Lorde performing in 2013.
Here it is folks: a year-end list that actually waits until the year ends.
50. The Veldt - In a Quiet Room
It’s 2017 people. We have shoegazing bands from the 90’s making trap-influenced music. It is glorious.
49. Agent blå - Rote Learning
This Swedish band will tell you that their unique combination of indie rock and post-punk is called “death pop.” If this genre ever pans out, this song will be its bedrock.
48. Everything Everything - Night of the Long Knives
These guys are very cool. Their career has placed them as a first thought when considering the influence of Radiohead (I have ignored Coldplay and Muse’s existence in this decade), and this song is definitely one of their highlights.
47. tricot - Yosoiki
A four person all-female band, tricot has for four years exhibited expertise in incorporating punk and Japanese pop into their unique brand of catchy math rock, and this song is about as catchy as they come.
46. Young Thug - Family Don’t Matter
It’s always slime season. In review of one of Young Thug’s most prolific years in music, this song is perhaps the most descriptive of the emotive and innovative qualities that make him one of the most prominent figures in trap.
45. Choker - El Dorado
In the vain of many post-Blonde R&B artists, Choker and his music is very much a response to Frank Ocean’s ripples. El Dorado, rather than contributing to the pigeon-hole of replication, has a triumphantly fresh sound that takes Frank’s music from Blonde and Endless and turns it into something truly original.
44. Mac Demarco - Moonlight On The River
In a world filled with the standard Mac Demarco song template and its hypnagogic beauty, this song off of Mac’s third studio album finally offers a new concept: it showcases Mac at his most ethereal, until, after five minutes, the song slowly descends into chaos.
43. SZA - Love Galore
Travis Scott should not fit as well into this song as he does. A layer of warbling synths and a watered-down (not an insult!) trap-influenced beat seems more conducive to a musician like Blood Orange. But for some reason it works really well.
42. Animal Collective - Man of Oil
Recorded in the Amazon to capture its ambient vibrancy, this song belongs in Animal Collective’s mid-2000’s freak-folk days: “I find it so hard to tell you I’m afraid to forget the smell of you.”
41. Perfume Genius - Slip Away
This song seems to be about pursuing a sort of deviant love: deviant being that which deviates from the norms of a group of friends or possibly of a broader society. The instrumentals are loud, as if to try and break free from an oppressive cage.
40. BROCKHAMPTON - HEAT
This is introductory track off of BROCKHAMPTON’s first 2017 album, SATURATION; They began the year with a massive bang. Lyrical contributions from Ameer, Merlyn, Dom, and Joba pair with Romil’s hard-hitting production to create one of the most aggressive songs of the year.
39. Richard Dawson - Ogre
Fleet Foxes is not the only band still doing interesting things with folk music. Likewise, neither is Richard Dawson. Regardless, this seven minute epic is truly experimental and deserves some listens.
38. Frank Ocean - Chanel
What else is there to say? Frank has done it again. The world will likely forever be on the edge of its seat as his creative process slowly unfurls.
37. Milo - Magician (Suture)
I know. This is one of Milo’s many abstract jazz raps. But this one is especially cool: “Hold this notebook like an advanced new camera / The panorama makes me some kind of past-master.”
36. Iglooghost - Bug Thief
Probably some of the best wonky music I’ve heard in a long time. The production prowess is on-par with progressive electronic legends like Daniel Lopatin and Tim Hecker.
35. Sufjan Stevens - Mercury
It’s not really much of a surprise that Sufjan released music this year, but the shear volume of work is astonishing. This cosmic riff is definitely a highlight.
34. Charli XCX - Backseat (feat. Carly Rae Jepsen)
Two of pop’s finest unite on a track that juxtaposes bubblegum vocals with gritty production.
33. Sampha - (No One Knows Me) Like the Piano
This is the most wholesome song of 2017. It’s a ballad about a childhood piano (and a truly beautiful ballad, for what it’s worth).
32. Ryuichi Sakamoto - Andata
Sakamoto is not only a member of the pioneering Yellow Magic Orchestra, but he is also a very successful modern classical/ambient composer. This song, off of his first studio album since being diagnosed with oropharyngeal cancer, figuratively overflows with emotion.
31. Big K.R.I.T. - Keep the devil Off
This gospel-drenched jam expresses Big K.R.I.T.’s Bible Belt roots. It is a noble proclamation to avoid the vices that often accompany fame. It also helps that it convinces anything with legs to start moving.
30. Oxbow - Cold & Well-Lit Place
Art rock does indeed exist outside of Radiohead and this is a prime example.
29. Idles - Mother
The political and visceral undertones of this post-punk jam have helped to place Idles near the helm of a potential new movement for the genre.
28. Julien Baker - Appointments
We are lucky to live in a time where someone this lyrically affective can also sing so serenely.
