I’d like to paint you a picture of an alternate world of music — the Musical Upside Down we’ll call it! The music here is amazing, and we don’t even need an algorithm to find it. You’re consistently exploring and hearing new things. There are no radio stations that brutally play the same damn song twice per hour, every hour. Down here, guitars are not dead. They still exist! The divas with their dance beats still thrive down here. But they don’t monopolize all the attention. Club bangers sit comfortably right next to quiet ballads and not everyone tries to sing the hell out of every lyric! The Musical Upside Down is full of diverse voices and worldly sounds, new comers and living legends.
There is no Ed Sheeran and no Maroon 5 in the Musical Upside Down.
So leave the real world for a little while (I assume that doesn’t take much arm-twisting) and indulge. I’ve put 100 song together that come from this place. The very best 100, actually, of the year. Like with any great list, this one had rules governing its assemblage:
- Only one song per artist (diverse voices, remember?). The artist can appear on more than one track if they are a featured performer vs. the primary artist.
- The list is in reverse order for a reason. Scroll slowly and take it all in (no skipping ahead brings maximum enjoyment). Or, better yet, listen to it in a playlist that counts down in reverse order! You can find the full playlist on Spotify here. There is only one song missing off the Spotify playlist (#79) so come back here and click on the underlined link for Song #79 to hear it (and, like I said last year, I’m still not even thinking about subscribing to Tidal).
- Either the album or the single has to have been released in 2017. I use whichever is to my advantage to include a song I want in there. I also will allow anything released in the last fifteen days of the year previous (a rule that will forever be known as the “Drunk in Love” rule after Beyonce pulled a fast one).
That’s it. Listen and let me know what you think. What did I miss? What did I nail? Let me know here, on Twitter, or anywhere you might find me. See you in the Upside Down.
100. Still Not Dead By Willie Nelson. In a year of bad news, one great headline: Willie Nelson is still not dead!
99. Hey Now By The Regrettes. Getting a little forward at the sock hop
98. Say Something Loving By The xx. Like a hug in musical form.
97. It’s a Trip! By Joywave. Like a song written in Tim Burton’s universe.
96. Arabian Heights By The Afghan Whigs. Dancing Days are here again
95. A Man Is Not His Song By Feist. Chanting around the campfire.
94. Girlhood by The Preatures. Pretty clear they’re from the same country as Courtney Barnett.
93. Lovely, Lately by Night Moves. For achievement in harmonica.
92. Stupid Boy/Girl by Blond Ambition. Perfect for dancing in place.
91. Santiago by Preservation Hall Jazz Band. When New Orleans meets Cuba.
90. Fake Happy by Paramore. That tropical 80’s vibe looks good on Paramore.
89. Fisherman by J Hus (feat. MoStack, MIST). Like all things, rapping is better with a British accent.
88. Hands Up In The Air by Ulfur Eldjarn. If the theme from “Stranger Things” was a dance track.
87. Don’t Take The Money by Bleachers. Makes you want to learn the words so you can yell along.
86. Boys by Charlie XCX. Get those coins, Mario.
85. Desire by Everything Everything. Those backup singers sell the chorus.
84. Tough by Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs. This would sound great blaring out of your ’75 Camaro, Big Guy.
83. Mrs. Adams by Foxygen. A mini-rock opera sung while high on who- knows-what.
82. Can We Hang On? by Cold War Kids. Since fun. is gone this will do just fine.
81. Independence Day by Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau. Brad Mehldau keeps reworking all my favorites.
80. From The Dining Table by Harry Styles. Hangover of a boy band leader.
79. The Story of O.J. by JAY-Z. Professor Z gives a lecture on race (and real estate).
78. Golijov: Azul:IV. Yrushalem by The Knights. Some soaring Yo-Yo string and some anguished horns.
77. (No One Knows Me) Like The Piano by Sampha. I feel that same way about the 88 keys I grew up with.
76. Gracious by Sasha. Like putting your ear up to a seashell.
75. All This Time by Jonathan Coulton. Not quite Postal Service but it still delivers (sorry).
74. Slaughtered By The Amway Guy by Tobacco. Those drum fills are dead serious.
73. Attention by Charlie Puth. That bass line helps me justify this guilty pleasure.
72. Radio Kids by Strand of Oaks. It was all better before you were born, kid.
71. Chaos and Clothes by Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. His voice always takes my blood pressure down a few mmHg.
70. Worst of Times by Bread & Butter. Plug in guitar. Play four chords. Write song of heartbreak. Works every time.
69. Wanna Sip by Fever Ray. Fever Ray isn’t sure why everyone always tells her to take it down a notch.
68. Wild Fire by Laura Marling. Laura isn’t gonna mince words when telling you what’s on her mind.
67. Love by Lana Del Rey. Flower Girl credentials still firmly intact.
66. Friendship (Is A Small Boat In A Storm) by Chicano Batman. Feels like there should be confetti dropping from the ceiling.
65. Kids (Ain’t All Right) by Grace Mitchell. The title nods to the Who but the chorus is all Nirvana.
64. Star Roving by Slowdive. Return of the shoegazers, part one.
63. Dombolo by Les Amazones d’Afrique. African dance music gets digitized.
62. Justify by Tei Shi. Prince? Is that you?
61. Everyone is Dirty by San Andreas. Minor-key harmonizing. What’s not to like?
60. The Great Debate by Randy Newman. Instead of watching news we should just listen to Randy Newman address the issues of the day.
