There are all but a few certainties in life: Death, taxes and the DJY100. This one took a little longer than expected to come together, and there was some very stiff competition and hard decisions to make. That’s part of why I always make the supplementary playlist – so at least a few more songs can receive a bit of love as well that narrowly missed out on the final list. You can check out that particular playlist below before you get into the first 20 songs if you so desire:
As always, DISCLAIMER: This is not a list of the most popular songs, nor is it a list curated by anyone except myself. These are, in my view, the best songs of the year. Disagreement and discussion is welcomed, but ultimately if you have any real issues with any songs that are ranked too low, too high or not at all… make your own list!
– DJY, December 2017
100. Boat Show – Cis White Boy
Perth riot-grrrl/garage-rock quintet Boat Show have a long list of things that they do. Upon close inspection, “fuck around” appears to be nowhere on said list. This targeted takedown of some MRA shitheap in their way is biting and bold. Simultaneously, it’s also serving as one of the catchiest and sharpest tracks from what’s already a fantastic debut LP in Groundbreaking Masterpiece. So, fair warning to all the Clem Ford trolls and the Mark Latham outsiders: “You’re a woman hater/And a fucking knob.” Boat Show are from the future. You’re from the past. Come sail your ships around them, people.
99. Holly Throsby – Aeroplane
There’s no mistaking a drum pattern arranged by one Bree van Reyk – and the second “Aeroplane” starts, her distinctive touch arrives. Soon, the acoustic guitar takes off. Before long, it’s another unmistakable sound – Holly Throsby, making her long-awaited return after years in the proverbial wilderness. As the opening number to her fifth album, After a Time, “Aeroplane” gently guides listeners back into the light – the twang of clean electric guitar, the low hum of a saxophone. Over a decade on from her debut, Throsby still pens songs that pluck at the heart-strings in just the right way.
98. Sports Bra – Present Tension
Death Cab for Cutie once sang the heart is an empty room. On the lead single from their eponymous debut, Sports Bra bassist/vocalist Allison Gallagher opens up the architectural analogy. “I built a home inside of my body,” they sing. “And I’m never gonna leave it.” The guitars around this quaint poetry chirpily jangle in a manner that would do Twerps and The Go-Betweens proud. That’s not even mentioning what has to be one of the catchiest bass-lines laid down this entire year. Heartfelt, in the sense that home – in this case – is literally where the heart is.
97. Tonight Alive – Temple
In 2016, Tonight Alive released what was a make-or-break record for them. It went the way of the latter, and could well have ended a lesser band. With the release of “Temple” in October, the surviving four memebers of the band defiantly came out swinging, as if to say to the world: Was that really your best shot? The guitar snarls in a way that’s never been heard on a Tonight Alive single; the vocals arrive with a stronger sense of urgency and conviction. Yes, they’ve gone through hell – but they kept going. “Temple” confirms they’re here to stay.
96. Jeremy Neale – Loose Cannon
Jeremy Neale always had a playful sense of adventure about him – lest we forget his pop-rap alter-ego Jeromeo, or the invention of his cartoon dinosaur sidekick T-Rax. To reduce him to a novelty, however, is reductive and foolhardy. Although not released as a single, “Loose Cannon” is one of the strongest examples of Neale’s songwriting abilities to date. It matches 80s pop drums and chorus-heavy guitar to catchy, tellingly downtrodden lyrics about emotional manipulation. There’s way more to it than meets the eye – and therein lies the layered brilliance that may sometimes be lost in translation over punchlines.
95. Jess Locke – Border Security
If you’ve seen Jess Locke play live, you may have seen a sing-along break out during the bridge of this song. Such is the cult following that Locke has cultivated – the song, up until this year, has never been officially recorded. “Border Security” has been a part of Locke’s set for years – and, for her Universe LP, it serves as both the closing number and one of the true standouts. The dissonant chords bristle urgently in contrast against the spacious, flexible rhythm section, eventually bowling over into the aforementioned all-in sing-along. In the end, it all checks out.
