My 25 favourite songs of 2017

Some are obvious. Some are not. Nevertheless, I thought I would share them with you.

1. Little Mix – Shout Out To My Ex
Their new album Glory Days is ace, in a way the new Katy Perry most definitely is not. Hits all the right buttons, fizzes with the correct amount of fizz, reminiscent of much else, slips down very easy and helps block out the sound (if not the heat or smells) of the 10.52 from Redhill to Guildford. Also, the concept behind ‘Shout Out To My Ex’ is strong if not quite nasty enough. It turns me into a partly passive consumer but I have never seen this as a minus, to subject myself to the all-consuming glare and high-heeled stomp of pop music. ‘F.U.’ is fun in the way Lily Allen once was. ‘You Gotta Not’ is so blatant it removes my breath briefly. And so on.

You don’t care.

Here’s the music:

2. Miley Cyrus & Ariana Grande – Don’t Dream It’s Over
This is the greatest vocal performance I have heard in 2017 and I cannot move past it.

3. Miley Cyrus – Love Someone
I’m a fan of Miley.

Miley speaks to me, in a way that few boys manage. Her new album is midway between those two peaks of her creative life: the moment in Hannah Montana: The Movie where she whips her wig off to reveal the real singer underneath, and the death of her pet blowfish, Pablow.

SPOILER: her fans don’t care!
SPOILER: the night Pablow died she and her friends went out for some food – someone chose sushi, and someone thought it funny to order blowfish. Miley freaked out, and turned vegan.
SPOILER: I have not verified either anecdote.

4. The Chats – Smoko

You need this in your life. The new Australian anthem. ‘Straya rules.

5. The Regrettes – All I Want For Christmas
Polished. Too polished? Right now, no such beast exists. Tightly wound. Coiled. Plays the obvious cards in its hand. N’owt wrong with that. “I’m not like anybody else/So you can just go fuck yourself,” the ladies spit before reverting to sackcloth and surf guitar. Good form.

6. angelic milk – Some Boys Are Beautiful Girls
The singer – all drowsy insouciant and sleepy-eyed charm – reminds me of Miki Berenyi. Not the way Miki sounded on vinyl, but the way Miki behaved in the flesh. This (trust me) is a compliment of the highest order.

7. St Vincent – Los Ageless

8. Lorde – Sober
I think I have a new pop idol firmament star, and her name is not Beyoncé. I feel like a heel saying this, and I hope deep in my heart that it’s not true but I know even deeper in my soul that it is true, and her name is Lorde. Good Lorde. I know that part of me is simply reacting to the sound quality and the way the vocals are so high in the mix, and the way that wind can suck in vocals, and the sparseness of the accompaniment and the implied intimacy of the singing (comes about by not removing all the “flaws”) but… Oh god, this is as fine as ELO. This is Kate Bush good. Stay with me. Please stay with me (it ain’t gonna happen):

9. The Popguns – Love Junky
I don’t miss just not going to shows, or chatting to friends (although I do miss both, terribly). I miss going to shows, dancing at shows, hearing bum notes on the bass and guitars cutting out on stage just during the climactic solo, and breathing in the cigarette fumes of friends chatting outside during the show. I miss punching the air and dancing on one leg (waving the other where no one can see it) and then dancing on the other and semi-pogoing when the guitar cuts out, and singing lustily along to lyrics I never learned in the first place, and feeling that yes this – with all the BO smells and unrecognised faces and coaches passing by outside the Concorde 2 – this is home. I miss my community. I miss the sense of belonging.

10. Björk – Utopia

11. Taylor Swift – Look What You Made Me Do
Miley is clearly – and sometimes painfully so – thinking of her audience every time she steps up to the microphone. But what does Taylor envisage? A spreadsheet?

12. Tunabunny – Blackwater Homes

My own personal Fleetwood Mac. Rock’n’roll nuns. Romantic, confessional, sprawling, sun-filled. Solid-gold pop and super-slick production, MTV moon-women. Unsettled twitchiness. Quiet tension to florid solos; grunts, moans and scampering guitar riffs; a fractured retelling of time in rehab; repeated lurches from breeziness to angst and sparkle to gloom.

The gloss can’t hide the turmoil, no matter how thickly it’s applied.

