Yep, we’re already at the mid-way point of the year. That means it’s time to assess the music that 2017 will be remembered for.
So far, the year has been characterised by the comeback of some of everyone’s most beloved artists in Kendrick Lamar, LCD Soundsystem and Fleet Foxes, rather than the birth of future stars. While the album front has been regrettably desolate, there’s been no shortage of ripping singles unleashed on our ears.
Below are the 25 best songs of the first half of the year:
25. The Babe Rainbow – ‘Peace Blossom Boogy’
Byron Bay hippies The Babe Rainbow have just dropped their self-titled debut record and ‘Peace Blossom Boogy’ is the definitive highlight. It’s everything you expect from a song with that sort of title – psychedelic-pop kookiness with the smooth vocals of singer Angus Dowling. There’s little doubt you’ll be jamming along to the “la la la laaaaa”.
24. Mac DeMarco – ‘My Old Man’
‘My Old Man’ was the first single released from Mac’s third studio album, This Old Dog. On the track, the Canadian slack-rocker comes to the realization he’s beginning to display traits of a father he shares a poor relationship with. The lyrics are gently expressed over a classically catchy acoustic guitar tune.
23. Kingswood – ‘Golden’
In February, Melbourne lads Kingswood unleashed their new dynamic on ‘Golden’. The track is a soulful, blues-infused song, heavily contrasting to the music that appeared on the band’s debut record. If you ask me, this sound suits Kingswood far better, especially when they’re producing soulful tunes like ‘Golden’.
22. Polish Club – ‘Come Party’
Polish Club bursted onto the scene in 2015 with the track ‘Beeping’. However, the duo hailing from Sydney didn’t totally capture my interest until the first listen of the energetic tune ‘Come Party’. Although the band consists of just the two members in frontman David Novak and drummer John-Henry Pajak, it is far from a barrier. Pajak holds the weight of multiple drummers and Novak may just have the best pipes on the Australian rock scene.
21. Vince Staples – ‘Big Fish’
Vince Staples is primed to release his sophomore album The Big Fish Theory next week, and the partial title track ‘Big Fish’ is a great example of what to expect. Staples has an unbreakable flow and energy, particularly on this short and sharp banger. You’ll come away from ‘Big Fish’ with “I was up late night ballin’/countin’ up hundred by the thousands” stuck in your head.
20. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever – ‘French Press’
It takes an especially good song to break through on the Melbourne indie scene. Not only have Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever achieved this, but they’ve also dominated the world stage in 2017 off the back of The French Press EP, showcasing the EP at the acclaimed SXSW Festival in Texas. ‘French Press’ is everything an indie-rock track should be, consisting of catchy guitar hooks, tight instrumentation and a dark underlying lyrical theme.
19. alt-J – ‘Deadcrush’
British band alt-J have a long history of producing alternative-folk anthems, but on their most recent record, RELAXER, the trio turn their hand towards a few different directions. ‘Deadcrush’ is the result of this change, boasting a brooding, hip-hop influenced beat. While alt-J retain their weird flavour in singing about the women they fancy who are long deceased, the banging instrumental is the highlight of ‘Deadcrush’.
18. SAATSUMA – ‘Isolate’
Melbourne duo SAATSUMA burst onto the scene in 2016 with their track ‘Floating’. The electronic wizards released ‘Isolate’ in February, which is the first single from their debut record due later this year. ‘Isolate’ sees SAATSUMA working their trademark dynamic – Stranger Things-leaning bass-lines and layered vocals that develop into a dance-floor banger, complimented perfectly by Kelly’s effortlessly melodic voice.
17. Fazerdaze – ‘Lucky Girl’
New Zealand indie-pop star Amelia Murray AKA Fazerdaze has not long put out her debut album Morningside. ‘Lucky Girl’ was the second single to come from the record and has grown on me like moss to a damp tree. The punchy track boasts bright and pretty guitar chords and the Melody’s Echo Chamber-reminiscent vocals of Murray.
16. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – ‘Open Water’
Psychedelic-garage septet King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard are slating the release of five albums this year. Flying Microtonal Banana was the first, released back in late February, producing many great tunes. The greatest is the third track, ‘Open Water’, highlighting the issue of rising water levels of oceans due to global warming. The song’s relentless drum beat and sharp guitar work will embed ‘Open Water’ deep into your mind for days.
15. Love Deluxe – ‘Cool Breeze Over The Mountains’
The one and only instrumental track in this list is the enigmatic Love Deluxe with his debut single ‘Cool Breeze Over The Mountains’. At times, an instrumental can become monotonous, particularly when it runs for over five minutes. However, ‘Cool Breeze Over The Mountains’ could span for 20 minutes and I wouldn’t grow sick of it. Simplicity is the key to the track. Glowing piano keys are joined by a snappy snare and some bouncy synth chords, creating five minutes of absolute bliss.
14. Mount Kimbie – ‘Marilyn (ft. Micachu)’
I’m relatively new to the music of English duo Mount Kimbie. The pair first caught my attention earlier in the year with their James Blake collaboration ‘We Go Home Together’. It wasn’t until this song, ‘Marilyn’, that I’ve become fully engaged in Mount Kimbie. The track begins with an interesting string section, which emerges sparingly throughout the song. ‘Marilyn’ is a beautifully layered piece of ambient electronic music.
13. Frank Ocean – ‘Biking (ft. Jay Z & Tyler, The Creator)’
It’s near impossible to escape the hype of the mysterious Frank Ocean. Whenever he drops a project or a track, the world consequently loses its mind. It’s for good reason when considering tunes such as ‘Biking’. Although the Jay Z opening verse is strange and partially irritating, Frank effortlessly increases the flow along with Tyler, The Creator’s surprise verse. Somehow, Frank makes riding a bike seem deep and emotional, as is generally his impact.
12. Orion – ‘Execution’
Great music has a funny way of finding the right person. Sydney band Orion have no Facebook profile. No YouTube profile. No Twitter profile. No Instagram profile. Just Spotify and Bandcamp pages. Yet, I’ve still managed to come across this refreshing post-punk outfit, which I know relatively nothing about. ‘Execution’ is my pick from their self-titled debut record, bringing to mind early ’80s The Cure, stemming from the low bass chords and rhythmic drum patterns.
11. Grizzly Bear – ‘Three Rings’
Until earlier this year, US indie-rock band Grizzly Bear had been unsighted since their 2012 record Shields. However, they clearly know how to make a triumphant return, as they did with ‘Three Rings’. The track is the first single from their forthcoming seventh record Painted Ruins. ‘Three Rings’ is a creatively constructed art-rock track, littered with unusual synth chords that set the tone for a darkly unique experience. It’s a highly rewarding listen when the soft falsetto of frontman Ed Droste and shining guitar chords combine to contrast the deep underlay of the song.
10. (Sandy) Alex G – ‘Proud’
To be totally honest, the first time I heard the music of Alex Giannascoli, who operates under (Sandy) Alex G, I wasn’t a fan. But, as soon as the indie-folk star dropped his seventh record, Rocket, and I gave it a few rotations, I was obsessed. Although I was still disenchanted by the four singles prior to the album’s release, ‘Proud’ really got me into Rocket. I’m still not really sure what I love about it. Possibly the relatable lyrics. Possibly the warming beat. Probably because it’s just a great rock tune.
9. MOSSY – ‘Dumb Terror’
MOSSY is one of two I OH YOU signed artists in the top ten. MOSSY is the music project of Sydney’s Jamie Timony, with just his self-titled debut EP to his name so far. The EP produced some good moments, but his first track this year, ‘Dumb Terror’ made considerable growth on those strong foundations. The track explores “the never-ending conveyor belt of backwards politicians and our tendency to turn against ourselves instead of those with whom the power actually lies,” said Timony. ‘Dumb Terror’ is a psychedelic-pop synth banger in the vein of Tame Impala’s Currents.
