While maddening in some ways, the playlist culture born of the streaming boom is breaking down genre barriers and creating more entry points to discover different and interesting sounds. I’ve always like supplementing my Favorite Albums list with a list of random songs that stayed in heavy rotation. Rather than attempting to arbitrarily rank them, I’ve narrowed it down to my top 50 and alphabetized them. In addition to a full listing and descriptions, I’ve also included a full Spotify playlist for convenient accompaniment. Cheers.
“1st Day Out Tha Feds” – Gucci Mane (from Everybody Looking)
As an ATLien, it’s impossible not to be excited about this – one of the best songs ever made by one of the most prolific, unique artists alive – and everything it means. May you wake up every day in 2017 with this sense of rebirth and possibility. Amen.
“(1)” – Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes (from Carl Sagan’s Skate Shoes)
An actualization of music’s tension/release possibilities, as an absolute wind tunnel of guitar noise gives way to a beautifully too-brief riff (see 0:56) that makes my scalp tingle every single time.
“24k Magic” – Bruno Mars (from 24k Magic)
In less capable hands than Bruno’s, a braggy throwback that has the actual lyric “hashtag blessed” would be insufferable. But dude hits a rare sweet spot with this jam where you can dance with your mom to it, work it into a set at a trendy bar, and keep it in heavy Top 40 rotation. It ain’t that bad to feel good.
“Bday” – Isaiah Rashad ft. Deacon Blues & Kari Faux (from The Sun’s Tirade)
Pairing a layer of night wind sounds with a gorgeous Catalyst flip that sounds like a starry night, Rashad wraps a near-incantation flow in a panoramic vibe.
“Beyond the Veil” – Dylan LeBlanc (from Cautionary Tale)
America-as-Folsom-Prison blues. Dig this lonesome whistle on a day you ain’t seen the sunshine since you don’t know when.
“Big Boi” – ABRA ft. Tommy Genesis (from Princess)
You know that night out on the town with friends of friends, where you’re way out of your comfort zone and are doing everything in your power not to bail? But then one of those friends introduces you to someone with a vaguely bad-news vibe, and even though your alarm bells are sounding, you lock eyes and there’s a spark that thrusts you into the moment, upstream against every roaring instinct in your brain? The sparse, spacious beat and warped, warbling synth paint that picture perfectly.
“Black Beatles” – Rae Sremmurd (from SremmLife 2)
If this is the first time you’re hearing this song, I hope you enjoyed your stay in the bunker. I haven’t gotten that wistful Song of the Summer, “three in the mornin’, yawnin’, dancin’ under streetlights” vibe this strongly since “I’m On One“. Anyone who can capture the fever dream of youth is a magic maker, and Mike Will pulled a rabbit out of his hat on this one. I fought it for a long time, but I love this song so much.
“Blues Ain’t Nothing but a Good Woman on Your Mind” – Philip Sayce (from Scorched Earth, Vol. 1)
There’s always room for one cat at a time to take a stab at SRV’s Austin-style smokin’ blues, and this particular fires it all the way up.
“Bounce Back” – Big Sean
Sean’s elastic flow hops over the beat nicely, but this track lives and dies by that 808 pattern in the chorus. So dope.
“Broccoli” – D.R.A.M. ft. Lil Yachty (from Big Baby D.R.A.M.)
How could you help but sing this melody at the top of your lungs? And when you do, how could you help but smile ear to ear? That’s a crowning* achievement for a PSA about vegetables, especially one that goes A Thousand Miles down DeKalb Ave.
*submitted to dad-jokes.tumblr.com
“Diamonds” – Keith Ape x Jedi P
Dude is way out on his own wave and has the video to prove it. I’m with it.
“Dreamer” – The Men (from Devil Music)
Reminds me of the early Desert Sessions. Riffs you into a trance as you burn rubber down the open road.
“Funny Thing She Said” – Ryley Walker (from Golden Sings That Have Been Sung)
A champagne jacuzzi for one, where the nearby radio picks up distant broadcasts of “Wicked Game” and “Goodbye Porkpie Hat” between flickers of static. A bummer of a love song.
“Getting Better” – Twin Peaks (from Down in Heaven)
This sweet little living room blues piano jam would fall somewhere in the middle of Beggars Banquet‘s tracklist if the Stones were goofy Chicago punks.
“The Goddess” – Persona La Ave x Baraka (from Drift)
For nearly my entire childhood, I had a recurring dream soundtracked by Berlin’s “Take My Breath Away” (yeah, I know, beats me, too). This feels like the dream within that dream.
“Good Evening” – Quaker City Night Hawks (from El Astronauta)
Outlaw dirge that lurches and lumbers along, almost daring you to tell it to pick up the pace. Hint: don’t. It carries a right hook like a cement block.
“Marble Star” – Lawrence (from Yoyogi Park)
Like leaving your mind on its DVD menu, in the best way possible.
“Midnight Zone” – Balance and Composure (from Light We Made)
A night drive by the beach when the salty air is the perfect temperature and the company’s smile is brighter than the moon.
“New Cruiser” – Blown Out (from New Cruiser)
No hippy-dippy magic carpet rides here. If you want to take a ride across the astral plane, Blown Out can take you in their B-52. It’s gonna get loud, kid.
“No Heart” – 21 Savage x Metro Boomin (from Savage Mode)
“You was witcha friends playing Nintendo – I was playin’ round with that fire.” I probably bumped this more than anything else this year. Issa banger.
“No More Parties in LA” – Kanye West (from The Life of Pablo)
Yes, I’m over Yeezy, too. But there’s just something so infectious about this cipher, featuring Producer ‘Ye at his all-time crate-digging best (with an alley-oop from Madlib) and hall of fame bars from K. Dot.
