From the return of Taylor Swift and her electrifying turn towards gut-spilling electro-pop on ‘Look What You Made Me Do,’ to Wolf Alice’s love story of sprawling dreamgaze on ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’. 2017 has provided some great evolutions from music’s biggest artists; with the year soon to come to a close, we wanted to shine a light on some of the brilliant tracks that have sent us racing to the dancefloor, moved us with furious emotion, and sent a smile straight to our faces.
Below you will find a collection of tracks chosen by various members of the Bitter Sweet Symphonies’ writing team – as we all have assorted tastes in music (professionally and personally), the range of tracks featured are multifarious and sometimes surprising, so scroll down and enjoy.
::CHARLOTTE HOLROYD’S TOP SIX TRACKS OF 2017::
Indoor Pets – Barbiturates
The Kent band found their calling card when they wrote ‘Barbiturates’ – a constant live must. Like the topics the lyrics speak of, the arrangement trawls a fine line between wild fury and slumberous restraint for satisfying effects. Indoor Pets impart indie rock eccentricity into grunge-pop dramatics and it’s unmistakably glorious; I’m sure there’s very little else that will thrill the socks off any self-respecting music fan in the same way. Hands down, this is a track for life.
Gretta Ray – Drive
Melbourne teenager Gretta Ray has a fascinating allure about her music, far from the reaches of vapid commercial pop. The musician writes from a place of originality, crafting lyrics of poetic appeal and compositions of sun-grazed Americana. Our favourite moment from Gretta Ray came with the track ‘Drive,’ a sun dappled pop-rocker of lyrical smarts and sizzling character. Simply stunning.
Bryde – Less
Tightroping dynamics, energising liberation and emotional resilience are three key tropes of what Bryde deals best in – ‘Less’ is the single which engages these facets the most and delivers them in searing form. Withstanding the might of Sarah Howells’ vitriolic roar, the full force of the chorus instrumental bubbles and boils in a bittersweet rage, to verses of quaint drum rolls and volatile outbreaks of guitar. The whole song anticipates retribution, bestowing a heavy sense of responsibility upon the final bars to follow through on this promise – just so when the final note bids adieu, the instruments wreak bloody murder. It’s marvellously octane.
Sir Sly – High
Electro-pop-dealing Californians turned the mainstream edgy this year with the emergence of ‘High,’ the leading track of their sophomore record ‘Don’t You Worry, Honey.’ A synth bop of candid truth-telling of hazy tales spawned from life on the road – it’s as addictive as the stimulants they sing of. Sir Sly knowingly launched forward with this opinion-shifting advancement, stripping any pre-conceptions of the band and owning a new boundless creativity. It’s a lot of fun, its hella catchy, and we still can’t see a time when we won’t be hitting the repeat button.
Artificial Pleasure – The Hand On My Shoulder
The London band released ‘The Hand on My Shoulder’ as part of their ‘Like Never Before’ EP – the track in question, a blustering electro smoulder of Bowie and Talking Heads consolidation. While more abstract than most of the band’s song collection, there is something truly freeing about this three-minute romp, initially sparse with synth prowls and narrative vocals spurting random context, it’s not long before the track revs up as we get closer to a climax of tension and release. Guitars then take precedence, shifting the story darker and more dissonant. It’s a thrill ride that we recommend you take.
Lostboycrow – All My Lives at Once
Los-Angeles-living musician Lostboycrow has always been an artist who thinks deep and expands the musical palette whenever and wherever. 2017’s ‘All My Lives at Once’ is a portrait of artistic expression; whilst the subject may be traditional, the musical experimentation offers a brave progression – smoky R&B swaddles woozy beats in an alternative pop expansion. Passion-filled vocals tell of a relationship stripped of its intimacy too soon due to youthful transience – for a song of four-minute duration ‘All My Lives at Once’ feels more like an epic, a prelude to a greater picture featuring a method of writing that is rarely worn, if ever quite so evocatively. Lostboycrow is an artist to mull over, stick with, and maybe most obvious, listen to.
::JAY PLENT’S TOP THREE TRACKS OF 2017::
Happyness – Through Windows
By far one of the most stunning tracks to have crossed over my desk this year, Happyness returned with one of their strongest tracks to date, a fantastic melancholy piano ballad with the bands’ distinctive twin vocalists exchanging dry flippant lines that tug even the most rigid of heartstrings. ‘Through Windows’ is a song that perfectly encapsulates everything that makes Happyness a fantastic band. It’s heartfelt and nostalgic, both in its Beatles-y arrangement and its longing for long lost memories of forgotten Christmases. What’s more, it forms a cohesive part of an intriguing sophomore album, and also boasts a pretty kooky music video, but then what more would you expect from a band as wry and creative as Happyness. Thoroughly catchy, unusual, and rife with personality, ‘Through Windows’ is my best song of the year, hands down.
