Said the Gramophone - image by Kit Malo
by Sean

These are my 100 favourite songs of 2017: songs I love more than snow-men, group-texts and royal weddings.

I follow just one arbitrary rule: that no primary artist may appear twice.

I have been making these lists for 13 years: see 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

The best way to browse this list is to click the little arrow beside each song and then to listen as you read. The things you like you can then download by right- or ctrl-clicking with your mouse.

You can also download the complete 100 songs in four parts:

There's a Spotify playlist too, although songs #53, #73, #81 and #87 are not available there. If you're a Spotify user, I recommend you read Liz Pelly's outstanding reporting on some of the ways the service harms musicians. Update 11/12/17: Joey B's queued it up on Apple Music.

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Said the Gramophone is one of the oldest musicblogs. We are waning maybe but not yet, not yet.

Said the Gramophone has four authors: Emma Healey, Sean Michaels, Jeff Miller and Mitz Takahashi. This list is all Sean's dumb doing - don't blame the others for my bad taste.

If this is your first time at Said the Gramophone, I hope you'll bookmark us or subscribe via RSS. You can also follow me on Twitter or read my novel (it's about the theremin).

Among these 100 artists, 38 are mostly American, 27 are Canadian, 15 are British and there are 2 Norwegians, 2 Germans, 2 French, 2 Swedish, 2 Korean, 2 Kiwi, 1 Australian, 1 Colombian, 1 Argentinian, 1 South African, 1 Malian, 1 Italian and 1 Spanish act, plus 1 Aussie/American split. 45 of the frontpeople/bandleaders identify as women, 53 as men and 2 acts are girl/boy duos. As far as I know, none of this year's songs are by transgender artists. This is the way it worked out; it certainly ain't perfect. Here are some charts of past lists' demographics.

My favourite songs of the year do not necessarily speak to my favourite albums of the year. Songs and LPs are entirely different creatures.

My favourite albums of 2017 were:

I strongly recommend that you buy these records and listen to them in full.

Some songs that you heard in 2017 may have been omitted from this tally because I heard them before this year, and included them in my Best of 2016.

Finally, some disclosures. I've done paid writing work for some of the artists in this list: Leif Vollebekk, Partner, Land of Talk and Young Galaxy.

Now, without further rigamarole:

Said the Gramophone's Best Songs of 2017 - original photo source unknown


  1. Perfume Genius - "Die 4 You" [buy]
    2017 was so many things, some of them encouraging, most of them terrible. A few of them truly beautiful. I cannot have been the only one who tried to take shelter in that last category - hiding under the boughs of whatever I could find. This was a year for calling old friends, gathering with neighbours, staring at paintings, swimming in lakes, learning the drums, carrying bouquets, chasing down toddlers, paging through comics, starting new projects, resuming old ones, grieving, baking, resisting, holding hands. I didn't do all of these things, but I did some. I carried my son in my arms and tried to see the world as he does - as a marvel unfolding, not yet set.

    "Die 4 You" gestures to a refuge somewhere else. Not outward but inward; not in children, the clichés of hetero metaphor, but in intimate, erotic love. Gay love, selfless love - a love white-hot and gleaming, sensuous, fearless, rare. "Die 4 You" is not a song so much as a moment. Place and time reproduced in sound: organ, drums, strings, piano, voice. Mike Hadreas sings in a gorgeous, rose-coloured falsetto and it's his own partner, Alan Wyffels, whose baritone surfaces at the chorus, lifting under him. The duet is extraordinary - sexy, hushed, insistent. There is some Sade in it, and obviously some Prince, but also glimmers of less obvious artists: Talk Talk, Portishead, Mary Margaret O'Hara, Glenn Gould, Radiohead. Each of these acts has created lustrous, enduring recordings. With this - and the rest of No Shape - Perfume Genius joins them.

