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GutterBubbles Top 100 Songs of 2016 (part 1)

 

Jump to: A Tribe Called Quest, Aesop Rock, Agnes Obel, Aphex Twin, Autolux, Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk, Band of Skulls, Barry Adamson, Blood Ceremony, Brian Eno, Chance the Rapper, Cheap Perfume, Chicharra, Church Fire, Cult of the Lost Cause, Curse, Danny Brown, David Bowie, De La Soul, Deap Vally

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A Tribe Called Quest – “We the People” – We Got It from Here, Thank You 4 Your Service

Eighteen years is a long time to wait for anything really, let alone an album and more often than not once an artist passes the decade mark between albums, the resulting product is usually sub par at best. So when New York legends A Tribe Called Quest announced they were releasing a new album, the news was met with bated breath and cautious optimism by most. But all of those fears subsided with the immediate one-two punch of “The Space Program” and “We the People,” the latter featuring massive cut grooves and timeless verses from Q-Tip and the late Phife Dog, which serves as a stark reminder that while the Tribe may have stepped away for a minor’s lifetime, they are still the undisputed Kings of Queens. -Ryan Brun


 

Aesop Rock – “Supercell” – The Impossible Kid

This hyper/surreal blending of urban imagery and mythological references from Aesop Rock is like a great horror graphic novel given voice. The bass line of this track alone is worth a listen and helps to solidify a sense that you’re in the middle of the soundtrack to a deeply personal revelation and heading straight into darkness. -Tom Murphy


 

Agnes Obel – “Red Virgin Soil” – Citizen of Glass

For uninitiated listeners, Agnes Obel’s music may be hard to pin down. Elements of classical, jazz and even contemporary pop are seamlessly blended to create a sound like no other. On her third full length album Citizen of Glass, Obel expanded her already diverse sonic palette even more, this time incorporating a variety of new and different instruments than found on her previous releases. The result of this expansion can be found on songs such as the seductive, world-tinged “Red Virgin Soil” which presents the listener with an absolute feast of sounds, from hypnotic interplay with piano and percussion to mournful string arrangements. It’s a stunning piece of work that should place Obel’s name firmly at the top of anyone’s list looking for new music. -RB


 

Aphex Twin – “CIRKLON3” – Cheetah EP

This song sounds like Richard D. James was having fun creating music for a quirky 16-bit video game involving anthropomorphized animal characters who are navigating a simple obstacle course. Perhaps a skateboarding game that involves something as meta as playing a video game inside the game during a section. During that time the main score weaves together with a score created for the in-game video game. Absurd but it’s the kind of genius move we’ve come to expect from James. -TM


 

Autolux – “Soft Scene” – Pussy’s Dead

Back in 2005, I saw Autolux open for Nine Inch Nails and admittedly, I just didn’t really get it. Their sound was just too strange and obscure for my tastes at the time. Fast forward eleven years later and their album Pussy’s Dead was one of my favorite albums of the year. What changed? Surely a large portion of the shift can be placed on my past reluctance for anything too avant-garde, but Autolux has a hand in this too. Take “Soft Scene” for example, a song which showcases a multitude of different sounds and textures that really shouldn’t work together, but somehow the band mixes everything perfectly resulting in an unforgettable and infectious sound. -RB


 

Baby Birds Don’t Drink Milk – “Kid Margot” – Burritos

On an album that already seems to be an exploration of the nature of memory and nostalgia, “Kid Margot” ripples with a hazy melody like listening to a half-melted cassette of a lost, later era Santo & Johnny track. Though drifting and going off any conventional song structure route the song manages to capture the vibe of drifting off into afternoon reverie. -TM


 

Band of Skulls – “So Good” – By Default

Two years ago, Band of Skulls landed a spot on our Top 100 Songs list with their song “Asleep at the Wheel,” a rocking, blustery slab of 70s-tinged rock with a guitar riff so massive, it was hard to believe the band would ever write another song that awesome, yet they did just that with the song “So Good” from their latest album By Default. Unlike its predecessor, “So Good” is a breezy, upbeat track extolling the virtues of new love. Frontwoman Emma Richardson’s soulful croon blends wonderfully with Frusciante-esque guitar leads which lends a feeling of timelessness to the song. So good indeed. -RB


 

Barry Adamson – “Up in the Air” – Know Where to Run

Whether it’s his work with legendary bands such as Magazine and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds or his own sprawling catalog of solo work, Barry Adamson has long been one of music’s most prolific artists. Perhaps even more impressive than the dizzying pace in which he produces music is the enigmatic approach he takes when writing. See, you never really know what you’ll get with a Barry Adamson album and 2016’s Know Where to Run was no exception. Take “Up in the Air” for example, a frantic slab of post-punk goodness which threatens to swallow the listener whole with its layered wall of sound, but pulls back at just the right moments to reveal subtle yet beautifully crafted melodies that will stay lodged in your head for days on end. -RB


 

Blood Ceremony – “The Devil’s Widow” – Lords of Misrule

So genuinely vintage they could be described as re-constructionist, Canada’s premier retro woodwinds-and-worrying-your-parents heavy metal outfit delivered yet another blast of satisfying rock in 2016. Leading it off is this impish cut, with all the highway-ready riffs and swooping, seemingly possessed flute lunacy Blood Ceremony’s faithful show up for. Add it to the lyrical Dungeons and Dragons horror fantasy that provides the narrative and you’ve got the hard rock equivalent of gourmet fried chicken: it’s not new and it’s not fancy but it’s so well prepared you just have to keep coming back for another bite. -Nick Abaddon


