Kirk Bowman

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01.17.18 drift12.31.17 mmxvii
12.24.17 best songs of 2k1701.30.17 sad FRIENDZONE news
12.28.16 what I liked this year10.18.16 psychedelic/transcendent music
06.03.16 sitting underneath the critical surface02.06.16 computer sounds
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11.18.15 comforting music11.03.15 11/2015
09.18.15 when they hand you the aux05.24.15 best reviews
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best songs of 2k17

no order, alphabetical
1Alice Glass
Alice Glass

"White Lies"
The best thing about this song is the parallels. Crunches of static and low menacing groans aside high vocals and uplifting tones, there's a duality to this song that's unique on this list - Alice understands that in the darkness there is always light better than her captor ever did.

Arca's music has always been dark, using glitch and unnatural sounding noises to express an incredibly emotional core. "Piel" takes it to another level. It's just his voice, singing. There's other stuff going on, and it's important, but for the first time, it's not distracting. The main focus is just his sorrow.
Pre Dawn/Indoors

Bevan's inspiration has always been the 90s UK rave scene. This is the first song he's dropped that sounds like it could have fit right in there, with a much cleaner production quality and the typical Burial ambient undercurrent.
4Calvin Harris
Funk Wav Bounces, Vol. 1

This song is better than you think. "Slide" caught all the attention for its cool guest stars and smoother, less bouncy vibe. But this hit is better - from the surprisingly ambient intro, to the "Frankie Sinatra"-esque groove, to Big Sean's uncharacteristically scene-stealing verse. On this song, Calvin Harris shows off what he's kept in storage since I Created Disco and this time he has the budget and connections to work with other immense talents.
5Cashmere Cat

"Infinite Stripes"
The Life Of Pablo was very flawed, but, per the usual for Kanye, it had a new sound, and Cashmere Cat was one of the people behind that. The producer behind "Wolves" and the most underappreciated forces behind the sound of pop in 2017, he understands enough about why "Father Stretch My Hands" worked to sample a gorgeous melody from Dexter Wansel, putting Ty Dolla $ign on the hook (previously Starrah) and reminding us how important collaboration is for everyone involved.
6Charli XCX
Number 1 Angel

Charli has always been a curator as much as a creator. Constantly ahead of the curve, she realizes the unique talents of other individuals, takes their various futuristic sounds in and releases something that makes you wonder why they haven't all just been doing it together from the beginning. Nobody else in the music industry realized that it was finally safe for Uffie to come out of the woodwork from her press-hate-fueled retirement, for the most exciting verse of the year for popheads.
7Charlie Puth
Nine Track Mind

"Attention" (not on album)
I don't want to like a Charlie Puth single. He's one of those artists (like Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes, Michael Buble, etc.) that I'm openly and blatantly biased against. I don't want more cheesy white-guy "funk" (read: has a bassline) on the radio when there's so much better stuff out there. But "Attention" deserved its popularity - there's nothing generic about it. It's a rare perfectly crafted song, building up from something moderately catchy, something you can sing along to, into something gorgeous, something that takes over your entire body and soul all at once.
8Chip Tanaka

"Aurora Swing"
This is a treat. Hirokazu Tanaka reminds us that chiptune is more than just MIDI covers of EDM hits on Bandcamp, but a wide genre sparkling with exploration and light.
9Chlorine Mist

"PS2" (not on album)
Dylan Reznick is a wonderful artist, one who understands how to use music as a healing balm. When James Laurence passed on this year. But he kept releasing music, dropping an EP, numerous soundcloud loosies, more active than ever. When a fan asked him how he was doing, he responded "I'm gonna be alright. An amazing amount of people reached out to support and encourage me,, I owe all my sanity to all you guys". So I hope his supporters have acted as a healing balm the same way his music does for us.
10Danny L Harle

Danny L. Harle never really stood out in the PC Music crew for me, but "Me4U" proved me wrong, as one of the most well-written songs of the year, with a perfect hook. Good luck getting out of the loop of "for me for you you you you you you."

