Unlike other publications, I like to actually wait until December to start rolling out my favorites of the year. The last couple of years, I’ve done a run down of my 100 favorite songs. You can check out my 100 Favorite Songs of 2016 here (with the Spotify playlist), and my 100 Favorite Songs of 2015 Spotify playlist here. This is dedicated to my 100 favorite songs of 2017.
I was wowed by a lot of music in 2017. Note that I don’t claim that these are the best songs of the year, but these were definitely my favorites and ones that I found to be in heavy rotation personally. I’ve put the top 25 in a particular order, which I’ll count down, and the rest are just part of the playlist. At the bottom of this feature is a table where you can sort the artists by name or by genre in case you are of a certain musical disposition, as well as links to individual songs on Spotify. Without further ado, my 25 favorite songs of 2017 counting down:
There were few debut albums I was more excited about than lo-fi power-pop act Day Wave’s — and this single was one of the main reasons. I loved his two earlier EPs and was a little concerned he would adjust the lo-fi sound he had developed while recording in his home studio when moving to a major label, but he just refined it and made it better.
Aussie singer-songwriter Alex Lahey has bridged the pop-punk and singer-songwriter genres in a completely unique and exciting way, most notably on this track from her excellent 2017 debut record I Love You Like a Brother. The fast tempo of the song is matched quite perfectly by Lahey’s excitable vocals and it’s a bash-on-the-steering-wheel banger.
This is my favorite track from my favorite QOTSA album since Era Vulgaris. The riff is so catchy and Josh Homme’s voice floats on top of it so effortlessly, they really nailed it with this one. The entire Villains album is really strong but this is the standout for me. When I saw them at Cal Jam 17, this was the new song that got the biggest reaction by far.
When I got an opportunity to see Spoon play a set at Santa Monica’s Apogee Studio for a taping of a KCRW Morning Becomes Eclectic broadcast, it was this new song that won me over the most. This was before their Hot Thoughts album dropped, and this song wasn’t available yet except for shitty YouTube live recordings, and I had to wait more than a month for the studio version. It’s a more minimal Spoon song than usual, but one that focuses on singer Britt Daniel’s unique vocals and a robust keyboard riff.
HAIM did a long festival run in 2016, playing only two new songs from what would eventually be their long-awaited sophomore album Something To Tell You, which didn’t drop until late 2017. I immediately fell in love with this track, and was lucky enough to see them a half-dozen times on that festival circuit to the point I knew all the words by the third or fourth stop (and Este totally noticed). It’s got the perfect amount of Fleetwood Mac songwriting with Wilson Phillips pop catchiness that made me fall in love with them in the first place. Only complaint — it goes ONE chorus too long.
Lorde’s most stripped-down and sentimental song was also my favorite on her groundbreaking sophomore record Melodrama. It’s a truly beautiful piano ballad where Lorde’s vocals are the focal point like never before. I remember listening to this album for the first time all the way through on a plane ride and just losing myself in this song, playing it non-stop for about 25 minutes because it was so striking.
This super group has been releasing music rather quietly since last year. The group is comprised of Lykke Li; Andrew Wyatt and Pontus Winnberg of Miike Snow; Bjorn Yittling of Peter, Bjorn and John; and producer Jeff Bhasker. Their sound is very vintage sounding in a Fleetwood Mac way and this comes together beautifully on “Heaven”. Here’s hoping they have plans for some live shows at some point (Coachella 2018 maybe?)
The first time you and I and anyone else heard this song, we all thought it was some unearthed Led Zeppelin gem that was released out of nowhere. Some will call them a direct rip-off of the legendary rockers, but who cares? There is nobody that sounds like Led Zeppelin even remotely these days and it isn’t like we are ever going to see them play again. Within the first few moments of this song, I felt my spine tingle from the sound of Josh Kiszka’s voice and I was all in.
I have a feeling this song will be in sports highlight packages for at least a decade — someone at the UFC intelligently chose it as the music for one of their recent promos. It’s such a rocking song and amps you up no matter what context you hear it in. Singer Mike Kerr has these vocals that remind me of the frontman from Toadies (you know, “Possum Kingdom”?) that I always found so unique.
I’ve been waiting for new music from this band since first finding out about them three years ago, and the first single didn’t disappoint. It’s a slow burning epic, I love how the guitar ramps up. Lead singer Jacob Scott’s vocals are so understated but you can feel the emotion in them as he sings “Something had to break us out” as an additional keyboards track joins the mix.
This song perfectly meshes the bedroom pop and alt R&B genres as Tei Shi brings together Mariah Carey and Marian Hill vibes. The bass line that reverberates through the track is a perfect ground floor to her searing vocals that cut like a knife. The way the vocals build at the end of the track remind me a bit of Keri Hilson at her best.
