We take a close look at some of our favorite songs of 2017. They helped us get the party started. They reminded us what is beautiful in the world. They helped us get through this dog shit paradise of a year. Stream our Spotify playlist and read through what we had to say about our favorite songs!
Big Thief, “Mythological Beauty”
“Mythological Beauty” covers a lot of ground in its five minutes. It’s an ode to Adrianne Lenker’s mother, who gave up an older brother Lenker would never know at the age of seventeen. She recounts the tale of a railroad spike almost killing her at the age of five, leaving her mother to coddle her in the backseat of a car as blood gushed from her head. Lenker’s life is seemingly unbelievable, and emotionally honest and revealing songs like “Mythological Beauty” contribute to it. It evokes the emotions entangled in the relationship of my own mother, how a complicated past can sometimes strain an emotional connection, but at the end of the day, you only have love for the “child inside you who’s trying to raise a child in me.”
Seeing as Ctrl was our number one album, it’s only right that “Prom” makes our list of favorite songs. Everything about “Prom” is flawless, from the underlying pop beat to Solána’s angelic voice to all the melodies intertwining. “Prom” encapsulates feelings and fears many of us can relate to and experience frequently: not being good enough, not doing enough, not succeeding fast enough—and at times begging those around us to not take our actions or emotions as a reflection of them. “Am I doing enough / Feel like I’m wasting time,” hits the nail on the head—we question ourselves to the point where we feel like we don’t belong, we’re not making a name for ourselves, or we’re not keeping up with everyone around us. “Prom,” like Ctrl, is an honest expression of insecurities that, as much as we hate to admit, make us human. Solána’s promise to “get a little better as I get older” is something we all try to do, and it’s comforting to know someone with as much talent as her has felt the same way. It’s a reminder that we’re not all alone in this world.
Hurray for the Riff Raff, “Pa’lante”
“Pa’lante” is a term that means “onward, forward” used by the Young Lords, a Puerto Rican socialist, civil and human rights group based in New York. In the song, Alynda Segarra points out the contradiction of how the US treats its immigrant population, specifically Puerto Ricans: How can one “be something” when their homeland is colonized and their people are dehumanized?
This song so acutely sums up the climate of 2017 for millions of Americans. When a better future seems so deeply out of reach for so many people, Segarra is instilling not just a message of resiliency, but also a call-to-arms: “To all who had to survive, I say, ¡Pa’lante!”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Much of Puerto Rico is still without power after the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and María. If you have the means to do so, we encourage you to donate to help bring resources to those who need it most in Puerto Rico through UNIDOS por Puerto Rico.
Japanese Breakfast, “Diving Woman”
“Diving Woman” is the entrance to Soft Sounds From Another Planet, one of our favorite albums from this year and perhaps the most immersive of them all. For starters, it’s a certified bop. Anchored by a catchy guitar line, the song cascades into layers of alien sound while sustaining a consistent head nod. The music surrounds like water as Michelle Zauner channels “haenyeo,” meaning the Korean tradition of female divers. It’s a song that launches the listener into a new world with familiar landscapes; “I want it all” she softly sings over whining guitar in the chorus. Her second verse speaks for itself too: “The men have gone and left again / And no one’s shocked or blames them /Another day is shot, my friend / I’m picking up the pieces.”
Gorillaz, “Ascension” ft. Vince Staples
This year marked not only the return of Gorillaz – everyone’s favorite cartoon electro-hip-hop band – but also the… well, ascension of Vince Staples to the forefront of contemporary rap. The opening track to Gorillaz’s new album Humanz, “Ascension” sets the groundwork for the main theme of the album: a party playlist for the end of the world. Nowhere on the album is this better exemplified than with Staples’ hook of “The sky’s fallin’ baby, drop that ass ‘fore it crash.”
