Best of ’17: The Best Songs of 2017

festival_images_untitled13450. Biig Piig
Digital Single
Though she’s still only 19, Jess Smyth knows that real love is more about what you don’t do together than what you do. Sure, long walks on the beach and spontaneous adventures are cool (I’ve heard), but it’s so important to find someone you want to sit around and do nothing with. This spare ballad captures love’s simple joys brilliantly, as Smyth fawns over late nights with her boo talking shit, watching bad TV, staying in, and hooking up. It may sound inconsequential, but in reality, nothing matters more.

49. Lil Baby
“My Dawg”
Harder Than Hard (Quality Control)
The next promising talent off the QC conveyor belt, the Atlanta youngster’s sound is as interesting as his name isn’t. Though he’s still just 21, sometimes Baby’s weary, raspy vocal sounds more like a whiskey-soaked blues singer than a rising rapper with the world at his fingertips. His breakout single, “My Dawg,” is packed with vocal earworms and is a stern commitment to those he came up with — a reminder that though his name may be that of a dependent, he’s ready to be the one his family and friends can depend on.

48. Arca
Arca (XL)
Alejandro “Arca” Ghersi’s third album is unlike anything you’ve ever heard — a fascinating collection that combines opera, ranchera, folk music, and gospel music with his progressive electronic early work. “Anoche” is a sweeping pocket aria that matches his dramatic, quivering vocal with a sparse, affecting mix of acoustic and electric instrumentation. It’s a mystical, celestial love song that finds Ghersi laying in bed questioning if a love this intense could even be real. 

47. Mabel
“Finders Keepers” (f/ Kojo Funds)
Ivy To Roses (Polydor)
Two of the UK’s most exciting young artists link up for a laid-back ode to casual, serendipitous hook-ups. Kojo’s slick baritone sets the stage for Mabel to show why she’s so highly rated. Her full, subtly powerful vocals are substantial without being overly serious, a little reminiscent of a young Jessie Ware. The music matches the lyrics’ light and playful vibe, thanks to a clever flip of the Jamaican classic “Diwali Riddim” from rising London producer JD. Reid.

46. v1984
“Call Away”
Build Reconstructions Vol. 3 (Build)
If you like grime and aren’t listening to Circadian Rhythms’ NTS Radio shows, you’re fucking up. The monthly show is a treasure trove of rare and unreleased bangers like this magical one from Ohio producer Christopher Pak Ramos. Though the quality is still only a few steps up from a radio rip, “Call Away” is a melodic masterpiece, twisting twinkling keys, clever percussion, and a swirling vocal sample into futuristic grime nirvana. Don’t let its paltry play numbers put you off, this deserves to be burning up dance floors around the globe.

45. Japanese Breakfast
Soft Sounds From Another Planet (Dead Oceans)
When the robot apocalypse happens in like three years, all the Androids are gonna be in the club grinding to this smooth robo-banger from Michelle Zauner. At first listen, “Machinist” seemed like a surprising step away from the lo-fi dreamgaze of her brilliant debut, but in the context of the record, it feels like she was adding a string to her bow, rather than picking up a totally different instrument. Along with its sticky chorus, the thing I like most about it is how well she uses auto-tune, adding a futuristic twinge to her voice without sacrificing one ounce of humanity and emotion.

44. Sam Hunt
“Drinkin’ Too Much”
Digital Single
The moment where the urban fuccboi collided with the Nashville charts. The former college QB turned country heartthrob goes full “Take Care” here, ringing up a former love and apologizing for fucking with her head (while, of course, continuing to fuck with her head). The spoken-word verses and spare keyboards somehow work well with the modern country chorus (but shouldn’t). And somehow by the end, we end up feeling for him (but shouldn’t). That’s the sign of a quality fuccboi.

43. Julie Bryne
“I Live Now As a Singer”
Not Even Happiness (Ba Da Bing!)
The final track from Julie Byrne’s second album is about realizing that home isn’t a place. Byrne’s nomadic, restless spirit has driven both of her excellent LPs, but she finally sounds at peace here, like she’s come to the end of an exhaustive search. Her signature finger-picked guitar is replaced by beds of synth that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Enya record.  The track is a resolution, a moment for Bryne to rest her head and contemplate what’s next.

