My Favorite Songs of 2017

Hey all, it’s that time of year again. No don’t go away, this might be interesting, really! It’s that time of year again where I talk about my favorite songs and albums of the year. No? Okay well for the three of you still reading, here’s my favorite songs of the year. I had a lot to say about this year but I basically said it all over at The Filtered Lens, where I put on a critical, uh, lens on and talked about the best albums and songs of the year (and did not contribute to best movies and shows, but you should read those too). For now, though, here’s the music I truly loved, regardless of quality.

Top 52 Songs of 2017: #52-27, alphabetical order

All That Remains – “Safe House” – One of the heaviest songs of the year, with frequent tempo changes and a phenomenal breakdown. All That Remains kick their album off with an absolute firestarter of a song.

At the Drive In – “Continuum” – The best vocal track on the band’s comeback album shows that, despite what other critics say, Cedric Bixler-Zavala hasn’t missed a beat. Vocal hard rock for the ages.

Bjork (feat. Arca) – “Losss” – A pure sonic overload with both pleasant bird noises and pounding drums, it places the listener in a universe – but what kind of universe is it? (Note: want to make so many loss.jpg jokes but won’t)

Charli XCX (feat. CupcakKe) – “Lipgloss” – Arguably the dirtiest song of the year also has one of the strongest featured verses, from up-and-cumming rapper CupcakKe. The song is about, well, using a dude’s ejaculate as lipgloss. No way to sugarcoat that. Except in the way that the song suggests. *cough*

Foo Fighters – “Run” – One of the best hard rock songs of the year, The Foos kick high energy into their music when it was the most devoid of it. One of the heaviest and most thrilling songs in their discography.

Iced Earth – “Seven Headed Whore” – Alright the name is off-putting, but Stu Block shrieks like almost no one else in metal, and his vocals are on full display in this blistering metal track. Their whole album was great, but this song ripped the hardest.

Kendrick Lamar – “DNA.” – Lamar’s most incendiary track to date is an absolute barnburner of rhymes and vocal intensity. He had a point to prove with “DAMN.” and even if it wasn’t the best track, he proved it best here. This song causes pure whiplash. Also: Don Cheadle!

Kreator – “Satan Is Real” – Thrash metal legends Kreator have nothing left to prove and indeed, their album didn’t prove much. Still, it contributed fierce single “Satan Is Real.” Kreator, legends still great beyond their years. Side note: If you ever run into John Darnielle, ask him to tell his Kreator story, it’s a doozy.

Lil Uzi Vert – “XO TOUR LIF3” – One of the darkest, heaviest rap songs of the year also happened to be one of the biggest. Although the song is about a break-up, the openly suicidal lyrics hit hard against the plain delivery. It’s a spine-chiller. This may be the future of rap, and if so, we’re in for a spiritual reckoning.

Lorde – “Perfect Places” – Just a wonderful pop song. When I hear this song in a good mood, I think it’s an ode to a disagreeing romance, and it’s a great song. But when I’m feeling down and hear it, it opens a new world where I feel all of Lorde’s frustrated and restless emotions. There is a lot of ennui in the song that can transpose nicely into almost anyone’s lives.

Marilyn Manson – “WE KNOW WHERE YOU FUCKING LIVE” – Alright, calm down dude, you’re like 50 now. Still, Manson and his group have been on an upswing, and their new album had a few great tracks, like this guitar- and vocal-heavy boomer. (Note: this list originally included the better track “Threats of Romance” but due to the very abusive-y lyrics, I decided to cut it).

Mount Eerie – “Real Death” – In a concept album recorded in real time over a grieving process of Phil Elverum losing his wife, the opening track is destined to be the saddest. Words cannot describe how sad this song is, and it is downright unlistenable even with a short runtime. The saddest song of the year. And what a closing line.

The National – “Day I Die” – Just a great indie-rock song bolstered by a strong drum section, this track has a very National-like center of questioning your current relationship while looking at the successes of your past ones.

Nine Inch Nails – “Not Anymore” – Though not the breakout song from EP “Add Violence,” this track was the closest to classic NIN material. Absolutely shrouded in fuzz and synth feedback, it begs the question why this isn’t the track David Lynch used for the new Twin Peaks.

Paramore – “Hard Times” – While most bands went heavy and/or introspective this year, Paramore got more fun. This song, an absolute new wave banger right out of Blondie’s best work, is just a straight jam about trying to live life to the fullest. We needed more of this in 2017.

