There’s always a precedent – almost unanimously from a fellow film critic – for every flight of exhaustive fancy. For my Top 50 Songs of 2017 list, it’s Oliver Lyttelton’s Festive Fifty lists, ideally timed for the run-up to Christmas. Our lists share roughly 15 titles in common, many of which I learned about through Lyttelton’s list, particularly “Boyfriend” by Marika Hackman, a queer artist whose work I now must adamantly catch up with. All tastes differ, but well-curated tastes are always nourishing, regardless of personal mileage.
Being a film critic moored comfortably in the New Hampshire indie music scene, music is a world I exist in, but don’t often contribute overtly to. The majority of my friends are musicians or reliable patrons. Usually the only chances I get to socialize with friends or meet new people are at local shows. As opposed to convulsive concerts, which I’m reasonably certain I’d feel utterly lost in, there’s something intimate and cozy about drifting in a trance state under woozy lights, watching friends do what they’re passionate about.
My own personal music interests inevitably tilt towards the cinematic, so much that multiple entries on this list are from films I’ve loved this year, particularly Polish vampire mermaid musical The Lure, so lurid, sensational and thoughtfully queer. I spent a lot of time this year, though, trying to teach myself to listen to less conventionally entertaining music. You have to if you’re really going to get on Björk’s dreamy, ethereal wavelength. And every year I need to remind myself that, however jagged the rhythm, I need to find more time for rap.
Five artists have multiple tracks listed, which should perfectly signal what my favorite albums of the year were. Lorde’s Melodrama has slowly, somberly seeped into my bones since its debut months ago, egged on nicely by my favorite music video of 2017. Meanwhile it took no time at all for me declare St. Vincent’s MASSEDUCTION a sharp, yet ecstatic, masterpiece, so much that it made a Top Ten list predominantly leaning towards film and television.
A close second place for Album of the Year is HAIM’s Something to Tell You, full of vivacity and a thrilling cinematic build to each song, particularly “Want You Back,” my personal favorite song of the year. Inhabiting a deeper place in my heart, though, is the band behind my #2 song. I can’t pretend to not have a personal bias coloring my love for Rick Rude – I’m friends with every member – but I continue to be astonished by how achingly, poignantly they depict the bittersweet duality of all aspirations. “The dream’s alive.” “The dream’s a lie.”
Many of these inclusions are either leaving bookmarks for future listening, giving pop icons a brief mention – Taylor Swift’s newest album may be a mixed bag, but “…Ready For It” is still an exceptional banger – or giving attention to personal favorites whose output is split either way across the yearly dividing line. The highlight of Sylvan Esso’s What Now?, “Radio”, was released as a single last year, while Tune-Yards teased their forthcoming album expertly with “Look at Your Hands,” as deceptively simple a song as many of their greatest hits.
Being frank, though, I feel as though I’ve failed Fever Ray, if only because the joy it’s given me to listen to the words “I wanna run my fingers up your pussy” on headphones in a crowded café deserves the #1 spot, full stop.