TOP 200 TRACKS OF 2017 (101-150)
Numbers 101-150 in 2017’s countdown of my favourite 200 tracks.
101. milo – Sorcerer
I gripped a microphone like I’m John Gilmore
Pilot pulpit as a star-fighter and the consequences can buffer
2017s ‘who told you to think??!!?!?!?!’ was the record that finally tipped the world off to the genius of Maine wordsmith, milo. The online music monolith Pitchfork informs me this is because the album had “weightier production to back up his witticisms and encourage repeat listening“, which is an opinion belied by the battered grooves of the endlessly dropped needle on my vinyl of his last four years work (OK there’s no vinyl but it’s a more romantic image than me pressing repeat on my iPhone). To be fair to Pitchfork, “rapper continues consistent form of making brilliant records but achieves wider acclaim because of unknown factors” is less punchy.
Poster boy for the art-rap movement or otherwise, ‘Sorcerer’ was my highlight of another stellar year for milo, cementing his place in my end of year best of for the fourth year running.
102. Blackdown – Godlike Power
UK electronic producer and Keysound label head Blackdown crafts dark, atmospheric electronic soundscapes influenced by grime, dubstep, hip-hop, and dancehall. ‘Godlike Power’ is from his “C-troit” EP, a name revived from a lost, unfinished track by Blackdown in the very earliest “roots” years of dubstep. A hybrid of the words “Croydon” and “Detroit”, it’s a heuristic for the place between Greater London’s bass-lead music and the halcyon synths of early Detroit techno.
103. Coyote – I’m not cold anymore
“Psych-inspired lo-fi garage rock, “I’m Not Cold Anymore” is the kind of track you and your friends would write after school with a laptop and a guitar missing two strings. There’s a rolling stoner-rock bass line, vocal-cord-cracking shrieks and wailing guitar solos. It’s pure fun.” BaebleMusic
104. Hugh – Go
You got me ticking like a bomb going off
And every inch you give speeds up the clock
It’s getting on for a decade since Joshua Idehen (Benin City/LV/more) became an almost compulsory presence on this blog. Benin City waltzed off with the unglittering trophy of track of the year last year (although only properly released in 2017 so technically it should win it again now) and Hugh, his project with Izzy Brooks, producer Andy Highmore and guitarist Tino Kolarides also had a hugely successful 2017.
A large part of that is thanks to the utterly charming video for the electro-pop single ‘Go’.
Two kids, Pierre and Zola were recruited to dance in the video, as an extension of the moves Josh and Izzy perform as part of their live show but lots of the creative process also became led by the ‘Little Hugh’s’ who regularly attend a street dance class together in East London.
Izzy says “we asked Pierre and Zola to show us how they danced with their mates at school. We played the track, the four of us formed a circle and they just started cutting shapes and gestured for us to mirror them. Josh would drop in a move and then we’d all have to follow, the four of us dressed identically playing ‘follow the leader’, it was like they were initiating us back into the playground, it felt incredible.”
105. Margo Price – All American Made
I wonder if the president gets much sleep at night
And if the folks on welfare are making it alright
All American is unapologetically feminist in the mode of Loretta Lynn’s birth control anthem “The Pill” and Dolly’s “Just Because I’m a Woman”. Price, though, explores many shades at once. While there are comments about the double standard of women artists balancing the work of music, marriage, and parenthood while their male counterparts cut loose on “Wild Women”, she allows that she might just go a little crazier than the rest while she’s on tour since father and son aren’t there. She even drops the f-word into “Pay Gap”, her Cajun-tinged head shake at income inequality, but when she says it, it’s dismissive (“Don’t give me that feminism crap”). In her eyes, it’s not simply about sexism; it’s just about the bottom line.
Price saves her most damning criticism and her most empathetic expression for the title track, which closes out the album. The montage of oratory that provides a backdrop for this song features addresses from Bill Clinton, Martin Luther King, Barack Obama, and Richard Nixon, all circle around this theme of eschewing our differences for the betterment of us all. Her lyrics, though, tell a different story: of a government that often works against its best interests (she calls out Reagan for selling weapons to Iran) and wondering if “the president gets much sleep at night/ And if the folks on welfare are making it alright.”