13. Cardi B – Bodak Yellow

14. Little Mix – F.U.
My favourite lyric of the year.

15. Bent – Swimming In Your House
The reason I stopped writing about music is that I no longer gain a sense of community or participation from doing so. I do not need to be reminded of my isolation. So fuck it. Fuck all of you. This has less to do with the magic that continues to spew forth from my fingertips, an embarrassment the way it gathers I cannot stop it hard as I might try, more to the fact that I do not go out. However. Bent do not give me, have never given me, a sense of community or conjoining, but of a great yawning chasm between us and them, them and us, me and everyone, them and everyone, the underlying silence all the more scary because it is unsought, those small festering lurking creatures lurking festering beneath floorboards. Anguished voices. Anguished drums. Anguish. And plenty of fucking joy too, now I think on it. Attempts to make sense of a life that has no reason behind it, and laughing at the results. The greatest song on their second album (Snakes and Shapes) is the one called ‘Dingo Boy’ which advances the Petticoats/Wet Dog template onto another level, another game life altogether. It collects pebbles like a jar.

15. Foxy Morons – Back To The Show
First thing you need to know is that there are a surprising number of bands called Foxy Morons or Foxymorons, or theatrical acts.

Second thing you need to know is that if they’re all as good as this latest batch from Hobart, Tasmania then you should be getting on the blower straight away to Rough Trade or Cherry Red or someone like that and suggesting a concept album. These Foxy Morons sound like they’re having a good time, but in a downbeat way. They sound like they understand the point of harmonies, of taking it easy, not rushing or stressing to find the right note. If it comes, it comes – and if it doesn’t….? Some of us are old enough to still recall the day Teenage Fanclub lost just a soupcon of magic, the day they stopped having to make three attempts to start every song (see also, Orange Juice). Not that I’m trying to imply that the charm of Hobart’s Foxy Morons lies in their ramshackle amateurism (although doubtless that is part of it). They understand the necessity of reaching that other place altogether. Chug along bravely until they decide it’s time to break the shackles once more.

15. Tough Tits – Anxious
Tough Tits. Their new single is raw, brutal, in-yr-face, uncompromising and oddly melodic. Starts like the Dead Kennedys’ ‘Holiday in Cambodia’ and then pierces the gloom like visceral shrapnel. It’s all about insecurity and waiting and the knowledge that distorted vocals communicate both way better than non-distorted vocals. Just ask Stef Petticoat. It’s all about insecurity and the knowledge that although you know deep inside you’re way better than that fuckhead you want to communicate with there’s no way you’re ever gonna let them know that. It’s all about the trebly piercing guitar refrain. It’s all about the shitfaced dynamics. It’s all about the energy and passion and uselessness of words. That’s the A-side.

The B-side is like that, only even more so – and with a not-at-all veiled barb at privilege. It speeds up, slows down, and it pulses heads against walls. It’s fucking great in a way that former NME bands will never be.

And that’s it. I’m done, impotent and useless.

15. Nicholas Allbrook – Advance
This is succour. Relief. Sweet and softened and over-the-top and psychedelic and full of gentle rolling grooves and disturbance, from the dude who fronts Pond and once played bass with Tame Impala. There’s probably a King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard connection in there too. It traces disquiet with our shared Australian heritage. Now, if you are from Australia… I can leave it there, right? YOU KNOW what I’m talking about. If not? Then listen. Just fucking listen. Any similarities (that you will not hear) may be deliberate.

15. The Goon Sax – Sweaty Hands
It helps, these songs. These songs of not fitting in and discomfit, with the unsung backdrop of Brisbane streets, the Brisbane rain, the Brisbane sound seeping through every jangled chord. These songs that make me so nostalgic for my chosen home, not the one forced upon me by circumstance. Yet I am home, this evening – nervous outside in the rain, thinking like so so many times before that I will be refused entry to this precious nectar, this sweet music. Friendless, but knowing that here – as bereft and awkward as I feel – here is where I fit in. Give me a drum soundcheck that I can sleep through. Give me a backstage entry with a surly doorman. Give me some of this jangling minimal guitar music, with the acoustic way out of tune and the chords all inclement weather, and the songs unknown (to me). Give me some of this sweet Joan Jett rock’n’roll. This live rock’n’roll and I can dance, and I can bob, and I can sway, and I can trace patterns through the air. I can clap. Yes, I can clap. (I can’t cheer though, not since I lost my voice in February.) This is my music. These are my people, though we have yet to meet. This is my music. My homeland. My despair. My homeland. My love. My reason for living, sense of belonging and other cliches.

