The Top 100 Songs of 2017, Part Five: 20 – 1

DJY100PART5

Folks, I could not be more thrilled to bring you the top 20 songs of 2017 and the final part of the DJY100. Thanks so much for reading. I always have so much fun putting these together and I’m really stoked with the response. Look forward to doing it all again soon, but in the meantime be sure to catchup with parts one, two, three and four before proceeding.

Here’s to whatever 2018 has in store!

– DJY, January 2018

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20. Manchester Orchestra – The Gold

Over a decade on from their debut, Manchester Orchestra still easily strike the fear of God into their listeners. The Andy Hull-led project has never been about quiet devastation – it’s about the extremities of the emotional spectrum and the internal conflicts that come with going there. “The Gold” immediately asserted itself as a career-best track for the band in the lead-up to the release of A Black Mile to the Surface. Indeed, as excellent as that record was, it never quite scaled the same heights elsewhere on its tracklisting. Heavenly harmonies, heart-on-sleeve lyrics and strikingly-beautiful arrangements: “The Gold,” indeed.

19. HAIM – Want You Back

Consider “Want You Back” a mosaic of sorts: a complete work of art in its own right, but its foundations are simultaneously laid by dozens of others. Looking closely, you’ll see the likes of Taylor Dayne, Stevie Nicks, Shania Twain and Janet Jackson in alignment – all of whom could have easily made this song just as big of a hit as the Haim sisters have. Of course, the bigger picture is HAIM themselves – they’ve taken everything they’ve learned and made something all-encompassing of their past, present and future. Now make like the video: Shut up and dance already.

18. Gordi – Bitter End

Sophie Payten has never shied away from fragility and vulnerability in her music. Perhaps nowhere in her still-blossoming body of work does she bare quite as much as she does on “Bitter End.” She’s openly seeking tragedy amid reverb, tape loops and delicate acoustic guitar: The refrain, “Don’t deny me,” reveals itself in full to be “Don’t deny me/My bitter end.” It’s a song that never shakes the ever-present feeling of falling in slow motion – the world crumbles around you, and the inevitable demise looms. “Bitter End” comes from a broken place for those unable to escape one themselves.

17. Code Orange – Bleeding in the Blur

When Code Orange signed to Roadrunner Records, many metal fans connected the dots with their love of Fear Factory and Hatebreed to joining the roster. One overlooked aspect of this move, however, was the band’s affinity for alt-metal – the kind Roadrunner was instrumental in making big in the 90s and early 2000s. “Bleeding in the Blur” may be Code Orange’s most accessible moment yet – it was, after all, picked up as a theme song for WWE’s NXT – but it never compromises nor loses the edge that made the band noticeable to begin with. Blood is still thicker.

16. The New Pornographers – High Ticket Attractions

Whiteout Conditions saw a lot of internal changes for The New Pornographers, now in their 20th year as a band. It marked their first without long-serving drummer Kurt Kahle, as well as their first without Destroyer’s Dan Bejar making contributions. It’s worth noting “High Ticket Attractions” immediately sounded like business as usual for the Pornos – in the very best way possible, of course. Carl Newman and Neko Case are perfectly intertwined as vocalists, Blaine Thurier is off sending his keyboards into outer-space and new guy drummer Joe Seiders is locked directly into the groove. Power-pop never felt so powerful.

15. Gold Class – Twist in the Dark

By this point, Gold Class are a well-oiled machine. Its four members work in close quarters, knowing exactly when to hold back and when to butt heads. “Twist in the Dark” is their greatest exercise in dynamics to date – a propulsive post-punk single that barely draws breath across its four-and-a-half minutes. It all comes together in the chorus, where the titular phrase is howled less like a demand and more like a plea. Meanwhile, Evan James Purdey’s guitar sounds like it’s got sparks coming off it, thrashing and radiating against the booming rhythm section. This moment is unquestionably theirs.

14. Antonia and the Lazy Susans – Home Here with Your Friends

The term “wholesome” gets bandied about a lot when discussing Antonia and the Lazy Susans, the bright-eyed and bushy-tailed four-piece from the Blue Mountains. It’s easy to see why – theirs is a warm, inviting and good-natured take on indie-rock; their hearts proudly on the sleeves of their band tees. “Home Here with Your Friends” feels like a big, reassuring hug. It plays on the cliché of “home is where the heart is” and affirms its meaning to an estranged absolute. You’ll be singing in arms with your best mates in no time – “Home Here” achieves this by design.

13. Allday feat. Japanese Wallpaper – In Motion

As impressive as Allday’s 2014 debut Startup Cult was, its lyrical content certainly played to a more adolescent view of women and the world around him. Three years on, Tom Gaynor is a little more centred – he’s found love, however fleeting; and the nights of getting fucked up, while still present, don’t hit him the same way they used to. Somewhere between an internal monologue and a balcony soliloquy, the whole affair is tastefully soundtracked by Melbourne beatmaker Japanese Wallpaper. Gaynor’s reserved, sweetly-melodic voice works well in the foil of the gentle, glowing beat. So this is growing up.

12. Tigers Jaw – Guardian

We write songs of people we love. We write songs of people we hate. There is, of course, a lot of grey area in things between people. A song like “Guardian” fills that void in its own way. Ostensibly, it’s about removing yourself from someone’s life after a long spell of dependency issues and indelible history. It’s a gut-punch of a song, but also liberating in its catharsis – the chord progression slides around in perfect circles; the chorus feels like a lifted burden. Tigers Jaw speak for the downtrodden and the emotionally-distant – and they sing it so beautifully.

11. Charli XCX – Boys

For someone who hasn’t even hit 30 yet, Charli XCX feels as though she’s undergone more transformations than your average Madonna. Hook girl, shouty punk, pop princess, experimental glitch-pop weirdo… one never really knows where she’ll end up next. That’s part of the excitement, to be honest. There’s always an adventure to be had – look at “Boys,” after all. It was attached to easily the biggest music video of the year, but this ain’t no OK Go operation – the song thrives on its own. Playful, charming and ornately-arranged, “Boys” was the straight-girl/gay-guy anthem millennials were craving in 2017.

10. Paramore – Hard Times

In case you didn’t get the memo care of the marimbas and bongos that lift the curtain on Paramore’s fifth album: We’re not in Franklin anymore, Toto. The name remains the same as it ever was, but those seeking a new slab of angst-ridden pop-punk in tune with the band’s early stages are going to find themselves bitterly disappointed – possibly even to the point where they’ll go off and make their own, should it suit them. Progression, see, is a two-way street: “Some of us have to grow up sometimes,” Hayley Williams sang on the band’s self-titled album back in 2013. She wasn’t just talking about herself, or whomever she may have been subtweeting. In order for a band to grow, its listeners have to grow with it – and, thankfully, Paramore have found themselves in a position of power as far as this dynamic is concerned.

For the most part, fans have been willing to go along with whatever Williams and co. throw at them – including line-up shifts, internal conflict and vocoder solos. There’s an ever-present restlessness to what it is they do, and it’s boldly reflected in the image of “Hard Times.” Each listen allows you to pick up on something that hadn’t presented itself previously – a returning Zac Farro, for instance, counting the band in before announcing his triumphant comeback with a thunderous drum fill. Or what about the onomatopoeic “oofff” that lands directly after Williams cartoonishly yelps how she’s “gotta get to rock-bottom”?

The song bounces between Talking Heads eccentricity to state-of-the-art pop on a whim, all the while providing the perfect contrast to Williams’ total-bummer lyrics sheet. The melody may be as bouncy and bright as anything the band has recorded, but even taking a second to scratch below the surface will see Paramore transmogrify into Pagiliacci. That’s what makes this such a striking song – every listen is a new adventure. Paramore are still in the business of misery, but lest we forget that misery loves company.

9. Nick Hakim – Bet She Looks Like You

One verse. One chorus. One drum loop. It doesn’t get much more stripped-back from a structural standpoint as it does on “Bet She Looks Like You.” That’s part of its intrigue – how could a song with so little technically do so much emotionally? A lot of it has to do with Nick Hakim himself, the man behind the music who plays nearly everything on debut album Green Twins and provides the quivering, gasping vocals that serve as the very core of this song’s being. He sings of a love that is killing him – quite literally. “If there’s a God/I wonder what She looks like,” he sings. “I bet she looks like you.” His parting words: “I wish that life/Would feed the tree/And you can put me to sleep/Forever and ever.”

