Carly Rae Jepsen is the pop-singer we need, but not the one we deserve.
Singular rappers evolve beyond their unique brand and replace stark minimalism with lush production and showcase skillful hip-hop skillz alongside soul and musicality. When you ask about the absence of Kendrick, Cardi B, Lil Uzi Vert, or any of those other buzzy, modern rappers on this list, I’m going to point to Shabazz Palaces and proclaim that they’re still not on this level. #UnpopularOpinions
A musical collective in constant flux, ebb and flowed, flowed right into this brilliant centerpiece of their third full-length studio album. Downtempo optimism for the disillusioned.
You may not know this about me, but I love Haim. Not quite as much as I love CHVRCHES maybe, but “love” is no overstatement. At Haim’s Stage AE show a couple of years ago, they closed their set with this track. All three sisters grabbed drum sticks, beat the shit out of three bigass bass drums at the front of the stage and then walked off stage. #DramaticExits
When I first heard Phoebe Bridgers, I told everyone I knew that cared about music to listen to Phoebe Bridgers. Since you’re reading this bl-g, you care about music and therefore you should listen to Phoebe Bridgers, too.
Washed Out climbed my 2017 charts through an epic war of attrition. I listened to this record the day it came out and want “meh” and then XMU played this song into the ground and I’d listen and listen and listen and finally I conceded the fact that it was a good song and placed it on the “Hits List” with the expectation that I’d dismiss it after the first round of cuts but then suddenly it was November or December and I couldn’t get “Hard to Say Goodbye” out of my head and the more it lingered the more I loved this low-key meditative pop-music. It’s got a soul that 2017 decidedly lacked.
But Run the Jewels released their record on Christmas Day 2016, you’re saying. You’re saying technically this song doesn’t count for 2017. Fine. FINE. You go tell El-P or Killer Mike that they don’t qualify. I’ll wait. Meanwhile I’ll listen to Run the Jewels 3 on repeat because nobody releases bangers like this anymore. NOBODY.
The genre “psych-folk” still confounds and frustrates me, but Fleet Foxes is the epic poem version of folk music so if that’s what “psych-folk” means, I’ll let it slide.
“Tailwhip” – Men I Trust
Montreal indie-electro-poppers forced into my cranium by My Old Kentucky Blog. I’m thirsty for more.
With few exceptions I consider the 1990’s rock music scene a sonic wasteland of grunge impersonators and trash pop acts. These particular 1990’s indie-rockers (one of the aforementioned exceptions) return with their most thumping track since… [scanning my Afghan Whigs playlist] …well, ever.
Like a warbly, inebriated nightingale, Aldous Harding croons off-kilter ballads and “Imagining My Man” goes for the jugular when the “unsexy” sax intervenes and glues the whole thing together like already-been-chewed Trident. #MusicWritingDoesntHavetoMeanAnything
“Nothing Burns Like The Cold” – Snoh Aalegra, Vince Staples
Confession: until last week I’d never heard of Snoh Aalegra. I sampled this track while browsing someone else’s Best of 2017 list. Stax Records slow jam + Godzilla theme dramatic bass + Vince Staples’ inimitable flow. #PerfectionYouDidntKnowYouNeeded
“Keep Running” – Tei Shi
Tei Shi is the stage name for Argentinian-born, Vancouver-reared, Berklee-trained, New York City-based singer-songwrier/producer Valerie Teicher, but all that’s just backstory about how she comes up with her vicious pop hooks.
Taking Australia by storm yet completely and totally unknown in the States. Dave Le’aupepe battles the likes of Ed Sheeran and Queens of the Stone Age atop of the Australian charts; have you read anything about Gang of Youths? Besides this blurb anyway? Le’aupepe sings like the National’s Matt Berninger, Bono and Bruce Springsteen, writes lyrics like Titus Andronicus and admits to being fucking pretentious. I admire that kind of self-awareness.
Christopher Michael Taylor wowed me with his 2012 EP The Wheel and now he’s back to blow our minds with some more electronic wizardry. Taylor understands the power of patience and silence and expectation. When “Harbour” drops out after an already slow build at the 90-second mark, listen closely as he brings you back with a cacophony of sterile synth and a bulging bassline rising to a crescendo.
The Top 10. Huzzah. Rationale is Tinashe Fazakerley, a Zimbabwe-born UK electro-soulster that conveys the weight of a Shakespeare tragedy in his vocals. Close your eyes, let “Deliverance” wash over you and tell you don’t feel.
Fishbach, aka Flora Fishbach, is an electro-tinged French singer-songwriter. I know absolutely nothing about her other than that she borrows Yé-yé pop sensibilities and reminds me of Françoise Hardy. And if you’re a reasonable music connoisseur that’s all you’ll need to know as well.
Van Morrison by way of Memphis, Tennessee. Nobody sings like Valerie June. Nobody will ever sing like Valerie June because to attempt to sing like Valerie June is like trying to argue with a Star Wars nerd about the logistics of making the Kessel Run in 12 parsecs.
*also qualified for Top 2017: “The Front Door” and “Long Lonely Road”
When “Shark Smile” breaks down and we’re left with a quiet snare and Adrianne Lenkers singing “And she said woo / Baby, take me / And I said woo / Baby, take me too” you’ll believe in Jesus. Or the Loch Ness Monster. Whatever it is that skeptics worry about these days.
Nominated for powerhouse vocal of 2017. This retro fuzz-punk outfit fronted by Katie Alice Greer reminds me of the way I felt when I first heard Savages.
Montreal four-piece indie poppers continue to churn out lush, low-key AM radio tracks, like offspring of Mazzy Star and Lindsay Buckingham. TOPS recorded their choice 2017 record at a former Los Angeles brothel, which seems like something you should know.
It takes cajones to put “Genius” in your nom de plume and the only thing that Mike Hadreas has ever done is live up to that billing. I hope he and GZA get together on a bi-monthly basis and talk shop about the burdens of being a f’ing boss.
*also qualified for Top 2017: “Die 4 You”
I wrongly assumed 2013’s Pure Heroine would be the pinnacle of Lorde’s career. Mea culpa.
Epic 11-minute jam from reliable Springsteen/Dylan disciples consumes its listeners and spits them out, partially chewed, and grateful for the opportunity.
*also qualified for Top 2017: “Holding On”
Though I’m still trying to wrap my head around The National’s challenging, abrasive and elegant Sleep Well Beast, this first single represents the band’s sonic leap by cramming a guitar solo into the middle of the song and sneaking some synth into the background like a matte painting. There were “better” songs, but none that stuck with me more than this one.
And now that you’ve run the gamut, here’s the entire list, plus all the tracks that got cut in the final round just before publication. Put the list on shuffle and make your own favorites. I’m no sonic dictator. Thanks for taking a sonic journey through my 2017. You can follow all my playlists on Spotify here.