Saturday, December 21, 2019

My Top Songs of 2019



Seasons greetings! I’ve been doing this list for almost 10 years now (!), and the day has finally come: I don’t really feel like writing too extensively about music outside of my full-time job where I write extensively about music (see: this). BUT that doesn’t mean I’m not itching to round up my personal favourites. It’s been a strong year, and these songs deserve some rightful love. So here’s a tiny, conversational write-up for each song, proving why they’re definitely worth your while. Without realizing, eight of the top 10 are women — and I think that's a lovely note to end the year on.



30. “The Windmills Of Your Mind” – Paolo Fresu, Richard Galliano, Jan Lundgren: There’s a whole other side to my listening that I don’t talk much about, and this accordion-based jazz cover of a French classic is exactly what I mean. It stuns me every time.

 



29. “Fake Smile” - Ariana Grande:
The perfect clap-back from a woman constantly criticized for things that are none of anyone’s business. Grande remains a reigning pop queen (and sampling Wendy Rene’s “After Laughter” on any song is the secret way to my heart).

 



28. “Oh No” - Softee
:
This wins most wildly underrated pop song of the year. If you want to hear my full rant about it, it lives here, but better yet, just bump it immediately.




27. “Just How It Is” – Young Thug:
Would it be a year-end list without Thugger? Of course not. One more time for the cheap seats in the back: We don’t deserve Young Thug!





26. “Con Altura” – Rosalía feat. J. Balvin: And to be honest, we don’t deserve Rosalía either. High on my top songs of 2018 list, Rosalía has the distinct ability to add flare and desirability to anything she touches. “Con Altura” is a vacation in a song.




25. “Hair Down” - SiR feat. Kendrick Lamar: This song dropped when I was in Sault Ste. Marie for a summer wedding, and I’ll never forget walking the eerily quiet streets at sundown with this druggy rap ballad in my ears. It felt hazy and perfect.




24. “Summer Girl” – HAIM: It only takes a few beats of this song to establish its Lou Reed influence. The whole downtempo trip is worth it to get to the lyrics, “Walk beside me, not behind me/ Feel my unconditional love.”




23. “Vent” – Joël: Each year, I think that it’s one of the best signs when one song on this list could have easily been any of the artist’s songs. Such is the case with budding R&B star Joël and his small discography. Don't sleep on him, he's on his way to becoming Toronto’s next big export.




22. “Parachute” – Caroline Polachek: Possibly still better known as Chairlift’s lead singer, Polachek is one of the most exquisite vocalists I've ever heard. Listen to 1:56 onwards and embrace those spine tingles.




21. “Walker Texas Ranger” – DaBaby: Although technically a song I discovered in 2018, it's on a 2019 album, and the real ones know you can’t round up this year without mentioning DaBaby. He’s hilarious and quick, and this beat knocks every single time. 




20. “Blinding Lights” – The Weeknd: Gonna tell my kids that The Weeknd was Bladerunner. This upbeat, montage-ready anthem is an infectious, glittery example of his pop prowess. I never listen to it just once.




19. “The Spark” – William Prince: I heard this on the radio after its release and, over the noise of the room, thought Springsteen had released a new ballad. (If you know me, this is the highest compliment.) It’s a bonafide love song about committing amid the chaos, and it’s gorgeous.




18. “Cattails” – Big Thief:
Big Thief have saved rock music. They’re some of the best, most introspective storytellers of this era and this folksy ballad is all the proof needed. Adrienne Lenker sings about people from her past, about taking the train home in June — towards cattails, lonesome loons and grief — and there's something beautifully universal about the idea of yearning for what waits for you, wherever home is.





17. “Have A Little Faith In Me” – Dan Mangan:
I remember going for a Thanksgiving drive with my Mom, nowhere in particular, listening to the 1987 John Hiatt original as a kid, and feeling so swoony and safe. Dan’s version ignited the same feeling. It’s a beautiful ballad no matter how you cut it, and this hazy rework has been in constant rotation since April.





16. “Harmony Hall” – Vampire Weekend: I had the pleasure of hearing this a few months before its release, and I could barely contain my excitement after the opening chords. It’s euphoric, it’s a touch of Grateful Dead, it’s all the best things about summer. For the sake of the season, I recommend listening to this adorable mash-up.