Perfume Genius – “Choir” – A downright creepy song fueled by hyper strings and a female singer who opens with “I can’t dream,” this is what nightmares are made of. But isn’t that the Perfume Genius way? But wait, there’s more…

Perfume Genius – “Otherside” – (not a RHCP cover). This is an utterly beautiful song built around both minimalism and maximalism, as Mike Hadreas twice builds the listener up from very little sound to a full pristine universe. One of a few “headphones mandatory” songs from this year. Arguably the most beautiful song of the year.

Phoenix – “J-Boy” – The lead single from an otherwise disappointing album is a downright disco jam, when the world needs it most. The lyrics may hide behind acronyms, but the track is a straight track that is not afraid to give the fans the dance rhythm they want.

Power Trip – “Firing Squad” – An absolutely hard-hitting metal song, this song mostly ushered in 2017 for me. Power Trip have an inexplicable way of writing very simple thrash metal but making it sound original as hell. One of the bands of the year.

The Revivalists – “Wish I Knew You” – One of the breakout indie hits of the year, this is a really simple, really affecting track that we can all relate to in some way. The singer never specifies any kind of romantic interest, which makes this so relatable for all of our recent relationships.

Spoon – “Pink Up” – Indie legends Spoon put a borderline-avant-garde track in the middle of their new album, and it’s a glorious, oddly soothing song with many percussion instruments creating a nice, somber beat.

Vince Staples – “Bagbak” – One of the most incendiary songs on Staples’ recent full-length asks for more black people in the Oval Office, for good reason. It goes on from there to the general declamation, “Suck a dick because we own ya,” in a way that feels both childish but powerful. A brutal and necessary track.

St. Vincent – “Los Ageless” – St. Vincent’s new album is so collectively good that I couldn’t actually pin down any songs for my lists. But the best is this takedown of celebrity culture, with a huge chorus that grows with every line. It is every bit envy as it is anger.

Thundercat – “Uh Uh” – Thundercat wins the award for most diverse features, but my favorite off his album was this red-hot jazz track centered solely around Thundercat’s pure bass talent. It’s an instrumental track of pure fire.

Roger Waters – “Picture That” – The most hard-hitting song from Roger Waters’ very political comeback outlined many awful, oddly specific situations of people who are out of luck. One of the best political songs of the year.

The xx – “Hold On” – Jamie xx has always gotten the short end of the stick in The xx, but on this track he samples a Hall & Oates classic and lets his band member compete over it. The result is the best full-band affair yet, and just a great, if sad pop song.

Top 52 Songs of 2017: #26-1

Power Trip – “Nightmare Logic” – The thrash metal band’s title track absolutely cleans up the genre’s name, with a central and whirring riff of only two notes. The band’s obtuse leftist lyrics add to the music, but it’s the simple-but-supremely-effective riff that drives this to be one of the best metal songs of the year.

Susanne Sundfør (feat. John Grant) – “Mountaineers” – Whatever you imagine pop avant-garde to be, it isn’t this – a song off an album where the main artist doesn’t even show until the three-minute mark, filled with bass vocals and droning synth lines. This is a slow-builder to the max, and all the better because of it. Also, it was the album’s final track, and lead single. Haunting beyond haunting.

Arcade Fire – “Everything Now” – The indie band’s deflating fifth album still provided one beacon of light in the title track, an energetic track centered around a flute rhythm and the idea of hoarding all the shit that you like. It has the innocence of an Arcade Fire song, and the energy of the political songs that we maybe {hiccup} expected from them.

Winds of Plague – “Never Alone” – There’s tons of ways to do metal right, and Winds of Plague explore one of the least-used ones – group vocals. This song has a huge, huge, huge chorus of multiple people singing simultaneously and it adds so much to the already heavy pseudo-thrash song. This song hits top volumes in every way possible (while also being a ton of fun).

Carly Rae Jepsen – “Cut to the Feeling” – Somehow cut from both “E*Mo*Tion” and the subsequent B-sides release, this absolute jam is a huge pop powerhouse of big beats and lyrics rightly suited to Jepsen – a song about the very beginning of a meaningful relationship.

Blondie – “Fragments” – This song clocks in at nearly seven minutes, and it doesn’t waste a second of it. Just when a listener thinks they’re truly in for a ballad, the band kicks into high gear with Deborah Harry singing an ode to an unknown lover. The song is actually a cover, but Blondie more than make it their own.

