Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Straight Fire 2017: #70 - 41

| Follow "Straight Fire 2017" on Spotify |

| #200 - 166 || #165 - 131 || #130 - 101 || #100 -71 || #70 - 41 || #40 - 21 || #20 - 1 |

| All 200 Songs |

70. Ariel Pink “Bubblegum Dreams”

69. Migos “Stir Fry”
Still confused whether this is a Neptunes beat or not. It sounds like Pharrell tried to emulate the sample from that KRS-One song (apparently called "Step Into A World" - we're not KRS-One experts so forgive us).

68. Cannibal Corpse “Code of the Slashers”
We love George Corpsegrinder. We would vote for him if he ran for office. Here are 6 things we learned about him when he was interviewed by a cool little kid back in November:
#1 He likes Christmas trees, especially the tree lighting in Manhattan.
#2 He's ok with saying "fuck fuckity fuck" in front of children because he's in Cannibal Corpse.
#3 He owns a replica of a sword from World Of Warcraft that steals people's souls.
#4 He buys Christmas presents for his two daughters at Target.
#5 "Why can't we come together and respect everybody? We're just trying to live in this world." It's true.
#6 His neck is the same width as two or maybe three average-size necks all pressed next to each other.

67. I Hate Sex “And Yet It Moves”

66. Homeshake “Khmlwugh”

65. No Age “Soft Collar Fad”
We LIKE that they ripped off "Been A Son." The world would improve as a whole of more bands did this. We want more "Been A Son" rip off songs. No Age's new album was not on Spotify for its first few months after release, which we later realized was a Drag City thing, although it would not have surprised us if it were a No Age thing. In the past, they've expressed similar anti-corporation pro-DIY alignment. Before this realization, we assumed the decision was made specifically for people like us who had strong intent to purchase a physical copy and sought an album preview without spending $9 on mp3s. Soulseek to the rescue. It's been years since we illegally downloaded an album before buying, which gave us nostalgia for back in the Nouns days. And yes, the album does completely rule, and we gladly shelled out real money for the record (their 2nd best!) because No Age is still the best band of the last 10 years, and they're fucking worth it. Long live The Smell.

64. Maren Morris “I Could Use a Love Song”
We probably could have placed other songs from Hero higher than this one, except this is one of the few that technically qualifies as a true 2017 jam since the single charted exclusively during that year. The wiki discography reports a few stations added "Rich" back in February 2018 (possibly pushed to radio as a precaution in case country fans opted to not fuck with "The Middle"). So is the Hero album cycle technically still happening? We're unfamiliar with the way country radio works, so maybe this is a normal thing. (Taylor Swift, for example, usually waits 4-6 months before a new song/video gets added to playlists, similar to how they used to promote mid-'90s blockbusters like Jagged Little Pill n stuff.) Either way, "I Could Use A Love Song" is fair game for 2017. She sings about how love songs are the same as drugs or something. It's great.

63. David Nance “Cruel Kind of Love”

62. The Rubs “Amy”
We could have (and probably should have) tied "Amy" with the other three parts of its conceptual tetralogy, "Judy," "Ruby" and "Emily." We would be surprised if they're not about the same person.

61. Grandaddy “I Don’t Wanna Live Here Anymore”
There are more devastating realizations than figuring out just after settling, after years of preparation, that the goal you've been working towards is not actually what you wanted at all. It might be a new job, or a college degree, or a marriage, or moving to a new city. After the exciting journey brings you to your happily-ever-after, where do you go from there? Ever since the similarly pensive "It's The Weekend" back in 2009, Jason Lytle's lyrics have gravitated more and more towards Plastic Ono Band levels of simplicity. "Mama don't go, daddy come home" repeated over and over again. Rigidly direct prose.

60. Nnamdi Ogonnaya “let gO Of my egO”
The 11K meme posted here has something to do with the value of Bitcoin but we didn't feel like reading into it. We just really wanted a picture of Eleven stealing Eggos to go along with "let gO Of my egO." Its rambunctious video dropped in January 2017; since that time, Nnamdi reflects that "all of my bones are solid gold and my pee finally taste like sweet baby rays." No longer a sooper secret side project, Nnamdi's solo adventures sprawl across DROOL with odd contrasts: The disjointedness IS the cohesion. Speaking of "flip it and reverse it," "egO" was responsible for Bubba Sparxx "Ugly" and Missy's "Get Your Freak On" getting stuck in our heads out of nowhere every few weeks, even though its BPM is a lot slower, typically leading to the inevitable head-nod that gave way to up and down headbanging. That kid's onto something big.

59. Lil B “Bad Mf”

58. Leikeli47 “Miss Me”
"Fuck a fair one, I get mine the fast way. Ski mask way." Leikeli47's ski mask (shown in the pic to the right switched out with one of many various obscuring devices in the "Miss Me" video) expresses many things: alluring mystery, anonymity, anti-image, anti-patriarchy, a possible MF Doom nod. Also, she probably gets yelled at whenever she walks into 7-11. (At least that's what happens to us when we forget to remove our ski mask before grabbing some Big Gulp.) It actually surprises us that it's taken until now, roughly 40 years into hiphop's history, for a reasonably prominent underground rapper to own the ski mask as a crucial element of their aesthetic. More importantly, her flow is arguably the freshest from any class of '17 rapper, and she deserves to blow the fuck up today. Pharrell & Missy: Don't sleep on this.