Twisted Swedish alt pop star Tove Lo’s best song of the year didn’t come from her sophomore album Lady Wood, but its phase two record Blue Lips. It’s an awesome mix of dance-floor ready pop with a bit of Peaches, particularly in the “I say hi, you say hi, we stay high, you look so pretty yeah” hook that precedes the chorus.
One of the best bands to emerge in 2017 is the Aussie three-piece that emerged, a mix of Angel Olsen singing in Hannah Joy with the alt rock sound of The Breeders. The guitar isn’t overpowering but really supplemental to Joy’s words. The song received a huge boost when Elton John shared the track on his Apple Music playlist — Sir Elton has great taste.
This song conquered rock radio charts for months and positioned Portugal. The Man as a likely second-line band on next year’s Coachella poster (that and their otherworldly live performances they’ve come to be known for). The song is way more poppy and funky than most previous Portugal. The Man songs, with the falsetto of John Gurley a highlight.
There’s a reason that this was a massive singalong at Coachella just weeks after it dropped. It’s one of Kendrick’s catchiest choruses and another big hitter from the rap game’s most talented emcee. There’s a reason it was Kendrick’s first No. 1 on the Hot 100 as a solo singer and why people still haven’t tired of the track with its simplistic backing beat and thudding bars.
The one EDM song I didn’t tire of hearing six or seven times in DJ sets at festivals all spring long, Louis the Child and Elohim made such a fantastic pair on this synthy future bass track. It’s such an uplifting and moving song and it really began to launch the Louis the Child duo into superstardom.
My favorite song from my favorite Ryan Adams album is a stripped-down back-to-basics for the legendary singer-songwriter. A little acoustic guitar, some hard-hitting and heartbreaking lyrics, and a spine-tingling harmonica line are all it takes for Adams to be at his best on this one.
One of the underrated jams of the year, the riff that dominates this electropop song will have your body moving guaranteed. Signer Asa Taccone’s pitch-perfect voice stands out on the song’s chorus. Plural was their first album since their debut five years ago and “Back For Me” is the track I played the most non-stop when it first dropped. It still factors into my playlists in heavy rotation.
Another discovery of 2017 for me — I stumbled across the Aussie multi-instrumentalist thanks to a press release featuring her amazing cover of MGMT’s “Electric Feel” and quickly fell in love with her brief but impressive own catalog. Seeing “Notion” performed live at The Echo this year has me excited to see her on 2018 festival bills — the song highlights her beautiful voice and enigmatic artistry.
I wondered how the lo-fi power pop group could top their excellent 2014 debut record, but the lead single had me convinced they could. Singer Molly Rankin’s lyrics float like daggers over the synth-heavy track — “No turning / there’s no turning / there’s no turning back / after what’s been said” — a feeling anyone who’s ended a tumultuous relationship is familiar with. Few write melancholy with such pop-driven melodies as strongly as Alvvays.
The entire Communicating record would make for an excellent film score, and “Blanket Me” would be the song that features in the pivotal moment of that film. The electronic art-pop band really hit their peak with this record — singer Nicole Miglis’ vocals have never sounded so heartbreaking and the production behind it is magnificent. I love the way the second chorus repeats endlessly over the heavy production, before closing out with just Miglis singing over minimal production at the end.
These ’90s shoegaze legends have aged like a fine wine. The lead single off their first record in two decades is in my opinion the best song they’ve ever put out, with a catchy opening guitar riff that pairs nicely with the vocals of Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell. The textures and layers of this song are magnificent, and it made one of my favorite Song Exploder episodes as Halstead broke down the song.
Bridgers has been playing the Los Angeles scene for years, but really broke through in a major way in 2017. After catching her open for Julien Baker last year at the El Rey, I was immediately hooked. Her debut album from this year Stranger In The Alps is on many year-end best-of lists (like mine), and “Motion Sickness” is the song that has received the most play. Getting to see her play this with a full band at KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic was a highlight of my year — that chorus hits like a ton of bricks.
This was one of the more creative love songs ever written, something vocalist and lyricist Amelia Meath was going for when writing it. “I try to write songs that people haven’t written before, and somehow someone hadn’t written that song in that way,” Meath told the NY Times. She was right — and her beautifully forlorn vocals float flawlessly over the minimal but textured production of bandmate Nick Sanborn. Live, this song shines that much more as you can hear Meath solo over the last chorus a lot more clearly (listen to the Echo Mountain Sessions EP version for that).
How many of us have felt the way Ellie Rowsell sings about in the standout track from their magnificent second record? “What if it’s not meant for me? Love” she sings with passion, before delivering verses in a more talking and less singing style, speaking of the anxiety that comes with having a crush and not knowing how to handle it. It’s the most emotionally mature song the band has written and one that will tug at your heart strings — I certainly played it 1,000 times this year.
HERE’S THE SPOTIFY PLAYLIST AND A TABLE OF ALL 100 FAVORITE SONGS:
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