Run the Jewels – “Legend Has It” – A boastful rap track that basically fronts the band’s third album, this song is El-P and Killer Mike at their very best. It isn’t even their highest-topping song on this list, but the song still has some of the best lyrics of the year. Look no further than El-P’s lines about choosing their crew over sacrificing a rabbit.

Bully – “Feel the Same” – The shortest track on this list sure doesn’t feel like it. The 1:59 of this song pack a bigger punch, of someone who lost a break-up of some sort, asking if the other person is doing alright. It’s a feeling we can all relate to in some way. Also, let’s just marvel at Alicia Bognanno’s vocals, as she is truly disrespected in the annals of rock singers today.

Lana Del Rey – “When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing” – While I love many of Lana’s tracks, I’ve always been partial to the rare ones where she feels upfront. This is the case on this track, where she undermines her own chorus with vocal additions. The added profanity makes this whole ordeal feel like a disaster in a very planned way.

The National – “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” – One of the best indie songs of the year finds a familiar band leaving their comfort zone. Not only does Matt Berninger kick his vocals into a higher register than normal, there’s also a guitar solo. Both of these things have been unheard of in recent National albums. Fans of the band will hopefully recognize the uncomfortable territory the band puts themselves in as a way to grow and progress their sound.

At the Drive In – “Governed By Contagions” – The shrieking guitar line that opens the song welcomed the return of the post-hardcore legends. While their subsequent album was hit-and-miss, the lead single is a wild, noisy mess that sounds just as applicable as anything they did in the late ’90’s. Again, it is a welcome return.

Queens of the Stone Age – “The Evil Has Landed” – Yes, I am reckoning with the shit against Josh Homme. QOTSA are one of my favorite bands, give me time. In the meantime, one of the coolest rock songs of the year is this prolonged groove where Homme locks into a funky rhythm for a while, before eventually abandoning it for a full hard rock punch (not a kick). QOTSA’s finest song since 2007’s “Sick, Sick, Sick.”

The Mountain Goats – “Rain In Soho” – It was a bold decision on John Darnielle’s part to make a concept album about goths that has no guitar, and admittedly it wasn’t the strongest affair. But the album’s opening track is an absolute powerhouse of piano and vocals unheard of in even other Mountain Goats songs. The song feels heavy, even with just piano and Darnielle’s unusually paranoid vocals. The Mountain Goats wheelhouse is unprecedented but this is another great addition. I cannot overstress how much I love Darnielle’s vocals on this track.

Vince Staples – “Yeah Right” – This track is about 60%  bass. This song, doubling as a club banger, basically comes bass-boosted already (like an early Sleigh Bells song). It adds to the deceptive aura of the song, a track that’s really about the vanity of rappers who aren’t super important. It’s a total deconstruction of rap from the inside. Also, it features a short but sweet verse from Kendrick Lamar, the only real feature on the whole album.

LCD Soundsystem – “call the police” – James Murphy’s revival has been controversial and questionable, and the result itself was a little disappointing. Still, it provided a handful of great tracks, like this droning, minimalist dance track that has the obvious Bowie influence on it. Murphy’s habit of placing dark lyrics over happy music gets a little twisted, as both get a little darker than normal. And yet, the track still has an undeniable groove to it.

Arch Enemy – “The World is Yours” – Easily my favorite metal song of the year is an absolute powerhouse performance from a long-standing group. This song basically cements their album, with incredible vocals from Alissa White-Gluz and phenomenal guitar work. The track is a little long, but it doesn’t waste a second in building a world and completely destroying it. This is just great metal.

Harry Styles – “Sign of the Times” – And what better way to follow? The One Directioner’s first solo single was so drastically different than the group’s work that it nearly caused spit-takes. The song tracks at nearly six minutes of piano ballad and impressive, intentionally-flat vocals. Ballads are meant to be emotional and, even with the somewhat corny lyrics, this song tugs right at strings.

Fever Ray – “IDK About You” – Now this is the definition of a banger. This electropop song bangs hard across its cavalcade of beats. Karin Dreijer comes in hot with her high-pitched vocals, before giving way to the beats themselves, as hot as the vocals. It’s a tensely fiery track, as danceable as it is, well, fever-inducing. Music this hyper isn’t necessarily reserved for the club, and it has the aura of a song only played at the most exclusive of places.