Being a relatively new artist, Hakim is somewhat of a blank canvas. Spending time with “Bet She Looks Like You,” however, one quickly picks up on his methods. He paints with broad strokes of luminous green, circling outlines with shimmering chrome and allowing pitch-blackness to take its place where it can. His voice recalls vintage soul, and carries with it a realm of paradoxes – reverb-heavy, cavernous, distant; and yet as drawn-in and intimate as the bedroom in which it was recorded. His guitar playing shifts from baritone plucking to tasteful upper fretwork, a gated snare its only guiding light. Hakim blends, shifts and reshapes genre semantics to work within. He goes beyond writing a song with “Bet She Looks Like You” – he’s a creator of worlds.

8. Selena Gomez – Bad Liar

As long as sampling has existed in popular music, the side-by-side analysis has been inevitable. It’s easy to see something like “Rapper’s Delight” stemming out of Chic’s “Good Times,” for instance. It’s also fascinating to see the glimmering hope of Dido’s “Thank You” recontextualised as the stormy obsession ballad that is “Stan” by Eminem. What, then, to make of “Psycho Killer” in its new home of Selena Gomez’s “Bad Liar”? They may seem worlds apart – Gomez, after all, was born some 15 years after the song itself was released – but their parallels run closer than you might think.

By sliding Tina Weymouth’s instantly-recognisable bass-line between syncopated claps and a bluesy modulation, one appreciates how rhythmically versatile both artists are. Weymouth knows her way around empty spaces, and Gomez knows how to fill out lingering ones. The scatterbrain lyrics – composed with assistance of the iconic duo, Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter; also responsible for “Hands to Myself” – also resonate with the real live-wire that David Byrne is portraying. Both Byrne and Gomez reach breaking points, while also knowing when to draw back and switch to an internal monologue. There’s inherent struggle in both characters, and the tension builds quickly.

Of course, “Bad Liar” thrives regardless of being aware of its musical context or not – it’s one of the best songs Gomez has ever put her name to, if not the. It’s the perfect balance of smart and sexy, guilty and innocent, hot and cold. For someone who could have easily become a Disney also-ran, it’s been remarkable to see how far Gomez has come in the last half-decade. Should 2018 bring us a new full-length, consider yourselves warned – it’s only gonna get fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa-fa far, far better from here.

7. Calvin Harris feat. Frank Ocean and Migos – Slide

Consider the power of a man like Calvin Harris. Not physical, mind – he’s always been a scrawny type, even as he’s evolved from Scottish geek to Hollywood hunk. It’s more about what he’s able to bring out of people; the way that he can reach into any pop A-lister you can think of and transform them. Florence Welch, the indie queen? Disco diva. Kelis, the milkshake-sipping rnb star? EDM commander. Frank Ocean, the reticent bedroom-dweller who shuns touring and makes introspective music for the emotionally-invested and socially-isolated? Guess what, dude: You’re at the steering wheel of a sports-car, cruising LA with the song of the summer bumping in your trunk.

Ocean certainly feels like the outlier of the three artists involved in “Slide” – yes, including the guy who’s not even from America. What’s fascinating is that he barely changes his approach, even when presented with a slamming boom-bap rhythm and shiny synth patterns. He underplays the whole thing, which subsequently shifts the playing field and levels out in Ocean’s favour.

He’s too cool to get hype – not like Migos, who make their presence felt like the hyenas of The Lion King we so desperately want them to be. Not to say Migos aren’t cool – it’s that they’re a tad more extroverted and certainly more willing to play ball. The two work as perfect foil for one another; such is the pulling power and the masterful eye for detail held by one C. Harris. Exactly how long Harris’ redemptive streak will last is anyone’s guess, but for now it’s better to just cruise.

6. Charlie Puth – Attention

There’s an old saying that you may have heard in your travels: The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world that he didn’t exist. In 2017, the prince of darkness managed to one-up his own trickery, and a new challenger came for the title. And so it went: The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world that someone played bass on “Attention” by boy-wonder pop heartthrob Charlie Puth. You get a glimpse into pure evil in the glint of Puth’s eyes in a making-of video for the track, for which he wrote all of the music. “Everyone asks me who played bass on this track,” he says. There’s a cheeky, smug grin on his face as he reveals the perpetrator: himself, playing a MIDI keyboard.

For those that have heard – and, indeed, paid – “Attention,” this ranks up there with the cake as one of pop culture’s greatest lies. You’d feel betrayed were you not so impressed that the twentysomething wunderkind literally created a one-man band for the song – not only the electric, infused bass-line, but the tasteful, suspenseful palm-mute guitar. He can’t even play guitar, for fuck’s sake.

Perhaps the frustration at Puth’s creation is an overhang from his irritating debut album, Nine-Track Mind, which positioned him as a smug and overly-cocky loverboy, not to mention an easy critical punching bag. Puth’s arrival in 2017 with “Attention” and “How Long” was pop music’s equivalent of Sandra D turning up in the final scene of Grease wearing a leather jacket and smoking a cigarette. The stud has logged on – and he’s gonna talk his shit until you’re licking up every last fake bass-line. Guess it’s true what they say – better the Devil you know.

5. Kendrick Lamar – HUMBLE.

“HUMBLE.” is endlessly quotable. Every line could be tweeted and get thousands of RTs. Every line could be given a bit of art, posted on Insta and rack up five-digit likes within the hour. Even an edit of the song that changes nearly every line to one of the curious artefacts brought up in the first 30 seconds – syrup sandwiches – has proven to be quite popular. There’s one particular line, however, that serves as a rason d’être for Lamar himself. It’s a command, but it’s neither “sit down” nor “be humble.” It’s this: “Show me something natural.” A black man’s afro, for instance. Or perhaps a rear end that hasn’t been digitally edited.

These are just examples, of course. It’s reflective of a greater quest that Lamar is on – not just on DAMN., but his entire career. He’s surrounded by bullshit artists, careerists and fake personas. It’s his duty to dismantle the systems that uphold these sorts of people, in turn making music that is inextricably linked to his own identity. “HUMBLE.,” for all intents and purposes, is a successful mission.

Its clattering piano keys created one of the year’s most hypnotic loops, weaving in and out of busy hi-hats and head-nodding chants while the bass rattles your car speakers. His flow is restless, never settling on a measure or metric but rather ever-evolving as he finds new ways to intertwine himself with his surroundings. Even as the beat rides out, you’re half expecting him to leap right back into the fray and find a dozen new flows to go with it. Could he do it? Easily. He’s a natural.

4. Gordi – Heaven I Know

Quick maths: One two three, one two three, one two three, one two three, one two. Across eight measurements, fourteen beats. 4/4, standard time. Sophie Payten’s whispered numbers game serves as the only percussive backbone of “Heaven I Know” for much of its runtime. It immediately grabs your attention as a peculiarity – especially when Payten’s voice layers on top of itself, marking out the on-beat with an A-shaped C-note on the two and the four. That’s a lot to take in on its own – we haven’t gotten to the military snare drum, the chipmunk vocal samples, the vocoder and the army of trumpets that make their presence felt on an increasing basis as the song progresses, implodes and subsequently fades.

Despite the fact it’s quite clearly a song about letting go and the acceptance of loss, “Heaven I Know” feels like a battle-cry. Its titular refrain is sung heavens-high with stunning harmony, the pain of its heavy-hearted sentiment crashing down on unsuspecting listeners with a considerable wallop. She simultaneously sounds as human as she ever has, while still glitching in the background like a malfunctioning robot.

Coming from any artist, this would be a mesmerising and wholly surprising effort. The fact it comes from an artist who – with all due respect – was previously more at home in the realm of your everyday singer-songwriter makes “Heaven I Know” even more compelling. It comes out of nowhere, and quickly takes up space everywhere until it’s inescapable.

What becomes of the broken hearted? That’s simple: They write songs like “Heaven I Know.”

3. Jacob – How Long Until You’re Next to Me?

Throughout history, popular music has offered up questions that not only work well as song titles, but as choruses. We’ve been questioning each other for millennia: Do you know the way to San Jose? Have you ever seen the rain? Are you gonna go my way? Who let the dogs out? A new question entered the conversation this year – one so straightforward and self-assured, you’re legitimately amazed that it had never been asked before. It’s asked by a band that, although five years in at this point, are entering a new phase of their existence and making changes accordingly. A band that’s developed a cult following in their time, mixing their love of third-wave emo with their heart-eyes emojis for vintage pop. A band that knows a thing or two about breaking hearts and being heartbroken – life may not be easy for a boy named Sue, but it’s just as hard for a band named Jacob.

“How Long Until You’re Next to Me?” was a standalone single for Jacob in 2017. That’s both literal – ie. not being attached to an imminent EP/LP release – and also in the context of stature. This is a peerless song – there was no better Australian song released across the entire calendar year, regardless of any genre semantics or gridlocks. “How Long” defies them anyway – it’s a song that’s just as at home on a summer pop playlist than it would at on the CDJ decks of an alt-club night. It’s got a spring in its step, but a sting in the tail. It’s bubbly and bright, yes; in equal amounts, it’s love-lorn and longing. It’s persistent, too – just when you think it’s done, it goes in for one last lightning round.

