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GutterBubbles Top 100 Songs of 2016 (part 4)


Jump to: Norah Jones, Norman Westberg, Nothing, Opeth, Pale Sun, Paperbark, Phantogram, Pig, Psychic TV, Radiohead, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Run the Jewels, Samvega, Sego, Skold, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, Sole, Some Ember, Sound of Ceres, Stabbing Westward

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Norah Jones – “Burn” – Day Breaks

When Norah Jones burst onto the national spotlight with her 2002 debut album Come Away with Me, it was a revelation for many. Her smokey, jazz-tinged voice and delicate piano playing introduced an entire new generation to a music they may have otherwise ignored. Jones’ subsequent albums still featured elements of her debut, but began to explore more experimental territory and by 2012’s Little Broken Hearts, her music was barely recognizable as the same artist. Her latest album Day Breaks sees Jones return to her jazz roots, perhaps no where as brilliantly as “Burn,” a sultry yet straight-forward piece which also features jazz legend Wayne Shorter on the soprano sax. It’s an essential song for a rainy day and a welcome return to form for Jones. -Ryan Brun


Norman Westberg – “MRI” – MRI

Using only clever recording techniques and mostly just guitar, Norman Westberg’s solo albums are a fine example of a master musician going way beyond the kind of music that has made his career. On this track the sweeping, cycling drones cleanse the mind almost through hypnosis leaving room for a sense of refreshment and peace that seems to contrast with the slightly dark tone of the composition. -Tom Murphy


Nothing – “Tired of Tomorrow” – Tired of Tomorrow

After an album of harrowing, densely atmospheric post-hardcore, this song based around a lonely piano melody and breathy vocals feels like the combination of acceptance and resignation that only comes from burnout born of fighting seemingly everything all the time and seeing no hope on the horizon. Which could be depressing but here it feels like a healing respite and comfort following a storm of troubles. -TM


Opeth – “Sorceress” – Sorceress

What a long, strange trip it’s been for Stockholm’s Opeth. Their earlier offerings were a decidedly heavier affair, but as time went on Opeth grew into a much more unmanageable beast. Progressive elements began to find their way into Opeth’s music more and more and with that came a seemingly renewed focus on musicianship. Sorceress, the bands latest album, brought the bands progressive tendencies to the forefront more than ever before. The fuzzed-out, jazz-influenced intro for the albums title track gives way to a burly, doom-tinged riff that makes up the meat of the song before the tracks epic, organ-drenched finale. When combined with singer Mikael Akerfeldt’s silky croon which morphs effortlessly into a possessed howl, you’re left with one of the most beguiling pieces of music to come out this year. -RB


Pale Sun – “Colliding Birds” – Darkmoonwhiteout

The drift into inner space contrasting with moments of deep focus lend this song a sense of expansiveness inside and out. There’s something ineffably soothing about Jeff Suthers‘ voice in the context of a song like this as though he’s your guide and companion through a mysterious universe that can be disorienting until you learn its elusive logic and try to let go of your mechanisms of control and imposing meaning rather than attempting to understand and work with rather than against the world. -TM


Paperbark – “Parallel Conscience” – Forgotten Narratives

Using textural glitches and complimentary, melodic oscillations, John Mulville has written a track worthy of its unusual title. If a door between alternate realities and selves had a soundtrack it would sound like this. -TM


Phantogram – “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” – Three

From the opening seconds of “You Don’t Get Me High Anymore” you get the distinct feeling that your hearing a band hit their prime. That certainly isn’t to say that Phantogram haven’t produced in the past, but this is an entirely new level for them. The songs massive, bass-heavy synth sweeps give way to a playful pre-chorus before exploding into a massive sing-along chorus. Vocalist Sarah Barthel is at her strongest on the track, oozing a confidence and power with her hypnotizing performance, unleashing a string of bewitching notes at the end of the song. It’s an unapologetically poppy song but with leagues more bite than most of its contemporaries. -RB