15. “Mr. Lonely” – Midland: I lived in a really small Ontario town until I was 8-years-old, yet somehow, I avoided the cult following that was '90s pop-country. But in 2019, I became a convert of what was born out of that unabashed, honky-tonk and line dance-ready era. I’m still not crazy about a lot of mindless top 40 country, but Midland are the perfect middle ground between old school and radio.




14. “True Blue” – Mark Ronson Feat. Angel Olsen: What’s not to love? Mark Ronson’s masterful production combined with Angel Olsen's crushing vocals, and a glimmering disco melody? It’s all very good.




13. “Only Child” – Tierra Whack: One of rap's most exciting new voices, Tierra Whack is razor sharp — even when dipped in syrupy synth—and has no time for exes who act like children. 2019 showed us that it's about to be Whack's World, and we'll all just be living in it.




12. “Cyanide” – Daniel Caesar: This was my hot and sticky summer night anthem this year. Right when everything’s getting sepia golden, “Cyanide” is the medicine. I’d also argue that this first verse is one of the most breathtaking of 2019.




11. “Living Proof” – Camila Cabello: I tend to get more excited about Camila Cabello pop bangers than anyone else in my life, but this song is so, so good. When I first heard it, I thought, this is the 2019 equivalent of “Always Be My Baby” — those fluttering chords, her falsetto and, oof, the last 15 seconds of the song.




10. “Bags” – Clairo: Clairo is my favourite breakthrough artist of the year — hands down. She hasn’t reinvented any wheels, but only improved and layered on what already existed — fine-tuning her honest brand of lo-fi, emo pop-rock (which we’ll see resurge in the 20s, thanks to her, no doubt).




9. “Bad Guy” – Billie Eilish: I entered into my peak music obsession around the time Shirley Manson, Marilyn Manson and Dolores O'Riordan were coming up, therefore I’m quite partial to how Billie's whole vibe has followed suit. She’s fearless, edgy, a little creepy and I hope her complexity never wavers. Also, the last 45 seconds of this song? I mean.




8. “Sunflower” – Post Malone feat. Swae Lee:
Yeah, I have no cerebral evaluation of this song outside of the fact that it's practically a perfect pop song.





7. “Seventeen” – Sharon Van Etten: I’ve had a long, transformative love affair with Sharon Van Etten and her poignant, truthful songwriting. But I’ll wager a bet that “Seventeen” is her best song ever; she took what she had and added some Springsteen. (And that throaty “I know that you’re gonna be” at 3:02 guts me every time.)




6. “Into The Red” – James Blake: James Blake’s production was his tightest and most confident this year. Here, he praises his feminist girlfriend Jamila Jahleel, rightfully. But it’s the sinister, slow tick of the song — the moving ebbs and flows — that sets it far apart from anything else in his repertoire.




5. “Bloody Mother F*cking Asshole” – Your Smith:
The feelings have officially logged on! Martha Wainwright released the original of this song in 2005, and I’ve always loved it. But when my girl Your Smith took it on — leaving it mostly intact — I was reminded of its brilliant reflection on staying afloat after Dads, men, and other people let you down. “I’m young and I’m strong but I feel old and tired, overfired” is quite possibly the realest.





4. “Gone” – Charli XCX feat. Christine and the Queens: This is one of the most heroic pop songs, well, ever. It’s a banging, synth-pop spectacle; two bold, blunt queens, trading verses (and lyrics like “I feel so unstable, f*cking hate these people/ How they're making me feel lately”) — finding solace in each other during a shaky moment in history.




3. “Prophet” – King Princess:
King Princess is such a breath of fresh air, and I can’t tell you how *not* sick I am of this track after listening to it repeatedly this year. She colours way outside the lines — in her visuals, her stage presence and this kind of thumping trip-hop cool. Also, anything that pulls from Fiona Apple and Esthero influence is a hard yes for me.





2. “Truth Hurts” – Lizzo: This isn’t really a 2019 song, but I'd be remiss to leave it off this list. I got really into this song around the time a relationship of mine was ending this year and, needless to say, it served its purpose — big time. Lizzo for president.