57. Nelly Furtado “Live”

56. Animal Collective “Kinda Bonkers”
The initial 3-4 month coping period after Trump's election affected Twitter users in some unexpectedly strange ways. For some bizarre reason, lots of people started overusing "bonkers" on Twitter between November 2016 and February 2017. During this era, the editors of Pitchfork opted to include this word in their headlines several times, but it has not appeared at all since then. People who used this word on the internet likely never uttered "bonkers" out loud, let alone in public, and many of them claimed that "bonkers" had always been heavily used in their normal everyday vocabulary. (Coincidentally, these are the same people who posted the Meryl Streep "yelling at the Oscars" meme multiple times.) Apparently, Animal Collective fell victim to this same bizarre trend. A true artifact of the era, "Kinda Bonkers" probably would have placed higher otherwise.

55. Aye Nako “The Gift of Hell”

54. Kelela “LMK”

53. Good Morning “Oppsie”

52. Maneka “Power (feat. Katie Capri)”
We think this song is pretty cool. Follow Vitti's Instagram at @FireDank420.

51. Lil Peep f/ Lil Tracy “Awful Things”
On the afternoon of November 17, 2017, we just happened to find ourselves at The Observatory in Santa Ana, California. Not far from our van, we spotted a bunch of lit candles inside of a small fenced off area in the parking lot. It seemed out of place until we realized it was left there from a candlelight vigil. The Observatory was Lil Peep's first cancelled tour date following his fatal ingestion less than 24 hours prior in Tuscon, Arizona. We had all been saddened by the news, and so we went to take some video of the remaining 20 or 30 candles with a freshly acquired Pixel. A mysterious bump suddenly sent the phone crashing onto a sharp section of the fence. Part of the screen was cracked, although the phone still worked ok. From that day forward, we felt the spirit of Lil Peep within that Pixel. (It was tough to forget the circumstances.) The crack enlarged about a month ago when we accidentally dropped a set of keys on the screen. The phone's been swapped out and replaced. We're guessing it was quickly refurbished and sold to a new owner who has no idea that a piece of one of the true emo-rap legends rests so close to them, protecting from certain doom. "Awful Things" is the song that Good Charlotte (his favorite band) was asked to perform at his funeral. We know he frequently sampled emo tracks from the early 2000s; yet despite "Awful Things" suspiciously Blink-193 intro, it's one of the guitar parts that Lil Peep wrote and recorded on his own. He was just getting warmed up, and likely had a bank of ideas stored and ready for Pt. 2. Tragic as fuck.

50. David Nance “River With No Color”

49. Jason Loewenstein “Machinery”

48. Lil Yachty “Priorities” / Lil Yachty “Shoot Out The Roof”
Yachty is currently the only artist in hiphop who collaborated with Kehlela, Charli XCX and Carly Rae Jepsen throughout 2017. It took us a minute, but we eventually realized his presence was crucial throughout this year, and "Priorities" was the song when we finally "got it." "Fuck school / Fuck the rules." He directly descends from Lil B. Now it all makes sense. "Priorities" is also among the moments that came closest to the essence of the album title Teenage Emotions. Of course, it took until we heard a deep cut on his major label debut before deciding "Soundcloud rap is now a good thing." We don't think it was entirely Yachty's fault that the album suffered. After all, this was Lil Yachty's first major label album. "Getting signed" is a responsibility that Lil B has yet to accept. He never had to deal with record companies fronting the cost of recording and publicity, breathing down his neck and forcing terrible songs onto what could have otherwise been a pretty dope record. Lil B's worst songs are the ones that HE made that way. Big-business has nothing to do with his decisions. He can wear his Bernie 2016 shirt as much as he wants for that very reason. He can portray himself anyway he wants. Yachty seems to have entered 2018 rightfully frustrated with the music business, quickly recording and self-releasing the dark and in-your-face Lil Boat 2 mixtape. Perhaps it's turned him cold, and he's grown unhappy with the fun-loving, youthful experimentation and exploration of "Priorities" or "Shoot Out The Roof." They might be the two best rap songs he'll release for a while.