Low Cut Connie, “Revolution Rock n Roll”
After finding themselves on one of Obama’s playlists, these Philly rockers have gone on to play a slew of sold out club shows in the US and more recently the UK. Keep an eye out for Dirty Pictures Pt 2, coming next year.
–Corwin Wickersham IV
Florist, “Red Bird”
In the last slot on Florist’s 2017 LP, If Blue Could Be Happiness, sits a deeply intimate track called “Red Bird.” Never changed from the original demo recording, it’s a pure extraction of a moment before the worst turning point. For Emily Sprague, the band’s lead vocalist and, in many ways backbone, that point was the unexpected passing of her mother just a day after writing and showing her this demo. Eight seconds of near-silence pass before Sprague’s familiar voice lilts over soft synths and guitar chords. Nature and mortality intertwine, as do gentle lyrics about birds, being afraid, a pond, and sunrises. It evokes the overwhelming feeling of hearing your mom’s voice call you back home at dusk, and then trying to remember the very last time that happened, but you can’t.
“And if I was afraid / you told me not to be / But were you afraid? / I understand the birds now that I’ve learned some things.” Paired with this synth arrangement (uploaded the month of her mom’s death) make these simple lyrics that much more crushing, and “Red Bird” one of 2017’s best songs.
Ibeyi’s sophomore release, Ash, has been picking up steam as the year ends. It is characterized by a fearlessness in the face of adversity, a choosing of confrontation whenever presented with injustice or abuse, however one has been mistreated in life. This particular song was written about an incident during Lisa-Kaindé Diaz’s youth when she was racially profiled and arrested. Kamasi Washington contributes delicate yet punctuating saxophone that live in the space between Diaz’s vocals and the characteristic Ibeyi drumbeats. There’s much to be uncovered within the album but this track is certainly one of the punchiest, with a refrain of, ‘We are deathless,’ going from a cocoon of self-protection to acting as a battle-cry. In a year that sees many of us alternating between rolling with the punches and putting up our best fight, this track gives both reprieve and call to action.
Rico Nasty, “Poppin”
While every day is a new chance to thrive, it’s also a new day for someone or something to test a bitch. Rico Nasty’s “Poppin” from her 2017 release Sugar Trap 2 is a two minute and 47 second reminder that no matter who or what tests you, you are still very much a poppin’ ass bitch.
Rico Nasty has had a successful 2017; from the release of Sugar Trap 2 to having “Poppin” featured in an episode of HBO’s Insecure, the 20 year old rapper has been grinding and solidifying her spot in the rap game.
While “Poppin” is an introduction to Rico Nasty for many, she has been releasing music since 2016. With hits such as “Hey Arnold” and “iCarly,” she repeatedly proves that she knows how to craft songs that have a catchiness and versatility that’ll keep Rico Nasty’s name on a variety of playlists.
Inspired by a twitter beef, “Poppin” has a level of versatility that I severely admire. It can be added to a party playlist, a workout playlist and even a playlist crafted to amp yourself up before requesting a much deserved raise at work.
“Poppin” and Rico have made 2017 bearable for me. “Poppin” continues to be my go to song when life is testing me on various levels.
Priests’ debut album Nothing Feels Natural has correctly been praised for their righteous takes on the political and moral failings of our modern world. But the track that drew me into their orbit this year was “Jj.” It’s a sonic playground that deals with a very common theme—a breakup. The track starts off with a surf-punk riff that sounds like a boat-sized Cadillac careening down a boulevard. Cymbal taps and a hint of ragtime piano give the song an almost jaunty feel at times. Meanwhile, frontperson Katie Alice Greer sneers about a former paramour and the fact that the most interesting thing about him was that he smoked Parliaments. There’s no wallowing in the heartbreak as Greer lays out the clear case for why it never would have worked out. In the most vicious burn on an ex this year, Greer sings about a model he dated who stuck her finger into a light socket. “About things like that people were always so mean and rude but I / Always felt like, ‘oh Veronika, baby, I think I kinda know what you mean.’”