We’ve just about reached the halfway point on 2017, so it seems like a good time to pause and recognize some of the great tracks that have come out so far this year. We asked KUTX staffers for their five favorite songs of 2017 so far – here’s what they had to say. (Top image: Music Director Jeff McCord’s desk, which is a dream if you love music, but a nightmare if you hate mail.)
Jeff McCord, Music Director and Host
“… five favorites in no particular order.”
The War On Drugs / “Thinking Of A Place” – Wasn’t sure this Philly band was going to make it after defections and a major label deal, but they’re finally back, and in top form with another quiet storm. Meditative, with otherworldly guitar work and a sound that never grows old.
Kendrick Lamar / “FEEL” – I feel like a chip on my shoulders/i feel like I’m losing’ my patience/I feel like my thoughts in the basement/I feel like you’re miseducated/feel like I don’t wanna be bothered/I feel like you may be the problem/I feel like it ain’t no tomorrow.
Courtney Barnett / “How To Boil An Egg” – The master of the mundane returns. Barnett resurrects and modernizes and quickly records an old song for her singles club that sounds as crafted and rocks as hard as any released so far this year.
Leopold and His Fiction / “If You Gotta Go (Go Now)” – A joyous romp on an obscure Dylan tune that makes me smile every time I hear it.
Gabriel Garzon-Montano / “Crawl” – Inverted funk a la Shuggie Otis and, for me at least, THE earworm of 2017 so far.
Jody Denberg, Host
5. Gurf Morlix / “Deeper Down” – A noted producer and guitarist, Morlix’s CD The Soul And The Heal takes his songwriting game up another notch, exemplified by this composition and others just as worthy.
4. Prince / “Deliverance” – Even from the great beyond, Prince delivers. Even if legalities removed the song and the EP from the marketplace, it still sounds on target.
3. This Is The Kit / “Moonshine Freeze” – Mysterious and beguiling, mellow but with a groove, I know nothing more about this artist than she is Britain’s Kate Stables. I think I’ll just let the mystery be.
2. Robyn Hitchcock / “I Want To Tell You About What I Want” – 20 or so solo albums in, Robyn delivers an amazing disc with this single as its centerpiece. Sincere and sarcastic simultaneously, it’s quintessential Hitchcock.
1. Sweet Spirit / “The Power” – An anthem from Austin’s most charismatic band. One that should be bad, nationwide and eternal.
Susan Castle, Host
” … alphabetically.”
Cherry Glazerr / “Told You I’d Be with the Guys”
Grizzly Bear / “Mourning Sound”
This is The Kit / “Moonlight Freeze”
Savoy Motel / “Sorry People”
Thievery Corporation ft. Raquel Jones / “Letter to the Editor”
Jay Trachtenberg, Host
” … in no particular order.”
Mathew Logan Vasquez / “Same” – Who would have expected strings and a vocal chorus from this hard-rocking Austinite who fronts Delta Spirit? Can we expect a new direction?
Little Sims / “Picture Perfect” – This young lady from London throws down a fresh, confident, new sound for the UK hip hop scene.
Sleaford Mods / “BHS” – A pair of working class blokes from Nottingham, England rail against the powers-that-be while riding a stripped-down, incessant electro-beat.
Nikki Lane / “Jackpot” – South Carolina-raised, Nashville-based songstress rolls a seven with this rollicking country rock gem.
Tinariwen / “Sastanaqqam” – Some of us can’t seem to get enough of the hypnotic, entrancing desert groove from these Taureg musicians of northern Mali.
Elizabeth McQueen, Host & Producer of This Song
Sweet Spirit / “The Power” – This song out-anthem’s “We Will Rock You” and sends me into fits of giddy fist in the air empoweredness at every listen. Long Live Sweet Spirit!
Mobley / “Tell Me” – Mobley is making some of the best music in Austin and this song makes want to cry on the dance floor (always a good sign), while the video for the song just makes me straight-up cry.
Ty Richards / “Going out for a Cigarette” – I find myself dissecting this pop gem every time I listen to it. The sounds are cool, the lyrics get me, and there’s a special something about it that is super compelling. But what exactly is it?!? I still haven’t figured it out, which means I get to listen to it on repeat again! YAY!
Benjamin Booker ft. Mavis Staples / “Witness” – I love Benjamin Booker and I love Mavis Staples and I love this song. It makes me want to be more than a witness to events. I makes me want to be an active participant.
Gorillaz / “We Got the Power” – It’s no secret that I’m a fan of all things Damon Albarn, and the new Gorillaz record Humanz is no exception. This track in particular makes me feel hopeful and grateful every time I hear it. I have dreams of arranging it for a choir — I’m hoping that will happen soon.
Art Levy, Host and Producer
5. Jidenna / “Bambi” – Like if Sam Cooke grew up on DJ Screw/Houston rap.
4. Mac DeMarco / “My Old Man” – Indie’s reigning clown prince is a lot deeper than he lets on. The drum-machine-on-downers vibe fits him well.
3. Broken Social Scene / “Hug Of Thunder” – I love that Feist has gotten weirder and weirder across her career. Her heady voice makes this atmospheric, minimalist track soar.
2. Juana Molina / “Cosoco” – Like folk music made by machines, somehow ancient and futuristic at the same time.
1. Big Thief / “Mythological Beauty” – Beautiful, of course, and maybe a little bit mythological. Even though it’s specifically about singer Adrienne Lenker’s life, it feels older, something reverberating through time.
