Music update, January 2018.

My AL Central org reports and top tens went up this morning for Insiders.

January was a huge month for new music, especially the latter half, with new albums and singles coming out in a deluge from about January 19th on. As usual, I’ve pushed the heavier material to the end, although I’m starting the list with one of the most important bands in metal history. If you can’t see the widget you can access the Spotify playlist directly.

Judas Priest – Lightning Strike. Three of the current members of these New Wave of British Heavy Metal stalwarts are age 66 or older; Glenn Tipton, their lead guitarist, turned 70 in October. And this song, from their forthcoming album Firepower (their 18th), absolutely rocks.

Turbowolf, Mike Kerr – Domino. This lead single from Turbowolf’s upcoming album features Royal Blood bassist/vocalist Kerr, with a hard-driving, psychedelic, bass-heavy rhythm line that hooked me on first listen.

Black Space Riders – Another Sort of Homecoming. This song was my introduction to this German stoner-rock act, with a keyboard-driven but still moderately heavy sound that should appeal to fans of QotSA or Kyuss.

The Wombats – Cheetah Tongue. The Wombats really can’t miss with me; this is the third single from Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life, their fourth album, due out on February 9th.

INHEAVEN – Sweet Dreams Baby. INHEAVEN’s debut album made my top 10 for 2017, and even though it came out in September, they’ve already produced this new single which is more of the same good stuff.

Public Access T.V. – Lost in the Game. This quartet is from New York but sounds almost comically British in their channeling of ’80s New Wave on this track.

whenyoung – Silverchair. An Irish trio that reminds me tremendously of London-based trio Daughter with their acoustic-punk, ethereal sound on this, their second single after October’s “Actor.”

Belle & Sebastian – Show Me The Sun. The songs from the first two EPs these Scottish icons have released under the How to Solve Our Human Problems moniker have been all over the place in style and tempo; this song would fit more with their 2015 album Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, which had a more electronic, pop-oriented sound that I loved but many longtime B&S fans disliked.

Van William – Cosmic Sign. Van Pierszalowski’s solo debut, Countries, dropped on January 19th, featuring this country-leaning track, “Revolution,” “Fourth of July,” and “The Country.”

Ride – Catch You Dreaming (Shorter). Ride went away for 21 years, came out with a new album last year, and since then have already released two more new singles, this track and “Pulsar,” which will appear on the EP Tomorrow’s Shore, due out 2/16.

Sunflower Bean – Crisis Fest. The New York indie darlings will finally release their second album, Twentytwo in Blue, on March 23rd, featuring this driving, politically-themed track.

Car Seat Headrest – Nervous Young Inhumans (Single Edit). Car Seat Headrest, which is really just Will Toledo’s project, has re-recorded their sixth album, 2011’s Twin Fantasy, in its entirety, with this as the lead single. The new version, retitled Twin Fantasy (Face to Face), drops on the 16th.

Cœur De Pirate – Prémonition. This Quebecois singer-songwriter sings in both French and English, with “Carry On,” from her 2015 album Roses, my favorite song to date from her; this French-language track is a bit less immediate but still has a great poppy hook.

The Crab Apples – Open Your Mind. This Catalonian quartet’s sound reminds me musically of the Cranberries – as does their name, of course – although the vocal style is very different. Their second album, A Drastic Mistake, came out last month.

Hinds – New For You. Another act from Spain, Hinds comprises four women who all look and sound like kids and produce a unique, guileless sound that doesn’t always work – sometimes it sounds amateurish, but sometimes it just hits the right balance of polish and rawness as it does here.

Preoccupations – Espionage. Formerly known as Viet Cong, this Canadian act, born of the ashes of art-rock band Women, will release an album of new material called New Material on March 23rd.

Porches – Goodbye. Aaron Maine’s third album as Porches, called The House, dropped on January 19th; this song starts slowly, but hang with it, as it picks up about a minute in.

Desperate Journalist – It Gets Better. Another band new to me, Desperate Journalist is already working on a five-song EP that will come out on March 30th, barely a year after their second album came out. The sound here reminds me of the edgier, more rock-influenced side of Britpop, similar to acts like Echobelly and Sleeper.

Pond – Fire In The Water. This new song appears as a bonus track on the psych-rockers’ 2017 album Weather; they’re inextricably linked to Tame Impala and a band you’ll probably like if you like Kevin Parker’s work.

Wye Oak – The Louder I Call, the Faster It Runs. I’m lukewarm on this track, which doesn’t completely come together, but there’s enough here to make me curious about the Baltimore duo’s upcoming album of the same name, due out April 6th.

Radkey – Not Smart. This punk/post-hardcore trio of brothers just got a big boost from Mastercard, who helped fund the video for the single after this one, “Can’t Judge a Book” featuring SZA.

Dream Wife – Hey Heartbreaker. A London-based punk trio with an Icelandic lead singer, Dream Wife’s self-titled debut dropped last month; it’s uneven, but there are some great Sløtface-like punk/pop tracks like this one.

Lady Bird – Spoons. It seems like a great time to launch a band named Lady Bird, even though this group is British – very, very British – and are the first act to appear on Girl Fight Records, the new label founded by the British punk duo Slaves.

Wooden Shjips – Staring At The Sun. This experimental/art-rock band made my top albums of 2013 list with Back to Land; this seven-minute epic offers more of the same spacey, meandering, often mesmerizing music.

of Montreal – Paranoiac Intervals/Body Dysmorphia. I believe this is actually two songs smushed together, which produces a 7-minute track that is typical of Montreal weirdness.

King Buffalo – Centurion. Stoner/psychedelic rockers from upstate New York, King Buffalo just put out a new EP, Repeater, which leads with this track.

Fu Manchu – Clone of the Universe. This stoner/punk act from southern California’s twelfth album, also called Clone of the Universe, comes out on February 9th.

Weedpecker – Molecule. Stoner rockers from Poland with one of the greatest band names ever. It’s also the third seven-minute song on my playlist, and it sounds like a marriage between Sleep and late Opeth.

Cynic – Humanoid. Cynic’s Focus was a seminal record in the subgenre of progressive or technical death metal, but the 1993 album was their only official release until 2008’s Traced in Air. “Humanoid” is their first new track since 2014 and the first since founding drummer Sean Reinert left the band.

Tribulation – The World. These Swedish melodic death metallers have a very specific, classic rock vibe with death growls rather than clean vocals, increasingly eschewing other trappings of death metal like blast beats as they’ve matured. Their latest album, Down Below, feels utterly mainstream for any act that still accepts the death-metal label, with tremendous guitar riffs and lots of nods back to 1970s and 1980s metal pioneers. I’ll need a few more listens but I’m guessing it’ll end the year as one of the top three metal albums of 2018.

Stick to baseball, 1/19/18.

I only wrote three things this week that you can see anywhere right now: Two posts for Insiders on the Andrew McCutchen trade and the Gerrit Cole trade; and a review of the movie Call Me By Your Name.

Everything else I wrote will go up next week as part of the top 100 prospects package. The top 100 itself is scheduled to run on Monday and Tuesday – I’m still working on the order – followed by the “just missed” column on Thursday and one page ranking all 30 farm systems on Friday, which means that last writeup will be more concise than last year’s. The org reports will run the week after. If you’re curious, I haven’t written anything besides the top 100 capsules yet. So, yeah, things are just great.

And now, the links…

Music update, December 2017.

I sometimes post a monthly playlist for December after my top 100 songs of the year come out to catch singles that came out after I posted the rankings, but this year there weren’t quite enough songs for that, so this is more of a salmagundi of singles I missed from earlier in the year, new stuff that didn’t make the list, a few songs that did but are good enough to mention again, and so on. You can access the playlist here if the widget below doesn’t work.

Artificial Pleasure – Wound up Tight. This was #80 on my top 100 songs of 2017, the first song I’d heard from this London electronic-rock group, who have released a few singles but no full-length album yet. I’d say it’s like the Human League meet Wild Beasts.

The Decemberists – Ben Franklin’s Song. A “Hamildrop” with lyrics courtesy of Lin-Manuel Miranda, who apparently wrote the words with the Decemberists in mind, then sent them to Colin Meloy, who produced what I think is one of the band’s best tunes to go with it. Warning: There’s some choice language within.

