Thursday, December 7, 2017

Favorite Songs of 2017 (Part Five)

It is not only time for us all to get holly, jolly, merry, and bright, but also time for us to compile all of the tracks that made this year a bit more enjoyable. For reference, one musical act is allowed to have only one track on my countdown. Click the hyperlinks to read parts one, two, three, and four, and check back for my top ten favorite albums of the year post in the coming days.

10. "Lost in Your Light" by Dua Lipa feat. Miguel

Ah, the hit that never was. Its trendier follow-up, “New Rules,” was the wild hit that Lipa wanted since the beginning – so badly, in fact, that she tried to rerelease "Be The One" in what seemed to be a hail Mary pass to becoming a Top 40 artist – but “Lost in Your Light” deserves credit where it is due. Quite the grower, it was at first seemed like a radio-chasing track for Lipa. But as time has passed, it has become a highlight from her self-titled debut album; the warm entanglement of Lipa and Miguel’s vocals over an embankment of synthesizers feels like too natural to have ever felt as foreign as it once did.

9. "Non Believer" by London Grammar

On the encompassing, dusky-toned “Non Believer,” London Grammar vocalist Hannah Reid’s heavyweight harmonies are drenched in a sticky, syrupy vocoder, which digitizes her voice into a wall that slams into listeners at each chorus. (And man, when the instrumentation breaks away and lets the vocals to their own devices at the three-minute mark, it makes for a haunting moment before the song kicks back into overdrive.) Simply put, it's an exhilarating listen from start to finish.

8. "Hard Times" by Paramore

On “Hard Times,” Paramore manages to encase its favorite topic – angst in the highest degree – in hazy, upbeat pop. Hayley Williams is still caught under the weight of living, singing, “Hard times, gonna make you wonder why you even try. Hard times, gonna knock you down and laugh when you cry.” The successful juxtaposition of Williams' grief with the fizzling pop sparks roughly equates to the same basic principle upon which Paramore was founded: barreling through the pain via song, even if that means plastering on a smile but allowing the stretched threads of a singer in crisis show through.

7. "Mama Say" by Betty Who

If you aim to make a tribute track to peak Britney Spears and market it as such, this is the way to do it. Betty Who packed “Mama Say” with a load of Britney lyrical references, a heavy beat that thumps like a basketball pounded across a polished hardwood floor, and – wait for it – a signature early Max Martin staple: a double-layer final chorus with a bridge overlay. It is the unapologetic pure pop track that we've wanted from many pop stars for a while now, but one that we haven't received from the big names in years as they continue to diverge into newer territories. Luckily, Who understands and appreciates '90s kid nostalgia as much as we do.

6. "Around U" by MUNA

On “Around U,” MUNA's frontwoman Katie Gavin recounts the world as she once saw it while enamored with a past lover but realizes that the world she sees now is much brighter alone. It's the most triumphant moment on the trio's outstanding debut album, About U, which is often stuck in a cloud of self-doubt. "Something massive happened here. You can feel it in the atmosphere. Something false that once was true: I no longer revolve around you," Gavin says as the track expands into an encompassing, awestruck chorus.

5. "Los Ageless" by St. Vincent

On her newest album, Masseduction, St. Vincent is much wittier than she wants listeners to believe. Damning west coast show business culture on the jagged standout "Los Ageless," she masquerades her commentary in a love song façade. "How can anybody have you, lose you, and not lose their minds, too?" she wonders out loud over one of her catchiest soundscapes to date. Playing the hell out of her guitar, she layers her instrumental talent over Jack Antonoff's relentless electronic drums and keys. In traditional St. Vincent fashion, it's a technicolor madhouse of a track – but a beautiful one, at that.

4. "Keep Running" by Tei Shi

In a race against time, Tei Shi crafts a desperate plea for a lover, quite frankly, to hurry up. A constant reminder that time goes full-speed ahead while we sit none the wiser, a love-hungry Shi repeats, “Every time I look over my shoulder, I’m getting older. Time is so sad; tie me to it.” The spacey track first counteract, then builds to match, her urgency as layers collide; what begins as a cool drumbeat and bass line turns into a paroxysm of soaring vocal lines and instrumentation.

3. "Tease" by Ralph

A glistening, modern synthpop track built upon a slinky ‘70s rhythm machine for a backbone, “Tease” flourishes into the sunniest, most conversational exposé to come from pop music – one that isn't particularly bitter, but rather nods toward the mere recognition and dismissal of a sweet talker. Ralph’s smooth vocals, just reminiscent enough of Stevie Nicks’ to make note of the similarity, give way to lively instrumentation that begs listeners to dance away their feelings for all the two-timers who were disguised as cool cats. 

2. "Perfect Places" by Lorde

As the album-encompassing finale of Lorde’s coming-of-age manifesto, “Perfect Places” shatters the glorious, perfectionist perceptions of her debut record. In a rebellious turn, she strays from intense intellectualism and into the depths of every house party on the block on Melodrama, but it isn’t until “Perfect Places” that she gives insight as to why. All her heroes are dead and her idealistic dreams are shattered, she admits in a breathtaking chorus. In disbelief, she attempts to find happiness at the heart of every party – and with this track, is the life of said parties, too. By its close, “Perfect Places” settles on the realization that complete happiness will never be, so escapism will have to do.

1. "Someone" by Anna of the North

Anna Lotterud and Brady Daniell-Smith wanted to create a song that sounded like the tracks they listened to as kids of the ‘80s, a decade dominated by warm, fuzzy synthpop and overwrought power rock ballads. And unlike most in their position, Anna of the North was able to tackle both in one song. Tying the gap between Madonna and Journey, “Someone” commences with clipped drum-machine hits and swells into the overwrought ways of '80s power ballads: blaring choruses, prominent guitar lines, multilayered vocals – oh, and a key change, which concretes the duo's successful effort to replicate the authenticity of an '80s radio behemoth.

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