Monday, December 25, 2017

The Best Songs of 2017

Nadine Shah; photo from Wikimedia.

Here's the first of your two annual end-of-year lists corresponding to absolutely nothing except my own personal taste and the whims of the moment -- or really, the whims of the year overall. For the first time ever (as far as I can recall) I committed to re-listening to every single track on this list and quite a few besides over the past few days to try and make this the best collection of shots and chasers I could; basically the top ten are instant classics I'm already sure I'll keep with me forever, the top fifty or so are probably also all-timers and I bet time will be good to them. The rest are just songs I really really like.

I don't know if there's much point to an introduction here about the "tone" of the year or whatever; a thread I noticed when going back over the songs I'd marked throughout the year is a feeling of warmth, first of all. I found myself moving songs by Martha Wainwright, Laura Marling and Sylvan Esso ever farther up in the ranks each time I heard them again because they felt full of such pangs of instant nostalgia, something I always find incredibly powerful, something that music alone seems able to achieve; they joined Jay Som's "The Bus Song," Slowdive's "No Longer Making Time" and Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever's "Tender Is the Neck" (technically from 2016, don't tell anyone) as the songs currently most likely to reduce me to an inexplicable emotional wreck. The other overarching theme this year is that we're really all hung over from the traumas last year, despite the tragedies large and small that have taken over our attentions, one atop the other since January. In fact maybe that's why we haven't been able to process 2016, and maybe it will be a long time before we can, but the paranoia and dread in Nadine Shah, Vince Staples, Chastity Belt and even the National feel like a megaphoned voice of what we're all thinking. In tying itself so explicitly to the moment, "2016" -- which could really be tied with "Big Fish" for #1 -- in fact promises a transcendence that will likely evoke the first year of Trump fifty years from now as much as D.A. Pennebaker's Monterey Pop evokes 1967, but Shah's empathy and clearheadedness don't have an analogue from the '60s, at least none that I know of, and certainly not from anyone who sounds the way she does or offers the perspective she can.

Still, we need relief. Thank god for Sheer Mag and Beth Ditto.

As usual, one song per album only, and I have indeed agonized appropriately over which song I would use to represent several of these records. Also as usual, I have prepared a Spotify playlist with my top tier of songs from this year sequenced coherently for your listening pleasure. This year I decided to let it run to fifty songs; if that's too much, talk to my manager.


