While others might disagree, I would say 2017 was a great year for music when you step away from the mainstream. I expanded the list, but I still had to cut out some songs and albums that I love. I omitted the usual Music Videos category so we can go straight to the best songs of the year.
If you want to use Spotify, the playlist is conveniently located all the way at the bottom, happy scrolling!
10) Over Everything, Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile
I didn’t love this song at first, the carefree pace and Vile’s lackluster lyrics didn’t win me over. But the song grew on me. After three minutes it starts to unfold with Barnett and Vile unleashing some wonderful guitar noise. Plus its just great to have these two indie rockers become friends.
9) Old Man, Blis
The debut album from Blis features this song with a slow and formidable drive. The lyrics take it up a notch when you realize that it is about Aaron Gossett’s own abusive father who is now estranged. The droning guitar is a great representation of his pain and the regret he feels for his father.
8) Pure Comedy, Father John Misty
A song that takes us from the origins of humanity to the idiocy of modern life. His acerbic lyrics take aim at everyone from major religions to political leaders. If nothing else, you must respect his ambition.
They build fortunes poisoning their offspring
And hand out prizes when someone patents the cure
7) Thinking of a Place, War on Drugs
That’s right, both Kurt Vile and his friend Adam Granduciel made the list. Big year for Philly? Granduciel’s poetic lyrics and the song’s slow pace use specific memories to examine the changes a relationship can take. Plus, I have great respect for a song that sounds like it is about to end, but instead drives on for another six minutes.
6) Gwan, Rostam
This was a great song off Rostam’s first solo album after the split from Vampire Weekends. The beautiful and dreamy song displays Rostam’s ability to use strings and choirs to create gorgeous compositions.
5) Arizona, Frances Cone
The weight of the song is effectively created by a powerful building electric guitar part. Cone explained the contemplative song as the clash between Cone’s religious upbringing and her brother’s homosexuality when she was a teenager, and how it changed her forever.
4) Everything Now, Arcade Fire
While their fourth album Reflektor didn’t connect with me, I regard Everything Now as a return to form led by the album’s title track. The lyrics regarding mass consumerism and life in the digital age give plenty to chew on while grooving to the ABBA style piano. Or maybe I am just a sucker for the pan flute, we’ll never know.
3) 100 Years, Vagabon
The combination between the powerful drums and the delicate voice give this song an amazing standout sound. It is only two minutes long, so it wastes no time kicking ass. In response, I feel a responsibility to keep this blurb short.
2) Slip Away, Perfume Genius
I see a trend here, every time Mike Hadreas writes a big powerful song, it ends up sounding incredible. Hadreas and his bandmates broke down the impressive construction of the song in great detail on the podcast Song Exploder. It is a love song like you’ve never heard before.
They’ll never break the shape we take
Let all them voices slip away
1) Call the Police, LCD Soundsystem
The band broke up in 2011, so it is a big surprise that they are back and writing what I think is their best song yet. The upbeat song is interestingly contrast with haunting lyrics. The lyrics are well constructed, while many of them are mysterious and ominous, others are more clearly a critique of our political era.
Well there’s a full-blown rebellion but you’re easy to confuse
By triggered kids and fakers and some questionable views
Runner Ups: Die Young – Sylvan Esso, Currency – Black Angels, Don’t Delete the Kisses – Wolf Alice, (No One Knows Me) Like The Piano, Sampha
Biggest 2016 Regret:
Coloring Book, Chance the Rapper
In December, I wasn’t feeling it. By January, I was starting to like it. By February, I realized I had made a horrible mistake. If the album didn’t work for you at first, give it another listen.
5) Painted Ruins, Grizzly Bear
They raised expectations with their last album Shields. And this is a great follow up record with an impressive assortment of songs that somehow flow together very well. Each song is nuanced with layers of strange and wonderful sounds. However, it didn’t rank higher because it lacks a great single that anchors the album, as Shields had with “Sleeping Ute” or as Veckatimest had with “Two Weeks.”
4) HEAVY META, Ron Gallo
Gallo’s vocal screams in combination with the punk-infused guitars provide a refreshing intensity that is a welcome sight to the rock landscape. With smart lyrics and catchy hooks, this album is an achievement. However, sometimes Gallo’s swagger boarders on narcissism. I am hoping it is just a temporary symptom of his youth, and I am eagerly anticipating more of his intense fuzz guitar.
3) Hot Thoughts, Spoon
Spoon has been the most consistently successful indie band for two decades now. But while I always enjoy their albums, I haven’t loved an album of theirs since Ga Ga Ga Ga…Ga in 2007. And it seemed like they would never again reach the heights of their early albums and EPs. However, Hot Thoughts took their sound in a new direction with more electronica influence and more experimental elements to their songs. With this album, Spoon has reinvigorated their sound and created a fantastic album full of intriguing songs, and of course Britt Daniel’s powerful vocals.
2) Crack-Up, Fleet Foxes
Much has changed for the Fleet Foxes since Helplessness Blues was released in 2011. Robin Pecknold stopped writing songs and went to college while Father John Misty (not his real name) left the band and has achieved plenty of accolades as a solo act (see # 8 in the Best Songs above). Crack-Up builds on their past successes and take the music in a new and exciting direction. With rich orchestration and lyrics full of ambiguity, there are depths to each of these beautiful songs.
1) The French Press, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever
Okay, so it is an EP, but I’m listing it as my favorite album of the year regardless. I am very impressed by this young band’s ability to create so many easily digestible songs built around great guitar riffs. They are a wonderful combination of The Strokes and The Clash, but controversially they have a much longer band name. It seems like Australia (and specifically Melbourne) is in the midst of a major musical movement. I am highly anticipating their debut album in 2018.
Runner Ups: Pleasure – Fiest, The Nashville Sound – Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Near to the Wild Heart of Life – Japandroids, Sleep Well Beast – The National, I See You, The xx