27. Alex Cameron - Stranger’s Kiss
Duets are a wonderfully simple concept, and this post-breakup ditty starring Alex Cameron and Angel Olson is as funny as it is poignant.
26. Playboi Carti - New Choppa (feat. A$AP Rocy)
This song starts fast and ends fast. A$AP Rocky’s verse is also one of the most solid of the year: “Sh*t on them, that's on my potty list / Accused of being boujee by a snobby b***h.”
25. Carly Rae Jepsen - Cut to the Feeling
Dance-pop superstar Carly Rae Jepsen has picked up right where she left off. Cut to the Feeling has enough catharsis and soaring highs to match some of her best work.
24. BROCKHAMPTON - JUNKY
In all of BROCKHAMPTON’s discography, nothing likely matches this song in its size and its amorphicity. It approaches its topics homophobia and drug abuse with unwavering brute force, yet it directs this force from sound to sound with seemingly effortless dexterity.
23. (Sandy) Alex G - Bobby
Sandy is one of the most prolific up-and-coming indie musicians. With this indie folk cut, it seems he has gained an absolute mastery over melody.
22. King Gizzard - Rattlesnake
It is fair to say that psychedelic rock band from Australia has covered a lot of ground in 2017. This bop is a definite highlight that does well to capture all the energy and fun they put into their music.
21. Fleet Foxes - Third of May / Odaigahara
This progressive folk track reads like an origami dove that unfolds itself over time. With each crinkle and fold comes the passion of Robin Pecknold’s sweet yet weathered voice.
20. King Krule - Dum Surfer
It is still surprising how brilliantly creepy this song is. It sounds like a post-punk band tried to cover the Doobie Brothers while being simultaneously dipped in primordial soup. There isn’t a good way to describe this track, to be quite honest. Just listen to it and enjoy.
19. Japanese Breakfast - Boyish
If Beach House’s attributed influences are the Beach Boys and Mazzy Star, then Michelle Zauner AKA Japanese Breakfast’s attributed influences are the Beach Boys and Beach House. It is the most wonderfully baroque dream pop I have heard this year, and Zauner’s lyrical prowess really shines: “I can't get you off my mind, you can't get yours off the hostess.”
18. Ghostemane - D(R)Own
Many hip-hop artists have been progressing toward a punk aesthetic; this track feels like the raw energy of a man who has a firm foot in both scenes.
17. Corbin - ICE BOY
With one of the most unique voices in cloud rap, Corbin really comes into his own on ICE BOY. This post-punk influenced R&B hit is on a plane of its own.
16. Stella Donnelly - Boys Will Be Boys
Easily one of the most powerful songs of 2017. It truly speaks for itself, and I hope its echo only gets louder over time.
15. Lil Uzi Vert - XO TOUR Llif3
That this song stands at #15, even after its incessant air-time on speakers across the country for months, speaks volumes to how truly great it is. It sounds like it ought to be performed by a pop punk band, but it refuses. This track’s refusal to sound like anything else is what makes it so special.
14. Blanck Mass - Please
Blanck Mass specialized this year in taking cold and metallic music and making it warm and inviting. The danceability of this post-industrial track is inescapable.
13. Ariel Pink - Time To Live
This noisy and amorphous cut is an ironic response to John Maus’ hypnagogic pop anthem, Time to Die: “You cannot die. You have to live. That’s what it’s for.” This song is the epitome of Ariel’s pastiche and satirical compositional genius.
12. Slowdive - Star Roving
They’re baaaaack. After 22 long years, dream pop/shoegaze band Slowdive finally returned during a time they believe to be the resurgence of shoegaze. They are back with unprecedented drive and positivity, and this cohesive and uptempo track is proof.
11. Jay Som - The Bus Song
Few musicians this year have exhibited as much artistic versatility as Melani Duterte AKA Jay Som has in this ballad concerning a failing relationship. With relatively few resources, she managed to create a superbly catchy, cleverly produced, and well-mixed track with fantastic efficiency; in under four minutes she uses succinct and heart-crunching poetry to communicate so eloquently the paradoxical feelings that surround her relationship with her partner.
10. Vince Staples - Yeah Right
This Flume-produced track is the most forward-looking hip-hop music of the year. The intricacy of the instrumentals is mesmerizing, and the fact that both Vince and Kendrick can effectively spit over it is even more so.
9. Yung Lean - Red Bottom Sky
On this track, the surprisingly vast potential of Yung Lean and his producers seems to finally be coming to full bloom. His production team has always been some of the most impressive in the hip-hop game, and he has now found a way to wield it properly. He shows no intention to compete with his contemporaries but rather to bask in the temporary personal triumphs. The title of the track points to this by depicting the beauty of a cherry-red sunset, however he laments over how ethereal such beauty and clarity can be: “Ice on my feet I keep slipping.”
