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10 Favourite Songs of 2017

10. The XX – On Hold:The first track of 2017 to make an impression, this is The XX at their most pop and one of their best.  The melodic hook at the “the stars and the charts and the cards” part is one of the best moments of the year.  I’m sure there are a million and one remixes of this that I would hate.

9. Chastity Belt – Different Now:Another early 2017 entry that we listened to a LOT.  This understated track from the Walla Walla, Washington band seems wise beyond their years. I’m not sure how these young women came up with the line “Yeah, it’s different now, you’re old” but it’s too true.

8. St. Vincent – New York:  The first single of the Masseducation album, this track is a smash right from the first note of “New York isn’t New York”.  Known for being a bit quirky, Annie Clark is the great guitarist who also knows her way around writing great singles.

7. Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder:  Songs like this title track from the latest BSS album is why we keep buying their albums.  The band really shines behind trendy, hushed female vocals.  Possibly our favourite BSS track since 2002’s “Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl”.

6. Lorde – Green Light:  One of the biggest songs of 2017 is also being toasted as one of the best of the year across most publications.  Just one of the many highlights in the New Zealander’s career,  the leadoff track  from Melodrama was inescapable throughout the summer.

5. Swordfish – Ghost Song:  The Michigan band’s May release is like a more emo version of Ben Folds Five’s mid 90s classic “Brick”.  A mournful horn runs parallel to the band shouting that last Halloween was the worst.  In a few years this will pop up on a road trip playlist and it will get replayed 5 times before moving on.

4. Caroline Says – Winter is Cold:  This acoustic track from the Austin based Caroline Sallee grabbed our attention immediately and never lost it’s charm even after hundreds of listens. The tossed off thought of the line “I’ve never been to the west coast, I’ve always heard it’s the best though” is one of our favourite lyrics of the year.

3. Rostam – Gwan:  Released in the spring, this was a track we kept coming back to.  The leftfield pop song is so full of joy and wonder that it’s hard not to smile throughout.  Rostam does not have a particularly strong singing voice but here it fits this charming track perfectly.

2. Alvvays – In Undertow:  The Toronto band has a knack for writing great pop hooks and there is no better example than this. This is the kind of earworm that will get stuck in your head for days and help give the listener a sunny disposition even in the dead of winter.

1. The Moonlandingz – The Strangle of Anna:  This sleazy track from the band’s first full length sounds like it was released in the early 90s.  The female vocals, French lyrics and echo on the drums add a certain majesty while the lyrics are a mystery.  The “Sunday morning” lyric recalls The Velvet Underground while “ma belle” brings to mind The Beatles. The video and feel of the track give it a tongue in cheek quality but it’s quality none the less. This is one track that we listened to over and over and over again throughout 2017.

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Favourite Albums of 2017

41vvuqcUxVL._AA327_QL65_5.  The National – Sleep Well Beast:  In all honesty, only the fourth best album from The National out of their last four but they can still pull out the goods many times within the format.  The songs individually are not quite as memorable as “Pink Rabbits” or “Apartment Song” but taken as a whole, it all holds together so well.  Feeling like the start of something new, it will be fascinating to see how the next few albums go.

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4.  Lorde – Melodrama:  Lorde’s sophomore album topped many best of lists around the world and for good reason. Containing two of the best songs of the year in “Green Light” and “Supercut”, publications are adding many other Lorde tracks to that list. If Kate Bush was reinvented as a pop starlet, this is perhaps what she would sound like.  Working with Jack Antonoff, this was the mainstream album to get in 2017.

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3.  Kelly Lee Owens – Kelly Lee  Owens:  Possibly the biggest moment of the year in terms of “where did this come from?”, KLO was able to follow up the devastating single “Anxi” with an equally great album. “Evolution” kept us moving while “Cbm” had our heads in space.  Breezing through techno, pop, ambient, dance and R and B this was great stuff that we kept recommending to others whether they cared or not.

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2.  Slowdive – Slowdive:  Possibly held off the top spot by the final two songs being a bit of a drag, 80% of this had us walking around the neighbourhood in amazement and wonder. Never having owned a Slowdive record before, the Minor Victories disc from last year perked our ears up for wanting to hear more from Rachel Goswell and the gang.

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1. Elbow – Little Fictions:  While we’ve enjoyed other Elbow albums and singles but this is the first time it all came together for these ears.  The first without original drummer Richard Jupp and with some of the Manchester band now living in different locations, the band sounds locked in on album opener “Magnificent (She Says)” and the understated “Head For Supplies”.  We realize there is a certain amount of Dad rock associated with picking this as our favourite album of the year but ball don’t lie, it’s a beautiful album.