59. Passionfruit by Drake. I detest the false start but beautiful song once it gets going.
58. Lay It On Me by Vance Joy. Horns.
57. Ex-Pitcher by Fishboy. Almost makes me like baseball.
56. If You Need To, Keep Time on Me by Fleet Foxes. Straightforward Fleet Foxes is still the best Fleet Foxes.
55. Saint Ivy by Beach Fossils. 90% for the flute solo.
54. Bagbak by Vince Staples. The future of rap is in good hands.
53. Protest Song by Broken Social Scene. Even the protest songs are better in Canada.
52. Way Back by Amber Mark. This generation’s Donna Summer?
51. Can’t Go Wrong by Wiley. My annual plea for grime to get bigger this side of the pond.
50. Battle Cry by Jack White. Accurate song title.
49. Hard Work by Theo Katzman. Blue collar soul for the 2010's.
48. Heart Takes Flight by Bedouine. Like if Roberta Flack took a sleeping pill.
47. Bad Liar by Selena Gomez. Best of this year’s breathy whisper-singers.
46. Pa’lante by Hurray for the Riff Raff. Gives you goosebumps even before you Google what it means.
45. Bleeding Out Into The Blue by Sondre Lerche. Mr. Lerche, I think your synthesizer may be on the fritz.
44. Legend Has It by Run The Jewels. My winner for number of epic references per minute.
43. The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness by The National. This is awfully animated for The National.
42. Told You I’d Be With The Guys by Cherry Glazerr. A chick band that makes you throw the devil horns.
41. Fluorescent Light by Stars. And don’t even get me started on LEDs.
40. The Isle of Arran by Loyle Carner. Raise your scotches.
39. I Don’t Wanna Live Forever (Fifty Shades Darker) by Zayn and Taylor Swift. Taylor without the “woman scorned” act is my favorite Taylor.
38. Blood in the Cut by K.Flay. Tay, if you’re gonna do “woman scorned” — here’s how you do it.
37. Holding On by The War on Drugs. 6pm at a summer festival, slight breeze, outdoor stage.
36. Charm Assault by Ride. Return of the shoegazers, part two.
35. Always Ascending by Franz Ferdinand. This year’s most meta entry.
34. Lights Out by Royal Blood. Carrying the flag for straightforward hard rock.
33. Pathetic by Eric Hassle. A genre I call “restrained funk”.
32. Bad and Boujee by Migos (feat. Lil Uzi Vert). Droptop.
31. Call the Police by LCD Soundsystem. James Murphy and Bono seem to be meeting somewhere in the middle.
30. Stay by Zedd & Alessia Cara. Alessia Cara makes up for all those typical DJ tricks.
29. Whole Wide World by Cage the Elephant. Turns a sweet 70’s song into a stadium chant.
28. Not Dark Yet by Shelby Lynne & Alison Moorer. The soundtrack to your late night whisky.
27. Ran by Future Islands. This generation’s Flock of Seagulls.
26. Broke Open Love by Rainer Maria. Return of the shoegazers, part three!
25. Bike Dream by Rostam. The overwhelming emotion of being in love.
24. Say My Name by Tove Styrke. That guitar riff could charm a cobra.
23. Gypsy Moth by Andrew Bird. Your meditation routine now has a new soundtrack.
22. Feel It Still by Portugal. The Man. I did not think I’d see the day that Portugal, The Man was a Billboard Top 10 act.
21. Slip Away by Perfume Genius. Because of the 49 second mark.
20. City Music by Kevin Morby. Feels like he’s just jamming in his basement and we’re listening in.
19. Modern Act by Cloud Nothings. Someone’s been listening to The Replacements.
18. Do You Still Love Me? by Ryan Adams. I can hear this through the crackle of my old FM radio.
17. Slide by Calvin Harris (feat. Frank Ocean, Migos). Fun with Helium.
16. Hard Liquor by SOHN. If James Blake songs were adapted for strip clubs.
15. Waiting On A Song by Dan Auerbach. I can see the cartoon sun, trees, and animals all waving at me as I walk by.
14. Fire by Beth Ditto. If Jack White and Janis Joplin had a kid.
13. Dear Life by Beck. A little ragtime to go with that funk.
12. Real Death by Mount Eerie. Every year’s Top 100 has one song that makes you cry. Get ready.
11. Loveless by Lo Moon. Like Talk Talk is back.
10. The Evil Has Landed by Queens of the Stone Age. As we descend into the depths of hell, at least this will be our house band.
9. Mary by Big Thief. It’s scientifically impossible for a song to be slower and quieter than this.
8. Everything Now by Arcade Fire. So they want to dance and they sound like ABBA. What’s wrong with that?
7. HUMBLE. by Kendrick Lamar. The words preach humility. The track oozes attitude.
6. New York by St. Vincent. Makes me miss NY even though I’ve never lived there.
5. Arc of Bar by Japandroids. An ode to sin.
4. Ascension by Gorillaz (feat. Vince Staples). The sky’s falling, baby.
3. 3ww by alt-J. When we land on Mars, there is a good chance alt-J will be playing.
2. Pure Comedy by Father John Misty. So funny I forgot to laugh.
- Green Light by Lorde. You can always start again.
My 10 year-old daughter this year expanded her own list to 20. If you’re more into just the hits, this is the list for you. Find it here.