"Lost In The Moment"
Darius mostly focused on room-filling bass tracks like "Constance" and "Hot Hands" throughout his early years. These songs were monuments to feelings of romance and drift, but "Lost In The Moment" is the first to create its own, filling the room with not a longing for more but the more, diving off a cliff into itself, expanding your universe.
12Dej Loaf
All Jokes Aside

"No Fear"
DeJ Loaf stood out from the crowd this year for her optimism. After dropping her debut album to mixed sales and reviews, she waited until the summer and dropped an optimistic anthem that reminds us to keep going even when the odds are stacked against us, to go forward with no fear. It paid off - you couldn't escape it on the radio, a hit nobody saw coming but Deja saw coming
13Demi Lovato
Tell Me You Love Me

It was hard to pick a favorite Demi song this year - "Daddy Issues" and "Sorry Not Sorry" are both great singles. But "Lonely" slowly burned its way into my brain. It's basic - mostly just drum beats, sounding like an instrumental for the bridge on some R&B song, but this let's Demi's stunning voice really fill the track, while her lyrical ability has clearly expanded (is she lonely, or is her lover?). Meanwhile, Wayne's low, gliding growls perfectly complement Lovato's range, making for one of her best songs ever.
14DJ Jayhood

"Skip To My Lou"
Jersey club has never really been given its proper dues. DJ Jayhood, one of the best in the game, brings all of his best work to "Skip To My Lou," and I really wish "bounceability" was a word, so I could put the feelings I have about King on this laptop instead of just my feet.
15Dua Lipa
Dua Lipa

"New Rules"
Good pop music is relatable, catchy, and clever. Virtually everyone over the age of 13 has someone they've been interested in who they would do better to not focus on, the song can owe at least half of its popularity to everyone chanting the three rules they can't get out of their head, and Dua Lipa's ability to point out the power dynamic to the linguistics of being "over" someone is the smartest line of the year.
16Frank Ocean

"Chanel" (not on album)
Post-Channel Orange Frank has two sides to his music - on the one hand, it seems like pretty standard R&B, if sparser than usual. The other side is some of the best crossover ambient ever. You can see this in his lyrics, with a variety of references seemingly thrown together randomly on the one hand, painting a tapestry of feelings on the other.
17Freddie Gibbs
You Only Live 2wice

"20 Karat Jesus"
When people talk about Lil B influence, they talk about rappers whose fame grew on the internet, the power of memes to produce real money, the way irony can play into the likelihood of people listening. Freddie Gibbs is not a name that comes to mind. But "20 Karat Jesus" bears his influence clear as day. This track is all of the best bits of God's Father, one of the most brilliant hip-hop projects in the past decade, and it's finally wrapped up in a box of serious street influence.

There's usually a weird power balance with collaborations - one artist makes the decisions and the other just does what sounds right. It tends to work better that way when one artist is more experienced and nuanced, and another just has raw talent. This time, we have two industry veterans - Rihanna and Future - and they both enrich each other's talents. On this sparse beat, both voices sing along to fill in the gaps in your ears.
Neo Wax Bloom

"White Gum"
Neo Wax Bloom was full of great tracks, and "White Gum" stood out as the most animated, the most formidable, and the most beautiful. Accelerating over the course of the track, vocal bits clip in and out, transitioning between actual verse and looped syllable at an impossible pace, strings sparkling in for moments, bass swiping constantly, with it all building up to a massive climax of bits and pieces, all disappearing at the end for an angelic epilogue.
20In Love With A Ghost
Let's Go

The soft clinking of water against a glass reflects the sensitivity of the Tennyson-inspired artist behind it, creating something creative, beautiful and touching, something that transcended the entire scene it evolved out of.