To borrow a phrase from Pavement, “How Long Unitl You’re Next to Me?” is an island of such great complexity. It’s simple as apple pie on the surface, but it’s tellingly deceptive. Each listen insists upon another – you’ll have notched up double digits without even noticing – and yet you’re never closer to answering the titular question. We may never – Bob Dylan probably never got an answer for how many roads a man must walk down before you can call him a man. At the very least, Jacob are on the right track.

2. Charly Bliss – Westermarck

Everyone remembers Bart and Milhouse’s all-syrup Squishee bender. The sugar-rush sends both kids into orbit, with Milhouse helpfully suggesting the two “go crazy – Broadway style.” All it took was one hit and they were away. Consider Charly Bliss the musical equivalent of the all-syrup Squishee. Not that they lead to bad decisions or anything like that – it’s just that they’re alarmingly sweet, and going out of your way to seek it out will lead to gasps from on-lookers. At the same time, it’s so easy to get hooked.

There may not be a more alluring voice in contemporary rock music than that of Eva Hendricks’ – it’s so head-range and treacly that one may initially suspect digital manipulation. The guitars are flowery and rainbow-swirled, the drums clinking and clashing against them. If you’re not lost in their world within the first 60 seconds, then you’re straight up not paying enough attention. “Westermarck” is the stand-out track on Guppy, the band’s debut album – and considering three other songs of theirs made the cut in addition to this one, you know that’s saying something.

What makes it so irresistible? It’s the single most succinct and swiftly-executed amalgamation of not only Charly Bliss’ key strengths, but of what made rock music great in 2017. There’s churning guitar, a chorus that demands to be screamed and even a “Teen Spirit”-esque melody-line guitar solo to tide you over. It’s so specifically personal, and yet nothing is ever really given away – what was the cause of the birthday fight that lead to the scarred face? How exactly was a baby going to pop or get shrunk? Was Rick Moranis involved? And would you believe Hendricks if she was right? Surely you would. She can make a believer out of anyone who listens to “Westermarck.”

1. Drake – Passionfruit

It’s a tradition almost as old as hip-hop itself. The beat kicks in, the crowd goes nuts… and just about as it’s about to get going, the artist cuts the music. Verbatim, they’ll tell the crowd something along the lines of: “You can go harder than that! If you’re really ready for this shit, then make some noise!” Noise is made, the song begins again and the energy in the room hits fever pitch. What’s fascinating about “Passionfruit” in its introductory stage is twofold. The first aspect is how Drake takes this live practice and executes it on a recorded song. Just as you’re settling into the groove of Nana Rogues dancehall futurista, a voice interrupts. “Hold on, hold on… fuck that,” it says. It’s DJ Moodymann, taken from a DJ set in 2010 where he botches a mix and makes sure to get it right. To have this experience outside of the realm of live performance is nothing short of disarming – even on subsequent listens, when you know it’s coming, it’s the equivalent of waiting for your toast to pop up.

The other half of this curiosity relates back to “Passionfruit” from a musical standpoint. Usually, the songs being hyped up by this fake-out are tracks like “All of the Lights.” Something that builds up and explodes, high on dynamic lift. “Passionfruit” is not that kind of song – at least, it doesn’t seem to be. It loops around hypnotically, its neon-glowing glass synths serving as a waterbed for Drake’s buttery vocals and the shuffled hi-hats keeping rhythm. The way it continues with such insistence, however, makes you more and more invested in how it progresses. Drake could have done this for any of his more hyped numbers in his arsenal – imagine this within the confines of “Jumpman,” for instance. For whatever reason, though, “Passionfruit” was selected as the song with which to start the motherfuckin’ record over. And it’s still believable.

Needless to say, “Passionfruit” is a little more nuanced and a lot more complex to explain than your average Global Top 50 entrant. It’s bright and tropical, yet it works just effectively for listeners in downer moods. It soundtracks glasses of champagne out on the dancefloor as well as drinking so much that you call them anyway. Drake is in your ear, but he’s also a million miles away. It beams with both the millennial-pink tinge of the club and the unforgiving white of the streetlights on the drive home. The chord progression is uplifting, and yet it’s easily contrasted and off-set by atonal blips that barely fit the metre. It’s truly a testament to Drake’s versatility as a singer and as an artist that he’s able to encompass so much within a single song – “Passionfruit” has more levels to it in five minutes than many acts are able to even fathom across an entire LP.

It’s fitting that the last voice you hear on “Passionfruit” – much like the first voice – is not Drake’s. This time, it’s Zoë Kravitz – daughter of Lenny, actor and singer – coming down a phone line, á la “Marvin’s Room.” Her only line is this: “Umm… I’m trying to think of the right thing to say.” There’s no resolution. The conflict that arises within the song’s lyrics is not resolved. The tension hangs in the air. And yet. And yet. And yet. The beat goes on. If the song didn’t transition into the “Jorja Interlude” on More Life, one could envision it going on forever. Still on this motherfuckin’ record. Probably always will be.

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Thanks so much for reading! Don’t forget you can listen to a playlist of nearly every song featured in this list (with apologies to Clean Shirt and Neil Cicierega) below:

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The Top 100 Songs of 2017, Part Four: 40 – 21

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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.

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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.

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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:

 

2017: The Best of The Rest

Photo: Ryan Kitching

As you’ve probably gathered, this site is primarily about my main passion: Music. With that said, I wanted to give a quick shout-out to my other interests – podcasts, pro-wrestling, comedy, Twitter and movies – with these top five lists. Big love to everyone making it happen this year, and I look forward to plenty more to come in 2018.

– DJY, December 2017

Top Five Podcasts of 2017

1. Mike Check with Cameron James & Alexei Toliopoulos
2. blink-155
3. Off-Book: The Improvised Musical Podcast
4. Don’t You Know Who I Am? with Josh Earl
5. Aunty Donna Podcast

Top Five TV Shows of 2017

1. BoJack Horseman
2. Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later
3. Brooklyn Nine-Nine
4. Stranger Things 2
5. Rosehaven

Top Five Stand-Up Specials of 2017

1. Maria Bamford – Old Baby
2. Patton Oswalt – Annihilation
3. Neal Brennan – 3 Mics
4. Tom Walker – Bee Boo
5. Kurt Braunohler – Trust Me

Top Five Live Comedy Shows of 2017

1.  Aunty Donna – Big Boys @ Enmore Theatre
2. Demi Lardner – Look What You Made Me Do @ Enmore Theatre Wild Oats Bar
3. DeAnne Smith – Post-Joke Era @ Factory Theatre Fusebox
4. Tom Walker and Sam Campbell – King Baby’s Respectful Christmas Jamboree @ Giant Dwarf
5. Felicity Ward – 50% More Likely to Die @ The Famous Spiegeltent


Top Five Twitter Accounts of 2017

1. Michael Ian Black (@michaelianblack)
2. Ijeoma Oluo (@IjeomaOluo)
3. Allison Gallagher (@allisongallaghr)
4. Kumail Nanjiani (@kumailn)
5. karate horse (@Karate_Horse)

Top Five WWE Matches of 2017

1. Pete Dunne vs. Tyler Bate @ NXT TakeOver: Chicago
2. The Usos vs. The New Day @ Hell in a Cell
3. Aleister Black vs. Velveteen Dream @ NXT TakeOver: War Games
4. DIY vs. The Authors of Pain @ NXT TakeOver: Chicago
5. The Undisputed Era vs. SANiTY vs. The Authors of Pain and Roderick Strong @ NXT TakeOver: War Games

Top Five Non-WWE Matches of 2017

1. Kenny Omega vs. Kazuchika Okada @ Wrestle Kingdom 11
2. Will Ospreay vs. Robbie Eagles @ PWA Call to Arms
3. The Hardys vs The Young Bucks @ Supercard of Honour XI
4. Jonah Rock vs. Caveman Ugg @ PWA Release the Quacken Bush
5. Cody Rhodes vs. Dalton Castle @ ROH Final Battle

Top Five Movies of 2017

1. Get Out
2. Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi
3. Thor: Ragnarok
4. Logan
5. xXx: Return of Xander Cage

Happy new year!

The Top 100 Songs of 2017, Part Three: 60 – 41

DJY100PART3

Officially cracking the halfway point now and things are set to get very interesting. Who’s bubbling under? Who’s leading the way into the top end of the countdown? Who is screwing with the lights? Make sure you’re up to date with parts one and two, won’t you?

