Happy list season everybody! For some reason, every publication on earth released their end of the year lists over Thanksgiving because being first is the most important thing nowadays. Now it’s my turn to try and convince you that I’m right and each and every other person who wrote one of these is wrong.
The only rule I have for myself is that I can only pick one song per album released. Usually that limits the list to one song per artist, but since those assholes in BROCKHAMPTON decided to release three full length albums this year, they kinda skirted around the only rule.
I’ve put these songs into a SPOTIFY PLAYLIST, in order, that you can waste 5 hours and 41 minutes on if you so choose.
Thank you all for reading!
75. Torres – Three Futures
This song is almost the opposite of ‘New Skin’—my other favorite song by her. While ‘New Skin’ is loud and anthemic, ‘Three Futures’ is reserved but still impactful through its lyricism.
74. Moses Sumney – Don’t Bother Calling
Minimal and captivating, Moses Sumney lets his voice take center stage where it belongs on ‘Don’t Bother Calling.’
73. Mac DeMarco – My Old Man
Mac DeMarco can write the hell out of a good song, but not since 2 has he been able to write a truly great song.
72. Grandaddy – Way We Won’t
If this single had been written in 1992, I wouldn’t be shocked at all.
71. Feist – Pleasure
Good luck using this song in an advertisement, Apple.
70. Death From Above – Freeze Me
This song gets high marks for a great riff, and low marks for the unironic use of ‘safe spaces.’
69. Queens of the Stone Age – The Way You Used to Do
Not really a new sound for Queens of the Stone Age, but Josh Homme still knows how to write a memorable riff.
68. Portugal. The Man – Feel It Still
When this song came out I liked it for being a catchy earworm. After it started playing in every single commercial I started to hate it. Now that it’s cooled off a little, it’s still pretty damn catchy. Ask me again in a week about this song and I may have a totally different opinion on it.
67. Yaeji – drink i’m sippin on
I never knew I wanted some intentionally lazy sounding Korean rap over a trap beat until I heard this song.
66. Kelela – Frontline
Throw Kelela’s voice over any beat and it’ll sound good. She has the kind of voice that could carry any song.
65. Dirty Projectors – Little Bubble
I think a lot of Dirty Projectors music can end up being too cute by half, but ‘Little Bubble’ is at its best when utilizing a simple melody and instrumentation.
64. Waxahatchee – Silver
Sometimes all you need in life is a well crafted, straightforward, distorted guitar-led rock song.
63. Sampha – Blood On Me
With a unique voice and style, I’m excited to see what Sampha has to offer in the coming years. ‘Blood On Me’ is a solid start, but I can’t wait to see what will be coming soon.
62. Jay-Z – The Story of O.J. (Not on Spotify. Thanks, Tidal!)
This song has a beautiful Nina Simone sample and the best and most important music video of the year. Jay-Z is at his best when speaking as the old seasoned veteran.
61. Big Thief – Mythological Beauty
On the surface, this song sounds pleasant enough, but a real listen to the lyrics reveals a daughter’s hurt that her older brother was given up for adoption and her regret that she couldn’t get to know him. It gets better as you fully hear the lyrics.
60. Haim – Little of Your Love
While I found a lot of Haim’s new album merely decent, this pure pop song has created a permanent nesting spot in my brain, and I don’t foresee it leaving anytime soon.
59. Washed Out – Hard To Say Goodbye
My favorite Washed Out songs are the ones that feel like perfect driving songs. I could easily put this on and drive down a coastal highway or a winding tree-lined road and feel right at home.
58. Phoebe Bridgers – Motion Sickness
A raw look into the end of an imperfect relationship. There are themes of old fights and disagreements that seem to end as predictably as they appear.
57. Smino – Father Son Holy Smoke
One of my new discoveries this year, Smino’s snappy flow bounces off the beat during the verses and glides over it on the pre-chorus and chorus. His ability to do both makes for an engaging song full of subtle shifts in vibe.
56. Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, James McAlister – Mercury
This is probably the most Sufjan-y song on Planetarium. It would have fit on any of his new albums in a ‘Futile Devices’ kind of way. The long coda at the end makes for a relaxing descent from the main theme of the song.
55. Wolf Alice – Beautifully Unconventional
I can never pin Wolf Alice’s sound down, but in a good way. This one is a simple, straightforward, indie rock song that just works.
54. Destroyer – Tinseltown Swimming in Blood
Destroyer sounds like the bar crooner who had about two too many glasses of red wine and is swaying around the lounge, microphone in hand, making elaborate arm motions, but is still somehow coherent.
53. Slowdive – Star Roving
Shoegaze is back! Guys! Did you hear shoegaze is back?
52. Paul White (feat. Danny Brown) – Lion’s Den
If Danny Brown released even a decent song by his standards, it’s probably going to make this list.
51. Kamasi Washington – Truth
Kamasi Washington is still best when he allows himself to explore over a 10+ minute track.
50. Four Tet – Two Thousand and Seventeen
It’s always pretty tough to pull out ambient songs for a end of the year list due simply to their reserved nature. Every once in awhile, though, Four Tet will put out a song that is captivating enough for me to include it. The main line, played on a sitar, rises above the droning bass keyboard to create a relaxing and engaging experience.
49. Frank Ocean – Chanel
Usually when R&B artists try and do the mixture of rapping and singing it sounds awful and forced, but since Frank Ocean is so fucking talented, he can pull it off.
48. Blonder – Talk To Me
Can a synth line be cheesy, catchy, and well written? This one is about as close as you can get to the venn-diagram center of all three.
47. Jesu / Sun Kil Moon – The Greatest Conversation Ever In The History Of The Universe
This song starts with Laurie Anderson, then talks about Koreatown, Muhammad Ali, the Vancouver Olympics, Slenderman, Pokemon, and Trump. What’s not to love?
46. Tyler, The Creator – I Ain’t Got Time
After how unbelievably awful ‘Cherry Bomb’ was, I would have never expected to have Tyler. The Creator back on any of my lists. This song is a full sprint back into making quality rap that actually has his own voice and style without being unlistenable.
45. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – Over Everything
A perfect song for slow, lazy Sunday mornings. The back and forth of Courtney and Kurt are when they are at their best (Editor’s Note: Not to be confused with the other Courtney and Kurt).
44. BROCKHAMPTON – GOLD
BROCKHAMPTON’s catchiest and poppiest song out of their three albums. They managed to make a quality chorus and actually have their best rappers the focus of the song.
43. Calvin Harris (feat. Frank Ocean & Migos) – Slide
Call it the song of the summer, the song for L.A. twentysomethings, or whatever else you want. It’s still a great song.
42. The War On Drugs – Pain
I think I The War On Drugs’ albums better than I like their songs. This is not to say I dislike their single songs, but it’s that I enjoy them more as the sum of their parts.
41. Ariel Pink – Another Weekend
Sometimes, Ariel Pink can make good tracks when he just takes a second, breathes, and makes a genuine and emotive song.
40. Big Boi (feat. Killer Mike and Jeezy) – Kill Jill
Finally, Big Boi rapping on a beat that wasn’t created for Top-40 radio. We missed you.
39. Grizzly Bear – Mourning Sound
The best Grizzly Bear songs are when both Ed and Daniel share lead vocal duties. Blessed with two singers who have the ability to lead a band, on ‘Mourning Sound’ they share the stage to great effect.
38. Kevin Morby – City Music
As the title describes, this song is best listened to while aimlessly strolling around your favorite city.
37. Perfume Genius – Wreath
Initially, I didn’t expect Mike Hadreas’ frail voice to pair with the harsher sounds he’s working on with this album, but I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a powerful song about the struggles of wanting to get out of a body he’s not happy with.
36. BROCKHAMPTON – BOOGIE
This is the best song N.E.R.D. released all year.
