Friday, December 15, 2017

2017 Favorite Songs (Numbers 20-1)

And without further ado, here are my top 20 favorite songs of 2017. You can listen to all of my 2017 Favorite Songs on this Spotify playlist, here.

20. The National - "Guilty Party"

Sometimes relationships end not in anger, but with resignation. The National beautifully evoke this experience with simple yet true lyrics: "It's nobody's fault/No guilty party/I just got nothing, nothing left to say."

19. Kelly Lee Owens - "More Than A Woman"

Honoring Aaliyah's classic track, London producer Kelly Lee Owens lends her own icy, electronic take, that is sublime.

18. Selena Gomez - "Bad Liar"

Sampling the bass line from Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer," this perfect, odd little single from Selena Gomez shows that she could be one of the most subversive pop stars if given the chance.

17. Cold Cave - "Glory"

While retaining his usual brooding vocals, Wesley Eisold of Cold Cave appears to have let some sunshine into his life. Brighter synths have entered the mix, and the lyrics have found new hope: "Today's the day my life is gonna change/I've got to get up off the floor/There's another world and it's waiting for us/I've waited so long for so much more."

16. Kiasmos - "Paused"

Kiasmos creates intricate universes with a small palate of instrumentation: delicate piano lines, atmospheric synths, and muted percussion. "Paused" evokes so much emotion, a sense of longing and regret, that is quietly devastating.

15. The xx - "I Dare You"

The xx perfectly capture the moment of first love, when you realize even love songs can't accurately depict the feeling.

14. Sassy 009 - "Pretty Baby"

This song is just a bass heavy, whirling dervish of a fever dream.

13. Tove Lo - "bitches"

Tove Lo has concerned the market on hedonism in her work. "Bitches" is her at her most aggressive and self-involved, looking out only for herself and her needs. And dammit, she is going to get what she wants.

12. NOVVA and LO - "Galaxies"

This song is just a gorgeous, twinkling lullaby. NOVVA's child-like vocals effortlessly float over her and LO's shimmering electronics.

11. Charlotte Gainsbourg - "Rest"

A glorious collaboration with Daft Punk's Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, "Rest" finds Charlotte Gainsbourg whisper-talk-singing over whimsical keyboard motifs.

10. Purity Ring - "Asido"

On their last record, Purity Ring took a turn towards maximalism, which I fully was on board with. On this non-album track, Purity Ring reign in those impulses, and this restraint creates a haunting tension.

9. Charli XCX - "Boys"

Simplicity is best sometimes. And this is simply the best pop song of the year.

8. Julien Baker - "Appointments"

If you can get through this song without crying, you are a stronger person than I am.

7. Beacon - "Marion"

Beacon always merge cold synth textures with warm elements in their work and the tension between the two is always compelling. In "Marion," they add more acoustic elements including drums and hammered dulcimer to striking effect.

6. Gotts Street Park ft. Dielle - "Love in Bad Company"

Dielle's vocal turn on this simmering soul track is earth-shatteringly good.

5. H.E.R. - "Avenue"

There is a late night loneliness to H.E.R.'s tracks, as if she is pulling inspiration from Burial's dark bus rides home from clubs. "Avenue" finds H.E.R. coming to the realization her lover is cheating on her, and this turns to anger as she has to ride by his place. These despondent feelings are made more palpable by the stark instrumentation.

4. Rostam - "Bike Dream"

Buoyantly and unashamedly queer, Rostam's "Bike Dream" is an over-the-top evocation of getting, and staying inside one's head during a relationship.

3. Clock Opera - "When We Disappear"

A haunting meditation on aging and leaving an impression on this earth. You feel the fear during the chorus when he sings "Oh tell me, will there be no witness/No ripples on the surface/When we disappear?" You can listen to the song here.

2. Cigarettes After Sex - "Each Time You Fall in Love"

Pure cinematic gorgeousness.

1. Slowdive - "Slomo"

You couldn't ask for a more quintessential Slowdive track than "Slomo." Shimmering, echo-laden guitars, swirling keyboards, the amazing vocal interplay between Neil Halstead and Rachael Goswell, and that somber, haunted bass line. It is one of those songs that gives me goosebumps every time and, for that, it is my favorite song of the year.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

2017 Favorite Songs (Numbers 40-21)

My countdown continues:

40. Drake - "Passionfruit"

Drake at his most relaxed. Pure pop perfection. You can listen to the track here.

