Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Top 25 Songs of 2016: #25-21

Alright, here we are, at the end of one of the shittiest years in recent memory. Personally, I had many great times this year; although, what went on in the rest of the world was such a palpable damper that I obviously agree that 2016 was terrible.

One thing that wasn't - and I have a bone to pick with you if you think otherwise - was music. Music was absolutely insane this year. Particularly, hip hop and R&B. It was just one after another - innovative, charged, potentially game-changing releases that acted as the discourse, the fun, the reassurance and, ultimately, the much-needed community and light amid this year's dark moments. I listened so intently to so many albums - rarely casually or only once - which is sign that there was a lot of creative genius and important commentary flowing in 2016.

So, alas, I've put together my annual list of top songs which, every damn year, I curse myself for mentally agreeing (...with myself) to do. I'm actually not taking any holidays this year - I'm only changing locations - so, I've really just made added daily work for myself by doing this yet again. Oh well. I couldn't not do it, so I hope others find a little fun in following along. Here we go!

25. Work - Charlotte Day Wilson: Charlotte Day Wilson, along with her tribe of fellow young Torontonian music masterminds, made me proud to be Canadian this year. (Well, her and Gord Downie and Justin Trudeau). From her stunning collaborations with BADBADNOTGOOD (Snoop Dogg approved) to her opening spot on Local Natives' North American tour, this confident instrumentalist and songstress still blows me away every time I catch a wave of her Sade-reminiscent soul.

24. Gucci Comin' Home - BIA: This underground rap hit is the definition of a sleeper - or, lowkey brilliant song that was highly under-appreciated by the mainstream, but praised by the hip hop community. Similar to Makonnen's "Tuesday" (pre-Drake), except far more developed, budding Boston rapper BIA assembled one of the most intricately perfect and minimalist rap songs that, whether or not you're as big of a Gucci Mane stan, is a hard-to-dislike earworm. The ode to then-imprisoned Gucci came together as a sort of funny lyrical accident while BIA experimented in the studio with beats, but whether initially serious or not, it should be noted that she penned this song in under an hour. The rapper/singer is signed to Pharrell's label, so fellow female MCs are going to have to make room for her huge talent soon.

23. The Line - dvsn: If this was a list of the sexiest albums of 2016, mysterious OVO signees' dvsn would, hands-down, top my list. Taking over Jeremiah's sexy songwriting duties this year, the underexposed R&B ear might find the Toronto duo's debut songs overly NSFW/explicit, rather than the raw and intimate works of art that they are. Any song on Sept. 5th could have made my list, but it's the (pretty PG) D'Angelo-esque, 7-minute album closer, in all of its vulnerability, that embodies what dvsn is capable of.

22. When The Truth Is... - Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam: Well, this album was always destined to be fabulous, with ex-Walkmen lead Hamilton Leithauser and ex-Vampire Weekend guitarist/songwriting mastermind Rostam Batmanglij at the helm, but it still exceeded every expectation of mine. This song, melding the coined doo-wop-rock we've heard on all of Leithauser's solo endeavours to date with Batmanglij's impeccable pop vision, is a heartbreaking contemporary classic.

21. Friends - Francis & The Lights (feat. Bon Iver + Kanye West): I've loved Francis for years, so was pleasantly shocked when I heard him turn up on Chance The Rapper's extraordinary Coloring Book. Shortly thereafter, we received Francis' debut LP (he has four EPs prior), and this sparkling gem as the lead single. Enlisting the help of a similarly-falsetto'd Justin Vernon and his new studio pal Kanye West (a good person to know, musically), "Friends" has that rare ability to make your stomach feel warm and tingly like when you think about your sweetheart or take a swig of good bourbon. I still get butterflies every time I hear the opening notes.

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