35. Spoon – Hot Thoughts
Spoon yet again makes a quality lead single for their quality album, as predicted.
34. Sufjan Stevens – Tonya Harding (In D Major)
I never expected a song about disgraced figuring star Tonya Harding would make my end of the year list, but we can all agree that 2017 was a weird year, so it fits pretty damn well. Just like some of Sufjan’s best work on ‘John Wayne Gacy Jr.’, he humanizes a vilified character (and no, I’m not equating mass murder of children and breaking somebody’s leg). It paints a sympathetic portrait of a woman on whom every human who lived through the 1990’s had a strong opinion.
33. Animal Collective – Man of Oil
By far the best song Animal Collective has put out in a long time. I could see this fitting in with their weird ‘visual album’ ODDSAC well. You can definitely tell that this is mainly The Geologist and Avey Tare writing this song, which is welcome for a stale-feeling Animal Collective.
32. Gordi (feat. S. Carey) – I’m Done
Usually the male / female duet on an album can end up sounding overly sappy, but it’s executed well on ‘I’m Done.’ S. Carrey’s voice contrasts Gordi’s well, and you can tell they are both in Justin Vernon’s orbit with the weird high-pitched vocal artifacts that show up as they did in the new Bon Iver record.
31. Future Islands – Ran
‘Ran’ is like a B+ version of ‘Seasons (Waiting On You),’ but that still makes it a really fucking good song.
30. The xx – On Hold
This might be Jamie xx’s most effective use of a sample yet. The manipulates the Hall and Oates segment perfectly and builds a wonder verse and pre-chorus to complement it.
29. Father John Misty – Ballad Of The Dying Man
At his worst, Father John Misty can be a truly insufferable ass. At his best, he can write songs poignant about feigned self-importance. It’s the most self-aware he is on his new album.
28. BROCKHAMPTON – GUMMY
As good as BROCKHAMPTON can be, many of their songs are brought down by some of their less talented members. In GUMMY, they’re used as accents rather than main themes. It’s the most balanced song they released all year and therefore their best.
27. Sun Kil Moon – God Bless Ohio
At its heart, this song is a simple love letter to the small-town in Ohio that Mark Kozelek seemingly became too big for. It’s a love letter the simpler and smaller things that shaped him into the imperfect person he is today.
26. Joey Bada$$ (feat. ScHoolboy Q) – Rockabye Baby
After this song, can Joey Bada$$ and ScHoolboy Q just release a full collab album? Please?
25. Laura Marling – Don’t Pass Me By
‘Don’t Pass Me By’ is the stripped down and simplified version of Laura Marling. The wandering riff sets a perfect stage for her voice, giving it the platform it deserves. There isn’t really anybody better than Laura at writing earnest tunes.
24. Paramore – Fake Happy
Hayley Williams always had an incredible voice, and on the 80’s-drenched After Laughter it’s finally being used to full effect. (As an aside, this song’s main synth line is eerily similar to Katy Perry’s ‘Bon Appetit,’ for whatever that’s worth)
23. St. Vincent – Pills
As I said earlier in the year, the best song of 2018 will be when Danny Brown samples the chorus of this song and raps over it.
22. TOPS – Petals
A soundtrack to 1970’s California that I didn’t know I needed until now.
21. Lorde – Sober
I’m always pretty skeptical when pop songs use horns in their chorus because usually it ends up being too over-the-top, but this song uses them as an accent rather than the main theme. Each layer in this song is pretty minimal, and when they add up they don’t get as cluttered as I had feared.
20. Bully – Feel The Same
As my friend Jon said “this song is just 90’s injected directly into my veins.” The song plays with the left and right channels so well in the intro by building each instrument separately. It works perfectly as an intro to the album but still manages to stand on its own.
19. Japanese Breakfast – Road Head
The airy and backing synths set up this song beautifully from the start, then a heavy and deliberate bass comes in and guides the track with Michelle Zauner’s vocals just floating overtop. Every part of this song just glides forward effortlessly with a relaxing pace.