  2. Hurray for the Riff Raff - "Pa'lante" [buy]
    A protest song for the past year and the coming one. A song like a small, bodega-sized Fitzcarraldo: Hurray For The Riff Raff haul up their song like Kinski and his steamship and his hill, with climbing chords and Alynda Segarra's mighty voice, the desperate pull of her heart. It's an anthem for carrying on, persisting, from the barrios of Puerto Rico to the slums of New York.
  3. Leif Vollebekk - "Elegy" [buy]
    On Twin Solitude, Montreal songwriter Leif Vollebekk reinvented himself. He was finished with Dylan-esque flow, obsessed instead with Prince-y pulse. "Elegy" is a piano ballad with a hip-hop groove; it's got strings but the strings aren't glossy, pretty. They're raw nerves. In a genre diminished by handsome sounds, tasteful arrangements, Vollebekk heads down a different road. Those drums, those strings; that rude, yearning electric bass. The story in the lyrics is underpainted, unfinished. The rhymes are perfectly imperfect - owing way more to Kendrick or The Streets than to Springsteen or Van Zandt. It won't be for everyone - too smooth for some, not smooth enough for others. But for me it's perfectly pitched, luminous. Leif's Astral Weeks isn't far off.
  4. Destroyer - "Tinseltown Swimming In Blood" [buy]
    Sometime in the near future, seismic activity sends Los Angeles crashing into Vancouver. Imagine this rainy L.A, full of dead flowers and beautiful women. The sky's gone green. A little Blade Runner, a little X Files or Twin Peaks. And here's the soundtrack. A dreary/dazzling groove, Dan Bejar as hitmaker, a band that isn't New Order playing as if they are.
  5. Drake - "Passionfruit" [buy]
    "Passionfruit" is soft and soft-lit, pulsing with a gentle tropical beat. And yet despite the tenderness of these sounds, their sensuousness, they're the bedding for a song of disappointment. Drake is underrated as a lyricist, or his ghostwriters are. "Tension," he sings, "between us just like picket fences." An image, a feeling, as vivid as a silhouette on the horizon, at dusk.
  6. Mura Masa - "Love$ick ft A$AP Rocky (Four Tet remix)" [website]
    I adore this remix of Mura Masa's naturally excellent "Love$ick": the way Four Tet strips away at the song's more hackneyed choices and elevates the stranger ones. Instead of blarpy synth horns, Kieran Hebden fills the track with bells and, later, a glittering modified guitar (?); "Love$ick"'s saxophone fleeting saxophone part becomes its heart, with a powerful sense of tactility and touch.
  7. Wolf Alice - "Don't Delete the Kisses" [buy]
    Wolf Alice have quickly become one of the UK's most interesting, adventurous indie rock bands - compare "Don't Delete the Kisses"' jittery space-pop to "Yuk Foo"'s (also excellent) garage-rock snarl. Ellie Roswell's verses here are rushing, outpouring - a little Aidan Moffatt and a little Michael Stipe. They overspill the meter, like a friend trying to tell you something important as quickly as they can. The chorus is something else: an echoing, melancholy shout. "What if it's not meant for me?" she asks. "Love." It's the stuff of closing credits - everything else receding in a rearview mirror.
  8. The Weather Station - "Thirty" [buy]
    There should be a name for it, a stock phrase: not a love-song, a road song, but a growing-older song. Tamara Lindeman's is painted in uncommon indigo. Startling, galloping, meditative, present.
  9. Future ft Kendrick Lamar - "Mask Off (remix)"
    "Mask Off" was the hit I was most grateful for in 2017 - a little midnight thrown willy-nilly over the city, into shopping-malls, convenience stores, pharmacies. Not just its magificent samples - also the folds of Future's flow, mumbled velveteen. He lists drugs as others would recite the names of flowers. Still, I'm grateful then to Lamar: for adding some meaning to what is otherwise mostly meaningless. A stronger story, some cleverer rhymes, a different - kung-fu - knack.
  10. Beaches - "Arrow" [buy]
    An avalanche of buzz and fuzz and refraining doo-de-doo, a guitar-pop song that buries me up to the neck. (Thanks Kevin.)
  11. Aldous Harding - "Blend" [buy]
    New Zealand's Aldous Harding is one of my favourite discoveries of this year. While other tracks from Party present her as a Joanna Newsom or Charlotte Gainsbourg, "Blend" highlights (for me) her uniqueness, idiosyncrasy. Coo and hush, murmured sweet-nothings - but full of disquiet, capgun pops. It's telling that the video so strongly evokes another brilliant, subversive artist - comedian Maria Bamford. Like Bamford, Harding is fluent in the things our culture expects her to be; but her vision's too clear, her instincts too daring, to settle for that.
  12. Weaves - "Grass" [buy]
    I adore Weaves' Wide Open, a rock'n'roll album that bleeds with melody, noise and soul. "Grass" is one facet of this: chill and restless, bridling and rainbow. Jasmyn Burke leads a band of twist-turning guitar; sings a song full of hoping; and the whole length through "Grass"'s metals are flashing from lead into gold and gold into lead, on and radiantly on.
  13. Alvvays - "Saved By A Waif" [buy]
    The best Alvvays songs seem like reinventions: as if they've improved on something that already seemed whole, mastered. For me, eevery change in this song - from verse to chorus, from the middle of the bridge to its conclusion - is filled with surprise. Ebullient guitar-pop, analog-fuzzy, with Molly Rankin's sailing voice - and the whole group's ingenuity, sonic sparks fizzing at the limits.
  14. Big Thief - "Shark Smile" [buy]
    A brutal, bobbing rock song - love and death anchored by neat drums, foraging guitar, the flick of Adrianne Lenker's voice.
  15. Partner - "Everybody Knows" [buy]
    A towering guitar anthem, somehow as much mischievous as righteous. Partner are a stoned Maritime (and millenial) Weezer, rich in wit; "Everybody Knows" is brilliantly constructured and fantastically played. The song builds and thunders, it rocks, it rules. A comfort to the baked, an inspiration to the sober - with scenes that outlast the smoke.
  16. SZA - "20 Something" [buy]
    From the year's best R&B album, this is SZA at her most unadorned. Bare voices, acoustic guitar, the searching of a woman in her twenties. A prequel, perhaps, to the Weather Station's #8.
  17. King Krule - "The Locomotive" [buy]
    King Krule's The Ooz is a brilliant bad dream, eerie in its sound and brave in its execution. What is this? you think, listening to Archy Marshall's drawl and lurch, his band's art-pop or surf-rock or woozy cabaret zzz. Each song seems like its own play - with set, costumes, storyline. Maybe even its own language. But at the same time it stretches out into a whole, one cohesive work of art - something sick and musical, calling to Scott Walker and Tom Waits and David Bowie and Micachu. "The Locomotive" is not the most propulsive of its songs, not the most keenly catchy, but I am beguiled by it, bound up by its spell. Music for a city in the dead of night: scarecrows in the street, smoke coming out of the stacks, loneliness and alarm. A drowsy dreamer waiting for his train, trying to get home.
  18. Mount Eerie - "Real Death" [buy]
    This song should not be on a ranked list; it should not be on a list at all. It should be at #1 or #100 or unnumbered, set apart. Its goal as a piece of music isn't the same goal as the other tracks here. Why count these things together, or measure them against each other? I can't; "Real Death"'s position here is almost arbitrary. But here it is, as you should hear it, as it is part of any conversation of songs and singing in 2017. "Real Death", like all of A Crow Looked At Me, is a document of events around the death of Geneviève Castrée. Castrée, a gifted cartoonist, poet and musician (she has appeared on previous Best Songs lists, as O PAÔN), died in July 2016. Mount Eerie is a man called Phil Elverum. Castrée was his partner, the mother of his young daughter. Elverum didn't write an elegy; he didn't write a tribute or a eulogy. He wrote songs remembering what happened - before, during, after. Bare, unembroidered, transparent and devastating. "[Death is] dumb / and I don't want to learn anything from this. / I love you." And the song just ends.
  19. Phoebe Bridgers - "Motion Sickness" [buy]