47. Lil B “Ain’t Me”

46. Syd “Insecurities”

45. Mahmundi “Imagem”

44. GoldLink f/ Brent Faiyaz & Shy Glizzy “Crew”

43. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile “Over Everything”

42. Mount Eerie “Ravens”

41. Cloakroom “The Sun Won’t Let Us Go”
Red House Painters is cool, but hasn't that Sun Kil Moon asshole already gotten enough props in the past 5 years? Aside from any "Deftones on valium" takes regarding the Cloakroom album as a whole, we'd say the RHP comparisons are definitely all coming from people who've never heard Space Needle, a.k.a. the most underrated Rhode Island band of all time. It's a more subdued sound for Cloakroom, but we did not expect it to immediately make us say, "Holy shit, these guys definitely love Space Needle." It's the intersection of "Never Lonely Alone" and "One Kind Of Lullaby." We've recently been fitting Cloakroom into a subgenre alongside Superheaven and Teenage Wrist - two other bands playing around with loud verse/chorus structure who we secretly wish would get more angular and strange, but don't necessarily need to.

| Follow "Straight Fire 2017" on Spotify |

| #200 - 166 || #165 - 131 || #130 - 101 || #100 -71 || #70 - 41 || #40 - 21 || #20 - 1 |

| All 200 Songs |

Monday, May 21, 2018

Straight Fire 2017: #40 - 21

Are you ready for some of this hot fuego? Let's jump back in:

| Follow "Straight Fire 2017" on Spotify |

| #200 - 166 || #165 - 131 || #130 - 101 || #100 -71 || #70 - 41 || #40 - 21 || #20 - 1 |

| All 200 Songs |

40. Lil B “Free Life” / Lil B “Wasup JoJo” / Lil B ”Hip Hop”
"Hip Hop" descends from simpler times. If you're an artist in a genre that lets you get away with repeating the genre name and settling on that as a song's entire chorus, then you have every right to let that happen. "Wasup Jojo" exposes Lil B's perplexing dichotomy; he is at once introspective and philosophical but also a fun-loving and horny rock star. This all helps Black Ken (apparently his first "official" mixtape) gracefully build upon Lil B's prolific and out-of-step discography. He's never marched in time with modern trends, nor walked away from what made him special. He never needed to. Black Ken throws back, but it's very of the moment; it's not forward-thinking, but it sounds like it's from a different timeline. It's his shiniest and most sparkling sounding album to date, but its human imperfections are its most alluring assets.
Free Life:
Wasup JoJo:
Hip Hop:

39. PRETTYMUCH f/ French Montana “No More”

Can hot boy bands survive in the post-TRL era? If it sounds like "No More," then we sure hope so! [EDIT: We just realized this song possibly kinda sounds like "Try Again" by Aaliyah. This is probably a good thing though.]

38. Sheer Mag “Suffer Me”
More like SHRED Mag.

37. BEAK> “Sex Music”
In 1973, a college student named Patrick Cowley recorded several albums of slinky, mysterious and almost noir-sounding instrumental electronic music. A gay porn company called Fox Studio bought all of this music not long afterwards, and the songs were featured for years in many of the early erotic videos that single-handedly kickstarted the VHS industry into existence. Throughout the '80s and '90s, VHS became a beloved multi-million dollar business built upon a successful foundation of durable, easily transportable porn movies. About 40 years later, the mid 2010s albums from a cut-from-marble artist named Torn Hawk and his accompanying VHS-manipulation videos are among the only other close examples of ultra-masculine lofi aesthetic that seems anywhere close to what BEAK> has created here. "Sex Music" is the debut from BEAK>'s new line-up. (They also released a Christmas song last December.) The 2010-era hipster irony of Altered Zones has no place here. "Sex Music" is the real deal. Also, BEAK> has signed to a new U.S. label and we're expecting their long-awaited third album before the end of 2018.

36. Playboi Carti "Magnolia" / Lil Uzi Vert “XO Tour Llif3”
Now That's What I Call Vape, Vol 666

35. Code Orange “Bleeding In The Blur”
Earlier this year, Rivers Cuomo tweeted, "Grunge is cool again," possibly hinting a suggestion for how the late '10s could be an era when grunge returns. While this provides us some (probably false) hope for Weezer's next few records, bands like Code Orange are already headed down their grungiest path, slowing down the tempo on songs like "Bleeding In The Blur" and switching out their singer. It's not as indebted to Sub Pop's Love Battery or Mudhoney 7-inches; more like Alice In Chains, further down the post-grunge spiral and nearly intersecting with White Pony and Vol 3: The Subliminal Verses. Death to IPA-metal. Death to indie-metal. Code Orange transcends beyond this and might just be the current leaders of the new school.

34. Nelly Furtado “Paris Sun”
Whoa Nelly!

33. Kendrick Lamar “FEAR.”
As an album title, DAMN. (all caps, plus punctuation) expresses observation, reflection, and a strong, possibly overwhelming reaction. Sadly, it might be the opposite of "Alright." The record feels appropriately cluttered and claustrophobic. Impressive as a whole, only a few of its tracks felt as strong as standalone singles. While the spacey "FEAR." might be its only song that could have appeared on either good kid maad city or To Pimp A Butterfly, it's the deep breath of sonic representation DAMN. required - still as dense as its album's sister jams, but arguably the most musically satisfying on its own. If "DUCKWORTH." and "XXX." display the clutter itself, "FEAR." is up-at-4AM stuck between a youthful memory and trying to make sense of it all. "If I could smoke fear away, I'd roll that motherfucker up."

