It’s that time of year again – lists, lists and lists galore all filled with the best music of the year. In a few weeks, I’ll release my top 10 album list for 2017, but before that I’d like to start by picking my top 10 songs of the year. Artists featured in this list include local bands, international acts and musicians young and old. There has been a lot of great releases in all genres, so I’ve done my best to pick from a diverse group of artists.
The song that swept summer, the rhythmic wonder and total anomaly for me, “Despacito” smoothly danced into the hearts and hips of millions this year, and I can’t deny that I have a sweet spot for the song myself. Singer Luis Fonsi and co. created the perfect storm. The song is sexy, but not overly sexual, it’s fun to dance to and sing to, but also somehow relaxing making a song to vibe to. All of these things contributed to the song’s popularity among all age groups and ethnicities – I myself have seen it used as part of dance exercise for elementary P.E. and for a special dance at a wedding.
LCD Soundsystem is going to be on a lot of lists this year. The dreamy synth music that dances across ‘American Dream’ ranges from substance influenced dreams to allegoric nightmares. Both (and every song in between) move you to a feverish saunter as the music jives and shakes like a tantalizing mating call. “Oh Baby” contributes to the tarantella as a gothic romantic exploration. It’s the message you wrote in a fogged mirror, cryptic and fleeting, but impactful nevertheless.
How can you not love a song called “Favorite Song?” Sudanese-American artist Sinkane merges a hodgepodge of sounds and genres to make catchy, up-tempo tunes destined to make you tap your toes. Anything from jazz, electronica to Sudanese pop is mixed together in Sinkane’s music making it enjoyable and somehow exotic. Plainly put, “Favorite Song” is a feel good tune that in the words of my partner, “makes you instantly want to roller disco.”
Indie singer Eric Anderson always has a clear and imaginative vision for his albums, and he has a knack for making his music seem effortless. Earlier this year Anderson’s band Cataldo released ‘Keepers,’ an indie pop collection laced with a very Seattle strain of Americana. “Little Heartbeat” is definitely on the sweeter side of the album with its youthful innocence and bubblegum sound. It’s never cheesy though, and Anderson does a great job making a catchy an infectious song that stands out in a lineup of catchy tunes.
Sometimes painted as a genius, other times a self-absorbed egomaniac, Father John Misty seems pleased to portray both portraits. Earlier this year, the singer released ‘Pure Comedy,’ tailored for no one and enjoyed by many. The best description for Father John Misty I think, is a dark and satirical bard, and “Pure Comedy” is the creation of such a man. The song sails into a slow and impassible storm, and we listen to it as it crashes with graceful tort. Surprisingly, it’s music to our ears.
Dust off your old cowboy boots, order a whiskey neat, sip and sit back; Willie will take care of the rest. Willie Nelson that is, that old outlaw cowboy country star who, like a fine liquor, keeps getting better with age. His recent album is full of vintage snapshots that capture the humor, genius and candor of Nelson. “Your Memory Has a Mind of Its Own” is a heartbreak tale, slow and somber and true to Nelson’s raconteur style. Like the memories you can’t forget, even the ones you desperately want to, this song is a moment in time, laid down by Nelson for us to enjoy.
Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar hit the world with another rebel rally album earlier this year when he released ‘DAMN.’ With this new album, Kendrick gave us grit, tenacity and one insanely catchy song. “Humble” is one that traps you in a luscious backdrop of drumbeats and somewhat nonsensical lyrics. While the album comes with a parental advisory tag for its adult language and content, I’ve seen people young and old and from all parts of the city shout out a, “Be humble … Sit down.”
Bedouine is easily my favorite breakout artist of the year. Her self-titled debut album is full of featherweight acoustic arrangements and lofty lyrics. “One of These Days” is a perfect breakdown of love and the endless thoughts that go along with it. Bedouine carries herself with a graceful confidence that translates easily into her music. “One of These Days” will make you feel young in experience and old in wisdom.
East Los Angeles band Chicano Batman released ‘Freedom is Free’ earlier this year with its title track featured as a prominent singles. “Freedom is Free” speaks to the good in humanity and calls for equality, freedom and love for all. Chicano Batman’s Hispanic flare and soul inspired sound make the single a unique piece of work. Lead singer Bardo Martinez pierces through with a voice that’s hard to pin down, and the song shines in part from the band’s relentless vigor.
French band Ibeyi released one of my favorite albums this year. The band, fronted by French and Afro-Cuban twins Naiomi and Lisa-Kainde Diaz, has a depth and richness to their sound, and the twins fill their music with an enticing texture of languages and lyrics. “Transmission/Michaelion” is a seven-minute release of emotion and consciousness. The song blooms over time and washes over its listener like waves. Exerts from Frida Kahlo’s diary are read in Spanish, and communal hymns ebb and flow in the song as it evolves over its seven-minute duration. If it ever were the perfect time to describe a song as “organic,” this would be the time.