106. Goldie & Ulterior Motive – I Adore You (feat. Natalie Williams)
Another one where the video is as important as the music, although Lyle Lindgren’s 9-minute work for Goldie and Natalie Williams’s “I Adore You” is more of a short film than a standard music video.
The narrative revolves around an incarcerated man (Stephen Graham) who tapes bedtime stories for his young daughter, which doesn’t exactly endear him to his fellow inmates, but does conjure up sweet memories of time spent with his little girl.
107. Stormzy – Big For Your Boots
I was in the O2 singing my lungs out
Rudeboy, you’re never too big for Adele
Stormzy returned, rapping in a chicken shop about how you’re too old for Twitter and how you you’re never too old for Adele. It’s so good that trying to meticulously order a supposed best of becomes pointless…everything is fantastic – just hit shuffle there is no order really.
108. Prequel – Freedom
Local Talk broadens the palette further with new music by Melbourne producer Prequel. ‘Freedom’ has a jazzy, undulating, mixed-up house sound that epitomises the spirit of Prequel in one track. It’s loose and swinging beat infused with hip shaking bass, heavily percussive piano riffs and crunchy claps only quieten to make way for an unidentified vocal, who politely thanks you for listening and hopes you have a great time while you are here. It sits perfectly in peak time territory as it does on a late-night after-hour tip.
109. Stella Donnelly – Boys Will Be Boys
Why was she all alone
Wearing her shirt that low?
Donnelly wrote the song as an attempt at making sense of society’s tendency to blame the victims of sexual assault and rape and make excuses for the perpetrators. She said the song’s video, centred on short video portraits of women, is meant to express “the burden of victim-blaming on the victims themselves as the mundane aspects of life go on. We just drove around all day and filmed each person in their home, in their ‘safe’ spaces.”
Donnelly asks why we blame victims in order to protect perpetrators: “Do we value men’s contributions to society so much that their actions can be overlooked? The champion college swimmer, the highly respected musician, the influential film director, the struggling father, the boy that no girls wanted to kiss, the president. A song is just a song, but at the very least I hope it will open up difficult yet important conversations between family members, friends, government bodies, organisations and, most importantly, boys and men.”
110. Halal Cool J – Turkish Duck Walk
111. DRAM – Cute (Remix feat Cardi B)
Oh, you think I’m cute, but I think you ugly
A year after “Cute” appeared as a SoundCloud upload, D.R.A.M. shared a new remix with none other than Cardi B, an artist who had a huge 2017. The Bronx rapper isn’t with all that cute shit. “You think I’m cute, but I think you ugly,” she raps, “Trust me, it’s cool, I use you for money.”
112. FYI Chris – House Dog
Chris Watson and Chris Coupe are a duo from south east London, and this would mark their second release for the esteemed London deep house imprint Church.
113. Loleatta Holloway – Stand Up! (Pangaea’s Mix)
For the uninitiated Loleatta Holloway is part of dance music’s DNA, one of the most recognisable voices in Disco. Her tones have graced numerous club classics, she’s been sampled 1000s of times, her vocal fingerprints are all over classic House music and are instantly recognisable. Remixer Pangaea aka Kevin McAuley is one of the main members of the formidable Hessle Audio crew alongside Ben UFO and Ramadanman. Rising out of the post-dubstep terrain of modern day England McAuley is a truly open minded DJ and producer pushing sonic boundaries and him and his Hessle co-conspirators have long been garnering respect from all corners since their inception as a collective. ‘Stand Up’ is a truly potent combination of two very different talents, fusing Pangaea’s sparse, stripped back, minimalistic approach and Holloway’s roof-raising diva vocals with the end result being a futuristic club classic in the making that gives an understanding, respectful nod to what has come before while gazing forth into the unknown.
114. Stylo G, Chip, Lisa Mercedez, Ms Banks – Yu Zimme (All Star VIP remix)
Lean to the side like fake Uggs
I fuck with real thugs, I don’t do fake love
First Lady of Warning Crew Lisa Mercedez teams up with Ms Banks with a full frontal assault on Stylo G’s smash hit ‘Yu Zimme’.
115. Cotonete – Cabo
Cotonette sounds like the finest French funk-jazz band of the 70’s but their deceptively authentic brew is actually 100% 21st century, concocted in Paris by – depending which press release you read – a 9 or 10 piece band – either way there are a lot of them.