8. LCD Soundsystem – ‘call the police’
The dance-rock overlords are back. It’s fair to say that I’m a bit behind on LCD Soundsystem – I was too young to appreciate the band when they were making a storm with albums such as Sound Of Silver. However, with the release of singles ‘american dream’, and particularly ‘call the police’, I now understand the hype around James Murphy and co. Even though the band hasn’t released an album since 2010, they certainly haven’t lost their touch on ‘call the police’.
7. The War On Drugs – ‘Thinking Of A Place’
Psychedelic/shoegaze group The War On Drugs are another esteemed band who are making a long-awaited return in 2017. ‘Thinking Of A Place’ is the first music we’ve received from Adam Granduciel’s band since their third studio album Lost In The Dream. ‘Thinking Of A Place’ takes us to that place over it’s 11-minute span, leading off with a cosmic synth, before a constantly gentle drum beat creates a space for the guitar strums to hit you right in the soul. Extended guitar solos emerge from the depths at just the right time throughout the track.
6. Pond – ‘Colder Than Ice’
Perth oddballs Pond have just released their ninth record The Weather, and, although it wasn’t one of the four singles, ‘Colder Than Ice’ is undeniably a stand-out of the album. The track is the only song on The Weather solely written by Jay Watson, which is evident on listening. ‘Colder Than Ice’ sounds strikingly similar to the material Jay Watson creates for his individual project, GUM. The song combines lyrics discussing the issue of drug use with a beautifully constructed synth instrumental. It’s a banger.
5. Green Buzzard – ‘Never Let Me Go’
Paddy Harrowsmith has spent time as DMA’S live guitarist. But, with his solo project Green Buzzard now taking off, Harrowsmith won’t have much time to be behind the scenes anymore. His track ‘Never Let Me Go’ is taken from the Space Man Rodeo EP, released in March this year. The track is a Brit-pop inspired number, littered with catchy guitar hooks, as Harrowsmith’s voice expresses heartfelt emotion.
4. Fleet Foxes – ‘Fool’s Errand’
‘Fool’s Errand’ is the second single from Fleet Foxes’ third studio record Crack-Up, which was released today. The record is set to be one of the most popular albums of the year, with the other two singles, ‘Third Of May / Odaigahara’ and ‘If You Need To, Keep Time On Me’, hugely building the anticipation surrounding the LP. For me, ‘Fool’s Errand’ was the best of the singles. It’s an indie folk-rock inspired track, kicking off in a hurry with the jolting strum of acoustic guitars, building to the climax of Robin Pecknold’s powerful chorus vocals.
3. Sampha – ‘Plastic 100º’
At this stage, Sampha’s debut album Process is one of, if not my favourite record of the year. Album opener ‘Plastic 100º’ is one of many riveting moments from the record. The track encapsulates the British singer/songwriter/producer’s music. Underused and unique instrumentation in the strings that float throughout the track, moving lyrics and Sampha’s soulfully emotive vocals.
2. Kendrick Lamar – ‘DNA.’
Kendrick Lamar is a man who needs no introduction. The Compton rapper has had a massive 2017 with the release of his fourth studio album, DAMN. ‘HUMBLE.’ has been the mainstream hit from DAMN., but it’s ‘DNA.’ that is the highpoint of the record in my opinion. Kendrick raps from multiple viewpoints, exploring his black heritage and culture, while Mike WiLL Made-It’s speaker-blowing production on ‘DNA.’ is the beat of the year.
1. Jonti – ‘Rain’
NUMBER ONE. My number one track of the year so far comes from Sydney multi-instrumentalist Jonti, with his track ‘Rain’. The song is Jonti’s second of the year, following the Steve Lacy collaboration ‘Scrood’, the first song we heard from Jonti since his sophomore record way back in 2012. In that time, he has worked with The Avalanches on their 2016 album Wildflower, popping up on the tracks ‘If I Was A Folkstar’ and ‘Harmony’.
‘Rain’ is inspired by the death of Jonti’s grandfather. The piano introduction resembling rain provoked my ear on first listen of the track. The hip-hop influenced beat then surfaces, created by a number of percussive elements and a warming synth pattern. ‘Rain’ is topped off by Jonti’s stirring vocals, of which you can genuinely feel his sentiment.