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Top 89 Staff Picks: Jim McGuinn, program director

The Current's program director Jim McGuinn shares his top local and national songs of 2016.
The Current's program director Jim McGuinn shares his top local and national songs of 2016.MPR graphic

by Jim McGuinn

December 06, 2016

Top 10 Songs of 2016

1. Chance The Rapper – "Angels"
2. David Bowie – "Lazarus"
3. The Tragically Hip – "In a World Possessed By the Human Mind"
4. Lizzo – "Good As Hell"
5. Frank Ocean – "Pink and White"
6. Car Seat Headrest – "Fill in the Blank"
7. A Tribe Called Quest – "We The People...."
8. The Lemon Twigs – "These Words"
9. The Avett Brothers – "Ain't No Man"
10. Charles Bradley – "Changes"

2016 has been one unbelievable year. Charles Bradley, one of the kindest, soulful humans you could ever meet, summed it up with my No.10 song, "Changes." He's been through many changes — losing his mom, being diagnosed with cancer — but still came through town with a pair of shows that captured the reasons we exist on this planet: to love one another. Avetts made another great record with Rick Rubin, and their stripped-down gospel country-soul stomper "Ain't No Man" makes my list this year. The Lemon Twigs were a joyful discovery, two brothers from Long Island raised on the Beatles – and it shows in every note of their debut. A surprising and awesome return from A Tribe Called Quest — who lost Phife Dawg early in the year — was one of the bright spots of the fall, capped by a triumphant and fierce performance on Saturday Night Live a few weeks ago. Car Seat Headrest emerged as this year's leading indie-rockers; Frank Ocean confounded all labels with his Blond release; and Lizzo scored our summer jam from the soundtrack to Barbershop. 2016 was nothing if not the year of tremendous loss, however, with Prince, Sharon Jones, Leonard Cohen and too many others leaving us. That trend began with the passing of David Bowie in January, just days after the release of his outstanding Blackstar album, a record that took on such a different meaning in the wake of his passing. And where Bowie kept his cancer private, Gord Downie of Canadian rock band the Tragically Hip went public with his terminal diagnosis, kicking off a farewell tour that gripped the attentions of our northern neighbors all summer long, as he showed us all how to live by performing with grace, passion, and humility. Which brings me to my No.1 from Chance the Rapper: It seems we all have these angels flying round our heads these days. Some we knew, some we just knew through their music. In a year of such sadness, I want to give my top vote to an artist that brought so much joy with his Coloring Book release and transcendent performance at Rock the Garden.

Tons of honorable mention songs as well. Thanks to so many artists for so much in 2016 including Beyonce, Teenage Fanclub, the Shelters, Sleaford Mods, Radiohead, Plague Vendor, Olympia, Margot Price, Joseph, Iggy Pop, Drive-By Truckers, DJ Shadow, the Cactus Blossoms and Haley Bonar.

Top 10 Local Songs of 2016

1. Lizzo – "Good As Hell"
2. The Cactus Blossoms – "Stoplight Kisses"
3. Haley Bonar – "Kismet Kill"
4. Black Market Brass – "Half a Cig"
5. Hippo Campus – "Boyish"
6. The Jayhawks – "Quiet Corners and Empty Spaces"
7. Gaelynn Lea – "Someday We'll Linger in the Sun"
8. Heiruspecs – "skyisfalling"
9. Jay Smart – "Knocking on Heaven's Door"
10. Sims – "OneHundred"

"Good as Hell" was our summer jam at The Current, and she ended the year with another classic in "Worship." And while 2016 was a big year for Lizzo to become much bigger nationally and even internationally, she wasn't the only artist from here to do so: The Cactus Blossoms put a lot of miles on their van touring the country behind You're Dreaming, even winning over David Lynch, and Haley Bonar has a growing legion of fans worldwide, especially in the U.K. where support from the BBC and appearance on Later... with Jools Holland has elevated her profile. Black Market Brass showed that not only can our Northern Midwest be the home of great funk and hip hop, but even Afropop can be found in the land of 10,000 bands. Hippos Campus (who played 2016 Rock the Garden, along with other locals Polica and GRRL PRRTY) played all over the world and teased us with a taste of their upcoming Landmark full length this fall. The Gary Louris-led Jayhawks had a great year, finishing up recording projects with Wesley Stace (aka John Wesley Harding) and Ray Davies of the Kinks, while their own Peter Buck co-produced album added another classic to their cannon. Sims put a few difficult years into the powerful songs on his solo album; Heiruspecs (including The Current's Sean McPherson on bass) gave us a great new EP as they celebrate 20 years as a band; and two of my favorite introductions of the year came in the form of Duluth's Gaelynn Lea, winner of NPR Music's Tiny Desk Concert contest, and Minnesotan by-way-of Kenya Jay Smart.

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