1. “Fallingwater” – Maggie Rogers: This song (well, this whole album) took me to church this year. I went on an incredible trip to Utah with my best friends (and Maggie), which ended up being very cleansing, and something about this powerful anthem helped me realize a boatload of things. Give it a spin and you might hear the same. An instant classic.




If you're interested in listening to the whole batch, here's a Spotify playlist!






Friday, December 28, 2018

My Top 30 Songs of 2018



Hello there! I've had a few people ask me if this year was the end of my annual "best of" list, but alas, it's not. I spent the last week trying to turn off my brain for a hot minute and — gasp! — not think much about music. But that never lasts long around these parts, so, here are my favourite 30 songs of the year — all of which I think vocally, technically, lyrically are also some of the best around. It wasn't an easy list to make, mainly because 2018 wasn't wildly memorable when it came to music. But, there were more than a few high points, comebacks, newcomers, collaborations and excellent full-lengths that made it possible. You'll see below that 2018 is definitely the year that pop music won, and I think that's reflective of what we all needed to feel this year. So, crank it loud and let it help you feel as good as possible going into 2019.

See you in 2019!




30. "Psycho" – Post Malone (feat. Ty Dolla $ign)

Say what you will about Posty, but anyone who can carve a space in mainstream pop, rap, trap and R&B — a space that didn't exist prior — is a pretty fascinating artist. He's unlikely in every meaning of the word, but relentless in his goofy pursuit of pop kingdom. "Psycho" is a perfect example of his peculiar prowess – sonically, it's pretty, while lyrically it's totally unchallenging; making it an easy choice for the dark horse earworm of the year.




29. "Music On My Teeth" – DJ Koze (feat. José González)


Part of one of the year's quirkiest releases, this José González collaboration is sunshine in a song, or, that moment in between sleep and consciousness where nothing really exists. Don't let "DJ" fool you; the song is beatless and instead, a tender, lo-fi González ballad with soothing embellishments from the praised German producer.




28. "OKRA" – Tyler, The Creator

This song knocks harder every time I hear it. It's got the same caliber of nasty bass heard throughout Goblin, without the questionable subject matter and auxiliary production. "Okra" is one big flex from Tyler; it's further proof he doesn't need anything decorative to work with, and he's got big ideas brewing.



27. "In My Blood" – Shawn Mendes

Shawn Mendes opening up about his struggle with anxiety is one of the most important things to have happened in pop culture this year. A kid with his influence, communicating the all-encompassing feelings of panic, has only done good for his gigantic following by simply telling the truth. And for that, he's a new fave of mine. Plus he lives across the street from me, and including him in his list feels like the neighbourly thing to do.




26. "Lemon Glow" – Beach House

Beach House at their finest, man. "Lemon Glow" will still cloak you in that same intimate trance that Bloom did, but not without new, added edge – namely some delicious electric slides and prominent bass.


25. "Like I Used To" – Tinashe 


Kehlani, SZA, Tinashe — all of thes
e R&B queens know how to turn a break-up jam into something wistful-sounding, even when they’re, in fact, super pissed off. If you only paid attention to the clean production and Tinashe’s sweet hook, you might not pick up on her ruthlessly airing out an ex — which she skillfully is (over a gorgeous melody, no less).





 24. "Pirouette" – Dizzy 

Canadian indie-pop group Dizzy meekly stepped out with their debut album Baby Teeth this year — an impressive collection of airy synth-pop and melancholic ballads like this one, all which breathe imagination into the suburban streets that raised them. Not much makes me want to be a teenager again, but the innocence baked into this LP almost does.





 23. "Sister" – Ben Howard

In a very Simon and Garfunkel way, Ben Howard managed to achieve that special kind of stillness on his untitled three-song EP this year. “Hot Heavy Summer,” the second song off the EP, sounds exactly like its title — summers filled with nothingness — while the undulating “Sister" achieves that sparse, Bon Iver-level introspection.





