Top 10 of 2017: #1 Fast Romantics - Why We Fight  

#1 Fast Romantics - Why We Fight

Sure, it’s a little derivative of Springsteen, or maybe The National, or even some Neon Bible era Arcade Fire. But, in a shitty year where bad things keep happening, you need something to keep your head up and keep you going.

Whether it was written intentionally as a response to the election of President Trump or not, it’s a great song to keep your energy (and anger) pointed in the right direction.1And sometimes that matters the most.

  1. Taking back Congress in 2018, and the Presidency in 2020. 

Top 10 of 2017: #2 Benjamin Booker - Witness  

#2 Benjamin Booker - Witness

On it’s face, it’s a good song. A little gospel, some R&B, a little nod to hip-hop. Without even diving into the lyrics, it’s catchy, with that little lilting piano riff repeating over and over through the intro.

Then you dive into the lyrics, and think about where we were in 2017, and where we are in 2018, and where we will continue to be for the foreseeable future, and the song takes on a whole lot more weight.

(Also, hand claps.)

Top 10 of 2017: #3 The New Pornographers - This is the World of the Theater  

#3 The New Pornographers - This is the World of the Theater

Look, I love The New Pornographers. This might be my favorite album of theirs since Challengers. I think this is the best track off it. It’s got awesome Neko Case and Kathryn Calder vocals. It’s a perfect bookend for “Colour of Water”. It’s great.

Top 10 of 2017: #4 Colour of Water - Rose Elinor Dougall  

#4 Rose Elinor Dougall - Colour of Water

I heard this song and immediately knew it was for me. I love these little repetitive, layered rock gems. It’s hypnotic and danceable, but somehow it’s got the feel of an honest to goodness rock song. You’d hear this song come out of the opener for a band you liked, and you’d immediately head to the merch table and buy it (or, today, add it to your Spotify or Apple Music library).

Top 10 of 2017: #5 The Wild Reeds - Only Songs  

#5 The Wild Reeds - Only Songs

This is one of those songs that didn’t work for me initially. I liked it, but I didn’t find it to be anything particularly noteworthy. Then I heard a live version (I think from NPR’s coverage of Newport Folk) and I really dug it.

It takes about a minute to kick in, but the harmonies kick in, and they power through the great chorus, and you start singing along.

Top 10 of 2017: #6 Sylvan Esso - The Glow  

#6 Sylvan Esso - The Glow

I wasn’t sure how Sylvan Esso would follow up their debut album. The “vocals over a Moog” act could get pretty tired if they didn’t push their sound.

Thankfully, What Now takes their sound and pushes it in a bunch of new directions. “The Glow” is a 3 minute amazingly catchy pop song that makes the great use of Amelia Meath’s vocals.

Top 10 of 2017: #7 Alvvays - In Undertow  

#7 Alvvays - In Undertow

I very much love everything about Alvvays music. The dreamy, hooky synths and guitars that move the song along, to Molly Rankin’s always exasperated vocals (and lyrics). It’s a song about the end of a relationship, with some very biting humor (the mirrored first two verses deserve a closer listen).

Alvvays has rapidly ascended my list of bands that I’ll listen to everything they put out.

Top 10 of 2017: #8 Kendrick Lamar - DUCKWORTH.  

#8 Kendrick Lamar - DUCKWORTH.

I’m a middle aged white guy. I’m right on that generational line of people who grew up with hip-hop and those who didn’t. I was lucky enough to get exposed to a lot of hip-hop growing up, thanks to some friends who were (and still are) more deeply immersed than I ever got. But I got exposed to Public Enemy and Tribe and Tupac and Nas and a whole bunch of really great hip-hop and I really believe it helped shape my views on people, politics, and privilege.

For me, hip-hop does a couple of things. Good hip-hop has good beats and hopefully a good flow. And it tells a story from a point of view that I will probably never experience in my life.

“DUCKWORTH.” fits that to a tee. There’s a bunch of good tracks on DAMN., but I think “DUCKWORTH.”’s story of how Kendrick Lamar grew up and the chance events that separated him from one life versus another is both fascinating and enlightening.

It also has a ridiculous run of lyrics (about 2:30 in) that not many people could pull off besides Kendrick.

Top 10 of 2017: #9 Japanese Breakfest - Till Death  

#9 Japanese Breakfast - Till Death

I’m not sure what it is about this song that works for me. It sounds so much like a mid-80s ballad, but it’s lyrics move it into something that could only exist in 2017, talking about PTSD, the Trump presidency, all morphing into a love song.

“Till Death” didn’t work for me the first time I heard it. But somewhere in the second or third time, I just got entranced by the key change and the dreamy vocals in the final chorus. It’s a beautiful little song.

Top 10 of 2017: #10 First Aid Kid - It's a Shame  

#10: First Aid Kit - It’s a Shame

It’s a little rockier than you might normally expect from the duo known for their folk and harmonies (and not nearly the, ahem, rockiest on the album), but it’s a First Aid Kit song. Beautiful harmonies, catchy hook, and throw in some nice slide guitar.

It’s amazing how much they sound like a single voice singing through much of the song. The production is so tight that you can’t even hear a syllable or note that extends into a solo voice.