This morning the Spotify-subscribing world woke up to Spotify’s annual ‘your year in review’ package, including a personalised top 100 played songs of the year. Here are music editor Henry Oliver’s top 10 (plus a few more).
1. Aldous Harding – ‘Horizon’
No surprise here. This song cuts deep. For reasons I won’t go into here (it’s summer and I want to keep this shit lighthearted), I played this song on repeat for long stretches of time on many occasions during the first half of the year. It both took me away from my anxieties and drew me into and helped me process them. Its minimal production, looping chords and repetitive structure made it perfect meditative listening. If you blinked during the silence, it felt like the song went on forever. In my mind it often did. And Spotify’s tally doesn’t even count the times I listened to the mp3s I got sent in preparation for interviewing and writing about Harding. I’m not sure what else there is to say. This song probably symbolises 2017 for me more than any other.
2. Lorde – ‘Liability’
I’m surprised that it’s ‘Liability’ and not ‘Green Light’, given that I listened to both a lot for both personal and professional reasons (both for review and then for the Behind the Melodrama podcast). I would have assumed, all things being even, that my daughter’s preference for ‘Green Light’ over ‘Liability’ would have pulled it ahead. But maybe because ‘Liability’, like ‘Horizon’, is a sad, looping song, it made me want to have it on repeat, honing in on the details (the small cracks in her voice, the sharp breaths, the string scrapes) and trying, in vain, to figure out where Lorde 2.0 might be heading.
3. Bic Runga – ‘Drive’ (Silicon Remix)
Haha – this is a funny surprise. This came out the morning after the Silver Scrolls and I listened to it all the next day and then most of the next week and then haven’t much ever since. So, shit, I must have listened to it a lot that week (and I reviewed it so that’s a bunch more listens). It’s just such a well-written song and then all the sounds that Silicon uses are like Skittles for the ears – once you start it’s hard to stop.
4. Selena Gomez – ‘Bad Liar’
Late last year, a few days before the Spinoff Music was launched, my son was born and in May this year, ‘Bad Liar’ became his first favourite song. He already liked music but this was the first song that triggered something and made him smile and bob up and down more than any other song with a beat. But it’s got everything a six-month-old would love in a song. The steady bass, the clapping, the repetitive “Oh I’m tryin’, I’m tryin’, I’m tryin’, I’m tryin’, I’m tryin’” He loves it. My four-year-old daughter loves it. I love it. We love it.
5. Lorde – ‘Green Light’
I remember the morning this hit Spotify and getting in the car with it on repeat and not wanting the drive to end so I had time to figure it out. How did it work? How did she go from that bit to this bit? Where was the piano house song we were anticipating after those teaser videos? How did she get from the electro-minimalism to this joyous maximalism? I parked the car, put in my earphones and when I walked into the office I unplugged my phone and turned to my workmates and three of us sung, without prompting, “I’m waiting for it, that green light, I want it!”
6. Drake – ‘Get It Together’
Another surprise. I never wrote about this song, so it must be all personal listening. When I lived in my previous house, I would drive to a carpark that required a further walk to work and throughout the autumn I listened to ‘Get It Together’ and a couple of other songs every day on that walk to the office. What can I say? I wouldn’t count it among my the best songs of the year, but it’s a great walking song and sometimes that’s exactly what you need.
7. Huerco S. – ‘Promises of Fertility’
There are probably only two or three people in the world more into this Huerco S. album than me. If we made a fan club, I’d probably be the secretary or treasurer. It was my wildcard pick for last year’s survey and, yes, I’m still listening to it.
8. Max Richter – ‘Dream 3 (in the midst of my life)’
For each of my children, I have made playlists of quiet music that I play while putting them to sleep and this is on my son’s bedtime rotation, which means I have listened to it probably four or five nights a week for the entire year and have never gotten sick of it. I’m thinking about going to see Max Richter play Sleep, the album this comes from, at the Auckland Arts Festival but it won’t be the same without my son there.
9. Ryuichi Sakamoto – ‘andata’
Another one from my son’s bedtime routine. “What is this funeral music?” my wife asked me one evening. Given this album (async – highly recommended) was written during Sakamoto’s battle with throat cancer, maybe she’s onto something. Is it too sad to play it to a baby? I don’t know. The universe is cold and uncaring and what better time to learn this than your first year of life? Kidding! (Kinda.)
10. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – ‘To Follow & Lead’
Like ‘Get It Together’, this was, for about a month or so, my after work jam. I put it on as I descended the stairs of our building and listened to it on my walk to the train and then again on the walk from the train station to my house. It was August/September and the days were getting longer, the sun started omitting tangible heat again and despite so much of the world turning to shit, there was still fun and beauty in the world. This just sounds like afternoon optimism to me.
Other highlights from my top 100:
18. Jlin – ‘Black Origami’
The more music you listen to the less music any music ever sounds new to you. Well, Jlin’s Black Origami album sounded new as anything to me. She takes footwork as a starting point but twists it into something else entirely. It’s not so much the sound of it but the feel of the rhythms as they weave in and out of each other. I’ve only ever listened to it on my own and really loud (on headphones or in the car) but it always fucks me up.
19. Aphex Twin – ‘Boy/Girl Song’
Despite none of his songs ranking that highly, Aphex Twin was my fourth most listened to artist this year on Spotify. (I note that a lot of the music I review is on mp3 or these weird secure streaming sites and I, of course, still buy music on plastic discs too.) Whenever I got tired of listening to music that made me think critically about it (which you end up doing a lot of in this line of work), I often listened to Aphex Twin and, apparently, this song more than any other. This came out when I was in high school and one of my good friends was so into it he drew the Aphex logo on his bag in Twink. At the time, it sounded like what some of us thought music might sound like now, in the future, which was mostly wrong (some of this has filtered through in ‘alt-R&B’ etc.) But, to me, this still sounds like now, even if it’s only reflected in the music most of us listen to. It’s just what the world sounds like sometimes.
65. Mount Eerie – ‘Death Is Real’
I’m in awe of this song but I’m surprised I could listen to it enough for it to chart. 😭😭😭.
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