Is it groove, soul or psych, is it southern country style or north African electro folk, samba or shiny disco… make your own mind up.
116. KOKOKO! – Likolo
117. JAY-Z – The Story of OJ
Snippets of Nina Simone’s voice from “Four Women” rub against Jay-Z’s conversational raps. In that song, from 1966, Simone famously narrates the tales of four different black women, all of whom are battling the effects of entrenched racism in American society. Jay-Z uses a similar conceit for his jumping-off point: “Light nigga, dark nigga, faux nigga, real nigga,” he raps. Jay-Z adds an assertion of unity across these factions – “still nigga.”
118. The Casual Sexists – Karakara (Dehydrated Dub)
Dub master Wrongtom first introduced me to The Casual Sexists so i’ll pilfer his words to explain its excellence:
“I love these guys dearly. I’ve released some of their music, dubbed a couple of their tracks, and even joined them on stage when they visited stinking London back in the summer. Here’s one they dubbed themselves and I can’t get enough of it. I’ve often threatened a Casual Sexists Meet Wrongtom album but listening to this banger, I don’t think they need me anymore!” Wrongtom talking to Bandcamp.
119. Bill $aber – Red Light, Green Light
Red light, green light
Stop sign, go
120. IAMDDB – Shade
Uber, Uber everywhere, yeah
Take my bitch everywhere
Raised in Manchester, IAMDDB was exposed to music via a musician father and an environment of creatives and instruments. She started making music in 2015 but a six-month stint in Africa “doing jazz” gave her the focus to hone her voice and sound.
“Shade” is a statement of intent from the 21-year old singer and songwriter that buzzcuts a jazz-tinged vocal over a raw trap groove. It’s stark in the right places: fuck you swagger drenched in personality and bold enough to stand apart from her contemporaries.
121. Alex Cameron & Angel Olsen – Stranger’s Kiss
They made a meme out of my legacy, darling
“‘Stranger’s Kiss’ is a song about a couple in the midst of a breakup taunting each other with sarcastic advice and threats of despair as they grapple with their new found freedom. In life we question our own potential for independence. And the abusive ones will manipulate that doubt into codependency. So we sacrifice singledom for company. The video Jemima wrote and directed brings the tenderness of love within the song to the surface – two people obsessed with who they want to be. Clinging onto chemical love regardless of destitution. We see blind idolisation. The two each give the other what they always wanted and needed. And that is a type of strange love. No matter how unhealthy, superficial or unsustainable that dynamic may be – this love offers brief but blissful moments of relief for whatever pains a person can endure. And that’s what the clip is about“. Alex Cameron
122. Tricky – The Only Way (Stripped Down Tricky Mix)
From his home studio in Berlin, Tricky revealed that the mix came about by accident. He was working on another track and when he hit upon a certain chord structure, he decided to abandon what he had been doing and rework this into a new version of “The Only Way”. The new mix definitely improves upon the original. Eschewing the orchestration and produced sheen that made up that version of the song, Tricky strips this down to a bare minimum. A droning synth part layered over top a classic trip hop beat with his double tracked vocals just floating above it all. It brings out a new layer of poignancy that had previously not existed within the track and elevates the song to the benchmark that the producer had set for himself in the 90s. With the original version of “The Only Way” and now with the “Stripped Down Tricky Mix” by looking to his past it seems Tricky has been able to propel his music forward.
123. SZA – Drew Barrymore
Let’s start the Narcos off at episode one
Bring the gin, got the juice
Bring the sin, got that too
124. Sir Spyro – Topper Top (Kahn & Neek Remix)
125. Nadine Shah – Holiday Destination
Fatalities in the water, Traffic jam by your side
Feed your son, Feed your daughter
How you gonna sleep tonight?
126. Mumdance & Logos – Move Your Body (Perc & Truss Remix)
127. Jane Weaver – H>A>K
Leave me by the beach. Moulded on the surface. Corroding the rocks. Fossilised and sun blessed.
128. Thundercat – Them Changes
Nobody move, there’s blood on the floor
And I can’t find my heart
129. Sudan Archives – Come Meh Way
I wan’t to be friends ’til time ends yes
This is Sudan Archives, a 23 year-old violinist/vocalist who writes, plays, and produces her own music. She is self-taught on the violin, inspired by Sudanese fiddlers, R&B, West African rhythms, and experimental electronic music.
