It’s only been a few days since we released our list of the Top 50 Albums of 2016, and the music world just keeps on rolling. That’s right, this week alone there were 10 rad new songs released that may just make it onto our list of the top songs of the year, coming your way shortly. Until then, brush up on the year’s best albums and get to preparing your own lists — hopefully these songs will inspire you!
10. Alex Wiley feat. Jay Prince – “Still Calling”
Chicago rapper Alex Wiley relocated to the west coast and, by the sound of it, found himself a new home that’s easy to sprawl in. “Still Calling” sees him walking across a track of deep, slurring beats reminiscent of King Krule’s low-swinging trip-hop LP from last year. It’s a cloud of drug depth, the type of drawl that stretches on forever just as you hope it will. Instead of getting lost in the song’s smokey haze, he flags his hand in the air, letting his verse challenge guest Jay Prince to step up his game. Wiley may have softened his delivery, but he keeps his words sharpened, opting to reel back word count in favor of punch. It’s a welcome introduction to Village Party III: Stoner Symphony, his upcoming album out January 18th, and a reminder that location doesn’t just define someone; it helps push them forward. –Nina Corcoran
09. Peter Silberman – “Karuna”
Photo by Nina Corcoran
The idea of losing any of your senses is terrifying, let alone losing one that is essential to your livelihood and passion. That’s exactly what struck Peter Silberman, though, when he lost hearing in one of his ears. The Antlers frontman had struggled with tinnitus in the past, but this experience (the sound of “rushing water” becoming silence entirely) was new and devastating. After learning to adjust to this new staticky pain, his return to the music world comes in the form of an upcoming solo album due February 24th via ANTI. Early taste “Karuna” displays the lessons he learned in his time of quiet, both in terms of performance and message. First, Silberman learned that he needed to play guitar and sing quietly to avoid serious pain, and the subtle, mellow track carries a tender fragility without sacrificing the power of his compositions. The song also works to “put a microscope on what’s going on in my mind at a given moment,” he explained to NPR, and the stretched-out chords, long builds, and interioralized lyrics (“I’m disassembling piece by piece/ Deteriorating, decayed, decreased”) are the clear product of a learned patience and self-examination. —Lior Phillips
Listen in at NPR.
08. Burial – “Nightmarket”
There’s something innately familiar about “Nightmarket”, one of two new tracks from mysterious producer Burial. The rustling sounds that permeate the track feel like deja vu, like the sound of digging through a drawer for something without knowing exactly what it is you’re looking for. The synths, too, come from someplace deep down yet unspecific, from 100 different classic electronic tracks and yet clearly entirely unique in their stuttering array. The wisps of wordless vocal melody and subsumed spoken word are equally dreamlike, their meaning somehow just out of reach. Burial may have been unmasked as William Bevan, yet he’s no less mysterious, still releasing tracks as if magically pulling half-formed memories out of the collective unconscious. Hyperdub unexpectedly released “Nightmarket” and “Young Death” ahead of their intended November 30th release, and the surprise is certainly fitting considering the enigmatic material.–Lior Phillips
07. Laura Marling – “Soothing”
The moment Laura Marling’s newest single begins, you stop in your tracks. It’s those opening notes. “Soothing” begins with offbeat percussion and a jazz-styled guitar that tip-toes over it. Your pulse stutters. Your breath catches in your throat. “Soothing” creeps through your bedroom in a nightgown, laying heavy on intruige and allure while nixing the folk pining Marling is known for. “I banish you with love/ You can’t come in/ You don’t live here anymore,” she sings, contradicting the very seductiveness of the song. “I need soothing.” Hearing her calls for pacification, a river of strings pour over the chorus, filling in the cracks between her words, making the song all the more rich. At times, Marling’s voice shakes with the clarity and timbre of Fiona Apple, a raw intimacy delivered like an emotional reckoning — which is very much a good thing. Short Movie left listeners in a realm of tougher tones and rock-like numbers. “Soothing” lures them back in with softer sounds but doesn’t show all of its skin, instead letting us know that this time around, when Semper Femina drops on March 10th via More Alarming, Marling will be in total control. You aren’t wanted, but someone is, and that someone isn’t up to you to determine, mold, or be. –Nina Corcoran
06. Run the Jewels – “Legend Has It'”
Sampled vowel sounds have rarely sounded as good as they do as the backbone of “Legend Has It”, the latest massive uppercut from the duo of El-P and Killer Mike. “RT&J, we the new PB&J/ We dropped a classic today,” Bernie’s pal Mike drops, and he’s not overstating it — this one’s great. From the sampling of the crowd chanting Run the Jewels’ initials to El’s genius rap-game-Tinder analogy (“I am the living swipe right on the mic”), this duo have produced yet another banger worth bragging about. The third installment in their catalog, the appropriately titled RTJ3, will hit the Internet for a free (!) download on January 13th. –Adam Kivel
05. Julien Baker – “Decorated Lawns”
Photo by Ben Kaye
As if the amazing Cincinnati-based organization Punk Talks weren’t doing enough good (they aim to “provide free mental health assistance to bands, industry professionals, and fans while also educating and raising awareness of mental health and self-care”), they’ll bump further up Santa’s “Nice List” with the holiday compilation Jingle Yay! The second preview of that record comes in the form of “Decorated Lawns”, yet another teary stunner from Julien Baker. The chorus (“I love you more than I hate me”) will steal proverbial headlines, but as always, Baker folds intricate, heartbreaking emotion into deceptively simple lines in the song’s verses, here relating to that depression that hits so many near the holidays: “Happier spending December/ Fulfilling obligations/ Without the red pin in my calendar/ Or the last call at the Greyhound station.” Listen to “Decorated Lawns” at 36Vultures, and support Punk Talks by buying the compilation at Bandcamp. –Adam Kivel