Top 100 Songs of 2017

top 100 songs of 2017

Lorde melodrama review20. Lorde
“Green Light”

from Melodrama (Repblic)

Ms. Ella Yellich-O’Connor claimed to not particularly care that “Green Light,” the first single from her titanic second album Melodrama, doesn’t follow rules of usual song structure. It doesn’t, and she shouldn’t care. From the key change and tempo jump in the first bridge, it hits hyperspeed and refuses to stop. Lorde’s pop instincts are such that the song bursts at its seams with hooks regardless of overarching structure. Other tracks on Melodrama provide that record’s truest depths, but “Green Light” is an ideal appetizer. – Liam Green


best albums of September 2017 Alvvays19. Alvvays
“Dreams Tonite”

from Antisocialites (Polyvinyl)

There’s a specific tranquility captured in the music of indie-rock upstarts Alvvays. Tightly wound hooks with interlocked harmonies waver between simple, yet absorbing melodies, capturing a sense of calm in clever, three-minute dream-pop packages. “Dreams Tonite” is no exception, and is one of the highlight moments off of this year’s Antisocialites. Led by hazy, pace-setting down strums and a warped lead synth, the track follows a lovelorn narrative with frontwoman Molly Rankin asking, “If I saw you on the street/would I have you in my dreams, tonight?” The track takes advantage of every second, seamlessly shifting between verse, pre-chorus, chorus and back again. A brief bridge interrupts the pattern before the track nosedives into a feel-good conclusion, complete with nods toward Cocteau Twins’ distinct, harmonically alien sensibility. – Patrick Pilch


best songs of 2017 Dirty Projectors18. Dirty Projectors
“Keep Your Name”

from Dirty Projectors (Domino)

It’s all but impossible to separate any track on Dirty Projectors from the breakup of frontman Dave Longstreth and ex-girlfriend/bandmate Amber Coffman. Longstreth examines the relationship’s decay with unsparing specificity, even when it makes him look pretty terrible. On “Keep Your Name,” he veers from self-pity (“I don’t know why you abandoned me”) to outright pettiness (“What I want from art is truth / What you want is fame”), all delivered through a numbing, pitched-down vocal effect. There’s a moment of clear-headedness delivered in the form of a rap (which works, against all odds) but mostly the song just dwells in the irrational swirl of post-breakup emotions. (And just try to find a moment more subtly devastating than that “Impregnable Question” sample.) – Sam Prickett


best songs of 2017 Carly Rae Jepsen17. Carly Rae Jepsen
“Cut to the Feeling”

(Interscope)

“Cut to the Feeling” is pop perfection and pure joy.  Over ‘80s synths, Jepsen tells her guy to stop wasting time and to get to it already. “Cancel your reservations,” she sings, “No more hesitations, this is on.” But even while she’s demanding instant ecstasy, she is in total control and just the fucking epitome of cool. Meanwhile, I can’t listen to this song without feeling like I’m going to burst. Clearly, I’m not as cool not as Jepsen—she knows what she wants and she knows how to get it, and if what she wants is as crazy as breaking through the ceiling and dancing on the roof then dude better put on a helmet and some dancing shoes because this is on. – Adam Ellsworth


best songs of 2017 Kendrick Lamar16. Kendrick Lamar
“DNA.”

from DAMN. (Top Dawg/Aftermath)

This song is an incendiary device. And somehow it snuck its way onto rap radio, staying on the charts for several weeks, amused by the vast majority of its competition. Kendrick Lamar’s ability to mold star quality, storytelling substance and social analysis shouldn’t come as a surprise anymore, but he caught us sleeping with DAMN. “DNA.” is more immediately accessible than some of this album, but still indicative of the the furious whole. Opening with mocking Fox News soundbites, Lamar proceeds to burn every racist dog-whistler, political idiot and rap industry peer that’s ever stepped to him directly or indirectly. “Born inside the beast, my expertise – checked out in second grade,” he taunts. The talent within him didn’t need conventional methods to flower. – Liam Green


best songs of 2017 Chelsea Wolfe15. Chelsea Wolfe
“Offering”

from Hiss Spun (Sargent House)

I’m not sure what it says about Hiss Spun that Treble’s collective favorite track from it is one of the rare sonic respites included in Chelsea Wolfe’s relentlessly sludgy, scary work. Are we suckers for good Easter eggs? Are we able to find and appreciate metal in all its forms, even the least obvious ones? On an album full of screaming references to metal, “Offering” seems to rest on a dream-pop cloud: The guitar on this cut is calmer than most, the drums subdued and supplemented by fizzy loops. But the themes on Hiss Spun feel like a litany of warnings, sad realizations and seething anger, so the odd pleasantry of “Offering” also comes across as a forced one. Long an admirer of nature, Wolfe here looked to the Salton Sea for inspiration. She anthropomorphizes the California salt lake, placing it in a complicated relationship with the rest of humanity—”You and I, in our wild, won’t listen/It was rife, it was rife with unholy offerings.” With fish skeletons underfoot and San Andreas earthquakes underwater inspiring an abstract avatar for climate change fears, Wolfe’s/the lake’s plaintive vocals comprise a siren’s song to dash listeners against thematic rocks. – Adam Blyweiss


best songs of 2017 Moses Sumney14. Moses Sumney
“Quarrel”

from Aromanticism (Jagjaguwar)