 

Brian Eno – “The Ship” – The Ship

This song lures you in with soothing sounds and from then on you’re in for a ride on this ship of light to a mysterious destination. Is the ship one upon the water, into the depths of space, between dimensions, metaphysical? Eno doesn’t seem to bother to make such distinctions and the song is like seeing a deeply affecting, experimental science fiction film that transports you into a state of sublime peace that opens up in your mind a sustained sense of wonder. -TM


 

Chance the Rapper – “All We Got” – Coloring Book

Chance the Rapper has never released an actual album backed by label money. Think about that for a minute. The Chicago-bred MC has achieved all of his success based on the strength of his talents alone. His third mixtape titled Coloring Book was the recipient of damn near universal acclaim, even getting props from President Obama. Hell, the record even garnered three Grammy nods, pretty unheard of for a mixtape. While the album is packed from beginning to end with absolute bangers, probably the most telling song from the set is the album opening “All We Got.” Featuring production and a chorus hook from Kanye West, “All We Got” comes across like a passing of the torch from West to Chance as the king of Chicago hip-hop. The track (and whole mixtape really) showcase a young, hungry rapper ready to put his name on the map, just like West did in 2004 with The College Dropout. It’s refreshing, innovative and vital, both for his community and hip-hop as a whole. -RB


 

Cheap Perfume – “Slut Game Strong” – Nailed It

In this song alone Cheap Perfume dismantles sexist double standards and body shaming with a winning attitude and humor. Some people talk about reclaiming language but this song takes it a step further from the title down to its anthemic lyrics. Some might call this punk song sassy but it’s just telling it like it is with a fearless abandon. -TM


 

Chicharra – “And the Flowers with Their Black Hearts” – Chicharra

You don’t really expect strong, melodic, gospel-esque vocals from a song that starts out sounding like it’s going to be a menacing noise track. But on this song Chicharra sounds like it is synthesizing that sensibility with industrial and doom and making something refreshingly new. -TM


 

Church Fire – “Every Toss a Tightening” – Pussy Blood

A dance song that feels like a call to action more so than trying to be a party. With this Church Fire exercises its industrial beat muscles with Shannon Webber leaning into the vocals with amplified urgency. If synth pop dared to be more present, dangerous and not merely aim to entertain it would sound more like this. -TM


 

Cult of the Lost Cause – “The Gemeni” – Contritions

Cult of the Lost Cause doesn’t just know how to craft beautifully punishing music, there is an emotional complexity, dynamism and thoughtfulness to the music that speaks more loudly than any lyrics could. Following an entire album of brutal riffs and imaginative, heavy soundscaping, “The Gemini” is a drifty manifestation of the elegance in composition that flows through the entire record. -TM


 

Curse – “Specter at the Feast” – II

Curse often sounds like an inspired synthesis of crust punk and dreamy industrial. Here the textures are a little softer and Jane Vincent reminiscent of the enigmatic style of Anja Huwe of Xmal Deutschland. The sparkle on top of sounds like streaming low hanging clouds gives the song a striking grittiness and depth. -TM


 

Danny Brown – “Ain’t It Funny” – Atrocity Exhibition

On Atrocity Exhibition Danny Brown really outdid himself in assembling a crew of people to sculpt the beats. “Ain’t It Funny” sounds a bit like something Oingo Boingo might do if it were a modern weirdo hip-hop band rather than a 80s new wave freakazoids. There is a demented, rambunctious and surreal air to the song as it drives to the end like a train wreck on a loop. -TM


 

David Bowie – “‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore” – Blackstar

First released as the b-side of a 10″ release for Record Store Day in 2014, David Bowie’s “‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore” was reworked for inclusion on his final album Blackstar. Frankly, any song off that album could’ve been nominated for our list it was just that good, but this particular song was a highlight. The Blackstar version of “‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore” kept the free form jazz elements of the original release, but added in some more modern instrumentation which gives the song a timeless feel. Couple that with some great one liners (“Man, she punched me like a dude”) and Bowie’s shouts of exuberance towards the end of the song, and you’re left with one of the most visceral and cathartic tracks of the entire year. -RB


 

De La Soul – “Royalty Capes” – And the Anonymous Nobody…

De La Soul’s ninth full length And the Anonymous Nobody… finally arrived in 2016 after being delayed for months over clearance for guest artists featured on the album. And what a roster of talent it is. The album finds De La Soul collaborating with a multitude of guests from all backgrounds, from Jill Scott to David Byrne to Little Dragon, Anonymous showcases a little bit of something for everyone. But the true strength of the record lies in tracks such as the subdued “Royalty Capes” which finds Dave and Pos trading bars over a smoky, brass-drenched beat. It harkens back to the sound of early 90s East Coast hip-hop and it’s awesome. No guests, no flash, just two killer MC’s doing what they do best. Long live the Kings! -RB


 

Deap Vally – “Royal Jelly” – Femejism

It’s a modest comfort in a year of dead heroes and cultural regression that it was a two-woman duo that released the grooviest throwback track I could hope for, but I’ll take it. Both exalting and exploding the swinging-dick bravado of Robert Plant, this is a “you want some of this/you can’t handle this” anthem for our time. Fuzzy retro-garage guitar mates with booming, lively drums, eventually adding claps (attention every band: use claps) and ethereal choral backup vocals to induce a head-nod native to any who know that while we may not be able to define what “it” is, we by-god know it when we hear it. -NA

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