Best Tracks of 2017: # 25-21

This year, I’ll be counting down my 25 favorite tracks (this week) and 15 favorite albums (next week), with no overlap between the two, allowing for a little variety. I’ll always remember 2017 as the year I became a Spotify convert, thus having more access to new (and old) music than ever before.

I’ll also remember 2017 for the loss of two close friends: Bruce, whom I’ve written about here, and Howard, who passed away in August at age 50 after a long battle with cancer. Howard and I mostly knew each other through our blogs and, in particular, our annual year-end best album lists. All my posts on my favorite music of 2017 are dedicated to his memory.

25. Laura Marling, “Soothing”
Marling’s sixth album Semper Femina is the first since her 2008 debut to miss my albums list, mostly because it adds nothing new to her repertoire with the exception of its lead-off track and first single. “Soothing” sounds as if Portishead ditched the electronics for acoustic guitars, strings and real drums (and as if Beth Gibbons lightened up a little); next time, I wouldn’t mind if Marling made a whole album of this sort of thing.

24. Future Islands, “North Star”
On their much anticipated album The Far Field, this formerly weird synth-pop trio has boiled their fluke 2014 hit “Seasons (Waiting on You)” down to a formula—a successful one, mind you, but it’s still a formula. This up-tempo gem stands out mostly because, well, it’s an up-tempo gem with verses as catchy as its chorus, all vaguely reminiscent of “Heart of Glass”—fitting, since Debbie Harry herself duets with Samuel Herring four tracks later.

23. Dua Lipa, “New Rules”
A former UK number one that’s currently a surprise top 20 US hit, it has an even more indelible counting hook than Brian McKnight’s “Back At One” or Craig David’s “7 Days”. Still, it’s this Albanian-by-way-of-Britain dance diva who sells it, striking the exact right balance between swagger and a little subtlety.

22. Lindsey Buckingham and Christine McVie, “Sleeping Around the Corner”
Not bad for what’s essentially a Fleetwood Mac reunion minus Stevie Nicks, but what it really reminds me of is Buckingham’s recent ace solo work. Nothing revolutionary here: quiet verses, loud, anthemic chorus and Bucky’s inimitable wordless vocals at the end of the latter. Slot it into Tusk and no one would blink.

21. Grizzly Bear, “Mourning Sound”
What a deceptive title. One used to automatically expect a song by this band called “Mourning Sound” to be a dirge, but this is almost a better New Order pastiche than anything on Music Complete. As always, Grizzly Bear sculpt an enticing aural world to get lost in, but this time they include a much-appreciated road map.

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