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GutterBubbles Top 100 Songs of 2016 (part 3)

Jump to: Jimmy Eat World, JK Flesh, Julianna Barwick, Julien-K, Kanga, Klara Lewis, Korn, Kula Shaker, Leonard Cohen, Lisa Prank, Ludovico Einaudi, Mac Quayle, Mannequin Pussy, Marc Heal, Marissa Nadler, Maxwell, Mr. Lif, Nails, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds , Nick Cave and Warren Ellis

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Jimmy Eat World – “Get Right” – Integrity Blues

Everybody remembers Jimmy Eat World‘s breakout song “The Middle.” You couldn’t escape that goddamn song for the better part of a year after its release and for good reason, it was a hell of a tune! But in the fifteen years since that song, Jimmy Eat World has largely flown under the radar, at least as far as mainstream popularity is concerned. That could all change if their new single “Get Right” from their album Integrity Blues is any indication. It’s a foreboding cut of tumbling distortion and vocal hooks courtesy of Jim Adkins’ seemingly age-proof voice. Most bands only catch lightning in a bottle once throughout their careers, but with songs this good Jimmy Eat World might just do it again. -Ryan Brun


 

JK Flesh – “Trinity” – Rise Above

Justin Broadrick has been pummeling audiences worldwide for the better part of the last two decades. Broadrick’s band Godflesh are considered to be one of the pioneering bands that created industrial metal, paving the way for an entire genre to follow. But Broadrick didn’t stop with Godflesh. Over his career, he’s been involved with over 20 unique bands, some of which have lasted for decades, other for just a release. It’s a prolific, breakneck pace for any artist to be sure. His latest release Rise Above under the moniker JK Flesh is quintessential Broadrick. “Trinity” is a propulsive, bass-heavy dirge that seems intent on grinding the listener down to a stub, but as the song unfolds it reveals several layers and textures that might just be overpowered in any of his other projects. It’s haunting and beautiful all at once, music tailor made for the end of the world. -RB


 

Julien-K – “Solar” – California Noir – Chapter Two: Nightlife in Neon

Easily one of the biggest surprises of the year came from Orange County’s Julien-K. Their double album California Noir made headlines before it was even released for being one of the most successfully run Indiegogo campaigns of all time, with the band raising four times the amount they were asking for to produce both albums. Surely, the band must have felt some pressure living up to the lofty expectations of their fans, but it doesn’t show up in the slightest on California Noir. On “Solar” the band channels their best Duran Duran impression without sounding like a cheap rip off, instead bathing listeners in waves of retro synths, gorgeous piano leads and singer Ryan Shuck’s vocal acrobatics. It feels like a throwback song while still having relevance in the future and is one of the coolest songs of the year. -RB


 

Julianna Barwick – “Same” – Will

Julianna Barwick’s latest release Will sees the New York-based musician expand on themes that she’s been developing throughout her stellar career. “Same” employs many of Barwick’s usual methods. The sweeping drone of strings combine with countless layers of Barwick’s voice, creating what feels like one sustained note for the songs near five minute duration. But pay close attention and you will find yourself discovering new sounds and textures with each passing listen. Julianna Barwick’s music may not be ideal for say, a night out on the town, but it’s the perfect soundtrack for the quiet, introspective moments of everyday life. Hell, “Same” is the sound of life and it’s a lovely sound to get lost in. -RB


 

Kanga – “Going Red” – Kanga

After experiencing a downturn in popularity over the last decade, industrial music has seen a revitalization the last few years. Newer acts such as Author & Punisher, 3Teeth and Youth Code have spearheaded the genres comeback in recent years, but with the release of her self-titled debut earlier this year, Kanga seems primed to take over. Packed to the brim with razor sharp guitars and pulsating synths, Kanga delivers exactly the type of music rivetheads have long embraced but the album also delivers beautiful melodies and countless hooks not typically associated with industrial music (outside of maybe Nine Inch Nails). Take “Going Red” which initially sounds foreboding, even menacing, but quickly switches gears on an expansive chorus that’ll leave you breathless. It’s electro-pop with teeth and sure to leave you wanting more. -RB


 

Klara Lewis – “Us” – Too

Klara Lewis pushed ambient and prepared environment composition in new and interesting directions with Ett and Msuic. On Too she comes into her own as a composer in freely incorporating elements that were, in retrospect, mere experiments on previous releases, into a cohesive whole as on “Us,” where voice, textures, sound design effects, beats and synth melodies blend together to create an otherworldly musical experience. -Tom Murphy