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60. Amy Shark – Blood Brothers

You’re probably most familiar with the first two singles from Amy Shark’s debut EP – the first was the runner-up in 2016’s Hottest 100, the second was recently certified gold. To take in the best of her songwriting abilities, however, one has to venture a little further into the tracklist. “Blood Brothers” gurgles a chopped-and-screwed vocal sample over a hypnotic boom-clap and irresistible vocal melodies. “I feel like a million dollar bill,” Shark purrs in the track’s chorus. Old mate sounds like one, too – courtesy of M-Phazes (good gracious) on the ones and twos. This shark can smell blood.

59. LCD Soundsystem – call the police

There was hours of debate, both online and off, regarding the reunion of LCD Soundsystem. Some claimed it was too soon for the band to get back together after such a definitive end, others found solace in Murphy’s inspiration from the late David Bowie to continue. Wherever you stood prior to the release of american dream, it’s worth noting the band putting out new music did bring a lot of people together. “call the police” was our first proper taste of things to come, and its urgency felt like the rush of blood that we needed. Thus began new life.

58. Gang of Youths – Let Me Down Easy

Here goes David Le’aupepe again on his own, going down the only road he’s ever known. Go Farther in Lightness is an album about starting again and bouncing back from your lowest. On an album that’s at times exhaustive in its triumph, it’s nice to have a nice middle ground: low on fanfare and high on hooks. It’s a baroque-flavoured indie-disco – call it ELO Soundsystem if you have to. It’s charming, understated and engaging on its own accord. Plus, it’s the only single of 2017 to drop both Journey and Whitesnake references. Oh, and the word “solipsism.” Just ’cause.

57. Neil Cicierega – Annoyed Grunt

Because where else are you going to find Larry King, Home Improvement, Disturbed, Annie Lennox, Phil Collins, Mungo Jerry, Korn, Barney Gumble, M.I.A., Homer Simpson, Austin Powers, Yoshi the Dinosaur, Rammstein, Third Eye Blind, Green Day and David Lee Roth under the same roof? Fucking nowhere else, that’s where. Oooh-WA-AA-AA-AHH!

56. Lil Uzi Vert – XO Tour Llif3

The kids call it “emo rap.” Instead of guns, bitches and bling, these mainstream hip-hop stars are all about pills, depression and AutoTune. Traditionalists may bristle, but it’s clear this music is resonating. There was perhaps no greater example than Lil Uzi Vert’s breakthrough smash, far removed from his “yah-yah-yah-yah”s of “Bad and Boujee.” “XO” takes about 30 seconds to lock into your brain and will refuse to leave for weeks on end. It’s brash, it’s booming and it’s not afraid to talk about its feelings. All his friends are dead, but Uzi made plenty of new ones in 2017.

55. Julien Baker – Appointments

You can hear a pin drop when Julien Baker sings. The Tennessee native has a way of turning every song she performs into the quietest place on earth. Adults weep like babies in her presence. She reduces the strongest person you know into an inconsolable mess. Unsurprisingly, this has not changed for her second album. If anything, songs like “Appointments” have served to reinforce her resonance. There was nothing in 2017 that was quite like Baker – defiantly, resolutely – singing the phrase “I have to believe that it is” into the ether. She’ll make a believer of you yet.

54. DEAFCULT – Rubix

Here’s the skinny on DEAFCULT: Loud guitars. Four of them. Interested? Right this way. Watch in awe as these Brisbane natives find their own way of making this quadruple-attack work entirely in their favour, eschewing maximalist overcooking in favour of tactical dynamic shifts and strict sensibilities. Few songs in the calendar year were able to find the balance between heaviness and accessibility the way “Rubix” did. It resulted in one of the year’s best singles from a band that you’d understandably only expect album cuts from. Lift your fixed gazes like antennas to heaven, from your shoes to the horizon.

53. Charly Bliss – Percolator

First impressions stick – so Charly Bliss ensured that every second of the opening song of their debut album absolutely mattered. We’re talking right down to the wire here – even the second where everything drops out and there’s complete silence needs to be there. It allows for the cacophony of cymbal smashes and shrieking guitar to jump out at you with even more adrenalin and aggression. It’s all packed in here, about as tightly as one could hope for, and it’s a rollercoaster of a listen. One of the few tracks in 2017 to leave one genuinely exhausted afterwards.

52. Pale Waves – Television Romance

Very little is known about Pale Waves, the goth-pop curiousities that appeared more or less out of nowhere in 2017 with their retro-friendly take on new wave, new romantic sounds. They appear to be under the mentorship of throwback pin-ups The 1975, and the through-line is ever apparent on “Television Romance.” It should be noted, however, Pale Waves aren’t just cool by association – they’re forging some fashionable chops of their own at a crucial developmental period. The chorus melts in your mouth, the guitars are crystallized delights, the gated snare thwacks in the sweet spot of your heart. Delightful.

51. HAIM – Little of Your Love

The love of choreography displayed by HAIM in their music videos isn’t just cheap nostalgia. The siblings are wholly committed to indulging in this bygone era, while simultaneously pulling it through the vortex and into the present day. “Little of Your Love” could sit comfortably in the discography of, say, the Jackson 5 or The Supremes – yet it still sounds as vital as any state-of-the-art chart-topper. It’s insanely catchy and righteously harmonious, with its double-claps and horn-section honks peppering what’s already a tasty dish. Once the sisters are done, you’ll be willing to give more than just a little.

50. Tigers Jaw – Window

“You couldn’t stop it if you wanted to,” sing Ben Walsh and Brianna Collins in their unmistakable dual-vocal approach on the closer of Tigers Jaw’s fifth LP. It’s specific to the narrative, but also entirely apparent to their own. Losing three-fifths of their line-up in one fell swoop would have entirely derailed a lesser band. As luck would have it, Tigers Jaw are one of the most resilient and resolute acts to emerge in the fourth-wave emo revival. spin, as an LP, proves it. “Window” allows for the album to flicker and fade, its burn slow but ever so beautiful.

49. Jen Cloher – Forgot Myself

Picture this, dear reader: Jen Cloher, Courtney Barnett, Bones Sloane and Jen Sholakis enter a room. They take up their respective instruments, all facing one another from their respective stations. Greg Walker presses record. As R.E.M. once sang, sweetness follows. Jen Cloher abandoned her folk-rock roots some five years ago and has never looked back. It’s given her a Dylan-goes-electric reinvention, a second shot at glory and unquestionably her strongest LPs to date. It all starts here for Cloher’s eponymous fourth album, and once that groove is locked in there’s no getting out of it. You’ll see it coming, believe.

48. Calvin Harris feat. Future and Khalid – Rollin

Whether it’s Dizzee on the dancefloor or Rihanna finding love, Calvin Harris has always known the right people to put in front of his many sonic landscapes. His eye as a curator has never been keener than on Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1, where he tees up a seemingly-endless array of guest stars to bask in the sunshine of his G-Funk inspired beats. Teen wunderkind Khalid takes the impeccable chorus on “Rollin” (not to be confused with Limp Bizkit’s), while messianic mumbler Future vibes out the warbling synths and boom-bap rhythms. Name a more iconic duo? On “Rollin,” you can’t.

47. Dune Rats – Braindead

It’s class warfare whenever the topic of Dune Rats comes up in conversation. They’re simultaneously one of the country’s most beloved and most despised bands – and there’s not a lot of grey area to work with. It’s mostly green, actually. January’s The Kids Will Know It’s Bullshit didn’t convert any non-believers, but it nevertheless expanded their empire beyond their wildest dreams. “Braindead” gets by on some churning chords, a Lemonheads-y detour and one of their most primitive, simple bunny-mosh choruses. It showed exactly what could happen when these hazy-eyed slackers get their collective shit together – cutting the bullshit, if you will.

46. Tropical Fuck Storm – Chameleon Paint

After nearly 20 years at the helm of The Drones, Gareth Liddiard wanted to try something different. Enter Tropical Fuck Storm, a Melburnian supergroup containing the DNA of Harmony and High Tension for good measure. What’s ensued thus far is unlike anything the four members of the band have ever done before – not quite like this, anyway. Processed beats. Hyperdrive guitars. Haunting dissonance. It’s still unmistakably Liddiard out front, rattling off snarky mumbo-jumbo with the best of them (“FYI, a POV/Don’t make an NGO”). This time around, however, his voices bristles against the winds of change. Blowing a gust.

45. Future – Mask Off

Our scene is set care of Selma, a late-70s musical penned by one Tommy Butler. A song from a key part of the musical, “Prison Song” is a remorseful gospel number that swells with strings and a distinctive flute. The latter is what breathes life into “Mask Off,” which arrives some 40 years after Selma and serves as a true breakthrough moment for one Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn – whom you probably know better as Future. His drug-addled chants and moment of indecision turned into one of pop’s most inescapable choruses for 2017 – and with good reason, too. Percocet, anyone?

