Some years are better than others. This is one of those years. At least, it's a better year in what is, admittedly, my narrow definition of what constitutes good music. Sometimes, in years past, I'd be struggling to come up with ten songs that really spoke to me. Not so with this go-around. It was tough to narrow my favorite songs of 2017 to just ten, but here we are.
I share these lists with you once a year, dear reader, not out of any ego (well, perhaps a little), but because music has been, and continues to be, so important to me. Music is one of those enveloping external forces that can transport us to another time and place, remind us of long ago (and current) loves, and basically warp our thoughts and emotions like very little else.
Here, then, are my Top 10 favorite songs of 2017. I hope you enjoy at least some of them.
10. Modern Woman, by Tennis
Raw vulnerability has never sounded so pretty. I am often first drawn to a song by its sound. The music grabs me, and then I'll examine the lyrics. Modern Woman was one those instances, and it made me appreciate the tune even more.
9. Utopia, by Moon Boots and Janelle Kroll
This is one of those songs where the music, more than anything, propels me to like it. I couldn't tell you most of the lyrics, aside from my favorite, of course: "You love me on cold, dark nights." Other than that, I love the chill, steady rhythm.
8. Swish Swish, Katy Perry & Nicki Minaj
My guilty pleasure on this list, I love -- of course -- the sound of it. The beats, the attitude, the heavily-morphed voice that chants, "They know what is what... " -- it gets me going. The lyrics? Eh, I've never been a fan of artists thumping their chests in songs and talking about how great they are, and how everybody else sucks. That's why it's lower down on the list. But the music!
7. Silent Movie, by Pokey LaFarge
St. Louis artist (and Bloomington, IL native) Pokey LaFarge's entry on the list comes fairly late in the year. The seeds were planted several months ago when I heard Ashley listening to it (though it tended to blend in with the several other Pokey tracks he was sampling). Recently, I decided to give it another go, and the song really stood out. It speaks to much of the fatigue I've felt this year, trying to navigate both keeping up with the news, and wanting to avoid over-saturation of it. Pokey's vocal inflections are also a highlight. I particularly like how he sings, "Growing up is a scam. The truth is a lie."
6. Magpie Eyes, by Saint Etienne
The deal was sealed on this song when I saw the band perform live in Chicago back in September. Their 2017 album, Home Counties, took awhile to grow on me, but hearing some of their newer stuff in concert (along with accompanying music videos) really helped me appreciate it. In fact, earlier in the year when I first heard Magpie Eyes, I disliked it. Now, it's one of my favorites of 2017. Go figure.
5. Shape of You, by Ed Sheeran
The one and only song I've ever liked by Mr. Sheeran, though that doesn't really excuse it. I rarely enjoy Top 40 pop music, though of course there are always exceptions. Enter Shape of You. The lyrics are memorable, though not clever, and I like the tic-toc sound of the music.
4. Certainty, by Temples
A wonderfully vibrant ditty that stays just this side of sounding too cluttery. This is a perfect example of liking the song predominantly (if not exclusively) because of its sound. I've listened to this track countless times during 2017, though I'd be hard-pressed to tell you what any of the lyrics are. Much like Animal Collective's Water Curses from a few years ago, I like Certainty for its euphoric noise.
3. SHC, by Foster the People
After Pumped Up Kicks, I'd relegated Foster the People to the one-hit-wonder column (and, if you look at their discography chart, they technically still are). What a nice surprise, then, when their new album, Sacred Hearts Club should produce some memorable tunes (Static Space Lover is another good one to check out). The lyrics and vocals are both haunting and inspiring, and the "I want to live my life again..." chorus is great. I liked this song the moment I heard it.
2. Up All Night, by Beck
It sounds corny, but this song makes me feel young. I might be mistaking youth for energy, but there you go. Perhaps, on a personal level, it's the nostalgia factor? Beck, now 47, made his splash with Loser, the song that I remember fondly and vividly from the summer of 1994. Whatever the case, I really, really dig this track, and it was almost number one.
1. Sign of the Times, by Harry Styles
Of One Direction fame, Harry Styles has had quite a good 2017. His self-titled debut solo album was well-received, and he had a fairly prominent role in the movie Dunkirk. This song, however, resonated with me. It's strong, it's gentle, it is quiet, and it is loud. There is a softness and a boldness to the music and the attitude, and Styles sings with feeling. Plus, I love the lyrics, "We don't talk enough, we should open up." Corny? Yes. True? Definitely.
And those are my top ten songs of the year. It's a playlist I listen to a lot, and I hope, if you have the time, you can listen to some of the tracks you may be unfamiliar with, and that you find something you like about them.
On to 2018....