Marquette University Radio is reflecting on the great music and performances of the past year, and to kick it off, here are my favorite tracks of 2017.
This year, we got new albums from some of my old favorites like Walk the Moon and The Front Bottoms. We also got fantastic albums from artists I did not expect to like, such as Demi Lovato and Harry Styles.
Here are my favorite tracks, in no particular order:
“Everyone But You” — The Front Bottoms
When I first heard the singles from The Front Bottoms’ fourth studio album “Going Grey,” I was far from excited. Maybe I had been listening to too many of their original DIY recordings and demos, but I was not a fan of their shift in focus from lyrics to production. I warmed up to the new approach once the album finally came out. The band retains their personality and charm while trying some new things musically. “Everyone But You” embodies the familiar-but-new sound perfectly, and is the catchiest song on the album by far.
“Complicated” — Fitz & The Tantrums
I will be honest, I hadn’t thought much about Fitz & The Tantrums since high school. Their debut album “Pickin’ Up the Pieces” was a fantastic mix of neo-soul and indie pop, but then the band seemed to ditch that style in favor of a more traditional pop sound. When I learned they would be headlining Marquette’s Homecoming concert, I decided to check out their 2017 self-titled album, and I was pleasantly surprised. “Complicated” showcases the best use of vocals, rhythm and saxophone on the album. This song did not leave my head for at least a week after first listening to the album. My friends will attest that I went crazy when they played this song in central mall.
“DNA” — Kendrick Lamar
“DAMN” great album, and “DNA” is a strong start (or end) to it. With powerful lyrics and an infectious beat, I would say that “DNA” is an even better track than lead single “HUMBLE.”
“What Lovers Do” — Maroon 5 (feat. SZA)
I was a big fan of Maroon 5’s debut record “Songs About Jane,” but admittedly, I have not paid much attention to them since they moved into the pop mainstream. They put out about four or five hits a year now, and I always end up being a fan of one or two of them. In “What Lovers Do,” Maroon 5 does what they do best in delivering a fun, catchy melody and taking advantage of Adam Levine’s impressive vocal range. A lot of the track’s appeal comes from the addition of SZA. I love how her and Levine’s voice sound together.
“FOR MY PEOPLE” — Joey Bada$$
I knew next to nothing about Joey Bada$$ before this year, but I am so happy I listened to his politically-charged “ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$.” Joey Bada$$ discusses race in America and the political climate of 2017 through compelling and thoughtful lyrics, and this is exemplified in the album’s second track, “FOR MY PEOPLE.” This album deserves more attention than it got, but it was hard not to be overshadowed by “DAMN,” which came out just a week after.
“Kamikaze” — Walk The Moon
I have long-awaited the return of Walk The Moon after their hiatus. I loved their self-titled when it was new, and I thought “Talking Is Hard” was a great evolution of their sound. I was happy to find that they continue to develop their style with “What If Nothing.” While the influences of 80s dance pop and new wave are still felt, the overall sound is much more fresh and modern, especially in “Kamikaze.” The vocals are quintessential Walk The Moon, but the slow, syncopated beat brings a brand new feel to their music.
“Love$ick” — Mura Masa (feat. A$AP Rocky)
Mura Masa is another artist that I was unfamiliar with before this year. The Guernsey-born Alex Crossan is a young producer who released his first full-length album this year, and he is already making a name for himself. His self-titled features several great collaborations and enough good tracks that I had trouble picking which one to include (“Firefly” and “Helpline” are close runner-ups). “Love$ick” has to be my favorite track on the album. There is not a better song with A$AP Rocky, steel drums and “Kermit the frog margaritas.”
“All This Time” – Jonathan Coulton
Some people know might know internet-based musician Jonathan Coulton just as the guy who wrote the “Portal” theme, or the guy who did the folk cover of “Baby Got Back” (that was stolen by “Glee”). Much of his early work consists of soft-rock tunes with quirky, straight-forward narratives. His dystopian concept album”Solid State” takes his music in a thematically ambitious new direction. Coulton incorporates elements of indie and psychedelic rock into his music, while also providing a critique of internet culture and the effects it has on our humanity in the lyrics. “All This Time” was the lead single from the album and definitely one of my favorite tracks on it.
“Sorry Not Sorry” — Demi Lovato
I have not followed Demi Lovato’s career up until now, like some of my friends have. I was not a “Camp Rock” kid back in the day, and I could not name more than a few of her songs. After her latest album “Tell Me You Love Me” was played for me, I realized that I had no idea what I was missing. Every track from “Daddy Issues” to “No Promises” has great, memorable lyrics and the electric pop sound has clear hints of R&B influences. “Sorry Not Sorry” is an unapologetic anthem of self-empowerment that lets Lovato’s vocal power really shine.
“Last Day of School” — Toussaint Morrison (feat. Jimmy & the Threats)
I listened to Toussaint Morrison for the first time this summer, and my friends can tell you that I was obsessed. He is a talented singer and rapper who tackles topics like cancer, racism and education in clever and inventive songs. Everything on his mixtape “Toussaint Morrison Is Not My Boyfriend” is gold. I was extremely excited when I found out he had a new record, “Lesser Restoration,” coming out in 2017. The final track and major highlight of the album, “Last Day of School,” features Morrison at his best. Through fast-paced rap verses and a soulful chorus, Morrison discusses the failings of a school system in the wake of a young black man’s murder. The song is wildly creative and very impactful. It is one of my favorite songs from Morrison and one of my favorite songs of the year.