Pictured: Annie Bacon.
When push comes to shove, it’s the songs that I remember that prove the most impactful to me. Why one song lingers and another doesn’t is utter mystery. It certainly isn’t because these are the best songs by some objective standard. They are songs that I heard in 2017 and then couldn’t shake. Songs that spoke to my (or our) place in time in space, or just had an infectious element that hooked me deep. Philosophers and therapists alike could wonder for years about these lists that any one of us could compile. What were your unshakable songs?
Nicole Atkins, “A Little Crazy”
If there were ever comparisons with Patsy Cline and Roy Orbison in Nicole Atkins’ career, she has leaned into them on this one, even naming this song in apparent homage to Patsy Cline’s biggest hit. This was an endlessly replayed song for me.
Kacey Johansing, “Do You Want Me?”
This whole album, The Hiding, was a stunning return for Johansing, who had been musically quiet after leaving the Bay Area a few years ago. The entire album was unshakable, surf-folk in her characteristically dreamy style.
Yasmine Hamdan, “Balad”
Grabbing a random assignment to preview Yasmine Hamdan’s show proved a delight to my ears. “Balad” is a haunting and gorgeous political ballad with dark droning tones at its base. The song gains intensity in the choruses as Hamdan sings, “Hostage to the security situation / I am the citizen deposed / Hostage to the security situation / I am the citizen defeated.” The song rings less like a lamentation than a call to action through the simple naming of a reality that could apply to many of us on this earth right now.
Harry Styles, “Sign of the Times”
To be honest, I think I was so surprised that this album wasn’t shitty algorithmic pop that it blew my mind. Harry Styles is possessed of a killer voice, and, teamed up with some of the best songwriters, put together a damn good rock and roll debut. “Sign of the Times” is not the best track on the album (I think “Two Ghosts” probably is), but it’s the one that caught me.
The Singer & The Songwriter, “Anywhere, Everywhere”
This local Bay Area band has me deep under their spell. Every time I see them I tell them that I’m their #5 fan (behind their four parents). With impeccable songwriting skills and musicianship, Rachel Garcia and Thu Tran create a jazz-folk universe in which I love (need) to get lost on the regular. Their new EP Directions featured one track in particular, “Anywhere, Everywhere” that pushed the tempo and got me amped back up to life in some tough moments this year. (Bonus: I ended up with a small cameo in the video for the song!)
The Mynabirds, Be Here Now, “Golden Age”
Ever since I covered the Mynabirds (knowing nothing at the outset) for a Noise Pop show a few years back, I’ve been enchanted by this band. Front woman Laura Burhenn is a force in the indie-folk world, managing to be at once earnest, poetic and highly polished. “Golden Age”, and its album BE HERE NOW, missed my radar upon initial release. When it found me … let’s just say it was exactly the anthem for our times that I needed. #RESIST
Beck, “No Distraction”
Beck’s newest album, Colors, is a dream for any fan. The dude is unstoppable. How he manages to continue putting out music that sounds indelibly like Beck and still different from everything he’s done is just amazing. “No Distraction” got my shoulders popping and knees bending in that old new wave style and it was just “what I need(ed) right now” to remember to keep having fun.
Marissa Kay, “Show The World Love”
When I briefly wrote about Marissa Kay’s new album Trans Is Love a few weeks back, I named this song a lost page from Woody Guthrie’s oeuvre. Although if I were picking the objectively best song on the album I’d lean towards “Close Your Eyes” or “Cloud 9,” this was the one that got under my skin. The sort of “under my skin” that made me pick up my guitar, figure out the chords, and start composing other verses to make it longer.
LCD Soundsystem, “emotional haircut”
Let’s just say that I gave myself a lot of emotional haircuts in my 20s and this really really resonated. Luckily I made friends with a hairstylist and she saved me from my scissors.