Thanks for everything 2016. To say you were a wild, emotional roller coaster of year would be an understatement. But, one thing that can’t be overstated enough is the fact that good music can help keep the wheels on the tracks… and man was there some GREAT music this year. From our playlist to yours, here are some of our favorite songs from 2016.
Scroll down to the bottom for a playlist of all our picks for 2016!
Rick McNulty – Host of Fri. “Left of the Dial” & Sat. 7p-11p
Nick Waterhouse – “Katchi”
Apparently “katchi” is the kind of massage you receive from a loved one. The groove and melody is so amazingly catchy and yet so basic; you know it’s gonna hook you the moment you hear it. My favorite part is that it sounds like it was recorded in 1957 at Cosimo Matassa’s tiny little studio off the back of his family’s grocery on Rampart Street in New Orleans. Like everything he recorded there, it’s rudimentary but timelessly classic.
Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band – “High Castle Rock”
GUITARS! GUITARS! GUITARS! This might be my favorite instrumental of all time, and that’s saying something. It’s a glorious feast of swirling GUITARS and they’re absolutely unstoppable until they land with a mighty crash ten minutes later. Imagine a breathtaking instrumental version of “Marquee Moon” – it’s that good. If you dig GUITARS in the slightest, this one’s for you.
Wild Beasts – “Big Cat”
This is my favorite “pop” song of the year. Structurally it couldn’t be simpler and it’s no more than four notes and yet I can’t escape singing along with the hook: “big cat, top of the food chain/you can look/but don’t touch.” Maybe it’s about a dominatrix or a naughty house cat – they both make you feel small and unworthy – but in any case I’m ready to remove the collar.
The Lemon Twigs – “These Words”
I vividly remember the moment we heard this track in our weekly music meeting. We fell off our chairs laughing, not quite sure if it was an elaborate joke. Then we listened to it again and stopped laughing. The two twigs threw in the whole kitchen sink: Brian Wilson, Todd Rundgren, Dr. Dog, and ‘70s sitcom themes. It’s a head spinner, a tickler, a mini-masterpiece. I can see the Lemon Twigs sailing the waterway as the new champions of yacht rock.
Whitney – “No Matter Where We Go”
I’m a sucker for a song that mentions riding around with the windows down and this one has it in spades. This is a perfect slice of guitar pop that sounds like it was recorded in a teenager’s dingy bedroom. It’s as if Big Star rewrote “Earn Enough For Us,” which is to say that it combines the sugar of British pop with the spice of American determination. The fact that they’re from Chicago makes it a little more special.
Jody Denberg – Host M-Th 5p-8p, Fri. 12p-4p
Alejandro Escovedo – “Heartbeat Smile”
Catchy first single from the new “Burn Something Beautiful”. This songwriting and production collaboration with Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey rocks in a T. Rex style sweetened by the poppy backing vocals of Kelly Hogan. Looking forward to their forthcoming episode of “Austin City Limits” as who knows how often this gang will get together in the same room. Following three fruitful collaborations with Bowie producer Tony Visconti this is a nice change-up but still in the same ballpark.
Case/Lang/Veirs – “Atomic Number”
On paper this trio didn’t inspire my anticipation, but this amazing song exceeded any expectations. It took a few times for this gem from Neko, k.d. and Laura to sink in, but once it did it was earworm-city. “Latin words across my heart/symbols of infinity” – this lyric is now tattooed in my DNA. It’s a good thing.
David Bowie – “Lazarus”
What can one say? 2016 started out with the release of the “Black Star” album and then we lost Mr. Bowie two days later. Things haven’t gotten better since. Hard to pick a favorite from this brilliant swan song album, but “Lazarus” is as good as any. And that’s saying something. And that video….whew.
Corinne Bailey Rae – “Been To The Moon”
The third release from this British songbird didn’t disappoint, but this song is the standout. If you’ve read about Corinne’s trials and triumphs it gives “Been To The Moon” that much more resonance. Otherworldly yet rooted in human concerns, this song gets extra points for her incredible performance of it in Studio 1A prior to her ACL Festival appearances.
Blood Orange – “EVP”
OK, so I know Blood Orange is a gent named Dev Hynes, born in Texas but raised in the UK. And he recorded for years as Lightspeed Champion. Other than that the rest is a mystery, and sometimes I need to let the mystery be. Soul and funk from the future in the now, and something to tide us over til D’Angelo’s next album comes (if and when). And I don’t know what “EVP” is, either. Time to shut up and groove.
Matt Reilly – Program Director
Hayes Carll – “Sake of the Song”
This is such a well written song about the life of a touring musician and all that goes with it.
Deap Valley – “Smile More”
As the father of a strong willed daughter, this song gives me hope. It is an excellent anthem for strong women and the men around them.
Bright Light Social Hour/Israel Nash – “Lupita”
This is such an earworm. It’s got that easy going Laurel Canyon vibe that makes everything seem OK.
Blood Orange – “E.V.P.”
This has a Quincy Jones/Prince feel to it that makes it instantly relatable and a ton of fun to listen to. Plus the British accent makes it smarter.