 

Korn – “Rotting In Vain” – Serenity of Suffering

Back in 1994 when Korn released their debut album, they conjured a sound so different and unique that they unknowingly backed themselves into a corner because of its sound. Their next few albums followed largely the same formula but by 2005’s See You On the Other Side, the band began to branch out more and more with their sound leaving some longtime fans feeling lukewarm with the difference. All of that changed with this years Serenity of Suffering, which saw the Bakersfield quintet go back to their roots. Lead single “Rotting in Vain” is quintessential Korn. A dual 7-string assault from Munky and Head plays perfectly off Fieldy’s bouncing bassline while singer Jonathan Davis unleashes one of his most memorable vocal performances in years. It’s an updated yet familiar sound from one of the most creative and innovative bands of the last twenty years. -RB


 

Kula Shaker – “Infinite Sun” – K 2.0

With the recent resurgence of psychedelic rock permeating the airwaves, England’s Kula Shaker has been criminally overlooked. On K 2.0, the bands first album in nearly six years, the band pushes their already unique sound to all new heights. Album opener “Infinite Sun” finds the band utilizing familiar (for them) traditional Indian instrumentation to set the mood before exploding into a full on, fuzz-drenched psych freak out. The way the song develops and grows over the course of its four and a half minutes is nothing short of extraordinary. A song (and album) this good should firmly entrench Kula Shaker as the leaders of the neo-psychedelic movement. -RB


 

Leonard Cohen – “You Want It Darker” – You Want It Darker

If 2016 had a theme song, it would likely be “You Want It Darker” from Leonard Cohen’s last album of the same name. Cohen’s trademark gravelly, half spoken-half sung vocals take front and center stage over a sparse backing track of subdued bass and drums accompanied by a choir of voices that provide the punctuation that Cohen’s voice no longer could. It’s a supremely dark four and a half minute meditation on death and regrets, the sound of a man knowing the end is coming and making amends with all of life’s mystery. There couldn’t have been a finer final chapter for one of the most revered songwriters of the past several decades. -RB


 

Lisa Prank – “Baby, Let Me Write Yr Lines” – Adult Teen

In the musical language of pop punk, Robin Edwards has penned a clever self-critical declaration of freedom from toxic relationships that hurt us from the inside out and our role in perpetuating the dynamic. That level of complexity isn’t obvious from the song’s simple structure and unvarnished delivery but that’s what makes it truly great—making high minded conceptualization palatable. -TM


 

Ludovico Einaudi – “Elegy for the Arctic” – Single

Far and away the most important piece of music this year came courtesy of Italian pianist Ludovico Einaudi with his composition “Elegy for the Arctic.” Ludovico teamed up with Greenpeace for the song which was released to raise awareness about the environmental crisis facing the Arctic regions. While “Elegy” clocks in at just under three minutes the impact of Eindaudi’s composition is immense. The accompanying video heightens the sense of urgency behind the song, showing Einaudi playing the song on a platform in the middle of the Arctic Ocean and while the song itself is gorgeous on its own, it’s the meaning behind the song which elevates it to one of the years best. To learn more, visit Greenpeace.org. -RB


 

Mac Quayle – “1.0_8-whatsyourask.m4p” – Mr Robot vol. 1 OST

A good movie or television show can be made even better with the appropriate soundtrack. All to often, it’s a factor that the studio overlooks, either pairing completely inappropriate music with the onscreen action, or under-funding it to the point of useless Muzak dribble. Luckily, neither of those things occurred during the making of the fantastic series Mr. Robot. The computer hacker turned psychological thriller show leans heavily on the score produced by Mac Quayle. Like the show itself, the score is a multi-dimensional affair which keeps the listener on edge, never knowing which turn the music will take. At times, the hurricane of digital noise almost feels like too much to bear, all before pulling back to reveal a simpler song underneath. It’s a brilliant piece of scoring by one of the most exciting modern composers today. -RB


 

Marc Heal – “Adult Fiction” – Adult Fiction

After fifteen years away from music, Marc Heal re-emerged in 2015 with the Compound Eye Sessions a split EP with Raymond Watts. As refreshing as it was to hear, it was easy to assume that it would be a one and done type of affair, so it was met with great excitement when Heal announced a new full-length in 2016. The first taste of new music from the long time Cubanate frontman arrived as the Adult Fiction EP, the title track being an incredible display of revitalized creativity. “Adult Fiction” combines Heal’s captivating storytelling with propulsive new wave synth pop that would make Gary Numan green with envy. It’s a different side of Heal than we’ve seen in the past, but one that hopefully sticks around for a while. -RB


