The Top 100 Songs of 2017, Part Two: 80 – 61

DJY100PART2

Part two! 20 more bangers, including the greatest number there is (just after 70). Maybe some controversial choices in here? Maybe? Guess we’ll see. Don’t forget to catch up with part one if you haven’t already.

Right, on with the show!

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80. Mew – 85 Videos

There’s no middle ground or fence-sitting when it comes to Denmark dream-pop devotees Mew. Either you think we’re talking about a Pokémon right now or you’ve already queued up your favourite deep-cuts from A Triumph of Man. Regardless, Mew continue to present their cult fan-base with new reasons to sing in their best higher-range vibralto – and that’s where “85 Videos” comes into play. Its warm blast of horns and its percussive undercurrent fall gently onto a waterbed of synth layering; once again welcoming long-serving fans back into their private paradise. Here’s to 85 more in the next 20 years.

79. Charly Bliss – Black Hole

What such nonsense, exactly, is “She’s got her toe in the cornhole/Bleeding out of the snowcone”? It arrives at the 0:00 mark, meaning it glides by as an opening line until you actually start paying attention to more than just the melody. By the time you do, however, you’re on too much of a sugar-high to bother with the Genius annotations. “Black Hole” is a delightful grunge-pop thrasher, indebted to the loud-quiet-loud of the Pixies as much as it is the lost-innocence sour of Veruca Salt. Oh yeah, and there’s a key change. A motherfucking key change. Cornhole away, Charly.

78. The Chainsmokers – Paris

The Chainsmokers emerged as a joke, reinvented themselves as the biggest EDM act in the world and then became a joke again on account of douche-bro interviews and haphazard live performances. When their debut LP arrived – the clunkily-titled Memories… Do Not Open – it wasn’t even met with Angry reacts or 17-minute YouTube reviews by metal dudes. Worse: Deafening indifference. Still, to borrow a phrase from Casablanca: We’ll always have “Paris.” The understated vocals and the runaway-love romance are as charming as any indie type’s attempts in 2017, and that final confetti-canon drop invariably raises a smile. C’est bon.

77. Alex Lahey – Every Day’s the Weekend

One imagines Neil DeGrasse Tyson bristling at the title of Alex Lahey’s single from her debut LP. After all, if every day was indeed the weekend, there’d be no week to end. But who needs logical paradoxes when you’ve got an index-finger waving, pop-punk-friendly chorus? “Weekend” bustles with a sense of urgency that wasn’t nearly as present on B-Grade University – however excellent it was. The click-clack of the snare rim drives the verses, while Lahey herself boisterously recounts the days of the week through a megaphone over the bridge. Someone call a doctor: Alex Lahey’s got Saturday night fever.

76. Cardi B – Bodak Yellow

“Good cop/bad cop” in hip-hop works like this. The flow of a rap verse – harsh, calculated – is offset by a big, clean, sung chorus. Everyone from Eminem to Iggy Azalea have used this tactic – which is what makes “Bodak Yellow” initially so shocking. Not only is Cardi B the bad cop, she beat the shit out of the good cop on her way into the interrogation room. Rarely has a number-one, song-of-the-summer contender sounded as righteously pissed as “Bodak Yellow” – a triumph for badass women that refuse to compromise on a thing. Bow down, little bitches.

75. Thundercat feat. Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald – Show You the Way

How much does Thundercat not give a fuck? Put it this way: The six-string bass prodigy went on Fallon to perform this song wearing board shorts and a sandals-and-socks combo. The dude just does his own thing, cynics be damned. There’s perhaps no better demonstration of this than his choice of cohorts to perform on this Drunk single – the guy behind both “Footloose” and “Dangerzone,” as well as one of the most distinctive voices in pop history. What’s more, Loggins and McDonald certifiably nail their parts. “Show You the Way” is uncool – in the sense that it’s shit-hot.

