2017 In Review

Stereogum’s 80 Favorite Songs Of 2017

If you’ve been reading Stereogum for long enough, you may have noticed something about your Stereogum staffers: We don’t agree on shit. We argue constantly, in public and in private, and we get behind things that our colleagues consider absolute bullshit. Which is to say: We’re music fans, and we do what music fans do. Every year, we get together to vote on our favorite albums, and some sort of rough-consensus picture comes out of that. But when it comes to our favorite songs, we keep those personal. So every year, we, your Stereogum staff, pick a few favorites, making sure not to pick any of the same songs. We’re not voting. We’re not arguing about whether these songs are the best. We’re just sharing some songs that we loved. We hope you like them, but even if you don’t, we still do.

Scott Lapatine

This year I caved and bought an Amazon Echo. It’s become the default device for listening to music in my home, even though at least once a day my daughter calls out “Alexa, STOP” when I’m merely trying to expose her to some classic Fleetwood Mac or something, man. Then at the office I’d be checking out an inexorable Late Late Show YouTube before two hours go by without me remembering to turn iTunes back on. It was almost as if streaming technology was conspiring to keep me from my music this year. Fortunately, I do my best listening on the subway and constant delays due to train traffic ahead meant I had ample time for Katy Perry mixing chillwave and dancehall and sounding like a woke Matthew Wilder. (“Chained To The Rhythm” might’ve been #1 on this list if I hadn’t heard it so many times.) Toward the end of the year I spent an entire commute looping a haunting ballad by Susanne Sundfør then another looping Quicksand’s fiery first track in 22 years. Both of those are included here, along with some jazz, metalcore, trip-hop, indie rock, etc. Topping the playlist is that Paramore song that sounds like Tango In The Night because old habits die hard.

01. Paramore – “Hard Times”
02. Kamasi Washington – “Truth”
03. Forest Swords – “Arms Out”
04. Katy Perry – “Chained To The Rhythm” (Feat. Skip Marley)
05. Susanne Sundfør – “Bedtime Story”
06. Quicksand – “Illuminant”
07. Hand Habits – “Book On How To Change”
08. Great Grandpa – “Fade”
09. Mutoid Man – “Bandages”
10. Hundred Waters – “Fingers”

Tom Breihan

Pop music still hasn’t lost its capacity to surprise. Here in the Year of the Asshole, maybe it’s not surprising that a song with Justin Bieber on it would top the charts all summer, dominating to historic degrees. But what was surprising was that the song in question was a deliriously horny Spanish reggaeton ballad and that Bieber would sing in lovely, fluid Spanish. (He would promptly forget all that Spanish and then make fun of it on video, but he is, after all, an asshole.) “Despacito” — as well as J Balvin and Willie William’s “Mi Gente,” its little cousin — provided a lovely little moment for pop music. So did Cardi B, snarling with fearsome panache and ensuring that she’d never have do dance again. So did Kendrick Lamar, making a song that straight-up bangs in uncomplicated ways. My list has fun songs (Brockhampton’s giddy “Gummy,” Carly Rae Jepsen’s endorphin-shooting “Cut To The Feeling”). It has sad songs (Julien Baker’s howling “Turn Out The Lights,” Jason Isbell’s keening “If We Were Vampires”). It has hypnotic songs (Future’s transcendently self-destructive “Mask Off,” Goldlink’s quietly swaggering “Crew). And in this Year Of The Asshole, I needed all of them.

01. Cardi B – “Bodak Yellow”
02. Kendrick Lamar – “Humble”
03. Jason Isbell – “If We Were Vampires”
04. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Cut To The Feeling”
05. Goldlink – “Crew” (Feat. Brent Faiyaz & Shy Glizzy)
06. Future – “Mask Off”
07. Julien Baker – “Turn Out The Lights”
08. Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee – “Despacito Remix” (Feat. Justin Bieber)
09. Brockhampton – “Gummy”
10. J Balvin & Willie William – “Mi Gente”

