We’ve reached the end of my list, entering the Top 25. Here is where separations between tracks become very thin for me, and quite honestly anything from track 15-1 could probably fluctuate tomorrow.
This has been a really great year for new artists, which have been featured a lot in this Top 100 and continue to be featured in the Top 25. It’s refreshing to see new acts with actual POVs and not just regurgitated familiarity.
I personally can’t wait to see where 2018 takes music, and who knows…maybe I’ll do another one of these next year!
Lights dropped her debut this year, and it’s a great introduction into the world of Pop, with layers that feel well thought and developed to create something uniquely hers. Savage is a great representation of her ability to play with genres, giving us clear Pop music but music that flitters with other genre influences. With crunching rock overtones and a voice that carries the angst with the frailty well, Lights makes her mark and it’s a mark she wears well!
There is something about Rafferty‘s Rules that calls to mind films like The Outsiders and Rumblefish and actors like James Dean and musicals like West Side Story. In other words, this song is the definition of teen rebellion embellished by the feeling of ‘cool’. You just can’t help but snap along to the beat with this slink of the shoulder that personifies the atmosphere created by those representations of teenage life. Rules bounces from beat to beat in the best of ways and serves as a fresh take on a vintage sound.
I just love Tinashe, and I love 90’s R&B, and Flame pretty much sums up 90’s R&B to perfection. Like something SWV would have dropped in their day, Flame is as smooth and as catchy as they come, and Tinashe carries it brilliantly from start to finish. Her vocals are soft when needed but certainly sharp enough to hit those notes that make us take note. Sometimes it’s just nice to have an artist take us back to the music that made our younger years so wonderful. My flame burns for this girl…so bright!
Taylor Swift…what can be said? She sure has her fair share of haters, but even the haters have to admit that she is probably the smartest women working in the industry today. They way she has evolved her sound and developed her brand is remarkable, and everything she does will succeed because of it. Her latest album and departure into electronica-pop isn’t her best work, and coming off of the inspired Pop masterpiece, 1989, it feels too light, but it has it’s share of bangers and will make her millions, so she’s obviously doing something right. …Ready for It is a flawless pop single, with killer beats and impeccable flow (like, I never would have imagined she could rap with such ease). I could (and on most days do) listen to this song all day long. Repeat!
Just close your eyes. Listen. Go there, to that place, that place that Zola Jesus has chosen for you. Those strings. That voice. That pulsating beat. Her entire album is atmospheric perfection, but Exhumed is just so visceral. It’s like a complete experience for the senses. You can feel it, hear it, see it almost…taste it…it’s so completely encompassing. I get chills just talking about it.
This is how you tell a story. That term ‘storyteller’ is often associated with Country music mainly because it is a genre built from the idea of sharing stories, but the infiltration of Pop influences has robbed Country music of it’s roots a bit. Jade Bird is taking it home, so-to-speak, and her gorgeously composed heartbreaker, Cathedral, tells a very sharply told story about falling out of love with the one you swore to love forever. Her vocals rise in all the right places, and her lyrics are poignant and poetic. This girl is only 20 years-old but her soul is old and processes a maturity needed to deliver true Country music. With splinters of Janis Joplin giving her frailty some edge, Jade Bird is going places!
I don’t even know how to describe this song. It feels like nothing I’ve ever heard before. Sure, it has Pop and Electronica roots, but this is something truly unique. Women empowerment personified, DieDieDie feels like a call to arms; a war chant for the wounded to stand up tall and refuse to be anything less than powerful! Erin McCarley moves from beat to beat with confidence and strength, pervading the song with an ease that feels genuine. She is our leader. We will follow. At her side, we will win! And, I’m not even a lady!
Breathe dropped relatively early in the year, and rapidly became a household favorite. It’s a banger, for sure, and is so catchy, with a booming chorus that is worthy of a carful of yell-singers. Astrid S has what it takes to take on the Pop world, and I think she’s poised to. With an EP that is slick and memorable, she’s certainly making a name for herself. Breathe is fun and familiar without feeling tired; a vibrant collections of sound that are bolstered by those soft, sharp vocals.
