Best Tracks of 2017: # 5-1

5. Tori Amos, “Reindeer King”
I keep meaning to fully give Amos’ umpteenth LP Native Invader its due, but this seven-minute-long opener has everything I need from her in 2017. Epic yet intimate, typically inscrutable but also vividly drawn, it’s as beautiful and awestruck as anything she’s ever done. “Gotta get you back to you,” she repeatedly sings with urgency and reassurance, even as it feels like she is teetering on the precipice of the great unknown.

4. Lorde, “Perfect Places”
Having had a massive hit (“Royals”) at the tender age of 16, she aims for the fences on her return four years later. While Melodrama isn’t quite up there with, say, Never For Ever, tracks like this sublime closer suggest she might get there yet. “Perfect Places” emits universal appeal while sounding very much like it could only possibly come from the young woman singing it—a potential future standard, even if it missed the Hot 100 entirely.

3. Joe Goddard feat. SLO, “Music Is The Answer”
This solo recording from Hot Chip member Goddard is of a piece with any of that band’s great singles. Following a simple yet genius four-chord progression, like the best disco, it expertly builds momentum/anticipation until it reaches an almost euphoric high in the chorus. Vocalist Jess Mills (aka SLO) complements rather than overpowers the arrangement; together, they soar, carrying a promise of redemption and release on the dancefloor.

2. The War On Drugs, “Pain”
First of all, I adore that shimmering opening, all drumless and airy, those reverb-heavy guitars just falling into place. Then, the groove locks in and if anything, the song grows in power and reach. Adam Granduciel’s Bryan Adams-heavy croon has never fit in more comfortably than it does here. As the song keeps circling back to its yearning statement of purpose (“I resist what I cannot change”), it feels increasingly richer, layer upon melodic layer crystalizing into a breathtaking whole.

1. Iron & Wine, “Call It Dreaming”
I’ll never forget the first time I heard this song, walking home from the train station, listening to the new tracks I had downloaded from Spotify that week. Having had no expectations for a band I’ve casually admired and occasionally kinda liked over the past dozen years, I was almost knocked sideways by this rather straightforward tune. It gradually, expertly builds from lone acoustic guitar-and-vocal to a full-bodied arrangement in an organic way so that, once you get to the final thirty seconds, it resounds like few other songs I’ve heard. I liken its effect to that of a beating heart that keeps on expanding until it’s all you can hear, and it’s everything, and it’s enough.

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