Oh yes friends and family, it’s that time of year again.
When the content dries up When the year winds down, it’s time to reflect and celebrate what made it great – and you’d better believe New Music From The Inbox had a hierarchy brewing through this past 365. No need for pomp and circumstance, let’s just get straight down to it: here are the best songs that came through the Inbox in 2017.
1. Artist: Mike Krol
Song: “Fifteen Minutes”
Album/EP: Mike Krol Is Never Dead: The First Two Albums
What made it great: Maybe it’s the blistering fast runtime, maybe it’s the unbelievably catchy hook, maybe it’s the lo-fi hot-mess breakdown or even the restless-heart wailing. I really can’t put my finger on it, but I can say with certainty that “Fifteen Minutes” quickly turned Mike Krol into a recurring artist for me. All of his albums are indie garage gold, but this tune is the crown jewel that started it all. Hands-down, best of the year.
What I originally said: Fuzzy, trebly, snotty, wailing, but hooky as hell – this is seriously one of the best songs I’ve heard in months. Originally from Krol’s album I Hate Jazz and made famous from a scene in popular cartoon series Steven Universe, “Fifteen Minutes” blisters by in a flaming pinwheel of distortion that’ll make you want to listen over and over.
2. Artist: Charly Bliss
Song: “Scare U”
What made it great: Another gateway song to another fantastic album, “Scare U” also had the all-important staying power of a successful single. Bright and poppy enough to be a treat to listen to but deep enough to never tire out, Charly Bliss struck gold with not only this tune, but the entirety of Guppy.
What I originally said: Power-pop with a campy coating, Charly Bliss’ latest single has a light tone to match the bright vocals. The kind of fun fare that’s easy to leave on repeat and dance around to endlessly, without noticing how many times you’ve listened.
3. Artist: Good Kid
What made it great: Continuously a joy to come back to, I realize now there was a pretty big oversight in my original write-up of this pop-punk zest. The below still applies, but there’s also a certain essence of fresh 00s indie that “Witches” lives up to after several listens. Uninhibited unpretentious new millennium indie rock is what really kept Good Kid’s single playing again and again on my playlist, as if I were discovering The Strokes all over again.
What I originally said: There’s something about a ripper of a pop-punk song that my inner 14-year-old just can’t resist. Good Kid has a sound to match Marianas Trench or Fall Out Boy, and “Witches” is the perfect example: biting, riffy, moving, yet still whiny and edgy in all the right ways. Even though the mid-2000s were a decade ago, I can’t help but imagine this Toronto band wears eyeliner and skinny ties. And that, by no means, is a bad thing.
4. Artist: QWAM
Song: “Doggie Door”
Album/EP: Feed Me
What made it great: Colouring within a genre’s pre-determined lines is a double-edged sword. Innovation keeps things interesting but straying too far can alienate too many fans; at the same time, playing it too safe is boring. But if you can manage to play by the rules yet still sound fresh, you’ve hit that nostalgia goldmine – and QWAM definitely achieve that with “Doggy Door”. Simply put: they play punk that reminds me of when I first realized three power chord was all I needed…and they play it well.
What I originally said: Accusingly biting and unabashedly energetic, this is the ubiquitous chip-on-your-shoulder kind of punk. Some gang vocals, rapid-fire riffs, and a snarling lead singer all come together to make this frenetic debut an excellent anthem from Brooklyn newcomers QWAM.
5. Artist: Das Lunsentrio
What made it great: Music is the universal language, and dance is its expression. And guess what? “Pressefest” will get you moving. Maybe the classic four-to-the-floor will elicit a 60s shimmy rather than a modern shake, but that’s part of the magic too. It never went out of style, but Das Lunsentrio make stomping around fun all over. And, oh man, that damn guitar tone!
What I originally said: If the British invasion were to have a stopover in Germany, this is what it would sound like. Krautrock influences on good old-fashioned rock and roll make Das Lunsentrio’s single “Pressefest” a stupidly fun ride, even if you can’t understand a single word they say. And, oh man, is that guitar tone ever crunchy! Probably helps to have Franz Ferdinand ex-guitarist Nick McCarthy in the lineup.
