This year may have been blighted by a string of untimely deaths, political insubordination and meme-inflected primates, but there has also been a compendium of cracking tracks from new acts, established outfits and the odd wildcard here and there. Here, as ever, is the top 50 tracks that have made 2016 another enticing year for music.
This year was harder than ever to condense, but below are the songs that have managed to squeeze into the cut. Sorry, Matt Healy fans, you *will* be disappointed.
50). JIMMY EAT WORLD – Sure and Certain
After the straight-to-tape minimalism of Damage, Jimmy Eat World updated their sound with winning results for Integrity Blues; one of the best songs is ‘Sure and Certain’, which blends the forthright alt.rock of Futures with a more contemplative edge.
49). COURTNEY BARNETT – Two Packs a Day
Australia’s straggly-haired chanteuse wryly observes the perils of addiction in this one-off single. Her drug of choice? Ramen noodles. Here she highlights the gritty comedown, the grubby dependence and the surging highs that come from such boil-in-a-bag hedonism.
48). NAP EYES – Stargazer
Nap Eyes’ brand of Pavement-indebted slacker shtick and upper-crust inflections is perfectly articulated in the gently plodding ‘Stargazer’, aided by a delicately ruffled guitar arpeggio and Nigel Chapman’s earnest vocals.
47). DAY WAVE – Gone
Beginning with a trademark dream pop riff, ‘Gone’ piles on the shimmering effects until it sounds like a long-lost ‘80s offcut, particularly the soothing, Drums-esque vocals.
46). MAN MADE – Raining In My Head
Man Made’s TV Broke My Brain EP is gaining a significant amount of plaudits, and it’s no surprise on the evidence of this twisted number, where the vocals recall, oddly, Gene’s Martin Rossiter. The song is equally enthralled to the darker sides of Britpop.
45). JOY AGAIN – How You Feel
According to the Philly-based band, ‘How You Feel’ was written in a dorm room during a period of relationship breakdown. However, you really wouldn’t know it; ‘How You Feel’ is a twinkling slice of lo-fi pop, with dream-like verses and a warbling, reverb-drenched chorus.
44). SKATING POLLY – Oddie Moore
‘Oddie Moore’ is an abrasive, in-your-face diary entry set to the American duo’s typically wonderful riffs and brooding bass. They should be a national treasure.
43). Radiohead – Burn the Witch
42). QUILT – Roller
‘Roller’ is strewn with warped, Alvvays-style guitar grooves, as Anna Fox Rochinski’s honeyed voice sings and vents in endearing fashion. It also features a suitably trippy video straight from ’80s sci-fi shticks.
41). SUNDARA KARMA – She Said
They may tour just a little too often, but Sundara Karma’s brand of disco-tinged indie dance can occasionally yield some great results, particularly in this rousing night-time stomper. Of course, it’d be unfair to mention Sundara without mentioning…
40). INHEAVEN – All There Is
Partners in crime INHEAVEN, who are no slouches either when it comes to creating songs that combine brooding intensity with slashing swaths of heavy distortion. ‘All There Is’ is both delicate and brutal.
39). SUEDE – Like Kids
Suede continued their progression since reforming with the cinematic gloom of Night Thoughts; one of the best moments was ‘Like Kids’, a modern update on the suburban youths Brett Anderson wrote about back in his ‘Trash’ days.
38). JAMIE T – Power Over Men
Jamie T’s Trick had a darker edge than before, but ‘Power Over Men’, with its twisting, taut guitar riffs and the songsmith’s own cries was one of the record’s strongest moments.
37). CAR SEAT HEADREST – 1937 Skate Park
Car Seat Headrest don’t mess about when it comes to releasing albums; they are prolific enough to even make Ty Seagall blush. ‘1937 Skate Park’ begins with an ominous pinched harmonic before launching into a wry rocker.
36). YUNG – Commercial
Danish grunge band mine the best of the ’90s for this fuzzy, frenetic stomper that has just the right amount of heart.
