The expansive plethora of impressive music we’ve been given this year is an almost impossible thing to take in while it’s happening. Even the most dedicated, avid listener of current records should find themselves overwhelmed with their backed-up queue, but overwhelmed in the best possible way.
In a year where hip-hop kicked up tufts of multicolored chalk while celebrating Chance the Rapper’s fluorescent fun house of swelling choruses and syrupy intonations, we almost forgot about the yellowed sidewalks and hallowed Jordans of Vince Staples.
Many times I’ve run screaming from a theater, gasping for air, fighting off the effects of a terrible performance. Usually, the actor in question has done something worth watching and thinking about, even in a bad appearance. Below is a group of performances that stuck with me, for all of the wrong reasons, in 2016.
“What a fool was I to think that we were safe,” Malin Dahlström sings in the opening moments of Niki & The Dove’s exquisitely lovelorn and achingly prescient Everybody’s Heart Is Broken Now. It’s a devastating preamble to a calendar year that would not only lionize dishonesty and cultural ire but make an urgent proclamation for a regression of rights.
I spent a significant portion of 2016 unspooled in a heap of tears and saline smudged hospital paperwork. I witnessed my dad’s ashes being poured into a phlegmatic sea before tossing a single flower to meet him. I stomped my eggshell colored Converse around downtown Portland, easing a kitchen’s worth of pint glasses to my lips.
Artists across all genres delivered a plethora of powerful, insightful, confrontational tunes throughout all twelve squares in the calendar, and there was no shortage of important entries in the EP department.
From Niki & The Dove’s saltwater splashed “Everybody’s Heart is Broken Now” to Vince Staple’s sardonic and saliva flecked “Prima Donna”, there was a wealth of important voices and challenging dialogue.
Here are eleven electric picks that perforated the discord of 2016, and provided creative clarity and astute madness.
While “The Hebrew Hammer” is a great send-up of Blaxploitation films, it doesn’t hold up to repeated viewings. “Eight Crazy Nights” is, well, let’s be charitable — it’s dreadful. There’s the adorable “An American Tale” and that’s about it for Hanukkah films.
Make no mistake about it: Blood Orange’s Freetown Sound is a colossal beast of an R&B/Pop record, and the commanding lead vocals by Lorely Rodriguez (Empress Of) on “Best To You” are so pristine and flawless that it’s hard to imagine a more ideal contender for best guest appearance of 2016.