Eau Claire based singer/songwriter/beatmaker/producer Eric Christenson has been putting out catchy, melancholic, low-fi electronic pop jams for a few years now–previously as Wisconsin Built and now under the moniker of Two Castles. 2016 was a busy year for Eric musically: he put out a Two Castles EP entitled “Night Talk” at the beginning of the year, produced the debut Sniffle Party EP called “Peach Dream” that dropped in the spring, and just released a new single titled “Survive” (embedded below! …give it a listen!) earlier in December. Fittingly for an artist who was so busy in 2016 Eric is seeing the year out on stage, playing as Two Castles and along with Sniffle Party as part of “The Golden Hour” festivities taking place at The Plus in conjunction with the amazing Light Up Eau Claire celebration that’s happening all across downtown this NYE.
With so much time spent producing his own music did Eric still have a chance to check out some of this year’s releases? You bet he did…and he was kind enough to give us a great list of his favorite tracks of 2016!
NxWorries – Link Up
Anderson Paak and Knxwledge are the dream team of my dreams. Their record “Yes Lawd!” was easily one of my favorites this year. It’s so funky and full of swagger and soul and I love it. But “Link Up” is the jam, and the music video is just Paak and Knxwledge drinking 40s in a gas station. One of the most vibey songs I’ve heard in a long, long time.
Kaytranada – “Glowed Up (feat. Anderson Paak)”
OK, I didn’t want to mention Anderson Paak too much on this list, but the dude is crazy prolific and he put out some amazing work this year, especially on “Glowed Up.” Kaytranada is one of my all-time favorite producers and his beat on “Glowed Up” is so spooky and bangin’ and perfect. This song’s an incredible moment for two artists in their peak. And Kaytranada’s album 99.9% was ultra-groovy and fantastic front to back.
A Tribe Called Quest – “Whateva Will Be”
Every time I listen to Tribe, it makes me feel like we’re all gonna be OK. “We Got It From Here, Thank You 4 Your Service” was such a blessing. The blown out sample, the lo-fi production, and Phife Dawg’s verses on “Whateva Will Be” give me chills every time. RIP Phife.
Rihanna “Needed Me”
Oooooo baby I love this song. Rihanna’s voice has never sounded so silky and so powerful and this song made me fall in love with her all over again. We don’t deserve Rihanna.
Promises Ltd. – “American Eyes”
Lowkey one of the year’s most perfect pop gems. I’ve been a huge fan of Chrome Sparks for years, and the production on this new Promises Ltd EP is masterful. Warm shimmering synths get paired with 80’s pop hooks and the whole thing coalesces into something really magical. Give it a spin or two or a hundred.
Whitney – “Golden Days”
I adored the Whitney record that came out this year. This track “Golden Days” is perfect for crunchin’ leaves under your boot, driving around the countryside, and drinking beers on the golden days that slip away from you. And the horns that come in near the end will make your lil’ heart soar, I swear.
HERO – “The Juice”
It’s an instant classic, baby! I stumbled on this track this summer, and I don’t think many people know about it. It’s sounds like all the best 80’s inspired synthwave stuff you’d find on the soundtrack to Drive or Stranger Things, but with the sleekest R&B twist. I can’t get enough. Everything’s on point and it makes you feel like you, too, might have the juice. Certified banger.
Kanye West – “Real Friends” (feat. Ty Dolla $ign)
First things first: I don’t really care what you think about Kanye West. “Real Friends” is one of his best songs ever. I loved seeing Yeezy go back to some lowkey sample-driven production too. It’s a track that’s full of biting words about flaking out and lying to each other, but he executes it in such an honest way. The Life Of Pablo was great, but “Real Friends” is understated in a way that makes me go back to it over and over again. Also, for the record, Ty Dolla $ign is hella underrated.
Hello, dear reader! Thanks for checking out our list of 2016’s best music videos. We had three main goals in mind when we went to formulate this list: first and foremost we limited scope and tried to pick videos from artists and bands you might hear on 99.9 instead of just the best videos in general, we tried to sneak a few picks in that we haven’t seen featured on lists elsewhere along with those few that are simply undeniable (like our #1), and we also tried to pick a mixture of videos that aimed to make a significant statement or were artfully done along with a few that are just plain lighthearted and fun (and a few that are somewhere in-between!). We think we nailed it. Let us know what you think!
10. Kaytranada – Lite Spots
Why is this one on the list?! Two words: DANCING ROBOT
9. The Avalanches – Because I’m Me
With a throwback look, jubilant dancing, and an adorable kid performing his heart out this charming video and song are sure to put a smile on your face.
8. Polica – Wedding
This poignant video speaks to the issue of police violence by depicting a dark, chilling reimagining of a typical children’s television show.
7. Radiohead – Daydreaming
This beautifully eerie and surreal video for A Moon Shaped Pool track “Daydreaming” was directed by Paul Thomas Anderson (Inherent Vice, There Will Be Blood, The Master) and features Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke wandering through a series of doorways and locales until finally escaping to find rest at video’s end.
6. DJ Shadow Feat. Run The Jewels – Nobody Speak
In a year where the partisan divide between political sides both here in the US and abroad has never seemed more tense or vitriolic, this video and the scenario it depicts feels uncomfortably relevant and all too believable. The video opens with a number of politician types sitting in a conference room where tensions between one another continue to rise. It doesn’t take long for it all to boil over, and then? …chaos ensues!
5. Pup – Sleep in the Heat
Be forewarned: this video from Toronto punkers PUP (that features a familiar face for all you “Stranger Things” fans!) will make you cry.
4. Mitski – Your Best American Girl
This video manages to be both pretty funny and full of heartache at the same time, dealing with the relatable discomforts of awkwardness, unrequited attraction, not fitting in…and Coachella Brand Hipsterdom™.
3. Francis & The Lights – Friends ft Bon Iver and Kanye West
A simple yet incredibly fun video that was probably destined to make our “Best Of” list due to a goofy choreographed dance featuring EC’s patron saint of indie rock himself, Mr. Justin Vernon.
2. Mick Jenkins Feat. BADBADNOTGOOD – Drowning
This video is a testament to what talented filmmakers can do with just over 6 minutes; it’s more of a harrowing short film than it is your typical music video. It is set in the antebellum south and delves into violence, oppression, innocence and forgiveness. It’s beautifully shot and a truly powerful work.
1. David Bowie – Lazarus
This video is sure to make most “Best Of” lists. It’s a creepy, powerful, and prescient depiction of inspiration and creation in the face of frailty and death. It’s a fitting tribute to the song and album it was made for, and quite the goodbye from the irreplaceable and remarkable artist that was David Bowie…a man whose work–like this song title implies–will continue to live on.
…alright, so there’s our top 10. However, we’d be remiss to talk about the best videos of 2016 without at least mentioning Beyonce. Sure, as stated in the intro for this list we were aiming to represent videos from artists you might hear pretty regularly in rotation on our little indie rock station and admittedly Beyonce doesn’t quite fit that bill (though we’re huge fans!) but Lemonade is such a dynamic and undeniable work we have to take a moment to give credit where credit is due and recommend that you check it out if you haven’t already. Here’s “Formation” off of Lemonade to get you started:
…alright, now that we’ve given kudos to Beyonce it’s time to show some love to two really terrific videos produced by local bands We’re Wolves and Waldemar.