74. Two Steps on the Water – Camouflage

“A human in the wilderness/Is a scary thing to be,” warns June Jones, opening her second album at the helm of Two Steps on the Water. That’s just over a year since the opening line of her previous LP: “I’m a little bit scared.” It’s a fear that never really goes away, but at least Jones and co. are now better prepared to take it on. With lush three-part harmony and a particularly-beautiful detour prior to its closing chorus, Two Steps continue to assert their place among the best Australian bands currently working in any capacity. Do not fear them.

73. Maroon 5 feat. SZA – What Lovers Do

It feels like there were more questions around Maroon 5 itself this year than their music – why are there so many of them? What do any of them actually do? Hey, stupid: Less talk, more rock. Or pop, in this instance. They’ve had ups and downs in the 15 years since Songs About Jane, but there’s an ever-upward ascent that makes “What Lovers Do” feel like a career-best triumph. Throwing SZA into the mix also serves as a real baton-pass moment – this is her yard now, Maroon 5 are just on a victory lap. They will be loved.

72. The Presets – Do What You Want

The five years that we didn’t have new music from the Presets went by in the flash of a strobelight on that fateful November day. Make no bones about it – Julian Hamilton and Kim Moyes may both be fathers in their late 30s, but they can still rave rings around all you molly-popping mollycoddlers. “Do What You Want” has the energy of a pub-rock belter – thundering bass, pounding drums, rousing chorus – but it also lets loose on the synth-brass to trumpet their return to every passerby. Addictive and electric, The Presets are officially blazing the comeback trail.

71. Paul Kelly – Firewood and Candles

Alright… a song about a guy in his 60s doing the dirty isn’t normally the done thing around here. Still, that’s the gravy man we’re talking about. If anyone can get away with it, it’s him – especially when he does it so romantically and with such a rocking beat. Arguably the most fun PK song since “Won’t You Come Around” some 15 years ago, the band make short work of this boozy rocker. Ash Naylor nails the lead riff, Cameron Bruce sprinkles some sugary organ on top and the Bull sisters drive the chorus home. Like a fine wine.

70. carb on carb – Practising for Retirement

At their highest peaks of energy, Australasian indie-punks carb on carb are an unstoppable force hitting an immovable object. The blindsiding technicality of James Stuteley’s drum patterns bristle and bustle against the twinkly guitar noodling of Nicole Gaffney, butting heads but still somehow working in a yin-yang fashion. “Retirement” is clever, cathartic and compactly creative – everything a great carb song should be. The 18 months and change from their self-titled debut LP has seen the band further refine and sharpen their dynamic tactics, and the temptation to claim them as Australia’s own on a permanent basis grows ever stronger.

69. Suburban Haze feat. Ben Louttit – Overhang

How do you make a three-act song out of a two-and-a-half minute runtime? Somehow, some way, Newcastle’s Suburban Haze achieve the seemingly impossible on this cut from their second studio album, August’s Wilt. They do so in exceptional fashion, too – the guitars are crunchy and churning, the jazzy detour is telling of their compositional excellence and a cameo from Safe Hands frontman Ben Louttit provides some swelling calm before the impending storm. “I’m just happy to be here,” croons vocalist Paul Houlihan. By the time “Overhang” comes and goes, you’ll find yourself feeling the exact same way in return.

68. Worriers – Future Me

The second Lauren Denitzio begins to sing on “Future Me,” you’re walking a mile in their shoes. Off you go to the streets of Brooklyn, a house that was once a home and a gentrified neighbourhood. In order to figure out where they’re going, Denitzio needs to evaluate where they came from – and that’s the crux of what makes this such a great song. The rest of Worriers make their presence felt – Mikey Erg’s rollicking drums, Lou Hanman’s steadfast riffing – but it’s clear from the outset that Worriers lives and dies by its frontperson. Upwards and onwards.

