Every now and then we come across other music fans out there who have things to say/share but find themselves without an outlet for their words. James Burke is someone that I met through work, and quickly found out had a taste for music. Back for the second consecutive year, Burke has assembled a massive list of 30 songs that have helped define his 2017.
“Now That’s What I Call Content” Part 1 of 2
#30 – “Bird Brains” – Holy Fuck
Toronto based HF is a cool instrumental dance band – like EDM but with some real drums and guitars and stuff – with a new album this year. This track riffs a bit on classic techno jam ‘Flatbeat’ by Mr Oizo and elevates it. It has a fun dancy beat, and is a great song if you need a transition song on your playlist to from indie rock to hip-hop or vice versa. It is a neat track to play for any occasion.
#29 – “Leave It At That” – Rough Hands
I heard this song on CBC in Newfoundland a few months ago. I was driving from Lewisporte to Corner Brook enjoying local Newfoundland news (a lot of cod chat, honest. I wish I was joking but pretty well all local news was about the food fishery), and this song came on. It isn’t really the type of music I listen to; a jangly acoustic song in the vein of a Lumineers song (and I do not like The Lumineers). It is up-tempo, and would sound good at a craft brewery or anywhere that people with beards congregate.
#28 – “We’re Coming In” – The Fever
The Fever is like Rage Against the Machine junior. This song is super basic with the best scream along chorus of the year. It is an antifa blast of righteous anger from a pretty engaging singer, one power chord and entry level percussion. You probably will not like it on the first listen but you will find yourself singing that chorus “we’re coming in motherfucker / coming in motherfucker / coming in motherfucker / coming in” over and over again in your head.
#27 – “Yours” – Now, Now
Now, Now was kind of an indie rock guitar band, but had a split, and now is more of an indie electro outfit. Youtube comments seem pretty mixed on this development, with some people loving the new sound and some people thinking it’s too pop. I had heard of Now, Now before, but not actually listened to them, so I don’t have a horse in that race. What I do know, is this is some damn fine electro pop that is a much better listen on headphones than with your speaker. The production and use of auto-tune is interesting and adds a lot to the song.
#26 – “Säga mig” – Linnea Henriksson
Swedish Pop Idol alumnus Linnea Henriksson is my favourite Swedish singer. She has a gorgeous warm singing voice, and Säga mig is like if a hot wood stove was a song. My Swedish is quite poor – I can say thanks (“tak”) and coffee (“kaffe”) (otherwise I get by by trying to mumble the word phonetically or some good old fashioned pointing), so I don’t know what she is singing about (the song title translates to ‘Tell Me’ – thanks google). It does sound beautiful though, and is great song to play whilst waiting for your kettle to boil to make your herbal tea.
#25 – “Content” – Joywave
Sometimes the video makes the song. Filmed in the Kodak Tower in Rochester NY the single shot in an old server room with some cuts to vintage 80s technology give the video a spooky ‘War Games’ cold war feel. This is dark synth-rock with a Gary Numan feel. I’d rather have two different verses, but it is otherwise a pretty amazing song.
#24 – “June” – Tigers Jaw
Fans of boy/girl harmonies will like this song. From Pennsylvania, much of the original line-up of the band left in 2013, leaving just Brianna Collins and Ben Walsh. Together they made this lush sounding pop-rock gem. Brianna did not do any of the writing on previous albums, so this is one of the first she contributed. I like her songs much more than Ben’s – she probably should have contributed something sooner.
#23 – “Oh No” – Rat Boy
Eclectic Essex band Rat Boy is not a very easy listen. ‘Oh No’ is a bit of a mess of a song but what a glorious mess it is. With a bit of a surf guitar lick, a techno beat and some samples this song throws it all on the wall and it sticks. It is a blistering rebuke against Brexit and with three listens you will be hooked.
#22 – “You’re Welcome” – Wavves
Wavves took a bit of a glam turn on their new album. Glam exudes confidence, and songs don’t get much more confident than this one. The whole album is pretty good, and I dig the vibe of ‘Million Enemies’ but this for me the best of the album. It is rather refreshing to listen to a rock song that doesn’t wallow.
#21 – “Ready For It” – Taylor Swift
I know the new album got a resounding ‘meh’ from everyone, but holy crow, I’m related to George Washington! *ahem* I mean, this is a banger. I don’t care what none of y’all say. I was driving when I heard this song for the first time, with that synth bang-bang-bang to start, and immediately turned up the radio. I was hooked before our girl even started to sing. Sure, Tay misread the market. 2017 rewarded the small guy more than the monolith, and she overstepped. This just means that the next ‘return to basics’ album will slay.
#20 – “Black Magic” – The Amazons
British rock group The Amazons are pleased to present you with the best guitar riffs of 2017. It is a modern rock sound with some definite influence from classic rock. This song is for those with man-buns or Camaros. Lyrically it is a pretty standard song, but the lead singer’s voice is really good. What makes this a great song though is the guitars. Guitar solos are a dying breed but this song has a blistering one.
#19 – “Bend” – Ria Mae
She went away, but not because we can’t stand her. Ria Mae’s show with Symphony Nova Scotia I heard was fantastic, and Bend is all over the radio across the country (well, stations in Halifax, Moncton, Charlottetown and Toronto… I assume elsewhere as well). Taking a page from her idols, the amazing Tegan & Sara, Bend to the casual ear is a up-tempo fun song but when you actually listen to the words it is good ol’ fashioned pain and confusion. She lives in Toronto now, and good for her. I think we will be hearing a lot from her in the years to come.
#18 – “Sugar” – Beach Fossils
I really like the chill lo-fi sound of Brooklyn’s Beach Fossils. Dustin Payseur’s vocals are soft, over a nice thick bass line. This is a good soundtrack for drinking some craft beer on a Saturday afternoon. This song won’t get a party lit, but it pairs nicely with relaxing on a deck.
#17 – “Jamal” – Derek Wise
What I really like about Toronto hip-hop is the sinister sound. Toronto doesn’t make party rap, Toronto makes complex but sparse rap. Derek Wise is a rapper in a linebacker’s body and spits dark, monotone and uninflected bars over a nervous and uneasy beat. The video adds to the dark vibe. I feel like the best time to be listening to this song is on the TTC at 11:45 at night in November.
#16 – “Ghost” – Parekh and Singh
From Kolkata, P&S are an indie rock duo with a cool retro sensibility. Released in May from their 2015 album ‘Oceans’, ‘Ghost’ has a bit of a jazz sound for the first few bars, but settles into a dreamy pop groove by the first chorus. And the chorus is a doozy – “I’m partially a ghost/don’t you get too close/I love you way more than you know/and that’s why I’m a ghost”. I would reckon a 20% chance of a single tear running down your cheek by the end of the song.