Jamaican sounds are having a minor revival, and the entry point is hip-hop. Artists like Popcaan and Damian Marley (yes, that Marley) are finding a place on the charts, and we're all far better off for it.
22Jhene Aiko

From her birth to the birth of her daughter to the death of her brother to the death of her will to live, the highlight from Jhene's underrated concept album journeys through notable moments in her life, creating a new one on the way.
23Julien Baker
Turn Out The Lights

I know, rationally, that my mental illness is not something I am alone in feeling, but I cannot seem to otherwise make my heart grasp that I am not alone. But as I listen to Julien, my innermost feelings seem to fall through her words. When I listen to hear my own inner voice confess to the same God I confess to that "all my prayers are just apologies, hold out a flare till you comfort me," I do more than think that it's the only thing that matters. I know that I matter.
24Katy Perry

I wasn't really that excited for Witness, for the same reasons most people attacked it afterwards. But that changed when I heard a leak of the title track. Suddenly, I cared about it all, giving more listens to "Chained To The Rhythm" and "Swish Swish" against my instincts, realizing that there was more to this than I expected. I'm not sure what made me recognize it as perfect pop from my first listen, but I'm glad I did. It helped me eventually realize how much of a sleeper the whole album was, from an artist I think everyone else gave up on when her music wasn't immediately resonant.
Sweet Sexy Savage

Confidence is a tricky feeling to express over music. Most artists who do seem like they're lying to themselves. Kehlani does too, but the difference is she knows she is, so it's really honest. This isn't a song about pretending your problems don't exist, but one about going forward through them.
i need you

"i need you (in my life)"
Complaining about genres being formulaic is as old as the concept of genres themselves. These complaints show a limited to nonexistent understanding to the reason the genre exists in the first place, and the internet just makes genre commentary even more common and polarized. Lo-fi house has basically existed in a state of "is this OK to like" it's whole life, and I've wavered on both sides, but "I Need You In My Life" is one of the songs that helped me realize it doesn't matter at all. It can't matter, when the music sounds this good. It might be simplistic (and it probably isn't), but why even care at this point?
27Kendrick Lamar

On an album full of highlights, "FEAR." stands out. It's more personal than "FEEL.," it gets stuck in my head more than "HUMBLE.," and the beat stands out more than "ELEMENT." Kendrick is taking it to himself to elevate hip-hop to a new level while mixing all of the best parts of past eras, and he's doing the same thing with his life.
28Kid Koala
Music To Draw To: Satellite

It's hard for me to put this directly on here without its surroundings. In context, this song is the recovery from a depressive episode. I have never found anything but Music To Draw To: Satellite to so accurately feel like laying down for hours, but this song in particular is especially meaningful because it finds the moment when you start to see beauty in life again. It's not overstepping its' boundaries - it doesn't feel joyful, meaningful, or alive. But there's just a touch of hope, which is exactly what I need sometimes.
29King Krule

"Czech One"
Archy drifts through songs like he drifts through life - there's drag and weight to it. It's the day to day, which can be dull and grating. It doesn't seem like much as you're going through it, but sometimes it just shines, and you can tell what's happening is actually important. This is one of those moments.
Miami Garden Club

"Mass Text Booty Call"
Remember "Kiss Kiss"? Kitty probably does, and a decade makes a difference. Suddenly, we're dealing with an artist that doesn't beat their S.O., one who knows where to find talent from the corners of the internet, one who can make a song not drag on for what seems like hours. You can hear a kinder, more talented, smarter voice spitting over the compressed vocal chops all the way to the final Yoshi sound.
The End Of Industry

"Holding On"
Lapalux does what many electronic producers fail to do and creates a mood with his music, a little world to explore, with themes and ideas. "Holding On" builds this metal tension up like a spring, finally releasing it in one of the hardest tracks this side of "Tied Up," before it drifts back into space.
32Lil Uzi Vert
Luv Is Rage 2

"The Way Life Goes"
"With great power comes great responsibility," and Uzi knows this. After dropping what was easily the biggest hit of his career, impressing the public, critics, and the music scene at large with what is probably the most universally loved song of the year, he came back not swinging but hugging. "The Way Life Goes" is a simple, comforting song that reminds us it will get better.

