Editor’s note: Topher Parks is one of our most prolific writers and I don’t know of another person to turn to for advice on the next big alternative rock band, that is as on point as this guy. Enjoy his top 100 songs of the year!
100. Nothing But Thieves – Amsterdam
99. Caro – Eyes on the Ground
98. Juanes – El Ratico [featuring Kalis Uchis]
97. Au/Ra – Outsiders
96. Dirty Heads – Freedom
95. John Mayer – Helpless
94. The xx – Dangerous
93. Twiceyoung – Change Your Love
92. Radiohead – I Promise
91. Death Therapy – Self Mind Dead [featuring Andrew Schwab]
90. Simpson Ahuevo – Jaque Mate
89. Ed Sheeran – Castle on the Hill
88. COIN – Feeling
87. Banks – Underdog
86. Alcolirykoz – Changó
85. Beck – Up All Night
84. Daddy Yankee – Yo Contra Ti
83. Brick + Mortar – One Little Pill
82. deadmau5 – Long walk off a short pier
81. Residente – Somos Anormales
80. Local Natives – I Saw You Close Your Eyes
79. Gorillaz – Submission [featuring Danny Brown & Kelela]
78. The New Respects – Something to Believe In
77. Skip Marley – Lions
76. Prophets of Rage – Hail to the Chief
75. Joywave – Rumors
74. Hembree – Had It All
73. The Shins – Name for You
72. Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes – Vampires
71. Bad Suns – This Was a Home Once
70. Centavrvs – El Punto Final
69. U2 – The Blackout
68. N*E*R*D – 1000 [featuring Future]
67. the wldlfe – Oversentimental
66. Katy Perry – Chained to the Rhythm [featuring Skip Marley]
65. Manchester Orchestra – The Gold
64. Taylor Swift – …Ready for It?
63. MUTEMATH – Hit Parade
62. WALK THE MOON – One Foot
61. RDGLDGRN – Opera [featuring Method Man]
60. Incubus – Glitterbomb
59. Moses Sumney – Lonely World
58. Big Boi – Mic Jack [featuring Adam Levine]
57. Morrissey – Spent the Day in Bed
56. Spoon – Can I Sit Next to You
55. Miguel – Caramelo Duro [featuring Kali Uchis]
54. Moon Taxi – Two High
53. Harry Styles – Sign of the Times
52. Sampha – Reverse Faults
51. Alex Cuba – En Mi Guitarra
50. Foo Fighters – Make It Right
49. Ed Sheeran – Shape of You
48. Local Natives – The Only Heirs
47. Foster the People – SHC
46. From Indian Lakes – I Feel It on the Back of My Neck
45. Arcade Fire – Everything Now
44. Prophets of Rage – Unfuck the World
43. Mozart La Para – El Orden
41. Kendrick Lamar – DNA.
40. MUTEMATH – Placed On Hold
39. St. Vincent – Los Ageless
38. Noah Gundersen – THE SOUND
37. Paramore – No Friend [featuring Aaron Weiss]
36. WALK THE MOON – Headphones
35. Future Islands – Cave
34. Step Rockets – Money
33. Portugal. The Man – Feel It Still
31. Foster the People – Pay the Man
30. Grouplove – Torso
29. Enjambre – Nudo
28. Dinero – Bajo cero
27. Ania – Danza Animal
26. Residente – Desencuentro [featuring SoKo]
25. bnqt – Hey Banana
One of two songs from Volume 1 written and sung by Alex Kapranos, “Hey Banana” is lyrically nonsensical, but musically it’s very reminiscent of Kapranos’ primary outlet, Franz Ferdinand, with a riff that makes it one of the highlights from this indie rock supergroup (pronounced “banquet”) debut.
- Spoon – Hot Thoughts
Long-time indie rockers Spoon continue to churn out quality material, even two decades after their 1996 debut – their latest, Hot Thoughts, is no exception. The metallic riffing and tight bassline drives the album’s title track, but it’s the keys over top and the soft ending that really help it stand out.
- Skip Marley – Refugee
Skip Marley has had a big year, from being featured on Katy Perry’s hit single “Chained to the Rhythm,” to most recently collaborating with Seeb on “Cruel World.” It’s his own three singles from this year, however, particularly the horn-infused island rocker “Refugee,” that really have me excited about a full-length from Bob Marley’s maternal grandson, coming hopefully early 2018.
