The Round-Up: The Best Songs of the First Quarter

It’s insane that 2017 is already one quarter over, but it’s been a tremendous three months of music. Here are a few of the best tracks I’ve heard this yera. For both of our sakes, I’m going to (try to) keep my write-ups Tweet length (LOL).

Screen Shot 2017-04-14 at 11.27.55 AMStormzy
“100 Bags”
Gang Signs & Prayer (#Merky)
“Dear Mama” for the year 2017, “100 Bags” is a rare beacon of unobstructed light in these turbulent times. The Londoner makes the song cry for four breathtaking minutes, sharing the boundless, genuine love he has for his Mumzy. “Take a selfie, show ’em how you look mum. Flex on ’em, let ’em know that we’re good mum” is easily my favorite line of the year and makes you root so hard for both of them.

Frank Ocean
“Chanel”
Digital Single
In a world increasingly obsessed with living in black and white, ambiguity is rarer and more important than ever. On “Chanel,” Frank refuses to adhere to anybody’s labels or expectations, gleefully weaving together macho flexes, references to gay sex, drug talk, and ernest affirmations of love without breaking a sweat. It’s subtle but unflinching, inviting listeners to dig a little deeper and not turn away from the grey areas that color all of our lives.

OMB Peezy
“Lay Down”

Digital Single
Born in Alabama but based in Northern California, OMB Peezy takes cues from both regions to cook up a hell of a stew. “Lay Down” matches Bay Area slap with a Southern drawl for a throwback sound that is also purely modern.

Jens Lekman
“How Can I Tell Him”
Life Will See You Now (Secretly Canadian)
The Swede’s gorgeous fourth LP is full of affecting storytelling, but nothing hits quite as close to home as his struggle to reconcile his love for a friend with outdated, damaging notions of masculinity.

future-net-worth-getty_573x300Future
“Fresh Air”
HNDRXX (FreeBandz)
It came out in February, but “Fresh Air” is pure NYC summer. It’s a crackling anthem, built to bump out of cars, apartments, and sweaty ass clubs. God knows we need as many of those as we can get.


MoStack
“Let It Ring”
Digital Single
The next name to know in the popping UK rap scene. MoStack’s breakthrough single glides like a summer breeze, bridging Afrobeats, dancehall, and the North London sound with ease.

RunTown
“Mad Over You”
Digital Single
As African influence spreads across the music world, don’t forget to check out the source. The 27 year-old Nigerian’s gorgeous, sashaying love song has a palpable warmth that is hard to find in modern music.

J Hus 
“Did You See”
Common Sense (out 05.12)
He kept it low-key last year, but the Londoner is primed to drop his proper debut (even though, oh my god, download The 15th Day) and take over 2017. Already getting love on both sides of the Atlantic, his earworm flow and wavey melodies should be the sound of the summer.

Khalid
“American Teen”
American Teen (RCA)

While I’m not sure I love the record as much as many do, its lead single is a heavenly bit of nostalgic pop. The El Paso singer’s pristine vocal captures the freedom and fear of being young.

Don-E ft. Nado
“You Alright Yeah?”
Digital Single
Sunshine in a bottle, the anonymous Londoner’s first single features a nuclear hook that will dig its hook into your brain and leave you asking everyone you see, “You alright, yeah? How’s your mum? She good, yeah?” It just feels so goddamn good.

KWAYE
“Cool Kids”

Digital Single
The best debut pop single of the year, the London vocalist slides through an ultra-slinky, guitar-driven quiet storm, making a strong statement about acceptance in a truly stylish manner.

DaVido
“If”
Digital Single
Already a mega-star in Africa and Europe, the Nigerian vocalist looks poised to make the jump across the Atlantic. “If” is yet another example of the boundless joy his sound delivers.

Chief Keef
“Reload” Feat. Tadoe & Ballout
Digital Single
Though the blogosphere is mostly ignoring him these days, the 21 year-old continues to crank out esoteric, experimental work for his loyal army of fans. On “Reload,” Keef turns the trap house into a Super Mario Bros ghost house, riding triumphantly through dramatic, off-kilter church organs.

Dave
“Samantha” (f/ J Hus)
Digital Single
The rising Londoners link up for a gospel-tinged ballad that pairs Zeytoven-ish piano noodling with the duo’s trademark melodic vocals and personal bars. Though they seem like quite different characters, they sound perfect together.