Pig – “The Diamond Sinners” – The Gospel

When it was announced in early 2016 that the mighty Raymond Watts would be releasing a new Pig album, it seemed almost too good to be true. Long championed by rivetheads worldwide for his unique take on industrial music, Raymond Watts had spent the previous ten years largely out of the public eye, scoring music for films and writing for Alexander McQueen’s runway shows. In 2015, Watts revived the Pig moniker for two EP’s but 2016’s The Gospel was the first full-fledged Pig release in a decade. The album’s opening cut “The Diamond Sinners” immediately recalled what industrial music had been missing with Watts’ guttural baritone barked over a slinking bassline with a touch of classic Watts humor and alliteration to recall past efforts. The song (and album as a whole) is a welcome return from one of the most creative and unpredictable musicians in industrial music. -RB


Psychic TV – “Jump into the Fire” – Alienist

In the 35 years since their inception, Psychic TV has undergone countless changes, both in personnel and as a result, sound. Since the groups reactivation in the early aughts, they’ve largely stuck to their own particular brand of acid-drenched psychedelic rock, and their latest offering Alienist was no exception. The album featured four songs in total, two originals and two covers, one of which being this fantastic version of Harry Nilsson’s “Jump into the Fire” which highlights the true power of the band. Bassist Alice Genese leads the charge with an absolutely undeniable groove, following every dynamic shift that drummer Edley O’Dowd can throw her way while Jeff Berner’s guitar playfully bounces off John Weingarten’s keys up to the massive finale which devolves into a spectacular orgy of sound and energy. Of course, the glue that holds everything together is Genesis P-Orridge, again proving to be one of the most hypnotic vocalists in music today. With a band this good, you might as well just turn on, tune in and drop out. -RB


Radiohead – “Decks Dark” – A Moon Shaped Pool

No current band creates as much buzz and controversy with a new release as indie’s tortured mainstays do, but there’s little argument (compared to, say, a Hail to the Thief which was good so shut up) that this year’s A Moon-Shaped Pool is a gem. “Decks Dark” is one of several great reasons why. Initially one may think they’re in for a slow, dirge-like descent into melancholy. If the listener is already a fan of Radiohead’s often maudlin modus operandi, they are almost certainly down with this. But over its course, the track does something one does not expect, indeed one may not even notice initially: it ascends. Gently, bright piano enters the mix. Rocky guitar joins in rhythm mode and join the drums as they turn toward jazz. Ethereal vocals and the requisite odd noises add texture to the soundscape.  Gentling down in the final minute, “Decks Dark” seems to wake from its own dream, but unlike actual dreams, we can revisit this one as often as we like. -Nick Abaddon


Red Hot Chili Peppers – “The Getaway” – The Getaway

Let’s just get this out of the way right now. If John Frusciante leaves your band, chance are good that you’re fucked. That being said, the Red Hot Chili Peppers found the next best thing in guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, who has taken the reigns from John and made the band his own. Proof of just that can be found on the title track of the bands latest album The Getaway. Josh’s understated playing throughout the first few minutes of the song are so subversive and minimal you barely even notice him until he unleashes a beautiful hook in the songs outro which is guaranteed to make you want to hear it again and again. The songs subtle guitar textures unfold slowly with repeated listens, a fascinating element of this version of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and one that would have never occurred under the previous administration. -RB


Run the Jewels – “Legend Has It” – RTJ3

If you’re familiar with mischievous, mind-blowing hip-hop duo Run The Jewels, you won’t find anything here from El-P and Killer Mike you don’t expect. Which is to say, your eyebrows will raise at deft, hilarious twists of tongue and hyperbolic boasts that wink at rap egomania while still utilizing the energy it generates. Stuttering beats so low only crocodiles can hear them are similarly not a new thing to RTJ, and just as similarly are as satisfying to listen to as they are dangerous to your car speakers. If this is the vanguard to the upcoming album, I can’t wait to see the army. -NA


Samvega – “People to the Streets” – The King Is Asleep

Samvega’s The King is Asleep has the album cover of the year and its sheer diversity of songwriting is remarkable in itself. But this psychedelic, politically-charged sludge rock hurricane of a song is the most captivating rocker on the record. Live the song has a palpable intensity casting off ghostly atmospherics like a sustained exorcism. -TM