18. Joshua James – Real Love
Joshua’s unique and weathered voice is a perfect match for his guitar led folk music. While many of his songs follow a traditional songwriting format, I really enjoy him adding on more or less a second song at the end. Layered vocals an anthem chorus close out the best song on his fantastic new album.
17. Colin Stetson – The Lure of Mine
If you’ve read my end of the year lists before, you could have probably predicted this song would end up here. I just have a soft spot for over-long bizarre saxophone odysseys.
16. Real Estate – Darling
I really love it when a band can take a normal time signature and make it sound distinct. Even though it is just 4/4, the ending two bars of the main riff just sound off, but in a good way. This is probably my favorite riff of 2017. I don’t really know if I can describe why I like it so much, but it is relative simple while sounding more complex than it actually is. It’s just so good.
15. Sylvan Esso – Die Young
Who knew that a song about deterring early death due to finding a partner could be danceable? The way she sounds almost annoyed at the fact that she has something to live for now is a fantastic new take on the scenario.
14. Alvvays – In Undertow
A well-balanced mix of shoegaze and traditional indie rock. On the surface level the music sounds happy, but with a chorus of ‘There’s no turning back after what’s been said’ is an all too familiar sentence for many people to hear. This track is a triumphant send-off to a failed relationship.
13. Arcade Fire – We Don’t Deserve Love
Even with all the (well-warranted) criticism Arcade Fire’s new album received, there are still a couple damn good tracks on here. Among the shitty songs about capitalism and the abomination of ‘Chemistry,’ there sits an engaging ballad about love. Win and Regine’s voices pair superbly on songs like these, and the chorus is one of the best Arcade Fire has written in years. While much of the album is at a disconnect, this song directly expresses some feelings of love and loneliness we all experience.
12. LCD Soundsystem – how do you sleep?
It’s hard not to draw a parallel between this song and ‘Dance Yrself Clean.’ Long, slow build-up to a massive drop, but there is a sadness in this song that didn’t exist on ‘Dance.’ This song airs the grievances between James Murphy and his former business partner for all to see. It’s a brutally direct story of drug abuse, relapse, and personal betrayal. And, in classic James Murphy style, it’s a song you can dance to as well.
11. Radiohead – Man of War
Many Radiohead fans have been waiting for this song dubbed ‘Big Boots” since it was teased at live shows and in Radiohead’s documentary ‘Meeting People Is Easy’ since 1997. It was written around the time of The Bends and, just this year, finally got a real release. It is a wonderful combination of The Bends / OK Computer era sound with A Moon Shaped Pool style orchestration and polish. All I can say is that it lived up to my expectations, even after all these years.
10. Methyl Ethel – Ubu
This song might have the most infectious chorus of 2017. The rounds of ‘Why’d you have to go and cut your hair? Why’d you cut your hair?’ circle over and over in an addictive pattern. By then layering in the pre-chorus over the chorus it tiptoes the line between over-crowded and just enough. I’ve had this song in my head since I first heard it and I’m not upset about that at all.
9. Vince Staples (feat. Kendrick Lamar) – Yeah Right
This is the music I hoped Vince would make for a while. He’s so good at trying interesting and new things in hip-hop without shouting from a mountain ‘LOOK AT ME, I’M DOING SOMETHING NEW.’ I adore the grimey and distorted beat on this track that you just have to listen to on quality speakers. It has Vince’s typical short and repetitive chorus, and a freaked-out verse from the best rapper alive right now doesn’t hurt.
8. Kendrick Lamar – DNA.
Speaking of the best rapper alive right now, let’s talk about Kendrick. For me, this track actually starts with the last 15 seconds of ‘BLOOD.’ leading it off. The quote from Fox News ending in ‘Ugh, I don’t like it’ about the issue of police brutality sets the state for this important and necessary track. It’s a song addressing the sides, both good and evil, of his heritage. Kendrick has spoken in interviews about the song, explaining how he got inspiration from yin and yang. Inter-splicing a clip of Geraldo Rivera saying ‘This is why I say that hip-hop has done more damage to young African Americans than racism in recent years,’ brilliantly shows just how many people believe this astoundingly idiotic and damaging idea. Nobody does it better than Kendrick.