Michael Crockett, host of “Horizontes, Music of Latin America” Sun. 7p-11p
Argentinian singer Mariana Yegros is joined by Brazilian Girls’ singer Sabina Sciubba and the horns of Colombian band Puerto Candelaria on the this electrocumbia track from the album Magnetismo, easily my favorite album of the year.
“Mufete” by Emicida (Brazil)
Brazilian rapper Emicida recorded his latest album in Africa, mostly in Angola and Cape Verde, which like Brazil, are former Portuguese colonies. This song pays homage to Angola’s capital, Luanda, and is named for a favorite fish dish consumed there.
“Te Quiero Con Bugalú” by Ilé (Puerto Rico)
Ilé aka Ileana Cabra, is the younger sister of and has often performed with the hip-hop duo Calle 13. She takes a decidedly different direction though on her debut album Ilevitable and sings in retro styles like bolero and on this song, bugalú, the Latin/R&B dance music of the 1960s.
“Cantaré Para Vos” by La Mambanegra (Colombia)
A slow-building salsa groove from this Cali, Colombia band’s debut EP La Galería starts with a muted trumpet, guitar and vocals and ends with a full chorus and horn section.
“Luchín” by Ana Tijoux (Chile)
Beautiful urban/jazz remake of a song by famous Chilean folk singer and political activist, Victor Jara. The song was released this year on 9/11, a date also remembered in Chile as the anniversary of a 1973 military coup that led to the torture and death of Jara and many other activists as well as a decade of dictatorship.
Jeff McCord – KUTX Music Director, Host Fri. 6a-9a
Jacquie Fuller – Asst. Program Director
It’s not that I don’t like Radiohead, I just sort of lost interest in the band somewhere after Kid A. In the interim, though, I’ve spent the last several years admiring Jonny Greenwood’s tense, agoraphobia-inducing film scores, which – along with an intense election year – prepped me for the shrill orchestration of “Burn the Witch.” When Thom Yorke sings, “This is a low-flying panic attack,” form follows function. I feel this song in my bones.
Whitney – “No Woman”
Late summer and autumn were my favorite seasons when I was a kid – each new school year signaled a certain promise. As an adult, though, they’re tinged with a little sadness, as every trip round the sun reminds me that I’m a little closer to death. “No Woman” evokes all the 110-film glow of seasons past, but it’s got an undercurrent of something aware and worn. It’s lo-fi but refreshingly not throwback.
You know how when you finally meet that special someone, it’s like everyone you ever dated before ceases to exist for you? My apologies to The Fab Four, but “Because” should have always been this silky bolero. #sorrynotsorry
Car Seat Headrest – “Fill in the Blank”
Will Toledo was born the year I graduated high school, and he’s already on his thirteenth album as Car Seat Headrest. There are a lot of tracks to love on Teens of Denial, but the opener is still my favorite – evoking early Superchunk, Guided By Voices, The Strokes, and the totality of my youth in general. As I tweeted while watching CSH play at Sound on Sound Fest, “I’d be proud if I was his mom.” (To which his mom responded: “I’m his mom and I’m very proud.”)
Beyoncé – “Hold Up”
The English Beat’s ska cover of Andy William’s “Can’t Get Used to Losing You” has been beloved to me since my teen years, as was Yeah Yeah Yeah’s “Maps” in college. “Hold Up” dips into both on a track that’s deceptively simple and plucks at the tenderest parts of me. Lyrically, I love the way this song makes space for all the conflicting emotions surrounding love/infidelity – yeah, you can still love somebody who’s wronged you. Nevertheless, the way Bey skips off Soulja Boy-style at the end feels downright victorious: self-preservation conquering heartache.
Katie Bradley – Host T & Th 7p-11p
Anthem for getting over and getting on with your fine self. I am addicted to the upbeat hook and her words for pushing yourself out the door to drink up what potential you forgot you got. Make this your alarm, every day, start with a dose of confidence.
This song is such a tease, it starts as a soft plead for understanding and builds to a no hold barred unforgiving soul charged belting of an empowered women’s confessional. I lose it when those punk roots coat her vocal howls.
Things can be simple if you just give yourself to rock and roll! A slight soft mosh it still suffices as a banger and I would happily listen to Sabrina Ellis sing the phone book, er Facebook ads? They pull off far out and glam spectacular all in just over two minutes.
That first bass beat gets me in an instant shuffle, when the back vocals come in “Pain won’t make it better/Tell me how you feel/Look over your shoulder/Time will make it real” For me, this was much need De la Soul in a much need time for understanding in a tough year like 2016. It’s a smooth groove and a reminder, we’re not alone in our pain. Featuring Snoop Dogg is just like slathering the butter on the bread.
Whoa. Was I out of the loop. This was my introduction to both artists. Empress Of has a voice like an ice angel exhale and Dev Hynes is tapped into some serious other worldly eclecticism to create something completely new and different that sounds like I missed it a decade before. I stop to think but my body doesn’t keeps moving. Everytime I listen to this song there is a new elemnt that reveals itself to me that I hadn’t noticed or gave weight before. This is music as art. High brow stuff.
