As I have done the past several years, below I have compiled my annual list of the top 50 songs of 2017. This list is solely a reflection of my personal perspective, and it’s a reflection of the songs that have summed up my year in some way.  There is a handy Spotify playlist included again at the bottom of the list, as well as a link to an Apple Music playlist, for those of you who are short on time, but still want to hear what I have chosen. You can read Pt. 1 here. I have also included some of my favorite live performances of some of the below songs.

  1. The Front Bottoms – Vacation Town

As some of you may know who are reading this, I moved 1500 miles from the Jersey Shore this year. No song made me miss home more this year than “Vacation Town”: “I miss the way things used to be. It’s okay no one’s around, I’m off-season, vacation town.” It reminds me of all those nights in Jersey: renting a not-great hotel down the shore, racing down the rocky jetty in Asbury Park, getting Rum Buckets at a restaurant near the Conventional hall, seeing shows at Asbury Lanes, and just lounging around in a lawn chair on the beaches of my home state.

  1. Meadowlark – Postcards

Featuring one of the most haunting melodies of the year, the closing/title track of Meadowlark’s debut “Postcards” captures the sort of insidious feeling of wanting to “win” a breakup. “I just want you to know, it’s nice being loved,” sings vocalist Kate McGill, writing to an ex-lover about the ways she’s found love “everywhere you’re not”. But there’s a sort of longing there too, a wistfulness that threatens to negate the purpose of the song. It’s a messy sort of closure, like almost all breakups.

  1. Pianos Become the Teeth – Charisma

“What a way you won me over.” The repeated refrain of Charisma captures the euphoric spiral of falling for someone. The lead single off Pianos Become the Teeth’s hotly anticipated new album Wait For Love, it seems like a huge sonic leap forward from the band. Some long-time fans may deride Pianos for “abandoning” the screaming and their post-hardcore roots, but simply put their song composition has never been better, and the switch to clean vocals has allowed vocalist Kyle Durfey’s lyrics to stand out. He’s always had a way of ripping your heart out with a turn of phrase (See: “It seems we all get sick, we all die / in some no-name hospital.”) but Wait For Love is going to be the moment he gets recognition for his writing (“You’re so alive / Like a dream I’d catch if I stayed asleep”).

  1. Charli XCX – Backseat (ft. Carly Rae Jepsen)

Expectations were sky-high for this collaboration when the Pop 2 tracklisting was announced, and then the bar was cleared as easily as if Carly and Charli were Olympic pole vaulters at a high school track meet. The two superstar pop vocalists trade off sing-songy verses and fluttering choruses for the first two minutes of the song in what would be an inspiring enough performance for a lesser artist to make the bottom half of this top 50. But it’s the second half of the song where Charli and producer earn this ranking. Tires squeal and the crescendo begins. Vocal samples are stacked on top of dozens of other vocal samples, synth lines bubble over pulverizing bass wobbles, and the song reaches an ethereal bliss. It’s my favorite 45 seconds of music this year.

  1. The xx – On Hold

The moment where The xx finally crossed over with Jamie xx’s for the most part vastly more interesting solo music to deliver the world the undeniable indie anthem of 2017. At once insular and world-beating, the drop of On Hold seems to be bubbling under the surface, living up to the song’s name, for an impossibly long time, but once it comes it’s one of the most satisfying moments of music in 2017

  1. Shawn Wasabi – Otter Pop (ft. Hollis)

No song this year captures the nostalgia of youth for me quite as well as Otter Pop does. It may have some silly lyrics, but the carefree enthusiasm with which the song is delivered shows a self-confidence we all should strive for. Shawn Wasabi is just 22-years-old, and the fact that he could craft a song this effortlessly breezy but still tightly composed boggles my mind. A special talent.

  1. The Menzingers – Midwestern States

“We both got worthless diplomas, from worthless universities. Two bachelors in worthless studies, but at least it made our parents happy, and cost a whole lot of money.” There is not a single lyric in 2017 that better sums up the Millenial experience than that. That part of “Midwestern States” alone would make this highlight from The Menzingers’ After the Party worthy of this list, but “Midwestern States” also combines so many cultural touchstones into one raucous punk anthem: the open-road escapism of “On The Road” or “Born to Run,” regrettable tattoos, and the struggle of finding something that isn’t trash on Netflix, despite nearly infinite choice.