Moses Sumney’s Aromanticism attempts to investigate and make a case against the absolute necessity of love or the need for the feeling. The intoxicating lyricist went so far as to write a prose poem regarding the album and themes contained within. At the heart of this idea is the song “Quarrel,” a near-seven-minute expedition into a relationship based on uneven footing, prompting the question of whether it’s a relationship that’s wanted or warranted. Sumney’s lyrical gymnastics are the hidden gem that’s difficult to find and process especially under the weight and gravity of his beautiful voice. When it comes down to it, Aromanticism is pure poetry and “Quarrel” is one of the main stanzas that allows for clear understanding after multiple listens and adjustments to interpretation. There are moments in the song that feel as if they could be, and probably should be, converted into long standing musical tropes that inform future artists of how to craft beautifully, heartbreaking music. The sickeningly bittersweet way that Sumney sings “We cannot be lovers” is worth the price of admission alone. – Chris Willis


best songs of 2017 Future13. Future
“Mask Off”

from FUTURE (Epic)

Two years ago, when much of the world fully succumbed to Future fever—many of my posts for this website then showcase this—we spent much less time agonizing over the repeated admissions of callous immorality and rampant misogyny in his lyrics than today. This is, unquestionably, a good thing, and not incredibly germane to “Mask Off,” which is fairly tame (all things considered), but seems appropriate to mention before going further. A much more aware, less forgiving eye examined Nayvadius Wilburn’s on-record confessions and real-life acrimony toward his ex-wife Ciara, especially as the latter got real fucking ugly.

Now if you’ll excuse me: PERCOCET, MOLLY PERCOCET. PEROCET, MOLLY PERCOCET. REP THE SET, GOTTA REP THE SET. Sorry. The inanity and simultaneous catchiness of the “Mask Off” chorus is a testament to Future’s skill at creating rap anthems underpinned by savvy hook structure, and Metro Boomin creates the year’s most addictive beat off a fairly simple flute loop. Lyrically, it focuses on Future appreciating how far he’s come in life—”From food stamps to a whole ‘nother domain”—rather than laundry-listing hedonism, so you don’t have to feel terribly guilty about finding pleasure in it. – Liam Green


Father John Misty Pure Comedy review12. Father John Misty
“The Ballad of the Dying Man”

from Pure Comedy (Sub Pop)

Dear God this year’s been painfully long. We’re at the end of it, doing our best to comb through the detritus to find some things to celebrate (there has been a lot of great music, for which we’re thankful), but the endless scroll of soul-crushing, defeating news is always there to remind us that something awful awaits us in just a moment or so. “Oh, in no time at all,” sings Father John Misty, reflecting the constantly refreshing feed of online insufferability, “this will be the distant past.” “Ballad of the Dying Man” chronicles the life not-so-well-lived by someone whose validation comes solely from his ability to “rate and analyze,” the “false feminists” he calls out, the “pretentious, ignorant voices” that need dressing down. It’s a breezy folk-rock tune, sounding like The Band in the abstract but reflecting a time that Music from Big Pink never could have predicted. And no doubt there’s a little of Josh Tillman’s own outsized personality between the lines; he’s abrasive perhaps, but never let it be said that he’s not self-aware. In the end, however, the Dying Man is all of us, missing out on something better because somebody somewhere was wrong. He died as he lived, ruining your mentions; well, actually… – Jeff Terich


best songs of 2017 Kendrick Lamar11. Kendrick Lamar
“XXX.” (feat. U2)

from DAMN. (TDE/Aftermath)

Upon the reveal of the tracklist to Kendrick Lamar’s fourth studio album DAMN., the U2-featuring “XXX” stuck out like a sore thumb between “LOVE” and “FEAR.” The once-heralded Irish rock group has a knack for receiving irregular eyerolls nowadays, releasing subpar records and making headlines for sneaking them through the backdoor of your iTunes. But trust; let Kendrick speak. While not all of the rapper’s collaborations have critically made sense (Taylor Swift, Imagine Dragons, Maroon 5), there’s a reason he’s paired with these artists, and it’s for the very same reason he’s paired with U2—he’s speaking directly to white America.

In the first half, Kendrick gives the listener insight into black America: injustice, violence and organized political madness—all constituents of this country’s deep-rooted institutionalized racism. A low-aggression beat welcomes Bono’s hook in the second half of “XXX,” as Kendrick becomes calm after delivering violent, yet empathetic advice to a friend whose son had been shot and killed. Lamar comes to terms with his frustration, explaining his anger through America’s “compulsive disorder.” The “blocks and borders,” “banks employees and bosses/With homicidal thoughts” and overnighted drugs and rifles have become so sickeningly ingrained in American society, repeated over generations by a hypocrite-run nation. – Patrick Pilch

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