As is tradition for Indiecisive, it’s New Year’s Eve and the last of the big end-of-year lists is here – My Top 20 Tracks of 2017. This is always the hardest list to rank, and so many excellent songs didn’t make the cut – it’s been a fantastic year for music from bands both old and new. Without further ado though, let’s get this list started…
20) Banks – Underdog
Banks has been making interesting, magnetic pop music for a few years now, but her 2017 single ‘Underdog’ may well be her biggest earworm yet. A punchy, sexy pop song taken to another level by Jillian Banks’ unique vocal delivery where lines are punctuated by dog-like growls. This doesn’t sound like it should work on any level… yet somehow it does.
19) HAIM – Walking Away
Another pop track coming in at 19, and while I wasn’t wholly convinced by HAIM’s sophomore album ‘Something To Tell You’, this cut from it is fantastic. Produced by Rostam Batmanglij (previously of Vampire Weekend), the floaty synthesisers and R&B influences on this track are a completely different, yet highly infectious direction for the Haim sisters and one that I hope they pursue further on their third release.
18) Public Service Broadcasting – Progress
A concept album about the Welsh coal mining industry doesn’t sound like it should spawn a single that works out of context of the album, yet Public Service Broadcasting’s ‘Progress’ (featuring Camera Obscura’s Tracyanne Campbell) stands up perfectly on its own. This track captures a wonderful sense of hope and combines it with classic electronic influences to make something that sounds truly magical.
17) Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Bosses Hang
On ‘Bosses Hang’, Godspeed You! Black Emperor have created a towering, hopeful piece of music, a piece that holds some real joy within it, which is highly unusual for the band. Stunning work from every musician has gone into this fourteen minute masterpiece, with a particular highlight being the bass work not only on this track, but all over their recent album ‘Luciferian Towers’. Hypnotic as ever, Godspeed certainly still have that magic that gained them critical acclaim in the 1990’s.
16) The xx – Replica
With an opening riff that echoes the Tears For Fears classic ‘Everybody Wants to Rule the World’, The xx’s reflective, nostalgic style has never been more apparent than on ‘Replica’. The beautiful simplicity of this track could have easily fit in on the band’s debut album, yet the more mature, developed elements of their new album are present as well. A coming together of new and old xx.
15) Aldous Harding – Party
The stunning fragility of Aldous Harding’s sophomore album ‘Party’ comes to a fore on the album’s title track – reserved as ever, the minimalism of this track lets Aldous’ vocals shine through the mix. There’s something incredibly powerful about her unique vocal delivery on this track (and every track on the album) that leaves a real mark on the listener. This is unlike anything else you’ll have heard all year.
14) Wild Beasts – Punk Drunk & Trembling
One of many bands that sadly announced their imminent breakup this year is Wild Beasts. The title track from their final EP, ‘Punk Drunk & Trembling’ is a laid back, yet low-key danceable number that’s smoother than butter. It’s safe to say this band are going to be seriously missed from the indie scene and this track is a perfect example of why.
13) Everything Everything – Night of the Long Knives
History shows that Everything Everything are masters of the opening track. Over their four albums so far, every opening track has been incredibly strong – ‘MY KZ, YR BF’, ‘Cough Cough’, ‘To The Blade’ and now ‘Night of the Long Knives’. Screaming synthesisers pile on the intensity on this track, giving the perfect intro for the highly political ‘A Fever Dream’. This is Everything Everything at their frantic, brilliant best.
12) Taylor Swift – King Of My Heart
Say what you will about Taylor Swift, she’s an incredibly talented songwriter, and my long-standing wishes for her to delve deeper into synthpop were granted in parts of her 2017 album ‘reputation’, the highlight of which is the deep cut ‘King Of My Heart’. Imogen Heap-esque vocoder effects, frantic percussion and warm synth pads – this is like nothing Taylor Swift has ever recorded before. Pop song of the year.
11) Mr Jukes & BJ The Chicago Kid – Angels / Your Love
Bombay Bicycle Club’s frontman Jack Steadman’s debut single under the moniker Mr Jukes is an absolute masterstroke. Blending jazz and hip hop influences, as well as his own unique production style, there is a shining light in the future for Mr Jukes’ career if this is where he’s starting from. His talent for choosing a vocalist to suit a track is also excellent, and when BJ The Chicago Kid comes in on the latter half of this track, it elevates it to a whole new level.
