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Top 25 Songs of 2017

Top 25 Songs of 2017

 

For those looking for a more digestible version of the best of what 2017 had to offer, below is a list of my personal favorite Top 25 songs of the year. The first half of the playlist is suitably abrasive, raw, and generally brooding in nature (for the most part), but once you make it to the back-half of the countdown there is more color, light, and even some traces of love and humanity to be found (an audacious concept in such a deplorable year, I know). Perhaps some of these songs will open a door to some rewarding music for you personally. Or perhaps not. In any event, dig in and check it out:

 

Honorable Mention - "The Background World" - Nine Inch Nails

 

 

The aural equivalent of watching helplessly as society seems to be collapsing in on itself and coming apart at the seams. It’s the soundtrack to staring into the void of all the chaos, belligerence, ignorance, confusion, noise, tribalism, and sheer absurdity that has defined 2017. As the feedback loop disintegrates into an unrecognizable wall of chaotic static, it all ends abruptly. What lies beyond the noise is unknown.

"Are you sure, this is what you want?"

 

#25 - "Cellophane" - METZ

An claustrophobic yet defiant ode to fatalism. 

 

#24 - "Sore Throat" - The Bronx

One of the straight up nastiest, heaviest, most vicious songs of 2017. Raw and powerful.

 

#23 - "This Isn't the Place" - Nine Inch Nails

 

Trent channels the one and only Beth Gibbons here. The Portishead vibes run deep sonically as well. Rarely have Trent's vocals sounded more vulnerable/desperate. 

 

#22 - "Picture That" - Roger Waters

 

"Picture a shithouse with no fucking drains, picture a leader with no fucking brains." (2017 in a nutshell)

 

#21 - "Only Once Away My Son" - Kevin Shields/Brian Eno 

 

An incredibly monolithic, brooding piece that sounds like the soundtrack to being sucked into a black hole...or discovering something profoundly indescribable at the edge of the universe. Intense.

 

#20 - "Up All Night" - The War On Drugs

 

Really good opening track that sets the tone for perhaps the best album released in 2017.

 

#19 - "True Sons of Zion" - Thievery Corporation

 

A fantastic dub-a-licious track from a fantastically dub-a-licious album. Smooth as butter.

 

#18 - "Echoes Of..." - Dälek 

Really love the dark, hostile, lurching old-school rhythm and beats of this track. Recalls 90s-era underground hip-hop, with righteous, timely, and topical lyrics to boot. Get your scowl on and turn up the volume to 10:

"All these so-called leaders frauds
Spitting lies through weaker jaws
Want us back where we belong
Intellect is mourned by the intelligent
Truths once self-evident
Replaced by vile rhetoric
Content to be your heretic
... i'm surrounded by my derelicts
Forever speak in Dälek
The future? We defining it!
Status quo? Defying it!
The violated violent
The vilest men corrupt so we refuse to keep silent

We the, Echoes of Martin, of Malcolm Of Evers
Of Hampton, Of Seale
My People Won't Kneel!"

 

#17 - "Mess of Wires" - METZ

Straight from the band's mouth: "Its about speaking your mind. Attempts to incite division and fear through intimidation and violence have no place in this world. Racists and neo-nazis fuck off."

Personally, that makes the abrasive and contemptuous nature of this song that much more enjoyable.

 

#16 - "Drained Lake" - METZ

My pick for the best song off METZ's solidly good new album Strange Peace.

 

#15 - "Only Child" - Institute

The highlight off the delightfully dirty, nasty little punk-rock record that is Subordination by Austin's very own Institute. If you like your punk-rock raw, scathing, and seething with animosity with plenty of attitude to back it up, definitely give this band a listen:

 

#14 - "Dreams" - Beck

And now for the less abrasive/raw half of the countdown. This song technically shouldn't even be on the list since it was originally released in 2015, but it did make an appearance on Beck's new (mostly disappointing) album Colors.  I loved this song when it came out in 2015, but by now I've already heard it a 100 times, and listening to it now in the broader context of the aforementioned Colors somewhat taints it in my eyes. That said, still dig the song in spite of all that, but it's also not Top 10 worthy considering all of that as well.

 

#13 - "Nothing to Find" - The War On Drugs

 

The 80s cheese factor is strong here, but this is one of those rare instances that The War On Drugs' music manages to be uplifting as opposed to overtly melancholy. Watching the video (which is admittedly sweet, but also fairly cheesy), it reminds me of how much I miss road-trips and the sense of wanderlust and freedom that goes along with that. Also that harmonica adds a really nice touch to what is overall a pretty uplifting, built-for-the-highway road-trip anthem. 

 

#12 - "Feet Don't Fail Me Now" - Queens of the Stone Age

 

The clear highlight from the otherwise somewhat underwhelming Villains. This is a fun one. Crank it.

 

#11 - "Warm Hands (Freedom Returned)" - Ty Segall

 

Delightfully jammy 10+ minute guitar-centric brilliance from perhaps the best rocker of the entire decade: the one and only Mr. Ty Segall. 

 

#10 - "Animated Violence" - Oh Sees

 

One of the straight-up heaviest tracks John Dwyer & co. have ever recorded. Incredibly awesome, almost proto-metal sounding jam. People talking about "fire"...this is FIRE bitches! 