42. Not3s
Take Not3s (Relentless)
Though he’s hasn’t quite popped off yet stateside, the Hackney MC dropped a pair of irresistible, Afropop-influenced singles that did numbers this year. He first grabbed headlines with “Addison Lee (Peng Ting Called Maddison),” an incredibly British ode to picking up girls in off-brand Ubers. Not content with being a viral flash in the pan, he stepped it up on follow-up single, “Aladdin,” which is a cracking summer jam built on a hook that is as catchy as it is stupid. He backed that up with a solid 9-song debut project, hinting that the 19 year-old is planning on sticking around for awhile.

Screen Shot 2018-01-09 at 2.00.12 PM41. Grizzle
Consort (Liminal Sounds)
Not to be confused with the rapper of the same name, Griffin “Grizzle” Haworth dropped one of the strongest debut EPs of the year. Though the Hackney resident keeps a low profile, he’s an essential member of a promising crop of young producers who are reimagining British club music through a grime lens. Each of his debut EP’s four songs brings something unique to the table, but its title track is the strongest indication of his potent grooves and melodic touch. Built around a hypnotic vocal sample, “Consort” swirls and crests masterfully, remaining unpredictable without ever losing the flow.

40. Def Loaf
“No Fear”
Liberated (Columbia, release date TBD)
In the first moments of her video for “No Fear,” the 26 year-old lays on her bed, listening to her stinging 2014 breakthrough track, “Try Me.” More than anything, it underlines just how much Deja has changed in three short years. Though she’s still a capable street rapper and talented R&B singer, “No Fear” is basically a straight up pop song: easy guitars, a catchy hook, lovelorn lyrics, and all. Unsurprisingly, she knocks it out of the park, proving that she’s always capable of adding strings to her rapidly expanding bow.

39. AJ Tracey
“False 9”
Digital Single
I mean, it’s an AJ Tracey tune about my football club. I knew that I loved it before I even hit play. However, there’s more to “False 9” than references to Tottenham players. Unlike much of the current UK rap crop, Tracey is a bit of a grime classicist, a guy who tends to value quotable bars over hummable melodies. And he’s on top form here, loading both verses with clever lines and references while consistently switching up his flow to dazzling effect. He’s really is a rapper’s rapper who’s capable of quantity and quality.

38. DaVido
Digital Single
Who needs an album, when all your tracks are smashes? Though his second studio LP is still nowhere to be found, the Nigerian megastar had a ridiculously productive 2017, dropping five singles that did numbers worldwide. To my ears, “If” is the best of a very strong bunch. The smooth, sweet devotional sees the 25 year-old doing what he does best: ecstatically extolling the virtues of his girl. A musical heart eyes emoji.

37. Bruno Mars
“Versace on the Floor”
24k Magic (Atlantic)
I’m mostly a Bruno Mars agnostic. Though I appreciate his songcraft and unarguable talent, nothing he’s ever done has really grabbed me. That is, until I heard this. Hoooooo boy. The closest thing to “Human Nature” (aka the greatest song ever recorded, don’t @ me), “Versace on the Floor” captures the same shag carpet and cashmere spirit that MJ and Quincy conjured up back in ‘82. Bruno’s vocals are fucking lush, gliding over 4000-thread-count sheet keyboards, just the right amount of low-end, and a magical, chunky guitar-line in the chorus. 

tumblr_static_tumblr_static__64036. Slaughter Beach, Dog
Birdie (Lame-O)
Detail is the key to great storytelling, and the lead single from Modern Baseball’s Jake Ewald is a perfect example of that. He fits so many sweet, evocative little moments into just five verses (especially the last three), which draw you in while transporting you back to similar moments from your own life. More than anything, I haven’t heard a song that sounded more than what the early, early stages of falling in love feel like in quite some time.

Posted on by TP1.COM in Best of 17, Featured

Comments are closed.