10) King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Billabong Valley
At the beginning of the year, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard promised to release five albums in 2017, a promise they have now fulfilled with the (incredibly recent, as of writing) release of ‘Gumboot Soup’. This gave a plethora of songs to choose from for this list, but for me the best is from their first album of the year, ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’. ‘Billabong Valley’ is a haunting, Western-themed track where Ambrose Kenny-Smith takes the lead vocal over from Stu Mackenzie – the addition of the unusual ‘zurna’, a wind instrument usually found in central Eurasian folk music, takes this track to a whole new sinister level.
9) Grizzly Bear – Losing All Sense
With this track, Grizzly Bear took a surprisingly Beatlesque turn, and the rich sound found all over their 2017 LP ‘Painted Ruins’ is perfectly demonstrated on ‘Losing All Sense’ – reverb-drenched guitars and spiralling synths, this is a new yet familiar sound for the band and probably one of the most easily accessible tracks they’ve written since ‘Two Weeks’.
8) The War On Drugs – Holding On
If there’s one band who perfectly capture a feeling of yearning and sentimentality, it’s The War On Drugs. The driving synths and motorik-style drums on ‘Holding On’ give this track such a classic feel; you’ll find few warmer sounding songs (or bands) than this one. They’re also a must-see live band, topping my favourite gigs of 2017 list after blowing me away with their performance at London’s Alexandra Palace.
7) Flyte – Little White Lies
Just about every track from Flyte’s knockout debut album ‘The Loved Ones’ was in contention to appear on this list, but the one I’ve gone for is the nostalgia soaked ‘Little White Lies’, which combines vintage sounding synthesisers with some fantastic lyrics and those trademark Flyte harmonies. Why this band aren’t being talked about more, I have no idea.
6) Father John Misty – Ballad of the Dying Man
Perfectly capturing the cynicism that permeates his album ‘Pure Comedy’, ‘Ballad of the Dying Man’ tells the story of a man so wrapped up in his own ego that he believes the loss of his opinions upon his death will be detrimental to the whole world. Joshua Tillman’s Elton John-esque style is here as it is all over the album, but the gospel backing vocals that come in towards the end of the track add a stunning new dimension.
5) Radiohead – Man of War
In an astonishing act of nostalgia, this year Radiohead re-released their classic 1997 album ‘OK Computer’ for its 20th anniversary, and with it came the release of three long-awaited, never before released tracks: ‘I Promise’, ‘Lift’ and ‘Man of War’. The latter of these has made it onto this list, carrying a Bond theme swagger ever since its first live performance by the band back in 1995. Fans have been waiting over two decades to hear this song, and despite all that hype it somehow didn’t disappoint.
4) Fleet Foxes – Kept Woman
In my Top 10 Albums of 2017, I spoke of Robin Pecknold’s remarkable ability to write truly timeless sounding, haunting folk songs. ‘Kept Woman’ is exactly this – it’s as lush sounding as the rest of ‘Crack-Up’, but it’s stripped back compared with the majority of the album and the more sparse instrumentation provides a moment of introspection on what is already a very personal-feeling collection of works.
3) The National – The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness
The debut single from their album ‘Sleep Well Beast’, the lengthily titled ‘The System Only Dreams In Total Darkness’ strikes a perfect balance between the band’s melancholy sound on their latest LP and a higher energy instrumental. Matt Berninger’s ambiguous lyrics can be applied to all sorts of recent events – he himself described the song as ‘an abstract portrait of the weird time we’re living in’ – few other bands have captured the mood of the time we’re living in better than The National.
2) Pumarosa – Lions’ Den
Much like the aforementioned Radiohead track, Pumarosa’s ‘Lion’s Den’ is a song I’ve been anticipating for some time. Since I first heard the band perform it in late 2015, it has been my favourite track by them, and the two-year wait for a studio version was so, so worth it. Channelling classic Portishead, this track has a huge, building intensity that makes it the standout from their already exceptionally strong debut album ‘The Witch’.
1) Real Estate – Darling
Since the first moment I heard Real Estate’s ‘Darling’, I knew it was something special but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. After listening to it all through the year, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s simply a perfectly crafted song. Beautifully simple intertwining guitar parts, a sublime vocal line and some gorgeously syncopated bass and drums, this song is simply flawless.
This is my song of the year, 2017.