  1. Partner – Ambassador to Ecstasy

Partner is the best rock-and-roll band you’ve maybe never heard of. Take the most ridiculous and funny Cake or Wheatus song, combine it with the guitar riffs and bombast of AC/DC, and add in the tight harmonies Tegan and Sara; you would get a rough approximation of what a Partner song sounds like. They shred. And Ambassador to Ecstasy shreds harder than any other song in their discography. There are two separate extended guitar solos in the song, and even despite that, there is a catchy as hell chorus to boot.

  1. Lorde – Perfect Places

The closing track off Lorde’s masterpiece Melodrama is her artistic mission statement. A brave step forward, Melodrama is the story of a single introspective, at times euphoric, at times chaotic, at times demoralizing night out. And “Perfect Places” is the sobering comedown at the end of it all. It’s the splash of cold water to your face as you prepare to lay down to bed after a night on the town.  “All of our heroes fading, now I can’t stand to be alone, let’s go to perfect places,” she implores in the chorus, a summation again of what it’s like to live in 2017. But in the end, we know there are no perfect places, because “what the fuck are perfect places anyway?” All we have is where we are and where the people who love us are, and hopefully that’s enough.

  1. Paramore – Fake Happy

Fake Happy is the best song on the album of the year, so it earns a place here. Paramore’s After Laughter was a bolt of lightning on a pitch-black night. In what is one of the most unlikely albums to have been released in 2017, Hayley Williams was forced to confront it all: a divorce which would tear her personal life to shreds and then put her in gossip columns, battles with depression and anxiety, and (again) interpersonal drama within the band that lead to Jeremy Davis leaving the group. By all accounts After Laughter is a record that almost didn’t exist. But it does because Williams decided the most human, vulnerable thing to do to face the tsunami of anguish thrown her way was to get into the studio with remaining member Taylor York and a returning Zac Farro and confront her demons, one by one, even when she didn’t want to. She’s no superhuman, as she says on Idle Worship, just a person trying to do the best they can to find light in the darkness. One of my favorite lyrics of the year is from “Idle Worship” and sums up this idea: “What little light that’s left, we need to keep it sacred / I know that you’re afraid to let all the dark escape you / But we could let the light illuminate these hopeless places.” “Fake Happy” though stands out for a different reason. Sure, it’s Williams’ most honest writing, but there is something universally poignant about the way we try to present the best image of ourselves to the world: a false illusion for everyone else’s sake, not even for our own. “If I smile with my teeth / bet you’d believe me.”

  1. Lil Uzi Vert – XO TOUR Llif3

The release of “XO TOUR Llif3” is one of the most remarkable stories of 2017, and so I won’t try to rehash it in the limited time I have for each of these blurbs except to say that the fact that this song was released the way it was on Soundcloud with basically no fanfare then became one of the most iconic songs of the year is remarkably telling for how society at large consumes music in today’s culture, where streaming is the new MO.  XO Tour Llif3 is remarkable though because it signals something about not just where consumption of music was headed, but where music itself was headed this year too. It signaled the rise of emo-tinged hip hop and would pave the way for Lil Peep (RIP) and Post Malone’s rise later in the year. It’s also just insanely infectious and one of the most replayable songs of the year.

  1. Vince Staples – BagBak

“We need Tamikas and Shaniquas in the Oval Office, Obama ain’t enough for me we only getting started, the next Bill Gates could be on Section 8 up in the projects,” is one of my favorite lyrics of the year. Staples cuts to the core of the issues, coming out the other side more triumphant than ever. It’s also one of the best protest songs of the Post-Trump Era, and the last minute or so of the song is the most incendiary bit of music this year.

  1. MUNA – Everything

One of the best straight-up rock songs of the year, “Everything” is the closing track off dark-pop band MUNA’s debut About U. But don’t let the rest of About U’s synth-pop exterior fool you. “Everything” is HEAVY. “Everything” tracks the masochism of letting your entire being be consumed by a destructive relationship. Vocalist Katie Gavin goes in, “You are wildfire and I’m standing in the rain, after everything.” This song cuts me to my core every time I hear it.

