As we are now well into the second half of 2017, here is my round up of my favourite tracks of the year. Below, you’ll find a Spotify playlist of my top 75 (in alphabetical order) as well as a detailed top 10 list. I hope you enjoy it and feel free to add your suggestions in the comments – I’m sure I’ve missed some great ones!
10. Toro y Moi – ‘Omaha’
‘Omaha’ is Toro y Moi’s contribution to Our First 100 Days, a compilation raising funds for good causes by releasing a new song every day for the first 100 days of Trump’s presidency. It’s a bouncy, touching song filled with nostalgia and longing. Quite fitting given the nature of the compilation, it’s a song about looking back at better days and trying to stay strong until things get better.
9. Jens Lekman – ‘How We Met, the Long Version’
‘How We Met, the Long Version’ is a killer disco tune. As I mentioned in my rundown of the best albums of 2017 so far, Jens Lekman has a wonderful knack for making songs like this. Lyrically, it’s an extremely entertaining track which charts a romance from the Big Bang, through all the evolution and such, into the Garden of Eden and ends with a kiss under the stars. Production, lyrics, story-telling – there is so much in this track that I can’t help but smile when I hear it.
8. Frank Ocean – ‘Biking (Solo)’
To be honest, I’m not a big Frank Ocean fan. I’ve found his albums to be fairly forgettable and I didn’t even enjoy the original version of ‘Biking’ which featured Jay-Z and Tyler, the Creator. The solo version, however, is steeped in an incredible sense of place. Frank Ocean takes you on a beautiful bicycle journey around his hometown. This song also features one of my favourite lines of the year: “I’m biking uphill and it’s burning my quads. I’m biking downhill and it sounds like a fishing rod.”
7. Sampha – ‘(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano’
The sweetest, most heartfelt song of the year, ‘Like the Piano’ is an instant classic. The beautiful harmonies and delicate piano balladry give this track all the qualities of a track that will be remembered for years to come. While I wasn’t nuts about his album Process, there is simply no doubting the talent and intelligence which goes into his songwriting.
6. Los Campesinos! – ‘The Fall of Home’
I first heard ‘The Fall of Home’ when I was on the bus from Dublin to my hometown of Bandon in Cork. One of the more depressing towns in Ireland, Bandon is the exact kind of place that Los Campesinos! are singing about on this track. It’s a gorgeous homage to the places that you’ve left behind and the loneliness you feel when they leave you behind.
5. Mr. Jukes – ‘Angels/Your Love’ (feat. BJ the Chicago Kid)
With Bombay Bicycle Club on hiatus, Jack Steadman has gone a very different direction under the moniker of Mr. Jukes. Although his album God First can struggle at times, it turns up a few gems when he produces for a guest vocalist. ‘Angels/Your Love’ is the album highlight. With bits of acid jazz, gospel singers and BJ the Chicago Kid, this track offers up a gutpunch of funk and soul.
4. Young Fathers – ‘Only God Knows’
Recorded for T2: Trainspotting, ‘Only God Knows’ is a hectic, sombre, uplifting track which only Young Fathers could produce. It’s very much wasted in the movie – just playing over the credits – but Young Fathers feature heavily on the soundtrack anyway. It’s a bitter-sweet song and, for me, the most memorable part of a largely forgettable movie.
3. Arcade Fire – ‘Creature Comfort’
At the start of 2017, Arcade Fire couldn’t do any wrong in my eyes. I owned and adored all of their releases and their 2014 gig in Marlay Park was one of the best I’ve ever seen. Fast forward six months and my mood has soured. ‘Everything Now’ is a plastic, shallow, bubble gum mess and the less said about ‘Signs of Life’ the better. The one shining hope for me is ‘Creature Comfort’. I have no problem with Arcade Fire playing electro-disco. I have a problem with them playing electro-disco badly. Let’s hope the rest of Everything Now sounds like ‘Creature Comfort’ when it comes out on July 28th.
2. The National – ‘The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness’
While Arcade Fire were busy letting me down, The National were blowing me away. ‘The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness’ is one of the best songs the band has produced in their 18 years together. “Weird, math-y, electronic-y” is how Matt Berninger has described the upcoming Sleep Well Beast. You can hear all of these aspects on the lead track. The nonsensical lyrics are wide open to interpretation and the music is electrically compelling – The National seem to be on flying form.
1. The War on Drugs – ‘Thinking of a Place’
There aren’t many songs that I would pay €15 for but there also aren’t many bands as incredible as The War on Drugs. When an audio rip of their Record Store Day release ‘Thinking of a Place’ surfaced online, I raced down to Tower Records for a copy. An 11-minute soft rock odyssey, ‘Thinking of a Place’ is delicate and haunting. Even at that length, the song doesn’t feel overly long. It’s structured in two key parts but the solos, choruses and reprise all play off eachother expertly. A song to be enjoyed in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night.