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Top 89 Staff Picks: Andrea Swensson, host and writer

The Current's Andrea Swensson picks her favorite albums and songs of 2016.
The Current's Andrea Swensson picks her favorite albums and songs of 2016.MPR graphic

by Andrea Swensson

December 06, 2016

It occurred to me while putting these lists together that I've been hosting The Local Show for almost the entirety of 2016; my first episode as host and producer was January 9. In the months that followed that first show, we lost the most famous artist we've ever had the honor of calling "local," and we grappled with heartbreaking news stories unfolding nationwide and right here in Minnesota.

Through it all we had the music, some of it recorded in tribute to Prince, some written in response to the tenor of the day, and much of it just as varied and surprising as we've come to expect from our complex music community.

I feel a closeness to the local songs on my list this year because I now spend each week hemming and hawing about how much new music I can cram on my show; many of the songs listed here are ones I loved enough to put on the playlist over and over again, hoping to connect them with as many listeners as possible.

I should also mention that I absolutely hated doing this, even though I hope you'll find something you dig. I don't think music is something that we should pretend we can quantify, and so in no means is this a definitive declaration of what was "best." Rather, it's the stuff that moved me the most --- and based on feedback from listeners, I know it has moved you in some way, too.

25 of my favorite songs to songs to spin on The Local Show in 2016, listed in alphabetical order because ranking things gives me hives:

The Bad Plus, "The Beautiful Ones" (Prince)
Davina and the Vagabonds, "I'd Rather Go Blind" (Live)
Dusty Heart, "Timbre and Trail"
Fraea, "Criminal"
Gaelynn Lea, "Someday We'll Linger in the Sun"
Greg Grease, "Work Song"
Har Mar Superstar, "How Did I Get Through the Day?"
Holidae, "Darkest Shade"
Jay Smart, "Kismet Kill" (Haley Bonar)
Lady Midnight and Afrokeys, "Wax Line"
Mina Moore, "Mori"
Monica LaPlante, "Hope You're Alone"
Morly, "The Choir"
The Pines, "Hanging From the Earth"
P.O.S, "Sleepdrone/Superposition"
PaviElle, "I Would Die 4 U" (Prince, recorded live at the street party)
Polica, "Lately"
Rebel Queens, "Waiting Up for You"
Sarah White, "Huesos"
Sonny Knight and the Lakers, "Sooner or Later"
Toussaint Morrison, "Minnesota"
Tony Peachka, "Knees"
Tufawon, "Solstice 2"
The Twilight Hours, "Telephone"
ZULUZULUU, "What's the Price?"

15 albums I've spun multiple different songs from on The Local Show and which, if we were at a show together, I'd make you go over to the merch table and buy immediately, listed in order of how many characters are in each line:

Ness Nite, Nite Time
Metasota, #RUMDMT
Polica, United Crushers
Kitten Forever, 7 Hearts
Lexii Alijai, Joseph's Coat
Ben Lubeck, Rented Rooms
The Lioness, Growing Pains
Desdamona, No Man's Land
ZULUZULUU, What's the Price
Haley Bonar, Impossible Dream
Ana Tuiran, Live at the Hideaway
Sarah White, Laughing at Ghosts
The Jayhawks, Paging Mr. Proust
Andre Cymone, Black Man in America
Communist Daughter, The Cracks That Built the Wall

10 albums by non-Minnesota artists that I played over and over again in 2016, ranked in order of how many times I've cried to each release:

Beyonce, Lemonade
Bon Iver, 22, A Million
David Bowie, Blackstar
Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book
Michael Kiwanuka, Love and Hate
Angel Olsen, My Woman
Deap Vally, Femijism
A Tribe Called Quest, We Got it From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service
Solange, A Seat at the Table
Savages, Adore Life

Not every Minnesota artist listed above has music available on Spotify, but here's a playlist with many of my favorite local songs from this year:

The Current Hosts' and Staffers' Top 89 of 2016

Brett BaldwinBill DeVilleJay GablerLeah GaraasJadeCecilia JohnsonLindsay KimballMary LuciaJim McGuinnSean McPhersonShelley MillerDan NassMike NovitzkiMatt PerkinsBrian OakeJill RileyJake RudhNate RyanDavid SafarDerrick StevensAndrea SwenssonLuke TaylorAnna ReedMark WheatMac Wilson