This feels like music my dad once listened to; music from another time and place. With influences pulled from the world of Jim Croce and Joe Cocker, but with a purely modern aesthetic, Marc Scibilia‘s Summer Clothes has my by the soul. It’s lyrical content is simple yet organic, like a letter written by hand to a long lost love, and the musicality is so freshly composed that it feels like something we’ve never heard before despite the familiar tones. I just love everything about this track and where Scibilia is going with his music. I can’t wait to see what 2018 does for him!
Try not to bounce to this. Misbehaving is so thoroughly enjoyable, I just love every brightly lit moment of it. From the catchy chorus to the verses dripping with this raw energy, Labrinth has composed a song that feels like an R&B throwback but that breathes with such a refreshingly modern spirit. This song has undeniable movement and is set to be one of those songs from the year we keep in our playlist for a long, long time.
Oh, Bishop Briggs. I just love what you’re doing with music right now. I had the pleasure of seeing this girl live a few months back and she SLAYED, and her show only had me more hyped for new music from her. Sadly, she’s slow on dropping more singles, but her EP, which released early in the year, is dripping with reason enough to stay tuned. Of those songs, River is clearly the best track (and would be my #1 of the year had it not been released as a single in 2016) but The Way I Do is a very close second. The way she fuses rock, country, gospel and pop into these electrified musical moments is beyond me, but so magical to witness. I just love the way she do(es) is.
And, as promised, here EXES are again with the beautiful Cain, a tragic song of love lost (and loss in general) that tugs on so many strings. The definition of a song that tells a story, this particular track plays out like cinema for the ears, with the pain and beauty dripping from every word and handing from every note. It doesn’t hurt that Bon Iver is name dropped (like, yes please), but that wasn’t even needed to grab my attention since this powerful piece of music has had my ears’ attention for months now. PLEASE GIVE ME MORE!
I don’t understand this either, but for some reason Ansel Elgort (yes, the prettyboy actor) dropped one of the most entrancing songs of the year with the 80’s Pop influenced electronica laced Thief. This song is insanely catchy, and plays out like some crazy 80’s De Palma movie or something like that. Elgort‘s vocals are on point, but it’s the pounding beat that drives this song into your brain and makes it one of the most singable tracks of the year. In retrospect, this may be my favorite song of the year…but for now, it’ll have to settle for #13.
I heard Sevdaliza‘s Hero a few months ago and have been hooked every since. No one else seems to share my adoration of this track, but I don’t care. It’s production is sick and the urban Bjork feel to this atmospheric track gets to me every time. Her voice is beautifully toned and the musicality is a subtle shade of bonkers. It literally drips with this aural mood. This may not be fore everyone, but it’s for me (and maybe for you!).
I almost missed Zanski‘s album altogether. I didn’t even know who he was or that the album was around until Spotify told me a friend listened to it and so I gave it a spin and was hooked. Brilliant album, with influences and genre shifts galore, but it’s Mess that sticks out as reason enough to adore Zanski. With jazz overtones that are completely engulfed by his slinky, electronica laden Pop, Mess oozes appeal and moves organically from beat to beat and falsetto to falsetto. I’m a HUGE instant fan and cannot wait to see where Zanski takes his undeniable star power.
Here we are, moving into the Top 10 where ranking gets harder and harder to define. Kacy Hill‘s Hard to Love is very EASY to adore. Like a breathe of fresh air, this song moves along with such light and grace, with powerful tonal lifts that are heightened by her magnetic vocals. The verses carry the weight of her emotional delivery while those choruses literally sing in ways that brighten the spirit. It’s a masterwork of R&B influenced Pop, a beautifully composed journey for the ears.
Like the long lost track from The Veronica’s Pop era, Swift‘s dynamic Dancing With Our Hands Tied is gorgeously constructed and hard not to completely fall in love with. Nostalgic in all the right places, she makes more than experimental noise here with a song that is fun, upbeat, intentional and hard to resist. Easily my favorite of her new looks, this Pop masterwork has all the right kinds of personality.