130. St. Vincent – New York / Pills
I have lost a hero, I have lost a friend
But for you, darling, I’d do it all again
131. Run Child Run – Cant Catch Me
Just when you thought that you’d figure out, some secret thing that the riddles about
Having spent the last few years collaborating with the likes of Nicolas Jaar, Queen Elephantine, Dave Harrington, and Momo Ishiguro, multi-instrumentalist and singer, Ian Sims is ready to venture out on his tod, under the moniker, Run Child Run.
The debut album ‘Vanishing Point’ is a series of evocative late-night reflections guided by hypnotic vocals that emerge from a landscape of thick atmospheres, hypnotic beats, and a touch of organ. Sims influences come from a wide palette – such as the modal jazz of Coltrane and Miles, the classical Indian music of Nikhil Banerjee and Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, and the trip-hop of Portishead and the minimalism of James Blake
Clearly feeling right at Om, Ian expanded on the creation of the album: “The music is primarily a process, a practice of self-discovery more concerned with approach than with outcome. It is a meditation, in which melodies and rhythms are explored through repetition until they find their simple resting place.”
132. Rex Orange County – Edition
3 days in a row my plans fell through
Crying in a hotel room
133. Queens of the Stone Age – The Way You Used to Do
Come and love me now
Like the way you used to do
134. P.O.S – Thieves/Kings
Soft dads, Mad at the wrong stuff
No plans, Champion time suck
All chance, Skills are abundant
But hustle beats skill when skill don’t hustle
135. Overcoats – Leave The Light On
What if I don’t make it home, you’re not there and the light’s not on?
136. Loyle Carner – The Isle Of Arran
But who would know what the family first is?
‘Til you dream, see three family hearses
137. Leikeli47 – Miss Me
I been through hell to put it on, So if a war dem want, mother trucker, then bring it on
‘Miss Me’ uses a sample of The Honey Drippers’ “Impeach the President” and finds Leikeli47 rapping about not having any patience for “the bullshit.”
138. Faizal Ddamba Mostrixx – Burundi Chant
Speaking about his music Mostrixx has this to say, “My music production focus and interest is to give African traditional instruments and organic rhythms a poetic electronic instrumentalism and to tell stories to the world that has never been told before. The motivation behind my work is to preserve and develop African cultural heritage.”
139. Daphni – Tin
Mariah Carey, reworked by Dan Snaith as Daphni. The mind behind Caribou takes 2005’s ‘We Belong Together’, and gives it a glorious, throbbing groove. The Mariah sample has a siren-like allure, making “Tin” an inescapable sonic web.
140. Kojey Radical – 700 PENNIES
I swim deep in liquor and shallow conversations
141. Kelela – LMK
142. junk-E-cat – Spectrum
143. Jemere Morgan – Neighborhood Girl (Remix) [feat. Agent Sasco]
144. Jay Electronica – Letter To Falon
And even though that verse got old, I kept preaching
Even when the mosque got cold, we kept teaching
145. Masta Ace – I Did It (Robot Orchestra Remix)
I did it while other cats claimed they was doing it
Truth of the matter is, they were trying to ruin it
146. James Holden & The Animal Spirits – Pass Through the Fire
James Holden and his band, The Spirit Animals, turn in a noisy whirlwind of drawbar organs, sax and barrelling drums like some kinda Can meets Shackleton at Goats place tribute on Pass Through The Fire.
147. James Heather – Biomes
‘Biomes’, is about the Paris Climate Change accord – a “homage to the Biomes of our world”.
“It’s supposed to feel upbeat and triumphant as I hoped for a good outcome, where we would respect the natural wonders of our world,” reflects Heather on the song’s inspiration.
“Of course initially it seemed to be good news, but now Trump is pulling the USA out as we speak. This could’ve been a key moment in history where we all got on the same page to protect the Earth for the generations to come, but one decision may put a stop to that. In many years to come, will we look back to this moment as an opportunity missed?”
148. Nick Hakim – Bet She Looks Like You
My veins are the roots of this tree
I would die inside if you ever stopped nurturing me
149. GoldLink – SummaTime featuring Wale & Radiant Children
150. Fieh- Glu