Everything Everything – Good Shot, Good Soldier
Everything Everything ditched some of their madness this year to bring us an album that was more reserved, more direct, and more thoughtful. Its tracks didn’t have quite the same immediate impact as previous technicolor splurges such as ‘Zero Pharoah’ or ‘Schoolin’. However, what surprised me was how steadily the album grew on me, with ‘Good Shot, Good Soldier’ being the most vibrant example. The song’s slow build gives way to a chorus that doesn’t flitter and bounce agitatedly like many Everything Everything hooks do, but soaks you in a rich mood, with Higgs’ high, snarky vocal guiding you through a murky underbelly. The production across this album is represented here, precise, clean, distinct, but still utilizing the strange samples and oddball design choices that have made the band a fascinating act throughout their career. This track represents a nice step for the band, calling back to the old, but bringing in a calmness that will seem like a surrender to some, but to me, feels like an almighty victory.
The Golden Age Of TV – Dust
As much as we’ve commended the big leagues, it’s important to shine light on the new kids on the block too, and goodness are they intriguing. An odd time signature? A peppy, upbeat vibe? A gorgeous glissando vocalist dancing over a fat beat and twitchy sparkly guitars? Who’s been looking through my Christmas list?! ‘Dust’, the band’s second single, brings together all these things and more in a song that contrasts hugely with their first single, but in the best way possible. It’s definite radio fodder, feel good yet edgy enough to remain captivating. The Golden Age Of TV have plenty of bark and plenty of bite, being both technically impressive and furiously emotional, without being overblown in the latter respect, or contrived in the former. The Leeds music scene has gained a strong, competitive act; the rest of the county had better keep up.
::JOE ANDERSON’S TOP THREE TRACKS OF 2017::
King Krule – Dum Surfer
After a period of relative silence, Archy Marshall’s moody jazz-punk moniker, King Krule, made a comeback in 2017, releasing the new album ‘The OOZ’. Lead single ‘Dum Surfer’ is a momentous affair, that sees Marshall fighting with his own inner-demons as well as being haunted by the all too familiar demons that lurk in bars and nightclubs across the country. Culminating in a car crash after one too many drinks, Marshall dusts himself off as he recalls the shock and talks of the aftermath of the collision to the backdrop of heavy, driving drums, wailing saxophones and harsh vocals.
Klangstof – Everest
Scintillating synths plaster ‘Everest’ in a more modern and stylish attempt, making for fantastic soundscapes and deep dark visuals. After the release of their spectacular debut album, ‘Close Eyes to Exit,’ late last year, the Dutch four-piece wasted no time in releasing new material, written on their busy tour cycle (which included a support slot with the Flaming Lips and a stop off at Coachella). The band decided to put away their guitars and open up their laptops, and delve into synthesiser heaven for their new EP. ‘Everest’ sets the bar to new heights in spectacular fashion, with a huge chorus that guarantees to be circling around your brain for days.
Red Kite – Take Care Of Your Own
Indie punk fusion, ‘take care of your own’ is a brooding yet beautiful affair, which pushes the boundaries and potential of alternative rock. After releasing their second album, ‘racquet’ in November, Red Kite look set to take on 2018 head first. Plastered with eccentric fuzzy guitars, it’s easy to get lost in the seemingly endless and perfectly blended spectrum of tone. The use of guitar truly is astonishing, it’s easy to forget you are listening to guitars altogether – the blend of atmosphere and different effects sounds so naturally abnormal. Topped with a massive chorus that breaks the tension with one swift sharp cut, this really is one to listen to over and over again.
::EMILY LEONARD’S TOP THREE TRACKS OF 2017::
Hudson Taylor – Feel It Again
Irish Folk duo Hudson Taylor didn’t disappoint with the release of their single ‘Feel It Again’ earlier in the year. To me, not only does the song itself disseminate happy-go-lucky vibes, but the video also unveils a feeling of ‘freeness’ and of hippie spirits, which is never a bad thing in my opinion. Alongside the melodic strumming of guitar and joyous sound effects of hand claps throughout, this tune can’t help but transmit carefree and beatific sensations.
2017 saw the release of Jake Bugg’s fourth album and amongst the beautifully written acoustic tracks, was one song in particular that stood out to me. ‘Waiting’ is an exquisite piece of music, and a song that never fails to make the hairs on my arms stand on end, whilst I feel the sensation of being transported back to a former romantic time. Noah Cyrus features as a guest vocalist on the track; her innocent yet seductive vocals couldn’t compliment Bugg’s uniquely enchanting voice any better, the vocals of both artists work nothing short of perfect together. The song is quite simply a stunning reprise of times gone by.