 

#9 - "Well Done" - IDLES

Equal parts hilarious and raucous, this is the primary highlight from IDLES' debut album Brutalism. Well done!

 

#8 - "Road Block" - Thievery Corporation (featuring Racquel Jones)

 

 

OK, I mean, this is almost just too fucking perfect right here (when it comes to dub-reggae anyway). The beat, the rhythm, the flow, the style, the whole thing makes butter look like sandpaper. To quote a Stuart Scott phrase (R.I.P.), "it's cooler than the other side of the pillow." Again, in an era filled with hype, Thievery Corporation dare to stay cool AF and succeed with flying colors here.

 

#7 - "Late Bloomers" - The Growlers

 

The Growlers may not have released an album this year, but they did drop this little gem of a single earlier this summer, which finds the band getting back to their "beach-goth" roots. It's a beautiful thing. A warm song with a message I wholly endorse. Better to bloom late than never at all:

"He had it good
A life too easy
On his mother's tit too long
Made a boy too needy
Picture perfect picket fencing
Robbing him his chance
To grow up right and feel heartbreak
Utopia's a scam

Some will float and some will sink
There is only one way to find out
Fear of pain or love of drink
So many ways fools can drown
Shaaaaaa...
Late bloomers bloom

Nothing prepares you for circumstance that rips your heart apart
Never lied to but he never saw the world outside the yard
Sorrows a lonely trap
One death was the last straw
Skin was too thin
He never held up his guard

Some will float and some will sink
There is only one way to find out
Fear of pain or love of drink
So many ways fools can drown
Shaaaaaa...
Late bloomers bloom

Late to whither, late to bloom
Chance of pain, run back to the womb
Give you more time to brew
Temporary haven from the truth

When the water broke
He was unprepared to feel something real
He paints his pain in a blackout
(Now he's got too stepping out)
Somethings missing from his eyes
(Taking on his spirit to rise)
He paints his pain in a blackout
(Now he's got too stepping out)
Shaaaaaa...
Late bloomers bloom"
 
 
 

#6 - "Holding On" - The War On Drugs

 

Again, the cheesy 80s vibes are in full effect here (I almost couldn't get passed that opening synth), but this is The War On Drugs we're talking about, so it's to be expected. Similar to "Nothing to Find", this song sports a uniquely uplifting quality that rears it's head occasionally on their new album A Deeper Understanding, and frankly, it's a pretty refreshing development in the band's sound. The lyrics hit-home for me personally, and if the palpable sense of humanity pulsing through the song wasn't evident enough aurally, the endearing video really drives that aspect home. It'll bring a warm-hearted smile to your face, something that I think most everyone could use a little more of in 2017. Cheers to humanity.

 

#5 - "Less Than" - Nine Inch Nails

A topical, dersive anthem for 2017, dedicated to the rapidly dwindling supports of you know who:

"So what are you waiting for? You got watch you asked for.
Did it fix what was wrong with you?
Are you less than?
Hey look what you gone done
Come on welcome oblivion
Did it fix what was wrong inside?
Are you less than?"

 

 

#4 - "Big Man" - Ty Segall

 

Clearly a leftover track from his brilliant Emotional Mugger LP released in 2016, this song is characteristic of everything that was great about that album (diseased fuzz, synthy bass, decadent vibe, warped laser beams, etc). A twisted little freaky dance party song from hell...pretty awesome.

 

#3 - "Dear Life" - Beck

 

Out of all the generic, uninspired pop-garbage to be found on Colors, this song stands out as the only legitimately great song on the entire album (with apologies to the recycled "Dreams"). The piano and the head-bobbing beat of this song give it a certain full-bodied warmth that really resonates with me personally. It sounds genuinely affecting, and just seems to strike all the right chords tastefully (considering how accessible it is). Songs like this give me hope that Beck isn't entirely out of ideas musically, and almost makes the otherwise deplorably poppy nature of Colors borderline forgivable (but not quite). 

 

#2 - "Let the Chalice Blaze" - Thievery Corporation

 

This is a new "beach-zen" (when you become one with the sand, the ocean, the sky, and the sun on a beautiful beach on a warm day in front of a tropical ocean...typically after a few drinks) classic right here. Pure fucking transcendent bliss. It's like an aural drug that casts a magnificently chill spell on your being. A beautiful thing. Leave your troubles at the door, kick back, and marinate in this one.

 

#1 - "The Strangest Thing" - The War On Drugs

 

Although A Deeper Understanding continues to grow on me, initially, this was the only song that deeply resonated with me when I first heard the album. It was the only song that seemed to be in the same league as "Red Eyes" or "An Ocean Between The Waves" for example, and I still hold it in that high regard. It's got that special type of magic to it. Really a sweeping, incredibly beautiful, comforting song. And when that last blistering solo comes in around the 4:27 mark, it really takes the song to new heights. Overall, it's a song that's really a good metaphor for Texacaliago as a whole, or at least the type of music that deeply resonates with me:

"...I'm just living in the space between, the beauty and the pain. It's the strangest thing..."

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