MORE TRACKS, MORE JOY, MORE EVERYTHING.
Welcome to Best Songs of 2017, part II. We’ve been expecting you. 10 songs just weren’t enough, so, here are a few personal faves that deserve all the spotlight. From disorienting haze, ruminating on loss, lust, and everything else in between, these tracks contain weighty themes that make it impossible to look away. Ready for a dense and tangled part II?
10. “Get Free” by Lana Del Rey
A triumphant fourth LP. Defined by her sadness and discomfort, Lana Del Rey has always indulged in melancholic tones, warm textures, and nostalgia. Lust for Life focuses on slow tempos, ruminations about the past, and mourning (see: “Beautiful People, Beautiful Problems” featuring Stevie Nicks.) Laced with dramatic flair, every single track perfectly embodies self-destruction and glamour. It’s twirling, it’s hypnotic, and we can’t help but follow Lana’s lead.
“Get Free” is a surprisingly touching and dreamy “modern manifesto” that’s quite optimistic. Lana seems to want to move away from her gloom and wounds and try something new: “I never really noticed that I had to decide/To play someone's game or live my own life/And now I do/I wanna move.” Lana Del Rey remains a living and breathing concept, one I’ve yet to fully comprehend. I’m fascinated.
LANA’S BEST: “Born to Die”, “High by the Beach”, “Summertime Sadness”, “Terrence Loves You”, “Heroin”, “Lust For Life”
9. “Raingurl” by Yaeji
Yaeji, you’re part house, part hip-hop, part awesome. On her first EP, the NYC-based producer carefully plays with house beats and pounding rhythms, and creates new melodic structures, whether she’s singing in English or Korean. She raps, she whispers, she murmurs, and seamlessly alternates between intimate and distant. She designs her own flow. The tone is angular and virtual all at once. The result is captivating. Are you ready to be engulfed?
Mother Russia in my cup
And my glasses foggin’ up
Oh yeah hey dog hey what’s up
Oh yeah hey dog hey what’s up
(Every week I have the same thought)
(All the suffocated memories)
CHECK OUT: “Guap”, “Drink I’m Sippin On”, “Passionfruit”, “Feel It Out”
8. “Best Friend” by Sofi Tukker
Yo, you wanna meet me at the bar? (yawp)
Yo, you wanna meet me a the lounge? (yawp)
Yo, you wanna meet me at the club? (yawp)
Yo, you wanna meet me downtown? (okay)
Monumental hooks? Yawp. Creative beats? Yawp. Infectious sing-along lyrics? YAWP. An underrated jungle dance-pop jam? Yawp! The duo met at Brown University, crafted some one-of-a-kind jams, and never looked back. The thumping bass line, the language fusion of Portuguese and English, the lyric repetition, and the heavy dose of genre blending are just a few characteristics of what makes SOFI TUKKER exceptionally brilliant.
One thing’s for sure, Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern are the epitome of friendship.
“This song is a celebration of our favorite thing ever: friendship, it’s about the kind of friendship where you can talk forever without anything in particular to talk about. Old friends, new friends, all friends! In the spirit of friendship, we just wanted to have some of our friends hop on a verse!” – Sophie
7. “2049” by Hans Zimmer and Benjamin Wallfisch
OSCAR BUZZ. OSCAR ALERT. No, wait, I’m making this up. Movie soundtracks are underrated enough as it is. They deserve recognition. What would Star Wars be without its thundering theme song? How boring would that Mordor scene be, without a few violins and flutes accompanying Frodo's every step? Ok back to Blade Runner 2049.
“2049” has soul. Benjamin Wallfisch said it best: “We tried to create the intention of a more contemporary sound using 40-year-old technology. It’s a lot harder but the result has soul.”
This song encompasses what Blade Runner 2049 is all about, by creating a track that plays with the idea of “more human than human.” The use of a Yamaha CS-80 (a bipolar and complicated 200 pounds analog synth that can literally burst into flames if you plug the pedal the wrong way) perfectly translates the soul and musicality the way an instrument should.
I’m like a moth to a flame with this one. I can’t look away. I can’t stray away. It’s a strange and extraordinary energy that completely immerses you in Blade Runner 2049’s universe.
“One of the great things about Denis Villeneuve and the movies he makes is there is an element to his filmmaking that cannot be described in words. The only other language that might work is music.” – Hans Zimmer
LISTEN TO: “Rain”, “Joi”, “Sea Wall”, “Almost Human”
6. “Hot Thoughts” by Spoon
Spoon in one word? TEXTURE. Spoon in two words? ELECTRONIC TEXTURE. This indie rock, indie pop, experimental rock four-man band reliably tweaks its sound year after year without chopping, editing, and purifying their style. The unspoken subtext of Spoon is strong and gently creeps into your mind unexpectedly. “Hot Thoughts” fully satisfies a three-year itch for new Spoon music and packs Britt Daniel’s nervous energy and musical bounce. Persistent excellence is a rare treasure in music. This is Spoon.
