David James Young writes…

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The Top 100 Songs of 2016, Part Three: 60 – 41

djy1006041

Welcome back! I trust you’re caught up with 100 to 81? And 80 to 61, of course? If you’re not, then clicking on those numbers will assist you in your travels. Still, maybe you just wanna get to the pointy end. I ain’t gonna stop you – here we go!

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60. The Monkees – She Makes Me Laugh

Rivers Cuomo penning an original song for the surviving Monkees? It’s a premise cheesy enough to make Weezer purists cry “say it ain’t so” outside of its usual context. Still, that’s kind of why “She Makes Me Laugh” thrives. It’s not attempting to be something it’s not – something that has been the downfall of previous Monkees comeback LPs. This is vintage summer-of-love sweetness, all twelve-string jangle and classic close harmony that is only interested in revolution if it’s 45 a minute. Songs like this show the throughline from The Monkees to Weezer is shorter than you may have thought.

59. Jeff Rosenstock – Wave Goodnight to Me

As the lead in to the album many are now considering to be Jeff Rosenstock’s magnum opus, the post-internet DIY pioneer lamented at length over the demise of spaces and venues in his immediate community that have been dragged down and occasionally deleted from existence entirely. Anyone who’s had a space of that nature taken from them will feel the pain in lines like “I wish it didn’t hurt/I wish I didn’t care.” Bright, bold and quite literally brassy, “Wave Goodnight” shows how far Rosenstock has come – all the while paying tribute to the places that got him there.

58. Mitski – Your Best American Girl

In a matter befitting Ralph Wiggum, you can pinpoint the exact moment Mitski’s heart breaks on her breakthrough single lifted from the excellent Puberty 2. As her voice quivers beneath both the impending weight of her words and the full-scale escalation of the instrumentation surrounding her, Mitski confesses to her significant other: “Your mother wouldn’t approve/Of how my mother raised me.” Few songs quite wrangles the emotional spectrum while simultaneously tackling the bigger issues of biracial identity politics the way “American Girl” does. The more you listen to it, the more it becomes clearer that few songs probably ever will.

57. blink-182 – Cynical

This is the sliding doors moment in the history of blink-182. If only they had followed a song like “Cynical” to its natural conclusion across a whole album, perhaps California wouldn’t have ended up the laughing stock in-joke it became. Still, for something like 110 seconds, we get a glimpse of what may have been – Matt Skiba roaring through one of his best hooks ever committed to record, Mark Hoppus strumming away on some well-pronounced bass chords and Travis Barker firing off on every cylinder the only way he knows how. Sorry, not sorry: “Cynical” is blink-182.0 done right.

56. Urthboy – Hey Juanita

If you didn’t already know the story of Juanita Nielsen, you could have mistaken this highlight from Urthboy’s masterful comeback as merely a figment of his beautiful dark twisted fantasy. The fact it’s as real as the cold, dark streets from which she disappeared 40 years ago sends the song to the darkest place imaginable. It’s the details that push “Juanita” to its higher plane – Urthy’s lyrics, Jane Tyrrell’s sombre chorus and the lone trumpet that rings out from afar. Tying it together is a resolution and a promise to Nielsen: “We’ll never let them get away with it.”

55. PUP – If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will

Willie Nelson, famously, just couldn’t wait to get on the road again. PUP, meanwhile, couldn’t wait to get off it – like, literally, swerving the van off into a nearby inferno. After over 200 shows, the normally polite Canadians were ready to go to Cannibal Corpse levels of violence against one another. Amazingly, they all lived to tell the tale on their breakthrough second album, which was home to perhaps the best one-two punch of opening tracks all year. “Tour” is catharsis incarnate – a blistering burst of brilliance that is only made better when it’s immediately followed up by…

54. PUP – DVP

…the skidding, crashing and rousing “DVP.” Here, PUP throw to their love of hardcore and punk through the frantic pacing and Stefan Babcock’s royally-pissed vocal delivery. It’s offset, beautifully, by a cooing wordless refrain to go against the grain of furiously self-deprecating lyrics like “Get drunk and I can’t shut up” and the kicker: “She says I need to grow up.” Although the combined runtime is less than four minutes, PUP get more done in this window than some bands managed to do with entire albums this year. Don’t you dare dream it’s over. PUP are just getting started here.