44. RAAVE TAPES – k bye

The band name is all-caps. The single title is all lower-case. Don’t let the latter fool you, though – THERE’S A LOT OF SHOUTING. There’s also a buzzing, electric riff that blasts through this motherfucker, too. Joab Eastley is a man possessed, sending his humble six-string into outer-space while he shrieks from the bottom of a K-hole just to be heard. Everything about “k bye” is decidedly batshit – and, in all honesty, it should not work nearly as well as it does. Maybe there’s something in the water up in Newcastle. Maybe their drinks got spiked. Who’s to say?

43. Azim Zain and His Lovely Bones – Dreams I Could Recall

Some 286 kilometres separate Sydney and Canberra. For just over a year, Azim Zain lived between the two – finding conflict and dead-ends, but also slivers of beauty. All of it was contained on his second EP, recorded with his Canberra-based backing band in Sydney. Keeping track so far? A little insight and introspection comes through on the EP’s single and easy standout, in which our hero stargazes and looks for solace in the in-between of his split-life living. The guitars glisten, his voice aches with pensive unrest and the poetic outro is one of the year’s most quietly-devastating moments.

42. Turnover – Super Natural

The cover of Good Nature, Turnover’s third album, depicts a utopian forest filled with animals. It’s based on reality, but doesn’t feel real itself. The same can be said of Good Nature itself – it sees and glistens in the same sunlight as us, but its sound drifts listeners away to somewhere beyond. It’s bathed in light, hazy on the horizon and gentle to the touch. The term “supernatural” has been used in every corner of music, from Santana to the Sugababes to last year’s Carly Rae Jepsen banger. Turnover, however, seem to incorporate it in an entirely new sense.

41. TOTTY – RIFF

Yes, “RIFF” has a sick riff. It’s jangly, it’s catchy and it’s all fuzzed out. “RIFF,” however, is more than just about shredding your geet. It’s an acronym, a YOLO for the burnouts: Remember, It’s For Fun. Wollongong’s TOTTY know all too well about having fun – they’re named after their singer’s dog, after all; and what’s more fun than dogs? Their sole purpose seems to be bringing a little bit of their own joy into the lives of others. To achieve that as early as your debut single is hitherto unheard of. Now sit, stay, roll over and enjoy.

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Hope you all had a great holiday period! Back next week for part four. Don’t forget to follow along on Twitter using the hashtag #DJY100, and follow the Spotify playlist below to listen to (nearly) all of the songs we’ve talked about so far:

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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Almost halfway! Keep updated with the hashtag #DJY100 on Twitter and follow the Spotify playlist below:

 

The Top 100 Songs of 2017, Part One: 100 – 81

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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

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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.

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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:

The Top 50 Albums of 2016

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  1. Urthboy – The Past Beats Inside Me Like a Second Heartbeat

  2. Beyoncé – Lemonade

  3. The Avalanches – Wildflower

  4. Bon Iver – 22, A Million

  5. Camp Cope – Camp Cope

  6. H A N N A H B A N D – Quitting Will Improve Your Health

  7. Marcus Whale – Inland Sea

  8. Solange – A Seat at the Table

  9. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

  10. Pinegrove – Cardinal

  11. Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book

  12. Ceres – Drag it Down on You

  13. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity

  14. PUP – The Dream is Over

  15. Anohni – Hopelessness

  16. The Hotelier – Goodness

  17. The Drones – Feelin Kinda Free

  18. Sturgill Simpson – A Sailor’s Guide to Earth

  19. A Tribe Called Quest – We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service

  20. Touché Amoré – Stage Four

  21. David Bowie – Blackstar

  22. Leonard Cohen – You Want it Darker

  23. case/lang/veirs – case/lang/veirs

  24. The Finks – Middling

  25. The Monkees – Good Times!

  26. Balance and Composure – Light We Made

  27. Burlap – Burnout King

  28. Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition

  29. Oathbreaker – Rheia

  30. Kari Faux – Lost En Los Angeles

  31. Pity Sex – White Hot Moon

  32. Shirley Collins – Lodestar

  33. Basement – Promise Everything

  34. Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost

  35. American Football – American Football

  36. The Nation Blue – Black/Blue

  37. Fear Like Us – Succour

  38. Nails – You Will Never Be One of Us

  39. Stockades – Open

  40. Blood Orange – Freetown Sound

  41. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

  42. White Lung – Paradise

  43. Safe Hands – Tie Your Soul to Mine

  44. Two Steps on the Water – God Forbid Anyone Look Me in the Eye

  45. L-Fresh the Lion – Become

  46. Ariana Grande – Dangerous Woman

  47. DJ Snake – Encore

  48. Drake – Views

  49. The Dillinger Escape Plan – Dissociation

  50. Every Time I Die – Low Teens

The Top 50 Albums of 2015

  1. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

  2. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly

  3. MAKING – HIGHLIFE

  4. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle

  5. Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free

  6. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love

  7. Royal Headache – High

  8. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love

  9. Turnover – Peripheral Vision

  10. The Mountain Goats – Beat the Champ

  11. Title Fight – Hyperview

  12. Silversun Pickups – Better Nature

  13. Citizen – Everybody is Going to Heaven

  14. Grenadiers – Summer

  15. Deafheaven – New Bermuda

  16. Northlane – Node

  17. Waxahatchee – Ivy Tripp

  18. Death Cab for Cutie – Kintsugi

  19. Carb on Carb – Carb on Carb

  20. The Hard Aches – Pheromones

  21. Jess Locke – Words That Seem to Slip Away

  22. CHVRCHES – Every Open Eye

  23. Best Coast – California Nights

  24. Tanned Christ – Antipodean Sickness

  25. Kissing Booth – Never Settle

  26. José González – Vestiges and Claws

  27. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell

  28. Jeff Rosenstock – We Cool?

  29. High Tension – Bully

  30. War on Women – War on Women

  31. Wavves – V

  32. Young Fathers – White Men Are Black Men Too

  33. Jamie xx – In Colour

  34. Kurt Vile – b’lieve i’m goin down…

  35. Worriers – Imaginary Life

  36. Miguel – Wildheart

  37. Sleaford Mods – Key Markets

  38. The Front Bottoms – Back On Top

  39. Refused – Freedom

  40. Dan Mangan + Blacksmith – Club Meds

  41. Joanna Newsom – Divers

  42. Hop Along – Painted Shut

  43. Low – Ones and Sixes

  44. Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes – Blossom

  45. Adventures – Supersonic Home

  46. Girlpool – Before the World Was Big

  47. Rolo Tomassi – Grievances

  48. The Go! Team – The Scene Between

  49. Marduk – Frontschwein

  50. Marina and the Diamonds – FROOT

For Hannah, Wherever I May Find Her.

I found out it was over second-hand – from Josh, who I wasn’t sure if you knew personally or not. “Did you hear?” I hadn’t, as it turned out. It hadn’t even crossed my mind. Still, I opened my phone to the corresponding story; and there it was. The end, in plain text; accompanied by a really lovely recent photo of you. It was clearly taken in happier times. It managed to somehow soften the blow, even though I knew what I was reading would leave an indelible mark that not even endless plays of the songs we sang together would mend.

In truth, I knew you weren’t really gone. I’d still see you around. We’d still go to the same shows. End up in the same pubs, cornering the same back tables to talk obscure grindcore and our friends’ bands. Even so, I knew from that moment things wouldn’t be the same. They couldn’t. When you extract something that has clearly meant so much to so many people, it’s not as easy as arriving at acceptance and awaiting what comes next. The truth is there’s a lot more to it than that.

The first few times I saw you sing, I felt like I was intruding somehow. I wish I could properly explain why. As many times as I’ve stood between the bear claws or made my presence felt in any sort of similar space, I’ve always felt as though I needed to justify being there. That I deserved to be there. The others could just walk in and make it their own. Not me. I spent my teens trying to figure out where I belonged, and I’ve spent most of my twenties trying to hold onto it. Not just to be tolerated, but to be accepted.

You made me feel accepted every time we were together, and I will never forget that. You will never know how much that meant to me. I can’t even begin to describe it myself. You could have asked anyone to sing with you, to travel with you and to share in your greatest moments. The times that you chose me are some of the greatest times of my entire life. You opened yourself up to me. You made time for me. You treated me as a peer. As an equal. It validated my core belief that we are all in this together.

I saw you sing a total of 30 times. Every time we reached a milestone – the sweet 16th, the 20th – you always made a point of it. You told everyone in the room and called for a round of applause. Even done ironically, it still made me feel that every waking hour I had spent travelling to be with you was worth it. I wouldn’t trade in a single one of those moments for anything else.

