The Top 100 Tracks of 2016

2016 was not the easiest year to make it through. Political and social messages, which ended up fueling the fire for some of the year's best music, provided little hope with their pervasive, inescapable, and ultimately frustrating statements. That, coupled with the death of music icons such as David Bowie and Prince, is enough to want to avoid reviewing the year any further. While it may be hard to look back at 2016 favorably, it truly was a spectacular year for music. From new albums from prominent, influential artists to a studio version of a fan favorite live song finally being released 15 years later to some wildly experimental and unabashadly pop records, there was a lot in 2016 to process. This list is an attempt to. As voted by our staff and contributors, here's our list of the 100 Best Tracks of 2016.

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Weird and Forgotten: The Top Ten Obscure 60’s Psych Records

When choosing records from the massive pile covered in dust, one has to consider what exactly they’re looking for. Do they want a standard three-minute passing love song, or something that tears away at their insides, making the ground come alive and breathe? Picking my top 10 psych records was a heavy task dwelled upon for several weeks using grave concern and dynamite precision. I am, after all, a music addict. And like any music addict, I’ve dug deep, scouring the stacks for the cloudy wax cuts that demand a little extra attention.

These aren’t your mother’s standard, run-o-the-mill records, or even your father’s damp-basement, smoke-filled meditations. These are the deep cuts, rare gems, unsavory, garage-ridden, echo-filled anthems to long-dead, flower-filled summers of love, loss and contagious pop with just enough grungy, punk overtones and careless ramblings to keep even the most tweaked-out of weary travelers contented by their shifting surroundings. Here lies a list of luscious psychedelic albums from an era oversaturated with moody, colorful, transcendentalists and dry-mouthed freethinkers, lost somewhere in the midst of their next epiphany.

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“Make Me Float”: Five Supreme Aaliyah-Inspired Tracks

Aaliyah Haughton, the R&B singer whose untimely death was this day 13 years ago, was and still is admired for her poise, grace, and musicality with a voice that could readily upbraid a lover for doing wrong one minute and console the person wronged the next. Her vocal delivery and phrasing, not to mention her music’s lyrical content, reflected a maturity that seemed decades beyond her age. Besides this, Aaliyah, often donning a baseball cap and shades in her earliest videos and photos, was mysterious—never desperate to self-promote and taking roles in the film adaptation of Anne Rice’s Queen of the Damned as well as The Matrix Reloaded, for which filming had not been completed at the time of her passing. When she looks into the camera during her episode of MTV’s Diary, filmed in 2001, and offers the show’s scripted line, “you think you know, but you have no idea,” her assuredness suggests that there is actually a large grain of truth to that statement.

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Ten Mood Songs

Music Mood
Once, I took a cross-country journey that found me in the empty highway lands of Idaho. On Interstate 84, between Ogden and Twin Falls, a storm amassed in shades of grey and green. Stretched across that open canvas, without buildings, past mountains, the storm loomed larger than anything I’d seen in the tameness of my Midwest-suburban rearing. I had the benefit of a partner with good cell phone service, and she received alerts that warned us not to go further. We obliged, and stopped at a “gas station” that indeed offered gas, but also served as a port of call in the emptiness. There was a two-llama petting zoo, one pen conspicuously empty. Upon entering, visitors were greeted with a warning sign: Baby Rattlers! Investigating further, one would discover a barrel filled with rattle toys for babies, surely a farce cribbed from Jonathan Swift’s own notebook. It seemed to entertain the family of four that stood ahead of me in line, at least.

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The Top 20 Weezer Songs

In September, the indomitable alt-rock act will release Everything Will Be Alright In the End, their ninth studio album. Its first single, “Back to the Shack”, gives hope (albeit only a small amount) that there may be a return to form on the upcoming record. Will Everything Will Be Alright In the End take Weezer back to a listenable realm? Despite his years as the contrarian, it seems like Rivers Cuomo is finally entertaining the notion that the band’s early period was their heyday. The single includes ultra-personal lyrics, and the album itself is being helmed by Blue and Green producer Ric Ocasek. While the song isn’t perfect—it’s still a bit too corny and the production is greasy sleek—it’s miles better than anything they’ve done since long before they started hanging out that guy from Lost.

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Remix/Refix: Seeking a Second Opinion

Producers often sample from songs that you swore never to listen to. At times, one can’t help but question why certain atrocious songs are even used by (your favorite artist) in the first place. Yet, these are the perks of the digital age, where anything can be photoshopped, remixed, and generally re-appropriated. Though many do fall short of the original, a few of these metamorphoses are astonishingly good; in this vein, we, the electronic/dance section, compiled an arbitrary list of tunes that offer some redemption—or, at the least, improvements—for the (truly terrible) songs they sample.

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The Top 10 Elephant Six Recording Company Albums

With the reunion and rigid touring schedule of resurrected indie giants, Neutral Milk Hotel, in addition to the recent release of Mosaics Within Mosaics, a giant new album by Will Cullen Hart’s project Circulatory System, the Elephant 6 Recording Company has returned from the locked bedrooms of yesteryear, and reestablished themselves once again as pioneers in pop mastery and psychedelia. The task of picking my top ten Elephant 6 albums was daunting as I approached an entire catalogue both distinctive to their primary songwriters and further perfected by the contributions of their fellow men and women. While my familiarity with this grand cluster of artists began with the obvious Neutral Milk Hotel, I quickly shifted to the deep cuts and rare gems of their roster, and fell hard for the polished differences between these friends and contemporaries. My infatuation with these songs has withstood long beyond temporary placeholders scattered amongst mix CD’s and stands to remind me that often times the retro-past is the best of possible jumping off points.

The albums that follow represent the hooks that kept me coming back for more. Apologies to Elf Power, The High Water Marks, The Minders, The Sunshine Fix, The Ladybug Transistor, and many others.

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