Sego – “Once Was Lost Now Just Hanging Around” – Once Was Lost Now Just Hanging Around

I’m often the kind of person that will skip out on an opening band if I don’t know who they are. Earlier this year I went to see Big Black Delta play a small bar in Denver with the express intent to just see their set. I ended up getting there way too early so I just posted up, grabbed some beers and settled in to suffer through the unknown opener, in this case a band called Sego. Their first song was pretty decent, and the second was too. Surely this couldn’t last right? Well, it did. The entire fucking set was incredible. I greedily snatched up their just released album and spun it non-stop throughout summer. It’s poppy, weird, textured, melodic and fun. It’s the kind of record you’ve wanted Beck to make for the last 15 years. Just take a listen to the albums title track to see what I’m talking about. But whatever you do, don’t sleep on this band. With songs this good, it’s only a matter of time before everyone knows about them. -RB


Skold – “Better the Devil” – The Undoing

Tim Skold has somewhat unfairly suffered under the thumbs of the artists he’s worked with throughout his career. His collaborations with artists such as KMFDM and Marilyn Manson frequently brought those groups a renewed sense of public appreciation while Skold himself lurked in the shadows of those successes. All of that should change with his new album The Undoing, which is his most fleshed out and fully realized work to date. “Better the Devil” finds Skold singing with his signature sneer and drawl over a rock background that has enough familiar elements to keep it accessible while still maintaining an unique edge. Songwriting this good doesn’t often happen in heavy music, but Skold has found a way to combine the two in complete harmony. -RB


Slim Cessna’s Auto Club – “Commandment Eight” – The Commandments According to SCAC

On the most expressively dynamic album of its long career, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club imbue its new music with a bright energy like it had unleashed its long brewing potential energy across an entire record. “Commandment Eight” displays the band layering atmospheric and texture components in a musical rosette around Slim’s plaintive beseeching higher forces to bring inspiration back into his life. The focused yearning in this song is less desperate than it is engagingly focused. -TM


Sole – “Three Way Fight” – Single

Tim Holland tears into the quaint myths of political culture that informed a lot of the mainstream media analysis of current events of the past few years. Expect a bit of Holland’s signature rapidfire rhetoric but the whole song comes off like a mainstream rap song and that’s what makes the hard truths more palatable without simplifying the message. -TM


Some Ember – “Magnetic” – Some Ember

This song couldn’t have been made in the late 80s even though it has the dusky and highly emotive tone of a mid-era Depeche Mode song. Too dark to really be a synth pop song, nevertheless Some Ember imbues its songs with a European dance pop sensibility that should be huge in Goth clubs when more of them embrace newer music. -TM


Sound of Ceres – “My Spiral Arm” – Nostalgia for Infinity

Sound of Ceres always sounds like its coming to us from an alternate reality where little people and faeries flit about leaving glowing embers of magical energy that pulse with the fires of pure imagination. “My Spiral Arm” has shades of classic indie pop and Stereolab’s most dreamlike moments. It also sounds like something refreshingly new that has a nostalgic quality minus any sappy romanticism. -TM


Stabbing Westward – “Plastic Jesus” – Cold Waves V Compiliation

After their contentious disbanding in 2002, many assumed that Stabbing Westward would never again see the light of day. In spite of some overly obvious nods from singer Christopher Hall’s new band The Dreaming, Stabbing Westward was by all accounts dead. But this years Cold Waves festival in Chicago was the perfect setting to revive the much loved industrial rock act. Performing a headlining set on the opening night of the festival, fans got a chance to see some of their old favorites performed live for the first time in nearly fifteen years. What many people weren’t expecting was a re-recorded version of their song “Plastic Jesus” from their much sought after Iwo Jesus EP originally released in 1990. It was a great surprise to have a “new” Stabbing Westward song in 2016 and hopefully not the last from this iconic group. -RB

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