Anything That’s Rock ’n’ Roll

Music writers rate their favorites from 2017

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Favorite Songs of 2017

Mount Eerie

Although the entire album is beautifully heart-crushing, this is the one I feel is the most concise and powerful. It's the entire story of losing of a loved one, the grief thereafter, and the existential dread that comes from facing death head-on, all wrapped into a perfect folk song. And to send it all off, it ends with an astonishingly poignant scene. — Jeff Gardner

Flotation Toy Warning
"I Quite Like It When He Sings"

Absolutely the most slept-on release of the year. These guys make some of the most interesting pop music around. Their textures, instrumentation, and experimentation keep it interesting while their catchiness keeps you coming back. Honestly, many songs off their new album would have worked, but I think this is the best. — Jeff Gardner

Kamasi Washington

Kamasi Washington isn't good at doing things subtly or small. Case in point: following up his three-hour album with a 14-minute single. He's easily the most important new name in jazz, and for good reason. This song blends drums with piano with sax with electric guitar and they all mix around with a momentum rarely heard in modern jazz. Without a single word, this song makes a statement. — Jeff Gardner

Fleet Foxes
"Kept Woman"

Fleet Foxes were silent for quite a while (six years), but they came back swinging, in the most delicate way possible. The icy pianos, the hollow vocals, the fantastic imagery all work wonders together. Not only is this one of the best songs of their new album, this is one of the best songs of their career. — Jeff Gardner

Injury Reserve
"North Pole"

When a rap trio that usually makes wild party bangers changes up their style, it's a risk. And when they completely turn their sound on its head and offer up a delicate, fragile, even vulnerable track, it's a major risk. But this sparse yet powerful R&B confessional is one of the best things the Phoenix group has ever made. Go in expecting to dance, come out feeling depressed, and love every minute. — Jeff Gardner

King Krule
"Dum Surfer"

A very interesting way for indie rock to be going. It's like if the members of The Clash were all zombies. It's nocturnal and rocking and a little jazzy and just too damn cool.— Jeff Gardner

Lil Uzi Vert
"XO Tour Llif3"

Emo rap? I know, that sounds horrendous. At least that's what I thought until I heard this. You may raise your eyebrows at his name, and at the nearly unpronounceable song title, but you can't deny the catchy hook or sleek black swagger of this melodramatic anthem. — Jeff Gardner

Sufjan Stevens
"Mystery of Love"

Stevens doing what he does best: Breaking your heart and making you fall in love at the same time. Tender acoustic guitar, hushed vocals, what more do you need from him? Jeff Gardner


Do not play this song at a party. Not because people won't like it, in fact they'll love it. You just won't have a house left afterward. — Jeff Gardner

Kendrick Lamar

While his latest album might not have been my favorite if his, this song absolutely blew me away. With its pitch-shifted vocals, dreamy percussion, infectious chorus, and a staggering rhythm that gets nowhere but has fun along the way, there is no other song I've heard that sounds quite like this. It is straight-up psychedelic rap, and I really wish he further explores this area in the future. — Jeff Gardner

The War on Drugs

The tour de force track by the Philadelphia-based sextet launches with a shimmering electronic intro, before a wave of guitar and drum, mixed in with singer Adam Granduciel's high-pitched vocals come to the forefront. The track is one of the many excellent ones found on A Deeper Understanding—the band's latest album. It's a can't-miss addition to anyone's playlist, with "Pain" serving as the most memorable cut from the collection. — Christopher Boan

"End of the World With You"

The single off Tucson-based Calexico's latest album (The Thread That Keeps Us) is another toe-tapping piece of art that hits all the high notes we've come to expect from the band over its two-decade existence. The song blends existential lyrics with a disembodied guitar riff that harkens back to the likes of Johnny Clegg and other international artists. The full album won't hit stores (or iTunes/Amazon/Spotify, etc.) until 2018, but the first few cuts I've heard so far have been spectacular. — Christopher Boan

Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile
"Over Everything"

The award for odd couple of the year in music has to be the unexpected, yet lovely duo of longtime indie rocker Kurt Vile and Australian sensation Courtney Barnett, for their album Lotta Sea Lice. The single off that 2017 release is "Over Everything," which is a back-and-forth dialogue between the two singers, discussing their lives. It's the type of musty, jangly rock that Vile has perfected, and that Barnett does well at herself. The pair produce a harmonious album that's worth your time if you haven't listened to it yet. — Christopher Boan

The War on Drugs
"Thinking of a Place"

I'm a War on Drugs homer—with A Deeper Understanding being my favorite album of the year, by far. Thinking of a Place is the single released from that album, and features the typical synth-heavy stylings that the Philly band has perfected. The 11-minute-long cut keeps you fixated throughout, with a methodical beat and soothing guitar riff that is sure to cause toe-tapping and head-bobbing throughout. — Christopher Boan

Deer Tick

I've been a huge fan of the Providence-based rock group since Born on Flag Day hit the streets in 2009, but grew disappointed with the band after a subpar effort on 2014's Negativity. They more than made up for their past misdeeds, however, with a double-release (Deer Tick Vol. 1 and 2), which features an all-acoustic and all-electric side. "Jumpstarting," the first single released off either album, is the punch-drunk, high-energy track that harkens back to the band's glory days. It's the type of track that'll make you want to run through a wall, or pour yourself a tall glass of whiskey. It's a phenomenal track, regardless, and is worth your time if (as is the rest of their work)—with Jumpstarting being a great start point. — Christopher Boan

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