94. Clean Shirt – Don’t Say You Don’t
With a pedigree of Sydney DIY acts like Burlap, Ted Danson with Wolves and Halal, How Are You? in its DNA, Clean Shirt certainly made their debut EP a surprise package. Sounding unlike anything each of its three members have ever played on before, the 80s-tinged post-punk rides on thudding drum machines and layered, reverb-kissed vocals. The chorus – spiraling, mantra-like – circles around to the point of being hypnotic. “Don’t Say You Don’t” is an arresting, captivating song; one that serves as a noted evolution for all three musicians and rewarding for listeners. Clean Shirt are dressed for success.
93. LANY – The Breakup
Pop music has been breaking up and making up since the word “baby” first hit airwaves. It takes a lot for something fresh to inspire any sort of interest in returning to this trope. That’s where LANY come in – an icy-cool pop trio with hearts on their sleeves and aches in their chests. The song, one of several singles from their debut album, doubles down on hooks across both its pre-chorus and chorus. It’s dark and lovelorn, but it’s also inherently stylish and hopelessly romantic in its approach. Essentially, it’s everything you’d want out of a song like this.
92. Rostam – Bike Dream
It was a sad day for indie kids around the globe when it was announced Rostam Batmanglij would be departing from the fold of Vampire Weekend. With hindsight, however, we can look at this amicable schism as the best move for both camps. Half-Light, Batmanglij’s solo debut, is a by-product of a grander vision and loftier ambitions – and nowhere on the LP does it bear more fruit than on “Bike Dream.” From its double-tracked drums and fuzz-bass to Batmanglij’s sleepy lead vocal and revealing lyricism, it’s a path that the multi-instrumentalist should have ridden down a long time ago.
91. Queens of the Stone Age – The Way You Used to Do
There aren’t a whole heap of bands that are just as cool and as in-demand now as they were 15 years ago. How have Queens of the Stone Age remained at the top of their game? No-one knows. Just kidding: It’s a Venn diagram in which the two circles represent a willingness to adapt and a refusal to compromise. For the lead single from their Mark Ronson-assisted Villains, Josh Homme and co. pair squawking guitars with West Side Story clicks, eventually working their way up to an Elvis hip-swing that’s as head-banging as it is feet-tapping. Long live the Queens.
90. Harry Styles – Sign of the Times
If the end of One Direction has taught us anything, it’s this: There’s never been a more one-sided “obvious solo breakout star” in a split-up group this side of Timberlake. Hell, Harry Styles was the Timberlake and the Robbie Williams up against what’s turned out to be four Chris Kirkpatricks. Sure enough, “Sign of the Times” ensured they all got their arse kicked – emphatically, too – with perhaps one of the biggest curveball debuts in recent memory. A “Life on Mars?” aping six-minute ballad with tom rolls and pedal steel guitar? As a lead single? You’re a wizard, Harry.
89. Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile – Over Everything
They say there’s someone out there for everyone, but this isn’t always meant romantically. Nearly a decade in age and a long-arse flight separates Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile, but musically they’re kindred spirits – as their collaborative LP Lotta Sea Lice attests. Their hazy-eyed twang blends beautifully in this conversational jam, charmingly seeking common ground like guitar playing and tinnitus as the rhythm section cruises along for the ride. Everyone clocks off around the 6:19 mark, but you get the feeling the whole gang could have kept on driving all the way down the Hume or the Pacific Coast.
88. Selena Gomez feat. Gucci Mane – Fetish
After winter must come spring. So, too, must every teen-pop star begin their ascent into coming-of-age horniness. Justin, Miley, Demi, two outta three Jonases… all with libidos that could either kill a small child or produce one. Selena Gomez set out on her journey with 2015’s stunning “Good for You” and “Hands to Myself.” With a line like “you got a fetish for my love,” however, her old shit might as well be sung by The Partridge Family. Throw in a bass-heavy trap beat and a sneering, confident Gucci verse and we’ve officially graduated from The Scene to sex scene.
