Songs! Everybody loves songs! BRAG writers love songs! Here are the songs from 2017 that BRAG writers really love.
Ben Leece – ‘Trace’
Every now and then a song will come along and punch you right in the gut. After a long history playing with bar bands, Novocastrian singer-songwriter Ben Leece has emerged to deliver a haunting debut single. From the first taste of slide guitar, to the soaring vocals of guest vocalist Tori Fortsyth in the chorus, it’s one of the finest alt-country moments this nation has ever produced.
Perfume Genius – ‘Slip Away’
Centred more around sheer queer joy than hedonism, ‘Slip Away’ is a song about escaping the guilt and shame projected onto queer love by delving deeper into that love, to the point of being literally one with someone – even if only for a moment.
In a politically turbulent time, it’s not about ignoring one’s issues, but taking refuge when swamped with them: there’s a reason the gremlin monsters in the music video look like Trump. In terms of Perfume Genius’s career, it feels both like a culmination of everything that’s been promised by his earlier work, and a further promise that there’s still so much incredible music to come.
Charlie XCX – ‘Boys’
Okay, so 50 points for a banging chorus that very much captures the emotional truth of thirst (“boys, ba-duh!“), 50 points for privileging the female gaze, 1 billion points for that shot of Brendon Urie which single-handedly got me through Mercury retrograde.
Planet – ‘Aching Dream’
Listening to Aching Dream by Planet is like falling in and out of love. It’s the song you want to laugh to when rolling around under the sheets with your lover, and it’s the song you want to cry to as you drive away alone.
It’s earnest, bittersweet and full of angst. Matty Took’s vocals and rhythm guitar sound so unreal when paired against Tom Peppitt’s lead guitar and backing vocals. Make sure you conduct your first listen while lying down with your eyes closed in order to fully experience the high. Oh, and then when you’re back in the real world, keep your eyes peeled, because the Planet lads are going to soar far through the universe and onto major festival line-ups (fingers crossed).
Wolf Alice – ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’
There have been so many glorious songs released domestically that it almost feels blasphemous to choose an international artist, but this is the song that did it for me this year.
The driving rhythm section that lies on top of the swelling, atmospheric synths promotes a real sense of exploration. Combine that with Ellie Rowsell’s sweeping vocals in the chorus and the speak-sung verses and you end up with a perfect storm, a revealing vulnerability that fills any room it’s played in.
The War On Drugs – ‘Thinking Of A Place’
‘Thinking Of A Place’ creates its own orbit. It has its own theory of time. Countless melodic figures fade in and out over the track’s 11 minutes, painting not a self-contained unit, but a glimpse of something bigger; something deeper. Adam Granduciel’s stanzas are evocative and nothing is sung as though a manifesto; depending on your level of engagement, every line can conjure up a life event you haven’t paid much mind to for a while.
The big studio budget seems to be a thing of the past, and for good reason – mainstream producers and artists don’t need to lay down the same amount of cash as past eras have in order to garner the same amount of success. But when a budget is given to someone like Granduciel – who, in writing, producing and playing the lion’s share of instruments, is one of those great musical deities that pop up every so often – you can hear the difference. A Deeper Understanding sounds infinitely rich, with ‘Thinking Of A Place’ taking its place as the jewel in the crown.
Bonobo – ‘Surface’
‘Surface’ by Bonobo tops the list for me this year. I think it speaks volumes that Migration was released at the very start of the year but is still being played on road trips, at parties and on Spotify playlists. Bonobo created an album that is versatile, and ‘Surface’ is so emotive and subtle that you can listen to it in the background or as the main event. The track also has a sense of urgency that is just addictive, and I’ve been listening to it non-stop.
Cable Ties – ‘Say What You Mean’
Opening with the cry of Jenny McKechnie’s blistering guitar, ‘Say What You Mean’ soon becomes dominated by the steady rhythm section of Nick Brown’s bass and Shauna Boyle’s drums. It’s a wild and unrelenting ride from then on, with McKechnie’s voice draped in an uncompromising bluntness, demanding, “Can you mean what you say?“.
Eventually her already iconic battle cry pierces through, and it’s hard not to break out in goosebumps as she howls above the instrumentation. As the song progresses, McKechnie gets less and less patient, the song culminating in a rant to end all rants, posed against a whole universe of corporate greed. When she screams “I am not a production unit, I am a human being” one’s only reaction is to stand up and pay attention.
Downtown Boys – ‘A Wall’
2017: a cunt of a year. Bigotry’s the new black, cultural heroes continue to turn blue, and an orange dicksplash is the leader of the free world. Times like these need towering tunes to fuel the fires of the fightback.
Enter the Downtown Boys: a multi-racial, mixed-gender collective from Rhode Island taking on the tossers with a fiery brand of political punk and plenty of lyrical kicks to the cahones of the patriarchy. Their ‘wall’ is not just a physical structure, but symbolic of the barriers preventing us from demanding better from our so-called leaders and teaching those who would seek to divide us a lesson: those exploitative polluters of all things soulful and righteous. Those slick-haired, decadent, degenerate fucks. Those plastic, shit-sucking friends of Murdoch. Those limbering clichés. Those fascist-enablers.
This one’s for them. They shit their pants when we scream “Fuck you!” together.
LCD Soundsystem – ‘Tonight’
“Oh I’m a reminder,” drones James Murphy part-way through LCD Soundsystem’s 2017 return. His voice is analogue, magnetic: worn down from years of repeated play. It feels like no coincidence that this passage, the most Murphy-esque on the album, is produced to sound so well-tread. Murphy’s attempt to change the perspective on his place in music history have him reflecting; he’s been left with a sense of embarrassment and dread, and that reflection is weaved throughout the thump of ‘Tonight’. A floor-filler that ruminates on obsolescence, impending death and life-long regret? That’s LCD.
Ferla – ‘Wasted on You’
Song of the year? God that’s a difficult question. I was going to say ‘Over Everything’ by Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile, but then I was reminded of ‘Feels Like Heaven’ by Ariel Pink and couldn’t decide which took me to a comfier state of bliss.
But with a little more thought it became clear the most beautiful – THE FUCKING BEST – song I have heard this year was produced by Melbourne musician Ferla. It’s called ‘Wasted on You’. It’ll be there for you if you’re madly in love, but it’s best suited to supporting you when shit goes awry with your romantic partner. It’s light but seriously deep. It’s so expertly crafted that it makes me want to take a vow of silence and meditate until I find a truly, truly worthwhile idea. There’s a lot of noise about. This is the real news.
If you’re in the mood to keep kicking on and reading lists, head here to catch up on our 50 favourite albums of the year.