    Bridgers is fast becoming my favourite in a new class of heartaching singer-songwriters. Her gift's not just her voice and its openness; it's not just her talent for melodies, which dip and dart like gulls. The skill I admire most is her ardours' variability, their give. She sings sad songs without enclosing them all in stillness, or smoke, or beauty. There are minor and major keys; dynamics without gimmicks. It's not just "Motion Sickness"' doubled vocals that evoke Elliott Smith - it's the restlessness of the song, its willingness not to wallow. Bridgers and her drums, guitars, strings - they don't do the obvious things, they excel.
  20. Stormzy - "Big For Your Boots" [buy]
    Stormzy pulls no punches in this excoriation. A grime track that advances unhesitating; a stone-cold bodying.
  21. Charli XCX - "Boys" [video]
    Charli's ode to the world's multitudinous, variegated gentlemen. Gently electric, gleaming with synths and tropical percussion - but not so wound-up as to sound forced, fake. Instead this pop song is loving. She seems genuinely fond of the boys she's singing to. A throw-back, I guess, to when pop singers didn't have to come on so strong. To when the biggest prizes were coins popping gling from a Super Mario brick.
  22. Daniel Romano - "Ugly Human Heart Pt. 2" [buy]
    Psychedelic country music, rinky-dink glam, smart and dumb and devastatingly concise.
  23. Hamilton Leithauser & Angel Olsen - "Heartstruck (Wild Hunger)" [video]
    A song of appetite - love, lust, sheer craving. It's old-fashioned in his form, with strings and plinking piano, but mixed like crazy, all crashing and ringing. The Walkmen's Leithauser sings as he almost always does - loud, racked, full-throated. Olsen's performance is more unusual - less "honest" than her typical material; theatrical almost, like a lover in a 40s melodrama. But boy does she sell it. Longing, enunciating, chewing the scenery (?), her fearsome voice pressing against the limits of what the recording can contain.
  24. James Irwin - "Carlo What Do You Dream" [buy]
    James is singing here to Carlo Spidla, his bandmate and friend, a musician and man beloved to Said the Gramophone. But his tribute's noisier than the one that I would write, more knowing than the one I could write: an epic of dogged verses, unflagging drums, buzzing guitars like coiling brambles. It's one of those songs that feels like weather. I wish it was always like this, I think. This weather, this season: when everything seems right and just, most things seems possible, and the forecast...? It's for a happy ending.
  25. Lens Mozer - "All My Friends" [buy]
    How many times have I listened to this song? The answer is: so many. It was a talisman round my neck, a bracelet I wore for weeks before the snow started falling. Sometimes the best music is mostly repetition, mantras in beautiful handwriting.
  26. Broken Social Scene - "Hug of Thunder" [buy]
    My favourite of this year's Feist songs is not anything on Pleasure - it's this. A thing of bittersweetness, nostalgia, beat, with references to Jeff Buckley and Syd Barrett and, in its Cocteau Twins-like chorus, a sound of full-bloom Broken Social Scene. Powerful tenderness, devastating love. (Hug of thunder.)
  27. 이달의 소녀 (LOONA/Yves) - "new (이브)" [video]
    A Korean girl-group, LOONA, used this song to introduce a member called Yves. She sings the lead, and the way she sings it makes it difficult to imagine her ever ceding the front spot. "New" is built on a series of cycling loops, like most chart pop, but there's a logic to the way we move through it, a gracefulness to the way it skips from one part to the next. This is music, songwriting, not just a succession of catchy themes.
  28. True Blue - "Bad Behavior" [facebook]
    I love a drooping torch-song - a slow-dance under a listing disco ball, the hired band slowly turning into wax. True Blue play a beautiful tune on instruments that don't quite seem right - out of warranty, damaged. Fruit that's sweet-smelling and overripe.
  29. Vince Staples ft Juicy J - "Big Fish" [buy]
    For a song about counting money, "Big Fish" is surprisingly grim. Vince Staples' success hasn't mellowed his mood. Credit the rapper for making his vexation so gripping, alluring as well as forceful. Some MCs get swamped by their beats; Staples stomps all over his.
  30. Faith Healer - "Try ;-)" [buy]
    Edmonton, Alberta produces a gem of a song. Such a natural sound, cool and breezy, the kind that could have found a home in any decade since the 1960s. I wish everything felt this easy.
  31. Waxahatchee - "Never Been Wrong" [buy]
    Loud and unrestrained, with a withering sense of humour. But there's more to Katie Crutchfield's song than rock'n'roll chagrin. The trajectory of her voice, its ragged arc, proves the singer's far from brooding. She's free.
  32. Cardi B - "Bodak Yellow" [website]
    Swings like a shark's tail. Swooping and snapping; poised and greedy.
  33. Baxter Dury - "Porcelain" [buy]
    "Porcelain" is a reply of sorts to "Miami", Dury's magnificent/awful exploration of sleazy male turpitude. ("I'm the sausage man," he sneers.) Here he hands the mic to Rose Elinor Dougall, who sings her rebukes in a voice like cold milk. It's a #MeToo moment maybe, or else the other side in a toxic relationship. But the whole thing - and the songs as a pair - also feel like an answer to Serge Gainsbourg, whose Histoire de Mélodie Nelson floats like a ghost over all of Prince of Tears. The same wolfish basslines, the same chilled strings; but this time Serge's leering doesn't go unanswered. His victims stare back. (Thanks Steve R.)
  34. Ruth B. - "Superficial Love" [buy]
    For fans of Carly Rae Jepsen (whose "Cut To The Feeling" narrowly missed this list) - another Canadian singer making marvelous, airy pop. "Superfical Love" is more afternoon swoon than sugar rush, but Ruth B is still filled with feeling - poised, confident, singing a sure-hearted song of love & expectation.
  35. This Is The Kit - "Moonshine Freeze" [buy]
    A limber, intrepid folk-song, with braiding voices, rooting brass, the sense that nothing is settled. For years I've adored This Is The Kit (aka Kate Stables & co); this is among their best. "This is the natural order of things / Change sets in." Everything is either possible or im-.
  36. Sun-El Musician ft Samthing Soweto - "Akanamali" [buy]
    A massive hit in the artists' native South Africa, "Akanamali" is a love song you can dance to, as gentle as sunrise. I understand "akanamli" to be Zulu for a poor man; the (controversial) music video pits sweethearted pennilessness against callous materialism. But money doesn't figure into the actual lyrics, which are sung in Zulu, and which lift like the music, onward, upward, full of hope and possibility.
  37. Fred Thomas - "Mallwalkers" [buy]
    From Fred Thomas's excellent Changer, which made me fondly nostalgic for early 00s music by the Weakerthans, BARR, Ballboy and even the much-maligned Dismemberment Plan. But Thomas isn't making anything old-fashioned; "Mallwalkers" feels alert, alit, and when it points to the past it's doing so with verve, conviction, hard-won wisdom. This is a song about adolescence but it's not just a visit to high-school, a bittersweet vignette: Thomas digs in, he tries to understand it, explain it out, unpack what most mattered. He tries to figure out what is really left to say about it; what he would say, if some teenager were listening, expounding with fierceness and clarity. "Could it ever be possible to just pause on that feeling?" he asks, as guitars are rising and drums are crashing, the future rushing in. (And then, lustrous: strings.) I am so happy Fred moved to Montreal; I hope he stays; I hope I get to tell him so, some time.
  38. Nicholas Krgovich - "Country Boy" [buy]
    Almsot 20 years ago, when I was just a cub, I fell in love with a band called P:ano. They were one of my earliest priate love-affairs. This band was Krgovich's; his music has been with me a long time. But I've changed, and he has too: Krgovich's braver now, less tentative, like a draftsman who works in ink. At first "Country Boy" seems courtly, polite, a stately bit of lounge-pop. With every passing minute it gets more ravishing, more strange. Pedal steel, organ, cherry-red backing vocals... later, swerving fiddles and saxophones. It's naughty and thrilling, gutsy as a duck-call.