Kid Astray – Roads. This was #85 on my best of 2017 list, the third time this Norwegian indie-pop act has made one of my annual top 100s.

The Fratellis – Stand up Tragedy. I feel like the Fratellis’ lyrics are sort of a poor man’s version of the wordplay we get from the Wombats’ Matthew Murphy, which may in turn be a reaction to the Fratellis’ biggest hit coming from their 2006 debut. It’s a bit of a shame that “Chelsea Dagger,” a great song in its own right, has overshadowed their later work; they’ve produced plenty of solid-average tunes like this one even if they haven’t matched their first song’s peak.

The Wombats – Turn. Speak of the devils. This is a little more midtempo than my favorite Wombats songs, and didn’t make my top 100 (although “Lemon to a Knife Fight” did at #17. Beautiful People Will Ruin Your Life drops on February 9th, and their US tour starts this week (with a show in Philly I can’t make, unfortunately).

HAERTS – The Way. HAERTS released this single on December 8th, their third of 2017, but there’s still no word of a new album.

Van William – Before I Found You. The WATERS lead singer’s debut solo album, Countries, is due out on January 19th, and includes this single, “Country” (#91 on my 2017 top 100), “Revolution” (#41 on my 2016 top 100), and “Fourth of July (#15 on my 2016 list). So I’m looking forward to it.

Belle & Sebastian – The Girl Doesn’t Get It. The Scottish stalwarts are releasing three Eps over three months under the collective title How to Solve Our Human Problems, with an expected 15 songs in total. It’s more of a return to their typical style, if they can even be said to have one, after their outstanding pop/dance-tinged Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance.

Sunflower Bean – I Was a Fool. “Wall Watcher” was #87 on my 2015 top 100; this is the band’s first new single since their 2016 debut album and their last single, “Easier Said.” The indie/jangle-pop trio should release their second album some time in 2018, but there’s no date or title yet.

Anteros – Love. Anteros’ “Cherry Drop” was #43 on my top 100 from last year; this December single was my second-favorite track of the four the band released last year.

The Afghan Whigs with James Hall – You Want Love. The Afghan Whigs released this song in June, a cover of a 2004 song by Pleasure Club, as a tribute to the Whigs’ late guitarist. Whigs lead singer Greg Dulli is a longtime fan of Hall, who was the founder and lead singer/guitarist of Pleasure Club and has had a lengthy underground career as a solo artist.

Buffalo Tom – All Be Gone. I assumed Buffalo Tom were on a permanent hiatus, but this single just appeared a few weeks ago ahead of a promised new album, their first since 2011. This feels like their ’90s peak in the combination of upbeat music and melancholy lyrics, although the production puts Bill Janovitz’s vocals further out front.

Ten Fé – Single, No Return. Ten Fé’s debut album, Hit the Light, was my #10 album of 2017; they’ve since become (officially) a five-piece band and released this new single in November.

Saxon – Thunderbolt. Saxon were a major part of the New Wave of British Heavy Metal, although they didn’t have as much success in the U.S. as they did in the U.K., never landing a top 100 album over here. They’ve continued recording and have had a modest comeback over their last few albums, with this the title track from their upcoming 22nd LP.

Legend Of The Seagullmen – Shipswreck.. The band’s own site describes them as a “genre destroying super-group,” even though they’re a prog-metal band. Featuring Brent Hinds of Mastodon, Danny Carey of Tool, and the guy who directed Horton Hears a Who!, the band played its debut show on New Year’s Eve as an opener for Primus.

Top 17 albums of 2017.

Better late than never, I hope: here’s my somewhat delayed ranking of my top albums of 2017. I thought it was a good year on the album front, better than 2016, including a lot of albums that I’d say I liked halfway – records with maybe two to four really good songs on them but that couldn’t sustain it through the deeper tracks – and twenty-odd records good enough for me to consider here. You can also see my ranking of the top 100 songs of 2017 for reference.

Other albums I liked but didn’t rank: White Reaper, Wavves, Ride, Queens of the Stone Age, Japandroids.

Previous years’ album rankings: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013.

17. Afghan Whigs – In Spades. I had missed the Whigs’ comeback album in 2014, but this year’s release delivered in the same way, a more mature, refined sound without losing that essential energy that made them indie darlings in the 1990s.

16. Phoenix – Ti Amo. I thought 2013’s Bankrupt! was a huge letdown after their Grammy-winning Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, but this year’s album, the band’s tribute to Italian disco music, was a bit of a bounceback, not quite up to their magnum opus’s heights but a stronger record throughout with more memorable singles, including the title track and “J-Boy.”

15. Akercocke – Renaissance in Extremis. I’d long thought of this British extreme metal act as something of a joke, as they seemed more interested in causing controversy with their black-metal lyrics and album covers than in writing great music … but this album, released after a decade-long breakup, is a masterpiece of highly technical death metal. I could do with fewer blast beats, but that’s just the price of entry for the genre. Other metal albums I liked in 2017 that didn’t make the list included Pallbearer’s Heartless and Satyricon’s Deep Calleth Upon Deep.

14. WATERS – Something More!. Van Pierszalowski’s group returns with a record full of concise power-pop tunes, putting two songs on my top 100 along with several other great tracks like “Molly is a Babe” and “Modern Dilemma.”

13. Washed Out – Mister Mellow. Ernest Greene’s third record is my favorite of his so far, still a bit uneven, but that’s because there are almost too many ideas on the album. This also landed two songs on my top 100, and I’d also recommend “Floating By” and “Burn Out Blues.”

12. Hundred Waters – Communicating. Not quite up to the level of their debut The Moon Rang Like a Bell, Communicating works more as an expansion of the band’s unusual sound than as a collection of singles. “Particle,” “Wave to Anchor,” “Prison Guard,” “Blanket Me,” and the title track are all highlights, but I think this record is best enjoyed as a listen straight through.

11. Quicksand – Interiors. There were some great comeback albums this year from bands that hadn’t released records in over twenty years, including releases from Ride and Slowdive, but none surprised me more than Quicksand’s Interiors, which put two songs on my top 100 in “Fire This Time” and “Illuminant” and is a tremendous document of a band that hasn’t lost its signature sound yet has also matured, at least on record, during its 22-year absence.

10. Ten Fe – Hit the Light. This album is almost too anachronistic to find an audience in 2017, as the band’s indie-pop sound has a soft-rock vibe that would have been right at home in the 1970s or early 1980s. They had one song on my 2016 list, “Overflow,” that’s on this album, plus two more on this year’s list, “Twist Your Arm” and “In the Air,” with “Elodie” and “Turn” also highlights.

9. Death from Above – Outrage! Is Now. A bit like Royal Blood with a little more dance/rhythm sensibility … or maybe Sleigh Bells with some actual sense of melody … but man does it work, a huge step forward from their previous record. Pitchfork describes them as “dance-punk,” but I don’t hear that at all; they’re too polished to be punk, too hard-edged to be dance, but live somewhere in the grey areas between multiple genres. DfA had two songs on my top 100 this year, “Freeze Me” and “Never Swim Alone,” while “Nomad” and “Statues” are also strong.

8. Mastodon – Emperor of Sand. My favorite Mastodon album to date, with some more accessible tracks that don’t sacrifice any of the group’s trademark progressive-metal sound. “Show Yourself” is their most radio-friendly single ever, but “Steambreather,” “Sultan’s Curse,” and “Andromeda” are high points. Lest you think they’ve gone straight commercial, the album ends with an eight-minute epic track for the diehards.

7. Royal Blood – How Did We Get So Dark? “Lights Out” made my top ten, but unlike their debut record, this album has more good ideas than just the one that powers the lead single; “Hook, Line & Sinker” made my top 100, and I also keep going back to “Hole in Your Heart” and “Where Are You Now?” I did think the second single, “I Only Lie When I Love You,” was below the media on the album, but no one consults me on these decisions.

6. Daughter – Music from Before the Storm. I don’t think I’ve ever included a soundtrack on any of my year-end lists, but this record, recorded for a video game that was released in September, works extremely well on its own, a dense, atmospheric listen that molds Daughter’s dream-pop sound around a core idea to produce a compelling listen straight through. “Burn It Down” was my favorite track, but this record is much better enjoyed as a whole than in pieces.

