Best singles of 2016… so far
Erin McAuliffe: Daughter — “Alone / With You”
Daughter’s Elena Trona utters the words “I hate” before a worried rush of synths floods on “Alone / With You,” a track off the band’s Jan. 15 release “Not To Disappear.” The bass pulsates — a loudening, panicked heartbeat pacing alongside as Trona carries on in a rant that is equal parts vindictive and vulnerable.
Trona affectingly delves into personal internal and external conflicts throughout the song. Her first exploration of aloneness is based on a solitary lifestyle: “I hate sleeping alone / I hate living alone,” her lyrics concisely poignant. “Me and I are not friends / She is only an acquaintance,” Trona continues on in afflicting self-disapproval.
The lyrics persist to address loneliness through the lens of a past relationship: “Cause you are never there / Just a shadowy figure with a blank face / Kicking me out of his place.”
The lines between Trona’s aloneness and loneliness blur in the second verse: “I hate sleeping with you / Cause you are never there.” Is her partner’s presence not present or is she removed?
Through the litany of “I hate *insert routine mundanity here* alone” and the repetition of the inherently vulnerable word “terrified,” Trona exposes the sensitivities surrounding aloneness.
If you can listen to this song unaffected by the lyric “I should get a dog or something,” maybe you should get some emotions or something.
Jimmy Kemper: Father John Misty — “Maybe, Sweet One, You Won’t Have Nightmares Tonight.”
Earlier this month, Father John Misty absolutely murdered his rendition of “Holy Sh*t” on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Josh Tillman embraced his alternate personality with all the theatricality he’s known for, rocking sunglasses in the dark, swaggering dance moves and an epic drum solo at the climax of the performance.
The artist behind my favorite album of 2015 said that this wasn’t all he had to offer to the newest late night contender, though. According to the singer/songwriter’s SoundCloud, Misty “was asked to write a lullaby for Stephen Colbert as part of a skit for the show. Unfortunately the bit was cut for time/content.”
This latest track, “Maybe, Sweet One, You Won’t Have Nightmares Tonight,” is incredibly sarcastic, downright hilarious and totally unexpected, so basically everything you’d expect from a Father John Misty track.
The song starts off simple and innocent enough, with Tillman cooing sweet nothings against the peaceful backdrops of a music box. Things quickly take a sharp turn down a very wrong hallway, as Misty recounts a nightmare of globes transforming into disappointed fathers, awkward orgies with coworkers and piles of dead birds burning.
As if this hellish song couldn’t get any darker, Misty goes meta, finishing with a soothing verse about playing on “Colbert” naked except for his tattoos, with the demonic boos and hisses of a disgruntled audience echoing in the background.
Colbert definitely won’t be requesting Father John Misty for any more lullabies any time soon.
John Darr: The Range — “Florida”
Unbounded joy is pretty hard to come by in today’s music. Sure, there’s a lot of hedonistic mindlessness running through dance floor jams. There’s a decent amount of heart-pounding infatuation in paint-by-numbers love songs. But innocent, uncomplicated bliss is a rare find outside of the Christian praise and children’s music genres.
In this way, “Florida” is a spark in the darkness. It’s beautiful in a refreshingly nimble way, forgoing the ambient sprawl of post-rock and classical for tight, nimble structures of rhythm under a gorgeous vocal sample. It bursts with a pure brightness that’s nothing short of transcendent, too freeform for the dance floor without falling into jazzy formlessness.
Brooklyn Producer James Hinton, stage name “The Range”, has always made music that’s airy yet urgent. Skittering, agile beats paired with elegant synth lines provide a backbone for intriguing vocal samples that vary from melancholic spoken word segments to anonymous R&B melodies. His last LP, “Nonfiction,” stuck to this formula but varied in rhythm and mood enough to engage the listener over the entirety of its runtime. The overt happiness of “Florida” is a new approach for Hinton. Thankfully, it’s a joy to listen to.
Adam Ramos: Kanye West — “Real Friends”
With a gauntlet of rap classics, a persona bigger than his wallet and an endless amount of discussions surrounding his life and music, Ye is never easy to write about, but if we’re talking about favorite 2016 singles, I’m not trying to lie. “Real Friends” was the first song to be released off the highly anticipated “great album of all time” — Waves (out Feb. 11). The song features a vulnerable Kanye rapping over a very Dilla-esque hook and a simple drum loop. Sonically, “Real Friends” has a very emotional ambience, reflected in Kanye’s lyrics, lamenting over ruined familial relationships and lost connections. In doing so, Kanye delves into subject matter many thought never to hear again — his deep insecurities and personal life. Many fans have pointed to the past, proclaiming “the return of old Kanye,” but I am not keen on discrediting the progress Kanye has made as an artist these past five years. Maybe “Waves” will feature subject matter similar to earlier albums like “The College Dropout” and “Graduation,” but the swagger and poise of Yeezus is still present here on “Real Friends.”
Miko Malabute: “Wonderful” — Travis Scott (feat. The Weeknd)
Did Justin Bieber release a new song yet? No? Alright well I guess we’ll have to settle. This song is “lit,” or whatever is the cool way to say “cool” now. The soft electric bounce along with the rhythmic drums that you can feel all the way down in your chest really sets up Scott for yet another banger. A banger that will leave you saying “Oh my!” again and again and, you guessed it, again. It’s a tad bit early, but the Miko Malabute power rankings for rappers who use autotune to flesh out their sing-song, drug-riddled raps and poor enunciation has just been released: Travis Scott and Future respectively take 1a and 1b, with Young Thug (is he still alive?) taking a far-distant third.
Also, not to be outdone by Scott is The Weeknd, who quietly had one of his better guest appearances on this new track by not sounding like himself. In fact, there are several instances that I could have sworn he sounded like Chris Brown, who I personally felt would have been the better fit for this song. I don’t know, I guess I just have The Weeknd-fatigue. Whatever, it’s still “lit.”