2016 marks the first December that I looked back on a year and discovered that none of the songs I most remember listening to came out during it. Does that mean 2016 was the year I got old? I can’t be old — I can name three K-pop bands! It’s not my fault, so it must be the fault of the stupid young people who aren’t making good enough music because they’re dumb.
Nevertheless, here’s an annotated Spotify playlist of 20 songs that pulled me through the last year, including a handful that were actually released in 2016. But if you want to know what I really spent most of my time listening to, try singing along for power or air drumming.
- Sex Bob-Omb – “We are Sex Bob-Omb”
I feel 100% confident in saying that I’m the only person in the world who listens to this song every day. It’s the signature track of the garage band from the movie Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, which in real life was written by Beck and performed by the actors. I cemented my love for it in the form of a DIY T-shirt.
- The Dirtbombs – “Ode to a Black Man”
I followed up Sex Bob-Omb with another garage rock band with the word “bomb” in its name. Would an old person do that?
- The Avalanches – “Frankie Sinatra”
The best sample of 2016, and a throwback to when hip-hop was led by pure creative fun.
- Jawbreaker – “Save Your Generation”
- Bad Brains – “Right Brigade”
For my whole life, the cooler kids listened to Bad Brains, and I pretended to know something about them. That changed this year when I heard “Right Brigade” for the first time, over the closing credits of one of my favorite movies of 2016, Green Room. It made me need to immediately find out what it was.
- Misfits – “Green Hell”
- Cloud Nothings – “Modern Act”
Another of this list’s 2016 minority, “Modern Act” recreates one of my pet sounds: alterna-pop in the very early ’90s just before Nevermind came along and upset the world.
- Built to Spill – “Goin’ Against Your Mind”
- Kylesa – “Scapegoat”
- Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam – “A Thousand Times”
It pains me to have anything on this list connected to music <Ogre voice>NERRRDDDS</Ogre voice> Vampire Weekend, whose eponymous vampire sucks the soul out of everything it touches. But not even the bite of that band’s producer Rostam Batmanglij can drain the power of Hamilton Leithauser’s voice. Watch him blow the balcony out of the Ed Sullivan Theater in this performance from The Late Show.
- Ra Ra Riot – “Water”
Wait, Rostam produced this one too? Dammit Rostam, stop trying to make me admit that you create enjoyable music!
- Bruce Springsteen – “Held Up Without a Gun”
- Pearl Jam – “Spin the Black Circle”
The most effective running song I found this year.
- The Night Marchers – “Tropical Depression”
Seems like every six months or so I discover that John Ries of Rocket from the Crypt and Drive Like Jehu has yet another band that I like even more than his other bands, the sound of which forms a continuum of style goes thusly:
RFTC——The Night Marchers——Hot Snakes——DLJ
- Open Mike Eagle and Paul White – “Protectors of the Heat”
Another 2016 song, this one grabbed me so hard when I heard it on the radio in the car that it led me on an hours-long research project to figure out what it was. Tip for Young Bands: It’s the Search Box era. Make your chorus your song title.
- Desaparecidos – “Mañana”
Another Tip for Young Bands: Have a member whose job it is to stop the other members from putting the conversation they recorded while they were stoned on to the record.
- Declan McKenna – “Brazil”
- Marlon Williams – “Dark Child”
All the best country music nowadays seems to come from Australia and New Zealand, including this 2016 track that I like enough to overlook the mouth noise.
- The Whigs – “Like a Vibration”
- Pretty Girls Make Graves – “Speakers Push the Air”
Remember what the music meant, and sing along for power.