Unwinnable Listens to the Best Music of 2016 – Part Two

The Rules: 
Set the Unwinnable Best Music of 2016 playlist on random.
Listen to nothing else for all of January.
Cling to sanity. 
Write about it.

Read: Prelude, Week One


I don’t honestly remember much of this week’s listening. It drifted in and out anything inspiring much love or hate.

A surprise: “Lord Intended,” the De La Soul collaboration with Justin Hawkins of The Darkness is now one of my favorite 2016 songs. The sentiment of “Fuck everyone, burn everything” will no doubt get much use in the coming years.

I was also treated to a lot of the Oranssi Pazuzu album I picked for my best of list. Last week, Sam Desatoff described the joy of hearing your music surface on the list. I would like to point out another joy: learning that someone loathed it. Sorry, Erik.

Stu Horvath


This week was more rap and hip hop than the previous week, a welcome change. With tracks from Childish Gambino, Kanye West and Chance the Rapper I was inundated in some truly fantastic sampling and lyrics.

Of the three, I’m the least interested in hearing more Kanye West. For my taste, he’s the least talented lyrically and has always stood up better as a producer than performer. Childish Gambino’s “Stand Tall” is the auditory equivalent of floating in a warm pool slightly drunk and Chance’s songs always seem to bring me joy. While I can still enjoy West’s production quality, it just doesn’t do anything for me. Maybe I’ve just never been able to forgive him for rhyming “blond dyke” and “Klondike” in “Stronger” 10 years ago.

Amanda Hudgins


Pain: Kanye West, NxWorries, Desiigner, Oranssi Pazuzu

Pleasure: Tegan and Sara, Leonard Cohen, Sturgill Simpson, Lydia Loveless, Terminal Gods

Thoughts: No more parties in LA… it’s a shame this terrible hip hop has to share space with De La and Tribe on this playlist… I really wish My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Kanye was still the Kanye of real life. Why is so much modern hip hop so de-evolved from the smooth intricacy of what preceded it? It’s choppy, exploitative and explicit for the sake of being so. Saba, Joseph Chilliams – holding down modern, young hip hop on this list.

I can’t believe I have gone this long without listening to Tegan and Sara.

This Leonard Cohen album was amazing when it came out, but is somehow better now.

You may think that Spotify’s algorithm is broken, but I’m glad it queues up an awesome Lydia Loveless song following every song that makes me want to give up on music entirely.

Oh man… this is the first Radiohead song since “Karma Police” that I like! Thanks “The Numbers.”

Whoa! Terminal Gods put this album out in 2016? This is such an 80’s sound so accurately recreated that my ears did a double take. Way cool.

Tobacco is hit or miss – sometimes it sounds like a toddler on a series of synths. Wait I have a toddler, don’t I?! (Runs and gets keyboard)

Oranssi Pazuzu is too metal for me. Yes, I said, “too metal.”

Erik Weinbrecht


Week Two was slightly better than Week One, but only marginally. This week I was introduced to Margo Price who, it turns out, is fantastic.

On the other hand, I had the displeasure of listening to “Let’s Get Worn Away” by Tobacco for the first time. I just can’t understand the appeal of any song where there’s literally a full minute of static. Is this music? Am I old?

Rounding out the week:

Some song by Kanye West that I don’t care to recall.

“Winkie” by Big Big Train. I don’t know what a “Winkie” is, and I’m a bit scared to find out.

Sam Desatoff


You guys, I almost gave up the challenge. It was possible that I was, indeed, not able to hang. And the culprit? Not Kanye, not Xiu Xiu, but Spotify’s shuffle algorithm. Yes, again. Hearing “Blast Damage Days” by Jeff Rosenstock and “Lilies” by Dawn Richards four times each in one week will do that to you. But I held on and got rewarded with some good stuff (and some bad stuff).

Liked: Sharon Jones – I always loved her voice but never dug too deeply into her catalog. Now I wish I’d done so much sooner. 36 – “Room 9” and “Room 10” are great bits of ambient music. Electric Citizen – definitely fits in my doom metal wheelhouse. Shearwater – I don’t always listen to indie rock, but every so often I find an indie rock band that I can really get into.

