Wednesday, September 6, 2017

McQ's Best Of 2016 Mix Collection

Hey Rock 'n' Roll Friends,

Boy, these things just keep coming out later and later each year.

But in fairness to myself, 2016 was particularly troublesome, in that this year's top 25 critical consensus albums was my least favorite batch of any year since I starting putting this annual collection together in 2004.

So what's a music geek to do?

Accept the reality that some year's just aren't as strong as others and put together a smaller mix collection. Right?


True-to-form, I dug deeper, listening down to more full-length releases and highly regarded songs for this year than ever before.  And as a result, I was able to get some awesome individual mixes out of it.  Three of the best this year -- Get Jangly, Finding Emo, and Get Southbound -- would have never come to fruition if I had just built from the top tier of the critical consensus lists as I typically do.

But, due to all that extra digging, there is now an overwhelming abundance of music presented here, 14 volumes, 20 hour.

For those of you that like these sorts of things more, shall we say, manageable, you have my apologies, but however little or however deeply you ultimately choose to dive in.... here's to the endless inspiration that comes from music.


Each year's Best Of The Best has its own flavor, and this year’s mix, more than anything else, focuses solely on pure musicianship. Starting with my favorite two songs of the year – Michael Kiwanuka’s Cold Little Heart (which will be immediately recognizable to fans of HBO’s Big Little Lies) and Car Seat Headrest’s ultra-adrenalized, feedback-drenched Vincent, and then moving on thru Whitney’s delicate pop orchestrations, Plastic Plant’s explosive guitar tones, and Lazarus’s disturbing, mournful saxophones, it’s just one damn stunning instrumental moment or arrangement touch after another.

Rather than poach a dozen gems from me this year as she typically does, Nancy went full-on protest mode here. If you, like us, are not fond of the current presidential administration, you’re going to love this mix. If for some reason, you are still a supporter of our narcissist-buffoon of a president, prepare to be offended.

Probably my favorite of 2016’s themed mixes –zeroes in like a laser beam on that jangly guitar / rock–bottom bass sound that’s been with us since the mid-60s folk-rock days and has evolved through the years to define several genres, from shoegaze to C86 to indie-twee. Mostly lower profile artists here, but the songs synergize wonderfully.

Our annual electro-pop mix. Same stew of Madonna-esque girl pop, John Hughes soundtrack-ish stuff, and edgier electronic tunes.

Young (and a few older) white males whine their over-privileged hearts out in this punk-poppish collection of emo-focused tunes. Not sure why every emo lead singer has to sound just like Ted Leo of the Pharmacists, but no matter, with four tracks from Teens Of Denial leading the charge, this is the best rock mix of the 2016 collection.

This year’s Alt-Country mix, though lively in spurts, emphasizes a number of female singers with gorgeously breathy, after-hours voices, especially the fabulous Angel Olsen.

With Moderat, Underworld, Sterolab spinoff Cavern Of Anti-Matter, and Stranger Things soundtrack artists S U R V I V E leading the way, this year’s collection of ambient and cerebral electronic music might be the best we’ve ever done in this vein.

My 2016 favs in Hip-Hop and neo-soul get their due here. Please note, Beyonce would be all over this mix if she weren't the one artist whose 2016 release isn't available on Spotify. Standing in for the three tracks of hers I wanted to include (Daddy Lessons, Freedom, and All Night) are cuts by Young Thug, Maggie Rogers, YG, and Schoolboy Q.

Admittedly, a hodge podge. A dumping ground for songs I couln't let go of that got squeezed out of Volumes 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, and 11. That said, there’s a lot of sweet tunes here, especially in the mix’s stronger front half.

A lot of 2016's very best albums were serious downers, including two that were literally recorded on death beds in David Bowie’s Blackstar and Leonard Cohen’s You Want It Darker. Add in cuts from Nick Cave’s Skeleton Tree, recording just after his fifteen-year-old died in an accidental cliff fall at an national park, and Radiohead’s A Moon-Shaped Pool, recorded as Thom Yorke was separating from his girlfriend of over twenty-years, and it's clear we’re talking heavy, provocative, moving stuff here.  Swans, The Drone, Bat For Lashes, and ANOHNI also contribute to the artfully orchestrated malaise.

Nothing earth-shattering here, just a warm, agreeable check-in with a number of old musical friends, broken into separate retro-soul and classic/alt rock suites.

Our annual review of the little guys who made that calender year's Coachella Festival memorable. As always with this mix, the emphasis is on eclecticism.

If it’s mean, cynical, abrasive, bizarre, unlistenable, off-putting, experimental, metal or “post-anything,” it ended up here in this vicious double-length (two CD) mix. But despite being the roughest of all this year’s mixes, it is also definitely one of my favorites.

My eldest son Kevin, a huge contemporary rap fan, asked at the 11th hour if I would let him put together a mix for this year's collection, and who am I to deny my child a role in the family tradition, so here it is.

And For The Obsessives - The Next 100:

If, after all this listening, you are not completely exhausted, here, in no intentional order, are the last one hundred 2016 songs to miss the cut.