In some moments, Hearts is my favorite song of the year. It is certainly the one that gives me the most chills. Jessie Ware already has delivered my favorite album of the year, but this song, in all it’s emotional glory, is just hard to ignore. From that belted chorus (right to the heart of it, pun unintentional) to that musical movement (so achingly romantic), this ballad just cuts so flawlessly. That term ‘achingly beautiful’ has never been more deserved.
07 & 06
So, this feels a bit like a cheat, mostly because it is, but I honestly can’t decide which one hits me in the feels more. Happier is such a striking ballad, with incredible vocals that tug those heartstrings, and yet the chorus of Castle on the Hill makes me tear up almost every single time. I’ll also never forget actually waiting up until midnight with the sole intention of listening to that song and the fact that my daughter’s reaction was, “It feels like watching a movie,” because those sentiments are why Castle on the Hill is so brilliant. It’s a full story, and within it the listener is brought into Ed‘s world. Ed Sheeran is a force, and while his latest album may have it’s faults, he’s a master songwriter who understands how to create a full experience for his fans. On any given day, these are my two favorite songs of the year (and according to Spotify, I’ve listened to Castle on the Hill more than I’ve listened to any other song).
I’m going to admit right out, I’ve always been a fan of Kesha (or Ke$ha as she was previously known), but I wasn’t prepared for this. Rainbow is a brilliantly diverse Pop album, and Praying is one of the most powerful songs of the year, especially when you couple it with the story behind Kesha‘s resurgence. Here, she shows that she’s not only a great vocalist (like, WOW) but also a really great storyteller. For a Pop Star best known for being…absolutely off her rocker, she shows poise and maturity as she develops a beautiful and moving ballad that explores women empowerment and the ability to rise up despite the atrocities one may face. In a year that is all about exposing those who hurt others and gaining strength in numbers, Praying is the song we all needed.
All that emotion! Dermot Kennedy is on the list again, and third times a charm as it is with his latest single, Moments Passed, that he lands in the Top 5. There have been a lot of songs this year about love and loss and heartbreak (as there are every year), but this one is something special. The genre bending continues, and Kennedy‘s ability to bleed through his vocals is impeccable. I can’t wait to see what this young man does with his career. An EP and a spattering of singles kept me very entertained this year, but I’m holding out hope that 2018 will not only deliver to us his debut album but also a wider tour (like, come to Florida!) because something tells me he SLAYS live.
I adore Susanne Sundfør; like ADORE her! Her latest album, Music for People in Trouble, is a venture for her in the most magical of ways, with an album that feels intimate and laced with the spirit of someone searching for authenticity. Of the albums many haunting tracks, my favorite is Good Luck, Bad Luck. This song sits softly, like a lullaby sung to a long lost lover, with her vocals caressing every word (quite literally). And that finale, those horns, that sudden jazzy tonal shift that feels so organic; it’s absolute perfection. I could listen to this song on loop all day.
Jack Antonoff is just plain awesome, and his passion project, Bleachers, is proof of that. His latest album was one of my most anticipated of the year, and he did not disappoint. Don’t Take the Money, one of the albums key singles, is just musical delight personified. From the upbeat, 80’s inspired musicality to the chant worthy lyrics and chorus swells to the highly relatable lyrical content, Don’t Take the Money is not only fun, but poignant. Antonoff FEELS this song all the way through, and because of that so do we.
My favorite song from 2016 was the gorgeously haunting Lover, Please Stay, and so it only makes sense that Nothing But Thieves would once again offer to me their best, and their best would be THE best of the year. Yes, of all the songs I’ve obsessed over this year, the one that continues to resurface as my favorite is Particles. It doesn’t hurt that there are two versions of this song floating around, and the one with Conor and a piano is absolutely remarkable, but really this song is just fantastic no matter which way you look at it. Conor’s vocals are heavenly, the lyrics are sharp and powerful, and the musical arrangement is that perfect blend of intimate and grand, rising when needed but never forgetting to bring things down in order to sink in completely. It’s a perfect song, and so it only makes sense that it is crowned ‘Song of the Year’.
Well, that wraps things up for me here. I hope that you’ve enjoyed this countdown. It was fun for me…now it’s time to get back to taking pictures!