The Year In Review: 2017
My 20th Year In Review caps off a year that should have been better. Musically, politically, and emotionally.
UPDATE 1/21/2018: In an unprecedented move, I'm revising my Top 10 of the year list and moving a few songs to runner up status. Some songs were too good not to include here.
10. The Killers - "The Man"
A disco-glitter nod to David Bowie's "Fame", old-school Vegas, spangled cowboy boots, and fringe. Brandon Flowers is one of the best frontmen in rock music today - one of the very few people under 40 years old who can be classified as a "Rock Star" in capital letters. Try not to dance to this one.
I know the direction, the lay of the land
I know the score like the back of my hand
Them other boys, I don't give a damn
9. Ed Sheeran - "Galway Girl"
Ed can summarize my love for this song as only he can: "They [his record label] were really, really against 'Galway Girl,' because apparently folk music isn't cool. But there's 400 million people in the world that say they're Irish, even if they're not Irish. You meet them in America all the time: 'I'm a quarter Irish and I'm from Donegal.' And those type of people are going to fucking love it."
And he was right.
I met her on Grafton Street right outside of the bar
She shared a cigarette with me while her brother played the guitar
She asked me what does it mean, the Gaelic ink on your arm?
Said it was one of my friend's songs, do you want to drink on?
8. Bleachers - "Don't Take The Money"
A love letter to 80's new wave, asymmetrical haircuts, and heartache. A song tailor made for a movie soundtrack, the monotony and agony of everyday love.
Jack Antonoff described this "as a song about how hard it is to be in a relationship" - a refreshing take. As he wrote on Instagram, "Verses go through the past. Pre-chorus is an explosive fight, and the chorus is that moment when you hit rock bottom and everything is clear. You know that feeling? When you've tried your best to destroy yourself and someone else, but it's too strong to be destroyed? When you've tried to fling your partner out of an emotional window, but you keep landing in heaven? That's when it's all clear."
But of course, it never is.
You steal the air out of my lungs, you make me feel it
I pray for everything we lost, buy back the secrets
Your hand forever's all I want
Don't take the money
7. Demi Lovato - "Sorry Not Sorry"
Demi slays with every lead single from her albums and this is no exception ("Skyscraper", "Heart Attack", "Cool For The Summer"). A pure pop summer anthem with no apologies and killer vocals. This year's big dumb pop song for my Annual Review.
Feelin' inspired 'cause the tables have turned
Yeah, I'm on fire and I know that it burns
6. Halestorm - "Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover"
The fact that I could rank a cover this high says something about its quality. I have tried to like Halestorm's original music and while Izzy Hale is a powerhouse singer, there's something very derivative about the music they've released. Their 3 covers albums however are a different story. Their covers of everyone from Skid Row, Lady Gaga, Joan Jett, Heart, Metallica, and Twenty-one Pilots are phenomenal. Halestorm's cover adds a bit of a sneer, a curled lip, and a smooth guitar groove to Sophie B. Hawkins's 1992 classic. Do not miss this one!
That old dog has chained you up all right
Give you everything you need to live inside a twisted cage
Sleep beside an empty rage
I had a dream I was your hero
5. Lorde - "Green Light"
Lorde released a wildly ambitious first single from her sophomore album Melodrama that polarized audiences. Four years passed in between her first album Pure Heroine and this lead-off single; I was ready to embrace whatever she released. Well, I unequivocally hated this song when it first came out - an unusual chord structure and song shape, an upbeat sound that didn't mirror much of Pure Heroine. And then it grew on me, like a fungus. "Green Light" is a beautifully unique song, all cynical hope and longing for closure, the grace in finding the green light and the unattainable dream.
I do my makeup in somebody else's car
We order different drinks at the same bars
I know about what you did and I wanna scream the truth
She thinks you love the beach, you're such a damn liar
4. Shawn Mendes - "There's Nothing Holdin' Me Back"
The rare pop song I could listen to a hundred times and never grow tired of it - maybe it's the flavor of Latin guitar, the break in Shawn's voice, the pause before the chorus explodes into handclaps and spit-fire lyrics. This will be on my workout mix for years to come.
You take me places that tear up my reputation
Manipulate my decisions
Baby, there's nothing holding me back
3. Harry Styles - "Sign Of The Times"
The world's most famous ex-boybander threw us all a curveball with this sweeping epic of a song that would have made both David Bowie and Prince proud. The live version sounds even more heavenly than the album track - hands clasped in prayer to all the deceased rock 'n roll gods. There is absolutely nothing else like this on modern radio and that is one of the highest compliments I could give this song.
