December means it's time to check out the 2016 Best Of lists and look back on another great year in Knoxville music. This year has been a good one for Knoxville's music scene, and each year it feels like the talent pool here not only grows, but gets more diverse in terms of genre and style. There are several bands/artists on this list that are either new to Knoxville or new period. While going through all the songs that were considered and looking back on 2016, it's impossible not to get excited about 2017 and beyond.
Like most of these lists, the Top 16 in '16 changed approximately one billion times before the final rankings were set. There were an awful lot of really solid tracks that came out this year, and it made for some tough decisions. As always, if you hear something you're in to, be sure to share it.
The top albums list is coming soon, so be sure to check back in the next few days for that.
16) Shayla McDaniel - "I'll Leave The Light On"
The smooth voice and jazz-pop stylings of Shayla McDaniel are on full display in "I'll Leave The Light On" It comes with a lyric video for which to follow along. Be on the lookout for a new EP from Shayla in early 2017.
15) Judah White - "Go Back Home"
Judah White, whose voice you may recognize from the band Yung Life, hit us with this chilled out electro-pop song.
14) Black Atticus with Drew Drake - "Full Speed Ahead"
Black Atticus's "Full Speed Ahead" is a soulful track reflecting on childhood with thoughtful lyrics and smooth flow. Drew Drake adds a change of pace and more poetic and socially conscious lyrics.
13) Notty Taylor with GHSTFcV - "Visitor Parking"
Performing under a new name and kind of a new vibe in 2016 (formerly Taylor, Br-ndn) Notty Taylor brings the same quality tracks we've come to expect from him. The feature verse from Ghstfvc and the beat from YoungFreeman really set it off.
12) Travis Bigwood & Aubrey Mullins - "Marry Sue"
Travis Bigwood, who plays bass and guitar in a few bands in town, steps up to the mic for his new solo project. The vocal harmonies added by Aubrey Mullins make this a truly beautiful song.
11) The Royal Buzz - "King"
The Royal Buzz couldn't stay silent in this election year. The indie-rock outfit dropped a song with a frank political message called "King." This song is powerful, and it came with a short film that included pistols, arson, and eyeless Donald Trump masks that will haunt my dreams forevermore.
10) J-Bush with Mista - "Switch Blade"
If you see "Prod. by SAMDAY" you can bet the song you're about to hear is fire. For that matter, if you see J-Bush's name on something, that's a good bet as well. To be honest, I'm not as familiar with Mista, but he does his thing on this track too.
9) Dee Smith with GHSTFCV - "iNTHECiTY"
This song came in right at the buzzer to be considered in the 2016 list. This new track called "iNTHECiTY" will be on Dee Smith's EP THE NiGHT BEFORE, slated to drop in January 2017. The beat by CMPLX is perfect. You may have noticed that this is the second song on here that features Ghstfcv. That's because Ghstfcv is dope.
8) Peak Physique - "Love Fool"
From the release of their first single, a cover of The Cardigans' "Love Fool," it was apparent that the songwriting duo/supergroup Peak Physique was going to be special.
7) Magnolia Motel - "Paradise"
One of Knoxville's most exciting funk-rock upstarts, Magnolia Motel hit us with a groovy one a few weeks ago called "Paradise." As a bonus, the song came with some really cool visuals via Psychi Trip.
6) Benjamin iii - #StopSmokingCigs2017
There may not be any one artist putting out solid material with the same frequency as Benji. Hold on tight for the quickness of his lyrics put to this uptempo jazz beat in "#StopSmokingCigs2017." The title may have also inspired my New Year's resolution.
5) Ukamea - "KDXIII (#LightEmUp)"
Ukamea's "KDXIII" is near perfection of the good-time party vibe song. With an indulgent pop hook, Ukamea shows off his dynamic ability in both rapping and singing.
4) Llama Train - "Gold"
What a delightful surprise it was to get a reunion from one of Knoxville's most popular bands of the aughts. "Gold" has the same dreamy reverb-heavy sound of Matt Honkonen's 2015 solo record Take Me Home, and combining that instrumentation of the full band is a real treat.
3) ErybodyJones - "Condolences (Tribute)"
The one-year anniversary of the tragic shooting death of Zaevion Dobson was this week. The #24 is still on display on the marquee outside of Fulton High School. The musical response was the tragedy was this heartfelt track from Erybodyjones. Three Minutes. No hook. Just masterful flow and thoughtful reflection.
2) Lions - "Frankie 'The Enforcer' Stecchino"
It's hard not to be in awe of Lions heady guitar and bass licks. "Frankie 'The Enforcer' Stecchino" feels like two really cool, completely different songs combined into one with the upbeat main part of the song and the trippy outro. Plus the title is a boss Boy Meets World reference, so there's that.
1) Thelo-Que with Dreama - "The Ville"
Every week for about five months now, I get the itch to listen to Thelo and Dreama's "The Ville." This wavy track is the perfect head nodder worthy of hitting that repeat button, and it's catchy enough to have you singing to yourself hours later. The chorus of "I can not be in the Ville for the rest of my life," so wonderfully captures the anxiousness and ambition of young adulthood. Lastly, this combination of Dreama's singing and Thelo-Que's rapping is something I hope we all a whole lot more of, because it works.