A Year in the Ear: 2016’s best songs

by Thomas Blake

Joanna Newsom – Make Hay

Newsom’s Divers was one of the albums of 2015, and a year to the day later she released Make Hay, a syncopated, wandering song that expanded on the themes of that wonderful record. Where Divers is a lush planet of varied landscapes, Make Hay is its rogue moon. And it is my favourite song of the year.


Fred Thomas – Brickwall

Brutally honest self-deprecating garage-pop.


Kevin Morby – Beautiful Strangers

In this moving response to the various acts of terrorism perpetrated over the last year or so Morby channels the best bits of Cohen, Dylan and Gold-era Ryan Adams. It’s set to become even more poignant in the age of Trump. All proceeds go to gun control charities.


Angel Olsen – Sister

Stevie Nicks meets Neil Young. What more could you want?


Childish Gambino – Redbone

This is basically a millennial update of Bootsy Collins’ I’d Rather Be With You, but with source material that good it’s hard to go wrong.


Y La Bamba – Libre

Like a bilingual, female-fronted Animal Collective with a heart. The album was hit and miss, but this was a top moment.


Mendrugo – Emboniga

Staying on a vaguely Spanish theme, Josephine Foster’s latest project with hubby Victor Herrero produced this beautifully loose DIY acoustic singalong, which you can hear here.


Weyes Blood – Do You Need My Love

In which the former Jackie-O Motherfucker and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti collaborator Natalie Mering goes all Linda Ronstadt/Mamas & Papas/70s Brit folk, to mesmerising effect.


CC Dust – Never Going To Die

I’m not usually a fan of punky electro, but this is, quite frankly, a banger.


Georgia – Ama Yes Uzume

If glitchy, ambient avant-pop floats your coracle, this one’s for you.


Skating Polly – Morning Dew

Forget Le Tigre’s awful pro-Clinton song, this is the riot grrrl protest anthem we need right now. There have been a few great covers of folkie Bonnie Dobson’s classic (from Fred Neil to Einsturzende Neubauten), but this one is the most raging, apocalyptic and necessary in a while.


Julie Byrne – Natural Blue

This song’s been around for a while, but I don’t think it had an official release until recently. Dunno why. It’s lovely.


Kishi Bashi – Say Yeah

The most audacious pop song I’ve heard this year, mixing J-pop glitchiness, a lovelorn disco-soul chorus, swooping strings and the emotional resonance of Scott Walker or Prince at his best. And that’s before the flute solo.


Ezra Furman – Big Fugitive Life EP

And finally… I couldn’t pick a favourite song off this, so here’s the whole thing.