We’re about halfway through 2016 and it’s been a great one for music so far. Here are my top 20 songs of 2016 so far:


20. “Panda” by Desiigner from Panda-Single Desiigner-2016-VdotPhotography-billboard-1548-650

Sure, it’s quite cliché of me to choose a #1 hit, the lyrics are kinda silly, and the song’s repetitive as hell. But I love this track and I’m not ashamed to admit it. The beat bangs hard and Desiigner delivers a hook that’s way more memorable than anything Future has ever done. And the fact that a trap rap song by a brand new artist went #1 this year signals an important change in the world of music.



19. “No More Parties in LA” by Kanye West (with Kendrick Lamar) from The Life of Pablo

I wasn’t the biggest fan of Kanye West’s seventh studio album, but this groovy cut was an exception. The Madlib-produced beat is funky and soulful, reminiscent of Kanye’s The College Dropout (2004). Kanye and Compton’s Kendrick Lamar, arguably the two biggest rappers in the game right now, go toe-to-toe on the track, and I can’t decide whose verse I like more.



18. “OBLIVIUS” by The Strokes from Future Present Past the_strokes_colin_lane2

Lyrically a call to action, this song from the famed rock outfit’s new EP features an upbeat chord progression, catchy lead guitars, and The Strokes’ most explosive chorus since “Under the Cover of Darkness” from Angles (2011)



17. “Girls @” (Feat. Chance the Rapper)  by Joey Purp from” iiiDrops  

Rising Chicago rapper Joey Purp’s “Girls @” is the feel-good jam of the summer. Knox Fortune’s bumping minimalist beat accompanies Joey’s infectious hook delivered with a deep, relaxed inflection. Chance’s verse is as silly and lighthearted as ever and, despite a few corny lines, the song is quality ode to beautiful girls.



16. “LA Girlz” by Weezer from Weezer (White Album) weezer1996

No, no, no, trust me. I swear Weezer’s new album is really good. If you don’t want to invest time in the entire album (which you should), at least listen to “LA Girlz”. The song is classic Weezer with a touch of Beach Boys flavor. Crunchy guitars, poppy melodies, and simple lyricism culminate in a gorgeous falsetto-driven climax. The cut is energetic, feel-good, and oh so melodious.



15. “Hot Head” by Death Grips from Bottomless Pit

The second track off of experimental hip-hop trio Death Grips’ Bottomless Pit is pure delightful chaos. The glitchy, fast-paced beat introduced at the track’s start morphs into a thrashy, tenacious blur of guttural guitars and disorienting drum patterns. MC Ride screams unintelligible syllables like a madman. Mayhem deteriorates into a steady, moderate groove with acoustic drums and watery synths. This track is one bumpy ride for sure.



14. “Call to Arms” by Sturgill Simpson from A Sailor’s Guide to Earth sturgill-simpson1_custom-1fc997fa740562b360de811454a0f507463b4e9b-s900-c85

“Call to Arms” is the last cut off of country artist Sturgill Simpson’s latest LP, and surely the album’s most aggressive song. It’s an outright southern rock banger, complete with a rootsy groove and energetic vocal performances from Sturgill, who bemoans the horrors of war.



13. “Vroom Vroom” by Charli XCX from Vroom Vroom EP df--yvfY

English pop star Charli XCX teams up with reputable producer Sophie on her latest EP, and the title track is definitely a highlight. The song sports an ethereal chorus melody and glitchy, jarring production. Charli even successfully tries her hand at sing-rapping on the cut.



12. “Sandcastles” by Beyonce from Lemonade

A delicate piano ballad on Beyonce’s sixth studio album, “Sandcastles” displays the pop icon at her most vulnerable. Lyrically, Bey mourns her dysfunctional relationship with her spouse, rapper JayZ. Her melancholic, sorrowful vocal performance steals the show; I can hear the distress and pain in her voice when I listen. Truly gorgeous.



11.     “Gook” by Denzel Curry from Imperial  Denzel

Miami cloud rapper Denzel Curry spits pure fire on the second track from his second studio release. Curry goes in atop a spacey trap beat, embracing his oddball nature. “Gook” is the definition of a banger.



10.     “True Love Waits” by Radiohead from A Moon Shaped Pool

A Radiohead live favorite since the early 2000s, this song is reworked from its acoustic guitar format into a stunning piano ballad. Vocalist Thom Yorke yearns for his lost lover and even contemplates the futility of a life without love. “True Love Waits” is perhaps Radiohead’s most heart-wrenchingly beautiful track ever.