  1. Now Now – SGL

The long-awaited return single of Now Now is not necessarily what we expected, but it’s what we needed. A timeless pop-anthem for a new generation of fans. It feels so effortlessly simple, a jangly acoustic guitar riff and a two-note melody, but the song just sounds like summer, and I can’t wait to play it with the windows down on long drives for a decade to come. Now let’s work on getting that full-length album out next year…

  1. Manchester Orchestra – The Alien/The Sunshine/The Grocery

Technically three songs, I know, but the fact that this trilogy of songs from Manchester Orchestra’s captivating A Black Mile to the Surface flow into each other perfectly warrants their inclusion as one long, masterful opus. “The Alien” is a humming, insistent song about a suicide attempt and the ripple effects it has on a family.  “The Sunshine” is vocalist Andy Hull singing a lullaby-like lilting tune to his daughter. And “The Grocery” is a song about a mass shooting in a grocery store that alternates between delicate finger picking and some of the heaviest moments on A Black Mile. The songs are nothing alike, and yet they are interconnected. Taken together, they display an attempt to reckon with existentialism. “The Grocery” ends with Hull singing “I’ve been trying to find the right way to get out of here,” but the only way seems to be to keep moving forward. Maybe you need to find bliss in the days you have been given in the wake of a failed suicide attempt or perhaps you find your bliss through the birth of your daughter.

  1. Phoebe Bridgers – Smoke Signals

With this top 10, I tried to pick songs that defined certain eras of the year 2017 for me. “Smoke Signals” defined the cold winter of early 2017 for me. As I wallowed in how to define myself in a post-Trump America, I like so many others turned to sad music to make me feel better. “Smoke Signals” was the perfect song to put your headphones on and forget about the world for 5 minutes. It absorbs you with its cavernous production (listen to how that guitar line cuts you to your core during the chorus, or how a plane pans across as Bridgers sings “checking out to hide from life”), swirling strings, and referential lyrics (She refers to the passing of both Lemmy from Motorhead and David Bowie). And we have to talk about Bridgers’ vocal performance to which so many adjectives could apply: vulnerable and heartsick and longing and pained.

  1. Carly Rae Jepsen – Cut to the Feeling

Bugglegum pop from the queen of bubblegum pop, “Cut to the Feeling” is a perfect pop song from a singer that has written plenty of them. Few songs match the euphoria of Cut to the Feeling’s magical hook. It’s like Mario Kart’s Rainbow Road for pop music: chaotic, vibrant, bombastic brilliance.

  1. Kendrick Lamar – DNA.

Countless words have been said about the genius of Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. The greatest rapper alive managed to at least equal two of the most important, engaging hip-hop records of the decade. This track, the second off DAMN. (or penultimate, if you are listening to the collector’s edition reversed tracklisting) displays that Kendrick is now peerless and beyond reproach. Exploring black heritage and his own tortured lineage. Incredibly, Kendrick recorded the now-legendary second verse a capella and asked Mike WILL-Made It to build the beat around the song. It sounds like he’s at war with the beat, just like he is at war with his heritage and with himself. In a time of so much fatalism about the future, the lines “Tell me when destruction gonna be my fate / Gonna be your fate, / gonna be our faith” are particularly haunting.

  1. Bleachers – Everybody Lost Somebody

I just want to link to my review of Gone Now because it’s the writing I’m most proud of: Much of my review is about “Everybody Lost Somebody” and everything I said then is true now. It’s still one of the best songs about loss and grief I’ve ever heard.

  1. Wolf Alice – Don’t Delete the Kisses

Apparently, I’m a romantic because so many of my favorite songs this year are sappy-ish love songs. But damn there were some good-as-hell sappy-ish love songs this year. This song just seems like one of those timeless, open-road shout alongs like “Heroes” by David Bowie. Singer Ellie Roswell confronts her commitment phobia. In the first chorus, we’re confronted with Roswell’s pessimistic but human self-doubt: “What if it’s not meant for me, love?” But then she spirals into a sappy, romantic cliché infatuation with a new flame and all that self-doubt falls away. All of a sudden there’s a new chorus: “Me and you / were meant to be in love.” It’s a triumphant moment, and I’m obsessed with it.