39. Phoenix - "Ti Amo"

Driving beats, chugging guitars, and a roaringly good chorus make this one of the best alt-dance tracks of the year.

38. Flume ft. Kučka - "Hyperreal"

Experimental techno masquerading as an EDM-pop hit.

37. Slum Sociable - "Don't Come Back Another 100 Times"

Dense, lush production work highlight this down-tempo track from the Melbourne duo.

36. Vessels ft. Lowly - "I Believe It Now"

Euphoric synthpop. Makes me want to roll down the car windows and blare it from my speakers.

35. Bearcubs - "Underwaterfall"

Clearly drawing from James Blake, Bearcubs puts his own spin on it, creating a palpable, liquid world.

34. Robert Robert ft. Anna Majidson - "Misunderstood"

Intoxicating club track that builds up into a fury of swirling synths.

33. Cloud - "Foliage"

Hauntingly atmospheric electronica from Cloud. Her unique vocal phrasing gives this track a ghostly hue.

32. Blue Hawaii - "Versus Game"

Bright and sunny Balearic-tinged dance track that makes you want to watch the sun rise at a beach rave.

31. Cherry Glazerr - "Lucid Dreams"

I was captivated by this song, which is like the perfect marriage between Blonde Redhead's damaged art-rock and Lush's dream pop.

30. Fever Ray - "To the Moon and Back"

Always captivating, always weird, and always well ahead of the curve, Fever Ray came back to life with this infectious track.

29. Julien Baker - "Turn Out the Lights"

Powerful song that starts out feeling defeatist but turns the tables to become an anthem for trusting yourself.

28. Wild Beasts - "Punk Drunk & Trembling"

Sad to say this is the last song from Wild Beasts, as they recently broke up. But thankfully they left on a high note with this beautiful, synth driven track, and one of Hayden Thorpe's most impassioned vocals.

27. Jax Jones ft. Demi Lovato & Stefflon Don - "Instruction"

This is just a fun track that always makes me smile.

26. Slowdive - "Sugar for the Pill"

A sea of heavenly guitars and lush synths engulfs you in this melancholy ballad.

25. The Killers - "Some Kind of Love"

A subtle sample of Brian Eno's ambient work "An Ending (Ascent)" endears one to this beautifully done song.

24. HEALTH - "Euphoria"

Pretty much the title says it all.

23. Lorde - "Supercut"

Hindsight is 20/20 as they say. Who hasn't looked back at a former relationship and wondered if you had the chance would you have done things differently?

22. Kelela - "Frontline'

Commanding track from one of this year's R&B female powerhouses. You can listen to it here.

21. Fischerspooner ft. Caroline Polachek - "Togetherness"

The most sensual pop song of the year; it will definitely make your temperature rise.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

2017 Favorite Songs (Numbers 60-41)

Continuing my countdown of my favorite songs from 2017, here are Numbers 60 to 41:

60. Kllo - "Last Yearn"

Meditative piano chords over muted, skittering percussion highlights this aching ballad from the Aussie duo Kllo.

59. Sylvan Esso - "Just Dancing"

This is a great song to dance to with abandon.

58. Exhibitionist - "Hands"

Dreamy synthpop track from Exhibitionist that effortlessly adds more and more elements into a gorgeous sonic tapestry.

57. Lana Del Rey ft. A$ASP Rocky and Playboi Carti - "Summer Bummer"

Over languid beats, piano, and strings, Lana Del Rey delivers another one of her trademark vocals, haunted and filled with longing.

56. Tricky ft. Martina Topley Bird - "When We Die"

This track could easily have fit on Tricky's masterpiece album Maxinquaye. While his new album comes nowhere near his earlier powers, this song clearly shows Tricky has it in him to make another masterpiece.

55. Sampha - "(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano"

This track is simple, gorgeous, and completely emotionally honest.

54. Kelela - "LMK"

From her brilliant debut album Take Me Apart, Kelela throws down this slinky, sexy R&B track.

53. RKCB - "Naive"

Gorgeously sad song about ending a relationship when you still want it to go on, but you know it's over for your lover.