5. INHEAVEN – INHEAVEN. The second-best debut album of the year for me, a record full of bombastic, old-fashioned heavy rock tracks that harken back to ’90s grunge, ’70s hard rock, and even earlier, led by “World on Fire” and “Bitter Town.”

4. New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions. Do we just take A.C. Newman & Co. for granted at this point? This album sank with nary a trace, but it carried forward the tremendous pop sensibility of its predecessor, 2014’s Brill Bruisers, and I thought was a little better off for the absence of Dan Bejar, whose sound never quite melded with the rest of the group’s. The title track, “High Ticket Attractions,” and “Darling Shade” all made my top 100.

3. Sløtface – Try Not to Freak Out. These Norwegian punk-popsters first appeared on my radar with their 2016 EP Empire Records, and from there released a steady stream of great singles with witty, clever lyrics beyond their years. “Backyard,” “Pitted,” and “Nancy Drew” made my top 100, with “Magazine” a near miss, and there really aren’t any duds on the record at all.

2. Portugal. the Man – Woodstock. “Feel It Still” was my #1 song of the year, with two more songs on my top 100 and three more that I strongly considered (“Live in the Moment,” “Rich Friends,” “Tidal Wave”). I liked the sheer ambition of 2011’s In the Mountain In the Cloud, but it wasn’t until this record that Portugal. the Man converted their big ideas into a set of accessible pop gems that could give them mainstream success.

1. Beck – Colors. Featuring my #1 song of 2015, “Dreams,” plus three songs from this year’s list, and really just one song I would say I don’t like (“Wow” doesn’t really fit this record’s exuberance), this was an easy call for my top album of 2017. Beck is such a musical genius that he can go from 2014’s maudlin Morning Phase to this record’s enormously textured, uptempo, worldly sound and still maintain his essential … um, Beck-ness. Even when he produces something I don’t care for, I can still appreciate the brilliance behind it. Colors, however, is a masterpiece, probably my favorite album of his thirteen to date, the best representation of his complex, imaginative sound so far.

Top 100 songs of 2017.

This is now my fifth annual ranking of the top 100 songs of the year, the sixth year I’ve done such a ranking at all, and they don’t get any easier, really, given the sheer volume of new music released each year – I don’t know if it’s actually more than ever, or if it’s just easier to find it as artists can release singles and EPs directly, even going years before putting out a full-length album. The year in music was a good one, I think, certainly the best year for full albums in ages (despite some huge letdowns from artists who’ve made my rankings before), with far more songs I liked than I could cram on to this list. My list of my favorite albums of 2017 went up a little later.

Previous lists: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012.

If you can’t see the widget below, you can access the Spotify playlist directly.

100. Wavves – Daisy. I’m constantly amazed by Wavves’ prolific output; this year brought You’re Welcome, the band’s sixth album, plus two non-album singles. This track opened the album, released in May.

99. Spoon – Hot Thoughts. The title track from Spoon’s ninth album was a rare highlight for me on an album that felt a little mailed-in after the stronger They Want My Soul from 2014.

98. Lucius – The Punisher. This quintet became a quartet late in 2016, then released this non-album single back in January, although it would have fit in just fine on their latest album, last year’s Good Grief, which placed “Almost Makes Me Wish for Rain” at #10 on last year’s list.

97. Japanese Breakfast – Machinist. This is the nom de chanson of Michelle Zauner of Little Big League, and the song comes from her second album, which is kind of dark and moody, like industrial wedded to early gothic new wave.

96. The New Pornographers – Darling Shade. I loved TNP’s album Whiteout Conditions, which came out in April, but it seemed to miss its audience, charting lower than their last two albums did both in the U.S. and in Canada.

95. Liam Gallagher – Wall of Glass. The brothers Gallagher both released records this year, and both albums were mostly sad, derivative reminders of what used to be. This was my favorite song from either of the records.

94. The Districts – If Before I Wake. The line “I’m just a narcissist” feels like it speaks so much to our current times, doesn’t it?

93. Sløtface – Nancy Drew. The first of three songs on this list from the Norwegian punk-pop band; I love their hooks but I think I enjoy their witty lyrics even more.

92. Sleater-Kinney – Here We Come. This felt more like a strong album track from the trio than a lead single for a new record, but we’ll take it.

91. Van William – The Country. The lead singer of WATERS (who appear twice further up this list) is working on his solo album, with this the first of two singles to appear thus far from it. Full disclosure: I’ve met Van once and talked coffee & baseball with him, as he’s a diehard Dodgers fan. I believe he is also the second tallest person ever to ride in my car.

90. The Night Game – The Outfield. It’s catchy, and it gets extra points for the baseball reference, but in particular I locked in on how the chorus sounds so much like something the band The Outfield would have sang.

89. Quicksand – Illuminant. Quicksand’s record Interiors was probably the biggest surprise for me in music this year – that it existed at all, and that it was their best album ever. (They hadn’t released an album in 22 years.) They were one of the defining bands of the post-hardcore movement, but rather than just returning to their original sound, they’ve mellowed slightly and added more melodic elements.

88. Sundara Karma – She Said. The Guardian once said this Reading act aspired to the sound of Bruce Springsteen, but I think Oscar “Lulu” Pollock and company are much more of a pure pop act, especially on joyous tracks like this one.

87. Washed Out – Hard to Say Goodbye. I would not say I was a fan of Washed Out’s previous album, Paracosm, but Mister Mellow, while inconsistent, had a slew of tracks I really liked; it seems like Mr. Greene focused more on songcraft this time around instead of creating soundscapes.

86. Confidence Man – Boyfriend (Repeat). I’ll guess now that this will be the first song that folks listening to the playlist in order decide to skip; for me, it’s annoyingly catchy, but if you think it’s catchily annoying I understand that too.

85. Kid Astray – Roads. This Norwegian band, who placed “The Diver” (#39 in 2015) and “The Mess” (#8 in 2013) on previous year-end lists, put out two singles this year, with this my favorite of the pair, ahead of what I presume will be a new album in 2018.

84. Earl St. Clair – Ain’t Got It Like That. I don’t know what to call this song – it’s soulful, but it’s not soul; it’s jazzy, but it’s not jazz – other than to say it’s not a genre I typically even listen to. I do love St. Clair’s singing style and the main hook in this song.

83. Japandroids – Near to the Wild Heart of Life. Remember when they were the industry’s darlings in 2012 with Celebration Rock? Their January release, also called Near to the Wild Heart of Life, didn’t sell as well, didn’t get the same critical acclaim, and barely even got much airplay. I wonder if the nearly five-year gap did them in. Anyway, I’m somewhat alone in that I liked this album much more than their previous one.

82. Wild Beasts – Punk Drunk & Trembling. Wild Beasts announced their breakup in September and released an EP of unreleased tracks from the recording of Boy King, my #2 album of 2016. I guess they’re going out on a huge high note.

81. DJ Shadow with Nas – Systematic. Definitely the best rap song ever to include a recipe for a cranberry cocktail.

80. Artificial Pleasure – Wound Up Tight. I’m expecting big things from this London electronic-rock outfit, who have put out a handful of upbeat, artsy, danceable singles so far, with synth lines to make the Human League proud.

79. Splashh – Closer. Yeah, another band from the “let’s misspell a word by one letter just to annoy Keith” school of nomenclature. Splashh has a bit of a shoegaze sound that really fit in a year when many of the giants of the original shoegaze put out comeback albums.

78. Ten Fe – Twist Your Arm. I thought Ten Fe’s album, Hit the Light, was one of the best of the year, but they’re only on this list twice because two of the album’s best tracks were released as singles in 2016. It’s soft rock, just done really well.

77. The Pale White – Downer. A driving, bluesy rock song, in the vein of last year’s “Down We Go” by With Lions, which showed up in the trailer for Logan Lucky.

76. Daughter – Glass. Daughter’s album this year was the soundtrack to a video game, Music from Before the Storm, yet it worked extremely well as its own work of art apart from the game. The band’s atmospheric sound seems to have translated to the video game world just fine, and this record may have more hooks than their last album, Not to Disappear.

75. No Win – You’ll Be Fine. Former FIDLAR drummer Danny Nogueiras helms this new power-pop act that draws from early emo bands like Jimmy Eat World and earlier acts like Teenage Fanclub and Matthew Sweet.

