I can’t tell a lie, this year was one of the hardest cuts I’ve ever had to make in terms of settling on a year end list as far as music was concerned.
Perhaps I didn’t always keep up on things like video games, or movies, or books, or really anything on television in 2017; heck, I even dropped off of a show I quite enjoy (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) mid-season. Music? Nah, I ate that up like it was something to do this year. I gave complete listens (read; more than once, legitimately listening front to back) to more albums than I had ever done before; topping nearly 200 full LP’s. That’s not counting singles, EP tracks, and anything I listened to that I didn’t give my full attention.
So yeah…it’s been a lot. That in mind, I still am as close to happy as I’m going to get on my final 101 songs of the year; making the final 4–5 cuts was painful, as there are songs I’m still debating whether I should have shoved onto this meaningless list. I’m sure in 2027, when we’re all on VR blogs, I’ll be able to make some quick edits, but regardless…I now present:
The Top 101 Songs of 2017:
You can find the full list, in order from top to bottom (1–101) in the Spotify playlist embedded here. As far as some notes and musings are concerned:
- I was pleasantly surprised that my top 10 actually features 3 “new” artists to me (Sampha, Nick Mulvey, and Thundercat). As much as some of my established favorites, such as Kendrick Lamar or Sufjan Stevens, continued to produce top notch content, there were some definitively “new” music out there still to discover. Age seems to make this so much more difficult than it truly needs to be anymore.
- “Near to the Wild Heart of Life” was going to be the number one song on this countdown since I heard the version from the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Maybe it’s not the most graceful performance, but it hit me hard. “YEAH, I AM FIRED UP TO GO FAR AWAY, LET’S GET A BASEBALL BAT AND HIT SOME MAILBOXES!”
- I had to break my own rule on “May I Have This Dance”; I typically don’t include non-album tracks, let alone remixes of songs that never receive a proper album release. I’d argue that 2017 was missing the kick that Chance the Rapper had provided the year prior, and his small, but extremely positive take, on a Francis and the Lights tune that was already quite good on its own. Also, I really want to learn the dance from the music video, and I don’t care who knows it.
- This year’s “Song that made me nearly weep uncontrollably” sweepstakes was a very tightly fought battle for my fragile emotional makeup; The Japanese House’s “Somebody you found” calling upon a relationship that turns into an existential nightmare? Perhaps “Pluto” by James McAllister and Sufjan Stevens, a brilliant cacophony of orchestral interludes, Sufjan’s haunting voice, and the concept of Pluto and it’s moon eternally fighting for gravitational control? The teenage angsty piano ballad of “Liability” by Lorde? Pretty much anything Julian Baker made? Yeah, I’m gonna go with that, and go sit in the corner with tissues for an hour and a half, thanks.
- It looks like Frankie Cosmos’ weirdness is about to blow up in 2018, but (although I can very rarely actually claim this), I think I found her first…on accident. Sirius XMU popped on Dent May’s borderline depressing-ly cute pop song “Across the Universe” hit the rotation on a random car ride, and my partner and I added it into immediate rotation on Spotify. It’s a wonderful gloomy-happy little earworm.
- …yes, I put “Passionfruit” by Drake on here. I have a severe soft spot for the torch-bearer of OVO. Maybe it’s that he makes turn-up music that just never fully feels like turn-up music. Heck, “Passionfruit” itself is practically Drake coming into unintentional self-awareness that he lacked all the way up to “Hotline Bling”; he can basically do whatever it wants, and be weird, and it will be successful because, well, Drake. And if Drake is gonna start getting weird, well, awesome.
- One emphatic compromise I had to make in regards to this list was on Brand New, in that I kept a song in the top 101. For those unaware, lead singer Jessie Lacey had an incident where he was found to committed sexual misconduct against underage teens. It’s a rabbit hole that you can go down for hours, but Lacey admitted to the allegations being true, and man, does that hurt what had been a very, very good album in Science Fiction. It begs a question that belongs in its own blog at some point; at what point are we able to look past the actions of an artist to laud art? I’m still not sure, nearly two months after finishing parsing songs and debating on it constantly, if I should keep “In the Water” on this list (genuinely, had the incident not occurred, its very likely “In the Water” would be a top 15 song for me). Worse yet, Brand New isn’t even the most scuzzy instance in the music industry as far as bands I’ve enjoyed go (if you want to play a fun game, Google search “LostProphets Lead Singer” and prepare for some brain bleaching because you with need it). All of this to say…I’m keeping it there for now. Consider “Bleach” by BROCKHAMPTON to be the unofficial replacement if it happens eventually.
- Truly, I think indie rock’s current crop does have a chance to build a new “alternative rock” from the ashes of what has been burned by the likes of Imagine Dragons. Just trim the 101 above; Japandroids, Sundara Karma, Cloud Nothings, Toro y Moi, White Reaper, Alvvays, Courtney Barnett, Kurt Vile, St. Vincent, The Orwells. These are bands that are likely their most accessible as of 2018, while also retaining their strong identity, sound, and inherent weirdness and quirks. I know, I know, rock and roll is basically tattered and broken, and EDM is slowly slipping into the avenues that were once occupied by the rockers, but I so badly wish something like “Freeze Me” by Death from Above 1979 was capable to bridge that precarious gap sooner rather than later. It doesn’t have to be the number one hit on Billboard, but it deserves to at least tell the masses that there’s still something to headbang to.
- Run the Jewels made this list because they, unfairly, released RTJ3 right around Christmas 2016, and that nearly blew my list for 2016 up. Not cool, Killer Mike and El-P.