9.       “Photobooth” by Joey Purp from iiiDrops Joey-Purp-iiiDrops

Joey Purp really comes into his own on this cut from his latest mixtape. Atop a hard-hitting, bassy beat decorated with horn swells, Joey raps about his newfound fame in our ever-changing society. His delivery is laid-back yet aggressive, raspy, and above all, memorable.



8.     “Freedom (feat. Kendrick Lamar)” by Beyonce from Lemonade

This song is perhaps Queen Bey’s most politically-charged cut yet. Employing a marching, throbbing beat, Beyonce delivers a roaring vocal performance, advocating for blacks to rise up as their own emancipators. Kendrick’s verse is great as always; Bey and K Dot make a truly forceful duo.



7.       “Welcome To Earth” (Pollywog) by Sturgill Simpson from A Sailor’s Guide to Earth asailorsguidetoearth

Sturgill Simpson displays his tender side on the first track of his third studio release. He welcomes his newborn son to the world atop delicate piano arpeggiations and quiet string leads. The track eventually picks up pace, becoming a danceable southern jam complete with electric piano and trumpets. Simpson’s vocals are heartfelt and earnest, giving the song quite an authentic feel.



6.       “untitled 3” by Kendrick Lamar from untitled unmastered. 

The third track on Kendrick Lamar’s album of unfinished material from the To Pimp a Butterfly sessions sounds good enough to be on TPAB itself. The instrumentation features a funky rhythm, heavenly woodwind trills, and wonky electronic bass from producer Thundercat. Kendrick raps about the different ideas of success amongst different races and cultures, attacking the music industry for “pimping” him.



5.       “Giving Bad People Good Ideas” by Death Grips from Bottomless Pit MC Ride of Death Grips.

The opening song on Death Grips’ new LP is punk-rap magic. “Giving Bad People Good Ideas” features distorted guitar, Zach Hill’s thrashing acoustic drums, and a catchy chorus melody. MC Ride delivers his characteristic bellowing bark atop the searing instrumentation in classic Death Grips fashion. He details the ways in which he corrupts and ruins his fans with his hedonistic lyricism, screaming “This like genocide just louder”. The track is an exceedingly bellicose start to a bellicose record.



4.       “Burn the Witch” by Radiohead from A Moon Shaped Pool radiohead

Percussive yet serene strings and bassy synths drive the opening track on Radiohead’s latest release. Thom Yorke delivers an explosively catchy chorus sung in soaring falsetto. His lyrics describe a modern-day witch hunt that blindly scapegoats immigrants in the United States. The track is as unsettling as it is beautiful, and if that isn’t Radiohead in a nutshell, I don’t know what is.



3.       “Blackstar” by David Bowie from Blackstar

Initially, I felt like a dishonorable Bowie fan when I admitted that “Blackstar”, a track off his final studio release, was one of my favorite Bowie tracks. What about the classics? But this song is just too good for me to deny that it’s one of Bowie’s best.  This towering ten-minute cut tells an epic tale of a “blackstar” rising to replace Bowie after his death. Featuring swirling saxophone leads, haunting melodies, and Death Grips-inspired rhythms, this song (and the whole album for that matter) proves that Bowie was making sensational music right up until his death.



2.       “Ultralight Beam” by Kanye West (with Chance the Rapper) from The Life of Pablokanye-west2

What, Will, I thought you didn’t like Pablo? Yea, Pablo wasn’t my favorite, but I almost cried out of pure joy when I first heard “Ultralight Beam”. The track’s subtle synth swells, booming bass drums, and explosive gospel choir accompany Kanye’s delicate vocals. In my opinion, however, Chance the Rapper makes the track with a dynamic, evocative verse, showing off his subtle finesse and melodic sensibilities. It’s easily my favorite Chance verse to date.



1.       “untitled 2” by Kendrick Lamar from untitled unmastered. 

The whimpering falsetto that Kendrick employs on “untitled 2” proves that there is no limit to what he can do with his voice. He raps over a minimal brooding trap beat infused with crooning saxoogphone leads. Lyrically, Kendrick struggles to reconcile his luxurious hip-hop lifestyle with a sense of responsibility to his hood. The song is exceedingly catchy and mellow with a hint of pointed aggression. Moreover, the fact that a unfinished track left off of To Pimp a Butterfly is my favorite song of the year so far is saying something about the incredible talents of Kendrick Lamar.

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