74. Goldfrapp – Anymore. Goldfrapp has lost all the trappings of their earlier rock-tinged records, with their sound now fully in the electronic/house arena; this hypnotic track led off their 2017 album Silver Eye.

73. INHEAVEN – Bitter Town. INHEAVEN had one of the best rock debuts of the year with their self-titled album; this was my second favorite track from the record, a brief downshift that gets the desolation of the title across in both music and vocals, along with an allusion to “Baba O’Riley.”

72. White Reaper – Judy French. White Reaper does not lack for confidence, naming their sophomore album The World’s Best American Band; I guess I wouldn’t quite go that far, but the record did include two banger pop-rock tracks, this one and another higher up the list.

71. Everything Everything – Can’t Do. E2’s album A Fever Dream was a bit disappointing to me, as it lacked some of the musical freneticism of songs like “Cough Cough” and “Kemosabe” or the breathtaking ambition of “I Believe It Now,” but it still had its moments, including this single, which features some stutter-stop percussion and the vocal gymnastics of Jonathan Higgs. I’m lovin’ the bass, I’m lovin’ the drums, indeed.

70. Hundred Waters – Wave to Anchor. Hundred Waters’ sophomore album, The Moon Rang Like a Bell was my #1 record of 2014 thanks to its combination of subtle but strong melodies and the use of vocals as an additional instrument rather than a mere complement to the synths and percussion. Their 2017 follow-up, Communicating, felt a little safe in comparison, still good but lacking the highs of the previous record. This was the most accessible song on the album.

69. Sløtface – Pitted. Few bands on this list – or anywhere in music now – sound like they’re having as much fun as Sløtface does. The earworm in this song is the line about “playing Marry, Fuck, Kill/with every actor that’s ever played James Bond.”

68. Royal Blood – Hook, Line & Sinker. When these guys get heavy, they get heavy, and it’s so damn good. The main riff here could come from a Black Sabbath album track, but the vocals and the riffs behind the chorus turn it into a tremendous piece of hard rock bordering on pop.

67. The Preatures – Girlhood. I still don’t know what the repeated line in the verses is – whatever makes me a modern girl? A moddie girl? – but it doesn’t matter. It feels very ’90s college rock in a good way.

66. Maisie Peters – The Place We Were Made. Peters is a Youtube star who released this, her debut single, shortly after she turned 17. It’s quite a bit mellower than what I usually like, but I love both the fretwork and the melody in the chorus, and this feels like it’s the announcement of a huge talent.

65. Bully – Kills to Be Resistant. I can’t get behind the critical love for Alicia Bognanno’s band, but this song is a bit more accessible – she doesn’t screech the way she does on some of their other singles – and the theme feels quite relevant at the moment.

64. Hoops – On Letting Go. Lo-fi dream pop from an Indiana quartet that can be quite hypnotic, with that high-pitched synth line repeating like a mantra and taking this song back about 45 years.

63. Portugal. The Man – Easy Tiger. Portugal. The Man had the biggest breakout hit of the year with “Feel It Still,” but their whole album, Woodstock, is excellent, my favorite from them so far (surpassing In the Mountain in the Cloud). They haven’t lost their flair for the dramatic at all, evident on several tracks from the album including this one, “Tidal Wave,” and “Rich Friends.”

62. Black Map – Ruin. This hard-rock trio made my top 100 last year in almost the same spot, as “Run Rabbit Run” landed at #65; that song and this one are both on their newest album In Droves.

61. Ten Fe – In the Air. I don’t usually think of this kind of soft-rock/adult contemporary as ‘driving’ music, but this song absolutely has that feel from how the drum and bass lines establish the tempo from the outset.

60. Are We Static – Heartbreaker. This Manchester band calls itself “alt-rock” and cites some mainstream artists as influences, but this song, by far the heaviest on their album Embers, is more into the shoegaze/Madchester vein than the rest of the record, which is why it’s my favorite.

59. Panama – Hope for Something. Upbeat dance-pop from the Australian quintet led by Jarrah McCleary; this is from their third EP, also called Hope for Something. Their last record produced “Always,” which was #51 on my 2013 list.

58. Afghan Whigs – Demon in Profile. The Whigs’ comeback album, In Spades, was one of several shocking returns this year – Quicksand, Slowdive, and Ride all come to mind – and all of those records turned out to be pretty good. In Spades had two standout tracks, this one and “Toy Automatic.”

57. The New Pornographers – High Ticket Attractions. The second of three songs here from this album, I think this one got the most airplay and it was the lead single from the record, but I preferred the title track.

56. The Riff – Weekend Schemes. It starts out like a Madchester track, but when the vocals come in, it’s more like The Hold Steady, not least because the lead singer sounds a hell of a lot like Craig Finn. I would suggest to these fine lads that they work on their lyrics, though.

55. Quicksand – Fire This Time. Quicksand struck a great balance on this album, Interiors between the heavy, hardcore-inspired riffs fans of their earlier work expect and the need or desire to produce something accessible. The minor-key guitar line that powers this song is a perfect example, as it’s dark and inherently heavy, but also memorable enough that it moves the song forward rather than dragging it into sludge-metal territory.

54. Slowdive – Star Roving. Slowdive’s first album in 22 years had two standout songs on, including this one, which sounds like vintage shoegaze with a little bit of Olivia Tremor Control’s “The Opera House” thrown in for good measure.

53. WATERS – Something More. Van Pierszalowski is pretty good at crafting little earworms for his songs; their latest album, also called Something More!, had two lines in particular that stuck in my head, both of which, coincidentally, included the F word.

52. Coast Modern – Comb My Hair. When I first heard this, I thought it was a new WATERS track, as it has that same sort of laconic California vibe and a similar sound from the lead vocalist. That’s all to the good.

51. Beck – Dear Life. Beck’s album Colors was one of my favorites this year, with my #1 song of 2015 (“Dreams”) and a slew of other great singles, and not just the uptempo songs I tend to prefer from him. This has a more relaxed pace but still works for me due to the recurring piano riff that gives it a different sort of rhythm.

50. Birdtalker – One. Old school folk-rock like the Mamas & the Papas or the Byrds used to make.

49. Death from Above – Never Swim Alone. The heavy, whining guitar lick that starts off this song could have come off one of Royal Blood’s albums, and it marks DfA’s progression on their third record, Outrage! Is Now, to crafting complete songs rather than just pushing an intriguing sound.

48. Alvvays – Plimsoll Punks. I don’t care for Alvvays’ lead singer’s voice, and didn’t really like their latest album, Antisocialites, other than this song, which is also more rock-influenced than the rest of the record.

47. Allie X – Vintage. Allie X’s debut album, Collxtion II, came out in June, and it veers more towards the twee end of electropop than I tend to favor, but this song’s chorus is too damn catchy for me to ignore.

46. Wavves – No Shade. I think this is the shortest song on the list at 1:47, but that’s Nathan Williams’ style: get in, drop the hook, get out.

45. Grandaddy – Brush with the Wild. I remember some newspaper music critic saying Grandaddy would be the next Radiohead right around the turn of the century; that didn’t really work out, did it? They split in 2006 and their album Last Place, their first in eleven years, came out in March.

44. Foster the People – Lotus Eater. I liked their 2014 album Supermodel more than most listeners did, I think, but their latest record, Sacred Hearts Club, mostly just bored me – the big ideas from FtP’s last record seemed absent. This one track takes a different, harder-edged direction, really the only song from the album I even wanted to listen to twice.

43. Anteros – Cherry Drop. Wikipedia has this London quartet tagged as “dream pop,” but this song certainly isn’t that – the thumping, serpentine guitar line behind the vocals is almost punkish and gives the song an urgency that you don’t find in dream-pop tracks.

42. White Reaper – The Stack. If you make the girls dance, then the boys’ll dance with ’em.

41. The DMAs – Dawning. They’re constantly compared to Oasis, which is neither apt nor particularly fair; they’re influenced by Oasis, certainly, but by lots of other Britpop and Australian acts who were in turn influenced by classic rock of the ’70s.

40. Ride – All I Want. Ride’s debut album, Nowhere, was a landmark in the shoegaze scene in England, but by their second album they’d already started to shift more into traditional alternative rock territory, with cleaner production and decipherable vocals. Their comeback this year, Weather Diaries, continues in that vein, almost like their final two pre-breakup albums (which weren’t well received by fans or critics) never happened.