 22. "New Birth in New England" – Phosphorescent

Staying on that Paul Simon note, Phosphorescent’s long-awaited return to music (following a near-deathly bout of Meningitis) possesses the same simple, euphoric ingredients that Simon’s Graceland did. The underrated Americana gem has his happiest tune here, likely because it quite literally describes meeting the mother of his children, and while his gloomy Spaghetti Western touches were nice in 2013 — I hope this adorable flavour sticks around.

   

21. "Ooh Wee" – Your Smith

I remember back in the Songza days (RIP), when community playlist curation was just budding, and there was a channel called “Downtown Romantic.” It was my favourite, and to this day, I can pinpoint a song that would have made it on there. This would have. Sounding like a neon-lit stroll through the big city, Your Smith (Caroline Smith’s newest project) captures those lusty early days of a relationship via effortlessly soulful trip-hop.




20. "Heat Wave" – Snail Mail

If this song doesn’t sound like being a teen, lying in the park grass, literally nothing else does. Blending some 90s Cat Power angst with Car Seat Headrest-esque commentary, “Heat Wave” is sun-kissed strums one minute, electric shreds the next — which isn't too unlike being a teen, really.

 

19. "Just The Way I Am" – Emma Louise

Emma Louise is a celebrated pop staple in her native Australia, but on this year’s Lilac Everything, she emerged singing as "Joseph.” Electronically pitching her vocals down a few octaves, the entire Tobias Jesso Jr.-produced album is sung as the masculine alter-ego — ditching her naturally ethereal vocals for something deeper (in more ways than one). “Just The Way I Am,” which movingly captures the feeling of being really, really loved, is a precious high-point on an all-round great record.

 

18. "1950" – King Princess

The first single from 2018’s most exciting new queer pop star, “1950” signaled something really special is in store for the next generation of pop consumers. The raspy, Mark Ronson-signed singer, who first turned down a record deal when she was 11, parades vulnerability and fearlessness on “1950” — proclaiming her sexual orientation off the bat, but holding out hope for requited love throughout.

 

17. "High" – Young Thug (feat. Elton John)

Three years after Elton John rightfully expressed admiration for Young Thug, the sampling of my dreams was finally born as “High” — 2018’s prettiest rap song and most unexpected bromance. Featuring John’s 1972 classic “Rocket Man,” this melodic cut is optimistic and ridiculously well-produced — i.e. the perfect answer to anyone who’s ever dare doubted Thugger.

 

16. "A Rose in Harlem" – Teyana Taylor

One of the five Kanye-produced Wyoming albums in 2018, Teyana Taylor’s long overdue K.T.S.E. solidified her as one of the year’s fiercest new voices. This bold anthem, symbolic of her New York upbringing, has some of Ye’s best, oldest production tricks lined in — but it’s Taylor’s effortless voice and personality that win the spotlight. Keep an eye on her.

 

15. "All The Stars" – Kendrick Lamar & SZA

This song is straightforwardly great — accessible for the blockbuster audience who’d be buying the Black Panther soundtrack, as well as TDE super fans thirsty to hear rap and R&B’s best back on a cut together. Neither Kendy nor SZA need much to lift up their powerhouse voices, but this glittery soundscape is a fine canvas.

 

14. "Party for One" – Carly Rae Jepsen

Leave it to Canadian pop darling Carly Rae to write a single girl’s liberation anthem encouraging masturbation, dancing alone and everything else nice. I really don't think you'll find a catchier, more feel-good jam out of this year – which can only mean good things for her forthcoming album in 2019.

 

13. "Ultestakon" – Jeremy Dutcher

This is the kind of song that's hard to hear and forget. While Dutcher didn't make it on to my Polaris juror's ballot this year (but went on to win!), "Ultestakon" stands out the kind of arrangement that would have made me push through lines of people at HMV in the '90s to ask a salesperson what was playing. It really does stop me in my tracks every time I listen to it.

 

12. "Love is a Wild Thing" – Kacey Musgraves

I’ve been a longtime Kacey Musgraves devotee — since she ushered me into a new (yet, nostalgic) era of country appreciation in 2013. Musgraves isn’t afraid to wax existential or lonely on Golden Hour, and she does so with honesty and grace, but the romance of songs like “Love is a Wild Thing” and “Butterflies" (reflective of her recent nuptials) pull on the heartstrings hard.

