This mixlist, (2016) Best of Last Year, which you can listen to on Spotify, is comprised of the best songs that I’ve come across in the year of 2016.
My favorite album of the year was the soundtrack to the musical, Hamilton. It is a beautiful work of art. Composed by Lin-Manuel Miranda and comprising a cast and crew of outrageously talented individuals, this original Broadway cast recording quickly became a constant listen for me. It tells Alexander Hamilton’s story through a blend of musical genres, notably hip-hop. Hamilton is smart, funny and a fantastic listen. Late in 2016, a mixtape was released with covers and inspirations of Hamilton tracks by hip-hop, pop and R&B artists. You’ll find some choice Mixtape selections on this mixlist as well.
The second most influential album this year was Beyoncé’s Lemonade. Before getting this album, I knew Queen Bey mostly as “the woman from Destiny’s Child who went solo.” I’d never heard anything beyond her pervasive radio hits, and I’d never listened to an entire album of hers. On the strength of recommendations and world-wide praise, I bought Lemonade shortly after it was released. The music I encountered was layered and artistic in a way that completely disarmed me. The album is a masterpiece of social commentary, discussing fidelity, fame, feminism and more, packaged in catchy, expertly-honed hit songs.
(Unfortunately, Spotify does not offer Lemonade for streaming, so those tracks will be unavailable in my mixlist. However, you should just buy the album.)
One disappointment was Radiohead’s release, “A Moon Shaped Pool.” While “Burn the Witch” hit me with all the usual Radiohead feels, the rest of the album went over like warm, flat soda. The tracks had similar sounds to what I knew and loved from the band, but they were missing some special, delightful ingredient. This might be a sign that I’m falling out of fandom of the group, although I enjoyed this album much more than their 2011 offering, “The King of Limbs.” Maybe I just need to give us some time.
There were definitely some happy surprises this year. I discovered some Cold War Kids albums that were missing from my collection. A couple of those tracks made it onto the list. John Williams composed a fantastic new Star Wars movie score to go along with a fantastic new Star Wars movie. Rey’s Theme quickly became stuck in my head for days. And then there were some new favorites in “Don’t Speak”, “Kill V. Maim” and Sia’s “This Is Acting” album.
It was a good year for music. I grew a lot, learned to challenge my preconceptions, and—most importantly—I got the mixlist completed in January. That’s a win we can all get behind.