39. Hippo Campus – Baseball. I mean, how could I resist?

38. Washed Out – Get Lost. The beginning does sound like a kid playing with his first Casiotone keyboard, but I promise, once the drum beat kicks in, it’s a real song, my favorite from Mister Mellow.

37. Yonaka – Wouldn’t Wanna Be Ya. It’s obnoxious, but in a good way, both from the lyrics and the droning stoner-rock guitars.

36. Wolf Alice – Beautifully Unconventional. I didn’t think Visions of a Life delivered at all on the promise of Wolf Alice’s first record, with a bunch of songs that sounded like someone imitating My Love is Cool rather than building on its foundation. I did like “Heavenward,” the first track, although it goes on a bit too long.

35. Portugal. The Man – So Young. As I said above, this was one of my favorite albums of the year; it’s a shame it’ll be remembered for That One Hit and not for the complete body of work.

34. WATERS – Hiccups. Another extremely catchy, summery track; this one caught some airplay on alternative stations and I think it might have done better if it had come out when the weather warmed up.

33. Waxahatchee – Never Been Wrong. I like Katie Crutchfield’s musical style more than her individual songs, as she has a great country/folk/rock hybrid sound going on but doesn’t always hit the melodies for me. This one does, of course, since it’s here, including the harmonies in the chorus and the big guitar-driven build in the song’s bridges.

32. Black Honey – Somebody Better. Black Honey appeared twice on my top 100 last year (not including the song “Black Honey” by Thrice, which also made the list), and I have compared them repeatedly to the power-pop act Velocity Girl from the 1990s, which is very high praise from me. Black Honey dropped three more songs this year, but I’m still waiting eagerly for their full-length debut.

31. Versing – Body Chamber. It takes some stones for a Seattle band to name its debut album Nirvana, especially since they might be influenced a bit by Kurt Cobain but certainly don’t sound much like the grunge icons. Their lead singer, Daniel Salas, is a huge fan of the Mars Volta, and I can hear bits of Sonic Youth, Hum, and the Sheila Divine here. The big selling point here is the melancholy passage behind the chorus, which provides a tension that’s never fully resolved.

30. Everything Everything – Desire. A Fever Dream had a few highlights, but I thought the back half of the record was pretty thin; in fairness, E2 has more ideas in two singles than most bands put on an entire album. The title track from the record didn’t make my top 100, mostly because at six minutes it’s about 25% too long, but they do get points for the ambition of the latter half of the song.

29. alt-J – In Cold Blood. There was only one bigger disappointment for me in music in 2017 than alt-J’s Relaxer — I’ll get to the other one in a bit – as the English trio has moved further away from their minimalist leanings on An Awesome Wave and more into self-consciously weird yet radio-friendly alternative rock. They still nabbed a Mercury Prize nomination for the album, which I assume is sort of like how Rafael Palmeiro won a Gold Glove the year he spent as a DH.

28. Beck – Colors. The title track from Beck’s album is the second of three songs from the record to make this list, and if you add “Dreams” from the 2015 top 100, which appears on this album in two forms (one of which has clean lyrics, because the F-word is so scary). There’s no one like Prince out there now, nor will there every truly be, but Beck is the closest we’ve got – a musical savant who can jump between and meld styles like virtually nobody else.

27. The New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions. Carl Newman is a fountain of great pop ideas and bold arrangements for his supergroup (although this album didn’t include Dan Bejar, who also records as Destroyer). The rising vocal lines here give you the sense that you’re always ascending, something Franz Ferdinand could learn from.

26. Space Above – Let It Still. The new project from the keyboardist for The Naked and Famous, Space Above is … well, spacier than TNaF’s output. It’s atmospheric without sounding like something you’d find on a New Age station, boosted by vocals from Maddie North of So Below.

25. Bad Sounds – Wages. I’ve got my guilty pleasures in music too, although I was bummed that Bad Sounds’ subsequent singles didn’t carry forward this Soupdragons/Space Monkeys kind of pop ebullience. If any song on this list is going to get you moving, this is it.

24. Daughter – Burn It Down. More from their soundtack to Before the Storm and easily the best use of Elena Tonra’s voice, which ripples with angst and keeps the tension going for the whole song. I really need to try this game.

23. Sløtface – Backyard. That’s three songs on the list from their debut album Try Not to Freak Out; “Magazine” just missed, and the album didn’t include 2016’s “Empire Records” (#29 last year). I guess I’m a fan.

22. The Amazons – Black Magic. I heard this song and thought we had another great bombastic British rock act … but there isn’t another guitar riff to rival this one on the rest of their self-titled album.

21. Death from Above – Freeze Me. This song had me right from that introductory keyboard riff, which is just syncopated enough that it throws me off balance and never quite lets me regain it until the song ends.

20. Ride – Lannoy Point. I believe this is the longest track on the list at nearly six minutes, although it doesn’t feel quite that long because the drums keep things zipping along. “Chrome Waves” was one of my favorite Ride songs from their 1990s run, and this has a very similar vibe.

19. Phoenix – Ti Amo. I get the sense the moment for Phoenix has passed, as their album Ti Amo didn’t sell like 2013’s Bankrupt! even though this was a much better record start to finish; they’re not going back to the sound of their Grammy-winning 2009 album Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix, nor should they. The French popsters incorporate more international/world music rhythms on this album, including the two-step percussion line on this track, as well as on lead single “J-Boy” and “Goodbye Soleil.”

18. Manchester Orchestra – The Gold. Manchester Orchestra is at its best when they swing for the fences – they’re like the George Springer of rock groups: swing hard or go home. They connected on this one, with the gigantic chorus nicely offsetting the soft-rock verses.

17. The Wombats – Lemon to a Knife Fight. I won’t lie – I’m pretty well in the tank for these guys, as they keep churning out great pop hooks and silly lyrics that nearly always get a laugh out of me. Their next album is due in February, although I am not as enamored of the second single, “Turn.”

16. Hatchie – Sure. If the Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan had partnered with early Lush, you might have gotten this song.

15. Alice Merton – No Roots. Other than the two songs at the top, this is probably the most-played song on the list on commercial or satellite radio. It was an immediate hit with my daughter, whose musical tastes are definitely independent of mine … but when we both like a song, I figure that’s a good reason to stuff it on this rankings.

14. MisterWives – Machine. I find Mandy Lee’s lyrics a bit overwrought most of the time – even here, the “I believe in individuality” line makes me cringe – but they’ve hit on a huge, shout-along chorus here, and Lee sounds more than a little like Shakira while wending her voice around the horns.

13. Porches – Find Me. Porches’ music always feels a little creepy to me, but in the sense of, say, a gothic horror movie; I love how the drum machine is mixed towards the front of this song, setting the dark mood right out of the chute.

12. Beck – Up All Night. This is peak Beck for me; he’s at his best when he’s throwing everything against the wall like he does here, sounding like he’s leading a band of twenty musicians and turning it into a tight, cohesive three-minute pop gem.

11. Django Django – Tic Tac Toe. I suppose “Default” will always be their signature song, but the Djangos aren’t resting on the laurels from that Mercury Prize-nominated album; listen to the interplay between the guitar and the off-beat drum lines behind the chorus here, which is as inventive as anything on their last album.

10. Mastodon – Show Yourself. Mastodon d oesn’t usually get this accessible – and I do like much of their music – which is why I’ve often favored their albums as a whole but rarely highlighted singles like this one. Emperor of Sand has already made a few best-of-2017 lists, as they haven’t lost their progressive tendencies but harnessed them into some tighter and more radio-ready tracks.

9. Dan Croll – Bad Boy. The 27-year-old graduate of the Liverpool Institute for the Performing Arts released his sophomore album, Emerging Adulthood, this summer, featuring this overlooked gem of a track that features big hooks in the chorus and the bridge.

8. INHEAVEN – World on Fire. INHEAVEN absolutely kills it on this song, the best track on their generally strong self-titled debut album, a song that wouldn’t be out of place on a playlist of New Wave of British Heavy Metal tracks.