 

Mannequin Pussy – “Romantic” – Romantic

The Romantic album from Mannequin Pussy is a headlong rewiring of punk and noise rock that pulls no punches and cuts to the heart of what’s going on in the world. Then the title track takes some time out for some daydreaming on the nature of romance in the modern era with an incisive thoughtfulness. Then back to the beautiful fury of the rest of the record. -TM


 

Marissa Nadler – “Hungry is the Ghost” – Strangers

In Strangers Marissa Nadler has penned an entire album of songs that examine with an insightful delicacy of feeling the anomie and self-neglect of modern life. “Hungry Is the Ghost” is perhaps the most affecting of them all sounding like one of those heartbreaking girl group songs of the 60s but written using the sounds and sensibilities of modern dark folk and ambient music. Yet possessing that same sense of yearning for connection and resolution knowing it may not even be possible. -RB


 

Maxwell – “1990x” – BlackSUMMERS’night”

Maxwell’s BlackSUMMERS’night, his first album in nearly seven years and second part of a planned trilogy, was exactly the type of album that 2016 needed. In a year filled with uncertainty, stress and death, Maxwell’s latest album provided listeners a respite from the chaos of the year. “1990x” sees Maxwell seamlessly shift from a sensual croon to a downright jaw-dropping falsetto that recalls the finer moments of Al Green. Although the neo-soul movement largely lost steam in the early 2000’s, songs like this one go to show that it wasn’t simply a flash in the pan and Maxwell is undoubtedly one of the finest vocalists in modern R&B today. -RB


 

Mr. Lif – “Let Go (feat. Selina Carrera)” – Don’t Look Down

Back in 2002, it seemed like Mr. Lif was going to be the next big thing in hip-hop. His incredible debut album I Phantom hit all of the right marks, from Lif’s effortless flow to the records massive production largely courtesy of El-P. In my estimation, it was one of the greatest debut albums in hip-hop history, but for whatever reason fame and fortune never found Mr. Lif. Earlier this year as I scanned through new releases, I saw Lif was putting out a new LP and decided to check it out and from the opening moments of the albums lead single “Let Go” I was hooked. The seductive beat from Caliph-Now and gorgeous chorus hook from Selina Carrera were great starting points, but it was Lif’s timeless voice and lyrical content that completely entranced me. Like reuniting with a long lost friend, Don’t Look Down is familiar but still challenging enough and “Let Go” is the perfect starting point for reintroduction to one of the greatest MC’s in recent memory. -RB


 

Nails – “You Will Never Be One of Us” – You Will Never Be One of Us

There isn’t another band out there right now that can match the intensity of Oxnard California’s Nails. Period. The bands latest release You Will Never Be One of Us is a 20 minute barrage of pure rage and ferocity about as subtle as a head on collision with a brick wall. The album’s title track sets the tone for whats to come, with a wall of feedback leading to what can only be described as the most punishing minute of music committed to tape this year. The song serves as a line in the sand, meant to separate the weak from the strong, and if you’re planning on surviving the full-on assault of Nails, you had better make sure you’re fucking ready for it. -RB


 

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – “Anthrocene” – Skeleton Tree

Seemingly constitutionally incapable of mellowing or writing throwaway material, it’s difficult to pick a best song from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ latest album Skeleton Tree. The whole album feels like it was written on dark, stormy nights in the summer in a lighthouse away from the distractions and psychological white noise of everyday civilization. “Anthrocene” edges slightly ahead because it has all the spacious piano, cycling drones in the background, spiraling synth tones, ghostly background vocals, flowing pulses of harmonics, white noise textures that individually make other songs on the record noteworthy but here feel like an orchestra evoking a cosmic despair so deep that you dare only feel little in small doses. -TM


 

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis – “Daedalus” – Mars OST

Overshadowed by the newest Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds album, the score for National Geographic’s Mars series is yet another stunning chapter in the Nick Cave and Warren Ellis songbook. While more varied than many of their past soundtracks, Cave and Ellis still produce a cohesive, if not fully immersive score. On “Daedalus” the duo use space to their advantage, sustaining long bends of ambient texture which slowly pile one on top of the other before introducing an isolated piano run that feels warm and inviting, especially giving its surroundings. It’s a masterful stroke that only the most skilled musicians could dream up, let alone pull off. -RB

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