32. Maren Morris “My Church”
She was losing her religion, cursing on Sundays and indulging in debauchery. But now Maren Morris has found her church in the FM dial - a claim that clashes with our experience, since we haven't been able to enjoy corporate radio since at least 2012. But we're happy Maren digs it. We checked out some pop-country stations a couple weeks ago, and nothing seemed especially egregious compared to how it sounded in the '90s. There's a lot less Brooks & Dunn and Leann Rimes. There's a lot more of the awkward #wokeness in songs like "I Believe Most People Are Good" (a far drive from the days of "Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off") and they play the shit out of that Florida Georgia Line song that doesn't seem to wanna go away anytime soon. Maren gets the "home" feeling from faith placed into iHeartRadio's program directors. And the "My Church" chorus spun on the FM dial in our brains for 3 or 4 nights in a row. P.S. The word "God" is not mentioned once in this entire song.

31. The Rubs “Wrong/Right Girl” / The Rubs “Wrap My Life”
You love The Rubs. "Wrap My Life" is some of the finest pre-Rubber Soul-core we've heard in over a decade. (That would be stuff that directly descends from Beatles For Sale and/or the non-film tracks from Side B of Help!)

30. LOOΠΔ / ODD EYE CIRCLE “Girl Front”
We were about to express surprise that a fresh new dope K-pop group has arrived that doesn't have 7 or 9 or 12 or 15 members. After a certain point, the abundance of large-numbered group members enters Polyphonic Spree levels of absurdity, removing any discernible way to connect. Brockhampton are packaged as a similarly daunting collective, whereas Odd Future took their time over the course of several years, slowly introducing more characters over a 3-4 year span to anyone willing to care or listen.

It turns out that ODD EYE CIRCLE are trying out a similar tactic. They are NOT a 3 member group as we originally thought, but rather were introduced on "Girl Front" as 3 singers from a 12-member girl group. (Where's the bullshit clickbait thinkpiece on this?? "Bands shouldn't have more than 7 members" makes just as little sense as a headline complaining about set-lengths longer than an equally arbitrary 20 minute limit.) It's often helpful when there's a stand-out or a ringer among the crew. Perhaps the "Girl Front" crew are those ringers. We can retain 3 personalities. We like remembering things about band members. We like bands.

29. Charli XCX “Boys”
Yo Charli, what the fuck? Your Soundcloud was definitely streaming "Boys" a few short days ago, but now it's just a 30-second preview. Say it ain't so, Charli. We're not switching this to a Youtube link. No. Not happening.

28. Alex G “Brick”
Blown out production and hardcore screams are exactly what Alex G's last album needed. "Brick" is yet another of his essential weirdo experiments, which maybe should be packaged far down the road into an immense weirdo comp. Nothing's off limits. This makes the "Alex G goes country" headline (accompanying the premiere of "Bobby") seem entirely laughable. We'd love to hear a live version of this song.

27. Jute Gyte "Mice Eating Gold"
Our pitch for Netflix: Once a week, we'll premiere another 2 hour movie about the end of the world. It's a series titled Normalize Armageddon intended to lessen the fear of "we're all fucked." Each week, watch the sun get so hot that everything starts melting. People start melting and eventually burst into flames. Watch yourself melt. Watch your friends melt your family. Watch net neutrality melt. Watch Bitcoin melt. And that's just the title sequence.

26. Lindsey Buckingham & Christine McVie “In My World”
"I think I'm in trouble," sang Lindsay Buckingham as the other members of Fleetwood Mac threw him down a flight of stairs. As of 2018, he's been very much fired from The Mack, and it should be pretty easy to figure out why since Steamy Nicks was the only band member who refused to participate in Buckingham/McVie's shockingly dope 2017 album. "In My World" sounds like a lost Tango In The Night deep cut, reprising the "love noises" from "Big Love" and sprinkled with Mick Fleetwood's signature snare tone (probably the #1 drummer in rock history who is recognized more for tone than prowess of rudiments or whatever). Kinda bullshit that this couldn't have been called a Fleetwood Mac album, but swap out Buckingham for Nicks (neither of whom are O.G.), and it's suddenly okay. But not so weirdly, the snare tone steals the show here.

25. Winter “Jaded”
Are you ready for some "Gigantic"/Yuck riffage? What's so funny? Why are you laughing? No seriously, what's so funny? What did we say? Did we say something weird? There's a talking-on-the-phone solo in this song which kind of reminds us of the break-down from the Hanson bonus track that was written by the 9-year-old kid (Zac). So anyway, you're still laughing. This is what modern rock radio should sound like right now. There are plenty of sick pop-grunge songs that should be charting, but instead iHeartRadio continues playing Imagine Dragons. Oh wait, it's 4:21. That's why you're cracking up. Now we get it.

24. Lil Yachty “Lady in Yellow”
The Lil Yachty LP Teenage Emotions actually does suck. It's a shitty album with 5 really good songs and 5 more kinda ok songs, which would have been enough for a decent 10 song trap-pop LP, but instead Yachty decided to bloat the album to 21 songs with music that is for the most part pretty fucking awful (such as the one where the chorus is an interpolation of Tegan and Sara's "Walking With The Ghost"). It seems like he's still experimenting with his brand and trying to discover who he is and how to be portrayed. The most interesting moments on Teenage Emotions - the parts that won us over and convinced us that he was worth our attention - were the strange outsider moments where he stepped very far out of the confines of trap. We were intrigued enough by "Lady In Yellow" that it inspired a tribute post last August.

