Almost there! Time to crack into the top 40. Big things popping, little things stopping. Local heroes, global megastars – this bracket’s got it all. Catching up on the list so far is as easy as one, two, three.
40. Lorde – Green Light
2017 belonged to Ella Yelich-O’Connor from the opening chords of this song. No-one quite captures and captivates the way she does – a larger-than-life pop megastar who simultaneously feels as down-to-earth as your high-school bestie. “Green Light” didn’t just open Melodrama – it arguably overshadowed it. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but this song manages to build a bustling metropolis in four minutes. It’s a spirited minor-to-major ascension, serving as sonic kintsugi – that is, rebuilding broken things using pure gold. Lorde was always the kind to stop traffic, but out of her teens she appears capable of anything.
39. Ali Barter – Cigarette
Ali Barter is sugar and spice – deceptively sweet, with a sting in the tail. Her lilting voice recalls Spiderbait’s Janet English, playing nice until her sneaker comes crashing down on the distortion pedal. “Cigarette” is biting in its take down of a superficial lover; its titular kiss-off comes in so hot, there’s smoke coming off it. We haven’t even gotten to the air-guitar-worthy shredding all over the place, with whammy bends that would score serious points on Guitar Hero were it still with us. It may come in scented packaging, but Barter is unafraid to deliver some home truths.
38. Aimee Mann – Patient Zero
At 57, Aimee Mann has been in the entertainment industry for more than half her life. There’s nothin’ you can tell her about ol’ Tinseltown that she doesn’t already know. She’s seen a million fresh-eyed faces pop out of a cab on Santa Monica Boulevard, all to be weathered by the ensuing shit-storm. That brings us to “Patient Zero,” which serves as one of Mann’s finest pieces of songwriting to date. Guided by an insistent palm-muted acoustic and some tastefully-plucked strings, cautionary tales are interwoven with timely election-night grief. Its intricacy is remarkable; its sound is absolutely beautiful. Dream on.
37. Arcade Fire – Everything Now
If you’d have proclaimed circa Neon Bible that Arcade Fire would become the most hated band in indie-rock within the decade, few would have believed you. Yet, here we are: The same folks that once worshiped at the altar of Win Butler and co. now form queues to openly spit on them across any given platform. And for what? A disco record. No, not that one. This one. The one with the “Dancing Queen” piano and the “Send Me on My Way” roots-rock exuberance. Whatever your take on the album’s roll-out, Everything Now‘s title track was a misunderstood rough diamond.
36. Cloud Nothings – Things Are Right with You
“No use in life without a sound,” reasons Dylan Baldi on Cloud Nothings’ fifth album – titled, ahem, Life Without Sound. It’s a sentiment that’s hard to disagree with, particularly within the context of a loud, fun and sadly undervalued rock record. “Things” carries on time-honoured tradition of splashing drums, knife-edge guitar and unfathomably-catchy choruses. Some may misinterpret this being more of the same as a bad thing. Au contraire. It’s a band playing to core strengths. They’ve never been concerned with reinventing the wheel, only rolling with what they’ve got. As luck would have it, that’s more than enough.
35. The Killers – The Man
When U2 made their comeback in the early 2000s, they called it “their application to be the biggest band in the world again.” In a lot of ways, that’s what “The Man” feels like – it swaggers with the kind of confidence that can only come from having ascended the mountain-top and wanting to take in that view once more. The Bowie-friendly lead single from the band’s fifth LP, Wonderful Wonderful, cops its strut from “Stayin’ Alive” and spins with the enchantment of a disco ball. It’s pure gloss and rhinestone, the soundtrack to a neon-tinged Las Vegas night. Diggit.