“No Problems” – Chance the Rapper ft. 2 Chainz & Lil’ Wayne (from Coloring Book)
tfw you walk in the party and you love and adore every single person in there and y’all ’bout to have the night of your lives
“No Room to Rust” – Brother Hawk (from Big Medicine)
I’ve watched Brother Hawk play a whole mess of times and didn’t have a reason to love them until I watched them lay into these brick-thick blues. Now every time I watch them, I wonder if JB just might be one of the finest pickers to ever play the blues (don’t @ me).
“Nobody Speak” – DJ Shadow ft. Run the Jewels (from The Mountain Will Fall)
NO – BO – DY does braggadocio verses better than Mike and Jaime. If you can listen to this and not find the confidence to do whatever you’ve dreamed of doing, you weren’t meant to do it.
“Oblivions Peak” – Knocked Loose (from Laugh Tracks)
2016 is a pit, so, uh, get in and try to love someone
“Place I Belong” – Michael Kiwanuka (from Love & Hate)
Bill Withers songs often are used in movies for their uncanny ability to deliver chills in just a few notes. One day, someone smart will use this song that same way. Gorgeously contemplative.
“Polaris” – Bong (from Stoner Rock)
An earth-shaking meditation, or just half an hour of gigantic guitar sustains if you’re not into the whole zen thing.
“Pressure of Our Plans” – The Besnard Lakes (from A Coliseum Complex Museum)
The X-ray monocle you didn’t know your third eye needed in order to see through to the beauty in everything.
“Questlove” – RAX (from Rebl)
Voted Best Song to Bump At Night When Riding Around Atlanta in an Uber Black Car in 2016*
“Really Doe” – Danny Brown ft. Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul & Earl Sweatshirt (from Atrocity Exhibition)
Like if the family from The Strangers did a posse cut before doing their dirt. “I’m at your house like ‘Why you got your couch on my chucks?'” BOI.
“Sealed” – Robbie B (from I Probably Shouldn’t Do This)
The beat rides, skates even. Sometimes it’s just as simple as that.
“Shoot Out the Roof” – Lil Yachty (from Summer Songs 2)
Rap Game Shopping and Getting a Manicure in the Hamptons and Maybe Culturally Appropriating on Your Instagram Story While You’re Bored in Your Car Because You Think That New “Rain Drop, Drop Top” Me-Me Is Kinda Neat
“Sphynx” – La Femme (from Mystère)
Inspires a grand, childlike sense of wonder, like pushing open a big wooden door that reveals a future utopia.
“Spray” – Steve G. Lover III ft. Gonage
Made with an undercurrent of nostalgia for the golden age of trunk rattle, which doesn’t feel that long ago, but was like 15 years(!!!). Begs to be bumped while bendin’ corners. Pull up.
“Sun House” – The Pinx (from Freedom)
My boy Adam McIntyre aligned his chakras and made it rain magma. Here’s his technique for a mind-melting chorus:
(1) “I looked into the sun / the sun looked into me”
(2) A railroad hammer riff that swings into the amygdala
(3) A divine choir, recorded live on Mt. Vesuvius, responding in unison to the revelation of Item 1
Also, I texted him IN ALL CAPS as soon as I finished the song. We’ve been on the mountaintop together ever since.
“Surprise Party” – Grand Blanc (from Mémories vives)
These are the sounds auto-generated by your own artificial intelligence in those suspended-animation moments of heightened awareness, when everything goes THX technicolor and you feel like you can see all 360° of your surroundings.
“Switchblade” – Holy White Hounds (from Sparkle Sparkle)
“Sometimes all you need is just a taste.” Boot-scootin’ boogie for bad people.
“Talismana” – Sweat Lodge (from Talismana)
There’s ample Sabbath Worship out there, but most of it’s boring. This ain’t. Bang on.
“Tell Me Those Are Tears Of Joy” – Once and Future Band (from the upcoming Once and Future Band)
Blend late-period Beatles, Stevie, Pink Floyd, Dungen, and a dash of post-punk sensibilities. Serve chilled. Bliss out.
“Uber Everywhere” – Madeintyo
Hard not to love a song whose video was shot in the park by your house. Also, please sign my petition to have “skrt skrt” added to the dictionary.
“Wait Up” – Roosevelt (from Roosevelt)
RIYL: Feeling like maybe you’re an ok dancer after doing a languid Carlton and pointing your feet back and forth in opposite directions, that “animated birds might appear at any moment” feeling after a great night’s sleep, the confidence that comes with not having time or energy anymore to worry about what other people think, Toro y Moi live
“War Master” – Seven Sisters of Sleep (from Ezekiel’s Hags)
Rolls over you with the might of a thunderstorm making landfall from over the ocean. Steamrolling, massively thick groove.
“We’re All Gonna Die” – Dawes (from We’re All Gonna Die)
In which Dawes helps us cope with our mortality by reminding us of the beauty we’re capable of while we’re alive
“Weight In Gold” – Gallant (from Ology)
A top-of-your-head-to-tips-of-your-toes, soul-powered love song. Electric to the point that it makes you exhale and say “whoa” in the echoes of its ending. If it leads just one young person to its obvious spiritual predecessor (“Untitled (How Does It Feel)“), it’s well worth its, erm, weight.
“Yamborghini High” – A$AP Mob ft. Juicy J (from Cozy Tapes Vol. 1)
The heirs to Hypnotize Camp’s throne come through with peak-era Three 6 knock (thanks to the Juice Man himself). What’s not to love? Also, 100% my favorite video of the year. #WETRIPPYMANE
“You’re Mine” – Phantogram (from Three)
half-time beat + vaguely Aaliyah-esque vocal melody = recipe for success