In early 2011, finding the year-end best tracks lists of a few of my favorite blogs to be more or less inadequate, I decided it would be a fun project to put together a list of my own. And so I did; that year, and every year since. The below is my sixth best-of-the-year tracks list.
Over the years my approach to listening and curation has settled into an established routine.
Feedly, the RSS and blog reader, is my main source of new music. I use it to follow a number of music blogs and flag the tracks I like to a single “board” which I can then reference at year’s end. I do some listening on music streaming services as well, but generally find the coverage on the music blogs to be broader and better curated.
Separate from my Feedly board, I also keep a “best of the year” doc in Google Drive, on which I capture all non-Feedly tracks that I encounter and want to flag for year-end consideration; friend recommendations, songs I heard while out and about, etc.
In late December, I scroll through a handful of best-of lists to see if they caught anything I missed.
In early January, with all the year’s listening behind me, I migrate all the flagged tracks onto a single Google spreadsheet, which I then sort in alphabetical order and work through, top to bottom, assigning each track a rating from 1-10 as a first stab at culling down the list.
Finally, I migrate the highest rated 50 or so tracks to a new “best-of-2016” word document, which I then work through repeatedly, weighing each track against the others, attempting to arrive at a final, ordered top 30. Ranking on this level of granularity is impossible, so I divide the final 30 tracks into three tiers, with 1-10 as the effective “top-ten.” I do not attempt to rank the tracks in each tier, but instead sort them alphabetically. Also, in cases where I feel an artist has two equally good tracks, I cheat and group both as a single entry.
Methodologically, genre is not factored into my curation or compilation process. The songs I respond to, I flag for future consideration; those I do not, I do not. The tracks on my list are, obviously, a product of the genres to which I listen. They are, for the most part, the familiar ones: pop, hip hop, metal, punk, noise, etc. I have, of course, always considered a diversity of genre and style to be one of the hallmarks of a great tracks list. It’s my hope that this year’s list has achieved this to some degree. At the same time, I’m sensitive to how provincial it remains. Classical, jazz, blues, bluegrass, roots country, not to speak of the many musical traditions we group under the heading “world,” all are entirely absent. Something to remedy in future lists.
At the end of the day, the driving criteria for the list below really was not all that complex: as Ray Charles put it in the documentary Tom Dowd & the Language of Music, “How does it sound, baby? How does it sound?”
1 – 10
The Body & Full Of Hell
“Ain’t It Funny”
“When It Rain”
“There Was A Door”
Mark Korven / The Witch Original Soundtrack
Oneohtrix Point Never
“True Love Waits”
“Charging the Void”
11 – 20
Big Baby D.R.A.M.
“22 (OVER S∞∞N) [Bob Moose Extended Cab Version]”
“Make It Better”
“Make You Love Me”
HEADACHE (2016) from Paul Clipson on Vimeo.
“Your Best American Girl”
“What’s It Gonna Be?”
Tegan and Sara
21 – 30
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
“I Need You”
Carly Rae Jepsen
“Run Away With Me (EMBRZ Remix)”
Mr. Abstract Butta Fingas