Another trip around the sun and time again to post my collection of the songs that caught my attention most in 2017. While Spotify has certainly helped introduce me to more music than I could ever have imagined, I still find myself hoping some of my old favorite bands will debut some new stuff that I’ll really love. But whether it’s an old artist or a new kid on the block, it all comes down to whether a song strikes me as “Best of” worthy or not.
This year, I only discovered 12 tunes that fit the bill. I’ve included videos for each song below along with a little commentary. Have a listen and I hope you enjoy. Happy holidays and all the best in 2018!
For Spotify lovers, click here for my playlist.
Need the MP3 files? You can download a zip file here.
1. “Hot Thoughts” – Spoon
Ah, new stuff from the boys from Austin, Texas. And it doesn’t disappoint. Probably my favorite album of the year with this one as its standout track – replete with groovy guitar licks, background bells and Britt Daniel’s hushed vocals. This marks the ninth Spoon song I’ve included in my annual collection – more than any other artist. Guess I like ’em.
2. “On Hold” – The xx
Originally released at the very end of 2016 as the lead single of The xx’s new album, this duet between Jamie xx and Romy Croft is a slow burn with a great sample of Hall & Oates’ “I Can’t Go for That.” A real departure from their quieter, more serious early stuff.
3. “Emoji of a Wave” – John Mayer
Off John Mayer’s terrific new album, this track about love and heartbreak was a real standout this summer. A powerful ballad that was fun to sing out loud in the car, especially when he cries out “oh, honey!” Give it a try!
4. “Prom” – SZA
Solána Imani Rowe, better known as SZA (short for Sovereign Zig-Zag Allah), broke big this year with her “Ctrl” album. While not one of its singles, I really liked this cut about growing up (at least that’s what I think it’s about). Fun fact: SZA has written songs for the likes of Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna. Nice company!
5. “Feel It Still” – Portugal. The Man
Immediately catchy, I knew right away this song was “Best of” material and I filed it away for later listening. But then it happened – I started hearing it EVERYWHERE – on the radio, in commercials, in movie trailers. So am I sick of it now? A little. But it’s too damn catchy not to include.
6. “I Miss Those Days” – Bleachers
Also appearing in my 2014 collection, Jack Antonoff returns with a real pop anthem that speaks to the power of nostalgia. Ah, the good ol’ days.
7. “Skyline” – Broken Social Scene
Seven years since their last release, this Canadian group features a rotating cast of musicians (including members of Feist and Stars). While a bit repetitive lyrically, the shimmering acoustic guitar and drumbeat throughout is what hooked me at first listen.
8. “Second Nature” – Neil Finn
As an unabashed fan of anything by Crowded House, front man Neil Finn’s new solo effort is unique. Each track was recorded live in the studio in one take with Neil at the piano along with the other musicians, string section and chorus singers belting out this toe-tapping number about young love. The video shows the recording session.
9. “True Feeling” – Galantis
Galantis is a Swedish electronic dance music duo consisting of Christian Karlsson and Linus Eklöw, who have been together since 2007. This song, off their second album release, is a slow burn at first, but then kicks into gear with a beat that dares you to stay off the dance floor. Pure pop bliss.
10. “No Distraction” – Beck
Beck is back with one of his sunnier compilations to date. Recorded with producer Greg Kurstin, Beck and Kurstin ended up playing nearly every instrument themselves. Lots of good tracks to pick from, but this one hit me the hardest. From its Fixx-like opening to its Bruno Mars-like chorus, it sounds like he’s having a ton of fun.
11. “Friends” – Sure Sure
My random find of this year’s batch. Sure Sure, a four-man group out of L.A., put out this single that sounds like a fun, barroom sing-along. Love the plunky piano and the feedback-heavy bass & drums. Real simple stuff that tickles my “pop” funny bone.
12. “My Mind Is for Sale” – Jack Johnson
Someone had to be first. In the wake of last year’s presidential election, Jack Johnson penned a tune with his thoughts about our new Commander in Chief. No matter which side you’re on, I think we can all agree he crafted a fun, bouncy single nonetheless. A fitting song to end this year’s collection. Cheers!