"A summer jam by nature, "Lady In Yellow" implies sunshine, sundresses and some Sunny D. [But once the fall semester begins], the underlining bittersweetness in the most melancholy summer jams changes from green-to-yellow alongside the leaves." The end of summer 2017 turning to September was a strange but welcome transition.

This song includes our favorite misheard lyric of the year: "Little miss lady in the yellow / Hello / Would you like to push the petal to the metal with me?" These are not the real words. // Lil Yachty is also a huge Coldplay fan (no, really) so we'd like to guess there's some "Yellow" reference in here as well. We'll discuss this song a little more in two years when we finally get around to "Lit Mix 2017." Guilty as charged. All of the above.

23. Gnarwhal “Light-Up City”
Mid-semester bummin'. Adolescent pent-up frustration. Break all the pencils in half.

22. Guided By Voices “Overloaded”
"Diver Dan" was Robert Pollard's best song of 2017, but we think the best GBV jam of the year was "Overloaded," written by their current drummer and former Shudder To Think member Kevin March (who coincidentally looks a lot like Craig Wedren). Kevin submitted his demo to The Guided for their planned double-album and was considering having the band re-record it, but instead Pollard gave one listen and said "it's done." This ended up being the final version included on August By Cake. Pollard was right; the tape warble and lo-fi elements compliment the song perfectly. No need to add anything else.
Diver Dan:

21. Rico Nasty “Block List”
A song for the kids, truly. Nobody call me in a crisis. Get the fuck off Rico's phone. She's not your fucking girl. In a fair and just world, "Block List" would have been one of those songs that scored major points on the airplay charts and annoyed tons of people. It should have been one of those like Donna Lewis "I Love You Always Forever" or Merrill Bainbridge "Mouth." There is no excuse for other songs blowing up on Top 40 without seguing in and out of "Block List." There is no excuse for Ryan Seacrest not announcing this as the #1 song of the week at some point last August. At any rate, it was a hit in our cars. Yo, we said get the fuck off Rico's phone. Sorry, did we stutter?

| Follow "Straight Fire 2017" on Spotify |

| #200 - 166 || #165 - 131 || #130 - 101 || #100 -71 || #70 - 41 || #40 - 21 || #20 - 1 |

| All 200 Songs |

Friday, May 11, 2018

Straight Fire 2017: #20 - 1

| Follow "Straight Fire 2017" on Spotify |

| #200 - 166 || #165 - 131 || #130 - 101 || #100 -71 || #70 - 41 || #40 - 21 || #20 - 1 |

| All 200 Songs |

Despite what anyone had to say, 2017 was an underrated year for both albums and singles. It somehow also produced the most worthless end-of-year list season in recent memory (possibly ever).

But the people who erroneously claim "Every year is a good music year" at least weren't wrong about 2017. There were more than enough quality jams and dope albums to pass around.

The problem with music in 2017 is that music critics are more clueless than they've ever been. 2017's mostly interchangeable end-of-year list curation (the ones rating albums, tracks, videos, and the like) lacked more individuality across the major blogs than any other year from this decade, which is perplexing considering any lack of consensus picks. The garbage is rising to the surface while the dopeness remains buried.

If there was a winning consensus pick, it would be DAMN., even though it's a notably less impressive album than Kendrick's genre-defining release from 2012 or his hugely important event release in 2015. Plus, most ballots did not place it at #1 with voter enthusiasm seeming more varied than previous AOTY winners. We saw it placed pretty frequently between #5 and #25, oddly benefiting from the lack of consensus.

It's been close to an entire decade since the last time you could turn on the radio for a drive across town and enjoy the experience for 4 or 5 songs worth of life enhansement. At the risk of sounding brash, the death of pop radio signifies the death of pop. If they're not going to play fun music on pop stations, then what's the point of listening? One of the ideas behind pop is the collective shared experience of knowing the entire country was experiencing a song all at once. Everyone knew "U Can't Touch This." Where's today's MC Hammer? (Yes, we're serious.) Are the DJs at prom gonna pump "God's Plan" seven times in a row? We'd like to think the prom 2018 experience would entail fun times with Carly Rae, Charli, Selena and maybe Maren Morris, but probably not. "24k Magic" is probably as fun as it's gonna get.

This is not a cool thing to admit. It's a hot take, but it's the truth: Pop is dying, and corporate radio is killing it, just the same as how they killed alternative rock in the mid 2000s. Old man Chuck D is allowed to wave his fist at the "rap is dead" cloud. Flea and Bono aren't exactly correct claiming that "rock is dead," but it's dead as far as its presence on radio is concerned. So now when is Britney finally gonna issue her definitive "Pop is dead" statement? The charting songs no longer reflect the curation of iHeartRadio or Sirius Hits 1 or Ryan Seacrest's American Top 40 show. Modern pop radio curation couldn't even blur the lines of racism enough to play "Black Beatles," and that song was fucking huge. Something bad has been happening with corporate music distribution within the past 5-6 years, and it's not going to end. We're all fucked.