8. Mount Eerie - Ravens
This is undoubtedly the heaviest song of 2017. On July of 2016, Geneviève Castrée, wife of lo-fi indie icon Phil Elverum and mother to her four-month-old daughter, passed away. Phil, under his current artistic moniker, Mount Eerie, wrote and recorded a whole album in the room in which she died using mostly the instruments she owned. This song persistently toes the line between poetry and diary. It is six minutes and forty seconds of raw emotional blood-letting.
7. Tyler, The Creator - I Ain’t Got Time!
It is miraculous that the same man who just two years ago released Cherry Bomb has since developed the chops necessary to create a song as impressive as this. His flow is as dirty and calculated as his production. His verses are finally expressing the wit and humor that he had been looking for since the beginning of the decade.
6. Lorde - Sober
This song has a certain vibrancy to it. It shimmers and glistens, like the excitement of being with that certain someone: “King and Queen of the weekend. Ain’t a pill that could touch our rush (But will we do when we’re sober).” The beauty of the song ends, leaving Lorde alone with a pitch-shifted and confused voice. Things never persist, and when the great things end we are left stuttering behind. This is the exact feeling that this track captures so pointedly.
5. Kendrick Lamar - FEAR.
While many year-end lists overrated much of DAMN. and a few specific tracks off of it, this song, in its poetic glory, managed to squeak out of almost all of them. It is at this point in the album that Kendrick not only delivers his best bars but also is at his most vulnerable. It traces his fears growing up under the strict governance of his mother, his fears as a teenager in a neighborhood full of death traps, and his fear of falling from grace after the success of his last album. He is still as slick as Big L was in his prime: “The type of shit'll make me flip out and just kill somethin’ / Drill somethin', get ill and fill ratchets with a lil' somethin’.” In his last verse, he manages to fit in the title of every track on the album. Kendrick is a musical perfectionist, and this track is the closest he got to perfect in 2017.
4. BROCKHAMPTON - SISTER / NATION
The volume of lyrical talent in 2017’s acclaimed ‘boy band’ alone is daunting, but what really makes them stand above the rest is the stellar production. This is embodied best by this double track. SISTER steadily builds in the first minute, establishing a layer of synths and adhering a layer of raw electro-industrial noise. However, for the fourth verse and the fourth verse only, the song somehow rolls seamlessly into glitch hop. Almost four minutes in, SISTER ends and NATION begins, and again the producers facilitate a transition to an equally impressive yet totally different set of instrumentals. BROCKHAMPTON has been trying very hard with publicity to separate themselves from the Odd Future’s and the A$AP Mob’s of the world; it is their mind-boggling production that both justifies and fulfills this desire.
3. Alvvays - In Undertow
There’s no other way to put it: this is a perfect song. It has a standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus structure with a rhyme scheme about as simple as they come. Much like how sushi seeks perfection in its composite, foundational flavors, this song too is stripped of anything unnecessary and finds perfection by being just so darn good at what it accepts to be.
2. Denzel Curry - Zeltron 6 Billion (feat. Lil Ugly Mane)
South Florida rapper Denzel Curry has assumed yet another persona, one that he calls ‘Zeltron 6 Billion’. His powerful production and equally powerful and witty lyricism has only improved since featuring on former underground king Lil Ugly Mane’s TWISTIN back in 2012. Zeltron 6 Billion is a fitting summation of everything that has brought him to prominence: the hard-hitting bravado of a man whose visceral beats and piercing verses speak for themselves, and the tenderness that has fostered strong bonds with his fans and his peers. This is Lil Ugly Mane’s first documented collaboration with Denzel since TWISTIN, and his verse on this track is one of the few of this year that dares to keep up with Denzel’s crazy artistic momentum: “Find me out surrounded by some shooters / They be young and old / Piffing looking crispy I got origami money folds.”
1. Björk - Blissing Me
A ballad about two music lovers. That’s all that it takes for Björk to showcase her unparalleled understanding of the human condition. Her angelic voice paired with Arca’s experimental production (not to mention the album cover and the music video) paint her as an otherworldly being reflecting within herself with impeccable precision; she analyzes feelings with a cool and calculating demeanor, piercing through her obfuscated motives: “He reminds me of the love in me,” but, “I just fell in love with a song…did i just fall in love with love?” Each and every line is a brilliant insight into the human desire for intellectual, physical, and sensual engagement and its inevitable incongruity with the illusive concept of love. Yet someone as enlightened as her is still unable to come to an understanding of love itself. This five minute tour through one of the most interesting minds of our time uses the mystery behind love to make 2017 a little more enchanting for us all.
PC: Costanza.CH / Flickr