67. DJ Khaled feat. Justin Bieber, Quavo, Chance the Rapper and Lil’ Wayne – I’m the One

Another one? Another big business posse cut in which the man born Khaled Mohammed Khaled barks catchphrases over a shiny, state-of-the-art beat – while the highest-clout names in his Rolodex do the hard work? Another music video where the catering budget was probably more than what you make in a year? Another huge chorus to keep Justin Bieber on radio, even during his off-season? You’re goddamn right another one. If you denied the pure elation of this glistening bundle of joy, then congratulations: You played yourself. In a year full of someones and no-ones, Khaled was responsible for the one.

66. Party Dozen – Straights

Jonothan Boulet and Kirsty Tickle both made in-roads as solo performers playing guitar and playing keyboards, respectively. Their origins, however, lie in different instruments – drums and saxophone. While much attention was deservedly given to Tickle’s lush productions as Exhibitionist, as well as Boulet’s dreamy indie-pop under his own name, Party Dozen allows both musicians to let their freak-flag fly. Songs like “Straights” are fearless in nature – they’re cacophonous, propulsive and dizzying in their execution. What’s more, they’re probably as close as you’re gonna get to the duo’s innermost musical passons. Sax appeal be damned – P12 are alive.

65. The Smith Street Band – Birthdays

There’s a moment of peace and tranqulity in the first few seconds of “Birthdays.” As it turns out, that’s literally all that it is – soon thereafter, the rest of the band comes clanging and crashing in the only way they know how. As Wil Wagner once again gets caught up in his own head, he’s a mess of contrasts (“Wanna be alone/Wanna be surrounded”) and second-guessing (“I’ll be intense/And I’ll be too much”). Even so, there’s hopefulness there – a hope that things will work themselves out. As to whether they do? Well, that’s another story for another time.

64. Kendrick Lamar – ELEMENT.

What happens on earth stays on earth – and one gets the feeling Kendrick Lamar’s home planet is in deep trouble. Even when Kung-Fu Kenny is making something viable for radio play, he finds his own unique ways to subvert the standards. If it’s not the song’s jolty, confronting video that gets to you, it’ll surely be the 45-to-33 warp of the final chorus – a technique last seen in earnest on Kanye West’s “Drive Slow.” Lamar is resolute in the song’s chorus: “They won’t take me out my element.” At this juncture, who would even entertain such a thought?

63. Charlie Puth – How Long

On first listens, “How Long” feels like a scorned lover’s ode – in the spirit of “Say My Name,” for example. Beneath its surface, however, is the shocking discovery he’s turning these accusations on himself – that the one who’s been creeping ’round is none other than Mr. “See You Again.” It’s a flip on the narrative, and a character development that paints the normally clean-cut, all-American boy as the antagonist. Let the record show, however, that Puth is not enjoying his time on the dark side – even if his musical environment is as bright and boppy as ever.

62. FOLEY! – I’ll Be Back

It’s a trade-off that seems only fair, however extraneous the metaphor:”Show me your bones/And I’ll show you my skin.” Reveal yourself to others, and they will do the same for you in return. The last few years have seen humble garage-punk trio FOLEY! wearing their heart on their flannel sleeves – and seeing them play live has their audiences responding exactly in kind. They’ve become a band worth investing in, as songs such as these testify to. Catchy, unpretentious and explicitly autobiographical – it doesn’t get much more real than this. Much like their namesake, FOLEY! are hardcore champions.

61. Nickelback – Feed the Machine

Despite their platinum sales and world tours, it’s been about a solid decade of Nickelback being the butt of countless jokes and their continued existence purely being memetic. When whispers of their new single started at the beginning of 2017, it was one of laughter and surprise – as it turned out, so the story went, the song actually wasn’t bad. What started as cat-killing curiousity quickly became a mane-thrashing indulgence – one of the band’s most unabashedly heavy tracks, and easily their best single in over a decade. Don’t believe it? Look at this graph – it doesn’t lie.

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