The Student Playlist

Showcasing the Best New Music, Curating the Classics

The Top 50 Tracks of 2016

As we prepare to welcome 2017, here’s a quick whistle-stop run-down of our favourite 50 tracks of the past 12 months.

There’s also a Spotify playlist you can enjoy – happy listening!

  1. The Avalanches – ‘Subways’

The trippy, kaleidoscopic highlight from The Avalanches’ extremely long-awaited second album Wildflower.

  1. Primal Scream ft. Sky Ferreira – ‘Where The Light Gets In’

A blinding highlight from an otherwise uneven album, ‘Where The Light Gets In’ is a pop-tacular addition to the Scream’s canon of excellent singles.

  1. The Weeknd ft. Daft Punk – ‘Starboy’

A collaboration that works just as well in practice as it sounds on paper, ‘Starboy’ was one of Abel Tesfaye’s most direct singles yet – and gave the French duo their first U.S. number one hit!

  1. Steve Mason – ‘Planet Sizes’

Former Beta Band singer Steve Mason’s lengthy struggle with depression, which he seems to have put behind him, yielded this incredibly refreshing and energised beauty early in the year. Its parent album, Meet The Humans, was his most accessible work in years.

  1. Two Door Cinema Club – ‘Are We Ready? (Wreck)’

Despite being away from the scene for over four years, the irrepressibly fun 2DCC picked up where they left off with this party-starting lead single from third record Gameshow.

  1. Glass Animals – ‘Life Itself’

The Oxford four-piece went from strength to strength on their second album, from which the polyrhythmic delight ‘Life Itself’ was the opener and lead single.

  1. The Lemon Twigs – ‘These Words’

Inspired by the rock and pop icons of the ‘60s and ‘70s, newcomers Brian and Michael D’Addario made their introductions with a delightful AA-side single. The lo-fi, low-key production of ‘These Words’ made it slightly superior, and only added to its deliberately superficial charm.

  1. Underworld – ‘I Exhale’

Like a cross between krautrock and Mark E. Smith’s streams of consciousness, Underworld’s first single in nearly five years was also one of their most inventive in recent memory, and looks set to become a permanent live favourite.

  1. Frank Ocean – ‘Ivy’

A delicate moment from the returning Frank Ocean, as ‘Ivy’ saw him sing of heartbroken regret over just a shimmering guitar line and the most subtle of bass propulsions, ending in a scream and a mess of chaos.

  1. Wild Beasts – ‘Big Cat’

A slinky, shimmering highlight from their fifth album Boy King, Wild Beasts showed off their new-found fondness for R&B and hip-hop influences on this maddeningly addictive song.

  1. Iggy Pop – ‘Gardenia’

Teaming up with Josh Homme and Matt Helders made Post Pop Depression the most accessible album the punk legend has released in many a year, from which ‘Gardenia’ was the brooding highlight.

  1. Kanye West ft. Chance The Rapper, Kirk Franklin, The-Dream & Kelly Price – ‘Ultralight Beam’

Although ‘Famous’ was more controversial, and not just for its video, it was the brash opener to The Life Of Pablo that seemed to be the most fitting musical shorthand for Kanye’s manic 2016. “This is a God dream / this is everything” West intoned with insight and perspective as the beats and neo-gospel thundered around him and his guest stars.

  1. PJ Harvey – ‘The Wheel’

The Hope Six Demolition Project, Polly Jean’s eventual follow-up to Let England Shake, often felt quite journalistic and cold, but ‘The Wheel’ shot us straight back into the barely muted outrage of that career highlight.

  1. Anohni – ‘4 Degrees’

Anohni pondered the responsibility of being a global citizen on the eerie ‘4 Degrees’, her lyrics focussing on the intractable problem of climate change and platitudes from politicians, imagining the death of the world’s creatures through sharp and unsentimental eyes.