 

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Favourite Distant (Re)Discoveries 2017

5.  Joey Purp Featuring Chance the Rapper – Girls (Song):  The Pitchfork Music Festival clip of Joey Purp playing his “Phonebooth” track last summer had us searching for his other highlights where we discovered this one with Chance the Rapper. The Sound Opinion podcast guys have been banging on for people like me to check out Chance but we never fully have. We should definitely have done it sooner as we love this track from 2016!

4.  Curve – Doppelganger (Album):  Perpetually ranking as one of our top 50 albums of all time, this 1992 release got the deluxe treatment in 2017. Adding the Pubic Fruit EP collection along with a handful of bonus tracks, it was easy to see why this one had fans excited. While there was a missed opportunity by not including much in the way of a booklet and the volume right at the beginning of “Ten Little Girls” is far too low, it was nice to have Curve back in our lives.

3. Radiohead – I Promise (Single):  Is this a new or old release? Finally, officially put on the deluxe edition of OK Computer, this beautiful track from the mid-90s certainly would have been a hit single if released at that time but the band didn’t think it was good enough. In reality, it may have made them even more popular… if that is at all possible.

2.  Saint Etienne – Kiss And Make Up (Single):  In the past year, The London band re-released virtually all of their albums in two disc sets and this Field Mice cover was from the first one, Foxbased Alpha.  One of their earliest singles;  it’s simple percussion, reggae lite synth line, and a breezy vocals from New Zealand singer Donna Savage make this an unstoppable living room dancefloor filler.

1. The Smiths – The Queen Is Dead 2017 Deluxe Edition (Album):  Another one of our all time favourites, The Queen Is Dead also received the deluxe treatment in 2017.  Deluxe sets have two purposes, present classic albums with great new sound and provide a clutch of material from the vaults to make fans want to keep purchasing the same material over and over again. While the add-ons of demo recordings and a live concert were fine, it was the brilliant new mix of the original album that made us fall in love with this album all over again.

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Favourite Songs of 2016 (#10-1)

10.  Giggs (Feat. Donae’o) – Lock Doh:  The last we heard of Donae’o was on the b-side of The Streets “Fit But You Know It” single.  This track instantly takes us back to club nights in London from many years ago.  In the last few years, we remember those nights fondly but this one actually makes us want to go back and stand in a darkened corner of a club, pound back vodka shots while shuffling to the beat and staring at our feet.

9.  Angel Olsen – Intern:  It’s almost a case of which song from the album to pick.  While most others have gone with the great “Shut Up Kiss Me” as THE track on the album, we always gravitated towards the opening song on My Woman.  Driving to work in the dark at 7AM on autumn mornings, barely awake, the lyrics  “Still gotta wake up and be someone”  always sounded just right.  

8.  case/lang/veirs – Best Kept Secret:  In five years we have no idea how we will feel about most of the songs on this list.  What we do know is this one will never fail to make us smile, shimmy our shoulders and sing along.  “You’re the best kept secret in Silver lake…. ba da ba da ba da ba da ba”.   Unabashedly, this kind of stuff is right up our alley.

7.  French Montana (Feat. Kodak Black) – Lockjaw:  In our house, the “got a monkey on our back” became a classic line when it was changed to “got a Michael on my back” .  Much discussion has happened about what the lockjaw metaphor actually means but it doesn’t matter.  Perhaps because it sounds like it could have come out in 1993, this is one of favourite rap tracks of the last few years.

 6.  The Strumbellas – Spirits:  …But sometimes those beardy bands we mentioned at #13 put out some good songs!  This is one of them.  Infinitely catchy, The Strumbellas scored a big hit with “Spirits” which got us nodding in appreciation all throughout 2016.

5.  Minor Victories – Folk Arp:  Without fail, every time this track came on in the car we would have to look to see who it was.  This beautiful song takes us back to the best of shoegaze pop from the 90s, with Rachel’s voice floating on top.  Like a light summer rain that turns into a black thunder storm, the hushed whisper of the first half turns into a roar for the second.

4.  Lil Yachty (Feat. Quavo, Skippa da Flippa, & Young Thug)– Minnesota:  The piano hook could not be simpler, at times it doesn’t rhyme and Yachty’s voice sounds like SNL’s Brian Fellows.  However, the infectiousness of “it get cold like Minnesota” never fails to make us smile while we shout “I love my Motorola!!” 5x in a row for absolutely no reason whatsoever.