Throwing our hands up in the air once and for all.

Our top 20 of 2017 is:

20. Charli XCX “Track 10”
The comparisons to My Teenage Dream Ended feel most apt during "Track 10," the year's most-current / least-retro song and the heart and soul of 2017's most daring pop release. Its own song title suggests "deep cut" designation. We would not recommend playing this for the kids down the street when they sweetly ask (in a deep British accent), "Tell me, what does the new Charli XCX sound like?" If Pop 2 is Charli's Sgt Pepper, "Track 10" is its "A Day In The Life," the epic finale densely and succinctly scrolling through its own record's uncharted perimeter, exhuming its extremes, proudly lining them up all in a row. By doing so, Charli XCX earns her album title and not a moment too soon. Poptimism 2.0 seems damn good and ready for the future. Taylor, Katy, Justin and Miley are the past; it's time for fresh voices. The possibilities widen further.

19. Otoboke Beaver “Love Is Short” / Otoboke Beaver “Introduce me to your family”
Is this a first? Both sides of Otoboke Beaver's 7-inch from 2017 are tied in the top 20. We usually prefer to separate a-sides and their respective b-sides whenever possible. Alongside a third 19-second track titled "Mean," Otoboke blasts through the Love Is Short!! EP in what feels like a singular 5 minute experience. With effortless hooks firing left and right at breakneck speed, they barely break a sweat. It's NBD.

18. Charly Bliss “Glitter”
Poptimist music critics still refuse to admit that loud guitars existed before and after the '90s. Even now, seven years after Yuck's self-titled debut, bands like Charly Bliss - far more indebted to 2000s influence - are still receiving the "'90s-retro" tag. And while the chorus of "I'm Only Happy When It Rains" does admittedly resolve to a major key... And while we're aware that the '90s was not entirely 100% doom and gloom, Charly Bliss mixed together a blend of sweetness that simply did not exist in the '90s. Letters To Cleo, Bif Naked or sElf (in their sugariest moments) are as close as it got. Instead, try "Stacy's Mom," The Click Five's "Just A Girl," Josie And The Pussycats, early Paramore, Sum 41 (Charly would nail an "In Too Deep" cover) or "The Green Album." (NOT "The Blue Album.") It's all smiles and structural precision, directly descending from the 2000s pop explosion. Do your homework, kids. Also, every song called "Glitter" is usually amazing.

17. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile “Continental Breakfast"
This album's Pitchfork review cites "Islands In The Stream" and "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around" as the bar for classic duet singles. But Lotta Sea Lice doesn't shoot for karaoke ambition. It's intended as an album-length experience more easily comparable to Waylon & Willie. (Once upon a time, "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys" won a Grammy. We have yet to hear this song played on any radio station or in public.) "Continental Breakfast," one of the Vile originals, features the two trading verses and closing some of the passages with a loose unison or a harmonization. It's the highlight from the best record either artist has released, and we really hope there's more from this duo in the future.

16. Horisont “Electrical”

If Carly Rae Jepsen wrote a Thin Lizzy song...

15. Elder “Sanctuary”
Coordinates. Rockets launching. Exploration. Mars. This record sounds amazing btw. For more information, why not check out the following...
Leprechaun 4: In Space
The Brave Little Toaster: In Space
Airplane 2: In Space
Critters 4: In Space
Ice Age: In Space
Abbott and Costello: In Space
Friday The 13th: In Space

14. Aye Nako “Particle Mace”
Silent Barn has announced that its doors are closing within the next few weeks. [Note: This was written in April.] And with those sad words, we wonder "What will become of Particle Mace?" Actually we weren't thinking of Particle Mace at all until it came time to write this blurb. The arcade game that currently stands next to Silent Barn's stage will eventually end up somewhere. We think it should join Aye Nako for all of their upcoming tour dates. In "Particle Mace," Jade lays down some sick Courtney snarl. (We definitely hear way more Hole in Silver Haze than the majority of the other albums in the past 5 years that mindless bloggers have tagged with "sounds like Hole" just because it includes loud guitars and a girl singer.) Also, we started an Aye Nako interview for this very blog back in 2015 that never got finished. We plan on re-starting this Q&A at some point, but from what we remember...
#1 They love Korn.
#2 They love vids.
#3 They kick ass.
More updates as they become available.

13. N*E*R*D f/ Andre 3000 “Rollinem 7s”
Hey Twitter brats: Shit on Yeezus all you want. "Kanye's worst album," etc. It's too bad you feel that way since Post-Yeezus has been completely owning for 5 years strong. We Got It from Here... Thank You 4 Your Service, I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside, DAMN. Guess what? Those are all Post-Yeezus. And in December 2017, these records were joined by a handful of the tracks from No_one Ever Really Dies (the best N*E*R*D since In Search Of...) including album highlight "Rollinem 7s." Pharrell sounds like he's heard Rockwell's "Somebody's Watching Me" one too many times. 2/3s of the way through, the tempo changes, breaking into an equally dope B-section featuring some HOT purposely off-pitch mumbles. And when the original A-section returns, there's Andre 3000 adding some extra frosting on the cake. It's not like 3 Stacks was needed to make the song any better, but let's not forget Rule #1: When Andre is down to throw in a bonus verse, you ALWAYS say "YES."