  39. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile - "Continental Breakfast" [buy]
    From the year's most fruitful team-up album. A duet about friendship and collaboration - one cockeyed, curious songwriter singing to another, and then switch!
  40. Selena Gomez - "Bad Liar" [video]
    In 2017 chart-pop this song felt an astonishing reprieve: understated, almost tasteful, with Gomez smurfing sultrily over chimes, fingersnaps, a Talking Heads bassline. If anything it's still underbaked, a hit in search of its refrain.
  41. Sneaks - "Look Like That" [buy]
    Minimal rock'n'roll, dry as bone. Like a car shooting down a desert highway. Like a cat stalking across a hot tin roof. Like a heist in a Subaru. There's a treasure in the trunk, something from Repo Man, Kiss Me Deadly, Pulp Fiction... Be careful what you wish for.
  42. Lorde - "Supercut" [buy]
    A song of a relationship in retrospect: that moment of reversing, backward-spooling, memories flashing past like wind across a pennant, film through a shutter. "Supercut" has a kind of breathlessness that's hard to achieve - something in the accelerating drums, the cascading synths, Lorde's quick inhalations. Her memories seem at once potent and disposable, cast behind; there's a sense of barely catching up, of impulse overtaking patience, and everything's lit in indiglo. The supercut gets the pop song it deserves, nine years after the invention of the term: mesmeric, faintly astounding.
  43. The Drums - "Abysmal Thoughts" [buy]
    Imagine the Archies singing cheerily in quicksand. (Thanks Steve R.)
  44. Deep Throat Choir - "Stonemilker (Björk cover)" [buy]
    Last month Björk released a new album, Utopia. It's a record that breathes, covets, revels, but none of its songs excel for me as individual song. Instead, my favourite Björk track of 2017 is this - a version of "Stonemilker", from 2015's extraordinary Vulnicura, performed by the East London-based "indie"-adapting Deep Throat Choir. "Stonemilker" is a song of sorrow and discovery: the clarity that can accompany heartbreak, that "fierce", seismic perspective. Like Björk herself, Deep Throat integrate string-players, drawing melody from deep. But the choir can also do what one singer cannot. I find myself moved and moved again by the mingling of these voices, the way they move together. "Who is open chested?" they ask - and I think: you, you, this, all I hear here is opening-up.
  45. Aimee Mann - "Goose Snow Cone" [buy]
    Aimee Mann's "Goose Snow Cone" began on a lonely day in Ireland, when she was scrolling through Instagram. A photograph of a cat called Goose, with a face like a snowcone. Somehow it remedied the afternoon, I guess, or made its aimlessness feel purposeful. Sometimes all it takes is a picture, a phrase - and then you're writing a song, telling a story, bogging a blog, redeeming all those blues.
  46. Sinjin Hawke - "Don't Lose Yourself to This" [buy]
    An electronica of waterfalls, laserguns, woodwinds, tabla, and slamming garbage-can lids. Like something the first AI will sing.
  47. Dirty Projectors ft Dawn Richard & Gavsborg - "Cool Your Heart (Equiknoxx remix)" [website]
    Jamaica's Equiknoxx crew add some dancehall bounce to this Dirty Projectors highlight. It's a song about going in circles until eventually, perhaps, possibly, hopefully, breaking loose. Plus: sitar.
  48. Nilüfer Yanya - "Baby Luv" [soundcloud]
    "Baby Luv" is one of the first songs to be released by London musician Nilüfer Yanya; it shows extraordinary promise. On "Baby Luv", her singing's almost sculptural - a shape that emerges line by line, motion by motion, over guitar and little else. A figure full of disappointment, not easily described.
  49. Land of Talk - "World Made" [buy]
    The world is so much better with Lizzie Powell making music in it. She sings "World Made" as if she's been chugging tonics for the past five years; it's full of lemon, ginger, spruce and black pepper. Shining silver indie-rock, or burnished and gold, a beautiful noise.
  50. The Clientele - "Falling Asleep" [buy]
    The Clientele have been at it for a long time now, making luscious, reverb-drenched rock. Misty! Melancholy! Stuff to stuff on your iPod before rambling on the moor. Music for the Age of Miracles saw them broaden their arrangements beyond (gleaming) electric guitars and "Falling Asleep" was for me a career highlight: not just Alasdair MacLean's sighing voice but Anthony Harmer playing santur, a Persian dulcimer, which perforates this song like the sun's last rays through leaves.
  51. Juana Molina - "Cosoco" [buy]
    A peacock or bird-of-paradise of a song, summering from Argentina. Frilled and feathered, restless, heartbeating at double speed.
  52. Rostam - "Gwan" [buy]
    One of several reveries on Half-Light, the debut LP by Rostam Batmanglij. As a member of Vampire Weekend, Rostam had already demonstrated his ear for arrangements - here the marvel isn't just the mull and dart of the string-section, but the way he so lucidly describes his reverie, love dawning and sustaining. (Read Emma on other Rostam-ery.)
  53. Jay-Z - "Marcy Me" [buy]
    Jay-Z's best track in years is this return to the estate where he grew up - a short song like a short film, tactile and intimate, a personal tour.
  54. Fever Ray - "Red Trails" [buy]
    When Karin Dreijer got her start, in the indie guitar band Honey Is Good, her music didn't sound so extradimensional. But over successive records with her brother, in The Knife, and solo, as Fever Ray, Dreijer has drawn less and less from organic instruments and terrestrial moods. Synths and sequencers, pitch-shifters and effects - tones of alien pleasure or creeping dread. So it's interesting to hear "Red Trails", where the most prominent instrument - more prominent even than Dreijer's voice - is a fiddle, played by Sara Parkman. This is by no means trad folk music - Fever Ray is as forward-facing as ever. But Parkman's violin provides a texture that's different than anything else on Plunge - hot, dark ornaments within Dreijer's neon chill.
  55. N.E.R.D. ft Rihanna - "Lemon" [video]
    As much as Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo may wish to lead a band, N.E.R.D.'s greatest strength remains the pairs production talents. "Lemon" wouldn't be anything without its beat and it still isn't much until Rihanna arrives: she brings the song to life, gives it swing and swag. I could hole up and spend the winter in her verses; I just wish she knew her Star Trek a little better. (Spock's a Mr, not M.D.)
  56. Tim Darcy - "Still Waking Up" [buy]
    I love the breezy, blue-jean amble of this song; the way he's a tender lover and a hangdog letdown and a cool cucumber all at the same time. I love the way Darcy sings his head's "full of popular songs". It feels like a song for the same season as Nico's Chelsea Girls. The Ought frontman has always had charisma, even way back to his Crown Vandals days; here his magnetism is effortless, natural, like an accidental rhyme.
  57. Young Galaxy - "Stay for Real" [facebook]
