Friday, February 2, 2018

Top 20 Songs of 2017, Part 2

So let's do this thing! The other night, I posted Part 1 of my Top 20 Songs of 2017 list. Here, in reverse order, is Part 2:

10. Incubus - "Familiar Faces"

I'll be the first to admit it -- this year's Incubus release, 8, isn't a great album, or even a very good one. But even at their best, I've always found Incubus to be one of those bands whose albums are kind of mixed -- there's usually some mediocre stuff, and some really good cuts. This song is one of the latter. It really moves. Unfortunately, I think Incubus has lost the capacity to even tell anymore which are their good songs and which are crap -- I saw them live this past summer, and this was one of the only songs from the 8 album they didn't play. Sad.

9. The Cranberries - "Why"

The recent death of Cranberries lead singer Dolores O'Riordan was a tragic loss, and it's eerie that this song, one of only three new ones on their acoustic Something Else album, is a song about meeting up again in the afterlife. I can tell you honestly, though, this one was always going to make this list, from long before O'Riordan's passing. I just wasn't sure about its placement. To describe it, it's a slow and alluring song about a love that death can't conquer.

8. Aimee Mann -- "Goose Snow Cone"

This is the best cut off of the stark, beautiful Mental Illness album. It's a quiet song that begins with the gentle sound of what appear to be sleigh bells. According to Mann, it was inspired by a photo of a friend's cat she received while on tour in Ireland, and if you're a cat person, the video for the song might just make you cry.

7. Tigers Jaw - "Escape Plan"

Maybe it's just because I'm getting older, but I really had a taste for sad, dreamy ballads this year. I love the vocals by Ben Walsh and Brianna Collins here. These guys are going on tour later this month with Yowler and Looming, and I'm really sorry they're not coming closer to Long Island than Pawtucket.

6. The Birthday Massacre - "Endless"

Thematically, this is something of a darker version of The Cranberries' "Why" song. But this one is a little louder, and filled with nicely programmed synths. The style here is gothic version of new wave revival. And you can even dance to it, if you're so inclined.

5. The Magnetic Fields - "Have You Seen It in the Snow?"

Stephin Merritt is known for writing songs with a wry, and sometimes, cutting sense of humor. But this track, which is essentially a love song to New York, finds him at his most sincere and sentimental. As another transplanted New Yorker myself, while I see many faults with the city of my birth, this one still sends a flush of warmth through me.

4. Leslie Mendelson - "Jericho"

Once upon a time, Leslie Mendelson was a Long Islander, and the lead singer of a somewhat successful local jam band called Mother Freedom. Now she's an L.A. gal trying to make it as a solo artist in the cold, hard music business. This wistful and touching folk ballad finds her trying to find her way back home.

Addendum: So after I posted this list, I heard from Ms. Mendelson, and it turns out she doesn't live in L.A. now, she lives in Brooklyn. Oh well. It's still a really great song.

3. Linkin Park - "One More Light"

The suicide of Linkin Park lead singer Chester Bennington was another great loss to the music world in 2017. But while the One More Light album was justly criticized by fans as being too full of cheesy pop, this, the title track, was one of the best songs of the year. And just like "Why" by The Cranberries, this one was always going to make this list. It was written about a friend of the band who died of cancer, and the subsequent death of Bennington only serves to make the song even more poignant.

2. Dot Hacker - "Beseech"

I had never even heard of the California experimental rock band Dot Hacker before 2017, but this trippy little song grabbed me early in the year and never let me go. While "Beseech" is a quiet song, there are all kinds of interesting little things going on here musically. I guess that's all I really want to say about this one.

1. Eisley -- "A Song for the Birds"

While I've always loved Sherri DuPree's vocals, what I used to like best about Eisley was the way her voice intermingled with the vocal harmonies provided by her sisters, Chauntelle and Stacy. Consequently, with the latter two leaving the band, their 2017 I'm Only Dreaming left me a little cold. On this upbeat, bouncy track, however, DuPree gets an able assist from her husband, Say Anything's Max Bemis, and just it does in the couple's excellent side band Perma, it proves to be a winning combination. Hands down, this is the catchiest alternapop song I've heard in a long time. That's why it's my favorite song of 2017.

So that about does it. I hope you've enjoyed my end-of-the-year Best Of lists, whether you agree or disagree with my choices. And if you did disagree -- well, 2018 is a new year! Later, friends.