Michael Nelson

Back in August, I wrote a review of the War On Drugs’ A Deeper Understanding, and buried somewhere among a few thousand other sentences was this one: “Right now, it’s my favorite album of 2017, and I’ll be pretty surprised if I’m not saying the same thing come December or a decade after that.” Well, it’s now December, and I’m saying the same thing, with one caveat: My year was actually full of surprises. I was surprised by amazing new music from bands I’d never heard of before, and amazing new music from bands I’d never expected to hear from again. I’ll be honest: When it came time to vote on our favorite albums, A Deeper Understanding wasn’t even the clear #1 on my ballot — it was running neck and neck with Counterparts’ You’re Not You Anymore, a record that came out only four weeks after the War On Drugs’ masterpiece. For me, that was a huge fucking surprise. So anyway, the two cuts at the top of this list are culled from my two favorite albums of 2017. After that, the rest of these songs aren’t ranked so much as sequenced. I made this list the same way I would make a mixtape for my friends, back when people made mixtapes: starting easy, slowly drawing them further out, and finishing up with the epic, apocalyptic denoument. I miss those days. But things haven’t changed all that much, really. It’s just that, as we close out 2017 and get ready for the new year, there’s nobody with whom I’d rather debate/hear/share music than Stereogum readers. My sincere wish is for all of us to still be doing this a decade from today, at which point we can fully test my theory about A Deeper Understanding. For now, this list is for you, from me. I hope you find some surprises.

01. The War On Drugs – “Strangest Thing”
02. Counterparts – “A Memory Misread”
03. Incendiary – “Awakening”
04. Body Count – “No Lives Matter”
05. Kreator – “Gods Of Violence”
06. Quicksand – “Cosmonauts”
07. Ostraca – “Waiting For The Crash”
08. Slowdive – “Sugar For The Pill”
09. Heaven In Her Arms – “Abyss Of The Moonbow”
10. Pallbearer – “A Plea For Understanding”

Chris DeVille

Let’s dispense with the conceit that this list is unified by some grand narrative and move on to explaining why 100% of living humans agree these are all perfect songs. “Slide” is joy and confidence and perfect weather. “DNA.” and “No Halo” are brutal and exhilarating, albeit in vastly different ways. “Sanctuary” is brutal and exhilarating for 11 minutes and 14 seconds without ever ceasing to amaze. “T-Shirt,” with its hypnotic staccato stabs and eerie white noise and slow-mo swagger, converted every hardline lyrical-miracle hip-hop purist on Earth into a Migos lover forever. Or maybe that last part happened in a dream? After all, my other five universally beloved picks add up to an extended mirage. (Crap, a grand unifying narrative after all.) Instant standard “Love” traces the thrill of a new romance, melancholy melodic wonders “Dreams Tonite” and “Passionfruit” depict its gradual disintegration, the spectacular “Supercut” conveys its wistful aftermath, and all of it culminates in “Thinking Of A Place,” a sort of celestial postscript in which everything is beautiful and everyone turns out OK. If such an ending seems unrealistic, well, so was the prospect of the whole world finding consensus regarding the flawless genius of these 10 tracks, but here we are.

01. Calvin Harris – “Slide” (Feat. Frank Ocean & Migos)
02. Kendrick Lamar – “DNA.”
03. Alvvays – “Dreams Tonite”
04. Lorde – “Supercut”
05. Migos – “T-Shirt”
06. Elder – “Sanctuary”
07. Lana Del Rey – “Love”
08. Drake – “Passionfruit”
09. Sorority Noise – “No Halo”
10. The War On Drugs – “Thinking Of A Place”

Gabriela Tully Claymore

Learning how to drive was the most rewarding thing to happen to me this year. I’ve always lived in cities, so getting a license was never on my list of priorities, and frankly, I thought I would go through my entire life not knowing how to operate a motor vehicle. It’s a skill a lot of people take for granted, and when the examiner told me I passed the test I felt this warm giddiness that I have trouble describing: euphoric to the point that I was levitating or something. Though there’s no real concrete throughline on this list, all of these songs have given me some similarly indescribable feels. There’s the sneering, acerbic “Nicki”; Sophie’s affirming “It’s Okay To Cry”; Charlotte Gainsbourg’s woozy “Deadly Valentine”; Lorde’s head-over-heels love anthem “The Louvre”; SZA’s instant-classic “Drew Barrymore”; the swirling chorus of Waxahatchee’s “Hear You”; Fever Ray’s sex-crazed “To The Moon And Back”; Björk’s atmospheric “Arisen My Senses”; St. Vincent’s love letter to my chosen home “New York.” There’s this one part of “Sportstar” by (Sandy) Alex G that really gets me. It’s a super tender, borderline-nonsensical verse about driving down I-95 that makes me go fuzzy every time I hear it. The smallest moment in a song can drive the hardest feelings; the smallest life accomplishment can make you feel like a fucking king.