"Liability (Reprise)"
Lorde has always written about her feelings. But in 2013, as a 16-year-old, she hid them. Under the cool mystique of her aesthetic, her environment, and her lover, she disguised the beat underneath everything that really drew people in. In 2017, at 21 years old, she's getting past that. Her music is still full of references to her aesthetic ("Supercut") and her surroundings ("The Louvre") but finally some of her music is about her and what she feels. That's why "Liability (Reprise)" is so powerful - it's one of the few moments in any of her music where her incredibly colorful, emotional, powerful core is revealed, and it's the most vulnerable, too.

"Motorsport" (not on album)
Quavo, Offset, Takeoff and especially Cardi B all had a great year in 2017. This was a collective peak for all of them, all using a brilliant triplet flow to overpower the radio that six years ago was telling poor black artists that they didn't deserve to have music that sounded like them. Nicki, on the other hand, has been here since then, but she's somehow survived, and her lightning verse reminds us why.

Rihanna proves again that she's the best new rapper of the year, N.E.R.D. drops their best beat in at least a decade, and there's an Obama sample. If that doesn’t convince you to listen, you're not the target audience. You should try it anyway.
Ti Amo

"Fior Di Latte"
Opulence isn't something that people really want to hear about - the members of Phoenix come from wealth, most people don't, and they're not very sensitive about it, frankly. This sometimes comes out in their gorgeous, layered music, and Ti Amo, a luxurious concept album about a trip to Italy (something most people will literally never be able to afford), is the worst offender. But "Fior Di Latte," despite the name, manages to stand out from the rest of the album by touching on a much more universal feeling and idea. "We're meant to get it on," Thomas sings, and the world sings with him. It's not universally relatable, but it's the closest Phoenix has been since Wolfgang Amadeus.
37Playboi Carti
Playboi Carti

"Soundcloud rap" was the trend of 2017, but Playboi Carti and Pi'erre Bourne still sound years ahead. Playboi takes the best bits from "Work" and Young Thug's vocal stylings, while Pi'erre's beat doesn't ever get old, against all odds.

This song is here because it has the best moment in music of the entire year. Like many gorgeous touches in music, it is only most appreciated in context of the entire rest of the album, and this is one of the last tracks. But it is completely worth it - not just because Half Light is a beautiful, explorative painting of a project, but because you will not hear anything better this year than 4:24. Rostam said himself that "Gwan," which melds Western and Eastern influence, is about recognizing what your subconscious is trying to tell you, and I know myself better now thanks to it, which is a wonderful gift to give.
39Ryuichi Sakamoto

"life, life"
Rock stars didn't exist until the mid-twentieth century, and all but the biggest were forgotten by the world at large within years at most. By the time they approached their end, nobody but those they were close to remembered them. In this era, that has changed. Hospice, Carrie and Lowell, Blackstar, and A Crow Looked At Me have shown the world that death can be a topic that means more to music than just a chance for their record label to sell unreleased archives of content in the guise of a memorial. The internet allows for the artist to extend their last moments into a painting of infinite colors, like async. Ryuichi has this rare ability and opportunity to write gorgeously about facing death, directly to an audience who cares. By confronting it for us, he allows us to catch a glimpse of the "wave, after wave."
40Quay Dash

"Queen Of This S**t" (not on album)
2017 was full of confident black women overpowering the narratives that held them down. "Bodak Yellow" could not have come in another year. The hardest of them all was Quay Dash. Her music bleeds confidence. And working with SOPHIE, someone who once released a track called "HARD," makes perfect sense. Who else would end their song with a lick?

