We put out a call to Berklee Online faculty members to find their favorite tracks of 2016, and we found a wide variety of stuff you might have missed!
“Formation” is an incredible pop track from Beyoncé and the track’s producer Mike WiLL Made-It. The song is also a powerful piece of personal expression from the artist that has the ability to inspire and uplift her listeners. Other songs I think would have to be included in a 2016 Best-Of playlist include A Tribe Called Quest’s “We The People,” Anderson .Paak’s “Celebrate,” and Mitski’s “Fireworks.” My no. 1 album, that I absolutely do not know how to pick just one track from, is Elza Soares’ The Woman at the End of the World. This album is truly stunning on every level.
Rachel Alina, Art of Mixing
“Love & Hate” by Michael Kiwanuka (as well as Love & Hate by Michael Kiwanuka) is one of the best songs and albums of the last 20 years.
Benji Rogers, Music Business Trends and Strategies
“Money Fame Thunder” is my favorite track off of Berklee Online alum Rachael Yamagata’s latest album, Tightrope Walker. I worked as part of Rachael’s team to launch the album and love the visuals these lyrics paint for me about the whole experience.
Chandler Coyle, Online Music Marketing: Campaign Strategies, Social Media, and Digital Distribution
The entire Coloring Book album by Chance the Rapper! Musically, he reminds of Sly & the Family Stone in ’68, combining soul, R&B, rap, gospel, blues, etc. and his new business model is changing the business.
John P. Kellogg, Music Business 101
My favorite song of 2016 is “The World is Breaking” by Austin Wintory from the Banner Saga 2 video game original soundtrack. The score swells and climaxes, without a massive orchestral crescendo. When one instrument takes the lead, backing instruments fall out, leaving the instrumentation sparse. This leaves the listener with a feeling of a cold world that is crumbling apart. It is not so much music that could be classified as easy listing but rather music that tells a tale of an epic Viking adventure.
Gina Zdanowicz, Introduction to Game Audio
Lonely Heartstring Band is one of the top up-and-coming progressive bluegrass bands. They are comprised of Berklee grads and are based in Boston. Their song “Steal the Night” is a slow rock ballad, but features stunning virtuosity on traditional bluegrass instruments. Banjo player Gabe Hirshfeld stands out in the last third of the tune by laying down stunningly smooth and fast 16th-note and 32nd-note runs behind the melody. The tune has a calming peace about it, despite the presence of thousands of notes!
Michael Moyes, Music Theory
As with all Leonard Cohen songs, he chose every word with precision on “You Want it Darker.” This time, he was making a deal with his higher power, and letting him/her know that he was ready to be taken out of this game. Not many weeks later, he got his wish.
Bruce Houghton, Music Marketing
This was pretty hard, but I picked one song that I enjoyed a lot, and that’s “Unthank” by Gold Panda. This is a really sparse track with a great loose-pitched keyboard sound. I love the ambiguous mood it creates and have let this play on repeat over and over again while falling asleep.
Brian Funk, Advanced Music Production with Ableton Live
One song? “Shake It Off,” a remake of the Taylor Swift pop song by Tim Akers and the Smoking Section! Great arrangement, great playing and singing by Nashville’s finest session musicians.
Brian Lewis, Jazz Arranging
The band Patax, from Madrid, Spain (alum Jorge Perez on percussion and his band), did a great arrangement of “Higher Ground.” Stevie Wonder wrote this, of course, but this band’s arrangement is beautifully original and features ridiculous musicianship all around. If you are not familiar with the band, you should definitely check them out. They’ve done a lot of arrangements of Michael Jackson songs that are also quite original. Check out their version of “Billie Jean.” Be sure to watch to the very end.
Jerry Gates, Arranging: Small Ensemble and Horns, Arranging: Woodwinds and Strings, Arranging: Advanced Horn Writing
“Noble Nobles” by Esperanza Spalding is one track I never got tired of listening to! I love the musical references to Joni Mitchell and Tony Visconti’s production.
Marc Einstmann, Audio Mastering Techniques