Elizabeth McQueen – Producer/Host of This Song podcast, On-Air host Sat. 10a-2p
Beyoncé – “Pray You Catch Me”
Do you really want me to pick one track from Lemonade? Well honestly I can’t. But I’ll choose the first track off this amazing piece of art because it signals, from the first note, that Beyonce is trying to do something different. Something expansive. And what follows is the best work in any genre or medium of 2016.
Lizzo is a hope bringer and a fear conquerer. I’m thankful for her and I’m thankful for this song which makes me see the light in the darkest of rooms.
Third Root – “Soul Force” (feat Da’Shade, Riders Against the Storm, Bavu Blakes, Vocab)
We just started playing this at KUTX and I can’t get enough of it. It featured some of the best rappers in Austin backed up by Adrian Quesada’s production and it makes we want to dance and do the right thing.
Big Thief — “Paul”
Adrienne’s voice gives me to chills and I feel a connection to all humanity when I hear this melancholy masterpiece.
Angel Olsen — “Shut Up Kiss Me”
Angell Olsen made a pivot into lo-fi rock and I love it. I fell down a hole with this one and ended up having learn the drum part before my soul would let me rest.
Art Levy – Song of the Day/My KUTX Producer, Host Sun. 10a-2p
Radiohead – “Identikit”
More modern gospel: “Broken hearts make it rain.”
Jay Trachtenberg – Host M-Th 12p-2p
Anderson Paak / Come Down
The Wind & The Wave / Grand Canyon
Propulsive tune from this alt-country Austin duo of Patty Lynn and Dwight Baker……from their sophomore release, Happiness Is Not a Place
De La Soul (w/Snoop Dogg) / Pain
The slinky groove and laidback vocals are reminiscent, to these ears, of Sly & The Family Stone. From the first album in over a decade by these hip hop legends
Phosphorescent (w/Jenny Lewis) / Sugaree
Part of the 50+-track Grateful Dead tribute, Day Of The Dead, Matthew Houck aka Phosphorescent, turns this melancholy, mid-tempo Jerry Garcia gem into a spirited shuffle
Haelos / Dust
This London band channels the sound and spirit of mid-90s Trip Hop for 21st century sensibilities
Jack Anderson – Host M&Tue 8p-11p
Kishi Bashi – “Say Yeah”
The flute. The flute. The flute is on fire. Everything prior to that heavenly flute solo is a good mix of contemporary production with vintage-sounding songwriting. All it’s missing is Marvin Gaye and Donald Byrd.
The penultimate track on Libertad brings local mainstays Riders Against the Storm and Bavu Blakes as well as Da’Shade onto this San Antonio conscious hip hop collective. The title says it all – there’s no excuse to not to bob your head.
Hard Proof – “Revenge”
My favorite afrobeat group in town brings a healthy dose of mixed meter rhythms to the brass arrangement on Public Hi-Fi Sessions 03. Turn it up to 11 on Saturday night and take revenge on your work week.
Miike Snow – “My Trigger”
The first time I heard the piano riff from “Fruitman” by Kool & the Gang sampled elsewhere was on J Dilla’s “The Diff’rence” – a personal favorite – so this one gained immediate points within the first few moments. While Dilla may have beat the Swedes to the sample, Miike Snow brings a lot of pop energy to this reimagining of that Kool & the Gang loop, especially with the addition of those pitched up vocal chops in the chorus.
Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – “Shake”
Southern seduction in a nutshell. ‘Nuff said.
Taylor Wallace – Host Sat. 2p-6p
Weezer – “L.A. Girlz”
Weezer’s eponymous White Album is the group’s first in almost 20 years where every track could be a hit. “L.A. Girlz” is one of two tracks on this album co-written by lead guitarist Brian Bell, with frontman Rivers Cuomo taking his usual post as lyricist. It’s also possible I’m biased towards songs referencing Lewis Carroll poems.
When you make a funky Grateful Dead tune even funkier, brilliance is achieved.
Thao and the Get Down Stay Down – “Meticulous Bird”
Fun, funky, aggressive, feminist. We cannot be suffocated; we are meticulous birds of prey.
The Strokes – “Threat of Joy”
I’m a sucker for anything that sounds like it could be on Is This It?, and “Threat of Joy” is a paragon of that sound.
Santigold – “Big Boss, Big Time Business”
A lot of people prefer Bey’s Lemonade, but Santigold’s pro-fem-venom is what stokes my feminist fire.
Susan Castle – Host M-F 9a-12p
Warpaint – “New Song”
Who doesn’t love a love song, esp. one that’s a psychedelicized dance jam? This all-girl LA band brings it live, too.
Anderson .Paak – “Come Down”
Funky, R & B/hip-hop badassery.
Chance the Rapper featuring Knox Fortune – “All Night”
Jazzy hip-hop happiness. Start dancin’.
Blood Orange featuring Empress Of – “Best To You”
Love his beats. LOVE her voice.
Nada Surf – “Cold To See Clear”
Never really was much of a fan of this New York band, but this uplifting indie rocker hooked me. It hits all the right buttons for the pop music lover in me.