P.S. Their summer show at Metropolis (now called MTELUS) in Montreal on July 23, 2017, was the best thing since sliced bread.
TIMELESS GEMS: “Written in Reverse”, “I Ain’t the One”, “Hot Thoughts”, “They Want My Soul”, “Don’t Make Me a Target”, and “The Way We Get By”.
5. “Love is Mystical” by Cold War Kids
Lead singer Nathan Willett is the best thing about this band – by a long shot. At their finest moments, Cold War Kids is raw, catchy, and honest. “Love is Mystical”’s masterful ability to infuse emotions into the beats of the song still resonates in my heart. With 13 years and five albums under their belts, the band still manages to surprise me. Cold War Kids are official veterans in the rock music industry.
Their latest album L.A. Divine “is the best version of what we’ve always done,” according to lead singer Willett. To have that kind of introspection and to know/hone your style is difficult in an industry that’s constantly changing and mimicking itself. Cold War Kids simply breezes over all that. They’ve struck the perfect balance between passion, complexity, and instrumentation. Now, help me convince these guys to come to MONTREAL!
THE BEST ONES: “Restless”, “Bitter Poem”, “Skip The Charades”, “Bulldozer”, “Something Is Not Right With Me”
4. “Third of May / Ōdaigahara” by Fleet Foxes
Acoustic guitar bliss. Strumming pattern love. Fleet Foxes go for folk and pop with such quality and tact, that they remain unrivaled. Their third LP Crack-Up is so much more than its predecessors: More love, more guitar overlaps, more percussions, more poetry, and more thoughts. “Third of May / Ōdaigahara”’s luminance explodes into a rhythmic energy before collapsing low muddy register. The 8:00 track takes its listeners on a whirlwind of feelings flourishes into an immaculate track.
FLEET FOXES MUSTS: “Blue Ridges Mountains”, “He Doesn’t Know Why”, “Fool’s Errand”, “Lorelai”, “Cassius, -”
3. “Indoors” by The Flatliners
Fifteen years of punk/ska/rock/pure bliss. The Flatliners are everything you need and want in a punk band. Fierce riffs? Yes. Polished lyrics? Yes. Intricately structured tracks? HECK YAH. Since their ska-slam-dunk-of-an-album Destroy to Create, the flats have embraced maturity with the same legendary fire as their younger selves.
Lyrically, Chris Cresswell and the boys paint powerfully clear images (read: “Chameleon Skin”, “Burn Out Again”, “Unconditional Love”.) The band uses more of its sensitive ways with melody to craft an idyllic sonic space. Don’t worry, there’s a handful of classic Cresswell growls and howls thrown into the mix, which solidifies the album’s consistent and good-natured tone.
The appeal is irresistible, and once wrapped up in Inviting Light, it’s inconceivable to imagine leaving its embrace.
FLATS HITS: “Fred’s Got Slacks”, “Gullible”, “Carry the Banner”, “He Was a Jazzman”, “KHTDR” (!!!!!!!!!), “Mother Teresa Chokeslams The World”, “Birds Of England”, “Tail Feathers”, “Daggers”, “This Guy Reads From a Card”, … You know what? Just check out all their albums.
2.“New York” by St. Vincent
Here’s an iconic and undeniable figure in modern art rock. The “female Bowie” returns with a layered, self-conscious, and deeply personal album called MASSEDUCTION. “New York” is a charming ballad with compressed guitar sounds, haunted by a muffled pulse. MASSEDUCTION often feels fragmentary, however, Annie Clark sharpened her musical edges and forcefully drags her listeners into her darkness.
“You’re the only motherf---er in the city who can stand me”
ST. VINCENT CLASSICS: “Los Ageless”, “Prince Johnny”, “Who”, “Slow Disco”, “Cruel”
1. “Pothole” by Tyler, The Creator
The Odd Future ringleader returns with his most accomplished album yet. Tyler, The Creator’s lack of structure always seemed intentional and it was, quite frankly, charming. He raps impulsively (“My moods change like the f---in seasons”), swarming in and out like a dropped hornet’s nest, and does an excellent job of holding our attention, as always. Unlike Wolf, Tyler aims for music rather than menace in Flower Boy. “Pothole” is a balancing act between gruff cynicism and lost romance flashbacks. It is perfectly assembled.
Tyler’s old disorder and chaos are no more. His raps were usually bottomless games of angry rant raps and creepy fantasies directed at no one in particular. Flower Boy tackles true love, ennui, pain, and finding someone who truly values you. Hit play, already.
TYLER ESSENTIALS: “Garbage”, “IFHY”, “TreeHome95”, “Garden Shed”, “See You Again”, “Boredom”, “PartyIsntOver/Campfire/Bimmer”
These are artists who found success in exploring uncharted terrains. These are artists who are eager to stretch the parameters of their aesthetic. These artists delivered stern and serious tracks and remained conceptually focused. That’s real music.
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
- Robert Frost
Thank you guys for making a difference in the world. See you on the flip side.