20. I Promise- Radiohead
Favorite line: “Even when the ship is wrecked/I promise/tie me to the rotten deck”
Released as part of the 20th Anniversary deluxe edition version of OK Computer, this is a very pretty song, but would not have fit at all on an album filled with weary-ness that computers were taking over our lives.
19. Waiting on a Song- Dan Auerbach
Favorite line: “I’ve been thinking I’ve been humming/I’ve been picking I’ve been strumming”
As one half of The Black Keys, Dan Auerbach steps out on his own with a blues-country album that features this ditty about struggling with writers block and features John Prine as guest vocalist/guitarist.
18. No Plan- David Bowie
Favorite line: “All the things that are my life/My my moods, my beliefs, my desires, me alone”
Bowie’s last farewell song to the world is as graceful a letter as there has ever been from a public persona who wanted very much for his struggles to be private.
17. You’ll Never Walk Alone (Rogers & Hammerstein cover)- Dropkick Murphys
Favorite line: “Walk on, walk on with hope in your heart”
A song written for an old school musical and performed by a band best known for soccer-style chanting sing-a-longs? That’s all you had to say…
16. The One for Someone- JC Brooks
Favorite line: “you’re the one for someone/but I’m sorry it ain’t me”
From a solo album by the lead singer of the Uptown Sound, l was not expecting such a tender ballad from a soul singer, but this one was stuck in my head for a long time.
15. Smile (f. Gloria Carter)- Jay-Z
Favorite line: “mama had four kids but she’s a lesbian/had to pretend so long she’s a thespian”
A song about being yourself, whether that means a rapper who creates without writing down his music, or his mother coming out as a lesbian after she was already a grandmother.
14. Big Boys- Chuck Berry
Favorite line: “I was looking for joy/when I was a little bitty boy”
The fact that, Chuck Berry, the father of modern rock and roll, didn’t get nominated for a Grammy for best Rock Song this year is a travesty in the name of music.
13. Rained On- Frightened Rabbit
Favorite line: “And if I believe the radio/the levy is dry”
Picked almost purely for the line above, nonetheless a good song.
12. Little Guys- Slaid Cleaves
Favorite line: “Each day there’s a little less I recognize in my hometown/It’s hard, watching the little guys going down”
A nice little track about a mom & pop shop trying to stay open in an a rapidly modernizing town.
11. Play God- Ani DiFranco
Favorite line: “You don’t get to play God/I do”
A track about how nobody can tell a woman what she can and can’t do with her own body.
10. Picture That- Roger Waters
Favorite line: “Picture a shit house with no fucking drains/Picture a leader with no fucking brains”
A song that seethes with anger about the state of the world from one of the former artistic visionaries behind Pink Floyd.
9. Dirty Dishes- Becca Mancari
Favorite line: “I can’t stand thinking about you/On the other hand, here I am”
A sun-drenched country song from a new artist. NoiseTrade does me good again.
8. Bro Country- Brett Newski
Favorite line: “Kurt Cobain’s a pussy/Taylor Swift is the man”
A country song with punk rock attitude. All about the homogenization of the entirety of the music industry, as symbolized by modern country music and singing reality TV shows.
7. Born Brown- Hanni el Khatib
Favorite line: “Mom came over in ’75 / Dad came over in ’77 / ’81 I came alive”
A nice little punk number a-la “Born this Way” from an Arab-American who had no choice but to represent himself as the way he was born.
6. The North Korea Polka- “Weird Al” Yankovic
Favorite line: “Were just a bunch of simple fidget-spinning goofy dorks/Who probably couldn’t find your country on a map”
What the North Korea – United States stand off situation needs right now is a polka song telling us all to chill out. Props to John Oliver for getting this thing to come into being.
5. America (West Side Story cover)- Bill Murray, et al.
Favorite line: “Puerto Rico is in America”
I never thought I’d see Bill Murray scheduled to perform at classical music halls, but it made me smile when I did.
4. Happy New Year (Prince Can’t Die Again)- Mac McCaughan
Favorite line: “Okay, but this could be a great year if you’re rich/Or if you’re a racist craving an authoritarian hand/And the sun will shine on you if you hate women”
It was a very trying year, but sometimes we all need to be reminded that no matter how bad 2017 was setting up to be, at least Prince couldn’t die again…
3. You Are the Problem Here- First Aid Kit
Favorite line: “When did you come to think refusal was sexy?/Can’t you see the tears in her eyes?/How did you ever think you had the right to/Put your entitled hands up her thighs?”
An anti-groping, anti-sexist song that came out before everybody was being accused of harassment.
2. Pills- St. Vincent
Favorite line: “Pills to wake, pills to sleep/Pills, pills, pills every day of the week”
From one of the most vital “alternative” artists of the last 10 years came a track about how society has become so dependent upon pills to do everything.
1. Witness (f. Mavis Staples)- Benjamin Booker
Favorite line: “See we thought that we saw that he had a gun/Thought that it looked like he started to run”
When a track features a chorus sung by a member of one of the great gospel singing families, AND is about the current state of African-Americans being shot in the streets by police officers at a much higher proportional rate than any other ethnicity, already I was paying attention. Honestly, until the #2 track came out near the end of the year, nothing else released came even close to the impact I felt from this one.