35. Everybody Wants To Love You – Japanese Breakfast
Michelle Zauner, former frontwoman for Philly lo-fi punk rockers Little Big League, moved back home to Oregon to be with her Korean mother as she slowly succumbed to cancer. After she passed, Zauner spent time shining up her formerly raw releases into shinier pop tunes, and released them under the name Japanese Breakfast.
The album's a thousand different expressions of the things zipping through Zauner's head, and "Everybody Wants To Love You" launches in with a raw strum of electric guitar and distant firecrackers before exploding into dreamy keyboards and ethereal vocals, a punchy soft-punk anthem about seduction and marriage that floors its way through verses and choruses and a guitar solo before crashing to a finish two minutes and twelve seconds in. Zauner is capable of accomplishing a hell of a lot in not a lot of time.
Where I Found It: Andy Greenwald's Best of 2016 List
34. “Touch The Sky (Live At The Forum)” - Hillsong United
The best part of the Hillsong documentary from this last year (which is good, and you should watch it) is seeing the birth of this song happen live, as the band, driven crazy by sleepless hours, finds a simple harmony at two in the morning that everyone in the room immediately senses “this is it.” The whole film was worth it just to watch that piece of creative joy.
Where I Found It: I'm pretty sure I heard Alison Broussard sing it at Harvest first.
33. “Shut Up Kiss Me” - Angel Olsen
Angel Olsen won lots of plaudits for her first record, but decided that whatever she was recording, it was diverse enough to span the breadth of her influences. So her latest album, Your Woman, was structured like a traditional LP, with the hits on Side A and the experiments on Side B.
Frankly, though, the whole album feels like an experiment, as she set out to create an album that's a mix of "Fleetwood Mac, The Shirelles, Crazy Horse, 1970s glam rock, 1960s country pop, and grunge." The experiment seems to have worked:
On "Shut Up, Kiss Me," you get a more straight-ahead version of this careful crafting. The droning, fuzz guitar intro and rampant distortion recall a raw early 70's punk song, undercut by both Olsen's sweet, longing vocals and her pop sensibilities. The driving bridge, imploring her recalcitrant lover that “you don't have to feel it anymore,” as long he stays in her arms, sends shivers up the spine.
Where I Found It: Andy Greenwald named his Favorite Songs of 2016 Spotify list after it.
32. “Okkervil River R.I.P.” - Okkervil River
This is an Okkervil River record that's barely an Okkervil River record, assembled after frontman Will Sheff decided to dissemble the band and spend time on his own. After spending a long time in hospice care, sitting with his grandfather, who he has long referred to as his idol, while he slowly died, Sheff began writing songs about the experience. “Eventually, I realized I was kind of writing a death story for a part of my life that had, buried inside of it, a path I could follow that might let me go somewhere new,” he said in an interview with NPR. “Okkervil River R.I.P.” has all of those themes wrapped up in it, and even name-checks his lost grandfather along the way, as it spins from a simple folk-strum into a wailing 60's rock-dirge, before slipping back into its sad, lonely footsteps. I'd best describe it as “shoegaze 'American Pie.'”
Where I Found It: I always check out the latest Okkervil River record. I have at least that much indie cred, guys.
31. “Ode To Ex-Girlfriends” - Alex Dezen
I'd always liked Dezen's former band, the Damnwells, but I doubt I'd have discovered Alex's solo work if his sister hadn't turned me onto it. It's on a record so personal that Cameron wanted him to name it something that provided some clarity of intent: Diary or Autobiography or something like that. As it is, it's on a record wholly appropriately entitled Alex Dezen, an exploration of the collected strings and knots of his life. On my favorite track and first single, he sorts through old relationships with a wry eye and an ear for neat phrasing “Always once a year, usually when the snow appears, I look her up. She never replies, probably wishes I would die: I left her for... my now ex-wife,” he croons on the first verse. The rest of the song flutters along on the same wandering vein, like a series of old photos flipped through quickly to see if any are worth saving.
Where I Found It: I supported his PledgeMusic campaign, which also gave me a dope “Alex Dezen is Sad as Duck” shirt. I have trouble finding occasions to wear it in public, but I still like it a lot.