53. RÜFÜS – Brighter

As great as Bloom – the second studio album from Sydney dancefloor-fillers RÜFÜS – was, it’s worth noting that all three of its massive singles were all released within 2015. By the time the album itself arrived in the first few weeks of 2016, it would have been safe to assume there was not a great deal left in the tank. That was, of course, before we heard “Brighter” – the album’s soulful, joyous opener that could pass in a different world as a deep-house version of the Hair soundtrack. Mixing the group’s high-end production aesthetic with the celebratory refrain of a gospel choir, the song now stands proudly as one of RÜFÜS’ finest achievements. Gotta wear shades for this one.

52. James Blake feat. Bon Iver – I Need a Forest Fire

To apply one of the buzziest phrases of 2016 to this track: Name a more iconic duo. These gentlemen have had dalliances in the past, but “Forest Fire” is perhaps their most fruitful collaborative effort committed to record thus far. Merging Blake’s hypnotic, glitchy murk that lies beneath his production with Justin Vernon’s soulful falsetto is entirely complementary, with both sides bringing out the very best in one another. The song burns slowly, but it shines so brightly that it’s hard to look away. Perhaps, one day, it will reach the logical conclusion of a full-length release from the two.

51. Tegan and Sara – Boyfriend

You can call the Quin siblings sell-outs as loudly as you want. The fact of the matter is that they can’t hear you over the sound of how awesome they are. Since ditching their indie-folk leanings and spending all of their Lego Movie money on more synthesizers, Tegan and Sara are now entirely immersed in the pop world. It’s tough going when you’re completely reinventing yourself in your 30s, but songs like “Boyfriend” make it clear that the destination was worth their journey. Equal parts confessional and catchy, this brisk banger tightly pulls together the twins’ past, present and future.

50. H A N N A H B A N D – Burn It Down

Punk rock has always been queer, but visibility of that element has never been more important than right now. With that in mind, consider “Burn It Down” as one of 2016’s anthems on that particular front. The abstract “it,” as elaborated on later in the piece, is the toxic nature of ‘being a man’ and the societal expectation that holds down so many people that identify as male. It’s attacked with some of Nathan Martin’s most scathing vocal delivery ever laid down, the baritone guitar working overtime to add fuel to the… well, you know. It all goes down here.

49. Cub Sport – Sun

The best thing about “Sun” in the context of it serving as an introduction to Cub Sport’s debut LP is just how effortlessly it leads you in. Every element of the song’s arrangement glistens, sparkles and shines. The warbling synthesizer trickles over the multiple layers of vocoder-treated vocal harmony, blending into a slow-motion dive into some kind of lush abyss. The Brisbane natives have made considerable leaps and bounds as a songwriting unit in the last few years, and that development has been crystallised in resplendent beauty within these vital few minutes. Get there fast and then take it slow.

48. The Avalanches – Because I’m Me

When you take over 15 years to follow up perhaps the most famous sample-based album of all time (save for perhaps Endtroducing…), you end up with a lot of time to dig through a lifetime’s worth of record crates. With the song that kicks off their massively-anticipated second LP in earnest, The Avalanches returned with two key obscurities – an a capella song from an anonymous 1957 LP and a string-tinged pop-funk groove from the early 70s – and a helping hand in the form of Camp Lo’s Sonny Cheeba. What followed was a breathtaking re-entrance, revelling in pure grandeur.