  1. Julien Baker – Hurt Less

Speaking of being obsessed with a bit of music, the final verse of “Hurt Less” is my favorite verse of songwriting this year (I have been emboldening this hot take since Turn Out the Lights was released, but I feel confident saying it now.) Baker, in her brief career thus far, has displayed a penchant for self-destruction. Think of her words in “Blacktop” (“The devil in my arms says feed me to the wolves tonight.”) or “Go Home” (“I know you’re still worried / I’m gonna get scared again, and make my insides clean with your kitchen bleach.”) “Hurt Less” starts out much the same, with Baker admitting, “I used to never wear a seatbelt / ‘Cause I said I didn’t care / What happened and I didn’t see the point / In trying to save myself from an accident.” But the act of driving around for a while with a friend or loved one, is a redemptive grace. And that makes the last verse all the more powerful: “This year I’ve started wearing safety belts / when I’m driving / Because when I’m with you I don’t have to think about myself / and it hurts less.”

  1. Oso Oso – Reindeer Games

The first new album I listened to in 2017 was Oso Oso’s The Yunahon Mixtape. And the first song I loved in 2017 was “Reindeer Games.” This song has held up for me the entire year not because it’s the best produced or the most musically interesting, but just because the chorus melody has gotten stuck in my head for almost 365 straight days now. The simplistic brilliance of the “OH. NO. BIG. WAVE.” part still makes me smile every time I hear this song (which easily numbers in the several hundreds now).

  1. Dua Lipa – New Rules

The best pop song of the year was from an unlikely source. In a year where the biggest pop stars in the world disappointed with their albums (Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, etc.) it was a 22-year old budding pop singer who delivered the most inescapable, anthemic, empowering bop of the year. Taking beats from electro-pop and the burgeoning tropical house movement, “New Rules” is the bounciest pop song I’ve heard in years and the pre-chorus pronouncing the titular “new rules” for getting over an ex-flame (“1: don’t pick up the phone, you know he’s only calling cause he’s drunk and alone.”) is the catchiest damn thing in the world. It’s an absolute banger of a song which could end up standing as one of the best pop tracks of the 2010s when the decade is done.

  1. Alex Lahey – Every Day’s the Weekend

I no longer have any precise way of measuring this, but there is a 0% chance that my most played song is anything other than Every Day’s the Weekend. It’s been my alarm clock tone since at least September, and I probably listen to the song once or twice a day besides that.  I don’t know what else to tell you about it except that it’s the most fun song of the year by far and an absolutely perfect pop-punk song. Also, low-key the best listing of days of the week in a song since Rebecca Black’s “Friday.” Honorable mention by the way to Lahey’s song “I Haven’t Been Taking Care of Myself” which if I had stretched the rules and allowed two songs per album would also be on the top 5 of this list, and has some of my favorite lyrics of the year (“My skin’s breaking out and I don’t like what I see / when I walk by shiny surfaces I don’t like being me… I haven’t been taking care of myself.”)

  1. Maggie Rogers – Dog Years

Maggie Rogers’ “Dog Years” is one of the most beautiful songs I’ve ever heard. Rogers wrote on Genius about what the song means to her: “Dog Years is about change, about loving and leaving and still loving, about trusting yourself, about trusting the universe, about being a good friend and never having enough time.”

To me it means all of those things and a great many more.

There’s not a song I needed more in 2017 than “Dog Years.”  I listened to it a lot this year to calm down and shrug off the stress of my everyday life. There were times I would feel a wave of relief wash over me as I heard Rogers breathy exhale at the end of the song, one final tired but still hopeful “we will be alright.” There were times I’d listen when I was worried about the future, and there were times I would listen and get wistful about the past. When I hear that second verse, “And if you had a bad week, let me touch your cheek, and I’ll be there waiting, when you get frustrated,” I would think about all the people that were behind me supporting me. When I hear the line “Swimming in sevens” I think of the seven years that have gone by since my dad passed away, and how proud he would be of the lives my brother, sister, and I have built since. When I hear Rogers singing about the afterlife, I know she’s not talking about death, but about taking the leap into the unknown. Her affirmation, “we will be alright, in the afterlife” is a reminder to not fear uncertainty, but instead to invite it.

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