(Update: I made a Spotify playlist so you can now benefit from my perfect taste with even greater convenience)
Can you believe that 2017 is almost over?
Since my definitive list of the best music of 2016 was so well received, I thought I’d have another crack at it this year. Having such great taste and being this correct all the time is tiring, but it’s a burden I am willing to bear.
1. Gang Of Youths – Say Yes To Life
And now I’m terrified of loving ’cause I’m terrified of pain
And of missing out on human things by cowering away
David Le’aupepe is not exactly short on confidence or ambition. Coming in at 75 minute long, Go Farther In Lightness is a sprawling double album that includes 3 instrumental interludes and several 7+ minute songs. Frankly, this is the the kind of bloated self indulgence I would normally find insufferable. But through the sheer force of Le’aupepe self-belief, sincerity and intelligence not only does it work, it’s easily the best album of 2017.
Le’aupepe carries himself like a preacher with the kind of confidence that can only come from a righteous belief in serving a higher purpose. But the higher purpose isn’t God (although God and Le’aupepe’s own faith and doubts makes quite a few appearances), the higher purpose is simply life. Go Farther In Lightness is a collection of hymns to embracing humanity; a powerful celebration of songs about hope, failure, joy and sorrow delivered with such fervour it could convert the most cynical of listeners to the the cause of living life fully.
But far from a crude sermon, Go Farther In Lightness is an elegant and at times understated album. The depth to Le’aupepe’s lyricism and the band’s rich musical arrangements reward repeat listens.
It’s hard to pick a single song off Go Farther In Lightness; it was clearly made with the intention to be heard in full, and you will be rewarded for it. But from the forceful and eloquent missive to capitalism that is “Atlas Drowned”, to the instance on persistence that is “The Heart Is A Muscle”, “Say Yes To Life” is the destination all roads on Go Farther In Lightless lead to. An unabashed ode to living; so unapologetic in its sincerity and so defiant in celebration, “Say Yes To Life” is one final, loud and joyous affirmation of Go Farther in Lightness’ central message. “God, I know how lame it sounds / But I’m glad I became more human”.
2. Alex Lahey – I Haven’t Been Taking Care Of Myself
Every so often a song speaks to you on a deep, spiritual level. It reaches into the core of you being and reflects back your inner self so completely you just have to say “tru”.
With a punchy set of 10 highly focused and crafted pop songs clocking in at just over 30 minutes I Love You Like A Brother is almost the antithesis of Go Farther In Lightness. But like Gang Of Youths’ offering, I could easily pull any song of the album and have it sit comfortably in this list. A+ album.
3. Ball Park Music – Exactly How You Are
I reckon I’ve listened to this song daily since it was released in September, and despite myself I still get some real warm and fuzzies every time the chorus kicks in. A refreshingly simple Ball Park Music song after the musical excursion of last year’s Every Night The Same Dream. The heart of “Exactly How You Are” is Sam Cromack and Jennifer Boyce’s sweet harmonies that have always been Ball Park Music’s greatest strength. In “Exactly How You Are” they float along almost indifferent to the driving rhythm section that pushes the chorus forward when it sounds like the vocals would rather dwell just a bit longer as the guitar counter melody playfully bounces around them.
4. Amy Shark – Weekends
There’s a cinematic quality to Amy Shark’s music that is quite vivid. She tells stories through details; the little moments between the moments like little sketches in a notebook. Her music in so soaked in nostalgia, even the wobbly effect on her guitar even sounds like a VHS that’s been worn out from being watched too many times.
5. Taylor Swift – Getaway Car
I was wrong. Reputation isn’t a snooze fest; Jack Antonoff isn’t a one trick hack. Getaway Car is actually the best song ever written. Jack Antonoff is actually good and I was wrong. I’m sorry.
6. Boogie Feet – Kesha (feat. Eagles of Death Metal)
It takes a lot of effort and smarts to make a song this effortlessly, stupidly fun. Every element of this song is infectious: from the handclaps that open the track to the Josh Homme’s Casio keyboard drum beat.
But it would all be nothing without the magic that is Kesha’s performance. In an age when female vocalists are discouraged from having anything approaching a personality, Kesha’s unrelenting personality is a breath of fresh air. And Rainbow is pure Kesha, a dizzying album that effortlessly moves from glam rockers, stirring ballads and even county duet with Dolly Parton. For a performer with a weaker sense of self it would be easy for this album to be an unfocused mess. But with Kesha at the helm it’s a defiant, joyous romp.
7. Eliza & The Delusionals – Falling Out
Do you want all your music to sound like it came out of a 90s teen movie? Because I sure as hell do. Luckily Eliza & The Delusionals seem to agree with me.
8. Charly Bliss – Glitter
On the theme of 90s teen movie soundtracks, I present Charly Bliss. This is powerpop in its purest form and I want it injected straight into my veins.
9. E^ST – Life Goes On
While it is absolutely not the only reason I love this song, I would be lying if I said that E^ST’s thick Australia accent when she sings “Life Goes On” and almost all other parts of the chorus isn’t a big part of why it’s in this list. And I know that’s a small thing, but it’s so easy and common for Australian singers to disguise their accent. To hear one so distinctive in such a great pop song is just really nice. Don’t @ me about this.
As an aside, if you haven’t already seen it, her cover of Bittersweet Symphony is just brilliant.
10. Lorde – The Louvre
I first saw Lorde at the beginning of 2014 when Pure Heroine was less than a year old. It was at the end of a long, hot day at Laneway and I don’t remember much but I remember being mesmerised by her performance. She didn’t move around the stage much, and spent quite a lot of the show with her face hidden behind her hair. There was something uncompromising about her performance which stood out. She made few concessions to the audience, preferring to use her significant charisma as a gravitational field, capturing the audience and drawing them in.
Melodrama is different somehow, simultaneously a more confident album than Pure Heroine and much more insecure. The veil of cool has been lifted, but only a little bit. The moments she dares to be rawer deliver some of the album’s highlights. Liability and Hard Feelings strip back much of her sonic flourishes giving us an opportunity to see just how powerful a performer she is at her core.
But for me it’s the moments of swagger that remain on Melodrama that are my favourite and there is no song with more swagger than The Louvre.
Megaphone to my chest
Broadcast the boom-boom-boom
And make ‘em all dance to it