34. Charly Bliss – DQ
Earlier, Charly Bliss provided one of 2017’s more curious opening lines. What wasn’t mentioned, however, was how they one-upped themselves not three tracks later. “DQ” launches into the fray with – no shit – “I laughed when your dog died.” There’s no coming back from that – you’re immediately in the crossfire. The rest of the band don’t let up. Not that you want them too – “DQ” is addictive listening. It drives home the band’s manic edge, going from hilarious (“I bounced so high/I peed the trampoline”) to devastating (“I’m too sad to be mean”) in a split second.
33. Tigers Jaw – June
For spin, Ben Walsh played all of the guitars, bass and drums; as well as taking lead on the lion’s share of songs. One could put up an argument that Tigers Jaw has ostensibly become his band – but a track like “June” would swiftly refute that. Brianna Collins has always been integral to the band’s sound, and spin‘s centrepiece track makes that clearer than it’s ever been. It’s a song of heartbreak and defeat, with the light shining through to let in hope and sisterhood. Collins may seem a timid presence, but the resonance that “June” has is assertive.
32. Sampha – Plastic 100°C
The first voice heard on “Plastic 100°C” is not Sampha’s, but Neil Armstrong’s – a sample lifted from the recording of the moon landing. Back on earth, our hero is in distress mode – he’s stressed, overheated and distant. The spiral of synth-strings and warm organ allow for his emotional journey to venture between the gutter and the stars. A great opener to an album will transport you to an entirely new place – setting the scene, building a private universe and immersing you within it as a listener. In the case of Process, Sampha’s long-awaited debut album, it’s outer-space.
31. Citizen – Jet
Maybe Citizen have been here before. Seen this room, walked this floor. They’re living in an abstract reality, using surrealist imagery and extended analogies to tap into the human condition and subsequently find themselves closer to it than ever before. “Jet” – and, by extension, October’s As You Please – sees Citizen making a further progression from their previous LP, Everyone is Going to Heaven, as that record did with their debut Youth. Initially caught somewhere between the emo revival and the pop-punk scene, the band has refined their sound and focused in on something uniquely theirs. They’ve taken off.
30. Lincoln Le Fevre and the Insiders – Useless Shit
You might not be there, or you may be past it. There’s a window of time, however, where you will see yourself in everything Lincoln Le Fevre writes. The Tasmanian expatriate finds himself sifting through the rubble on the lead single of his third album, catching reflections in the wreck and ruin. The guitar twangs and gnashes at driving snare rolls, angling for alt-country with rougher edges and enough wear-and-tear to lend to punk credentials. The refrain only needs to be heard once for it to worm into the subconscious; each recital growing louder and louder. It can’t be ignored.
29. Spoon – Hot Thoughts
Your average indie upstart celebrated their 24th birthday in 2017. Spoon celebrated 24 years as a band. It’s not only far from their first rodeo – they practically run the show now. Consider their arc not unlike, say, Madonna or Cher – adapting, evolving and growing with the times, rather than attempting to work against them. The title track to Hot Thoughts hit the airwaves in late January; all tubular bells and hypnotic drum loops ablaze. Perhaps the band’s boldest single choice since 2005’s “I Turn My Camera On,” Spoon’s faith in their own abilities paid off tenfold. Verdict? Ssssssmokin’.
28. Calvin Harris feat. Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry and Big Sean – Feels
Some pop hits are too sweet. Some too sour. Going from track to track like Goldilocks, “Feels” was one of the biggest singles to go down just right. A healthy portion of Pharrell charisma, just a pinch of Katy Perry’s sunny disposition (neither too much nor little) and sprinklings of Big Sean’s incredulous-romantic schtick a la “As Long As You Love Me.” If that wasn’t enough, a Nile Rodgers guitar swagger and a big-swinging bass-line help the whole thing go down a treat. Island-hopping pop was acceptable in the 80s, and feels (pardon the pun) just as pertinent in 2017.