7. Cut Copy – Black Rainbows. Cut Copy have been around since at least 2004, but in all that time they’ve never quite produced a song I could say I liked and remembered – their style may be in my wheelhouse, but other than 2010’s “Where I’m Going” I don’t think I’ve ever had a song of theirs grab me for more than a listen or two. This song, however, is a hit, a little bit Vince Clarke, a little Spandau Ballet, and a little Heaven 17 all rolled into one.

6. Oh Wonder – Ultralife. Their new album, also called Ultralife, was very inconsistent, but brought two great singles in “High on Humans” and this title track with its whirling, jubilant chorus.

5. Slowdive – Sugar for the Pill. Sorry to bring things down a bit – everything else in the top twelve is upbeat – but of all the shoegaze-revival stuff released this year, this was the one song that did the best job of bringing me back to the early/mid-1990s when bands like Slowdive, Ride, Jesus & Mary Chain, Curve, and Lush were at their creative peaks.

4. Royal Blood – Lights Out. Appropriately sinister and heavy, not as slow as doom or sludge metal but every bit as dark, “Lights Out” gives us the best of Royal Blood and shows us, again, how much you can do with just a bass guitar, an octave pedal, and a drum kit.

3. Arcade Fire – Everything Now. Arcade Fire’s album of the same name was easily the biggest disappointment of 2017 in music for me; at several points, it was downright embarrassing, like the “Infinite Content” diptych, which felt like something from a 14-year-old’s poetry notebook. Winn Butler isn’t afraid to go after big themes on his albums, like suburban sprawl and the vapidity of its culture (The Suburbs) or alienation in the modern world (Reflektor), but this album’s swings at modern materialism were such a whiff that Butler ended up on his ass before the ball hit the catcher’s mitt. The album gave us one truly great song, the only one that works musically (aided by a sample from Cameroonian musician Francis Bebey) and lyrically; the fair “Signs of Life;” and a lot of dreck.

2. Queens of the Stone Age – The Way You Used to Do. When Josh Homme comes up with a great riff, clear the dance floor because we’re going to need some room. I was skeptical that a QotSA album produced by Mark Ronson (“Uptown Funk”) would work, but it absolutely does – Ronson encouraged Homme’s groove/funk tendencies and it gave one of the best songs in their catalogue.

1. Portugal. The Man – Feel It Still. It would be entirely disingenuous for me to put any other song here; “Feel It Still” made my March playlist, hit the Billboard Hot 100 in late June, reached #4 there, set the record for the most weeks any song has spent at #1 on the magazine’s alternative chart, and earned the band its first Grammy nomination. Spotify even confirmed for me that it’s the song I played the most this year, which I assume includes all the times I listened to their album Woodstock in its entirety. And if you missed it, they recorded a fantastic cover of Oasis’s “Don’t Look Back in Anger” back in September. I’d be lying if I said anything else was my favorite song of 2017.

Music update, November 2017.

Solid enough month for new tracks, including a bunch of early releases from albums due out in the first two months of next year (which might presage a poor December for new releases). I’ll do my annual music rankings, songs and albums, after the winter meetings, so we do get a few more weeks in for new songs to appear.

If you can’t see the Spotify widget below, you can access the playlist directly here.

The Wombats – Lemon to a Knife Fight. A new Wombats song is an automatic inclusion for me. I loved Glitterbug and am thoroughly excited for the new album.

Hatchie – Sure. Noisey called Hatchie’s music “shoegaze with a dream pop edge;” I think there’s more dream pop here, with a very strong early Cranberries vibe. She has released two singles so far, this song (my favorite of the two) and “Try.”

Shy Technology – Déjà Vu. Shy Technology made my top 100 in 2015 with “High Strung,” and this lead single from their next album provides more of what I liked from that earlier single, which has a singer-songwriter vibe with the fuller arrangement of a large band. They remind me of tons of bands I liked in the early mid-90s, including James, Ben Folds Five, Better than Ezra, and Our Lady Peace.

Django Django – In Your Beat. We have a release date – January 26th – for the Mercury Prize-nominated British act’s third album. Marble Skies.

Van William – The Country. Dodgers fan & WATERS lead singer/songwriter Van Pierszalowski – yep, still have to check that spelling every single time, because of AJ Pierzynski – will release his first solo album, Countries, on January 19th.

Gillbanks – A Walk in the Park. A new London-based quintet with just four one-off singles to their name, Gillbanks reminds me a bit of Gardens & Villa if they’d gotten stoned and listened to Disintegration on repeat.

Ride – Pulsar. Ride went 21 years between albums, released Weather Diaries in June, and now are already back with a new, non-album track, this one in a similar vein, shoegaze but with clear vocals mixed more towards the front. The lads are aging quite nicely.

Thrice – Red Telephone. Not technically a new song, “Red Telephone” is a B-side from their 2009 album Beggars and was just re-released ahead of their mini-tour with Circa Survive.

The Fratellis – The Next Time We Wed. It’s no “Chelsea Dagger,” but it’s certainly catchy in more of a pop/rock way and less of a “we’re all drunk at 1:30 am” fashion.

Black Honey – Dig. Black Honey, an indie quartet from Brighton, England, showed up twice on my top 100 last year with poppy tracks that reminded me of vintage Velocity Girl; this song is slower, almost mournful, although it sneaks up on you with a heavy guitar riff about 2/3 of the way through.

WAVVES with Culture Abuse – Up and Down. WAVVES’ Nathan Williams is one of the most prolific writers in music today; I swear he releases a new song somewhere every couple of weeks. This new track, with Bay Area punksters Culture Abuse (of whom I’d never heard of until this song appeared), sounds quite a bit like WAVVES’ most recent album, You’re Welcome.

HAERTS – No Love for the Wild. HAERTS put out a great EP in 2013, a strong album with those same four songs in 2014, and since then it’s been just random singles. This song came out in May, and there’s another one, “The Way,” due out next Friday (the 8th), so I’m hopeful we’ll get a full record some time early next year. It’s long overdue.

The Big Moon – Love in the 4th Dimension. The Big Moon’s album, of which this is the title track, was nominated for the Mercury Prize this year, but lost out to R&B/electronic singer-songwriter Sampha. I think I like the Big Moon’s sound more than their individual songs, as the album is consistent but could use some stronger hooks.

Stars – Hope Avenue. Stars had the #40 song on the first real year-end song ranking I ever posted on this site, my top 40 songs of 2012, with “Hold On When You Get Love and Let Go When You Get It.” Their latest album, There is No Love in Fluorescent Light, doesn’t have anything so catchy, but has several … um, “pleasant” sounds like a backhanded insult, but I don’t mean it that way. This was my favorite song from the record.

Quicksand – Fire this Time. Is this the fifth straight playlist with a Quicksand song on it? Their comeback album Interiors feels like a lock to make my ranking of my favorite albums of 2017, however long I choose to make the list this year.

Corrosion of Conformity – Cast the First Stone. Legit thought these guys had broken up a decade ago … which they did, and then came back with a different lineup for albums in 2012 and 2014 that I missed entirely. I really remember CoC mostly from their earliest work, which had a stronger hardcore influence, while this is more of an aggressive stoner-metal track, like QotSA with a hint of Pantera.

Joe Satriani – Thunder High on the Mountain. I admit to being a guitar geek back in the day; I absolutely wore out Steve Vai’s Passion and Warfare. Satriani had his moments too, including “Summer Song,” but that whole subgenre of music fell out of favor pretty quickly with the expansion of extreme metal on one side and of garbage rap-metal demon spawn on the other. This song, which features two distinct movements of great guitar hooks, is a nice throwback to the heyday of instrumental shredder albums, with a nice nod to the heavier style more in vogue today.

Godflesh – Post Self. I have a strong memory of seeing a capsule review of Godflesh’s seminal 1989 debut album, Streetcleaner, that borrowed a line from Poltergeist: “Godflesh knows what scares you.” Often lumped erroneously in with the contemporaneous grindcore movement, Godflesh is a founder of the subgenre of industrial metal, and if their music brings “teh fear” it’s because of their repetition of droning phrases and harsh percussive sounds. This is the first song and title track from their latest album, released on November 17th.