"It's Okay To Cry"
SOPHIE hadn't really dropped anything notable since her seminal PRODUCT until this year, when she came out of nowhere with many of the best productions of the year. But she stood out most with "It's Okay To Cry," an anthem for all of us who have struggled with feeling over-emotional, a hug from a friend for everyone who needs it, and most importantly, a beautiful coming-out in a community that stigmatizes the transgender community. In a world full of people who say it's not okay to cry, SOPHIE tells us the truth by bravely revealing who she is.
Always Never Home

"Bad Dream/No Looking Back"
More than just the most sensual track of the year, Syd made a song that sounds like it's dripping right out of your earbuds, moaning straight into your limbic system.
43Taylor Swift

"Dancing With Our Hands Tied"
In a year where she teetered back and forth between PR disaster and PR miracle, the thing that shut everyone up was reputation, but most importantly it was "Dancing With Our Hands Tied." Ignoring all the trends, all the features, all the politics, it works as all her best music does, a song equally driven by the longing lyrics as the timeless Max Martin production. Maybe it's selfish of me, but all I want from Taylor in 2017 is a brief escape, and this lifts me out of hell for three and a half wonderful minutes.

"Drink Dat"
This song was one of the most hated off of Thundercat's genius [i]Drunk[/i] (maybe because most Thundercat fans think they're too smart for 2017 Wiz Khalifa) but it really captures the highs of the whole project. There's a feature that makes you wonder why it hasn't happened before, a soft flow about habits and drowning in life, shrill tones, and of course, bass.

"Way Back (Extended Mix)"
Most self-described retro music doesn't work, but most of the artists making it weren't the ones who invented the style in the first style. When TLC talk about Prince, Gaye, Jackson and Brown, you know they actually danced to it growing up. This is an empowering song about embracing the highlights of the past (and they had plenty) and not giving up, despite the low points (and they had plenty).
Lune Rouge

The word "smooth" is one of the most overused words in music descriptor lexicon. So let's get a little more specific - the thesaurus has a lot of words that might work (soft, easy) and might not (flat, horizontal). But the most accurate is "persuasive." Isaiah's buttery, confident verses over TOKiMONSTA's gradual, summery pulse convinces me to do and say things I wouldn't be able to do otherwise.
47Tove Lo
Blue Lips

"disco tits"
Tove Lo has always pushed at the edges of acceptable female sexuality. Based on the sales, we still aren't ready for women to talk about women being aroused, 20 years after "Too Close" soared up the charts. In a just world, this bouncy anthem would be everywhere.
48Ty Dolla Sign
Beach House 3

"Love U Better"
I could talk about how this song wouldn’t have worked without Wayne's hard-hitting verse, or how it wouldn't have existed without Kanye's chipmunk soul style, but the song works and exists, so let's just focus on that, and feel the energy.
49Vince Staples
Big Fish Theory

"Yeah Right"
Vince is the realest in the game right now, someone who is careful not to run his mouth unless the person he's talking to really deserves it (see Ronnie Radke's massive L earlier this year), refraining from even explaining the meaning of his album, presumably to keep people like me from overanalyzing it from my own lens. So when he is as straightforward as he is in "Yeah Right," telling listeners that he doubts them, you can't help but feel a little bad about yourself. But it's impossible not to enjoy it anyway, with SOPHIE, Flume, and Kendrick all at the absolute top of their game, even if you're probably on the opposite side of the conversation.
50Virtual Self
Virtual Self

"Particle Arts"
Hardstyle, trance, gabber, eurobeat, etc. will always be a joke. It's all far too genuine and directly optimistic for any scene other than its greatest fans. That's a shame, because it's a powerful sound full of unrecognized energy and emotional prowess. Rustie knew that in 2015 with his severely underrated magnum opus EVENIFUDONTBELIEVE, and now Porter knows about it in 2017 with his Virtual Self EP. Ditch your irony/insecurity and try it out.
51The xx
I See You

The xx sometimes struggle with overcoming their aesthetic and feel to create truly emotive music, but they don't here. Romy sings about hiding your misery and ultimately transforms from someone living for another to someone living for herself. As the song builds and the strings cascade on one another, you can feel her trying not to break.

I probably just wasn't paying enough attention, but "raingurl" seemed to pop out of nowhere. The throbbing, immediate feel stood out from everything else as the most dancefloor ready pop music since "Latch." Yaeji's just whispering right now - I can't wait to hear what happens when she yells.
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