2016 has been an interesting year for music. There have been some real highs (read: Blood Orange’s Freetown Sound, David Bowie’s Blackstar, and the much frothed over Frank Ocean return), but there have also been some real dry spells (what even happened in July?). So here we are, wrapping it all up in October, reflecting on a handful of the highs, and just pretending that the lows didn’t happen (ie. that Charlie Puth album). Read on for a broad, but by no means exhaustive, highlights reel.
Artist: Carly Rae Jepsen
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Album: Emotion Side B
PSA: It is very cool to be a Carly Rae Jepsen fan in 2016. Not only did the songwriting machine release one of the best pop albums of 2015 (Emotion), she’s managed to follow it with a Side B that’s almost as good as the real thing. Carly Rae walks a very fine line between candy pop perfection and absolute trash, but pulls it off like no one else.
Song: “Fill in the Blank”
Artist: Car Seat Headrest
Album: Teens Of Denial
Don’t let the ‘indie rock’ label deter you. A coming-of-age album that’s hella appropriate for 20-something university students stumbling their way into adulthood via drugs, alcohol, bad decisions, and a general “what the fuck am I meant to do with my life?” feels.
Song: “CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!”
Artist: Justin Timberlake
Dad-pop might just be one of pop music’s greatest subgenres. Commonly found on high rotation over at More FM, dad-pop is the stuff you can’t help but sing along to, no matter how hard your body tries to fight it. “CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!” crosses all demographics, generations, and political ideologies. As your dad would say, “It’s a bloody license to print money.”
Song: “Cranes in the Sky”
Album: A Seat at the Table
Solange’s new album is so good people might finally stop prefacing her name with “Bey’s little sister.” Another in a string of protest albums to hit a nerve with audiences in 2016, A Seat at the Table juxtaposes heavy lyrics with dreamy and whimsical melodies—something only a Knowles sister could pull off so effortlessly.
Song: “I Need You”
Artist: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Album: Skeleton Tree
Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds’ latest album Skeleton Tree is Cave’s gut-wrenchingly painful response to his son’s death in mid-2015 and it will cut you to the core. It’s the same old Nick Cave, but with a weight on his shoulders that could only come from immense grief. If you really want to roll yourself pirate a copy of the accompanying film he made to avoid doing any press for the album, One More Time With Feeling.
Artist: The Chainsmokers
The most polarising song of the year and your problematic fave, “Closer” has been known to make or break friendships. Yes, those with even the most basic knowledge of music production will rip these guys out for making lazy dance music, but shouldn’t we instead be congratulating the duo on tricking the world into thinking their music is much more complex than it actually is?
Song: “Nice Guys Finish Thirst”
Artist: Name UL
If you ever needed proof the the NZ rap and hip-hop scene is going fire, this album is it. With the Silver Scroll Awards recently shining a light on just how undervalued the genre is on our shores, Name UL feels like an artist about to shake the industry up. Easily the country’s most skilled rapper with lyrics that will start a conversation and an oh so current sound, Name UL will be playing in the international arena with the big kids in the next 18 months, easy.
Song: “The Bird”
Artist: Anderson Paak
Sweet sweet Anderson Paak can do no wrong. Malibu goes down so damn easily and will get you through your summer job picking fruit in rural NZ. Several years of collaborating with big names in hip-hop and RnB haven’t gone without influence, and have undoubtedly helped Paak craft a sound that finally feels like his own. If you’re still not convinced, Father of the Nation John Campbell is a fan and therefore “The Bird” should probably be our new national anthem.
Song: “Hold Up”
If anyone you know needs this elaborated on, tell ‘em boy bye.