  1. Metronomy – ’16 Beat’

Joe Mount stripped back Metronomy to its origins as a fundamentally one-person project for fifth record Summer 08, and produced this nostalgic beauty.

  1. Julia Jacklin – ‘Pool Party’

An impressive cross-breed of indie and country from Australian debutante Julia Jacklin, just one of many from her understated debut album Don’t Let The Kids Win.

  1. Jamie T – ‘Power Over Men’

A piece of timeless songwriting of which even Alex Turner would be proud, ‘Power Over Men’ was the enchanting second release from Jamie Treays’ finest album to date.

  1. Kaytranada ft. Anderson .Paak – ‘Glowed Up’

One of the few occasions in which Anderson .Paak didn’t overshadow a collaboration, this languid, spacey synth beauty was a testament to his and Canadian producer Kaytranada’s talents in equal parts.

  1. Anna Meredith – ‘Nautilus’

Built from a needling rhythm of rising horns and brass that heightened a tension that never really breaks, this was a prime cut from the precociously talented Anna Meredith’s debut LP Varmints.

  1. Danny Brown – ‘When It Rain’

Built on an uneven, slightly haphazard rhythm of droning bass and skronking guitar, Danny Brown had the spotlight all to himself on ‘When It Rain’, showcasing the machine-gun rapidity of his flow.

  1. Preoccupations – ‘Degraded’

A fast-paced piledriver of contorted post-punk from Canadian four-piece Preoccupations (formerly known as Viet Cong) that was a credible evolution of the raw physicality of their 2015 debut.

  1. Leonard Cohen – ‘You Want It Darker’

The title track of Leonard Cohen’s 14th and final album seemed to be a perfect epitaph for his long and illustrious career, concerning death, faith and humanity. Cohen passed away just weeks after the record’s release, the prospect of a post-Trump world seemingly too dark even for him.

  1. DIIV – ‘Under The Sun’

A sunshine-drenched piece of retro indie bolstered by a krautrock chassis, ‘Under The Sun’ was the highlight from Zachary Cole Smith’s flawed but ambitious double LP Is The Is Are.

  1. James Blake ft. Justin Vernon – ‘I Need A Forest Fire’

A beautiful, transatlantic white-boy soul duet that paired up the English master of wounded vocals and fragile electronics with his American counterpart.

  1. Car Seat Headrest – ‘Drunk Drivers / Killer Whales’

The catchy centrepiece of Will Toledo’s 13th album (in just six years!), ‘Drunk Drivers / Killer Whales’ was the track that finally gained this bedroom artist par extraordinaire some national attention. Released again as a re-worked edit in December, it’s had a long lifespan.

  1. Radiohead – ‘Burn The Witch’

With its haunting and salient ‘Trumpton’-esque video and themes of persecution and society’s acquiescence to oppression of outsiders, Radiohead returned after a five-year absence amid a clever online teaser campaign with ‘Burn The Witch’.

  1. Christine & The Queens – ‘Tilted’

Yes, technically ‘Tilted’ dates all the way back to 2014 when album Chaleur Humaine was released in France, but the world at large finally discovered Heloise Letissier thanks to this instant pop classic.

  1. Rae Sremmurd ft. Gucci Mane – ‘Black Beatles’

The soundtrack to the viral ‘Mannequin Challenge’ sensation, ‘Black Beatles’ is most definitely not a novelty song. Built on an industrial behemoth of a beat and no end of precocious lyrics, it saw the Atlantan brothers score their first Number 1 single in the US.

  1. Beyonce – ‘Formation’

One of the most controversial and explicitly political songs of the year began with Bey memorably upstaging Coldplay at the Super Bowl halftime show. Sparse trap beats rolled into a marching band rhythm as Beyonce redefined herself once again, capped off with a fine video.

  1. David Bowie – ‘Lazarus’

The song that will forever be associated with Bowie’s death just days after the release of its parent album, not least because of its imagery-heavy video.

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