The first few times I saw you, I nodded along and kept to myself. I learnt some words and mouthed along to them for the next few after that. Soon, I was singing along. By the time the second album was launched, I had turned your songs into full-body experiences. I still have that photo of you and I, side by side. You playing your song, me screaming into the ether. Zach took it. He always caught our best moments together.

People might have been confused by the guy up the front, yelling angrily at people that were presumably his friends. I was past the point of caring. Nobody made me want to be myself the way that you did. No-one helped me to make sense of me and my condition and the way that I am the way that you did. You allowed my inhibitions to come out. You provided a space for me to be me, and to share that with people I love. Again, I tell you: I will never forget that. You will never know how much that meant to me.

I’ve spent the majority of my life as an outlier. I am Autistic. I am a large mass of a being – six foot tall and 300 pounds, if we’re using that system of measurement. I was never in any cool punk bands. I didn’t have a circle of friends when I started coming to these kinds of shows. I still don’t really feel as though I do. All I do is look in. I go and I stand on my own, and I leave on my own. As any self-respecting indie tragic knows, that cycle is completed by going home, crying and wanting to die. Thanks, Moz. Because of what you gave to me, however, you broke that cycle. You dismantled it and destroyed it beyond any possible repair. You made me want to survive.

I haven’t spoken to you since I found out it was over. I’m sorry I didn’t reach out. I hope you read this. I hope you know I meant every single word of it.

Thank you for being patient with me.

Thank you for taking care of me.

Thank you for inviting me into your little world.

The Top 100 Songs of 2016, Part Five: 20 – 1

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Let’s wrap this one up, shall we? Don’t look back in anger – look back in pride at the 20 best songs to be released in 2016. If you are interested in songs 100 through 21: one, two, three, four, tell me that you love me more.

Thanks for reading!

– DJY, January 2017

20. Somos – Thorn in the Side

And the boy with the thorn in his side The Smiths so fondly sang of all those years ago grew up to be Michael Fiorentino, lead singer of (sadly now-defunct) midwestern alt-emo outfit Somos. It may be a generational and geographical leap, but the through-line is there – the off-beat vocal entry, sudden chordal shifts, the anthemic chorus destined to be reblogged for eternia. This tightly-wound, masterfully-spun tale emphasises the firm grip Somos held on melody, song structure and tone – lightyears ahead of the majority of their genre’s peers. Don’t get mad, don’t get even – just get sadder.

19. Mere Women – Numb

2016 was the year Mere Women reached down deeper and darker than they ever had before. This was thanks in no small part to the expansion of the line-up to feature a bass player, but also due to the bleak, unforgiving nature of “Numb,” which was their offering to a split seven-inch with hyped Melbournites Gold Class. The screech and scratch on Flyn McKinnirey’s guitar sound bristles against the cavernous sounds of the misanthropic, recalcitrant vocals and the bustling, stick-breaking rim-shots. “Nothing fills the void like you do,” pines Amy Wilson. The same, truly, can be said for Mere Women.

18. Cloud Nothings – Modern Act

“Here we are among the living,” Dylan Baldi reports after two years of silence. He’s at the helm of a new incarnation of Cloud Nothings, with a new guitarist to his right and a rejuvenated sense of perspective. The nihilist, implosive anger behind songs like “No Future, No Past” has been cautiously tweaked and shifted towards uncertain but determined hope: “I want a life/That’s all I need lately.” Having formed the group while still in college, Baldi has more or less grown up in public with Cloud Nothings as the soundtrack. “Modern Act” notes a fresh start and new beginnings.

17. The Hard Aches – Gut Full

Although they are not a blues act by any stretch, The Hard Aches are still able to dish out oh-lonesome-me break-up numbers quicker than you can say “today my woman left me.” It’s even an admission in the song in question: “We’ve seen this one before,” so goes the lyric. So what is it that puts “Gut Full” at the top of the entire Hard Aches canon? There are legs and lips that can’t be felt. There are stomach turns and fault lines. There are moments of complete futility and dissonance, culminating in complete catharsis. Essentially, it’s a full-body experience.

16. Camp Cope – Jet Fuel Can’t Melt Steel Beams

Wake up, sheeple. Camp Cope were all guns blazing for single number two lifted from their instant-classic debut. They’re mad as hell – and, as far as street harrassment from your unfriendly neighbourhood fuckboys is concerned, they’re not going to take it anymore. And really, why the fuck should they? The three women of Camp Cope and countless more of their ilk have been told to excuse or even warmly receive this building block of rape culture. “Jet Fuel” takes the power back in the most righteous way. Those singing it back at every show have made it their own.

15. The Avalanches feat. Danny Brown and MF DOOM – Frankie Sinatra

Let it never be said they didn’t do it their way. Ever. By divine means – or perhaps thanks to that old black magic – The Avalanches returned at long last smack bang in the middle of 2016 with this tuba-tooting, eastern-flavoured oddity. Immediately indicating their recalibrated focus on hip-hop, a feverish Danny Brown bowls himself over the song’s seasick oom-pa-pa while the instantly indelible sample hook digs in. Once the “My Favourite Things” detour seals the deal after MF Doom lays down a killer verse, it’s official: The hills are alive with the sound of The Avalanches. That’s life!

14. Ceres – Choke

Tom Lanyon is a dog chasing a car. “I don’t know what I would do/If I got you in my bedroom,” he admits in a restrained, confessional manner to a significant – albeit abstract – other. His words are carried by the guiding light of his guitar, seemingly the only object that can best channel his lovelorn, late-twenties confusion. When his bandmates join, his words become burning effigies. He no longer cares who hears or what anyone will make of his affirmations. In moments like these, one sees a long future with Ceres. One filled with alt-rock perfection like “Choke.”

13. Alex Lahey – Let’s Go Out

Imagine, if you will, Robyn kicking around South Yarra rather than Stockholm. She may have ended up writing “Let’s Go Out” instead of “Dancing On My Own.” She’s not fixated on an ex – just trying to get a friend with benefits out of her head. She’s not defiantly carving up the dancefloor – just grateful to be out of the house. It might feel like a long tram ride to get from Robyn to Alex Lahey, but it’s closer than you might think. Both are pop anthems – they just take very different routes there. Hey, remember that time…

12. Camp Cope – Lost: Season One

There’s many valid reasons that a plethora of young people admire and idolise one Georgia Macdonald – or Georgia Maq, with a Q, to friends. One finds a lot of them within “Lost: Season One.” There’s her intrinsic relatability – “maybe I’ll never get it” is chanted with just the right tinge of exasperation. There’s her quips and pop culture references – “still living like dogs in space,” indeed. Above all, however, is her striking honesty that bleeds into every word. It’s songs like “Lost” that cemented Camp Cope as a sacred text to many battling their own smoke monsters.

11. The Monkees – Me and Magdalena

Starring Ben Gibbard in the role he was born to play: Monkees ballad writer. Setting up a gorgeous lead vocal to the dark horse of the group, Michael Nesmith, this California daydream is bound to cheer up even the sleepiest of Jeans; resulting in a quaint, stunningly beautiful slow-dance to believe in. The heartstrings are tenderly plucked at with every lyrical image vividly springing to life between the creak of the piano and the tried-and-true vocal harmonies. “Everything lost will be recovered,” Gibbard philosophises through the voices of his heroes. Truly, “Magdalena” sounds like falling in love all over again.

10. Anohni – Drone Bomb Me

For many, the chilling and unequivocally beautiful voice of the artist known as Anohni was first made apparent on “Hope There’s Someone,” the opening number from Antony and the Johnsons’ breakthrough 2005 album, I am a Bird Now. Across sparse piano, we are presented with perhaps one of the most succinct and powerful opening lines of the era: “Hope there’s someone to take care of me when I die.” Call it cautious optimism, call it a morose sealing of fate, call it facing the inevitable. The only thing you can’t call it is not powerful – it’s the kind of moment in music that truly stops one in their tracks entirely; stunning in a quite literal sense.

A decade on, Antony and the Johnsons are gone. In their place stands Anohni, a lone and mysterious figure that has gone back into hiding behind blurred press shots and black veil costumes when performing live. Everything around Anohni’s voice has changed – icy synthesizer spikes stick out and impose above you like sharpened stalactites, a drum machine whirring off in the distance. Both are care of Hudson Mohawke and Oneohtrix Point Never, acclaimed experimental composers and producers in their own right, who smartly arrange the background and environment for Anohni’s voice to thrive in. The opening line and moment that begins “Drone Bomb Me,” however, is just as resonant and jaw-dropping as “Hope There’s Someone.” That voice – pained, desperate, soul intact but bruised nonetheless – cries out: “Love, drone bomb me/Blow me from the mountains, and into the sea.”

