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. You can find part 1 over here.
“Now That’s What I Call Content” Part 2 of 2
#15 – “No Halo” – Sorority Noise
“Melancholy at its finest” – Rock Sound Magazine. Pretty good way of putting it. No Halo is an uncomfortable song with an uncomfortable video from pretty good Hartford band Sorority Noise. The song is about the death of a friend and how you still see them everywhere. I’m sure your eyes will roll when I talk about my wonderful cat Midnight passing in November, but I still think I hear her upstairs, or expect to see her on the couch. Quiet nights in just aren’t the same. Midnight was an amazing cat and will be irreplaceable.
#14 – “Pull The Other One” – The Big Moon
London’s The Big Moon have been compared to Elastica. I loved Elastica! They are a cool four piece band that don’t take themselves super seriously, which makes a song like Pull The Other One so enjoyable. The act as the backing band for Marika Hackman, which is pretty cool as well. I suggest adding this song to your playlist. It is good in all seasons.
#13 – “Green Light” – Lorde
Let’s pause for a second to appreciate the return of Lorde. I really like the way Jack Antonoff produced this song – the way it builds up and builds up makes you want to move an awkward Lorde-ian style by the end of the song. It’s nice to hear a big pop song that isn’t polished and polished and polished and built from the hook out. When pop songs come from an honest place, when they come together organically they are actually interesting. Can you tell the difference between the singers on a Hailee Stanfield or Selena Gomez song? They are both capable singers, but the songs they sing might as well come in a club pack from Costco.
#12 – “Galaxies” – Jenn Grant
Some local content for you. Jenn Grant has a very warm voice, which balances nicely with the cold sounding electric keyboard on this song. I had every intention of seeing Jenn Grant in Lunenburg back in May, but ended up having lacrosse that night. No matter, this song sounds great and is easily enjoyed in any setting. It has a usual coffee house sound, but has a Coldplay grandeur in the chorus. It is a very accessible song for anyone.
#11 – “Every Day’s The Weekend” – Alex Lahey
Aussie pop-rocker Alex Lahey has a lot of tongue-in-cheek songs that are fun to listen to. This is a good starting point for her – it’s a song about enjoying time with someone. Who can’t get behind that! I mean, I love a rage filled song, or a weepy song, but a nice crunchy pop song is always fun. Also check out her cover of ‘Torn’ on Youtube from Australia radio station Triple J’s ‘Like a Version’. I think I like it more than Natalie Imbruglia’s version (which in itself is a perfect pop song). Alex Lahey is fun and super accessible.
#10 – “Hail Mary” – Skating Polly
When you think “Oklahoman Family Band” you probably think ‘mmmbop’ (because Hanson is a family band… from Oklahoma…), or perhaps some sort of bible thumping country band with 8 kids and their rather creepy dad. Skating Polly has much more in common with Bikini Kill than Hanson. Hail Mary is very sinister sounding with Kelli Mayo’s unique voice perfect for their dark sound. This is a kind of twitchy song that is rather uncomfortable. Might as well check out ‘Keep Digging” while you’re at it, don’t think you’ll hear Hanson cover it…
#9 – “Lil Uzi Vert” – XO Tour Llif3
I like mumble rap. I know as someone who grew up in the 90s I should be a purist, but I like where hip-hop has gone. I like the spooky and tense production. I like the emo-rap vibe. I also like that I enjoy at least one of the same songs as the 14 year olds on my lacrosse team. It’s also a neat story on how this track is named. At a concert in Philadelphia, Lil Uzi Vert jumped into the crowd and lost his phone. His phone had all of his latest recordings on it, so that night rather than let the new music be leaked, he posted all of it – spelling errors included – on Soundcloud. And out of nowhere this song became a hit.
#8 – “Yuk Foo” – Wolf Alice
Wolf Alice is a pretty dynamic band – rather than being musical chameleons like Tegan & Sara with a different sound on each album, they have a different sound on each song. This is my favourite by a long shot. The perfect kiss-off song (switch the Y and the F in the song title…), it is like a modern version of ‘Stutter’ by Elastica. It has a similar riot-girl energy with crunchy guitars and howled lyrics. The linked video is great, but the lyric video I think matches the vibe the best.