 

11. "Something New" – SiR (feat. Etta Bond)

Top Dawg Entertainment newcomer SiR, with an assist from British soul singer Etta Bond, secured the title for sexiest song of 2018 with this one — a gooey, horn-filled ballad that somehow achieves big sexuality while remaining delicate. Painted in that kind of Los Angeles sepia tone, this neo-soul duet will make you feel sticky hot, like you have the sun in your eyes, no matter where you listen to it.

 

10. "Never Be The Same" – Camila Cabello

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this is a perfect pop song. These days I'm showing my age by always remarking at any music that mirrors my musical upbringing, but with “Never Be The Same,” ex-Fifth Harmony ringleader Cabello (and genius TO producer Frank Dukes) has blessed us with that expansive pop balladry that Mariah, Britney or Christina would have cut their teeth with in their early days. That druggy hook! 

 

9. "Di Mi Nombre (Cap.8: Éxtasis)" – Rosalía

25-year-old Spanish sensation Rosalía is resurrecting in 2018 what Selena did in the early 90s: an expert marriage of contemporary production with traditional Latin music. Spoken in Spanish, El Mal Querer blends the folklore and drama of Catalan flamenco with forward-thinking beats, autotune and the young singer’s own glossy presentation. Accompanied by a very dope video, “Di Mi Nombre” paints Rosalía as vulnerable and love-struck, without sacrificing an ounce of her empowerment.

 

8. "Doesn’t Matter" – Christine and the Queens

French visionary Hélöise Letissier released her first album as "Chris" this year, adding yet another layer of complexity to her already unique approach. Chris packed even more confident, disco-laden pop into one album, all in an attempt to challenge the opportunities and mystery she says are reserved for men. Under the gender-binary guise of Chris, she’s seductive and heroic, as heard on bangers like “Doesn’t Matter,” which is actually impossible not to move to.

 

7. "Ghost Town" – Kanye West (ft. Kid Cudi and 070 Shake)

I debated putting any Kanye on this list, as I'm not sure I can go on separating his problematic politics from his music. But, in the end, this song was too much a part of my life this year to ignore, and included a number of other players worth shouting out. Part of Ye, the rapper’s relatively lackluster release that preceded many of his shitty 2018 antics, “Ghost Town” was the bright peak of his short record — featuring exciting up-and-comer 070 Shake and much-needed doses of humility and tenderness at the other end of the album’s dark arc. Turning numbness into feeling, specifically by way of Shake’s poignant revelation (“We’re still the kids we used to be”), "Ghost Town" might be a reminder of who Kanye used to be, and why he hasn’t completely lost us all just yet. 

 


6. "Blue Rose" – Amen Dunes

Damon McMahon (AKA Amen Dunes) is no stranger to the scene, but on this year’s Freedom, he appeared to have really found his stride, and himself. Made for the kind of coming-of-age roadtrip that starts at dawn, takes you along sprawling highways and into dive bars before ending you at the doorstep of your American dream, Freedom is packed with powerful but subtle anthems like “Blue Rose.” The song is about McMahon’s strained relationship with his father, but still feels triumphant.

Freedom was my favourite album of 2018.

 

5. "R.E.M." – Ariana Grande

Produced by Pharrell, this stream-of-consciousness nugget of doo-wop-pop gold is my favourite track off Grande's outstanding album Sweetener. The song was actually turned down by Beyoncé, which is fine; I'm convinced it needed Grande's ponytail-flicking sass to live its best life. “‘Scuse me, um, I love you,” is the best and most adorable segue into my favourite pop verse of the year.

 

4. "Sicko Mode" – Travis Scott (feat. Drake)

Travis Scott has always been a hybrid of hip-hop’s millennial tricks and fads – something that has either confused or excited anyone who’s tried to understand the Houston artist’s M.O. He’s an ambitious scientist of sorts, mixing songs that are weird rides, much like those in the defunct Houston amusement park Astroworld is named after. Easily the album's standout, “Sicko Mode” might have the biggest change-up and beat drop this year — shifting from Drake’s lighthearted intro to the thick bounce that backs Scott's bars. Like it or not, “Who put this shit together? I’m the glue,” isn't a cocky thing for Kylie's man to say in 2018.