6. Artist: Dead Heavens
Song: “Away From The Speed”
Album/EP: Whatever Witch You Are
What made it great: I had the privilege of seeing this band live back in late October, and “Away From The Speed” got the crowd going just as predicted. Aggressive is still the word to use, but maybe peppy or spunky is an important modifier: in a set otherwise dominated by heavier hard rock, Dead Heavens let this one be their youthful, agile crowd-pleaser.
What I originally said: Maybe it’s the video that convinced me, but this song screams Quentin Tarantino fight scene. Distorted guitars, fuzzy vocals, pounding drums, and a sprawling solo or two keep the energy up in the aggressive, if short-lived, rocking tune. Or maybe the vaguely indie tone would make “Away From The Speed” more suited to an Edgar Wright beat-em-up a la Scott Pilgrim? Either way.
7. Artist: Alvvays
Song: “Plimsoll Punks”
What made it great: An early standout in Alvvays’ stellar sophomore album, “Plimsoll Punks” is chock-full of memorable tidbits that elevate the song. The ascending/descending guitar scale transitions, Molly’s bold vocal range, a rhythm section that never quits, and of course those jingle jangle vibes add to an already irresistible track list. Plus, it’s fast. I like fast.
What I originally said: It’s Alvvays. Come on. The glammy, jangly, shoegazy heavyweights bring more of what they’re best at with the latest single from upcoming sophomore record Antisocialites. This one clips a little bit faster than some of their other offerings, and even boasts some striking falsetto from frontwoman Molly Rankin. And if you’re wondering, this is a plimsoll.
8. Artist: Day Trip
Song: “Electric Lilies”
What made it great: “Electric Lilies” doesn’t have a hook, it has falcon talons that sink into you and never let go. It’s a party-in-a-can that I dream about witnessing live on a dance floor. It’s a blistering romp that pumps pure musical adrenaline through your veins and spends no time unwisely. Basically? It’s real fun.
What I originally said: The Soundcloud listing labels “Electric Lilies” as ‘gritty and pretty’, and honestly they nailed it. Some truly fuzzy distortion is countered by soaring guitar melodies and feisty riffs, and a certain kind of ecstatic music overload that you need to hear for yourself. Keep an eye on this spunky Torontonian group – this is the kind of party you’ll want to see live.
9. Artist: Together Pangea
Song: “Money On It”
Album/EP: Bulls and Roosters
What made it great: Ugh damnit this song is just cool. And good, of course. Don’t forget good. The easy-going hazy-day vibe balances perfectly with the lyrical heartache, and doesn’t miss a beat in bringing the audience into the fold. Another one I’d love to see live, and ultimately a band to keep an eye on. (Plus FIDLAR shot the video, and I generally approve of their collaborations).
What I originally said: If you’ve ever wondered whether doo-wop and West Coast slacker punk can mesh together, look no farther than “Money On It”. OK, that might have been a bit of a reach. But still – the scratchy vocals, laid-back groove, and guitar’s lamenting drawl somehow feels like a 50s-era big-band stage-filling production suddenly learned about power chords. You’ll see what I mean.
10. Artist: Great Grandpa
Song: “Expert Eraser”
Album/EP: Plastic Cough
What made it great: There wasn’t ever any indication this tune would have any staying power, yet this sonic enigma continues to pleasantly surprise many months after it first appeared in the Inbox. It’s almost as if this song is the perfect amount of broken, and Lord knows the world needs hope that broken can be a good thing. OK, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but still – mistake or not, you’ll be glad all the shattered pieces are there.
What I originally said: There’s a lot to unpack here. Equal parts math rock, post-emo, noise and grunge, this tune from Seattle-based Great Grandpa is a very pleasing cacophony. Stilted, unsettled, fragmented, cerebral – there’s no indication this is meant to be pretty music for pretty people. Yet the promise of a strong debut from this guitar-heavy outfit is immediately obvious because damn it, it’s enjoyable! (just make sure to listen through the intro)