Best of ’17: The Best Songs of 2017

future-hndrxx-tour-dates220. Future
HNDRXX (Freebandz)
Though he’s spent much of the last few years exploring the deep darkness, the songs that made me first fall in love with Future were bursting with joy and light. It may not be quite as explosive as “Straight Up” or “Turn On The Lights,” but the sunny “Incredible” is a glorious throwback to his early work. While the weight of his voice was so important to his legendary recent work, there’s a lightness in his voice that we haven’t heard in a while, and it’s great to hear the Nayvadius the Great having fun in the booth again.

2257f15719. Slowdive
“Falling Ashes”
Slowdive (Dead Oceans)
Slowdive fans know that good things come to those who wait, and the last track on the shoegaze innovators’ spellbinding fourth LP (and first in 22 years) is a perfect microcosm of that. “Falling Ashes” moves at a sloth’s pace, unravelling like a pendulum making a mandala over eight celestial, soothing minutes. Backed by a haunting keyboard melody, Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell’s hushed vocals guide you through the mist. It may not knock you out at first listen, but if you give it time, you’ll enjoy the slow ride.

18. MoStack
“Let It Ring”
Digital Single
We used to call just about any rap from the UK grime. Though it obviously retains a huge influence, artists like MoStack are part of a promising wave of young British artists who are fusing grime with Afrobeats, dancehall, and radio R&B into something totally unique. His storming breakthrough single brings an island breeze to his North London high street, pairing beachy, lithe instrumentation with trap percussion and an adhesive hook. “Let It Ring” is the sound of London in 2017, a distillation of a modern city driven by a rich blend of cultures and sounds.

17. Playboi Carti
Playboi Carti (Universal)
Though he may not get the plaudits he deserves, make no mistake, nobody shaped the sound of hip-hop more in 2017 than Pi’erre Bourne. Along with a strong solo mixtape, the Atlanta producer with roots in New York and Belize dropped a steady stream of off-kilter bangers, none bigger than the monstrous “Magnolia.” Bourne’s wobbly synths are the perfect backdrop for Carti’s stream of conscious flow that veers in every direction but the one you expect it to.

jens-lekman16. Jens Lekman
“How Can I Tell Him”
Life Will See You Now (Secretly Canadian)
Nobody in pop music tells a story quite like Jens Lekman. Whether he’s accidentally chopping his finger off, getting disappointed by the Supermoon, or stalking Kirsten Dunst, the 36 year-old is an ace at uncovering universal insight in the tiny details of life. Here, Lekman dissects the strange, scourge of masculinity, as he struggles to express his real feelings for a close friend. His graceful tenor frets about why he — a sensitive, emotional dude — can’t break the shackles of previous generations that keep him away from the people he loves. As with so many Jens tunes, it leaves me questioning myself, wondering why I struggle with the same thing.

j-hus-announces-uk-tour-dates-525141924-900x36015. J Hus
“Bouff Daddy” (Dre Skull Remix) (f/ Popcaan)
Common Sense (Black Butter)
Though I was ready to pick the spare snaps of “Did You See,” this remix dropped last week, and I basically haven’t stopped listening to it since. Buoyed by an extra helping of Island keys from Dre Skull and an unsurprisingly stellar assist from the Jamaican megastar, the 21 year-old revels in his glorious rise, dropping an endless array of quotable, melodic lines. Though they hail from thousands of miles apart, Hus and Popcaan are the perfect pair, and this single has me dreaming of future collabs.

14. Lil Uzi Vert
“XO TOUR Llif3”
Luv is Rage 2 (Universal)
There’s a pair of videos that show literal packs of teens chasing Uzi through a festival, wrestling him to the ground desperately trying to get their hands on their hero. Though it’s not clear what the diminutive Philly rapper is thinking, they’re a pretty terrifying reflection of the way that (mostly white) rap fans seem to feel ownership or agency over the (mostly non-white) artists they support in 2017. Written deep into his first big tour and likely after dealing with the fallout of situations like that, “XO TOUR Llif3” is the sound of Uzi watching his life morph into something that he’s lost control of. Though its melody is sugary, you can feel the claustrophobia and desperation that comes from wondering whether your lifelong dream might actually be a nightmare.

seth-troxler-phil-moffa-lsos13. Lost Souls of Saturn
“Bint El Khandaq” (f/ Mashrou’ Leila)
Digital Single (R&S)
The best thing about dance music is the way it can reinterpret sound and turn us on to styles that we never knew we loved. That’s one of the reasons why this glorious reimagining of Lebanese rock group Mashrou’ Leila’s “Bint El Khandaq” stood out so much to me. The way vocalist Hamed Sinno’s powerful voice breaks through the protracted intro is pure ecstasy and totally unexpected — an incredible match that pushes the evocative strings and synths into the next stratosphere. Besides being one of the truly joyous songs I heard this year, it was a gateway drug that got me exploring more Middle Eastern music than ever before.

41703_widescreen12. Mount Eerie
A Crow Looked At Me (P.W. Elverum & Son)
Most art that is centered around loss focuses on what it means, rather than what it is. Phil Elverum’s crushing farewell to his late wife is not most art. “A Crow Looked At Me” is an album about the experience of death — what it looks like, what it feels like, what it does to the dying and those closest to them. There are no metaphors, no big takeaways — just a gentle guitar and the naked facts in black and white. I could have selected just about any of the singular disc’s 11 tracks, but the fragile beauty of “Swims” stuck with me most — the tiny drops of piano, the way Elverum’s voice breaks as it stretches to its upper register, and the final couplet, which contains the most powerful lyrics I heard this year. Staggering.

Screen Shot 2018-01-09 at 2.16.50 PM11. Jae Stephens
Digital Single (SPNR)
I don’t write “Artists to Watch” lists anymore, but if I did, the mostly unknown Valley vocalist would be near the top of my list. Each of the three tracks she put out this year were fantastic, and this, her debut single, is a mid-tempo R&B masterclass. Over a delicious beat from London mainstay Jam City, Stephens salutes the growth of her man and explores their path from an innocent hook-up to something that could last. It’s the kind of track that I always put on when it’s nice out, mirroring the breezy days and warm nights of her home city. “That shit blinds me when it hits the sun.”

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

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