01. SZA – “Drew Barrymore”
02. Lorde – “The Louvre”
03. (Sandy) Alex G – “Sportstar”
04. Charlotte Gainsbourg – “Deadly Valentine”
05. Priests – “Nicki”
06. St. Vincent – “New York”
07. Björk – “Arisen My Senses”
08. SOPHIE – “It’s Okay To Cry”
09. Waxahatchee – “Hear You”
10. Fever Ray – “To The Moon And Back”

James Rettig

Sitting on top of my list this year are a pair of tracks from two of today’s greatest working songwriters, who also happen to be twins. They are two songs that largely explore the same ideas, ones that felt especially urgent this year: feeling silenced, performing invisible labor, the empowerment that comes from finally feeling like you can speak up and out. Allison Crutchfield’s words echoed through my head more than any: “You assume you understand because your voice is the loudest/ While you borrow our reality, you just can’t help it,” as did Katie’s: “You walk around like it’s your god-given right/ And you love being right/ You’ve never been wrong.” These words are incisive and precise. In fact, a lot of the songs I gravitated towards most this year had white-knuckled mantras at their heart, lyrics that crystallized the messy spectrum of human emotion in economical fashion: “This country makes it hard to fuck,” “Please don’t make me be someone with no sympathy,” “I faked global warming just to get close to you.” The world can feel vast and unmanageable, but the intimate connections we forge or decide to do away with are what helps keep us steady. It’s a validating feeling, to know that other people are going through the same struggles that you are, and the songs I came back to most this year are the ones that made me feel less alone.

01. Allison Crutchfield – “Mile Away”
02. Waxahatchee – “Never Been Wrong”
03. Fever Ray – “This Country”
04. Girlpool – “It Gets More Blue”
05. Priests – “Suck”
06. Lorde – “Hard Feelings/Loveless”
07. Perfume Genius – “Valley”
08. Japanese Breakfast – “Till Death”
09. Lomelda – “From Here”
10. Half Waif – “Severed Logic”

Peter Helman

As someone who writes about music for a living, this is probably a bad thing to admit, but sometimes, I find it impossible to write about the songs I love the most. Or rather, I can write about them, but I can never seem to articulate that love in a way that measures up to what I actually feel. Whenever I have to do one of these lists, I always end up feeling like Fred Thomas at the end of “Voiceover,” just throwing my hands up and cataloging my responses to individual moments in an attempt to “scratch through to the immaculate core/ That gets hidden in the center of all these regular feelings.” For example: The beginning of “Percolator” never fails to make me want to punch the sky. Every time that “Die 4 You” pulls back and opens up a little more feels like the sun breaking through the clouds. Every time I hear that ridiculous, perfect Mario coin plink in “Boys,” I can’t help but crack a smile. Even Justin Bieber’s fucking “ooh-way-oh ooh-way-oh way-oh” thing on “I’m The One” gets me every time. Really, it’s impossible to pin down the ineffable alchemy that turns a few chords or a clever line into something that feels so huge, immediate, and personal. That’s OK. But for me, these are the songs that make it worth trying.

01. Jay Som – “The Bus Song”
02. Frank Ocean – “Chanel”
03. Perfume Genius – “Die 4 You”
04. Charly Bliss – “Percolator”
05. Brockhampton – “Tokyo”
06. Charli XCX – “Boys”
07. Kelela – “LMK”
08. DJ Khaled – “I’m The One” (Feat. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance The Rapper, & Lil Wayne)
09. Madeline Kenney – “Rita”
10. Fred Thomas – “Voiceover”

Ryan Leas

This year, for me, was one of those years where you’re conscious in the moment that one or two chapters are ending and others are opening up. I made some big life changes, undid a couple of them, then made a few more. My absolute favorite songs this year turned out to be songs where you can feel the weight of time having passed, of people coming in and out of your life, of years and places starting to bleed together. LCD’s resurrection anthem “Call The Police” rushes forward all the more insistently for the time lost; Liima’s “1982” parses the past in an attempt to make sense of now and what comes next. The song that perhaps hit home hardest was the Weather Station’s “Thirty,” snapshots of a major transition that matter-of-factly closes by saying yeah, that was a year, and here comes another one. At 27, that’s a resonant lyric: These things start to pile up differently, the collection growing, fusing, blurring. The song that summed everything up, though, was Nation Of Language’s “I’ve Thought About Chicago,” the kind of song that at once feels familiar and foreign, as if you knew it in a past life and you wonder where it’s been these past couple decades. Then, as soon as it finds you, it follows you everywhere, lending meaning and clarity to yet another year.

01. Nation Of Language – “I’ve Thought About Chicago”
02. LCD Soundsystem – “Call The Police”
03. Liima – “1982”
04. Slowdive – “Star Roving”
05. The National – “I’ll Still Destroy You”
06. The Weather Station – “Thirty”
07. The New Pornographers – “Whiteout Conditions”
08. Lorde – “Green Light”
09. Perfume Genius – “Slip Away”
10. St. Vincent – “Hang On Me”

Listen to the playlist in full on Spotify.