    This song was part of the suite that inspired "Falsework", the story I wrote to accompany Young Galaxy's 2016 album. The train, the tower, the off-centre beat - all these things caught in my mind, and they've kept on residence there, gathering force as 2016 became 2017, as 2017 becomes 2018. "Nothing we wish for / ever comes easily," sings Catherine McCandless. I adore this band in their slower mode - hopeful, pleading, the song refracting as it's sung.
  58. Oumou Sangaré - "Kamelemba" [buy]
    Glittering afrobeat from one of Mali's most beloved, supple-voiced singers. I adore the way this song emerges from its early, bridling moments and into something light, effervescent, almost astral.
  59. La Bien Querrida - "El Lado Bueno" [buy]
    "El Lado Bueno" spends its first minute masquerading as a soft-focus snoozer before shedding its skin, finding fuzzing synths and a Peter Hook-style bassline. Like Stuart Murdoch before her, Bilbao's Ana Fernández-Villaverde has a way of sounding soft and strident at the same time, shy and intrepid, as if "twee" were the codeword for a special forces mission (of love).
  60. Gabrielle Papillon - "When the Heart Attacks" [buy]
    If this song's missing anything it's a little more extremism, roughness - a sound that breaks things, upsets the dinner settings. The inherent material, swathed in strings, is captivating, commanding; Papillon's lines fit together like golden bricks. It's a song like an enchanted road and you can imagine whole armies, communities, pouring down it. Papillon's a great singer, but she's also one of Canada's strongest pop songwriters - I hope hitmakers will try giving her a ring.
  61. Richard Dawson - "Soldier" [buy]
    Dawson's reputation is growing with every year and album: by now he's among the leaders of the UK's avant-folk scene, the kind of talent that calls for quiet, grateful attention. His songs play this wonderful trick: meticulously composed yet appearing so wild, meandering. They seem like messy uncoverings, truffles discovered in the dirt. The mood evokes shambolic antecedents like Will Oldham or Richard Youngs, but as a lyricist Dawson is much closer to someone like Joanna Newsom: purposeful, fastidious, logging every trembling wish and thought of the characters he imagines. "Soldier"'s soldier is fully transparent to us, brilliantly rendered. (Thanks David.)
  62. Zayn ft PARTYNEXTDOOR - "Still Got Time" [new album forthcoming]
    "Still Got Time" does something interesting with space. The production makes it sound like a sped-up miniature - squeezed, tiny, chiptune verging on chipmunk - but Zayn and PARTYNEXTDOOR sing with an easy, natural cadence, as if they have all the time in the world, miles extending on all sides.
  63. Deerhoof ft Jenn Wasner - "I Will Spite Survive" [buy]
    Working with Wye Oak's Wasner, Deerhoof's quirky pop gains a sense of gravity, stakes. Wasner and Satomi Matsuzaki gayly promise the impossible - "You can outlive your executioners!" - singing like telepathic sisters.
  64. Shakira - "Me Enamoré" [buy]
    Totally infectious - the kind of pop song that seems to spread across everything, catching, starting small and quickly taking over the block.
  65. Snoh Aalegra ft Vince Staples - "Nothing Burns Like The Cold" [buy]
    Snoh Aalegra is the second artist in as many years to build a song upon the scaffolding of Portishead's "Glory Box" (see also Alessia Cara's "Here", #60 on my Best of 2015 list; the original samples are from Isaac Hayes). Like Beth Gibbons on "Glory Box", Aalegra's wrestling with an ambivalent relationship; unlike Gibbons Aalegra seems arch, removed, as if her heart's only half in it. Her detachment makes her more of a femme fatale, with Staples as a sidekick; "Nothing Burns Like The Cold" is more about power than grief.
  66. Haim - "Right Now" [buy]
    Never mind that Haim's second album was the biggest musical disappointment in a year already full of them. "Right Now" succeeds by being short, simple and relentless. It's barely a song - just a chorus and pre-chorus, pure crescendo. But the strangeness of its composition - stray effects, errant sounds, sloppy drums - turn the crescendo fascinating. Ready for putting in your pocket, playing on repeat.
  67. Yaeji - "Drink I'm Sippin On" [buy]
    Dark city, drowsy rhymes, temporary drift.
  68. The War on Drugs - "Holding On" [buy]
    Several albums in, it's not clear whether the War on Drugs are getting anywhere with their Sprucesteen pastiches. But that doesn't mean it's not delicious listening, compulsive, salt and vinegar for the ears.
  69. Post Malone ft 21 Savage - "rockstar" [video]
    Stop staying out so late, it's not healthy.
  70. Lana Del Rey - "Love" [buy]
    For almost the entirety of "Love", Lana Del Rey cedes the foreground of the song. She sings from the back of the mix - calling across booming, chiming orchestration; narrating other people's desires. It gives the track an unusual, wistful tone - a feeling of perspective or maybe, against all odds, of wisdom.
  71. Future Islands - "Through the Roses" [buy]
    The song's conceit is either cute or eyeroll-inducing. A singer's confession to his fans: "You see me ... through the lights and the smoke and the screen / ... [and] I'm no better / I'm no better than you and I'm scared." Recorded the day after the 2016 election, Sam Herring wants you to know that he's worried too - and that "we can pull through / together / together." Schlocky maybe, but Herring performs it beautifully, entreatingly, finding each of the chorus's lifts and left-turns.
  72. Daniele Luppi & Parquet Courts ft Karen O - "Talisa" [buy]
    I believe my only exposure to Talisa Soto was in the Mortal Kombat movie, when I was 14. So my imaginary doesn't have much to draw on when Karen O sings her song of Soto - stripping, strutting and pouting for Gianni Versace. I can't envision the magazine shoot but I can imagine the streets outside, the scrabbling birds and parked Ducattis, the women in couture overcoats. Parquet Courts have never sounded like they're having this much fun. (Thanks Vinny.)
  73. KMD ft Jay Electronica & DOOM - "Light Years"
    My second-favourite rapper (Doom) romping with Jay Electronica over sheer and unrestrained recorder. Expert as a TED talk, stylish as a Vogue cover, and vaguely irritating.
  74. Jon McKiel - "Conduit" [buy]
    Like a Constantines song pushed into a machine, compacted, transformed from rock-song into ruby; and then cut, polished, shattered, reassembled shard by shard.
  75. The Dears - "1998" [buy]
    You can tell as soon as it starts that this is one of those songs, perfect for driving, for wide skies and telephone poles, billboards and headlights, sun or clouds or stars. But there's still no predicting the grace of the chorus, Murray Lightburn in full maturity, proud as a two-time father, with help from canny piano, Beatles guitar, a pitch-perfect melodica solo.
  76. Charlotte Gainsbourg - "Rest" [buy]
    It's ostensibly a song of passion, but "Rest"'s burbling synths and Gainsbourg's worried whisper make the thing sound unsettled, unsafe almost, as if desire is a disease.
  77. Rae Morris - "Do It" [pre-order]
    Ebullient electro-pop with a simple, graceful hook.
  78. LCD Soundsystem - "How Do You Sleep" [buy]