15. FARAI – Lion Warrior
This is the edge, step any closer and you will tumble. I have a song for you, today.

Rest assured, you will tumble. This music kicks my ass. Listen. Is she singing “I am Yoko/I am Yoko”? I doubt it, but this is what this feels like to be. Reaffirmation. Pride. Follow all those leads, those myriad explosions of light and colour ricocheting away at all angles. Click on everything you see: each one a minor epiphany. Slow electronica and a voice singing over and over. Could be early 1980s (this is often my point of entry), with New Age Steppers or one of those dark Mute offshoots. Plenty of use of silence and echo for emphasis. I can’t even begin to explain how supported this makes me feel. Right now, there is no safety net.

15. Skating Polly – Pretective Boy
As I wrote way back in the mists of 2015, “Some music gets it. Some music doesn’t get it. This gets it.” Oh wait, I was writing about the same album then that I’m writing about now. Plus ça change. Nirvana, Sebadoh, but lost in a trailer park in Buttfuck, Idaho. Wait. Should I scrub through this entire paragraph then?

15. ShitKid – Oh Please Be A Cocky Cool Kid

  1. Shit kicking name, shit kicking attitude.
  2. Basic, rudimentary. Not even two-chord thrash. Attitudinal. “We don’t give a shit and we don’t give a shit whether you notice that or not.”
  3. Wears sunglasses after dark, and a tightly-belted plastic mac.

15. Feature – Psalms
This is excellent. Gets going, goes, keeps going, and stops, and throws in a couple of rudimentary harmonies along the way. Can’t ask for more. The song reminds me of two bands: Newtown Neurotics (a slightly off comparison this) and Lush. The quote for the theatre billboards reads, “This is what I always wanted Lush to sound like” but there is so much wrong with that statement I am not sure I should even bother to unpick it. First, insulting to both bands. Second, it was up to Lush what they sounded like. Third, 20 years separation is way important. Fourth, Lush weren’t that sort of band. Fifth, neither are Feature. Sixth, comparisons always fall down whenever you examine them in any detail. Seventh, this. Eighth, this. Also, the song reminds me of three bands. Feature, being the other band.

15. The Seshen – Distant Heart
It is in the lipstick, and the hair, and the shimmy. It is in the beat (which reminds me of ‘Unfinished Sympathy’ with a whole bunch of kissing thrown in). It’s in the sparkle, the repetition, the glow of the neon and the depression of travelling. It’s in the lighting and the depression-era cocktails, $2 a throw. It’s in the low sinuous slinky beat and the fact no one kisses, not these days when everyone (seems to) want the hardcore. (This is an illusion.) It’s in the distance of attraction, and the allure of the unobtainable, and the pull of the familiar.

15. Boris – Absolutego
Stuff like this you don’t want to hurry. I believe I might even have preferred it if Boris had been playing in the background the entirety of these past two decades, sometimes muted and sometimes with the volume turned way past the volume turned way past the volume turned way past distortion, demons and craggy figures lurking unbidden in the shadows. Sometimes it feels like Boris have been playing in the background the entirety of these past two decades, sometimes muted and sometimes with the volume turned way past the volume turned way past the volume turned way past distortion, demons and craggy figures lurking unbidden in the shadows. Do Boris even stop playing? I mean, why would they? Even if there is no one in the room present to tamper with the guitar strings surely they have left a guitar resting against a switched-on amplifier for all this duration.

15. Algiers – The Underside Of Power
The Guardian had me sold with its quickfire name-drops of Fela Kuti, The Pop Group and Nina Simone frankly. Try resisting that. If I hadn’t enjoyed this experimental Atlanta band’s video – a merging of gospel cultural appropriation and a little post-punk scuzz although why this is termed experimental is beyond me – then the writer should have been fired. Immediately rather than tomorrow.

15. Dream Wife – Somebody
Restraint, restraint, restraint. This is what matters in music. The feeling that emotions are being kept barely in check, tightly wound, just this side of a full-on explosion. I could name you a hundred bands without pausing for breath that this band remind me of, but I hope you are with me here in not thinking of this as a minus and also being supremely irrelevant. Many of these bands I am thinking of were former full-on crushes anyhoo, and I believe I may well be developing another one right now.

This all finishes when it ought to, and not a moment before.

15. Anna von Hausswolff – The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra

15. Juniore – Difficile

To put it another way, “Juniore joue d’un décalage temporel, entre la nostalgie d’une époque jamais connue – celle des scopitones, des moteurs à deux temps et des voyages sur la Lune – et un univers contemporain, à la Tarantino, peuplé d’histoires de filles, de fantômes, de villes et de voitures. On y entend des guitares ultra réverbérées auxquelles répondent des harmonies pleines de spleen et de rythmes.” Oh, now that is some tasty description!

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