87. Big Sean – Jump Out the Window
Let’s be real for a minute: Prior to, say, “I Don’t Fuck with You,” you could probably count the amount of Big Sean songs worth giving a damn about on one hand. And that was mostly “feat. Big Sean,” too. Still, he’s taken enough Ls to know how to bounce back. 2017 saw him do so in spectacular fashion with I Decided, far and away his best release to date. Its centrepiece is this dizzying detour into sunken piano and warped vocal samples. If the Mario Kart and Weeknd references don’t win you over, the chorus sure as shit will.
86. Frenzal Rhomb – Classic Pervert
At 37 seconds, “Classic Pervert” is far and away the shortest song to feature in this list. What it does with its precious time, however, still manages to best many songs six times its length (an exhaustive three-and-a-half-minutes). The opening number to Frenzal’s 2017 comeback special Hi-Vis High Tea is a tribute to the bands younger and cooler than Jay and co. who have taken the call of the mustache and slicked hair well beyond Movember. Their efforts saw them once again come up short for an ARIA at this years ceremony. May the Frenzal trophy cabinet remain forever empty.
85. Death from Above – Freeze Me
They’ve dropped the 1979, but don’t think much has changed in the world of Jesse F. Keeler and Sebastian Granger. They’re still invested in party-starting dance-punk, big-beat drums and the guttural churn of pedal-stomping bass riffs. The catch this time around is Keeler’s deference to a jolty piano loop. The way he seamlessly moves between them while Grainger holds down the singing-drummer fort is a testament to their multi-tasking abilities. DFA have now officially been reunited for longer than they were originally together. Tracks like “Freeze Me” that justify their ongoing commitment to the cause.
84. Bad//Dreems – By My Side
The title may be identical to the INXS classic, but Bad//Dreems aren’t really rockstars like Hutchence and co. were. Sometimes you kick, sometimes you get kicked – and this “By My Side” is for the kicked. A line as simple as “Its such a shame that you don’t feel/The way I feel” wouldn’t feel as resonant in the hands of a lesser band. When Ben Marwe delivers it, though, it’s with attack. With exaustion. With frustration. Their legitimacy has occasionally been brought into question – shout-out, Spicy Aussie underground music memes. Songs like this, however, evidence Bad//Dreems pushing something real.
83. Chloe St. Claire – Young Like That
Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, in a suburban bedroom, behind a closed door. That’s where you’ll find Chloe Adele Perrett, AKA Chloe St. Claire – a 17-year-old Central Highlands native with only a few songs to her name. Quietly and unassumingly uploaded to Unearthed around the middle of the year, the song is a sleeper by nature. Its shimmering beauty and unpretentious, heartfelt lyrics don’t reveal their truest, innermost beauty until you’ve really begun to spend time with the song. Every listen draws you closer in – and it’s there that a whisper becomes a shout.
82. Toby Martin – Olive Tree
Youth Group frontman Toby Martin went a long way out of his comfort zone to create his second solo album, and his mining of stories from the outer western suburbs of Sydney proved to be the most fruitful of his entire career. Here, he assumes the role of a Lebanese father watching his son turn against him. It’s a dark, all-too-real commentary on racism’s ugliness and the consequence of prejudice, accentuated by a beautifully-haunting arrangement of guitar, percussion, oud and hammered dulcimer. Already a deft lyricist and composer, Martin pushes to new reaches and subsequently makes a home for himself.
81. Two Steps on the Water – Hold Me
Was there a single more devastating opener in 2017 than “The world is a nightmare”? June Jones has never shied away from open-book honesty and total vulnerability through Two Steps on the Water. With “Hold Me,” however, we are closer to the person behind the words than ever before. With no guitar to hide behind, Jones lays it all bare in heart-wrenching fashion. It’s accentuated by the instrumentation surrounding her voice and words – the funeral-dirge organ, the sorrowful violin and the looming saxophone. “Hold Me” is one of the few songs this year that invariably left listeners absolutely inconsolable.
Part one all done! We’ll be back next week, but in the meantime you can stay updated on Twitter using the hashtag #DJY100 and by following the Spotify playlist below: