of the year. That every moment could have gone the other way, every step to the right be swapped for one to the right, that we’d deal with the hate and the harassment and the thinking of humans as things, and we could make a world where we only have to turn on the television or the twitter stream to see how monstrous we are…

We could deal with all that, and our species will still be likely done by the end of the century.

So yeah. It could very easily have been the track of the year.

1) Savages – Adore
But no, I’m not wired that way.

I played this playlist while gaming with my friend, Matt Sheret. When this came on, he was surprised to find this on it. What? This was 2016? It seems so far ago. I tell him it was released at the very cusp of January, and told him about how instantly struck I was by it, and then – as humans do – turned that unblinking seriousness into comedy, running drunkenly through the streets of London with friends, asking each other intently whether or not we Adore Life.

That was the first week of the year. And then Bowie died, and the year went the way it did.

No, I’m not a magical thinker enough to consider them connected, but the chasm between the year before that and the year that is noticeable. That few days had a certain tenor, and the rest had a dull throb.

Matt suggests that my tracks of the year is just this, and I say that 2016 was only four days long, and the rest doesn’t count. I smile, and think he has a point, and start thinking of Adore as a track from another universe, a different 2016. The other awful thing about this, which we have to hold onto: it doesn’t have to be like this.

The song returns to the question, time and time over: do you adore life?

It then informs you, simply: I adore life.

The word “adore” makes the song new. “Love” has been ground smooth and shapeless. To say adore is to remind us what the word signifies, its true fierceness. To adore is not easy, which reminds us to love is not easy.

The song lists at length the difficulties, and still looks at you and restates that central article of faith. Even in that first week, I was frightened and inspired by the record. In this first week, a year on, it frightens me more, and makes a greater challenge.

2016 has made it difficult to adore life. Those who hate have tried to take that away.

They can’t succeed, and the record implies why. We must not confuse life as is, as life as can be. This gift we carry with us is precious and petrifying in its terrible wonder, and we must cherish that. It is the core of everything. Underneath Ragnarok skies we must find within ourselves to take each other by the hand, head out into the darkness and adore.