    James Murphy's kiss-off to Tim Goldsworthy, his former business partner, starts in a place of agony. It takes 3:37 for the beat to drop - but then it's off, stamping, stomping, stepping, dancing, rejoicing in its confidence that the winner was Murphy.
  79. Andre Ethier - "Making A Living" [buy]
    Singer-songwriter and painter Andre Ethier, once of the Deadly Snakes, opens "Making A Living" with a nod to his google twin - LA Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier. Really, this could be a song for either Ethier - or for you, for me, or anyone who's hustling. We're keeping at it, in our ways; we could all use a palm-fronded holiday, some slack-stringed guitar and comforting saxophone. In 2017 especially; but also probably, predictably, ever-after.
  80. St. Vincent - "New York" [buy]
    I love "New York" for its mournful, cement-blue verses. Annie Clark so plainly & expressively describes the tragedy of moving away from home, leaving people behind, and returning to find that everything has changed.
  81. Hair & Beauty - "I Know It's Not Funny" [buy]
    Half-way between a ditty and a dirge, like a kid leading a wagon to the cemetary. (Thank you Sebastian.)
  82. Cashmere Cat ft MØ & Sophie - "9 (After Coachella)" [buy]
    A staggering ballerina, either an adept or a drunk.
  83. Ty Dolla $ign - "All the Time" [buy]
    Lascivious and daydreaming, R&B that's outstretched on the divan, waiting for the sound of the key in the lock.
  84. Holy Data - "Vacation" [buy]
    Montreal's Holy Data play psychedelic, kitchen-sink pop, crazily swirling but meticulously composed - with shades of the Flaming Lips, Architecture in Helsinki and the mighty Go-Betweens. "Vacation"'s like something from a Murakami story - a bad dream that comes back as a strange egg, hatching under the overpass. BANG, BANG.
  85. Khalid - "Young Dumb & Broke" [buy]
    The greatest puzzle of this song is that there is no comma between "young" and "dumb". Khalid has written a charming and lackadaisical tribute to his generation, his ilk, all who are at once "broke" and "young dumb". Young dumb, I assume, is like being old smart or red hot or fancy free. It's like being heatstroked, and happy.
  86. Cuddle Magic - "Slow Rider" [buy]
    The slowest pony is the most confident climber. Indie-pop that's all chug and ooh, synthesizers catching their breaths.
  87. Train Fou - "Peuple Pollock" [facebook]
    A spectral and subdivided pop song, with shades of yesterday (Yeasayer and Massive Attack) and tomorrow (???). It's loop music, sample music, but with a forward-leaning groove, heavier and more abrupt than we're used to - much of the skeleton's made of trombone blarps, like snippets from an Inception trailer. Train Fou (literally "crazy train") take ridiculous, tacky, naff building-blocks and use them to make music that isn't ridiculous, isn't tacky or even silly: it's confusing but sincere, it's got something to say.
  88. Rainer Maria - "Broke Open Love" [buy]
    Rainer Maria return! One of the first bands I ever reviewed, way back in 2003. By then the band were already mid-career; it's been 11 years since their last loud, fervent LP. "Broke Open Love"'s emo does feel like something borrowed from a previous time, but Rainer Maria's sound's still electrifying, explosive, drums and guitar that thrash and catch under Caithlin De Marrais level voice. Sometimes even angsty rock'n'roll seems luscious, sensual, more about touch and taste than psychological distress.
  89. French Montana ft Swae Lee - "Unforgettable" [video]
    One of the best things wafting over radio this year. "Unforgettable" feels solidly international, blurring bits of contemporary African, Latin and Caribbean pop. That blurriness extends to other aspects of this music - as if the song's cloudy, watercolour, bleeding into adjacent songs. Oilspots in the air.
  90. Tess Roby - "Ballad 5" [buy]
    Most of this track is just biding its time for the final minute and a half, when Roby's gentle mumble and windy guitar-part fall away. What happens next starts with oozing synths and ends with a stunning, looping vocal line, like a bedroom cantata.
  91. Nate Husser - "Catherine" [website]
    Nate Husser's view of Montreal's Ste-Catherine street is unrecognizable to me. To me it's the high street, full of mass-market boutiques and harried shoppers, with bundled bags. For him it's a setting for violence, betrayals - vividly rendered, with a diamond-tipped pen.
  92. Emperor X - "Low Orbit Ion Cannon" [buy]
    Folk music for the DDOS era - hackers searching, seeking, for an uninterrupted connection.
  93. Sigrid - "Don't Kill My Vibe" [buy]
    Don't let the title fool you. Sigrid's pop song has none of Kendrick Lamar's woozy grousing - instead it's adamant, shouting, like a kid who refuses to grow up (or to let a loved-one leave).
  94. Big Boi - "All Night" [buy]
    OutKast's Big Boi rides a New Orleans piano loop like it's a juciyfruit bronco. Making light of the darkness, drawing close, swearing oaths.
  95. Romeo Santos ft Jessie Reyez - "Un Vuelo A La" [buy]
    Don't be fooled by "Un Vuelo A La"'s comely country waltzing. It's a pretty song of acrimony: Santos and Reyez trading verses about how the other one's to blame for the end of a relationship. You're crazy, Santos sings; You're a cheater, Reyez replies. "Un vuelo"'s a plane ride, but they're not promising each other a holiday - "un vuelo a la mierda" is a flight straight to Hell.
  96. Ed Sheeran - "Castle On The Hill" [buy]
    Despite my better judgment, Sheeran's rattling pop-rocker has kept its hold on me all year. It's the way it presses on, insistent, pursuing that galloping melody - and with the faintest quivering sense that maybe it could all fall to pieces.
  97. Spoon - "Pink Up" [buy]
    If Spoon were the Tindersticks, with groove and patience, brushed cymbals and Hammond organ. Also: steel drums, reversed tape, a travelogue not quite legible. The best short story I heard this year.
  98. New Pornographers - "Play Money" [buy]
    Neko Case and Carl Newman and their throng still brashly, catchily clamouring, this time with cybernetic bandmates, robots commissioned for their chords. Look out for the grand finale, with Neko and Carl's tolling voices, trombones sounding an alarm.
  99. Mac Demarco - "My Old Man" [buy]
    Demarco's "My Old Man" almost feels like a Clientele track - honeyed croon, acoustic guitar, an air of golden nostalgia. But Demarco's too jaded for that: listen closer and you recognize the wobble in the organ, the somberness of the words. "Looks like I'm seeing more of my old man in me," the singer repeats, but the key lyrics occur a few syllables before: "Uh-no," he sings. "Oh no."
  100. Miley Cyrus - "Malibu" [buy]
    Miley Cyrus's "Malibu" is my 100th best song and I include it almost guiltily. I am not one for guilty pleasures because one should never feel guilty for enjoying a song; here I feel guilty for recommending it. Truth is, seven months in, I'm still not sure if "Malibu" is any good. It doesn't seem like it should be. With its stomping and handclaps, Miley "au naturel", the whole thing seems contrived - a shrewd calculation shoved through a songwriting sausage-machine. That's how it seems. Only: I like it, I like it a lot. And even if that liking won't last me through the winter it's lasting me now.

