As has become something of a personal tradition, at this time of year I like to lovingly collate my favourite tracks of the previous 12 months, provide a little narrative around them and then fire them off out into a cold and indifferent universe. Slim chance of the temperature rising above absolute zero this time round as – hey – I had a bit of a hip hop year for the first time in a very long time. With that in mind, here we go…
1. Ether – Mogwai
Barnstorming opener to an album that further solidified the Gwai’s burgeoning rep as soundtrackeurs par excellence. To my ears, one of the finest tracks they’ve produced in maybe a decade, and hopefully the shape of things to come. Saw them live in the Summer, and while the sounds were lovely, I thought the movie to which they were appended was underwhelming, which is a shame.
2. Nikes – Frank Ocean
I suspect I’ve waxed lyrical about this for quite long enough now already.
3. Guwop – Young Thug
Another tune I’ve already hyped on another thread. Love the production, love the flow, love the total inability to decipher anything he’s saying half the time. I don’t know what “Aonehunredpcentitsbenyan” means, but it works for me.
4. Black Beatles – Rae Sremmurd, Gucci Mane
2016’s great “driving at night” tune. Gucci Mane seemed to be tangentially connected to much of the year’s best music, and this was no exception. Brilliant beat.
5. Love$ick – Mura Masa, A$AP Rocky
It only came out in September, but I think I’ve probably listened to this more than just about anything else. So simple, so clever. A$AP Rocky’s verse is pretty awful (“credit charge/kermit the front/margaritas?” – paging Crank Lucas), but even that can’t derail it.
6. Girls@ – Joey Purp
“Where the girls with the book in the club/with the readin glasses on, getting shook in the club/readin Ta-Nehisi Coates, hummin SpottieOttieDope/with the “why I let em drag me here” look in the club?” Lyric of the year.
7. Detox – Skepta
It’s just a really, really great beat.
8. Can’t Run Out of Bars – Chip
The most brilliantly hyperactive lyrical performance of the year. My dream is to be the guy who delivers little comments between each line (“live how we like”, “swaggin, swaggin”). I also like the fact that it fades out, to avoid any suspicion that he may, in fact, have run out of bars.
9. Cobra – Ital Tek
Because I love swarming synths and the whole “state of emergency” vibe. It’s a great psych-up tune.
10. Asimov – 65daysofstatic
Obviously redolent of many happy hours playing No Man’s Sky, the game from which it’s lifted. But it also does a stellar job of soundtracking the cover of iconic 70s sci-fi novels. The bit halfway through where it all slams back in is just aceness.
11. Watch Me – ANOHNI
This almost feels like a relic from a bygone age now. Remember back in the summer, where a transgender chanteuse could legitimately release an entire album of electronic music slagging off Obama for not being liberal enough? One of the most remarkable sounding albums of the year (both in terms of ANOHNI’s wonderful voice and the quite brilliant production – respect to Oneohtrix Point Never and Hudson Mohawke), but the lyrics were nearly uniformly awful. This was the one time it all seemed to knit together properly. I hope they all carry on working together.
12. Don’t Wish Me Well – Solange
I’m not as sold on the album as a lot of others – I had really high hopes for her after True, and this still isn’t quite the record I think she’s capable of. However, I did really like this tune.
13. On Hold – The xx
Great to have them back, and to see Jamie xx’s solo output start to leak into their sound a little. Very glad they’ve chosen a slightly more upbeat direction, and looking forward to the album early next year.
14. Fool – Frankie Cosmos
Nothing earth-shattering going on here, but it’s a nice song to come home to at the end of the day.
15. Real Love Baby – Father John Misty
This feels like the most straightforward and sincere song we’ve had from FJM so far – lacking most of the usual irony and smugness I so enjoy. It also has many Afterword-friendly elements; the pedal steel, the Lennonish effects on the vocal. I like it a lot; he sounds happy.
16. Y Proffwyd Dwyll – Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard
Epic. Thanks, Kid.
17. Love$ick – Mura Masa (Four Tet Remix)
The tune of the year, brilliantly rejiggered to work just as well even without the steel drums.
18. Landing Cliffs – Explosions in the Sky
Wonderfully pretty. I know they probably make this sort of music in their sleep, but it still works for me. And they were the best live act I saw all year.
19. Young Death – Burial
Still feel like I’m wrapping my head around this one. Not a quantum leap forward, by any means, but he’s further refining his style and it’s full of interesting noises that will shortly be co-opted by other artists.
20. Valentine My Funny – F.S Blumm, Nils Frahm
I legit loved this. Weirdly moving, while still being quite sterile.