Sylvan Esso – “Die Young” – This is a purely poetic indie ode. This track has a narrator who has planned their suicide, only to have it derailed by a sudden love interest. While it may be the plot of 1000+ YA novels, it rarely graces music. And the subtle synths of the song bring it into something special. Not to mention, the poetry brought forth is immediate in a way that feels natural instead of cliche.

Gary Numan – “My Name Is Ruin” – Yeah, him. Some 30 years after he released his sole American hit, the genius is still releasing amazing electronica music. This song is an incredibly patient synth track. It’s extremely heavy, a song that probably sounds best live at a festival. It builds up verse-chorus-verse-chorus, like a normal song, but it does it over six and a quarter minutes. But it’s an incredibly prolonged track, one that drags the listener on through the suffering. The version below is, unfortunately, a radio edit. If you enjoy then please listen to the full version.

Slowdive – “Star Roving” – This song helped me through a tough patch. The shoegaze’s band’s revival has brought a renown to the genre’s resurgence, and this track in particular helped move me through many difficult parts of 2017. It’s a completely sunny song that shows how fulfilling guitar distortion can be, rather than the usual harshness. This song feels like optimism in song form, but the complexity somehow applies to any emotion. Headphones required.

Mount Kimbie (feat. King Krule) – “Blue Train Lines” – A brutal indie track that depicts a man finding his lover right after she has attempted suicide, without knowing if there’s enough time to save her. That alone is the basis for a potentially terrifying track, but when you add in the sad drone of a synth, King Krule’s barely audible screaming, and the drums that come piercing out of nowhere halfway through the song, it becomes a turbulent mix of fright and confusion. At first glance, this is a dirty mess of music, but on further listens it goes much deeper.

Gorillaz (feat. Vince Staples) – “Ascension” – Vince Staples dunks on Gorillaz on their own album. The first real track on the album starts immediately with Staples’ declarative voice, before he launches into an odyssey about being black during an apocalypse, and mostly just trying to score before it all ends. Its paranoid but groovy, something Staples does well, and having Gorillaz as a backing band certainly doesn’t hurt. Staples also gets props for best use of profanity in any track this year.

Kendrick Lamar – “HUMBLE.” – The final nail in the coffin of Lamar haters came with this early-summer declaration, one that starts with a guitar scratch, horn blast and the line “Nobody pray for me” all in two seconds. Lamar’s critics like to point to his melding of genres and ideas as him hiding behind production, so he responded with this pure-vocal blast, an ode to, well, money. Lamar’s paranoia also focuses on himself, reminding himself to stay humble(.) despite the fame. At 2:57, it’s everything we’ve expected from longer Lamar tracks, and even better. The fact that it was a #1 hit doesn’t even matter. Also, video of the year.

Run the Jewels – “Call Ticketron” – One of the wildest rap songs of the year is also one of the catchiest and quickest. There isn’t a real narrative to this song – El-P makes some of the most memorable boasts of his long career (“I do push-ups nude on the edge of cliffs”) while also handling the chorus, advertising Run The Jewels at “the Garden,” (something that will finally be happening when they open for Lorde (?) next year). Killer Mike, meanwhile, re-imagines last year’s film “Arrival” with him awaiting aliens with a blunt and a beer. The total package is the most fun song of the year.

Lorde – “Green Light” – Yes, I said this is also the #2 song on the sister post, but I stand by high placement on both. This song is lyrically about a side romance that is doomed to fail because the man can’t come clean. But the music is an invigorating party, one that feels like the exact moment in which you realize you’re “getting over” someone, whenever in the relationship it may occur. And, if you’re not in a similar situation, then it’s just a frequent burst of piano that seems to be set to the exact rhythm you need to pick yourself up and keep moving. After all, the song is about moving on, and rather than make a ballad, Lorde opted for a booming piano track, lead single and first album track. With a sound completely different from her first album. And that, my friends, is moving on.

Well, there you have it, my favorite songs of the year. Yes, there were songs I wanted to write about but felt I didn’t have the space. There’s always great songs in all genres, and just because these are the ones I chose to write about, doesn’t mean there was no other good music this year. Far from it – there was an abundance across genres. Even now, as I’m writing, I’m listening to albums I missed during the year. Keep on listening, good folks, keep on discovering. There’s something out there for everyone.

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