Craig Manning’s Top 30 Tracks of 2016

Last week, Jason highlighted some of his favorite songs of 2016 in the wake of’s Top 30 Albums of the Year list. This week, I’m taking the reigns to share my own favorite songs from last year.

In 2015, my favorite songs mostly came from my favorite albums. Butch Walker’s “Father’s Day,” Jason Isbell’s “Speed Trap Town,” Noah Gundersen’s “Topless Dancer,” Dawes’ “All Your Favorite Bands,” Chris Stapleton’s “Traveller.” I’d be fine calling that my top five tracks list from 2015, and it aligns perfectly with my top five albums list from the same year.

2016, comparatively, was all over the map. While my favorite albums did yield plenty of my favorite songs, other top tracks came out of nowhere—from albums I didn’t rank and artists I’d never heard of before.

I cut this 30-song mix down from a playlist that was twice as long, and while it contains tracks from a lot of the artists I talked about most in 2016 (from Butch Walker and Jimmy Eat World to Yellowcard and Sturgill Simpson), it also includes a few hidden gems that I think just about everyone missed. Rick Brantley channeling Bruce Springsteen for the profound and thought-provoking “Hurt People”; David Nail singing wistfully about “Home”; Ryan Beaver resiliently proclaiming “I ain’t afraid of the dark” on the year’s most potent anthem; Steve Moakler singing what should have been the biggest hit of the summer with “Suitcase”; and BJ Barnham breaking my heart through every desperate second of “The Unfortunate Kind.”

I believe any great playlist or mixtape should foster discovery. There are certainly names you will recognize on this list, but my greatest hope is that it will also shine a light on a few of the songwriters you might have overlooked amidst the noise of 2016’s celebrity-studded release schedule. Happy listening, and here’s to another unbelievable year for music.