- Vince Staples – Big Fish
Vince Staples released his follow-up full-length to 2015’s Summertime ’06 in June, and in many ways Big Fish Theory feels more accessible than its predecessor. Take the thumping club banger “Big Fish” for instance, which, thanks in part to Juicy J’s gusto on the hook, is one of the year’s strongest hip-hop cuts.
- Lorde – Perfect Places
Lorde became a household name at the tail end of 2013 with her hit single “Royals,” but the Jack Antonoff-produced Melodrama sees the 21-year-old really coming into her own. While there are some killer tracks on Melodrama, none of them quite hold a candle to the booming closer “Perfect Places.”
- Nothing But Thieves – Sorry
As I’ve mentioned in my review of Broken Machine, I was initially underwhelmed by the power ballad “Sorry,” but the more I’ve listened to it, the more I’ve fallen in love. Broken Machine as a record belongs in more discussions for rock album of the year, and that’s partly due to this track.
- Taylor Swift – Call It What You Want
In addition to his work behind the scenes on Melodrama, Jack Antonoff also cowrote and produced much of reputation, which sees Taylor Swift stepping even further into pop territory than she did with 2014’s 1989. The electronic beat is characteristic throughout reputation, but it’s the orchestral-like layering and Antonoff’s rich backing vocals that really give this song an edge.
- Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder
This year saw the return of indie rock conglomerate Broken Social Scene on Hug of Thunder. I’d consider the entire record one of the better releases from all year, but the brooding title track is next level. The Feist-led tune feels like one continuous build, with a subtle but driving bassline that serves as the glue holding it all together.
- Franz Ferdinand – Always Ascending
I usually refrain from featuring tracks scheduled to release the following year, but considering that I first heard “Always Ascending” when I saw Kapranos and company back in May, and it’s been one of my favorites ever since, I felt compelled to include it on this list. The driving title track from the Scottish rockers’ forthcoming album features a classic post-punk beat, Franz Ferdinand’s signature riffing, and electronic overdubs that truly make this lead single feel like it’s constantly “ascending” in sound.
- Vetusta Morla – Te lo Digo a Ti
Madrid-based rockers Vetusta Morla are back with a phenomenal new album, and while Mismo Sitio, Distinto Lugar is very much picking up where they left off on 2014’s La Deriva, the album’s lead single was a bit of a departure for the sextet. At 2:27, the shortest track the Spaniards have ever released as a single starts out as a soft stomper before quickly evolving into an upbeat rock chart.
- THE FEVER 333 – Hunting Season
2016 saw the end for letlive., but that hasn’t stopped frontman Jason Aalon Butler from putting out music. This time around, Butler has teamed up with The Chariot’s Stephen Harrison and Night Verses’ Aric Improta to form THE FEVER 333, a relentless hardcore collective that channels the attitude and ferocity of the great Rage Against the Machine, particularly on the trio’s second single, the brief but raucous “Hunting Season.”
- Noah Gundersen – NUMBER ONE HIT OF THE SUMMER (FADE OUT)
Noah Gundersen blew me away this year with his latest, with this visceral rocker being a big reason for that. The rock and roll attitude pairs rather nicely with the atmospheric backing elements, something that proves to be a consistent theme on WHITE NOISE. Needless to say, “NUMBER ONE HIT OF THE SUMMER (FADE OUT)” is easily a highlight.
- The Killers – The Man
2017 was the year for 2000s era alt.-rock – the genre made a killer comeback with all kinds of new releases. Las Vegas heavyweights The Killers made their own return with an incredibly danceable, driving lead single from Wonderful Wonderful that is as electric as it is electronic. Musically it’s a fresh take on the band popular for the angsty mid-oughts hits “Mr. Brightside” and “Somebody Told Me,” making “The Man” an instant summer smash for me, and I’m sure for others as well.
- The National – The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness
Nowadays a hit record usually prominently features one of two instruments, the piano or the guitar, not both, but The National does just that, in addition to showcasing some effervescent horns, on the Cincinnati natives’ first taste of new music in over four years, and incidentally the fourth cut on Sleep Well Beast. Add in a deep bassline and frontman Matt Berninger’s gruff baritone vocals, and it’s no wonder I loved this tune so much.