Dislike: “Blast Damage Days” aside, I’d be perfectly OK with never hearing another Jeff Rosenstock song. The second I added “Rainbow Road” by Three Trapped Tigers to my library it descended into a dubsteppy bit of chaos that had me immediately regretting my decision. Kanye West is only as strong as his beats, and the pieces of The Life of Pablo I’ve heard so far don’t feature anything as solid as “Power” or “Stronger.”

Don Becker


Some of the songs I’ve listened to make me feel like I’m in a Star Ocean dungeon, mainly Big Big Train and the new David Bowie album. That prog rock and saxophone heavy pop got me jammin’. (And don’t come griping to me about 4 and 5 being terrible games, I know. Play the first three, you uncultured pleb.)

Tweet updates:

#UWCanYouHang Day 5: There’s literally a straight up Swedish album on here.

#UWCanYouHang day 6: Forgot to pause taking my earbuds out, so the songs kept on playing without me hearing them. Guess I AM a hooligan…

If you’re playing along with the challenge, feel free to tell us your progress using the #UWCanYouHang tag on Twitter!

Melissa King


My second week of the challenge was much better than the first, although that is mostly because I barely had time for music with my obsessive viewing of the cabinet hearings and the resultant screaming at the television that followed. This is probably good news for Unwinnable’s readers, though, because Stu’s message about submitting our second week takes on the Can You Hang? Challenge® requested that we try and keep things a little shorter. I know in my heart this was directed at me and the thousand or so words I submitted last week. What can I say, I’m desperate for attention.

“Hemisphere,” by Three Trapped Tigers
This is like tin pan electronic music. I picture this band playing live by setting up a computer controlled Rube Goldberg contraption with a whole bunch of pots and pans strung together getting tippy-tapped by a variety of utensils for percussion.

“Sunshine,” by The Avalanches
There is a looping effect being abused in this song that makes me feel like my head is swimming, but not in a good “I’m fucked up” kind of way. It’s more like one of those bad, “Oh, shit, I’m fucked up” kind of ways. There are moments in here that are great, reminding me of ’60’s female Motown groups, but the uneven production is a little distracting.

“Svartmesse,” by Kvelertak
If there’s one thing I’ve come to expect with the CYH?C®, it’s that anytime the name of a band is impossible to pronounce with the human tongue, I’m about to hear some metal that I will hate. This band almost defies that rule, though, because I don’t hate the music. It isn’t overly aggressive pounding but has an actual hook. By the end, this song reminds me a bit of The Fucking Champs, especially the guitar tone. But the vocals are garbage. Just high-pitched screaming. And this is probably an unpopular opinion, but did we really need another song about Svartmesse?

“Vagabonds,” by Grizfolk
This band gives Car Seat Headrest a run for their money as the worst band name on the CYH?C® playlist. One can only assume this name derives from someone’s frat nickname. “Welcome to Delta Phi Epsilon, my name is Jareth, but people call me J-Dog. I’m the house president. This is Douglas Grisworth, you can call him Grizfolk. His band plays every house party we have. They’re really great. Like a mix of Coldplay and being assaulted by a lacrosse player.”

“Everybody Wants To Love You,” by Japanese Breakfast
This is interesting, although I don’t think the song needs as much of the synth beds that are underneath the whole thing. I like the energy and the vocal melody. But mostly, I like the idea of someone singing to me, “Everybody Wants to Love You” over and over. I can always use an ego boost, even if it is not directed to me at all.  Really nice guitar solo towards the end.

“Sorceress 2,” by Opeth
This song is cool, almost Pink Floyd-esque, but some of the lyrics are very quiet. It’s as if the singer is trying to sing a secret to someone else and doesn’t want me overhearing it. Then why did you record it and put it on an album? Fine, keep your nice sounding secret to yourself. See if I care. This band’s album cover is absolutely bonkers, by the way.  A bloody-beaked peacock standing on a severed head atop a pile of meat and bones. It’s not what I would expect based on the song, but I would expect nothing less from Unwinnable’s CYH?C®!