7. SZA – Supermodel
The best new artist of the year. SZA manages to push some boundaries of the traditional R&B genre by staring off her debut album with this stripped down and minimal story. It’s a bold choice to air out personal issues so bluntly, and you can feel the hurt in her voice. With themes of self-doubt and loneliness, it’s a raw look into her feelings and serves and a public explanation of the end of a shitty relationship.
6. Metz – Drained Lake
This song makes me feel like I’m in a dream where I’ve forgotten how to run, something terrifying is chasing me, and I’m perpetually almost at the point of falling on my face as I’m running away.
5. Mount Eerie – Real Death
I can’t say that this is one of the top 75 songs I enjoyed listening to this year, but it clearly is one of the songs that made the most impact on me. After losing his wife to a battle with cancer, Phil Elverum pens a heartbreaking note to her on A Crow Looked At Me. The bluntness in his words hit you instantly. He knows that making an album about her passing won’t change anything. The most memorable lyrics of 2017 for me will be the opening stanza of this song:
Death is real
Someone’s there and then they’re not
And it’s not for singing about
It’s not for making into art
When real death enters the house, all poetry is dumb
When I walk into the room where you were
And look into the emptiness instead
My knees fail
My brain fails
4. Big K.R.I.T. (feat. T.I.)- Big Bank
When Big K.R.I.T. chooses a Southern beat that fits his flow, he’s as good as anybody else in the rap game. He just sounds effortless on this track. Normally I don’t love T.I. features, but he fits on the beat impeccably, and gives one of the most impassioned versed I’ve heard from him in a long time. K.R.I.T. very intentionally intended this song to be played at full volume, which is what I do every time it comes on.
3. Julien Baker – Appointments
In her two albums, Julien Baker has exceptional talent as a teller of sad stories, whether they deal with addiction, loss, depression, or in this case a relationship that’s falling apart. Her words are simple and direct, and carry their weight out in the open. The verses deal with the darkest parts of depression, and how that can ruin both sides of a relationship. While this song builds up to a triumphant sounding climax, it still ends with her in self-doubt. ‘Maybe it’s all gonna turn out alright, oh, I know that it’s not, but I have to believe that it is,’ shows her progress, but sometimes that’s just not enough.
2. The National – I’ll Still Destroy You
Even though I really enjoyed The National’s last record, their sound had begun to grow a little stale. By changing things up just enough, they’ve created one of their best albums and songs yet. A sample and drum machine leads off, which is atypical for the band. When the song grows to the chorus, it’s a calm and soothing sounding tale of anxiety and fear of fucking up everything that you love in the world. ‘Put your feet against the wall, I swear you got a little bit taller since I saw you, I’ll still destroy you,’ perfectly encapsulates the theme of caring and love alongside with the fear of bringing down everything you care about. Instead of fading out, it ratchets up at the end with strings and heavier drums, in an almost chaotic way. This song isn’t going out without a fight.
1. Fleet Foxes – I Am All That I Need / Arroyo Seco / Thumbprint Scar
I’ve always been a fan of unconventional song structures when done correctly. This song is a journey, not just because it has three entirely separate parts, but also because in the song you can actually hear Robin Pecknold walking through doorways humming and singing. The songwriting school that he talked so goddamn much about seems to have paid off. He manages to balance hard-strummed acoustic guitars with soaring strings. He fluctuates between these lulled whispers and belting out ascending lines. When he emerges from the quiet and into the ‘Thumbprint Scar’ section, the way his voice surfaces from out of nowhere is my favorite musical moment of the year. It’s a bright and clear new breath of somebody who went away, studied, and learned something new. This song was the immaculate way to open this album that was both challenging yet rewarding. In a tough year for many of us, this song was a much needed exaltation.