27. Mere Women – Big Skies
They say that in space, no-one can hear you scream. The same seems to go for remote/regional Australia, where Mere Women’s Amy Wilson found herself while writing the band’s third (and best) album. There were few moments that felt as haunting than Wilson reiterating the deceptively-dark advice offered to her by locals on the title track: You better get a dog, girl. Calling out from the darkness with only the pound of floor toms and guitars feeding back to answer it, the whole affair is enough to make one’s blood run cold. “Big Skies” is equal parts bark and bite.
26. LCD Soundsystem – tonite
“I’m the reminder,” James Murphy sarcastically quips into a megaphone. “The hobbled veteran.” He knows he’s too old for this shit – it was partially what brought LCD Soundsystem to a close to begin with. Ironically, this moment comes around halfway into one of the key songs of the band’s comeback – a justification for their rebirth, with renewed sense of purpose. At its core, “tonite” is a song about taking chances – simultaneously harsh in its realism but laced with enough hope to keep the disco-lights flashing. The veteran may be hobbled, but he can still dance himself clean.
25. Kendrick Lamar – DNA.
Dr. Dre – Kendrick Lamar’s childhood hero – rapped a warning to his critics back in 2002: “Don’t think I don’t read your little interviews/And see what you’re saying.” Lamar took this advice to the next level on DAMN.: he’s literally broadcasting his haters, word-for-word, via samples. It’s intentionally provocative – as if to ask, ‘you didn’t think I wasn’t going to hear this, did you?’ It adds to “DNA.”’s righteous fury like gasoline to the fire. Lamar fires off on all cylinders over a clattering, relentless beat. Understandably, too: He’s mad as hell and isn’t gonna take it anymore.
24. Horrorshow – Eat the Cake
Growing up is a long, arduous process. We’re told to put away childish things, and thus party traditions change with age – athough getting fucked up on Fat Lamb and a key of coke may turn you into a bigger brat than red cordial and cake ever could. Horrorshow explore these changes on one of their biggest and most fun singles to date. “Eat the Cake” is replete with double-entendres and a knowing wink across its smartly-written, playful lyrics. Bonus points for the five-star music video, too. As the Aunty Donna boys themselves might say: Haven’t you done well, Horrorshow.
23. Gold Class – Trouble Fun
The title of this cut from Gold Class’ second album is curious, given it’s technically not an actual term. Its pairing of commonplace adjectives, however, immediately sparks imagery – vivid and intimate. Adam Curley has plenty of space in the arrangement for his words to hang and resonate; sparse guitar and metronomic tom-tom pounds draws in breath and promptly exhales at opportune junctures. “They won’t catch my kisses/They won’t catch my fist,” he howls; ‘they’ being “the kids ’round here.” There’s enough pent-up emotion in this moment alone to sign off on it being one of the year’s finest songs.
22. Lonelyspeck – Happy New Year
All is quiet on New Year’s Day. In the beginning, there was darkness. Nothingness. Lonelyspeck – aka Adelaide vocalist/producer/guitarist Sione Teohemunga – creates light with this jaw-dropping creation. “Happy New Year” begins in a fragile state, the vocals whispering against the low hum of a pan-flute. It ascends sonically, but not in the way you’d expect – its clattered beat and sub-bass shock you from your slumber and into the musical equivalent of Get Out‘s sunken place. Lonelyspeck sings from a new perspective, reticent but resolute. “I don’t hate myself/Like I used to,” they sing in resolve. Nor should they.
21. Hair Die – Backburning
Very little information is out there concerning Hair Die, save for knowing the core of the band is made up of brothers and that “Backburning” is the quartet’s debut single. How exactly did we get here, then? Simple, really: “Backburning” is a song that does the talking. That’s quite literal in the case of the song’s second verse, which goes into a rant about the inherently-cynical nature of human interaction. Elsewhere, the track is propelled along by an incessant hat-heavy drum-beat and laser-beam keyboards; recalling proto post-punk and Krautrock in its prime. Whoever you are, Hair Die – keep burning.
That’s it! Part five will be up later this week. Follow along with the hashtag #DJY100 on Twitter. You can also check out the playlist on Spotify below: