Dec 15, 2016

Farce the Music's Top 10 Songs of 2016



Spotify playlist created by Jon Sorrell below the selections.

1. Lori McKenna - Old Men Young Women
We had a casual poll about 2016 music a month or so back. Lori McKenna led the way on the 
"Best Songwriter of 2016" voting, and it's no surprise. With observant, incisive songs like 
"OMYM" and the others on her brilliant The Bird and the Rifle, McKenna stays at the forefront 
of American songwriting. She has the ability to put the listener into a situation they may have 
never even dealt with and make them think "Yes, this is exactly how that feels!" Here she takes 
on a lover who's moved on to a newer model and skewers the whole clichĂ© (see title) with pointed lines like "you want the lights off, he wants the lights on, so you can pretend" and "She's the past in a 
summer dress, he's a ride in a new Corvette"…damn, just damn. The Bird and the Rifle is a master-class and for me, "Old Men Young Women" is its centerpiece.


2. Justin Wells - The Dogs
Passion. That's what drives this tune and it's the feeling that comes to mind in describing it. "The Dogs" is an unapologetic portrait of life on the edges, embracing the underdog life of a touring musician trying to drink away a broken heart. He's doing his best, but the hurt bleeds through even on stage: "It ain't easy acting like it ain't personal, and the band asked me not to curse no more." Wells can belt and he does a bit in the chorus, but he knows how to sing with fire even when using restraint. That give and take of emotion, but more so, the palpable tension when it's held in check, is what makes this song one of the best of 2016.


3. Car Seat Headrest - Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales
I don't pretend to know what the hell this song is about; I just know I love it. The lyrics are smart and snarky and anxious and abstract. The music is jangly indie-rock (with a slice of power pop) that's constantly shifting tempos. The hooks though. This freaking song has like 4 hooks. It's crazy, but somehow it works. When that crunching and cathartic "it doesn't have to be like this" refrain finally kicks in, it's nearly as bracing as any face-slapping Nirvana chorus. I've tried to review the album this song is from about ten times this year, but I just don't know what to say about it that would make any sense or sound like I vaguely know what I'm talking about. Just know that it and this song are badass.

4. DJ Shadow & Run the Jewels - Nobody Speak
I already loved this song before its absurdly entertaining video took my affections to a new level. Run the Jewels has a new album coming out early next year, but it was nice to have this reminder of their magnetism in 2016. Underground legend Shadow provides an aggressive, pounding arrangement with just as many memorable turns as the lyricists spit. If I'd done much working out this year, 
this would have been on repeat.


5. Brandy Clark - Love Can Go to Hell
It sounds so sweet but it packs a sting. This time around, Brandy isn't casting barbs at exes and jerks, but at love itself. She doesn't linger on goodbye or blame her former lover; it's the unseen forces of the heart she's wishing ill upon. The instrumentation is light and intoxicating, the melody is gently rolling. "Love Can Go to Hell" ought to be a hit, but maybe it's too good for that.


6. Turnpike Troubadours - Come as You Are
These guys are so damn talented, they didn't even release an album this year and still had one of the best songs. This single from Bruce Robison's The Next Waltz series sounds like something that might've been left off last year's self-titled masterpiece, only because it didn't really fit the feel of that set, not due to any questioning of its merit. This tale of a come-and-go relationship surely set off some smoldering slow dances across Texas dancehalls this year. TPT can do no wrong.


7. Cody Jinks - I'm Not the Devil
There's really not a best song on Jinks' 2016 album. It's an incredibly consistent and 
moving collection without a single droop in quality, much less a weak moment. This tune 
just kinda gets the de facto nod for being probably the most memorable of the bunch. 
Jinks is blessed with a wonderful voice and possibly even better songwriting talents. 
He'll be a star in this realm of music for years to come.


8. Paul Cauthen - I'll Be the One
A voice that recalls Elvis and Waylon Jennings all at once probably could sing the proverbial phone book and make me happy. The fact that this powerful vocalist can also write songs this good should make a lot of other artists jealous. "I'll Be the One" sounds both timeless and modern, sticking in your head with multiple vocal hooks, and moving your feet with a shuffling rhythm. I can't wait to see and hear where this guy goes. There's no ceiling.


9. Austin Lucas w/Lydia Loveless - Wrong Side of the Dream
"I look around at 35 and all I've got are songs." Whew. When this line hits shortly into the song, you know it's not gonna be all sunshine and roses. Lucas has one of the more distinct voices in Americana and adding Loveless turns that chill up your spine into full-fledged goosebumps. 
This is a lonely and longing look at how life on the road affects a relationship. 
Spoiler alert: it ain't good - but it makes for a great song.


10. Rodney Parker and 50 Peso Reward -
The Road Between None and Some
This is probably the coolest song of 2016. It's just "different," I don't know how to describe it best. It starts with a slinky bass line and minimal drums before building only slightly into a mid-tempo groove that never lets up. It's an earworm of the highest caliber - one you don't mind getting trapped in your head for days. Simplicity serves RPFPR well here. This feels like sipping a good beer in a New Orleans dive bar in spring with the door open and a nice breeze blowing in.


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