That alone would have finalised “”Drone Bomb Me’”s place as one of the top-tier singles of 2016. Still, we’re not finished. We’re thrown among the cacophony of faux-truimphant synth brass, clattering hi-hats and that wailing, pained voice. The accompanying video sees former supermodel Naomi Campbell dancing to the song’s incessant beat while also crying as she lip-syncs the at-times unbearably emotional lyrics. This imagery alone is “Drone Bomb Me” incarnate: It’s warfare you can dance to.

9. Urthboy feat. Okenyo and Sampa the Great – Second Heartbeat

You can always judge a person by the vibe of their city
I’ve always believed that
It’s deeper than it seems

Joni Rush

When Tim Levinson began working on his fifth album under the moniker of Urthboy, he researched aspects of modern history in relation to Sydney, hoping to create a linear conceptual piece taking listeners from the 1950s to now. That’s not what he ended up with. Instead, he found there was a bigger – and, it should be noted, better – concept that came with weaving the stories of a bygone era with that of his own family. It was here that Levinson lucked upon the album’s title: The Past Beats Inside Me Like a Second Heartbeat, itself a line lifted from writer John Banville. “Second Heartbeat” is the album’s titular number of sorts – a centrepiece of both the album and of Levinson’s two-decades-and-change career.

Guiding listeners from Africa to Lakemba and right into this very moment, Levinson and his cohorts – Play School presenter-cum-nu-soul sensation Okenyo and hip-hop dynamo Sampa the Great – make it a journey worth embarking upon. Their inclusion also adds to the deeper subtext of The Past… serving as much a tribute to history’s intersections as it is to the women in Levinson’s life. Whether family by blood or by circumstance, each play a vital role in the record. When Okenyo and Levinson sing the line “I won’t walk this road alone” in unison, it sends a clear message: We’re all in this together.

8. Alex Lahey – You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me

Earlier in the countdown, we discussed “Boyfriend,” the twirling electro-pop dancefloor filler from Tegan and Sara. It’s a song that, conceptually, deals with a new romance between an openly-queer person and someone that’s lived their entire life as a heterosexual. When the latter is reticent about being seen in public with the former, the song poses this heart-wrencher: “I don’t wanna be your secret anymore.” It’s a unique subject matter, especially as the ideas behind sexuality and gender are becoming more fluid and ambiguous within queer discourse. Enter “You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me,” the breakout smash from indie-pop Melbourne ledge Alex Lahey. It’s a song that, while not exactly on the same wavelength as that of “Boyfriend,” is certainly within the same ball park. A hint: the term “people” within the song’s title might also be used in the same context of the evergreen double entendre “What do you mean, ‘you people’?”

People like Lahey are not the kind of people the song’s target normally find themselves staying over with – “long after my lights go out,” as our hero dutifully notes. It’s for this reason, however, that the pursuit becomes all the more engaging. It’s out of the ordinary. It’s fresh. It’s new. It’s exciting. It’s a little surprising. The same can all be said for Lahey and her amazing technicolour dream song, too. As her prolix confessional is matched up to guitars that jangle, rattle and roll, it grows greater than one could ever think possible of a three-minute pop song. This song was destined for bigger things the second it hit radio. We now see it for what it is – one of the year’s most cleverly subversive and progressively-minded indie smashes. Now, where’s that copy of Mulholland Drive gotten to?

7. Drake feat. Rihanna – Too Good

Consider the history of the male-female duet throughout pop music’s history. There are several ways about this trope, all presenting fascinating studies in dynamics. There are instances where both sides are smitten – “Islands in the Stream,” “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” There are instances where it’s acrimonious and gnashing – “Somebody That I Used to Know” with its devastating final blow, or “Nothing Better” with its artful dissection of the “baby please don’t go” myth. There’s even cases like “In Spite of Ourselves” and “Jackson” where, although it’s clear the two in question aren’t on the same page, there’s still a co-dependency that is keeping their connection stable through whatever comes their way.

What makes “Too Good,” the fourth collaborative effort between Drake and Rihanna, such an interesting case is that it’s not necessarily a song that can be pigeonholed into any of those categories. Its story is inconclusive. Its arguments are never settled because the characters both singers are portraying see themselves – for better and for worse – in the other. That’s why their verses open with the exact same line – “I don’t know how to talk to you.”

It’s as honest and as open an admission as one can make – and when it comes from one of modern pop music’s ultimate will they/won’t they duos, it adds an extra sense of drama and tension. The Popcaan-sampling cloud-dancehall – all Lydian mode finger-picking and snare syncopation – is one of the most strikingly-painted backdrops Drake has ever performed in front of. It only makes sense that he bring Rihanna into the picture – it feels, in a lot of ways, like the spiritual successor to their 2011 single “Take Care,” with that relationship having developed and unravelled in the intervening years. Truthfully, there is so much one could say about the case study of “Too Good”’s approach to relationships and interpersonal connectivity. There’s an ongoing dialogue here. At the same time, however, you may well be left with no choice but to quit your analysis and get to dancing.

6. The 1975 – Somebody Else

The odds were stacked against them. A passing-fad pop group that was more than likely about to get wiped out from the plague that is Second Album Syndrome. An album that was revealed to be not only over 70 minutes long, but saddled with one of the worst titles in the history of pop music. 2016 was not meant to be the year of The 1975. Still, as a recent Popjustice readers’ poll attested to, the English heartthrobs didn’t have “it,” and found it in 2016. One could attest this to several key moments that lifted I like it when you sleep… to a level of truly unexpected greatness.

The Bowie/INXS swagger of “Love Me,” the Stock Aitken Waterman bombast of “She’s American” or even the soul-choir bop of “The Sound” all come to mind. There is one moment on the album, however, that single-handedly validates The 1975’s evolution from bubblegum teen-mag centrefolds to indisputable hook-laden force. “Somebody Else” is the year’s best pop ballad by a considerable margin – a resplendent, neon-tinged moment of 21st century heartbreak; where not even the glossiest sheen of production can cover the loneliness or desperation that lingers on every lyric.

To borrow a phrase from The Simpsons, you can even pinpoint the second where vocalist Matt Healy’s heart rips in half. It comes in the song’s chorus, where he takes a voyeuristic, vicarious glance across a crowded dancefloor: “I’m looking through you/While you’re looking through your phone/And then leaving with somebody else.” Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you got ’til it’s gone? Despite running over five minutes – an abnormality in the rush-hour of the pop world – “Somebody Else” leaves one entranced for its entire run-time. A masterful take on modern love using vintage synth-pop tactics – this is one of those rare songs that feels like the past, the present and the future. The alpha, the omega, The 1975.

5. Mac Miller feat. Anderson .Paak – Dang!

As humans, we are bound to falter and make mistakes. Sometimes, it needs to happen time and time again for the message to sink in. There are times where the biggest step one can make as an adult is resolving to do better – not just by yourself, but by the people in your life. The mantra of “Dang!,” which was the lead single to Mac Miller’s fourth LP The Divine Feminine, goes as follows: “I can’t keep on losing you.” Both Miller and his hook provider Anderson .Paak – who had one of the best years out of pretty much anyone in the field of entertainment – have duly noted their faults after repeated fumbles and fuck-ups. This serves as their final plea to a lover about to slip through the doorway – quite literally, in the instance of the song’s bright, shiny video.

Although they note that the relationship is worth salvaging for both parties, there is certainly an insistence that it is the divine feminine itself that is the guiding light of their union. Both Miller and .Paak weave their way in, out and around a glorious Pomo beat; all augmented sevenths on the keys and well-timed horn section sizzle that accentuates the exact right moments. There’s even a delightful bit of text painting as the chorus fades into a cavern of reverb to demonstrate the lover walking away, to which Miller calls out from afar: “Where the hell you goin’? Where you takin’ this trip to?” The creation of a song like “Dang!” may seem simple purely on surface value, but it reveals a remarkably intricate interior once one spends a little extra time with it.

It’s a song that works just as well being blared from the whip on a cloudless summer day as it does being reconstructed by a jazz troupe on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. It’s one of the greatest achievements from either artist – particularly the former, who has certainly displayed a fair share of imperfections through previous LPs. “Dang!” is starting over, making good and – naturally – making love.

4. Ariana Grande – Into You

Good girls have gone bad more or less since the concept of pop music was introduced. We’ve seen teen idols grow into sex-positive twentysomethings time and time again – as Jane’s Addiction so succinctly put it all those years ago, nothing’s shocking. And why should it be? After all, it’s a natural reflection on the way that women and girls grow up and evolve their own perceptions and ideas. Ariana Grande began shedding her squeaky-clean image on her featured verse for “Bang Bang,” a song that is allegedly a Jessie J single but is about as much hers as “Monster” was a Rick Ross song. With Dangerous Woman, her big-business third LP, Grande fully embraced her new persona; replacing her cat ears for a leather mask and staking out her own righteous femininity. That alone is fine enough, but every starlet that has attempted to mature and failed (hi, Charlotte Church!) can attest to the fact that… well, it don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that swing.