35). VANT – JESUS WAS A CONMAN
VANT are continuing their meteoric rise, and their brand of propulsive punk rock is perfectly permeated on the strutting, pounding snares of ‘JESUS WAS A CONMAN’.
34). ULRIKA SPACEK – She’s a Cult
One of DIIV’s support bands earlier this year, Ulrika Spacek have a dark, crunchy edge wrapped around atmospheric riffs. ‘She’s a Cult’ the gloomy edge of Sonic Youth with the ferocity of The Smashing Pumpkins.
33). PRIMAL SCREAM ft SKY FERREIRA – Where the Light Gets In
‘Where the Light Gets In’ is embellished with a fantastic guest spot from Sky Ferreira, who’s hazy guitar strums and fervent call-backs give this dance-inflected number real purpose.
32). PUBLIC ACCESS TV – On Location
Public Access TV have the wide-eyed indie thrust of the mid-noughties New York scene (think, principally, The Strokes and Hot Hot Heat), and ‘On Location’ is a giddy, spiky strum.
31). BOB MOULD – The End of Things
Only Bob Mould could name a song ‘The End of Things’ and truly get away with it – the guitarist’s apocalyptic howl is matched by one of his fiercest riffs in years.
30). PALM HONEY – Bones
29). FRANKIE COSMOS – If I Had A Dog
Frankie Cosmos is adept at offering snappy gambits about everyday life, a la Evan Dando. ‘If I Had A Dog’ is a lean lament about a canine missing-in-action.
28). THE PARROTS – Let’s Do It Again
The Parrots have a carefree, hazy ’60s sound running through their rocky racket, and ‘Let’s Do It Again’ is an irresistible slice of Beatles-esque flower power.
27). THE MAGIC GANG – Lady, Please
The Magic Gang’s two EPs in 2016 showed their knack for concise, anthemic pop-rock songs that are sprinkled with sorrow. ‘Lady, Please’ is a yearning, chorus-inflected strum.
26). BILL RYDER-JONES – Two to Birkenhead
The former Coral guitarist continued his solo streak with ‘Two to Birkenhead’, a track that begins with Pavement-sizes of scuzz and ends with a wistful, urgent yearn.
25). BAND OF HORSES ft J MASCIS – In A Drawer
While his usual squealing solos are surprisingly absent, J Mascis does offer his croaky, familiar yelp on this nostalgic noodler from Ben Bridwell and co.
24). MARGARET GLASPY – Emotions and Math
Taken from the album of the same name, Glaspy’s garage crunch, matched with her raspy yelp, are best demonstrated on this ode which manages to sound both delicate and wrought.
23). PARQUET COURTS – Berlin Got Blurry
Parquet Courts’ album had a raft of gems, but the almost Spaghetti western-style guitar riff that propelled ‘Berlin Got Blurry’ stands out, especially when it is backed up with their usual literate lyrics.
22). HOOTON TENNIS CLUB – Katy-Anne Bellis
Hooton Tennis Club wasted no time in releasing their sophomore record, and one of its many key moments was the lead single, a lovingly lop-sided guitar lament to a former housemate. Katy-Anne should be very flattered.
21). DIET CIG – Dinner Date
As known for their crazy live performances as their records, duo Diet Cig may have been a little quiet this year, but they did offer ‘Dinner Date’, a piledriver of distortion and shitty steaks.
20). PJ HARVEY – The Community of Hope
PJ Harvey continued to change and evolve with her new record The Hope Six Demolition Project, and one of the best tracks was the fuzzy call-to-arms ‘The Community of Hope’.
19). KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD – Big Fat Wasp
King Gizzard’s record Nonagon Infinity was a cracking clash of their unique blend of fast-paced riffs, squealchy synths and pounding drums, best displayed on the crunching cruise of ‘Big Fat Wasp’.
18). TEENAGE FANCLUB – Thin Air
Returning after a six-year absence, Scottish pop rockers Teenage Fanclub filled a heart-shaped gap with ‘Thin Air’, a breezy jangle propelled by their unique brand of loving fuzz.
17). THE ORIELLES – Jobin
Freshly signed to Heavenly, The Orielles have been producing loving, lo-fi jangle pop for a number of years now, and ‘Jobin’ and its Teenage Fanclub-esque harmonies continued their evolution.
16). THE BIG MOON – Cupid
It was hard to choose between ‘Cupid’ and their equally rip-roaring cover of ‘Beautiful Stranger’, but originally won the day. ‘Cupid’ changes tack from a nimble, raw lament into a pounding chorus.
15). RICHARD ASHCROFT – This Is How It Feels
Mad Richard returned to his balladeering best with ‘This Is How It Feels’, a string-drenched cry that was up there with his more sombre Verve work. After a period of insecurity, Ashcroft remembered just what he does best.
14). RA RA RIOT – Absolutely
Produced by Vampire Weekend’s Rostam Batmanglij, you can hear his band’s baroque pop prowess running through this fiddle-flecked indie stomper.
13). THE STROKES – Threat of Joy
The Strokes’ Future Present Past EP was as clever as its title – a compendium of what made the band great, along with some neat points to the future. ‘Threat of Joy’ took their plus points and moulded them into something modern and exciting.
12). WEEZER – King of the World
‘King of the World’ is a slick, radio-friendly anthem that recalls the band’s mid-to-late noughties era, as opposed to the back-to-basics approach of their last album. Lyrically, it’s a heartfelt tribute to Rivers Cuomo’s wife and her wrestles with depression.
11). THE GOON SAX – Boyfriend
Australian duo The Goon Sax proved that there was still a need for idiosyncratic, foppish Antipodean rock. ‘Boyfriend’ is almost Belle and Sebastian in its tweeness, but has a solid guitar motif and a brilliantly wistful chorus.
10). BLACK HONEY – Hello Today
Black Honey have been responsible for a number of stomping indie anthems lately, and ‘Hello Today’ continues the trend. With an anthemic, dubby drum beat and an infectious chorus, it also gave us their first music video, which didn’t disappoint.
9). THE WYTCHES – Bone/Weary
The Wytches’ second record All Your Happy Life was a little ironic in its title, but when misery sounds this good, the company will follow. ‘Bone/Weary’ had shards of melody threatening to poke out from their usual brand of bulldozer sludge.
8). DINOSAUR JR. – Lost All Day
After a four-year break, J Mascis, Lou Barlow and Murph returned with a record that blended their usual brand of volatile volume with a sweeter edge. ‘Lost All Day’, with its howling ache and wistful guitar arpeggios, was the latter.
7). DAVID BOWIE – Lazarus
Who’d have known what a tumultous year we’d have following the tragic passing of the Thin White Duke? The elegiac Blackstar was best summed up with this haunting, intense slice of cinema.
6). TINY LITTLE HOUSES – Milo Tin
Another fine export from Australia, indie miserablists Tiny Little Houses hit the jackpot with ‘Milo Tin’; with its delicately yearning vocals, scuzzy slides and haunting howls, it aches and soothes in equal measure.
5). DIIV – Out of Mind
Zachary Cole Smith, ‘Cole’ to his friends, returned after a four-year absence for new record Is the Is Are, which hac a darker undercurrent than his debut Oshin. ‘Out of Mind’ is the opening track, which builds from a crackle of feedback into Cole’s irresistible, chorus-inflected riffs. It’s good to have him back.
4). HINDS – Easy
3). SUNFLOWER BEAN – Easier Said
2). HONEYBLOOD – Ready for the Magic
Babes Never Die was more polished and confident than Honeyblood’s debut, but it was all the better for it; ‘Ready for the Magic’ is a full-on anthem, with a crunching bubblegrum riff and a blistering chorus.
1). NICK CAVE AND THE BAD SEEDS – Rings of Saturn