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

Here we are again, with the back four face-offs between some of my favorite songs of 2017. Tuesday we brought you the top seed alongside some other notable singles, so check that out and vote if you missed it. As for now, look out below for some pop darlings, some hip hop surprises and one of the most honest songs you’ll hear all year.

First, we take the internet’s pop darling and pit her against your older sibling’s pop trio:

2) Cut to the Feeling – Carly Rae Jepsen

Have you ever found yourself basking in the cool June night air, catching fireflies with a friend or letting ice cream drip over the cone as you wander down a boardwalk letting the sounds of summer wash over you? Well, Carly captured that notion and encapsulated it into a song. Ever had a terrible day and wished it would all go away? I guarantee this will erase any manufactured depression. The effervescent Jepsen continues to lift our spirits with sugar-coated 80’s infused pop, and I’ll never get enough of it. For a long time, I thought this was a single meant for a terrible animated summer film. To my surprise, this is just a song too good to make it on to her last album, Emotion. Well, don’t hold back, Carly – keep it coming. We could use your verve.

15) Want You Back – Haim

Having the best video of these sixteen entries is a good start. Following up an outstanding debut record isn’t half bad, either. Sophomore slumps should have derailed Haim’s chances at continued stardom, but ‘Want You Back’ proved they can hang with the best and move on to the upper echelon of power-pop groups. Lacking the ebullient lyrics of tracks like ‘Falling’ and ‘If I Could Change Your Mind’, the sister trio makes up for it with pulsating downbeats that get your attention. It isn’t a slump at all, just a reminder that they’re continuing down the long road to stardom.


Next up, here’s a showdown between two vastly different music styles that actually end up complementing each other:

7) Bambi – Jidenna

Fun fact: I was starting off the year thinking about how I would come down with this list at the end of 2017 – listening to some new music in February I figured I’d develop this bracket idea. That week appeared in new playlists the first single from Katy Perry’s new album Witness – ‘Chained to the Rhythm’. While I enjoyed that for what it was worth, the next song on the generic “new songs of the week” was this one – such an epically chill song that I was caught off guard. Like a Paul Simon infused call to an ex as she approaches her wedding day to a new beau, Jidenna intones ‘I always knew that this day would come / The fork in the road where I cannot run’. You can pratically see him crashing up against the window above the chapel hoping to stop the wedding from proceeding. Lucky for me, he caught up a new fan in the process.

10) Whiteout Conditions – The New Pornographers

This song blew my mind when I first heard it. I thought for sure it would steal the entire year away from anyone else, with its rhythmically enchanting undercurrent. The vocals from singer-songwriter Carl Newman pushed the title track from the Canadian supergroup’s seventh album into a higher stratosphere than most. The rumbling drum only serves to entrance you more into running (if you haven’t noticed, this best-of list is essentially my workout playlist). If you dig deeper, you’ll appreciate lyrics like “I started dealing / in a stage of grief so demanding / I got a stand-in”. This haunting tale of woebegone misfortune is told is such a discordant way that you can’t help but to revel in its mastery.


Nothing pleased us more than witnessing the phoenix rising that was our next entry, but it’s coming down hard against my personal favorite band from 2016:

3) Rainbow – Kesha

I’ve touched upon this quite a bit over the year, particularly in the review of Kesha’s album, also titled Rainbow. As we marveled over the first new release in her (hopeful) comeback phase, none of us could have anticipated the middle-album gem that is the title song. While I hesitate to appoint the demeanor of “raw” to Kesha’s vocals, it does have an air of baring one’s soul. The biggest expectation from this new album was to be Kesha’s takedown of her abuser producer Dr. Luke, but while did get some raucous tracks looking down the barrel of a loaded gun, this song in particular struck me (and many others) the most. It’s not the redemptive ‘Praying’ that called for forgiveness of a predator and rising above their faults. It’s the reminder that we’re all potentially able to overcome our struggles someday, and more importantly, that Kesha has, and is happy to be alive.

14) And Saints – Sleigh Bells

Last year’s best of list included the early-November release of Sleigh Bells’ best album to date, Jessica Rabbit. I went on there to talk about how it helped me rationalize what was beginning to go on in our country and around the world. Much music has been released over the past year utilizing that fury to fuel some already classic hits. The seven-song LP Kid Kruschev came out nearly a year to the date of the previous release, and it’s best highlight is this low-key undercutting of our idols. Alexis Krauss shudders under the weight of her own trill, forcing us to listen in on what horrors have befallen her imagination. If nothing else, this is a trenchant b-side, a parfait to be eaten after their major release, and I simply love it.


Finally, a dour quintet from Ohio takes on the best thing to come out of New Zealand since Peter Jackson.

6) Day I Die – The National

If you know me, you know there’s a heavy anticipation on what we’ve made of ourselves before we die. The biggest quotient of this is the relationships we have – particularly romantic. For every person I met, whether it was for a class in college or a good friend from childhood, I often wonder how they’re doing and if they’re the least bit satisfied with the way they’ve come out in life. I’m not sure that anyone else feels this on such a grandiose scale, but there it is – simplified into a song by The National this year. Clearly the group has some unresolved demons with past loves and friendships, but the eerie resonance emanating from this tune signifies a softer touch emblematic of their specialty sound. If anything, let this be a message to the one I think of when I hear this song, as we all wonder where our loved one will be that day.

11) Green Light – Lorde

Lorde came back with a vengeance early this year, starting admirably with this hard-nosed single. As soon as the calendar flipped, rumors swirled about Lorde’s sophomore serving, and by St. Patrick’s Day we had two songs, “Liability” and this, a riveting dance-hall anthem that proves our favorite Kiwi can still broadcast bruising love tales like the best of them. As her star continued to rise over the spring, it was snatched up as one of the radio mainstays. Although that ran her the risk of becoming overplayed, it was worth it to hear that light up floor dance in our mind. The crescendo alone should let us know Lorde wasn’t playing around, fiercely certain of her place in the pop kingdom. As soon as the song was over, I was hungry for more. It was like she’d given us the signal to drive towards her wonderful new sound.

 


That’s it! Now that you’ve read them all, please vote for your favorites, and don’t forget to turn back to Tuesday’s post if you missed them.

Tune in this upcoming Tuesday to find the results as we narrow it down to an elite eight, and I’ll throw in some dish on what I also loved – some honorable mentions.

Thanks for stopping by!

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