Jacques Greene
“True” (f/ How to Dress Well)

Feel Infinite (out now)
The MTL producer’s debut LP is full of highlights, but nothing tops his reunion with longtime collaborator, Tom Krell. The Chicago vocalist sounds back to his best, floating over a slice of characteristically emotional house.

Sampha
(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano
Process (Young Turks)
The most aesthetically perfect song of 2017, this beautiful track is more than an homage to the first piano Sampha ever ran his fingers over; it’s a testament to the way that music can help you find your identity and figure out who you are.

Screen-Shot-2017-04-12-at-13.43.27-970x550Mr. Mitch
“VPN” (f/ Palmistry)

Devout (out 04.21 on Planet Mu)
While I remain undecided about dancehall tourist/weepy softboi, Palmistry, “VPN” is all about the glorious synth arrangement, courtesy of the always innovative Mr. Mitch. Devout is shaping up to be one of the albums of the year.

Ryan Adams
“Shiver and Shake”
Prisoner (PAX AM)
“Shiver and Shake” is the most powerful moment from his best record in more than a decade. Adams is at his lowest point, grappling to rebuild a life that heartbreak has reduced to rubble, as “Tunnel of Love” plays in the background.

Father John Misty
“Pure Comedy”
Pure Comedy (Sub Pop)
FJM is A LOT, and somehow the record is even more. But “Pure Comedy” is a powerful distallation of how sharp his pen can be and how strong his voice almost always is.

Jean-Michel Blais & CFCF
“In a Landscape – Rework”
Cascades (Arts & Crafts)
The two Montrealers’ collaborative EP is full of minimalistic, contemplative piano interplay. Their take on John Cage’s modal masterpiece reinterprets the cinematic splendor of the timeless original.

Phoebe Bridgers
“Smoke Signals”
Digital Single (Pax Am)
The rising LA folk singer’s breakthrough single captures the darkness and light of old Hollywood monster movies, telling a story that is both spooky and alluring.

Migos
“T-Shirt”
Culture (Quality Control)
The jewel of the standout commercial rap release of 2017, “T-Shirt” highlights the group’s unmatched lyrical interplay and Quavo’s underrated hook-writing chops.

AJ x Deno
“Ride or Die”
Digital Single
Like an increasing number of young artists, it all started for 14 year-old Londoner Deno Driz on Instagram. Unlike many others, his youthful, elastic tenor (think: early Chris Brown) works just as well in a real recording studio as it does on social media. A young star in the making.

The XX
“Replica”
I See You (Young Turks)
In recent interviews, bassist/vocalist Oliver Sim has bravely disclosed his struggles with hereditary alcoholism. And he sums it up beautifully on this heartrending track, asking “do I chase the night or does the night chase me?”

grouper-ws-710-385Grouper
“I’m Clean Now”
Paradise Valley (YELLOWELECTRIC)
At the end of one of the most chaotic years in recent history, the angel Liz Harris came down from on high to bless us with one of the most peaceful, soothing songs of her career. If only 2017 sounded like this.

Calvin Harris
“Slide” (f/ Frank Ocean, Migos)
Digital Single
The Scot’s first two albums are two of my guiltiest pleasures, so I can’t say “Slide” is a total surprise. That said, I did not see Harris being the man behind one of the strongest pop tracks of the year so far.

RaeLynn
“Love Triangle”

WildHorse
T. Swift probably isn’t ever coming back to Nashville, but there’s a ton of talented young singers who are here to fill that void. The 22 year-old’s debut LP is full of polished, sharp songwriting like this windswept, heartfelt ballad about divorce.

SahBabii
“Pull up with ah Stick” (f/ Loso Loaded)
Digital Single
One of the stickiest, sweetest melodies of the year, the Atlanta native’s breakout single is yet another example of the positive way Young Thug has impacted the sound of the city’s young creators.

(Sandy) Alex G
“Bobby”
Rocket (out 05.19 on Domino)
I’ve never really been an Alex G guy, but his recent pivot toward a dustier, less noisy sound has worked a treat for me. “Bobby” is a cutting look at the way neuroses can keep people from the ones they love.

SamHuntSam Hunt
“Drinkin’ Too Much”

Digital Single
“Marvin’s Room” with a twang. I don’t know exactly what the former quarterback/current fuckboi is up to here, but it certainly sounds like nothing else coming out of Nashville.

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