Tribulation – The Lament. This Swedish melodic death-metal band’s 2015 album Children of the Night took the group out of the generic extreme-metal sounds of their first two albums and brought far more of a classic-rock vibe, with obvious influences from Judas Priest and Black Sabbath, as well as some thrash riffing and a generally stronger sense of musical proficiency. This song rocks in a way that even a lot of truly melodic songs in this area don’t; it’s like a great driving song that happens to have death growls instead of the high-wire vocals of a Halford or a Dickinson. It’s a good sign for their upcoming fourth album, Down Below, due out on January 26th.

Music update, October 2017.

Happy Halloween! Lots of great new tracks and albums this month, including a few totally unexpected returns from artists who’ve appeared on my playlists before, plus one metal act I haven’t really bothered with since I was in high school. If the widget below doesn’t appear you can access the Spotify playlist directly.

Django Django – Tic Tac Toe. Huge comeback single for the Mercury Prize-nominated act after the mild disappointment of their 2015 album Born Under Saturn, which had a few good tracks (notably “Shake and Tremble”) but no breakout hits like “Default” or “Hail Bop.” This song is a promising tease of their third album, especially the swirling, textured chorus where the song’s structure is turned inside out.

Wolf Parade – You’re Dreaming. Cry Cry Cry, their first record since the band reunited, came out on October 6th, but I found it overall a bit weak – but I was never a huge WP fan the first time around. This was the best track to my ears.

DMA’S – Dawning. Compared to Oasis after their first record, this Australian band goes more Britpop on this lead single from their upcoming second album. I admit to a bit of nostalgic affection for the song, given how much it reminds me of that late-90s movement that by and large never caught on in the U.S.

Quicksand – Cosmonauts. Their first album since 1995, Interiors, is due out on November 10th. They’re still touring, but without guitarist Tom Capone, who was arrested and charged with trying to steal over 40 items from a Phoenix-area CVS and then resisting arrest. Song’s good, though.

Bully – Kills to Be Resistant. Bully is fronted by Alicia Bognanno, who seems way too young to be producing music that is so reminiscent of the less-polished side of 1990s grunge. Their first record earned quite a bit of positive press, but I found it lacking in actual musical interest – not enough hooks, not much connection between vocals and music, etc. This track, from the band’s just-released second album Losing, is my favorite from Bully so far.

Beck – Colors. The title track from Beck’s latest album is one of a half-dozen bangers on the record (which includes my #1 song of 2015, “Dreams,” in two versions), which is a complete departure from the sound on his Grammy-winning last album Morning Phase. This is the Beck material I love – inventive, layered, genre-crossing.

Blushes – To the Bone. I’ve seen reviews comparing Blushes to Foals … okay, yeah, this sounds a lot like Foals, or at least like Foals’ best stuff, so we’re good here.

Porches – Find Me. Porches is led by singer/multi-instrumentalist Aaron Maine, and they’re weird – that’s mostly a compliment, although it sometimes doesn’t work very well (like on “Country,” another single off their upcoming third album). “Find Me” is more in line with their haunting 2016 single “Hour,” a nicely creepy track for Halloween.

Gulp – Morning Velvet Sky. Gulp is Scottish vocalist Lindsey Levin and bassist Guto Pryce, who’s better known as the bass player for Welsh rock icons Super Furry Animals. This track is less rock, more synth and bass, with a hypnotic, driving bassline throughout the ethereal song.

Sampha – Blood on Me. Sampha Sisay just won this year’s Mercury Prize for his debut album, Process, which gives us an unsteady marriage of classic R&B sounds, especially in the vocals, and current electronic/drum-and-bass sounds. This song, my favorite from the album, actually first appeared as a single in August of 2016 in the UK; it’s more uptempo and I think more intense than the rest of the album.

MisterWives – Never Give Up On Me. This was a surprise, given that MisterWives just released their second album in May, without this track on it. This might be their poppiest song yet, but it’s also a great showcase of what Mandy Lee can do with her voice when she lets it rip.

Prides – A Wilder Heart. Prides’ “The Seeds You Sow” was my #8 song of 2014, but it didn’t even appear on their disappointing debut album the following year. Their seven-song EP A Mind Like the Tide, Part 1, just dropped on Friday, including the single “Let’s Stay in Bed All Day,” which I included on my September playlist, and this slow builder with a strong finish.

Tune-Yards – Look at Your Hands. Tune-Yards are probably best known for the alternative hit “Water Fountain,” which has a fantastic chorus and some great drumwork, but which loses me in the verse. I still don’t love Merrill Garbus’s singing voice, but this track is more evenly mixed between vocals and music, and her musical inventiveness gets higher billing as a result. It doesn’t quite have the huge hook of “Water Fountain,” though.

Alice Merton – No Roots. I’ve been remiss with this track, which I had earmarked for my September playlist and forgot to include, so I’m putting it here for completeness’ sake even though you’ve probably heard it. It’s already hit the top ten in several countries in Europe and is #14 on the next Billboard Alternative Songs chart, still trending up.

Sleigh Bells – Rainmaker. Yep, that’s the drum loop from “Paid in Full.” That’s all I’ve got here.

Liam Gallagher – I Get By. I’ve seen more praise for the Oasis singer’s solo album As You Were than I could possibly muster; it is long, and it certainly tries to recapture the peak Oasis sound, but it only barely scrapes the bottom of what his former band was able to do over its first three albums. Lead single “Wall of Glass,” which made my June playlist, is solid, as is this song, but the rest feels like filler, like an artist who wants to mimic a specific sound rather than write compelling singles.

Versing – Body Chamber. If you listened to just this song, and I asked you their home city, you’d probably guess it on one try. Their debut album, Nirvana (we’re not even pretending, are we), just came out at the very end of September.

The Dear Hunter – The Right Wrong. This song is the lead single from the prog-rock act’s new six-song EP, All Is As All Should Be (which, by the way, is definitely NOT true), with some clear nods to progressive icons like King Crimson and Marillion but within a manageable running time.

Catholic Action – Propaganda. The Glaswegian quartet just released In Memory Of, its first album of punk-tinged jangle-pop, on Friday; it’s hit-and-miss, with short, quick bursts of guitar-driven melodies that don’t always click, with this song the best track on the record.

Sleater-Kinney – Here We Come. They’re back, and they’re still angry, and why wouldn’t they be?

Helloween – Pumpkins United. I admit to a certain fondness for Helloween’s two late-80s underground classics, parts one and two of the Keeper of the Seven Keys series, which contained a number of surprisingly catchy power-metal tracks that seemed to bridge the gap between Iron Maiden and other NWOBHM acts that still brought big hooks and the less melodic thrash bands that were coming out of California at the time. This new track is the first song to feature original guitarist Kai Hansen since he left the band after the second Keeper album.

Moonspell – Evento. Moonspell is a Portuguese gothic/melodic death metal act who are consistently big sellers in their home country, with four different #1 albums in Portugal, but little recognition outside it. Their 11th album, 1755, drops on Friday; it’s a concept album about the Great Lisbon Earthquake of that year (which also inspired a new boardgame, Lisboa, that just came out this summer), sung entirely in Portuguese, with symphonic elements along with the expected death growls. Stuff just sounds more menacing when it’s not in English.

Music update, September 2017.

A whole raft of anticipated releases hit stores in September, including new records from Wolf Alice, Daughter, Hundred Waters, Cut Copy, Torres, The Killers, Death From Above, LCD Soundsystem, and the National, some of which lived up to expectations, some of which didn’t, and some of which were as bad as I expected. (I really couldn’t have any less interest in or respect for The Killers at this point, since they licensed a song and recorded an extra video to help promote the fight involving serial domestic abuser Floyd Mayweather.) Here’s my highly edited list of the best new songs of the month, with a half-dozen metal tracks at the end, increasing in heaviness as it progresses. You can access the Spotify playlist here if the widget below doesn’t appear.

Hundred Waters – Wave to Anchor. Hundred Waters had my #1 album of 2014 with The Moon Rang Like a Bell, an unconventional, experimental record of atmospheric electronica with breathy, acrobatic vocals by Nicole Miglis. The band’s second album, Communicating, came out on September 14th, and pushes even further into experimental territory, but with bigger sounds and more dramatic flourishes, very much in evidence here and on “Particle,” “Prison Guard,” and “Blanket Me.”