 

3. "Love It If We Made It" – The 1975

The 1975 continued to be pleasantly unexpected this year with their all-encompassing blend of atmospheric Brit-pop and blunt political commentary. Charged with passion and a tongue-in-cheek honesty about the dumpster fire that was 2018, “Love It If We Made It” shows that while The 1975 are a pop band, no doubt – they won't shy away from topics heavier than their music, and that’s their allure. There's an urgency to frontman Matthew Healy's vocals on this track, which couldn't better reflect the urgency to fix everything 2018 screwed up.


 

2. "Missing You" – Robyn

Robyn’s shiny heartbreak anthems are so timeless that, by the time her album Honey was announced, I think it took a minute for me to realize that the queen of dance-pop hadn’t released a new album in eight years. Enter “Missing You,” the musical equivalent of disco lights flashing across a bar lime, broken glass and tear-covered dance floor. Home to the most mesmerizing 15 seconds in music this year (1:56 to 2:11— run, don’t walk), “Missing You” is the comeback single dreams are made of.

 

1. "If You Know You Know" – Pusha T

If you needed any reassurance that Pusha T is one of the top five most important rap moguls alive, 2018 probably took care of that. The G.O.O.D. Music president's quick-tongued album DAYTONA (can we collectively pop a bottle for a seven-song record in 2018?) was masterful proof that, twenty years into your career, you can still boast your best work yet. “If You Know You Know,” the album’s fiery lead single, is easily the year’s most memorable non-beat-drop-beat-drop, and undeniable indication that cunning rap lyricism is alive and well in an oversaturated landscape of uninventive rap. He's King Push.

 




And in case you'd like a Spotify playlist, here she is:












Friday, December 22, 2017

My Top 30 Songs Of 2017


Hello! I don't really write here anymore because I spend most of my time doing music things over here, and soon, I'll be somewhere entirely new. 

But, this is still my little baby that changed the game for me almost eight (!) years ago when I started writing here everyday. So it's the spot to write about myself, if there was one.

Anyway, here are 30 songs that almost, almost made 2017 more than the pile of crap that it was.


30. Everything Now - Arcade Fire

Compared to what Arcade Fire have put out prior, Everything Now as a whole didn't do it for me. But this welcome takedown of greed and consumerism, in all of its anthemic, pan flute-laced glory, was undeniably special.



29. Crowded Places - BANKS

This song was the first time I truly hopped aboard the BANKS-wagon—although I do respect her as an artist. Maybe it was the pretty melody or vulnerability in her shaky vibrato, but this one became a repeat listen for me mid-year.

 


28. J-Boy - Phoenix

Somethin' in the middle of the side of the store remains one of my favourite lines out of 2017. This disco-ey curveball was an instant homerun for the French rockers, and proof that changing things up can often be for the better.



27. Bad Liar - Selena Gomez 

I'm about 90% sure I wouldn't like Selena Gomez as a person, and almost equally certain that I haven't really liked her music to date. But, pair a little Talking Heads "Psycho Killer" sample with her conversational cadence, and I found not only a timeless pop favourite, but my guaranteed new karaoke song.



26. Feel It - Young Thug

The Beautiful Thugger Girls "singing album" experiment was one of the best and most welcome moves the busy Atlanta rapper made this year. And he made a lot of moves. Unlike some of his other chaotic releases, this album is a cohesive fusion of melodic sex songs like "Feel It" and moody, guitar-picked ballads like the album opener, making it an oddly accessible soundtrack for navigating twenty-something emotions.




25. Broken Record - Alex Ebert

This song, from Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros' frontman Alex Ebert, was an unexpected doozy for me. "Broken Record" bears a slight resemblance to some of the hippie collective's quieter, seaside ballads, but somehow, this dreamy solo piece is so much more.



24. Bet She Looks Like You - Nick Hakim

Off one of my favourite albums of the year, "Bet She Looks Like You" harkens back to 70s soul or even the beautiful blues of Black Keys' Brothers era. Hakim's laidback rasp and glittery guitars make for great city music.



