Music to Your Ears – Best of the Year: Songs Part One

So we’re trying something different this year, as I’ve mentioned the past couple of editions – I’m a big fan of brackets and tournaments, so I figured I’d pick my four favorite songs from each season of 2017 (Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn) and pit them against each other. I’m going to give the lowdown on why I chose them and all that, of course, signifying why they’re the best sixteen songs of the year.

This is where you come in: This week and the subsequent three Tuesdays I’ll be asking you to vote for what you think is the best of the best. The first four matchups are today, below, and on Thursday I’ll reveal the other four face-offs.


Our first contest involves a former Disney princess and a former Oasis brother:

1) Bad Liar – Selena Gomez

I was real down on Selena when she first emerged as the latest in a steady stream of pop starlets, thinking it was just another manufactured product. Instead, the Texan power player managed to outdo herself with each subsequent single, starting with “The Heart Wants What It Wants”, then “Hands to Myself”, finally culminating with this year’s hot number “Bad Liar”. I was simply blown away by this song, which at first felt like a guilty pleasure but turned into a full-blown love affair over the summer. Even taking some time off, I heard it again over the weekend and it’s undoubtedly my pick for song of the year. I know, I’m surprised myself.

16) For What It’s Worth – Liam Gallagher

I’m going to go out on a limb here and admit that Liam was always my favorite Gallagher brother. He seems a bit more grounded, and his music reflects that. A lot has been said that this may be an apology of sorts to his estranged brother, but that remains to be seen. We can read between the lines all we want, this is just a damn good guitar strain. If honesty is what we’re looking for, there’s nothing more endearing than when Gallagher reels back with “Let’s leave the past behind with all our sorrows / I’ll build a bridge between us and I’ll swallow my pride”. Maybe we’ll get an Oasis reunion yet.

Your next challenge is to figure out which indie darling had the smoother single:

8) First Caress – Spoon

Some of the slickest grooves emerge from the ashes of the previous year. With Spoon, the spring began to bloom with their sultry single – one that proved hammering down on a piano was still in style. Britt Daniel croons to his past love, “I come back and I find you never changed / Then I think of the years from your love I’ve been dispossessed”. Think he’s ready to start out 2017 with a newfound passion? I sure was, and this often drove my early-year runs. Not since 2007’s “You Got Yr Cherry Bomb” have the Austin quartet delivered such a bang-up tune.

9) New York – St. Vincent

Walking around the city that never sleeps, I finally realized how integral this song is to my mindset approaching the new year. We’ve seen a lot of crazy things in politics, sports, music, film and general life that it can all get a bit overwhelming. If you’re from New York, you’re a bit used to the ridiculous nature of the world. When you live in such an ecosystem, it’s also necessary to have that one person that gets you, that truly completes you when the going gets tough. They can be a brother, a lover, a pet dog. St. Vincent sings her heart out to some past icon she knew and cared for, and as for the only motherfucker in the city who would forgive me, this song’s always gonna remind me of you.

For our third meeting, we have our only non-single track looking down the only song whose album won’t appear until 2018:

4) No Reason to Run – Cold War Kids

We all had plenty reasons to run in 2017, least of all to the store for the new Cold War Kids album L.A. Divine. I did enjoy the actual singles “Love is Mystical” and “Restless”, but nothing got me moving like this heart-pumping live track slotted into the center of the album. Nathan Willett has never been this raw, asking us all “Have you ever felt authentic? / Like you belong in the club / Freedom is overrated”. When he gets to the downslope chorus asking us to stay by his side, all you want to do is run along with him.

13) Top of the World – Kimbra

Kimbra got some short shrift when she first popped onto the scene – her biggest hit was in the duet “Somebody That I Used to Know” with Gotye, which was categorically overplayed went it arrived in America during the winter of 2012. Even though the pair won a Grammy for Record of the Year, it overshadowed her far superior “Settle Down” and its album Vows. Luckily, she endured and returns this winter with the funky, angry jam that returns her to, well, the top of the world. Here’s hoping that this swells into an even better album for early 2018.

Our final matchup picks up the pace in Vegas and then slows back down on the California coast:

5) Run for Cover – The Killers

For about a decade and a half, Brandon Flowers has been chasing the dream of becoming the next Bruce Springsteen. Along the way, he finally figured out he can be his own man and delivered us one of his best albums, the solo effort The Desired Effect. With his original band, however, he’s finally come full circle, bringing us some of the smartest stuff they’ve endeavored for, in a sort of reboot of 2006’s Sam’s Town. If that album was the forerunner to this year’s Wonderful Wonderful, then “For Reasons Unknown” is the grandfather to “Run for Cover”. If you’ve been waiting for the Killers to get back to their normal adrenaline-fueled synth-rock, then this is your welcome invitation.

12) Malibu – Miley Cyrus

Much like Selena Gomez, I’d earlier dismissed the Hannah Montana days as a sign for future oblivion only to be completely corrected by her impressive streak of quality hits. Yes, there were the obvious plays that screamed “I’m not a Disney princess anymore” like everything on 2013’s Bangerz. This next step was necessary to prove Cyrus’ legitimacy as a pop songstress. Given her turbulent relationship with least-bearded Hemsworth Liam, this developed into a beautiful love note to him, while providing us with a calming alternative to chill out during the summer doldrums. Miley has simply never been better.

That’s it for now, I’ll see you Thursday with the last eight songs, including what my second favorite of the year was!

Next Tuesday you can tune in to see the results of all eight challenges and vote those down into a final four. I’ll be talking about some honorable mentions to boot!


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