Rick McNulty, Host
Naked Giants / “Ya Ya” – By a landslide, the best rawk song I’ve heard all year. Chunking power chords, screaming guitars, and a chorus that hollers, “Whoaaaaa, ya-ya-ya-ya hey!” What more do you need?
Childish Gambino / “Have Some Love” – I miss the glory days of P-Funk and this tune is a perfect throwback. I don’t care if it’s a pastiche or a rip-off (even down to the cover art); all I know is that this is the best Funkadelic record George Clinton never made.
Matthew Logan Vasquez / “Same” – Goes to show that a little bit of polish can elevate good material to great. Strings, background singers, and a terrific hook turn this into a monster.
Spoon / “Hot Thoughts” – There seems to be a lot of Prince in the DNA of this song. It’s sensual with traces of funk and features addictive descending harmonies throughout. This one’s going on every mixed tape I make this year.
Thundercat / “Show You The Way” – If there’s such a thing as post-yacht rock, this is it. Inviting Michael McDonald and Kenny Loggins to lay down smoky ‘70s vocals is a stroke of genius. Put this on repeat for those days at the pool.
Michael Crockett, host of Horizontes, Music of Latin America
Emicida w/Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra (Brazil/Japan) / “Olho Pro Ceu” – Backed by the Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, who played SXSW this year, Brazilian rapper Emicida performs his own unique version of “Sukiaki” a song from Japan that was an international hit in the early sixties. I had a 45 rpm single of this song when I was a kid and I love this new “ska” version.
Campo w/Gustavo Santaolalla (Uruguay/Argentina) / “Tambor del Cosmos” – Campo is a side project of Bajofondo co-founder Juan Campodónico from Uruguay. The other co-founder, Guastavo Santaolalla, from Argentina, joins the band to sing this “cosmic” electro-cumbia called “Universal Drum.”
Gepe (Chile) / “Hablar de Ti” – Chile is a country with a strong folk music tradition but it also has some of the best pop music in Latin America. Daniel Riveros, aka Gepe, always has a bit a of both on his albums, but it’s this sweet romantic pop homage to a woman, “Speaking of You,” that I’m humming this summer.
Residente w/Soko (Puerto Rico/France) / “Desencuentro” – Puerto Rican rapper Residente, formerly the lyricist for the duo, Calle 13, has traveled the world and made a movie for his self-titled debut album. And in a departure from his usual social commentary, he sings a bi-lingual romantic duet on the album with French singer, Soko, about two potential lovers failure to connect. The video is a must-see.
Dayme Arocena (Cuba) / “Mambo Na’ Ma’” – Cuban mambo meets New Orleans brass as young Cuban jazz singer, Dayme Arocena, scats her way through the brass cacophony returning often to the simple refrain, “It’s just Mambo.” Yeah, but it also swings.
Matt Reilly, Program Director
The Black Angels / “Currency”– Just when I think that the Black Angels have made their best album, they put out another one that surpasses previous efforts. This track off of Death Song was the first song I heard from the record. That groove mixed with the basic, timeless message of how what you own ends up owning you, works well in these ultra-capitalist times.
Ty Richards / “Shoulda Coulda Woulda” – The first time I heard this, I thought ‘eh’. But then about an hour later, I was humming the melody. This is a total ear worm. I believe the technical term is “grower.” This is a great song and it’s my fault that it took me 5 listens to reach that conclusion.
Juana Molina / “Cosoco” – I’ve been a fan for several years of this Argentinian and she continues to impress. This song is modern, layered and rewarding with repeated listens.
Cherry Glazerr / “Told You I’d Be With The Guys” – I’m a riff guy. This is a great riff and the unhinged quality to this song makes it a little dangerous. Which is nice.
Naked Giants / “Ya Ya” – Did I mention I’m a riff guy? This is so loud and brash and dumb; things I want in my face-melting rock songs. And I don’t mean dumb as in stupid, it’s just not deep, but why does it need to be? I’d say roll down the windows and crank it but it’s summer here in Austin and you really shouldn’t do that. You might die.
Jacquie Fuller, Assistant Program Director
Sweet Spirit / “The Power” – Let’s pretend Gary Glitter never existed, and this was the original Jock Jam. If that were true, jocks wouldn’t even exist. School would be ruled by the heavy-eyelinered stoner girls on the fringes of the schoolyard. Also, I’d lose my virginity a lot sooner.
Broken Social Scene / “Hug of Thunder” – Feist returns to her original stomping grounds with the Canadian supergroup and the result is downright atmospheric. This song feels weightless and heavy at the same time. It’s a fluffy cloud that could kick your ass if it wanted to.
Spoon / “Do I Have To Talk You Into It?” – Okay, so yes, this is sort of “The Beast and Dragon Adored” funked-up a bit, and I want you to know that Spoon could just recycle all their old songs from here on out and I’d keep paying my hard-earned money for them. As the title implies, there’s a whole lot of itches in need of scratching on Hot Thoughts, and every time Britt Daniel lets loose one of those frustrated-emu-in-heat moans, I reach for my wallet.
The xx / “On Hold” – If you thought The xx was the sonic equivalent of Lunesta, you should give the band another chance, via this dancey number. Bonus: It’s fortified with Hall & Oates!
Slowdive / “Sugar for the Pill” – SHHHHH. STOP TALKING. DON’T TALK TO ME WHEN THIS SONG IS PLAYING. Oh, forget it – I’ll just start it over.