23. Sign of the Times - Harry Styles

While the other One Directioners continued to fulfill their pop prophecies post-boy band, I wondered what the c-u-t-e Harry Styles would do. From the first achey piano keys, Styles blew the other 1D solo efforts out of the water with this epic Bowie-meets-McCartney showstopper.



22. 3WW - alt-J

Featuring Wolf Alice's Ellie Rowsell, this meditative RELAXER single hooked me right away with its ballsy disregard for structure. The song goes in about eight different directions—including waltzing, antiquitous and typical alt-J prog—but is totally captivating from start to finish.




21. Say Something Loving - The xx

Man, this song still makes me swoon. Whether walking on a warm summer night, kicking away leaves or watching the first snowfall, its endearing message holds up.



20.  Holding On - The War on Drugs

Adam Granduciel nailed soul-searching highway rock again with this year's A Deeper Understanding, which is easily more layered than 2014's Lost In The Dream (although not better, IMO). Nothing says the "open road" like a WOD album, and this Springsteen-inspired scorcher says it best.



19. The One To Wait - CCFX

Feeling part Primitive Radio Gods, part Cocteau Twins, this glimmering retro-pop gem is a bit of a time-stopper for me. It feels both lonely and hopeful, and I'm always left wanting more of Mary Jane Dunphe's nostalgic pipes over those echoey guitar lines.



18. Green Light - Lorde

Lorde knows she's cool, we know Lorde's cool—sure, Lorde's cool. Sometimes it can be a bit much (especially in person). But this Jack Antonoff-produced song is maybe her coolest yet; a pulsing here I am break-up banger that not only drips with triumph, but is straight-up impossible to sit still to.



17. LOVE. - Kendrick Lamar (feat. Zacari)

Another woooorld premiere! An unexpected Kendrick song, "LOVE." is hands-down one of my most-played songs this year. It's beautiful, so there's that—and, honestly, let's just leave it at that. To anyone who feels the need to marvel at and deconstruct the "girly" direction he took, sit down.



16. Velvet Gloves & Spit - Timber Timbre

One of my very favourite Canadian bands, Timber Timbre's latest album proved their ability to churn out dark, Spaghetti Western ditties, as well as soothing Nick Cave-ish lullabies like this one. Another thing that struck me about this song was how the album art reflected exactly what I saw in my brain when I listened to this song. Neat.



15. Indulge Me - Moses Sumney 

Sounding a little Zero 7 in its slow, desolate start, one of the year's most exciting new songwriters captured the feeling of fading sun with this one, and I'd imagine that's not easy to do.



14. Passed You By - Chicano Batman

And on the opposite end of the sun spectrum is this beam-licked album opener off Chicano's latest release, which I listened to pretty much non-stop since February. I saw the West Coast quartet play a tiny show at SXSW two years ago and have been obsessed ever since—eating up every chord of their psychedelic, Tropicalia-touched rock.



13. Into The Ether - Leif Vollebekk 

Another one of my most-played albums of 2017, Leif Vollebekk's intimate ballads are still spine-tingling, even after hours spent with them. Behind the piano for the majority of Twin Solitude, "Into The Ether" stands out as probably the most heart-wrenching plea of them all.



12. Without Words - Joseph of Mercury 

On my favourite EP of the year, Toronto's Joseph W. Salusbury struck a thoughtful balance between sultry INXS and lilting Frank Sinatra—writing about love and longing in a way I hadn't heard in some time. Fit for a super hip 60s promenade, "Without Words" is the love song you didn't think people wrote anymore.




11. oh baby - LCD Soundsystem

Talk about an album opener. Written around the time of frontman James Murphy's divorce and LCD's temporary disbanding, "oh baby" is the kind of unexpected, twinkling heartbreak song that signalled a real rebirth.



10. Biking - Frank Ocean (feat. Jay Z + Tyler, The Creator)

This song could easily be anywhere in the top ten on this list, because it was such a faithful constant in my rotation this year. Boasting three of the greatest artists around, "Biking" really is about, well, biking—both literally riding a bicycle, and figuratively cycling through life's encounters. Regardless, from Jay Z's nonchalant bars to Frank's croon, his old friend Tyler's punchy rhymes and eventually, Frank's incomprehensible outburst—this song is fucking genius.



