I hate when bloggers do year-end best-of lists in mid-December. But we all become what we hate, which is probably a misattributed quote from a Bruce Lee movie or something. With that in mind, I present my list of the top 27 songs of 2017, limit one song per artist. Hope you find something you like among the premature accolades.
Scroll down for a Spotify playlist that will be updated over the next two days with the remaining 18 selections (and a special bonus!).
27. Alex Lahey – “Perth Traumatic Stress Disorder”
First things first, this definitely wins for coolest song title of 2017. In this lo-fi love-hate ode to the capital of Western Australia, Lahey makes it clear that she doesn’t have a beef with Perth itself, but she does hold a grudge for it being the setting for a severe spurn. Might as well award it with the best opening couplet of 2017 as well, because I don’t think I’ve come across a more inciting intro than “Perth is lucky that she’s pretty / Otherwise I’d hate that city.”
26. Dan Croll – “Away from Today”
I’ve seen this guy compared to Paul Simon, but the more influential Paul to my ears is McCartney. Fitting, as Croll was a student at the McCartney-founded Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts and apparently had some one-on-one time with the former Beatle. With its breezy horns and wistful guitar strumming (and, yes, a McCartney-esque melody), “Away from Today” perfectly shifts from longing verses to a bombastic chorus with ease.
25. Desperate Journalist – “Be Kind”
Contrary to popular belief, my favorite band is not The Beatles, but The Sundays. While Harriet Wheeler and company remain depressingly AWOL, their jangly female-fronted pop spirit lives on. Desperate Journalist vocalist Jo Bevan can’t hold a candle to Wheeler–no one can–but she still possesses a pure and remarkable set of pipes.
24. Fazerdaze – “Lucky Girl”
I have a soft spot for this sort of sunshine-drenched twee pop. There’s nothing remarkable about this song but sometimes being pleasant and catchy is enough.
23. Taylor Swift – “I Did Something Bad”
The toughest task of creating this list was cherry-picking which song from Taylor Swift’s uneven new LP Reputation should make the cut. While I nearly went for album closer “New Year’s Day,” a song that harkens back to Swift’s early days, in the end I went in the opposite direction. “I Did Something Bad” is musically and lyrically unrecognizable coming from the girl who once cried on her guitar over Drew. (Alas, the old Taylor is dead.) What hasn’t changed is her ability to write an irresistible hook…and she does it over and over and over again.
22. HAIM – “Want You Back”
While nothing from Hanson’s new Christmas album made the cut for my Best of 2017 (spoiler alert), leave it to another trio of siblings to deliver the catchiest Hanson song Hanson never wrote. (HAIM seems to like keeping it in the family, as follow-up “Little of Your Love” shares more than a little musical DNA with The Jackson 5.) Somehow bridging the gap between somber and funky, what makes this song especially great are the inventive harmonies that pop in and out when you least expect them.
21. Stone Temple Pilots – “Meadow”
The last time I was so disappointed about actually liking a song was…back when Stone Temple Pilots released “Out of Time” in 2013. The idea of this band without lead vocalist Scott Weiland still leaves me feeling (big) empty, but dammit if this doesn’t feel like old-school STP. New frontman Jeff Gutt is a suitable substitute for Weiland’s smooth yet gritty delivery, but lyrically, “We’re all just killing time and having fun, here in the sun” is no match for the raw, poetic sincerity Weiland provided. Still, if this absolutely has to happen, it could be a lot worse.
20. Real Estate – “Darling”
Whether it’s the Byrds or R.E.M. or any number of lesser-known bands, I’ll never, ever get tired of jangle pop. Real Estate is hardly reinventing the wheel here, but this shimmery cut demands repeat listens, and I love that music like this is still getting made in 2017.
19. Cults – “I Took Your Picture”
Finally stepping outside their 60s-inspired comfort zone, Cults have officially moved on…to the 1980s! They blind(sid)ed me with this Thomas Dolby-esque synth showcase that’s otherwise a bit too sedate for old-school MTV but would have fit like a glove in the John Hughes coming-of-age movie of your choosing.