- Queens of the Stone Age – Feet Don’t Fail Me
Queens of the Stone Age opens their latest effort with a bang, starting off eerie before eventually kicking into a nasty, electro-tinged groove on “Feet Don’t Fail Me.” Before even releasing a single from Villains, the quintet unveiled a teaser video which contained a clip of this epic tune, and at that point I knew that the album opener was going to be my favorite. Four months after Villains first hit shelves, no other track has come close.
- Kendrick Lamar – HUMBLE.
Kendrick Lamar only further solidifies himself as a rap legend as time goes on – this year, the Compton-based rapper scored his first number one single as a solo artist in “HUMBLE.” With swaggering verses and a subtly dissonant piano line, it makes sense that this trap banger from DAMN. was the hip-hop record of the year.
Indy-based bands have been getting my attention quite a bit in the past few years (usually with a single) – in 2016, it was the wldlfe’s “Text Me?”; in 2017, it was “Novocaine.” Dream Chief’s hit electro-banger was on repeat for weeks when it first dropped, and now, with this vibey smash leading the way, I have a funny feeling that the indie pop duo of Tuttle and Tuttle is going to have a huge year in 2018.
- Kinky – Te Vas
While I had heard of Mexican rockers Kinky before, I must say I was guilty of not really listening to their tunes – that is, until I heard the infectiously spacey “Te Vas” when it first released back in February. The second single from Nada Vale Más Que Tú was my obsession for what felt like the entire first half of the year, and upon listening, you’ll understand why this was the case.
- Manchester Orchestra – The Moth
I’ve always appreciated how Manchester Orchestra can bring out a certain heaviness in their guitar tone, while remaining an undeniably indie rock act, but “The Moth” takes this concept to a whole new level. With a head-bobbing yet foot-stomping rhythm as the song’s main backbone, the blistering riff on the chorus never fails to send chills down my spine.
- Foo Fighters – Run
Maybe it’s the syncopated reggaetón-esque drumbeat on the chorus, or maybe it’s frontman Dave Grohl’s vicious yet melodic screams he’s come to be so well-known for. Whatever it is though, there’s a sheer intensity about “Run” (much like many of the other tracks on Concrete & Gold) that sets it apart from other rock tunes released this year.
- Nothing But Thieves – I’m Not Made by Design
Speaking of blistering and intense rock and roll, the heaviest song from Broken Machine is this gem of a track. “I’m Not Made by Design” is a relentless rocker that never once lets up, with an instrumental intensity that matches Conor Mason’s powerful voice, and more importantly, his convicting message.
- N*E*R*D – Don’t Don’t Do It! [featuring Kendrick Lamar]
If 2017 was an album, it would be N*E*R*D’s eponymous full-length, so it’s fitting that the highlight from the record is a fiery sociopolitical commentary taking aim at police brutality and the systemic injustices therein. Musically “Don’t Don’t Do It!” is part lounging R&B chart, part jamming funk rocker. Add to that an incriminating verse from Kendrick Lamar, and it’s hard to top this banger.
- Los Mesoneros – Caiga la Noche
2017 found me stumbling upon quite a few bands that I wish had discovered sooner, particularly of the Latin persuasion. Take Los Mesoneros for instance – the Venezuelan alt.-rockers now based in Mexico City released a fantastic effort this year in Caiga la Noche. It’s the rocking title track, however, which at times channels Brit.-rockers Keane, that has remained one of my favorite tunes of all year, Latin or not.
- Making Movies – Spinning Out
Never have I heard a sound so unique, and never have I been so blown away by a first-time discovery than with the Latin American rockers Making Movies. On “Spinning Out,” the Kansas City-based quartet unabashedly touts their Mexican and Panamanian roots, while frontman Enrique Chi hits the type of notes that would make Matthew Bellamy and the rest of Muse proud. With this groundbreaking single, two 2017 releases (an LP followed by an EP), and a shoutout from salsa legend Rubén Blades at this year’s Latin Grammys, it’s inconceivable to me that this literal band of brothers hasn’t gone viral already.
- MUTEMATH – War
For over a decade, no band has combined electronics and rock and roll better than New Orleans’ MUTEMATH, and with “War,” the quartet proves once again that they are in uncharted territory. It’s the third single from the alt. collective’s self-proclaimed “overindulgent” fifth record, so it’s no surprise that the massive rocker is just shy of five minutes in length. To me, “War” is the band’s best composition in six years, and if Play Dead is truly the last hurrah for MUTEMATH as many fear it may be, this song and record were both a fantastic way to go out.