9. Bagbak - Vince Staples

The second best active rapper alive, Staples' effortless flow and social clarity is the stuff of legends. 2017's Big Fish Theory was surefire proof of how undistracted Vince is by noise; he doesn't really make or need a lot of friends, and will probably never have to cameo on a Maroon 5 song. For that, we love him.




8. New York - St. Vincent

On her most romantic and undecorated piano ballad yet, Annie Clark sounds like a modern-day Joni Mitchell with the opening line "New York isn't New York without you, love." It's a two-and-a-half minute tug on your heartstrings, but worth every damn note to feel that big city love with her.



7. Advice - Kehlani

I almost lost my mind/ I left myself behind,” are tough words to hear from Kehlani—and likely tough ones to write—straight out of a pretty dark period in her life. The R&B pop ballad is undeniably gorgeous, and her voice has never sounded better, but it's the honest narrative around self-love that did it for me.



6. Where This Flower Blooms - Tyler, The Creator (feat. Frank Ocean)

The Odd Future rapper always had my ear, although sometimes reluctantly, with a high chance of cringe. On this year's Flower Boy, Tyler himself seemed to have enough of his immature quips and obscenities, instead settling for clever reflections on his own sexuality and what it means to be a black kid. And when Frank swings in before the jazzy bridge? Oof.



5. GUMMY - Brockhampton

Sort of replacing the aforementioned rap collective is this ragtag group of 14 online pals who formed out of San Marcos, Texas in 2015. Releasing three albums in 2017 alone, the opening track off Saturation II is more than a bunch of feisty kids trading verses over mid-90s LA production—it's a gaggle of diverse young voices sounding pretty unafraid to be themselves.



4. Love Galore - SZA (feat. Travis Scott)

SZA won 2017, as far as I'm concerned. The endlessly talented R&B vocalist and poet has been a huge favourite of mine since her 2013 EP S, and it was frustrating to watch her get overlooked when, the only female signee to TDE, she offered so much more than her mainstream counterparts. This gorgeous first single was proof she'd paid her dues and waited long enough, before dropping the realest, most relatable female-led album of the year.



3. HUMBLE. - Kendrick Lamar

There's nothing I can possibly say about this song that hasn't already been said. The first single off the incomparable DAMN., "HUMBLE." (and its oh-so-dope video) ushered Lamar into a hybrid era of both street-savvy consciousness and party rap accessibility. His bars are as bouncy and memorable as Mike WiLL Made-It's beat, making for easily one of the best rap songs... ever.



2. Valley - Perfume Genius

This song is like a sucker punch every time it comes on, forcing me to stop and be mindful of everything happening in it. The whirling chords and Mike Hadreas' subdued vocals—particularly when he sings "How long must we live right/ Before we don't even have to try?"—were exactly how I felt at more than a few points this year. The entirety of No Shape is so rose-coloured, so lush—even at sad points. It's the kind of album no one really made this year, and he was the perfect artist to make it.

 



1. Chanel - Frank Ocean

Unsurprisingly, the most brilliant, elusive songwriter of our time delivered this dizzying thing less than a year after his long-awaited Blonde album, which had no shortage of other era-defining jams on it. "Chanel" premiered 18 times during an episode of Frank's near-perfect Blonded radio show in March, blowing other surprise singles out of the water with its blend of marching percussion, gloomy piano and some of his most complex wordplay to date. "Chanel" preaches the exact dichotomy that Frank represents, saying "my guy pretty like a girl/ and he got fight stories to tell" because he sees "both sides like Chanel." Obviously, Frank never has to explain why he chooses to withhold perfect singles from perfect albums, or what timing even means to him, because it all feels like part of this greater plan we don't even deserve insight into. Either way, seeing both sides, being both sides of anything is probably something we could all learn to do more of, and it's Frank's effortless embodiment of sonic and spiritual eclecticism that makes him untouchable.





A playlist, if you'd like!