Daughter – Glass. Daughter’s Music from Before the Storm is the soundtrack to the new video game Life is Strange: Before the Storm, but works as a standalone album as well, with indie-folk trio Daughter using the game’s script as inspiration for a record that fits well in their own discography. It’s actually more cohesive than their last album, 2016’s Not to Disappear, even with instrumental tracks like this one, and I think stronger start to finish, buoyed by songs like this one, “Burn It Down,” “Voices,” and closer “A Hole in the Earth.”

Wild Beasts – Punk Drunk & Trembling. Wild Beasts are breaking up, with 2016’s magnum opus Boy King, a mesmerizing record of tremendous hooks built around a theme of toxic masculinity, their swan song. This track is one of the leftovers from the recording of that record and part of a forthcoming EP to close out their career.

Hippo Campus – Baseball. How could I omit a song called “Baseball?” Actually, that didn’t matter except that I pushed it further up the playlist – I wouldn’t include a song that wasn’t good, and this song has a great little guitar hook and catchy chorus to drive it. It’s on their newest EP, warm glow, which comes out just a few months after their debut album Landmark dropped.

Sløtface – Backyard. Try Not to Freak Out, the debut full-length from these Norwegian punk-pop purveyors, is uneven, but with a few standout tracks built around big hooks and fun lyrics, including this one and “Nancy Drew.”

Wolf Alice – Heavenward. I’ve been a little disappointed by Wolf Alice’s second album, Visions of a Life, released on Friday, as it doesn’t show any growth from their debut, My Love is Cool, and in some ways feels even less mature.

Death From Above – Holy Books. Their third album, Outrage is Now!, came out on September 8th, and it’s almost as if they’ve merged with Royal Blood, producing an album of huge, guitar-driven hooks that’s my favorite album of their three so far.

Portugal. The Man – Don’t Look Back In Anger. I don’t include many covers and almost never include live tracks, so you know this one, recorded in-studio for Spotify, must be pretty good.

Mourn – The Fire. These Barcelona punks put out a five-song EP, Over the Wall, on September 8th, with two standout tracks, this one and “Whatever.” They have a sort of anarchic, college-rock vibe to their best songs, as if the entire thing is going to fall apart at any second but the band just manages to keep it together until the song ends.

Van William – Never Had Enough Of You. Van Pierszalowski, lead singer of WATERS, put out a few singles on his own under the nom de chanson Van William (understandably so) earlier this year, and has now collected them with this new track and one demo on a four-song EP called The Revolution. This ballad is a definite shift in tone and feel for VW compared to the first two singles and to his work with WATERS, but you’ll recognize his signature sound in the shuffling guitar riff behind the lyrics.

Prides – Lets Stay In Bed All Day. I had Prides’ first single, “The Seeds You Sow,” as my #8 song of 2014,, but their debut album ended up a big disappointment, lacking any big hooks and really downshifting their overall sound. This song seems to get them back on track, with a big Wombats feel to both music and lyrics.

Tricky with Mina Rose – Running Wild. It only took me twenty years, but I have finally realized that I like Tricky’s music a lot more when he’s not the vocalist.

Von Grey – 6 A.M. I’m not sure about the “sexy goth sisters” marketing around this trio, but the sound on this track is a compelling, more vocal-driven descendant of the ’90s novelty act Rasputina.

Cut Copy – Black Rainbows. Cut Copy have produced so much music – 21 singles, five albums (including their latest, Haiku from Zero), a few EPs – since their 2001 debut, but despite a general sound that’s right in my wheelhouse, I’ve rarely found their songs even a little bit memorable because they haven’t had good pop hooks in what is otherwise very poppy music. This breaks that trend, the best song I’ve heard from them since 2010’s “Where I’m Going.”

The Riff – Weekend Schemes. I mean, if your band is named The Riff, you’d better bring the guitar licks … and they do, at least on this song, which is like a harder post-Oasis Britpop vibe with a dash of The Hold Steady in the vocals.

INHEAVEN – Bitter Town. Big, ballsy hard rock from their eponymous debut album, which also features the muscular “World on Fire” (on my August playlist). This song is more wistful, a little introspective even, with strong lyrical contrast to the heavy percussion and distortion that drives the music.

Mastodon – Toe to Toes. Mastodon have always been inventive musicians, frequently breaking out of traditional song structures, and often succumbing to melodic urges as if they couldn’t help but make a heavy song a little catchier. This song seems to split the baby; there’s a heavy, jazz-metal component, reminiscent of the work of ’90s metal acts Cynic and Atheist, and the song suddenly downshifts into AOR territory – but the juxtaposition works to the song’s benefit, providing a respite from the relentless riffs of the heavier sequences.

Chelsea Wolfe – Offering. Highly atmospheric, ethereal, gothic … something. It’s not really metal, although bits of metal creep into her latest album, Hiss Spun, and she employs a number of major names from the metal and hard-rock worlds on the record. There are doom and stoner elements here, but it’s all in service of building a dark, funereal edifice for Wolfe’s wide-ranging vocals. I thought the album as a whole dragged, but this track is a standout.

Myrkur – De Tre Piker. Myrkur is Amalie Brunn, a Danish vocalist who just released her second metal album under this moniker; her music is generally described as “black metal,” but that wildly undersells what she’s doing here. This music defies traditional categorization, borrowing from diverse genres and shifting tempos, themes, and styles multiple times within tracks, incorporating folk and classical elements along with extreme metal aspects, including screamed vocals that alternate with her own clean singing. It doesn’t always work, and she struggles sometimes with the lack of cohesion within tracks, but I’d put her in a very small group of artists who are trying to change the definitions of contemporary rock music.

Arch Enemy – My Shadow and I. I think I just don’t care for Alissa White-Gluz’s guttural vocal style – but I think the guitar riffs on Will to Power, their new album, are a big step forward from the slightly disappointing War Eternal (2014), still true to their melodic death-metal roots. (Founding guitarist Michael Amott was a member of seminal death-metal act Carcass for their breakthrough album Heartwork, which remains one of the founding records of the melodic death-metal subgenre.)

Satyricon – Deep calleth upon Deep. The vocals are bad – they just are, always have been for Satyricon – but they’re an unapologetic doom band now, a transition that, as many of you argued on Twitter, started somewhere around Rebel Extravaganza or Volcano. It’s not what original Satyricon fans want, but if you can stand the silly death growls there’s a good Pallbearer/Crypt Sermon vibe here.

Akercocke – Unbound by Sin. This is probably the most extreme metal song I’ve ever included on one of these playlists, which is why I left it till the end, but this song – and the entire album, Renaissance in Extremis – is a tour de force of progressive, technically proficient metal that incorporates elements of jazz and classical along with the standard death-metal trappings like blast beats (yawn) and growled vocals (mixed relatively low here, so the fretwork stands out). I used to think Akercocke was something of a joke, a so-called “blackened” death metal band that used controversial lyrics and album covers to grab attention, but this album, their first in ten years, just floored me with its complexity and textures. If you like extreme metal at all, it’s the best album of that niche this year and I think the best since Carcass’ Surgical Steel.

Stick to baseball, 9/30/17.

My one ESPN column this week is a free one, covering my awards picks for 2017, excluding NL Rookie of the Year, the ballot I was assigned (again). I also held a Klawchat on Friday.

I reviewed Azul, one of my favorite new boardgames of the year, for Paste, which will be my last review for them until November. I will continue to post reviews here in the interim.

My book, Smart Baseball, is out and still selling well (or so I’m told); thanks to all of you who’ve already picked up a copy. And please sign up for my free email newsletter, which is back to more or less weekly at this point now that I’m not traveling for a bit. I also have a new book signing to announce: October 14th at Changing Hands in Phoenix.

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 9/22/17.

I wrote three pieces for Insiders this week: scouting notes on Yu Darvish, more notes on Aaron Nola and some young Phillies hitters, and my annual look at players I was wrong about. I also held a Klawchat on Thursday.

I’m down to biweekly game reviews for Paste, so the most recent one is from last week, covering the great Days of Wonder-published title Yamataï, by the same designer who won the Spiel des Jahres (game of the year) this year for his game Kingdomino.

My book, Smart Baseball, is out and still selling well (or so I’m told); thanks to all of you who’ve already picked up a copy. And please sign up for my free email newsletter, which is back to more or less weekly at this point now that I’m not traveling for a bit.

And now, the links…