12. Xetas “The Gaze”
Hüsker Who? (Just kidding. Their extremely large boxed set from last September was pretty dope, and we still haven't heard the whole thing yet.) Xetas are a rare modern punk trio combining necessary monster riffs and pummeling abrasion with extended epic pop structure. "The Gaze" sonically nails unending frustration with street harassment, a social epidemic as old as time that realistically won't disappear within our lifetime, but could seriously benefit from a severe beat down. The pist vox tag-team of Kana and David reserve their energies for the individual moments of attack. Raw is war.

11. Nelly Furtado “Magic”
The realest pop record of 2017 did not pander to iHeartRadio's data research and inadvertently exposed how heavily the machine relies on big press campaigns backed with major label dollars. A decade after Nelly Furtado followed the 3rd biggest song of 2006 with the 9th biggest song of 2007, her 2017 album completely missed out on the Billboard 200 albums chart with zero charting singles and failed to appear on any blog's end of year list. It's almost as if she was trying to sneak under the radar, like she craved anonymity while still creating art the way she wanted to. It's possible that she didn't want to be a star anymore. Either way, the lack of support this album received from blogs and end-of-year lists might be the ultimate example of how broken the music business is.

10. Electric Wizard “See You In Hell”
Aside from Dopesmoker, EW's Dopethrone LP from 2000 is probably the heaviest and most brutal stoner metal record of all time. A half-dozen albums later, they are less brutal but more melodic, entering a post-Uncle Acid stoner landscape sludgier and sleazier than ever. Less shouting and more notes. A few reviewers noted that Electric Wizard "brought the fun back" to stoner metal? Whoever said this probably hasn't heard Blood Lust, but we sense some influence. Stoner metal is inherently largely indebted to late '60s culture as it is, so the best way to indulge this might be re-imagining The White Album as a proto-metal record.

09. (Sandy) Alex G “Bobby”
We know the picture shown here is of Bobby from Twin Peaks, but instead we wanna talk about Sean Astin who played Bob in the 2nd season of Stranger Things. The evolution of Sean Astin is an anomaly among Hollywood trajectories. In the mid '80s, he appeared in a "celebrity" episode of I'm Telling, a game show that was essentially The Newlywed Game for siblings. The weird thing about this episode is that he appeared as the sibling of Mackenzie Astin from The Facts of Life. He wasn't on the show promoting anything, so this happened either before his then-signature prepubescent role starring in beloved 1985 blockbuster The Goonies, or the episode happened so long after Goonies premiered that he was no longer considered famous. Either way, it took until 1992 before his next prominent role co-starring with Pauly Shore and Brendan Fraser in Encino Man. Instead of using this opportunity to ride the momentum, he once again stayed quiet, sporadically appearing in low stakes indie films like the romcom Dish Dogs circa 2000. He was then granted a new signature role via the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, more or less cementing his legacy. He was no longer the leader of The Goonies. But once again, he chose not to capitalize on his momentum, staying quiet once again for over a decade until Season 2 of Stranger Things this past Fall. We suspect he will continue these occasional appearances, probably waiting another seven years before starring in anything else. We figured "Bobby" is probably about Sean Astin's role as Bob from Stranger Things and the t-shirt they sell at Target that says "Bob is the new Barb." Or maybe it's about Bobby from Twin Peaks and his relationship to Major Briggs. That is also a possibility.

08. Maren Morris “80s Mercedes”
"Hey jerk, you're not supposed to put 2016 songs in a 2017 list." Okay, well we did. We admittedly don't stay sharp with charting country music, and we occasionally allow our end-of-year lists to grant backdated one-year extensions in extreme circumstances like Maren Morris' Hero LP, despite that she performed "80s Mercedes" (and "My Church") on an episode of SNL from mid-December 2016. [Note: We just searched for about an hour and were unable to locate any photos of John Cena with Maren Morris at SNL aside from things like this. For some reason, we assumed they still shot the same standard awkward "host with band" promos from way back when.] So anyway, there's simply no real excuse for a pop song as hooky as this one to not generate any true chart crossover, and it would have in any of the past 3-4 decades of Billboard/Radio/MTV/Sirius/Playlisting if the current methods of mass music consumption and distribution weren't completely fucked. Structurally, "80s Mercedes" could be the spunky younger cousin of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" with both flexing a similar "downpour of hooks" technique more common to radio hits in the early '10s (and entirely absent from Taylor Swift's grossly overrated 1989). Maren's inevitable crossover hit with Zedd is currently charting huge and a strong contender for Grammy wins and multiple top 5 placements for end-of-year lists. Hopes are up for more of these on LP2.