3.  Hamilton Leithhauser + Rostam – A 1000 Times:  The first single from the I Had a Dream album was a classy rock tune with extra sandpaper thanks to  Leithauser’s voice. At times sounding like a lost Mercury Rev number: there is a gentle swing of the first bridge and the soft vocals at the beginning before giving way to energy then weariness all help create an atmosphere that is easy to get lost in.  A rollicking number for those of us on the wrong (good?) side of 40.

2.  Laura Gibson – Damn Sure:  For anyone who’s been in a failed relationship that they were so sure would work out, against all odds and probably ignoring everyone else’s question marks, this track hits like a sledgehammer.  But no matter how hard the break-up is, we eventually get through it and start to visit museums again.  Somehow, it always works out… if we let it.

1.  Rae Sremmurd (Feat Gucci Mane) – Black Beatles:  When we first heard this track in August, it instantly became a strong contender for our song of the year. Little did we know that 4 months later every 12 year old in the city would be playing it on their lousy cell phone speakers.  “That girl is a real crowd pleaser” became lodged in our heads for months.  Elongating words to make it fit the music is charming and the lyrics make it all the more memorable –  “like clockwork, I blow it all then get some more”, “she thinks she love me I think she trolling”, “euro step around a hater like I’m Rondo”, and the one that still baffles us “so much money on the floor we buyin’ school clothes”.  Even after it inspired a meme and we heard it 1500 times, “Black Beatles” never fails to shine.

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Favourite Songs of 2016 (#20-11)

20.  Naps – Social Skills:   Back when we were bachelors, there were weekends we wouldn’t have any meaningful contact with the outside world.  Coming on like a modern day Belle and Sebastian, Naps broke up soon after this single was released.  Our only quibble is that the band really should have realized that after repeating “three full days without speaking” ad nausea, the last one should have been “three full days without speaking UP”

19.  Desiigner – Panda:  More than any other track here, this will always remind us of the summer of 2016.  Listening to it in the car on the way to soccer games, it never failed to get heads nodding. “I got broads in Atlanta” is surely an anthem that every Winnipegger knows far too well.

18.   Clams Casino – All Nite:  This menacing track from Clams Casino featuring Vince Staples was certainly not our most played in 2016 but it never failed to grab our attention every time it came on.  The violent flow of Staples gets extra energy from the muffled cymbal in the second verse and onwards.

17.  Lee Bannon – 3m12 disc 2 – side D:  Given away for free on Soundcloud – this demo from Lee Bannon would not sound out of place on Moby’s great 90s album, Everything Is Wrong.  The synths, the digital squiggles and echo on a few of the percussion notes evoke a feeling late night sadness.

16.   Weyes Blood – Do You Need My Love?:  Sounding like it came straight out of 1975, this Carpenters like track is hard not to like. It grabbed our attention right from the get go.  At over six minutes this one never drags and still sounds as mysterious now as it did back in the summer. “Do you need my love? babababa” indeed.

15.  Mick Jenkins –  Drowning:  This would not sound out of place in a 70s Blaxploitation flick, however, the subject matter is still just as relevant today as it was way back then.  Comparing police brutality to drowning, this is powerful stuff.  “I can’t breathe” is the haunting phrase used by Eric Garner that sticks to the listener long after the music is over.

14.  lil Peep and lil tracy – White Wine:  Not every song on this list is high art and this is one of them.  lil Peep and lil tracy take the melancholy of Drake and mix it with the drugginess haze of Salem. Lyrics like “I’m going to get a Maserati just to take my life inside” and “when I get a castle I’ll let no one inside” make this a sad, sad bleak anthem.

13.  The Lumineers – Ophelia:  There’s nothing we enjoy (hate?) more than handsome young men wearing beards and looking like they are sixty…. Maybe girls in high waited shorts but we digress. We initially heard this on the great Song Exploder podcast  “Ophelia” instantly had us humming along and with a charming video, it never gets old.

12.  Michael Kiwanuka – Cold Little Heart:  The lead off track from Kiwanuka’s second album that clocks in at over 10 minutes long.  This modern soul masterpiece takes half that amount of time before we even get to hear from the man himself.  The beauty and grit go hand in hand throughout. This is truly timeless stuff.

11.  Margo Price – Hands Of Time:  A very late entry into the mix.  We started reading about Ms Price a few months ago and then finally heard this track in December.  The autobiographical track tells it like it is, warts and all. While we’re not experts and our knowledge of the genre is limited, this is the best country song we’ve heard in a while.