52. Phantoms ft. Grace Mitchell - "Someone to Talk About"

Sleek, sexy deep house with an ace vocal from Grace Mitchell.

51. Grizzly Bear - "Three Rings"

"Three Rings" is quintessential Grizzly Bear: dense, challenging, emotional, and euphoric.

50. HEALTH x NOLIFE - "Hard To Be A God"

HEALTH team up with producer NOLIFE for this track that is equally gorgeous as it is sinister.

49. P!nk - "What About Us"

P!nk gives one of her strongest vocal performances with this slow building song, that erupts at the end with heart felt emotion.

48. Lomelda - "Thx"

Simply heartbreaking.

47. The Horrors - "Something to Remember Me By"

The Horrors hit full Cinemascope epicness on single "Something to Remember Me By."

46. Yaeji - "Drink I'm Sippin On"

Laid back track from South Korean-American producer Yaeji is the height of coolness.

45. Everything Everything - "A Fever Dream"

Starting as a stark, piano-led ballad, the title track from Everything Everything's latest album morphs into a swirling mass of synths and driving drums, showing how versatile this band is.

44. Coldplay - "ALIENS"

Coldplay's best single since "Clocks."

43. Run the Jewels - "Legend Has It"

This track always gets my attention. Forceful work from the amazing rap duo.

42. SZA - "Prom"

SZA's vocals on this track are so heartfelt and beautiful.

41. London Grammar - "Leave the War With Me"

I tend to like London Grammar's songs that really notch things up and go for broke. "Leave the War With Me" finds the band matching Hannah Reid's strong pipes with an enveloping background that pushes her to new heights.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

2017 Favorite Songs (Numbers 80 - 61)

Continuing my list, here are Numbers 80 through 61:

80. Wy - "Bathrooms"

Cavernous production that would feel right at home on the 4AD during their 80s heydays makes this beautiful song memorable.

79. Beach Fossils "Sugar"

Dreamy alt-rock from Beach Fossils.

78. Carly Rae Jepson - "Cut to the Feeling"

Super catchy, and difficult to ignore.

77. Rita Ora - "Your Song"

Just a lovely, euphoric song about falling in love.

76. RAC ft. Rostam - "This Song"

Bittersweet track about hearing a shared song after a breakup, and how something seemingly so innocent can make one go through so many emotions.

75. Zara Larsson - "Funeral"

Under any other singer, this would likely be a decent EDM-leaning pop song. Zara Larsson, however, has some serious pipes and takes this to another level.

74. Ride - "Lannoy Point"

Along with Slowdive, Ride reunited and it seemed like the late 80s, early 90s for me all over again. While Ride's latest album was the killer reunion that Slowdive's was, this single from it was a pretty great reminder that they are pretty powerful band.

73. Liars - "No Tree No Branch"

Quirky art-pop track from Liars that sounds like Beck on acid.

72. Sleigh Bells - "Rainmaker"

Moving from their usual onslaught of jet engine guitars to a more synth reliant base, Sleigh Bells still know how to wrench as much drama out of their songs as we are used to getting.

71. Yaeji - "Raingurl"

"Mother Russia in my cup/make it raingurl make it rain."

70. Cassie ft. G-Easy - "Love a Loser"

Lovely R&B ballad from Cassie. Her dreamy vocals float effortlessly over atmospheric beats and pillows of keys and synths.

69. Clams Casino - "Time"

More expertly crafted instrumental beats from the master.

68. LCD Soundsystem - "Tonite"

Only LCD Soundsystem could make a song about mortality a booty shaking romp.

67. Maya Jane Coles - "Weak"

Seductive deep house.

66. Bjork - "Tabula Rasa"

Even though her voice is not as powerful as it once was, Bjork still finds ways to move me. She is beautifully ascending into her role as Earth Mother Goddess.

65. Everything Everything - "Can't Do"

Swirling dance-rock track from one of my favorite albums of the year.

64. Arca - "Desafío"

Deeply emotional work from the brilliant Venezuelan producer.

63. Cut Copy - "Airborne"

This song is quirky, lovely, weird, fun, and ultimately makes me want to dance with abandon.

62. Future Islands -"Cave"

Achingly sad synth washes and a killer rhythm section create a beautiful world for Sam Herring's emotional vocal turn.

