in Top Ten

Here’s a bunch of songs I liked from last year. I hope you like them too.

10. Father John Misty – “Mr. Tillman”

I’m not sure what “Mr. Tillman” is about. I’m not sure what a lot of Father John Misty songs are about. I do know that FJM’s real name is Josh Tillman which should give a hint and the video has FJM checking into a hotel only to see a version of himself die and then come back and then repeat the cycle. Yet I have no clue. What I do know is the song is catchy with all its “Aah has” and well produced by the man himself. Hats off to you, Mr. Tillman.

9. Childish Gambino – “This is America”

I tried finding articles that spoke about the lyrics of “This is America” but couldn’t find anything that wasn’t also an analysis of the music video. I’ll admit it’s hard to talk about one without talking about the other. I will say musically I love the contrast between that sunny and optimistic singing bit and the brooding bass and commanding rapped lyrics of the verse. I think a lot of us forget how good of a singer and rapper Donald Glover is and this may live to be his crowning achievement. Which is saying a lot considering Childish Gambino’s 2016 song “Redbone” is one of the best songs of the last decade.

8. Janelle Monáe – “Make Me Feel”

The most danceable song of the year. It sounds like Prince. I also hear it’s about being bisexual. Which makes it feel even more like Prince. I’ve posted here a live version of the song with a cool Janet Jackson vibe.

7. Grapetooth – “Blood”

I think newcomers Grapetooth might be time travelers. How else do you explain a band that sounds this much like a 1980s English pop band? I don’t know. These guys aren’t even British, they’re from Chicago. The verses on “Blood” have a sleepy synth/vocal sound that wouldn’t feel out of place on a Simple Minds record but really it’s all about that sing-a-long chorus. This song isn’t just a party it’s a part-ay.

6. Charles Bradley – “Stay Away”

I never would have thought Nirvana and retro soul music would be a good mix but hey, a good song is a good song. That menacing wah-guitar sounds like it’s being played by Satan. Thank god this track has Charles Bradley belting out its words like a funk angel. This is what a good cover is all about. It’s different enough to feel like a new song but still embodies the spirit and strength of the original composition. I only wish we had more out there doing it like ‘ol Black Velvet. RIP Charles.

5. Shame – “One Rizla”

The majority of Shame’s debut album Songs of Praise is a raucous post-punk riot. Though it’s Shame’s semi-polished Britpop single that grabs me the most. The song’s talky, South London accented vocals are messy but offset by cheery uptempo guitars that wouldn’t be out of place on a Blur track. I look forward to seeing if this band trends more poppy or sloppy in the future. Just to show their energy I posted a live video of the group on KEXP.

4. Leon Bridges – “Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand”

I was listening to a lot of early ’70s soul and funk after Thanksgiving for whatever reason. This song would have been a perfect addition. Like a lot of those ’70s R&B ballads “Bet” has beautiful production and silky smooth falsetto and yet the lyrics are so sad. The accompanying video only intensifies that feeling. But damn if it isn’t the most beautiful song of the year.

3. Soccer Mommy – “Your Dog”

I used to make a lot of hip and moody indie rock playlists in college. This song would have been a perfect fit. It’s no-nonsense has an awesome riff and wears its emotions on its sleeve. Like in a cool “I don’t care what you think way.” Soccer Mommy is super cool.

2. Superorganism – “Everybody Wants to Be Famous”

What a great sing-a-long song. I love the sense of unity with this group but one can’t deny the appeal of Orono Noguchi and her too cool for school delivery. All the messy keys and sound effects give this song a lot to hone in on. Not to mention that wacky music video. So much wackiness!

1. Shy Boys – “Evil Sin”

My favorite description of Shy Boys is “The Beach Boys on Robitussin”. Which makes sense. Shy Boys has all the beautiful harmonies of The Beach Boys but more relaxed. Just look at the “Evil Sin” music video. They spend most of it sitting down. This song is short and simple and may seem like a weird choice for favorite song of the year. Though the group’s album Bell House was my favorite of the year and I feel this song best represents the work as a whole. There’s a hint of bittersweetness in the chord progression best highlighted by the harpsichord sounding keys near the end. The lyrics are silly, as is the accompanying music video. but there’s a wistfulness I can’t put my finger on. Sometimes it’s those intangibles that make a song the most appealing.