07. Big Thief “Mythological Beauty”

"Seventeen, you took his cum." Holy shit... Those are the real words? We were wondering why a "radio edit" existed for this, and I guess that answer's our question. We suspected this song dealt with sad details of childhood trauma without really knowing the lyrics. In our notes, it says "Saddle Creek has been killing it lately," and "a more chill version of Geraldine Fibbers."

06. Migos “T-Shirt”

I just bought a custom sports car that is also a subwoofer filled with weed smoke.

05. David Nance “Silver Wings”
One of Merle Haggard's final shows was playing Riot Fest Chicago in September 2015 - not the greatest venue for the last time many would hear him sing "Silver Wings," unless you actually WANTED to hear the insane noise pollution of 2 or 3 other side-stages of punk and alternative bands intruding in the distance - bands like GWAR, The Dead Milkmen, Babes In Toyland and Faith No More. Recorded at Omaha's legendary ARC Studios, David Nance's cover attempts to harness this insanity, carefully layering drops of acids over the surfaces of bases. Immediately from its lovely intro chords, the combination bulges intensely; by the time the guitar solo slithers over the brim and oozes from its pores, we realize he's created an uncontrollable monster sonically twice-removed from Ween's "Mountain Dew." Haggard lives. Go team Omaha.

04. The Rubs “Impossible Dream” / The Rubs “Emily”
The Impossible Dream LP sounds like a "best of power-pop" mix CD someone might have burned for themselves in the early 2000s. It starts with a Nerves song. Then there's an Elvis Costello song ("Ruby"), a Ramones song ("Judy," apparently an oldie), a Big Star song ("Impossible Dream"), etc, etc. Not necessarily retro or homage as much as building upon the blueprints perfected by those bands, Impossible Dream expands bedroom-pop dreaminess to its fullest potential, accidentally becoming one of this decade's most vital records that no one will ever hear. It took us a minute to figure out the one-man-band thing; one day, we noticed the drums sounded like a loop with no crash cymbals and no fills, which might have been far less unusual on a genuine Peel-approved artifact of '70s pop-punk. Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference. It was too hard to choose a favorite, so we tied tracks 9 & 10.

03. N*E*R*D f/ Rihanna “Lemon”
Of course she spits hot fire on the mic. Of course she's a good rapper. Based on her one verse in "Lemon" (among the most underrated of 2017), she is already as good or better than 99% of current viral Soundcloud rappers. This should not have been a surprise since she can apparently do anything really well (including attaching her name to a brand of lipstick that seemingly every lipstick-wearing person has universally praised as the greatest of all time). She should probably consider following Anti with a Watch The Throne-style Rihanna & Pharrell collaborative rap LP (since a huge part of the reason why she sounds so dope is chemistry under Pharrell's direction). Not to stir up "Lemon" vs Lemonade debates, which seem almost impossible to avoid, but Beyonce can't rap (and Anti is still album of the decade by our count).

02. (Sandy) Alex G “Proud”
There's some serious darkness and desperation in "Hey Jealousy," strengthened within one of the song's final lyrics, "Hey jealousy, she took my heart..." Doug Hopkins saving his open-ended lyric for the end doesn't seem too far off from Alex G's "If I fuck up..." closing out "Proud." There are no other words to the song. That's just how it ends. It's the year's most gigantic self-doubting open-ended lyric of 2017. The true heart-sinker. What if we all fuck up? What if everyone tweets all of their tweet drafts right now? Will we all spontaneously combust? Is "combust" even a word? We can't remember the last time (if ever) that an artist had two songs in our top 10 without also placing in our top 10 albums. Yeah, it was THAT kind of year...

01. Lil Yachty “Bring It Back”
Infinite timelines; infinite possibilities. In 30-40 years, after Rick Sanchez's portal guns and interdimensional cable boxes become top sellers at Warget (the forthcoming Walmart/Target hybrid), back issues of Billboard from 2017 should reveal that we live in the only timeline when "Bring It Back" wasn't as ubiquitous as "Shape Of You," which would have probably annoyed just as many people. In those timelines, "weird" did not spend the past two decades slowly dissolving out of existence. Until turning 20 this past August, Lil Yachty labelled himself on social media as "King Of The Teens." Teens are supposed to be weird and awkward, and so Yachty's genuine, youthfully naive strangeness unintentionally adds to his brand. Sound familiar? Aside from Lil B, he might be the most infamously "outsider" artist to emerge from the trap era, and "Bring It Back" might be the best example. A Frankenstein hybrid, "Bring It Back" cherry picks from the past 40 years of pop history combining moments that have almost no right to be standing next to each other. 808s and Heartbreak initially sets the tone, while Phil Collins' gated tom fills and Chic's upper octave rhythm guitar make way for Miami Vice's epic sax solo. Yachty is calling "Bring it back!" to a time that never existed, removing a contextual rose-colored gel from the lens.

| Follow "Straight Fire 2017" on Spotify |

| #200 - 166 || #165 - 131 || #130 - 101 || #100 -71 || #70 - 41 || #40 - 21 || #20 - 1 |

| All 200 Songs |