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!