Ed Coleman


I had a vague idea of what I was going to write this week, something about the algorithm gods favoring me enough to send me Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings three times in one day (praise!), but on Friday I was hit hard by the lyrics from Kevin Devine’s “Freddie Gray Blues:”

When I’m talking these killer cop blues
I’m kinda talking my family to you
See, my dad was a cop
And his dad was a cop
And my uncles were cops
And my cousins were cops
I’m partly here because of cops
And I love all those cops
And I know not every cop
Is a racist, murdering cop
But this is bigger than the people I love
The system’s broken
Not breaking
It’s done”

There again, for maybe the billionth time, I heard a stranger singing my thoughts better than I could think them – a phenomenon that grows no less amazing for the frequency of its occurrence. I hate, these days, how it can seem like I’m being pulled between humans I love and my own humanity, even as I feel like it doesn’t have to be, and isn’t really, an either/or situation. But if it does turn it out it has to be, I know which way to go. Always nice to know I’m not alone.

Sara Clemens


Week Two has been much kinder. Actually, this second round has been good all together. Maybe it’s because I’ve been through this pain before or maybe it is indeed because a lot of the music picked is boring. OK, not boring, but not as extreme as last year’s mix. Also, a few words about Stu’s volume trick – that’s plain cheating. I don’t think it would be a challenge if you didn’t have to listen to the songs you don’t like. You might as well skip tracks at that point. Just my 2 cents. [I listen! Just, you know, at a quieter, less aggressive, non-house-shaking volume that a good song gets. – Stu] Anyway, here are some high and lowlights:

“Trekkers,” by Three Trapped Tigers
A nice mix of solid beats and interesting synth sounds. While it has some things you’d come to expect from the retrowave scene and the Hotline Miami sound, it treads it’s own path. I’m really into this. Whoever submitted this, Thank You!!

“DayDrunk,” by Kevin Devine
So Kevin Devine seems to sing about everyday life experiences and writes fun little songs about them but I’m a realist and a fantasizer so I don’t want to be cheery about the mundane.

“Evil,” by Electric Citizen
I just thought I’d pop in to Spotify and to my surprise, my play started with one of my picks, Electric Citizen. Electric Citizen burst onto the rock scene a couple of years ago by way of Riding Easy Records and they never cease to amaze me. While their first album could be a lost greatest hits record from the 70s, their new album treads new ground and lead singer Laura Dolan explores new vocal stylings which is something I think is a road less traveled for most singers.

“Crystalline,” by Kursse
I wrote “Crystalline” during Christmas of 2013 as I was experimenting with some iPad apps and watching a lot of Breaking Bad. The song was officially released on the Weirdcraft Youth Group compilation, How To Influence and Destroy, in May 2014. The track and samples were re-worked for The Reckoning.

“The Imperial Suite,” by Michael Giacchino
I might be the only person that loves the soundtrack to Rogue One because it is different! I think it takes a lot of guts to do something completely new with an established franchise and it’s not like there aren’t musical cues to the William’s Star Wars themes. A brave move that helps distinguish this movie from the the rest in the series.

“Identikit,” by Radiohead
Great Spotify. I get it. You really want me to listen to the new Radiohead album. Hey Spotify, I was cool with the first few songs. I even said some nice things. But I’m over it. Let’s move into something else. I guess I should be grateful. I could be listening to more Zayn or Kanye.

“Live A Lifetime Love,” by The Avalanches
I can get into The Avalanches. I like their bizarre cut-up sample style of hip hop. I’m not even sure where I can even place it. Is it old school DJ cutting or next gen digital mashups? Either way it’s cool.

“Atlas, Rise!,” by Metallica
Ok, so I don’t listen to any Metallica after …And Justice For All, so I guess it’s refreshing to hear some new Metallica and I’m grooving to it, so that’s a good sign. Is it weird that it kinda sounds like a Japanese Neo-Rock song to me?

Ken Lucas

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