1. Vince Staples "Big Fish" [Big Fish Theory]
2. Nadine Shah "2016" [Holiday Destination]
3. Jay Som "The Bus Song" [Everybody Works]
4. Rolling Blackouts C.F. "Tender Is the Neck" [Talk Tight EP]
5. Sheer Mag "Pure Desire" [Need to Feel Your Love]
6. Kendrick Lamar "LUST." [DAMN.]
7. Slowdive "No Longer Making Time" [s/t]
8. Beth Ditto "In and Out" [Fake Sugar]
9. The Mountain Goats "Shelved" [Goths]
10. Valerie June "Long Lonely Road" [The Order of Time]
11. Paramore "Hard Times" [After Laughter]
12. Chastity Belt "Complain" [I Used to Spend So Much Time Alone]
13. Swet Shop Boys "Zombie" [Sufi La EP]
14. The National "Carin at the Liquor Store" [Sleep Well Beast]
15. Ibibio Sound Machine "Give Me a Reason" [Uyai]
16. Cut Copy "Stars Last Me a Lifetime" [Haiku from Zero]
17. Zara McFarlane "Fussin' and Fightin'" [Arise]
18. Laura Marling "Always This Way" [Semper Femina]
19. Joey Bada$$ "Temptation" [All-Amerikkkan Badass]
20. Sparks "I Wish You Were Fun" [Hippopotamus]
21. Amber Coffman "All to Myself" [City of No Reply]
22. Sylvan Esso "Die Young" [What Now]
23. (Sandy) Alex G "Bobby" [Rocket]
24. Songhoy Blues "Voter" [Resistance]
25. Kelela "Blue Light" [Take Me Apart]
26. Jlin feat. Avril Stormy Unger "The Escape of the Blvck Rxbbit" [Dark Lotus EP]
27. London O'Connor "GUTS" [O∆]
28. Ibeyi "Away Away" [Ash]
29. American Wrestlers "Real People" [Goodbye Terrible Youth]
30. Surfer Blood "Carrier Pigeon" [Snowdonia]
31. Martha Wainwright "Take the Reins" [Goodnight City]
32. Loyle Carner ft. Rebel Kleff "NO CD" [Yesterday's Gone]
33. Shabazz Palaces ft. Darrius "Moon Whip Quaz" [Quazarz: Born on a Gangster Star]
34. Wolf Alice "Yuk Foo" [Visions of a Life]
35. EMA "Down and Out" [Exile in the Outer Ring]
36. Saint Etienne "Dive" [Home Counties]
37. Diet Cig "Bite Back" [Swear I'm Good at This]
38. Laurel Halo "Moontalk" [Dust]
39. Run the Jewels ft. Danny Brown "Hey Kids" [Run the Jewels 3]
40. The xx "I Dare You" [I See You]
41. Iron & Wine "Right for Sky" [Beast Epic]
42. Tyler, the Creator "I Ain't Got Time!" [Flower Boy]
43. Ibibio Sound Machine "Color in Your Cheeks" {Mountain Goats cover} [I Only Listen to the Mountain Goats podcast]
44. Charly Bliss "Percolator" [Guppy]
45. This Is the Kit "Two Pence Piece" [Moonshine Freeze]
46. Superfood "Where's the Bass Amp?" [Bambino]
47. SOHN "Rennen" [Rennen]
48. Khalid "8TEEN" [American Teen]
49. Iglooghost ft. Mr. Yote "Teal Yomi/Olivine" [Neo Wax Bloom]
50. Antibalas "Gold Rush" [Where the Gods Are in Peace]
51. Depeche Mode "So Much Love" [Spirit]
52. Shabazz Palaces ft. the Shotgun Shot "Julian's Dream (ode to a bad)" [Quazarz vs. the Jealous Machines]
53. The Underachievers "Crescendo" [Renaissance]
54. Wolf Parade "Incantation" [Cry Cry Cry]
55. Lee Fields & the Expressions "Never Be Another You" [Special Night]
56. Feist "I'm Not Running Away" [Pleasure]
57. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith "I Am Learning" [The Kid]
58. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile "Peepin' Tom" [Lotta Sea Lice]
59. Denzel Curry ft. Joey Bada$$ "Zenith" [Imperial]
60. Rostam "Bike Dream" [Half-Light]
61. Bicep "Glue" [s/t]
62. The Horrors "World Below" [V]
63. Mura Masa ft. Bonzai "Nuggets" [Mura Masa]
64. David Rawlings "Midnight Train" [Poor David's Almanack]
65. Lana Del Rey "Love" [Lust for Life]
66. The Magnetic Fields "'83: Foxx and I" [50 Song Memoir]
67. Dawn Richard "Voices" [Redemption]
68. The New Pornographers "Whiteout Conditions" [Whiteout Conditions]
69. Austra "Future Politics" [Future Politics]
70. Hercules & Love Affair ft. Faris Badwan "Controller" [Omnion]
71. Goldfrapp "Systemagic" [Silver Eye]
72. IFE "Yumavision" [IIII + IIII]
73. Yumi Zouma "Ostra" [Willowbank]
74. Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings "Girl! (You Got to Forgive Him)" [Soul of a Woman]
75. Peter Perrett "C Voyeurger" [How the West Was Won]
76. The Flaming Lips "The Castle" [Oczy Mlody]
77. Mavis Staples "Build a Bridge" [If All I Was Was Black]
78. PVT "Morning Mist, Rock Island Bend" [PVT]
79. Sean Price "Resident Evil" [Imperius Rex]
80. Terry Malts "Off My Back" [split EP with Kids on a Crime Spree]
81. Chuck Berry "Big Boys" [Chuck]
82. Hauschka "We Live a Thousand Years" [What If]
83. Deer Tick "Jumpstarting" [Vol. 2]
84. Alex Lahey "I Haven't Been Taking Care of Myself" [I Love You Like a Brother]
85. Tinashe "Light the Night Up" [Thursday Night Football]
86. Lupe Fiasco ft. Gizzle "Jump" [Drogas Light]
87. Nicole Atkins "Darkness Falls So Quiet" [Goodnight Rhonda Lee]
88. Thurston Moore "Smoke of Dreams" [Rock N Roll Consciousness]
89. Whitney "Gonna Hurry (As Slow as I Can)" [non-LP single]
90. Destroyer "In the Morning" [ken]
91. Kamasi Washington "Truth" [Harmony of Difference EP]
92. Benjamin Clementine "Phantom of Aleppoville" [I Tell a Fly]
93. Blue Hawaii "No One Like You" [Tenderness]
94. clipping. "The Deep" [non-LP single]
95. Robyn Hitchcock "1970 in Aspic" [s/t]
96. Liane Carroll "Lately" {Stevie Wonder cover} [The Right to Love]

I will be preparing the albums post over the next few days and intend to have it up late on the 28th. Until then, happy holidays and thanks for reading!

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