Favorite Songs of 2017 – Part 1

(Important Note: Songs listed in chronological order of album release date; only songs on albums released in 2017 were eligible – no tracks from “Run the Jewels 3” unfortunately; only one song per artist & album)


AFI – “The Wind That Carries Me Away” (“AFI”)

If there’s one thing I never really connected AFI – a long-time punk band (depending on the era – Goth, emo, pop, or just straight-up punk rock) known more for brooding ballads and screeching choruses – with was a band that could embrace the roots of rock and make it their own. The closing track of their self-title album (also known as “The Blood Album”) sounds nothing like any of the tracks that preceded it on the album or in AFI’s discography as the band builds an entire song off the blues shuffle and delivers one of the most powerful songs in their catalogue thanks to a combination of Davey Havok’s vocals soaring alongside the instrumentation while continuing the trend of producing that perfect closing track as they’ve done so well in the past.



Soen – “Jinn” (“Lykaia”)

Supergroup Soen is one of those fantastic bands very few know about; and those who do immediately love to compare the band to their contemporaries such as Tool and Opeth. The band’s third album proves Soen is completely different beast while still evoking the spirit of prog rock one would hope for considering the talent involved including the masterful Martin Lopez continuously impressing with his drum work. But Lopez isn’t able to outdo his fellow band mates in the album’s fifth track; especially vocalist Joel Ekelof and Marcus Jidell on guitar. Telling the tale of a lone person dying in a forsaken land with the love of his life being the only thing keeping the individual in this world, the song ebbs & flows with high-powered, guitar-laden peaks and to perfectly emphasize someone drifting in and out of consciousness before the inevitable occurs: one last energized effort before relinquishing to the truth of one’s circumstance (a grim reality that death might come before truth & reason). The closing instrumental using more oriental sounds just adds another layer to this hauntingly beautiful rock track – arguably the best of the entire album.



Lupe Fiasco – “Wild Child” (“Drogas Light”)

It’s the type of rap song that came out at the wrong time of year at least twenty-five years too late. Instead of sticking the lyrically dense style that made his last album one of his best, Lupe Fiasco offered a lighter side of himself while embracing rap’s current go-to sound. But instead of keeping the trap sound throughout “Drogas Light”, Lupe switches things up about midway and starts dropping made-for-radio pop-rap tracks that just don’t work; except this one. This feels like a throwback summer jam that everyone could’ve grooved to in the late ‘80s & early ‘90s and I can’t help but love it even if it isn’t the Lupe I enjoy listening to on a constant basis.



Laura Marling – “Wild Fire” (“Semper Femina”)

Shortly before her latest album made was released, Laura Marling gave the world a taste of what was to come with a song that embodies so much of her music both past & present: the search for one’s identity and purpose in this world . Like an actual fire, the song starts slow; based around some slow acoustic guitar strumming & percussion. Slowly but surely the song starts to expand as the singer explores the depth of a person using the written word for emotional expression – someone able to confide in the pages of a book, but not to the one who loves them the most. And just like an eventual inferno, the song concludes with Laura passionately repeating herself with a fury in her voice that would burn anyone asunder.



Mastodon – “Jaguar God” (The Emperor of Sand”)

One of the most popular acts in all metal have been actively trying to diversify their sound; producing more radio-friendly hits while mostly avoiding the problem some other bands have suffered when crossing over. Mastodon’s seventh LP taps into a more personal side of the band – touching on the harsh reality of losing someone to cancer. The journey from life to death expressed throughout the album is an arduous one even when things get a little poppy. With Brendan O’Brien returning as producer, the “Crack the Skye” feel of this album makes the album feel even more epic; concluding on the highest of notes with a song that features incredible musicianship (especially the closing guitar solo), tonal shifts and vocal harmonies aplenty. The entire track is solemn, chaotic, and unforgiving – just like life itself.



Joey Bada$$ ft. ScHoolboy Q – “Rockabye Baby” (All-Amerikkkan Bada$$”)

With a sample of Jackie Jackson’s “Is it Him or Me” to set the stage, Joey Bada$$ and feature-killer ScHoolboy Q come in with guns a blazing on a song criticizing the public perception and reality of black America today. The first-half of Joey’s latest album focuses on the problems his fellow African Americans are going through, what needs to be done to fix an environment hindered by the past, and how someone needs to stand up in the face of oppression. Joey and ScHoolboy reflect on their youthful times running amuck in the same environment they call home – opting now to shed a light on using their rage for constructive purposes while reminding everyone there are people still living just like they did and need to see the reality of their situation by focusing not on each other, but the real enemy.



Kendrick Lamar ft. U2 – “XXX” (“DAMN”)

Kendrick Lamar’s perilous journey through fame, wickedness, weakness, pride, lust, love and faith unravels on his fourth LP – the album I say is akin to Kanye West’s “Graduation” where the overall narrative doesn’t stand up as well as his previous works, but the entirety contains banger after banger to the point almost no song is worthy of skipping when listening to it in full. One of the most divisive tracks from “DAMN” sees Lamar vocalize sheer hypocrisy – being a detractor of gun violence and gang-related activity embracing the reality that, like many of us, if put in a position where a loved one was senselessly slain he would do everything in his power to attain revenge. Lamar take things one step further by stating his mentality is only a reflection of America and vice versa; reinforcing “The Land of the Free” was built on violence and injustice.



Brother Ali – “Pen to Paper” (“All the Beauty in This Whole Life”)

The opening track to one of the most positive, uplifting rap albums released in 2017 is a proclamation simply topping off a quick history lesson about who the man behind the microphone is, what he’s about, how he came to be the lyricist we know him now as, and his struggles simply speaking forth his truth through the art he’s perfected. It’s just simple spitting done in extraordinary Brother Ali fashion.


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