Favorite Songs Outside of My Top 10 Favorite Albums:
15. Father John Misty “Leaving LA” – best song that encapsulates my current feelings about my current state of residence
14. Sundara Karma “Flame” – best song that’s sure to be on some car commercial soon
13. Porn Bloopers “I Don’t Give a Fuck” – best steak-and-potato punk
12. Dirty Projectors “Keep Your Name” – Best pitch-correction for sad people
11. Foo Fighters “The Sky is a Neighborhood” – Best rock anthem for 15 years ago
10. Big K.R.I.T. “Keep the Devil off” – best sample of a southern preacher
9. T-Pain with Mr. Talkbox “May I” – best keyboard solo
8. Small Leak Sinks Ships “Dancing Devil” – best song I found from someone else’s top 10 list
7. Weezer “Mexican Fender” – best new song heard live
6. Leikeli47 “Miss Me” – Best female rap song (sorry Cardi B, I guess)
5. The Mynabirds “Golden Age” – Best “nazi-punching” lyric for 2017’s political climate
4. Jesca Hoop “Memories are Now” – Best singer-songwriter tune
3. Kendrick Lamar “Humble” – best song played at the Prom I had to chaperone last May
2. SOPHIE “Ponyboy” – best song that makes me feel like I’ve been shot with a 12-gauge
1.Bleachers “Everybody Lost Somebody” – best use of Jack Antonoff this year, and saxophones
My Top 10 Favorite Albums of the Year:
10. The National Sleep Well Beast
The National’s formula of using simple, repetitive chord progressions worked for so long for one obvious reason: Matt Berninger’s vocal performance. His baritone melodies combined with fictitious narratives of love and woe made 2013’s Trouble Will Find Me worth multiple listens. In 2017, the reason to turn back to The National is due to the four other band members who create songs with electronic drum machines and electric guitar solos: instrumentation that never before characterized the traditional National-esque sound. With the new band sound, and with the shoot-from-the-hip feel of the recording sessions, Sleep Well Beast is an exciting listen, especially to fans of the band.
Standout Tracks: “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” “Turtleneck” “Nobody Else Will Be There”
9. The Orwells Terrible Human Beings
The torch of American Rock n Roll remains lit, and Illinois’ The Orwells hoist it high and proud. The psych-rock doesn’t get bogged down in effects, and punk rock doesn’t get overblown with shitty mixing, and rock doesn’t get boring. This is the new Cage the Elephant.
Standout Tracks: “They Put a Body in the Bayou” “Creatures” “Black Francis”
8. Andy Mineo and Wordsplayed Andy Mineo & Wordsplayed Present Magic & Bird
Far from the serious, murderous rap from mumble rappers and their more lyrical role models, Andy Mineo and Wordsplayed use the trendy trap sound to create a 1980s-themed mixtape that’s fresh and fun, chock-full of basketball puns to justify the loose Larry Bird and Magic Johnson concept. Shockingly, the skits are funny, and as expected the rapping is top-notch from the two heads of the Minor League musical collective.
Standout Tracks: “Dance (You See It)” “KIDZ” “Judo (feat. Tree Giants)”
7. Grandaddy Last Place
A sonic blend of all the emotions with which I am most familiar.
Standout Tracks: “That’s What You Get for Getting Outta Bed” “Way We Won’t” “Brush with the Wild”
6. Kesha Rainbow
I vehemently disliked Ke$ha at her 2010 debut; both her balls-to-the-wall lyrics and her brash, bratty vocal style rubbed me the wrong way. On top of my initial distaste, I worked at a college cafeteria that would only play the Top 40 playlist, so Ke$ha would often great, accompany, and dismiss me from my shifts. Rainbow is, however, a significant departure in both sonic tone and sentiment. The auto-tune is gone and the live horn section of The Dap-Kings are in. The self-indulgence is out and the self-affirmations are in. The trite party imagery is out and the more quaint and introspective Kesha (with no $) is in.
Standout Tracks: “Woman” “Godzilla” “Bastards”
5. Deerhoof Mountain Moves
There always seems to be room on my end-of-year lists for the art-rock/garage artists who catch my ears: Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, Tune-yards, St. Vincent, and their ilk. 2017’s seat was filled by Deerhoof, a band with whom I was unfamiliar until I listened to The Wandering Wolf podcast episode featuring Deerhoof drummer Greg Saunier. The album itself is bouncy and Matsuzaki’s vocals are intriguing as she uses different effects to create different vocal personas inside her songs. The fuzzy, DIY attitude makes this record from the veteran band seem like an underdog, but this group is finely tuned and as talented as their peers.
Standout Tracks: “I Will Spite Survive” “Your Dystopic Creation Doesn’t Fear You (ft. Awkwafina)”
4. Run the Jewels RTJ3
I played this album on the day of President Trump’s inauguration, and it seems now that much of the word feels the same way as El-P and Killer Mike 11 months ago: angry at the bald-faced lies and ineptitude that plagues this administration, and capitalistic values in general. While the 1% are only directly addressed in a few tracks tucked inside RTJ3, the bravado of the hustler plays as the righteous indignation of the oppressed in this new political context. The two vocal Bernie supporters have only venom for the nation’s 2016 Presidential winner, and the chaotic production that defines the work of El-P’s instrumentals works as its own protest, thumping hard and boiling over with thick keyboards, horns, and 808s.
Standout Tracks: “Legend Has It” “Hey Kids (feat. Danny Brown)” “A Report to the Shareholders / Kill Your Masters”
3. WHY? Moh Lean
Yoni Wolf pens his best songs and crafts his best melodies since the band’s breakthrough masterpiece Alopecia. The acoustic piano helps keep the sound grounded and solemn, and the record’s high points of bliss are lightly gilded with Wolf’s melancholy: the sweet spot for WHY? the band.
Standout Tracks: “Proactive Evolution” “One Mississippi” “George Washington”
2. Beck Colors
Genre-hopping Beck lands on pop-electro-funk in 2017 with Colors. It’s primary objective: to make you dance and accept the more euphoric moments of life. It’s a carefree, but carefully constructed album, and Beck wears the genre well; it reminds me of my other favorite phase of Beck’s in the late 2000’s when he ended up on MTV and VH1 again with radio hits like “Girl.” Tucked in the middle of this album is the club hip-hop song “WOW” which is extra silly and has Beck back to his white guy rap mode.
Standout Tracks: “I’m So Free” “Colors” “Wow” “Up All Night”
- Julia Michaels Nervous System EP
Pop music, the kind that’s likely to show up on the radio, can become washed with the echo chamber of the Billboard 100 list. I have strayed from the radio dial, and their online streaming playlist cousins, and wait for audiophiles to recommend pop projects. Turns out, some of my favorite songs into the zeitgeist are from the pen of Julia Michaels, and Michaels now has her own hit with “Issues.” The EP from which it comes delivers six other solid pop tunes that bends the expectations without falling into the more experimental-leaning pop records. “Uh huh” may be my favorite song of 2017, Michaels sells the simple tune with subtly in the verses and full spunk in the chorus. The same can be said for the innuendo (or not) filled “Pink.” On the whole EP, the production is open enough to let the singer’s frail delivery float like pedals on water.
Standout Tracks: “Uh Huh” “Make It Up To You” “Just Do It”