Listen to it on Apple Music (Spotify coming soon)
25. The National “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness”
24. Mike WiLL Made-It “Gucci on My (feat. 21 Savage, YG, Migos)
This is a song that hits because of the range of its stars. Savage is low key, Migos bring their mumbling trap flow, and YG does a traditional West coast rap backed by a chorus of women. It’s the perfect melding of styles, exactly what you hope for when bringing together some of the biggest stars in the genre.
23. Algiers “Cry of the Martyrs”
Algiers blend of gospel and punk doesn’t always work for me, but when it does it sure is great. Franklin James Fisher belts out an anthem here as speedy guitars aggressively back him.
22. Aminè “Sundays”
Chance the Rapper was bound to create successors of his uber-sincere, Gospel-tinged hiphop, and Aminè is one of the first to do so. “Sundays” is an extremely positive reflection on faith, doubts, and trying to get by when things get tough.
21. Downtown Boys “A Wall”
We need punk music to speak against the powers that be, it’s naturally combative, and has been political since its inception. Who better than a Latina woman fronted punk band to do so? Their opening track directly addresses the notorious wall, bringing a fury that we need in 2017.
20. Paramore “Pool”
Paramore abandoned their mid-00s pop-punk stylings for a more musically complex and 80s/90s inspired sound. “Pool” is a pitch perfect 90s song, with a dreamily catchy chorus.
19. Priests “JJ”
“JJ” tells the story of a love that never was, from initial attraction to the realization that nothing will come together. It ends in a shouted nihilistic conclusion “I wrote a bunch of songs for you/ but you never knew and you never deserved them. Who ever deserves anything anyway? / What a stupid concept.”
18. Calvin Harris “Slide (feat. Frank Ocean & Migos)”
17. Cloud Nothings “Modern Act”
16. Future “Mask Off (Remix) [feat. Kendrick Lamar]”
The original is great, let’s make that clear, but what song isn’t improved by adding a Kendrick Lamar verse to it? So good.
15. Marika Hackman “Violet”
14. Lorde “Liability”
Lorde’s piano driven ballad is a heartbreaker.
13. Freddie Gibbs “20 Karat Jesus”
I’m a sucker for talented rappers going hard and “20 Karat Jesus” sees Gibbs go hard.
12. Young Thug “Family Don’t Matter (feat. Millie Go Lightly)”
Young Thug chose to open up his album with an acoustic ballad of hip-hop and R&B. Millie Go Lightly beautifully concludes the song tenderly in a surprising move from an always surprising artist.
11. KYLE “iSpy (feat. Lil Yachty)
This song is kinda cheesy, I’ll admit it. But I just can’t shake it. I’ve listened to it over and over this year. Yachty is always cheesy, but there’s a charm to it, none better than here.
10. Gucci Mane “Meta Gala (feat. Offset)”
Remember when I mentioned the 2nd best use of a ringing gong in hip hop? Well here’s number one. Metro Boomin’ creates a sparse beat, with the gong calling attention and allowing Offset to deliver one of the best verses of the year.
9. Carly Rae Jepsen “Cut to the Feeling”
Carly Rae Jepsen only released one song this year, a track recorded for the animated film Leap!, yet she still cracked my top songs of the year list. There’s no better pop song writer /performer working today, “Cut to the Feeling” proves that.
8. Julien Baker “Turn Out the Lights”
Baker released another album of beautiful, sparse, and sad songs. “Turn Out the Lights” is my favorite of the bunch, all of which find slivers of hope in the melancholy. We get to hear her vocal chops here, as the song crescendos and the despair fills in.
7. Dirty Projectors “Up in Hudson”
“Up in Hudson” tells the story of the initial romance and eventual split of David Longstreth and former bandmate/amour Amber Coffman. It’s a seven and a half minute hipster R&B opus, reflective of the rise of indie rock era, while concluding “love will burn out / love will just fade away”.
6. Migos, Nicki Minaj, Cardi B “MotorSport”
Migos were the group of the year and their late year collab with Cardi B (the year’s other breakout star) and Nicki Minaj was an astonishingly fun surprise late in the year. I saw that this had been released, put it on, and after I had heard it once, I repeated it my entire drive home. How can you not be a little charmed by the Offset and Cardi B romance, especially when Cardi B gives us the line “I turn Offset on”, something that’s just cheesy enough that it becomes cute.
5. Phoebe Bridgers “Motion Sickness”
“I have emotional motion sickness”, Bridgers sings in a line that has the most perfect poetic flow.
4. Migos “Bad and Boujee (feat. Lil Uzi Vert)
Almost more meme than song, Migos announced that they owned the world late last year with lead single “Bad and Boujee”. Migos went on to seemingly feature on one million hip-hop songs this year, most of which are actually fantastic, but ultimately none better than “Bad and Boujee”.
3. Kendrick Lamar “HUMBLE.”
Today’s hip-hop king reigns supreme pt. I.
2. Jesca Hoop “The Coming”
Hoop deals with her questions of faith by imagining Jesus give up his reign over the world and deciding not to come back. It’s a deeply personal song that dismantles those parts of faith which are hateful or don’t make sense. It’s sparse and sung with a deep conviction, one that’s defiant while haunted by beliefs that are always nearby, but not quite resonant.
1. Kendrick Lamar “DNA.”
Today’s hip-hop king reigns supreme pt. II. Lead in by a track that features a scene in which Kendrick is shot, “DNA.” opens hard, harder than any other song of the year (beating out “HUMBLE.” by a hair). It examines Kendrick’s entire being, telling of his family’s history, his current success, the evil lurking within, the violence of street life, and the celebration of blackness. He samples a Fox News segment that criticizes him and then shreds through his next bars with fury. This is the most exciting current artist at his best and there’s nothing more exciting than that.