If we’re being completely honest, 2017 was a pretty shitty year in a lot of ways for a lot of people. That said, there were some bright spots. And as we descend upon the death of this year with all the enthusiasm of Yeats’ “rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born” it pays, perhaps to celebrate and share those bright spots.
This marks the first of my end of 2017 posts doing just that. Six favorite new songs that were released in the past year.
Chicano Batman — “Friendship (Is a Small Boat in a Storm)”
Holy hell, this band snuck up on me out of nowhere via, of all places, an add for Johnny Walker. It was so compelling I became a fan not only of Johnny Walker, but also of Chicano Batman. I saw them in concert with friends earlier this year when they came through town promoting this album, playing a sold-out show at The Crocodile. Such an amazing experience. And this song, the first single they released off the new album, remains my favorite. Smooth and sexy, combining notes of funk, soul, and ’70’s Tropicana sound.
Aldous Harding — “Horizon”
Taking it down a notch, this is from the new folk powerhouse Aldous Harding from New Zealand. I’ve been a fan of hers for a year or two, and several of her earlier songs are on a writing playlist for the Winter Lullaby novel I’m slowly chipping away. Her voice and emotion is magical, like a force of furious nature that bears few comparisons. If you get a chance to see her live, do not miss it. Still kicking myself for missing her show in Seattle earlier this year that a good friend and co-worker went to. It was apparently an amazing experience.
Hanson – “I Was Born”
Never let it be said that I don’t have a weakness for a solid pop hook. This original song, recorded for a greatest hits album released this year, was the perfect, hopeful, and infectious as fuck pop song this summer needed. It never fails to lift my spirits. And let’s be honest, we all needed a bit of that this summer.
The National – “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness”
I credit one of my oldest and best friends for turning me on to The National a few years ago with the impromptu gift of two of their earlier albums. Then a year or two ago, she took me to see them play at the Paramount and god DAMN these guys put on a hypnotic and amazing show. If you’re not on board with The National, get their new album. It’s already scooped up a well-deserved Grammy nomination. Brooding, complex, smart as hell, and one incredible guitar hook & solo make this one I haven’t been able to get enough of since it came out.
Propagandhi – “Victory Lap”
For those who like a little bit of rock, can I direct you to Propagandhi? Canada’s most underrated political punk band, these guys are pure fire. I was marginally familiar with them because of John K. Sampson who went on to found The Weakerthans (who I adore). Propagandhi reminds me a bit of Bad Religion. Same fire, same crisp musicianship and lyrics that channel my rage, make me want to crank it up until my eardrums bleed as I dance in my chair at the ol’ cube farm! The whole album is incredible, but this song stomps HARD.
Kesha – “Woman”
The anthem this year needed. I’ve been a fan of Kesha for a few years. Heck of a musician. Clever, passionate, with her eye on the ball. And she’s a fighter. God. I probably love her more than her previous music (though Warrior was really tight). But her phoenix from the flames album Rainbow which came out this year after a long delay and protracted legal battles is a motherfucking testament. I don’t think there’s a bad track on it. But “Woman” is (narrowly) my favorite. It’s fun and defiant and it features the Dap Kings horn section which makes EVERYTHING better. Possibly my favorite song of the year.