    Small comforts, enjoy them while we can.

So that's 2017's century of songs, or the way they seem today. There are so many that didn't make it, that I wish I were pointing you to. Thank you to everyone who sent some favourites in. There will be so many I've missed (there are so many I'm already remembering). Maybe make your own suggestions in the comments or on Twitter.

Thanks for reading, sorry for the broken links, please support these artists with your money. (Invest in things that are important.) Be kind to each other, be brave, outlast. Remember: music is magic, an invisible force.

by Emma

Rostam - "Bike Dream"
Rostam - "Never Going To Catch Me"

A few minutes ago, in the fall, when it was still summer, I had this perfect routine. Every morning, I'd lift myself from the dream of the revolving city and walk over to the city's biggest park, to the secret side entrance where two steps in you're surrounded by impossible forest. Green everything somehow, nature-quiet absorbing the car-sounds that should be coming from half a block away. Light moving on light. All the sweet dogs of the neighbourhood rushing past me on their way to meet each other. River snaking around under the ground under my feet. I'd walk through the forest every morning, clamber around on the unpaved levels, and then when this album was over I would sit on a log in the quiet, trying to absorb some of it, to take enough home for the poems. That waiting's the swell at the centre of these songs - the strobing joy in those back chords, the sunshine. That moving silence, the park as a glitch in the city, all that green.

[buy Half-Light, which is maybe my favourite album this year]

by Emma
Snake Poems

Nathaniel Russell - "It Is Hard To Be Good"
Nathaniel Russell - "Run To A Loving One"

Last night my friend told me a story about this job he used to have in California, measuring owls and then letting them go. You can put owls to sleep by petting them between the eyes, he told me, or you can calm them down by putting them in small tins, because owls like to be in tight spaces. My friend said that his boss was one of thirteen adults in the world who could speak owl really well. He could go into the forest, listen for a few seconds, and then tell you how many owls there were in there. "Six owls tonight," said my friend, doing an impression of his boss in the night.