Nina Nesbitt – The Moments I’m Missing
Nina Nesbitt returned this year with the release of ‘The Moments I’m Missing,’ a track which showed a new side to Nina – and we love it! The song starts off with a soft yet poppy synth before Nina’s delightful vocals begin, delivering a mellowed-down rap style with the lyrics sharing a very relatable meaning. This piece of music is sublimely written and most enjoyable.
::SAM KEMP’S TOP THREE TRACKS OF 2017::
Kamasi Washington – Truth
Having arranged strings for Kendrick Lamar and played saxophone for Thundercat and Flying Lotus, it is no wonder Kamasi Washington’s ‘Truth,’ the concluding track to his album ‘Harmony of Difference’ has such an air of mastery. With just two recurring chords, an E flat 7th and a D flat 7th, Washington explores the boundless melodic, harmonic and atmospheric possibilities of the Jazz genre. His superhuman command of the saxophone and that of his musical counterparts, suggests that ‘Truth’, is without doubt one of the most innovative and refreshing songs of the year.
King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – Crumbling Castle
The very fact that Australia’s Psychedelic behemoths have released four full-length albums this year, made choosing just one song from that plethora of insatiable creativity all the harder. ‘Crumbling Castle’ feels like the perfect amalgamation of the various creative paths 2017 has taken King Gizzard down; incorporating the Jazz elements that the band explored in ‘Sketches Of Brunswick East,’ as well as the beat driven Prog-Rock of ‘Flying Microtonal Banana’. It is less of a song and more of a psychoactive substance with a 10 minute run time, come downs included.
Childhood – Californian Light
Undoubtedly one of the most significant songs of summer 2017, ‘Californian Light,’ with its inescapable groove and soulful falsetto vocals, has the ability to dissolve a bad mood instantly. It is the musical equivalent of a slap in the face with a wet fish. There are a whole bunch of bands trying to push that nu-soul vibe at the present time, but Childhood seem to be one of the only (in the UK at least) to have managed to do it without looking like complete try-hards. Sometimes that is enough.
::LEWIS LLOYD-KINNINGS’ TOP THREE TRACKS OF 2017::
Superorganism – Something For Your M.I.N.D
Sometimes you hear something which blows you sideways, and you can’t really tell why. I listened to ‘Something For Your M.I.N.D’ maybe 11 times in a row when I was first acquainted with it. On the first listen it was the semi-spoken semi-sing-song vocals that grabbed my attention, the hook wrapping itself around my brain and refusing to let go like Boa Constrictor on Ritalin. I think it was the fourth time through when I realised it was the ballsy, pure-silence drops leading into the chorus that gave the song its power. Somewhere around the 9th or 10th spin I was fully immersed in the colourful world of this multi-limbed collective, where the soundtrack is sugar-coated samples and whales fly through the acidic sky.
Miss World – Click and Yr Mine
If a song starts with a chorus I’m usually sold instantly. ‘Click and Yr Mine’ from PNKSLM artist Miss World does this, and has the substance to back it up. Emerging this September with little fanfare and a quick-fire release of the four tracks that make up her first EP, Miss World (aka. Natalie Chahal – one half of Shit Girlfriend) delivers infectious retro tunes through a fuzzed out filter. Realistically I could’ve picked any of the quartet of tunes she has to her name, owing to the consistency of wit and good-vibes present across them. ‘Click and Yr Mine’ just pips the rest to the post as its the most well-rounded expression of Miss World’s effortless cool and ear for a hook.
Alvvays – In Undertow
Ever since hearing ‘Archie, Marry Me’ from the SEO friendly Canadian dream-pop group Alvvays I’ve been waiting for a tune to measure up to that instant classic. Not that the rest of the band’s material is bad, in fact their self-titled debut is very good and one of the albums I’ve listened to most in the past couple of years. BUT that song has always stood tall as the quintessential Alvvays track – until, that is, earlier this year when ‘In Undertow’ slowly drifted into our consciousness. The electric-piano ushers in Molly Rankin’s svelte vocals, floating above a powdery soundscape, before an emotional chorus envelopes you. Simple, but incredibly effective, ‘In Undertow’ is the second great track in Alvvays’ impressive canon.
::WILL WOLSTENHOLME’S TOP THREE TRACKS OF 2017::
The Hubbards – Just Touch
The Hubbards’ stand-out 2017 release ‘Just Touch’ is a short statement of love and jealousy, intertwining straight-beat slams with twin-chord hands. The Leeds-based quartet elevates slackening tones and woozing moans, as the track spasms jerks in pasteled loose-cut denim. Reuben Driver’s chorus vocal call and cry opens psyche-doors en masse, overwhelming the chuggy single with ostensibly simple comments for days of unravelling. Encapsulating all The Hubbards’ angst-driven juxtaposition of harnessed aggression and delicate sensuality, ‘Just Touch’ manifests the band’s progression into a true light of British underground alternative pop music.