In other words, it’s all for nothing if you don’t have the songs to back it up. That’s where “Into You” factors in – a song that backs it up so confidently that it more or less steamrolls over her entire discography prior to its release. It’s a song that is both an exercise in what great dynamics can be in 2010s pop music as well as an exorcism of Catholic girl guilt to make way for a truly dangerous woman. Although that delicate quiver that made her voice so distinctive in the first place remains, it’s now channelling Mariah and Christina in a way that sees the student become a master in their own right. How about that final squeal towards the end so high in pitch that only certain species are able to pick up its frequency? How about that low whisper in the verses that are mixed to make it feel as though Grande is cupping a hand to your ear to confess her innermost secrets?

That’s not even touching the chorus, where she even takes a swing at the King by referencing Elvis Presley’s posthumous smash “A Little Less Conversation.” A younger, sweeter Grande would not have dared even mention His name; let alone subtweet the motherfucker for the sake of another Mariah reference. “Into You” was everything that pop music got right in 2016. It earned all nine figures of its YouTube views and every single-digit chart position. The numbers do not lie.

3. Pinegrove – Old Friends

“Old Friends” first surfaced on YouTube in an unrecorded sense back in 2015. In a unique live setting, we watch two friends under the guise of Pinegrove – one playing guitar and singing, one playing a keyboard with a built-in drum machine – sharing a moment together out in the wilderness, some trees surrounding them and a lake ahead. The song is performed unplugged – the keyboard presumably running off batteries – while the two nod in unison to the tinny beat.

It’s a very unique way to be introduced to a song – some might even consider it indelible. Even when the song was eventually given the full-band treatment and officially released at the start of 2016, those not hearing the song for the first time were immediately taken back to those surrounds of serenity and tranquility – away from city life, all but a few sidesteps from suburbia. It’s here that Evan Stephens Hall – the collective’s figurehead and chief songwriter – positions his storytelling and depictions of self. Even if you didn’t see Hall and his companion performing “Old Friends” out in the quiet of the reserve, you’re quick to pick up on exactly where Pinegrove are coming from.

This is a small town song; a hometown song. This is a song of late-running buses, port authorities and self-confinement in dark bedrooms. Anyone who’s grown up away from any sort of hustle and bustle will see the second set of footprints next to Hall’s as he wonders the town he knows “grounded in a compass.” It’s a song about remembering where you came from, and taking the good and the bad that comes from such a scenario. It’s about appreciating those that are there for you, and those that fade away with time. Sometimes, it slips away in an instant: “I saw Leah on the bus a few months ago” is followed – immediately, devastatingly – by the line “I saw some old friends at her funeral.”

The music of Pinegrove is bred out of rural, big sky loneliness. It’s built on simple, twangy chord progressions that are guided by scuttling percussion and gently weeping pedal steel. It’s a new voice and a new sound for alt-country, borrowing just as freely from tropes of indie rock and emo to create something distinct and special. “Old Friends” is the band’s finest moment – and the best thing about that is that it’s so clear there are dozens more like it just waiting around the corner.

2. Gretta Ray – Drive

When now-former Triple J breakfast hosts Alex Dyson and Matt Okine decided to surprise Melbourne singer-songwriter Gretta Ray with the news she had won a competition through the station’s Unearthed initiative, they did not head over to her place of work. Nor did they go to her place of residence. Instead, they ended up at a high school, Princes Hill Secondary College – where Ray is a student. It’s worth bringing up that the person that wrote and sang this very song – without doubt the finest song to be produced from this sunburnt country within the calendar year – is yet to complete secondary schooling. Yes, the very same person who assembled a striking, emotive and instantly recognisable folk-rock masterpiece in the spirit of Bic Runga’s “Sway” or Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” is five and seven years younger than when those two artists, respectively, wrote their definitive songs.

Age may be just a number, but it is entirely pertinent to the context of a near-perfect love song. “Making your tired eyes widen/And your cheeks turn rogue”? That’s love. “Whenever in your presence, I am present/Imagination has me seated at your side/It’s nothing short of bliss”? That’s love, people. Old love. True love. It might be fantastical, cloud-gazing infatuation from afternoons alone, but in the world of “Drive” it’s as real as it gets. Listening to “Drive” is a stunning, jaw-dropping experience – not at first sight, but a sensation that builds and brims with passion upon every repeated listen that the song demands of itself. There’s no egos at stake, no greater agenda, no notion that there is anything sinister afoot. This is a song that comes from the heart. A heart that is young, that is fragile, that cannot be easily replaced – and yet, it floats freely in the air, guided by the gentle breeze and a young woman in the midst of discovering her innermost feelings anchoring it to herself to make sure it doesn’t float away.

Young musicians have played a big part in pop music and its ilk in the past, but it was often under the guise of their music being originally written and created by other people. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that at all – every artist boasts different strengths, naturally. There is a lot to be said, however, of the fact that “Drive” is entirely of Gretta Ray’s doing. What kind of timeless numbers will she be releasing unto the world when she hits her twenties? It truly is anyone’s guess. In the meantime, however, Gretta Ray is loving you like this. It’s the best thing.

1. Kanye West feat. Chance the Rapper, Kirk Franklin, The-Dream and Kelly Price – Ultralight Beam

Let’s be clear about this: For many, many people, 2016 was a very tough year.

We lost heroes from the entertainment world that had served as beacons of hope. The U.S. election was more divisive and hate-filled than ever before. Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamaphobia… all things that should have rusted into relics of an unfortunate past became more prevalent and invasive than they have in decades.

Let’s also be clear about this: For Kanye West, 2016 was a very tough year.

The Life of Pablo, intended as an ever-evolving art piece, was deemed by many critics to simply be an inconclusive or unfinished symphony. His family was threatened upon several occasions, with paparazzi haunting his every step. Issues with mental health turned his live shows into erratic clusterfucks, leaving many fans confused if Kanye would ever be the same again.

As far as both are concerned: We needed “Ultralight Beam.” Hell, Kanye probably needed “Ultralight Beam” more than it ever needed him.

Think about it. There is so much to the idea of even the first few moments of this song. A child yells authoritatively: “WE DON’T WANT NO DEVILS IN THE HOUSE! WE WANT THE LORD!” A woman eggs her on: “YES, child!” West’s voice emerges from the darkness: “We on an ultralight beam/This is a God dream/This is everything.”

Even if one isn’t religious, one can appreciate the context of the child’s wishes. Good riddance to everything evil that is holding us back. The ultralight beam, as used in gymnastics, is essentially walking a tightrope – a difficult balance, easy to stumble and fall. A “God dream” – whatever it may be that you worship – is what will get you from one side to the other. A song like “Ultralight Beam” is a guiding light. It’s a signal of hope. It’s a refusal to be dragged down into the muck and the mire; to be cast aside in favour of a new world order. “This is everything.” This is our livelihood. This is our one chance to unite and defeat our adversaries.

Religious iconography is nothing new to the music of Kanye West – lest we forget his breakthrough hit almost 13 years ago was literally named “Jesus Walks.” As he delivers his sermon from the pulpit, however, there is a sense that he needs it more than ever. “Pray for Paris,” he solemnly says. “Pray for the parents,” he adds; the extra context of being a father himself adding to the emotional weight. Again, that may not be what gets you through these days and nights. Here, it doesn’t matter. As long as you believe in a greater good, and you believe in working towards it, you are welcome here.

Of course, West is not alone. He has a church full of believers by his side. Kelly Price steps away from the choir and delivers a resonant, soulful solo vocal. Chance the Rapper, in what can only be described as revelatory, goes in on the year’s most important and impassioned rap verse; dropping references to everything from Arthur to the Bible to himself. If you weren’t sold on young Chancelor Bennett being the future of hip-hop before this, then this is the moment that changes everything. In one final moment, Kirk Franklin sends a message out into the ether to explain what “Ultralight Beam” is really about; and who will get the most out of its message:

Father, this prayer is for everyone that feels they’re not good enough
This prayer’s for everybody that feels like they’re too messed up
For everyone that feels they’ve said “I’m sorry” too many times
You can never go too far when you can’t come back home again

There is a light. There is another world. There is a better world. There will be a revolution. “Ultralight Beam” is the notion of God incarnate. All that’s left to do is believe.

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Thanks for reading! You can now listen to the DJY100 in its entirety (save for the Beyonce songs, which are not on Spotify – boo!) by streaming the playlist below.