Outside, adults in elaborate costumes were moving in drifts from one side of the block to the other: guy in dinosaur suit, guy in cartoon mask with a bloody tinfoil machete, women with all kinds of wigs, laughing and screaming. Across the street, in the place with all the sensory deprivation tanks, a shadowy figure checked its email. Next door, in the dentist's office, we could see a video of a turtle moving very very slowly. Then a hundred birds all taking off into the sky at the same time.

(Image and songs are by Nathaniel Russell. Buy Sunlight here, and look at his amazing art here.)

by Mitz

The Famines - "Faux Famous" [Bandcamp]

Sometimes, raw simple things is all you need like eating vegetables with hummus.

by Emma

A$AP Mob - "Raf (feat. A$AP Rocky, Playboi Carti, Quavo, Lil Uzi Vert & Frank Ocean)"

This song is mostly just A Song, and barely even that - it's twice as long as it should be, way too much and not enough of anything at once. (I like Quavo, but sometimes it's like they just wheel him into the studio, startle him out of a deep sleep, and press "record.") But it's worth it for what happens two minutes and twenty-three seconds in - when the lights go down, the room floods with a thick purple fog, and the shower of beautiful, hot, dangerous sparks starts drifting down from...where?


Frank Ocean - "Chanel"

I think this is the kind of Frank Ocean I like - a little compressed, a lot fluorescing in the confines of the form, punchlines Patricia Lockwood-packed with triple meaning, lovely and sensitive and not to be fucked with. Something lush and soft and layered to wrap around you, walk around with, shining in the early dusk.

by Sean

An excerpt from Sappy Times' 2011 edition:

Charles Bradley comes out in a red and gold suit, flying like a screaming soul eagle. We cheer, but not yet knowing. His band is magic, treasure, the finest things you could find. Charles Bradley squints at us through the fog. Still, we do not know. Then there is a break, a beat, and the 63-year-old parts his lips. He sings. He sings like a torch thrown onto a house. There is smoke & heat & unassailability. Striving love, a man's hot breath. Now we know. Charles Bradley is singing a song about the murder of his brother and now we know.

He sings ten thousand beautiful things. He does the splits, gyrates, gives us hugs. He covers Neil Young's "Heart of Gold" and I am almost crying as he sings "I am getting old." It is not that he is an old man: it is that he is showing us his soul, singing us his soul, the things he has wanted, lost, won. "I love you" he shouts, crying, sweating, "I love you," breaking and mending my heart. That electric guitar, so sweet, sweeter than honey, behind him. This tent is full of gifts, gold soundz, held up, clutched hands, running us empty, right yes [HORNS HORNS HORNS] right now.


Rest in power Charles Bradley, 1948-2017.
by Emma

Beverly Glenn-Copeland - "Ever New"
Lido Pimienta - "La Capacidad"
Partner - "Remember This"

I've been trying to figure out exactly what to say about Sappyfest 12 since I got back home from it more than a month ago. Everything I felt about it then I've been feeling ever since, but it all seems too hard to describe without making you (and me) cringe; too enormous, too outsized.

A few years ago, I wrote about the first time I ever saw Partner play - in the Thunder and Lightning bowling alley, where on the last night of the weekend they blew out the power with their first chord. A token carried over from the other world, the better one. The gold coin, the note. Proof, shining. Incredibly, impossibly real. Part of this feeling has to do with the simple chemistry of Sappyfest itself; the dreamy town in picturesque midsummer, the sunny marsh walks, all your friends. Guitars. It's a given.

But there have been summers where those parts of the festival - the parts of it that are going to be there no matter what - were the entire source of its shimmer. Sometimes the music almost feels incidental; a few bands you like in a sea of bands you saw. But this year it was different. Lineup-wise, this was the least plain white male Sappy I've ever been to, and it made a difference; for a weekend, the place felt utopian, an oasis of pure electric feeling. It meant more. I cried like eight times: at Lido Pimienta, who stirred the crowd like she had us under a spell; at Fiver, channelling the ghosts of Rockwood Asylum real sympathetic and sharp; at Beverly Glenn Copeland, who held an entire cinema full of people speechless for the better part of an afternoon; at Willie Thrasher, whose electric kindness you could feel from blocks away.

I loved the glittering exuberance of the Big Budi Band and the echo of the Courtneys, who if you closed your eyes sounded like a power pop band played through a haunted Gravitron. I loved wandering into the cinema just as Kirsten Olivia was hitting a high note and watching everyone's eyes get wider. I loved walking back from Teenanger at the Legion in the middle of the night and catching a faint melody that got stronger and stronger until I reached a schoolbus strung through with Christmas lights, with 15 passengers on the inside and Bry Webb quietly crooning his last song of the night. (And then a guy on the steps offering me some Chex mix because he felt bad I'd missed most of the set). I loved seeing Penny shred guitar in Tough Age and then laughing with her while we watched the Protruders blast through their set in the packed bowling alley. I loved watching the expert DJs in BAHNAHNAH dance joyfully to their own set and I loved the little guided meditation Josee lead the crowd through in the middle of the Partner show and I loved the full moon that did not seem to fade all weekend. The poet Sue Goyette said, to a crowd of us lying on the grass at the reading on Sunday, that we were all feeling big feelings because of it. We were, I think. Or at least I was.

It's hard to explain how big this all was without resorting to cliche. I think that maybe this year, like everyone else, I have been manically switching back and forth between raw-nerved vulnerability and total self-protective terror; trying to be open enough to the world that I stay aware of what's happening in it; trying to hold myself at arms' length away from the endless avalanche of horrifying news so I can sustain that openness long enough to be of use. There is no way to do this properly, there are only new and different ways to fail. It's easy to retreat into habit and repetition. The bonds between you and the world - what's exciting in it, what other people make from the wildness of their own lives - can begin to slip and fray and loosen. Earlier in the summer, I'd fallen into the easy trap of using music as a distraction, a backdrop; something to take me away from the truth of the world instead of pushing me back toward the centre of it. It can be frightening to let yourself be moved when the ground already feels like it's always shifting under you. It felt good to remember what good can come of being overwhelmed. Weeks later, I'm still feeling it.

[Buy Keyboard Fantasies, La Papessa and the basically perfect In Search of Lost Time]