47. Ceres – Happy in Your Head

There is nothing you can do to Tom Lanyon that he hasn’t already done to himself. Rather than paint himself as the hero of his tales, he instead becomes a poisonous and unwelcome presence. “You don’t care,” he opines. “You couldn’t care less.” That comes not long after one of the song’s key refrains: “I am your 20 years bad luck.” Bummer, dude. Still, “Happy in Your Head” is sadness you can dance to. Ceres match the gloom of the lyrics with bright, forthright indie rock that makes for one of their finest singular moments. Come on, now – get happy.

46. Beyoncé feat. Kendrick Lamar – Freedom

Her estranged husband said it best some years before, so allow us to borrow his phrasing: This is a celebration of black excellence. Here stands Beyoncé Knowles and Kendrick Lamar – perhaps the two most influential and important people in black music right now. They are tall, proud, confident. They are mad as hell, and they’re not going to take it any more. This is the soundtrack to the procession marching down the street, ready to knock down the doors of anyone who dares stand in their way. This is the televised revolution. This is their moment. This is “Freedom.”

45. case/lang/veirs – Atomic Number

The three surnames that make up the sum of case/lang/veirs’ parts inspire the most vivid and illustrious of praises. Imagine, then, the magic that happens when they come together in such an angelic formation: “Atomic Number” is the opening number to their debut album, and it immediately explains why an idea so good on paper is even better when actually executed. The trio weave in and out of pure, poetic lyricism matched to a serene, gentle arrangement and a remarkable payoff in the form of their jaw-dropping three-part harmonies. Elements so pure, indeed – let’s hope this doesn’t end here.

44. Chance the Rapper feat. Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz – No Problem

Chancelor Johnathan Bennett met Kanye West – he’s never gonna fail. He also, by chance, has met other hip-hop luminaries such as Lil’ Wayne and 2 Chainz. This, at the very least, means he’s never gonna have a shortage of homies to call up when he wants to take the party to the next level. On “No Problem,” the big fella puts together one of the year’s most celebratory numbers – the kind that works best when you’re roaring down a freeway with the windows down; or dancing like Ellen DeGeneres up and down the aisles. Zero problems, all love.

43. Bon Iver – 715 – CRΣΣKS

Among the leet-speak and coded phrases that shroud the tracklist of Bon Iver’s 22, A Million, a little digging reveals at least part of the mystery. 715, for those of you playing at home, is the area code of central and northern parts of Wisconsin. It’s where Justin Vernon grew up, and a location that has served as a central focus of many Bon Iver songs in the past. Here, Vernon returns to this scene – albeit not in a rustic, folksy manner; but armed only with a unique pitch-correction harmonizer and weighty lyrical conviction. It’s for Justin, forever ago.

42. David Bowie – Girl Loves Me

“Where the fuck did Monday go?” asks the The Thin White Duke; who died on a Sunday. He couldn’t have known that far in advance, surely. Could he? Even so, the foreboding prophecy of his swansong, Blackstar, is truly to great to ignore. Here, Bowie has one last proper trick up his sleeve – a trap/mumble-rap inspired downward spiral through A Clockwork Orange jargon and jarring, unconventional string arrangements. It’s one of Bowie’s weirdest songs – ever – and should be commended for its free-form experimentation and creativity. That, above it all, is what the Starman should be remembered for.

41. Beyoncé feat. Jack White – Don’t Hurt Yourself

You’ve heard Queen Bey sing. You’ve heard her belt out notes like nobody’s business. You’ve heard her whisper sweet nothings and send her vocals to the sky. What you’ve never heard, however, is her literally screaming with rage the way she does on “Don’t Hurt Yourself.” As Jack White muscles in on a drum kit, Knowles grabs the mic and asks one simple question: “WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK I AM?” There is so much righteous, unshakable rage as Beyoncé crowns herself with a title Samuel L. Jackson would wholly approve of: Bad motherfucker. We’re just getting warmed up.

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Catch up with the DJY100 thus far with this Spotify playlist:

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This entry was posted on 20/12/2016 by in Lists.
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