Just stop your crying
Have the time of your life
Breaking through the atmosphere
And things are pretty good from here
Remember, everything will be alright
We can meet again somewhere
Somewhere far away from here
2. Brand New - "Can't Get It Out"
A brazenly honest, darkly humorous headbanger of a song - smudged eyeliner around tired eyes, whiskey, cigarettes, and an acknowledged debt to Nirvana. One of my favorite concert moments of this year - or any year - was hearing all the Kurt kids screaming "I'm just a manic depressive" along with Jesse Lacey at Brand New's sold-out Brooklyn concert in October. This album was worth waiting for.
I thought I was a creator
I'm here just hanging around
Got my messiah impression
I think I got it nailed down
I want to tell you we're alright
Want to erase all your doubt
I've got this thorn dug in deeply
Sometimes I can't get it out
1. Taylor Swift - "Getaway Car"
A brutally bittersweet song about two broken relationships - the second doomed from the start by its association with the first. The soft sin of regret and resignation, a hopeless future with the best of intentions.
Comparisons to "Out Of The Woods" are way off-base - this is an even more clever song musically and lyrically. An instant classic beside "All Too Well" and "Wildest Dreams" in her catalog. Try not to hit 80 when you play this on the highway.
X marks the spot where we fell apart
He poisoned the well, every man for himself
I knew it from the first Old Fashioned - we were cursed
It hit you like a shotgun shot to the heart.
* Niall Horan - "Slow Hands"
A Bob Seger style throwback with a modern sensibility - a guitar ballad with an electro-twist. The perfect song for those hazy August days, with a fan blowing through a bedroom and a naked nod to the 1970's. The sleeper hit of the summer - if a song could go platinum and still be considered as such.
Wanna be with you all alone
Take me home, take me home
* Zayn & Taylor Swift - "I Don't Wanna Live Forever (Fifty Shades Darker)"
The Fifty Shades franchise has brought us one downright awful film, one mediocre film, and two amazing soundtracks. The first soundtrack brought The Weeknd to international stardom and made a hit out of "Love Me Like You Do" by Ellie Goulding. The second film brought us this #2 Billboard Hot 100 hit - all red lips, strobe lights, and broken lamps. The kind of song no one expected from Taylor Swift but never knew we needed. It fits perfectly next to "Wildest Dreams" and "Style" in her catalog.
I've been looking sad in all the nicest places
Baby baby, I feel crazy
I see you around in all these empty faces
Up all night, all night, and every day
* Lana Del Rey - "13 Beaches"
Can I let go and let your memory dance
In the ballroom of my mind
Across the county line
Pink - "What About Us" - an aching lament to the state of our country in 2017
Liam Payne f. Cuevo - "Strip That Down" - another hit from a former One Directioner, an addictive club banger
Selena Gomez x Kygo - "It Ain't Me" - a stutter-step dance hit of memories, regrets, and freedom
Worst Songs of 2017:
Sam Hunt - "Body Like A Back Road" - insipid bro-country trash
Post Malone f. 21 Savage - "Rock Star" - anything by Post Malone is garbage
Cardi B - "Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)" - how a song with no melodic sensibility got to #1 is beyond me
Best Albums of 2017:
1. Taylor Swift - "Reputation"
2. Brand New - "Science Fiction"
3. Lorde - "Melodrama"
4. Lana Del Rey - "Lust For Life"
Concerts I went to in 2017:
Jan 21, 2017: Dashboard Confessional, Irving Plaza, New York, NY,
Apr 13, 2017: Bon Jovi, Madison Square Garden, New York, NY
May 17, 2017: Metallica, Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Uniondale, NY
Jun 6, 2017: Everclear, Irving Plaza, New York, NY
Jun 20, 2017: Sebastian Bach, B.B. King Blues Club & Grill, New York, NY
Jul 2, 2017: Third Eye Blind, Toyota Presents the Oakdale Theatre, Wallingford, CT
Sep 30, 2017: Hanson, PlayStation Theater, New York, NY
Oct 10, 2017: Neon Trees, Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY
Oct 19, 2017: Brand New, Kings Theatre, Brooklyn, NY, USA
Nov 9, 2017: Haley Reinhart, Highline Ballroom, New York, NY
Nov 14, 2017: Bruce Springsteen, Walter Kerr Theatre, New York, NY (BROADWAY)
Nov 28, 2017: Richie Sambora & Orianthi, The Cutting Room, New York, NY
Nov 28, 2017: Hanson, PlayStation Theater, New York, NY