#7 – “Big Beautiful Day” – Pwr Bttm
I am separating the art and the artist on this one. With the sexual misconduct allegations swirling around the main singer, I had been tempted to leave what had been a contender for number one off my list. However, in the months between this song being released and the allegations being released I played this song the most. It is the most positive and uplifting power-pop song you will hear. I am cis-gender and hetero, but this song still speaks to me. It’s about not giving a toss about any negative energy coming your way and just being yourself. I needed this song when it came out and it put me in a great frame of mind for the rest of the year. Really. I wasn’t sure that one song could have such a positive impact, but if I’m feeling down and want to feel better, I play this song (my go-to when I am feeling down and don’t want to feel better is classic Death Cab For Cutie jam ‘Tiny Vessels’).
#6 – “Amsterdam” – Nothing But Thieves
“So I hit my head up against the wall / over and over and over and over again.”
From Southend in Essex, NBT is a fine British rock band making tight modern rock for the masses. The lead singer has a great voice and can hit high notes without sounding annoying. The production is really good, with a nice polished sound without losing the urgency that you get from their live set (I was planning to see them in Toronto in October, but my schedule ended up changing and I missed it. Don’t worry, the schedule changed before I bought tickets.)
#5 – “Fire That Burns” – Circa Waves
From Liverpool. this band had been doing pretty well for themselves. Their 2017 album ‘Different Creatures’ peaked at 11 in the UK and generally received good reviews. I still like modern guitar rock bands, and these guys do it well. This song has a pretty big chorus and the bridge sets up the last chorus up with a swirling crescendo. There are some live clips worth checking out too – their performance from Glastonbury was terrific. Soon they will be a band playing at night instead of the day set.
#4 – “Tonight” – Dude York
From Seattle, Dude York is an indie rock 3-piece who are good music people. Vocals are shared between Peter Richards and Claire England, with this song being a Claire song. This is a stupid fun song with a poppy and crunchy chorus. It is about having enough of the friend zone and moving on to the next thing: “let’s wrap this up/there’s somewhere else I got to be/tonight”. Also the video is, as they say in Spanish, mucho funo.
#3 – “Fresh” – Tired Lion
My Youtube suggestions pointed me down under a lot this year. Not sure how the algorithms work – was it because I started listening to Courtney Barrett? I am a fan of British India, maybe because I listened to something they did at Triple J that caused it? Beats me. I do like that it introduced me to Violent Soho (written in Chrome – look it up) and Alex Lahey (did I mention her cover of Torn yet?). I tried a few Tired Lion songs, and then Fresh showed up in my feed. I clicked it. I listened. My jaw fell to the floor. I picked it back up. Yeah, so this song is dope. It has a Smashing Pumpkins-ness to it and Sophie Hopes’ voice has this cool Courtney Love rasp on the chorus. It is a delight of a rock song.
#2 – “Promise Everything” – Basement
Described as ‘melodic hardcore punk’ Basement is more accessible that that label would suggest. This song was originally released in early 2016, but this is a re-recorded version from the deluxe album re-release this year after singing with Fueled by Ramen. I really like Andrew Fisher’s voice, and this song has a killer bass line. The bridge leading into the last chorus is blistering. “When I’m high, I’m high/when I’m low, I’m low.”
#1 – “SGL” – Now, Now
I cannot get enough of this song. About a relationship when the other side can’t seem to get it together, SGL (which stands for Shotgun Lover) is a beautiful mix of guitars and synths with a pretty zippy pace. “Don’t get me wrong/I hear your reasons/we get along/over the weekends/but I got it bad/yeah, I’m not sleepin/and everytime I hear her name my heart is breaking” – I’m not sure if the song is optimistic or pessimistic. It is grounded in realism – there isn’t a heck of a lot you can do to manage the emotions of another person. I guess just be there and listen, even when they come crying in the middle of the night, looking for a fight.