61. HEALTH - "Blue Monday"

They pay lovely homage to the New Order classic, while also bending it to their own, twisted devices. It makes one immediately forget that wretched cover from Orgy.

Monday, December 11, 2017

2017 Favorite Songs (Numbers 100-81)

It's that time of year for my best of lists. This week I will count down my favorite songs of 2017, with my Top 20 revealed on Friday (on Friday I will post a link to Spotify with a full playlist of these songs). I made a slight change this year, and allowed for multiple songs from the same artist. Without further ado, below are Numbers 100-81.

100. Major Lazer ft. Travis Scott, Camila Cabello & Quavo - "Know No Better"

The one song this year that always guaranteed a smile on my face, and made me shake my rump, regardless of location.

99. Marian Hill - "Down"

Ubiquitous, due to its use in an Apple commercial, "Down" is one of those tracks that immediately hits you. Simple piano chords, skittering drum programming, and chopped up vocal samples propel this song to instant ear worm status.

98. Mount Kimbie ft. King Krule - "Blue Train Lines"

Mount Kimbie move as far away from their post-dubstep roots with this killer post-punk track. Over a propulsive drum track, singer King Krule spits the lyrics out like venom.

97. Jacob Bellens - "Untouchable"

Jacob Bellon's booming voice commands this haunting, evocative ballad.

96. The War on Drugs - "Strangest Thing"

I was never a big fan of The War On Drugs until this latest record, and this perfect, stadium-ready single. It builds slowly and surely, with skyscraping synth washes over crystalline guitars.

95. Hundred Waters - "Fingers"

Although Hundred Waters appears to be moving into a more pop-friendly sound, this song still retains that atmospheric elegance that characterizes their best work.

94. Little Dragon - "Strobe Light"

Seductive dance track from Little Dragon. I was always pulled in by the sexy bass line and swirling synths.

93. Olivia O'Brien - "No Love"

While this is the usual LA is fake and it's difficult to find love song, Olivia's impassioned vocals and the haunting piano line elevate it something special.

92. Gorillaz ft. DRAM - "Andromeda"

Irresistible and ebullient ode to an Colchester club in the 80s that played soul music. In these crazy times, songs like this remind me of how important dance clubs are as places of community and fellowship, where you can forget your troubles and get sweaty to some killer beats.

91. Quicksand - "Cosmonauts"

Post-hardcore legends Quicksand came back this year after a 22-year hiatus. New album Interiors might not quite roar out of the gates like its predecessors, however, with songs like "Cosmonauts" the focus on atmosphere and mood more than make up for it.

90. Rat & Co. - "Soldiers"

Trip-hop leaning anti-war track that makes you think while its sinister grooves wrap around you.

89. The Drums - "Shoot the Sun Down"

When The Drums are firing on all cylinders they are truly magical. This track is no exception, riding its glorious surfer rock wave to pop perfection.

88. Matthew Dear - "Modafinil Blues"

Matthew Dear puts his own David Bowie-esque vocal touch on this dark, mid-tempo ballad.

87. Burial - "Rodent"

Probably the most subversive aspect of this track is how unsubversive it is. And it has a killer beat you can dance to.

86. Smerz - "No Harm"

Dark, off-kilter beats anchor this slithering, electronic R&B leaning track from the Norwegian duo.

85. Sampha - "Under"

Sampha effortlessly moves between traditional R&B and electronica. This song squarely falls in the latter camp, with its dense production always threatening to go haywire, but staying firmly on task. You can listen to the track here.

84. Elohim - "Skinny Legs"

I love this song because it is just weird. And when I play it for people, they always want to know who it is.

83. Porcelain Raft - "Rising"

This song is simply sublime beauty.

82. Bleachers - "Don't Take the Money"

When Jack Antonoff gets it right, he gets it right. Perfect pop song here.

81. Charli XCX - "Roll With Me"

I love the buzzy maximalism of this track from Charli XCX.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Jam of the Day: A-ha - "Take On Me (Acoustic Version 2017)"

You can take any song and dress it up with millions of dollars of production, however, if it doesn't have a good melody or structure, it's just going to be a pig with lipstick on. A-ha's hit single from the 80's "Take on Me" was probably better known for it's stunning video. But here, stripped down to just piano and acoustic guitar, you hear how simply gorgeous it is.

Friday, December 8, 2017