Brace yourself: I'm about to say a bunch of really controversial stuff, like In Utero isn't Nirvana's best album, that I like the idea of David Bowie more than the actual David Bowie, and that politics don't matter and can neither ruin nor improve your life, except when George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton signed NAFTA and then my dad's farming business went bankrupt and I had to start giving my Winn Dixie paycheck to my parents so we could pay our light bill. Nevermind, I guess.
Here are my nine favorite songs from 2016 that don't appear on any of my nine favorite albums from 2016. They are arranged, seemingly like the events of 2016, in no particular order.
Shell Sport -- "Rain Print"
The way this random kid from Greenland puts beats and bass together in this song makes me hope that he makes a lot more songs.
David Bowie -- "Lazarus"
Knowing how non-plussed I've been about David Bowie, my wife arrived back from a January trip to New York with the words "You've got to listen to this song." "This song" is "Lazarus," a haunting, fog-horned swansong from a guy who's influence of innovation and imagination on other artists has always had a stronger effect on me than his actual back-catalogue. While the non-video six-minute version is more powerful with its extended jam-session ending, this abridged video-version is stunning, and a hell of a way to go.
Steve Taylor and the Danielson Foil -- "Nonchalant"
The Wow to the Deadness EP from whence this came overwhelmed my expectations. I've never been wowed by Steve Albini's production skill's, even on Nirvana's In Utero, but he brings out the best in this scrappy band of old guys, really finding some space in this straightforward, nearly shamanistic rock song.
Deftones -- "Prayers/Triangles"
The mid-section to Deftones' Gore is the weakest thing they've ever done, sounding more like watered-down alternative rock than the spacey art-metal they've perfected over the years. Thankfully, the album's opening salvo is excellent, particularly the first track, "Prayers/Triangles," which is as hypnotic as head-bangers come.
Drive-by Truckers -- "Guns of Umpqua"
American Band is a huge step back in the write direction after DBT's shockingly inconsequential English Oceans. The standout from this thoughtful collection of protest songs is gorgeous, spectral "Guns of Umpqua," contrasting the more menial aspects of life with a horrible real-life Oregon school-shooting.
ORKA -- "softly" ft. Amy Seach
I discovered the reclusive ORKA this year through an older song, "Phantom." His sensual, earthy grooves feel infinite, while piling on a strange soul that seems alien. He only released a handful of songs this year, with "softly" being my favorite. It fully captures the way he drags the listener through near-orgasmic soundwaves, and also makes me cry when I look at how many Youtube views it has next to any random video of Taylor Swift pulling out a wedgie.
Chevelle - "Shot From a Cannon"
Chevelle's The North Corridor almost feels like an exercise in denial, as it seems to be determined not to give the listener what they want. The building atmosphere from the last several albums is almost completely diminished, and the heavy grooves one expects seem to be hiding around every corner, hesitant to reveal themselves. Instead, the band settle for a very bare bones, simplistic, nearly generic rock approach, until the awesome closer, "Shot From a Cannon," where they introduce the groove that will bring the apocalypse. More of these on the next album, please!
Alcest is the critically heralded band I always want to like, but their formless, spacey guitar-work always seems to put me to sleep...until the excellent Kodama, which takes inspiration from Master Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke. This eastern tint gives Alcest a sense of dynamics heretofore missing, and the opening title track, with its quiet to loud breaks and soaring vocal moments, announces a band intent on keeping the listener wowed and engaged.
Kent - "Den sista sången"
People, generally those very young and naive, who have previously never seen the candidate they voted for lose an election, have been calling 2016 the worst year in history. In my years, I've seen both parties come and go, but my lot in life strangely not change regardless. Hmm. However, knowing that Kent will never make another album does directly effect me. While their swansong album, Då Som Nu För Alltid, is sadly not their best, the closer, "Den sista sången," and its corresponding final performance video hit me right in the tear-ducts.