Nothing But Thieves – Particles
Embodying all the landscape and sentiment of new album, ‘Broken Machine’, ‘Particles’ builds an urban world powered digital. The backseat bass keeps you awake with uncertain sub-rhythmic prods, prevailing in constant partnership with the drums’ percussive lurch. The chorus shocks unlikely discordant pleasure through steady chromatic lift, shaking existence into life with vocal climbs to drop the jaw. ‘Particles’ accepts and embraces the troublesome, initialising Nothing But Thieves’ semantic upgrade from first to second album. 2017 saw Nothing But Thieves relay a meaningful art into their product, and this can be seen no clearer than in ‘Particles’.
Flyte – Sliding Doors
Flyte slip minds into trance with flowing track, ‘Sliding Doors’ – a deep cut from debut record ‘The Loved Ones’. Flyte continue to engage literary influence into narrative lyrical play, all the while familiar to informality, ‘Sliding Doors’ is an expansive track of illuminating contemporary fusion. The quartet recaptures Beatle twee in a 21st century tizz, as ‘Sliding Doors’ discusses a hopeless life in uncoloured electronica, and wondering keyboards and shimmying bass ground a realist psychedelia. Flyte blur musical pasts and presents to tell tales in the comfort of home, crafting a narrative art of sonic delights.
::ANDY BROOKES’ TOP THREE TRACKS OF 2017::
Alpha Male Tea Party – Don’t You Know Who I Think I Am
Liverpool’s AMTP’s specific brand of progressive metal has never failed to excite me over the course of their seven year career. Never being ones to stray from experimentation and rethinking their formula and style, 2017’s ‘Health’ proved that AMTP are not done with pushing stylistic and musical boundaries. The exciting pushy feeling of the drums, complex melodic and rhythmic passages played by the guitars, and creative effect use solidifies this track as a highlight of the album – and of my year.
Gang – Rawboned
Picking out ‘Rawboned’ as my favourite track from this album was far from easy. The entire album is a stellar example of a band knowing exactly what it is and where it wants to go with its music. No track on their debut ‘925 ‘Til I Die’ left me wanting but ‘Rawboned’ typifies everything I love about the band and LP. Twisted and malevolent instrumentation effortlessly combines with the almost playful timbre of the band’s vocals, helping create that uneasy sound that Gang have become known for down in the South East.
The Wytches – Double World (Sludge Version)
No-one asked for this. No-one expected this. But I’ll be damned if I don’t love it. Off the back of their successful second album ‘All Your Happy Life,’ the self labelled ‘slap metal’ Wytches dropped this double single late this year with little warning. The sludge version in particular stands out to me as how doom can be so accessible without forgoing what makes it so powerful. It’s dark, it’s unrelenting without being violent. It doesn’t attack, it stalks.
::ZOE PECK’S TOP THREE TRACKS OF 2017::
Two Feet – Love Is a Bitch
Rather than an artist, Two Feet is considered a project – started by New York musician Bill Dess and characterised by bass-heavy, hazy electronica, conveying a bittersweet attitude to love in more modern terms than traditional blues. The project’s second EP ‘Momentum’ featured ‘Love Is a Bitch,’ a track simplistic and so intoxicatingly slow that I played it on repeat after first hearing it at work in July when a colleague played it from her phone. Perhaps most interesting is the character’s stance towards their own situation, they seem pleasantly stuck, more fascinated by heartbreak than broken themselves. The track’s enduring charm over me looks set to outlive 2017.
Cold War Kids – Love Is Mystical
“And when my heart won’t break / An empty space between my lungs / and when my knees won’t shake / I’ll drink to find inspiration” -Though the lyrics to the lead single on Cold War Kids’ sixth album ‘L.A Divine’ speak of the human attraction to heartbreak, this song is more an ode to the power of love. For me, the power of the track is in the strain of the vocals, the unrelenting bass drum and the decision to start the song on the word “and,” giving the feeling of having jumped into someone’s uncensored thought stream as opposed to simply being told an edited story.
Billie Eilish – My Boy
Billie Eilish is the electro-pop star destined to rise up the charts for her modernity in style and slang (as you’d expect from someone born in 2001.) Most charming is her willingness to sound like a teenager, her voice being at times babyish and at others sharpened by a bitterness directed at crushes and copycats. ‘My Boy’ – as addictively dramatic as teenage heartbreak itself, demonstrates the sweetness of her voice, her trademark sass and her wordplay finesse – “My boy’s being sus / he was shady enough / but now he’s just a shadow.” Odds are you’ll be hard pressed to ignore Billie Eilish in 2018.
Catch up on all the tracks featured in our End of Year round-up via this handy Spotify playlist: