…But, I did take a look afterwards, and a lot of these made OTHER top lists, so there! If you haven’t heard some of these, add them to a NYE playlist or sit at home and listen to them! They run the gamut when it comes to type, style, moods to listen in…heck, I even suggest wine with a whole album (whether that is 1 glass or 3 bottles…that is up to you)! Regardless, have a Happy New Year, and keep supporting music that means something as we move into 2018!
Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
This was a close second to my most anticipated album of the year. This album tells a story, so for the best effect, listen to all the songs in order in one sitting! The way that Kendrick’s voice flows so naturally, it’s like it’s a narration to a deeper story, and this album is just the tip of the iceberg.
DNA – This is my favorite heavy lifting song, my favorite running song, my favorite tackle-the-challenge song…did I mention it’s my favorite? At first, “Humble” really had me hooked, but one listen to this, and it was over. And the video? One of my favorite EVER. It co-stars KC native, Don Cheadle (now, are you intrigued?)
P!NK – Beautiful Trauma
I was waiting for this one. For a VERY long time. And it just doesn’t disappoint. As P!NK has grown and changed over the years, you can very much hear that she is the same person that showed up – seemingly out of nowhere – back in 1997. Her power vocals remain the same, as does her knack for storytelling, but the stories change. This time around she tackles relationship woes, family life, and all those thoughts going on in her head – an open book, singing about all we wish to say. And I just want more!
Better Life – Hands down my favorite. Because, who doesn’t sometimes wonder if their significant other may want something different? And, somehow, she makes it catchy and thrilling!
I Am Here – A declaration that she is here, her voice is important, and she is not backing down for anything. A little nudge at permission for the rest of us to never let anyone silence us.
Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken – For those who might be a little overwhelmed or downtrodden, especially in our current political climate. Here is our rallying cry.
Miley Cyrus – Younger Now
Somehow, this slipped my radar when it released back in September, and I didn’t give it a listen until late November. Now, all I can think is: WHY DID IT TAKE ME SO LONG? I am not, historically, a Cyrus fan, but she is finally coming into her own with a mix of country and pop that is not slippery sweet, but somehow raw and dreamy. And I wish there weren’t so few tracks!
Rainbowland – This one features Dolly Parton, and it DEFINITELY sounds like a more traditional Parton song…but it is positive and upbeat and makes you want to sleep forever and live in a damn Rainbowland – or maybe even try to make one of your own in real life!
Miss You So Much – This one is a bit on the stalker side, just without dark and creepy undertones. And it’s totally how I feel about my husband. I will just leave it at that.
Younger Now – The past handful of years of Cyrus’ life in a nutshell. She’s gone through a lot of changes and phases, and somehow has come out the other end feeling younger than she was then. I really resonate with it – maybe you can, too!
Harry Styles – Harry Styles
Harry Styles’ self-titled solo debut was my album of Summer 2017. Nothing I EVER thought I would say. Ever. There are no outright pop songs. Instead, Styles has chosen 10 tracks with melodies and instrumentation – even recording style – that calls back to Brit rockers of the1960s (think: Beatles, Rolling Stones). I know that may seem like high praise, but give it a listen. You will hear it. It’s not just the sound that has me turning this sucker up on an afternoon walk, evening drive, or even while I make breakfast in the morning, but lyrics that are a mix of fun, soulful, and a bit angsty.
Two Ghosts – This one is all about a love gone cold. How everything is the same as it always has been, but the passion and feelings that once were there have left the building. It’s something in between a break up and a love song, and it is heart-shattering.
Her. Voice. Is. HOLYSHIT. So soulful. So smooth, so powerful, so seemingly effortless. I truly have no other words. Give her album a listen. Especially her newest release, “Dream”.
Sam Smith – The Thrill of It All
I truly didn’t think that so much more emotion could come out of one person into an album, but with his sophomore album, I can FEEL more sadness as he sings. And, it doesn’t make me sad. It just makes me FEEL.
All I can say is that you need to grab a bottle (or two) of cabernet, draw a bath, and listen to the whole damn thing.
Lana Del Rey – Lust For Life
Does anyone remember Katy Perry’s recent album? Well, this did everything that Perry intended, and THEN some! Lana’s sultry voice lends itself to a story of awakening in our country’s current state, and somehow surviving it all – like every generation before us. These aren’t idyllic pop songs, but songs that make you feel a part of a bigger whole. And, with just a year and a half between her last release and this one, you KNOW it was spurred by current events.
God Bless America – And All The Beautiful Women In It – Hauntingly gorgeous.
When The World Was At War We Kept Dancing – MESSAGE: Don’t stop living when our country seems to be falling apart around you. Hopeful without being too idealistic.
Khalid – American Teen
In his debut album, Khalid let’s us know that he is fully aware of how disconnected and digital the life of an American teen has become. He doesn’t embrace it like – seemingly – every other young person. He rips it apart as he flows through each track. Though, I am sure many teenagers have held tight to this album as their anthem, it is a great one to give a listen no matter what you are doing if you want smooth vocals and music you can dance or relax to.
Kesha – Rainbow
It’s been awhile since we had a new Kesha album…and, to be honest, I was OK with that. Her previous music was NOT my jam. It should have been my college party soundtrack – and, trust me, I LOVE glitter – but I just couldn’t get behind Kesha. Now, I can. And it’s not just knowing her full story and struggles and the WHY behind it all. It’s also not just my feminist tendencies to support women who are into creating great things. Kesha is finally using her voice. Never have I been so happy when autotune is taken out of the equation. She can REALLY sing, and sing she does! Her album is a rallying cry for everyone who has felt like any part of their lives is a struggle. Every single song involves messages of independence and empowerment, whether they are set to ballads or party beats.
Bastards – …and this is just the FIRST song! Once you hear it, you will understand why the rest of the album is necessary listening!
Tyler, The Creator – Flower Boy
This is NOT what I was expecting from Tyler. But, why should I expect the same from someone who has always done what he wants, and sounds good doing it? This is a much more mellow album from one of my favorites, and it brings some heavy and big messages along with it. Also: please, if you choose to listen to this, appreciate the instrumentals as well! YESSSSS
Where this Flower Blooms – Ever feel different from everyone else? Or, confused because you don’t want to be “normal”? This song gives EVERYONE permission to do whatever the hell they want, no matter their age. Give it a listen…
Glitter – I love glitter. And this refers to someone feeling like glitter when they are around the person they love. Ka-ching!
Ed Sheeran – ÷
Every single Ed Sheeran album that comes out has about 5 years worth of “first dance” wedding songs on them. This one is no different…and this time he calls on his current romantic relationship as his muse! And, I like romantic songs as much as the next person – who isn’t currently going through a breakup – but those weren’t my favorites on the album! Watch the videos for the songs below and really listen to the lyrics…and dance along for the best experience!
Shape of You – I don’t care what I am doing, I drop EVERYTHING and groove to this one!
Castle on the Hill – Somehow he has made a freeing song that makes you feel like you are running across the hilltops of Ireland out of pure nostalgia. Mmmmm
Galway Girl – modern Irish jig based on his grandparents’ relationship. What more could you ask for?
Sza – CTRL
All I can really say about this one is: FINALLY. She says all the things you are thinkin’, girl, and puts some amazing music to it, too! You can FEEL the emotion in this one!
The Weekend – Ready to feel like the sexiest person in the room? Give this track a listen NOW!
Jay-Z – 4:44
At first, I thought this one was a cop out. Beyonce releases Lemonade, so Jay-Z feels the need to respond, right? But, then I thought, “Oh, wait, he needed to release something new.” And he does. And it’s personal and raw and real and a near masterpiece!
Favorite: Just listen to the whole thing. It only takes up 35 minutes of your time, and I don’t think any one song is as good as all of them together. Also: watch the videos if you can! Bey really challenged him to step up his game in the visual department, and it is paying off in dividends for fans!
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 3
Can I just take a moment to declare that 2017 has been FIRE for MOVEMENT? And, this album is a movement in itself to eradicate oppression and seek social justice for all. All delivered in a VERY listenable package with beats that would make your grandma shake it!
Call Ticketron – I don’t need to explain it. Trust and give it a try!
Thieves! (Screamed the Ghost) – In response to recent riots. Yet, not fuel for the fire, but definitely a soundtrack for the movement. There is a flow to it unlike any other
Hanson – Middle of Everywhere
Can you believe it’s been 25 years since the brother band, “Hanson”, decided they should form a band? To celebrate, they released an album with some new tracks, as well as oldies-but-goodies.
I Was Born – Here we have one of the new tracks. It’s a great, poppy, inspirational song written for the band’s kids. And the stars of the video? Their kids!
Broken Angel – Not a new one. But SO happy it’s getting a little spotlight being featured on this album! It features the youngest, Zac, on vocals. And his voice is so smooth and soulful, you will wonder if you are actually listening to the same band!
Bleachers – Gone Now
This sucker opened to mixed reviews. But, I loved it from the first time I heard it through live, and it has since become a very nostalgia and dance-filled experience for me. Sounds from decades before and inspired by many musicians – including Springsteen – I can’t help but feel Jack Antonoff’s reaching for the stars and sharing the span of his life in music on one album, with the album title referring to past him being gone now. Feel it with me, and take a listen!
Everybody Lost Somebody – It is the early 90s anthem for us NOW. Bringing humans together around the idea that everyone has felt pain, and everybody has lost somebody. Doesn’t hurt that you can also dance to it!
Moon – Hang On EP
The best EP that most people haven’t heard made my list because, well, they are BADASS. The lead vocalist, Chelsea Davis, adds power to the words while also somehow drumming simultaneously. Seeing them live is a necessity, so that you can feel it while listening to the EP.
I Got a Fever – Sensual power and soul wrapped into one song.
The line wrapped around Times Square, making a mess of Broadway. Swarms of fans covered themselves in swaths of red and green, draping blinking Christmas lights across their bodies and topping them off with Santa hats. And some were decked out another way: t-shirts with pictures of three smiling brothers were the most common, and even fashionable, accessory.
Right on the heels of their Middle of Everywhere tour, honoring 25 years as a band, Hanson was intent on closing 2017 with a bang. With October 27th’s release of their new Christmas album, Finally It’s Christmas, Hanson added an implicit nod to their fanbase. Every year since the release of their first Christmas record twenty years ago, Snowed In, Hanson’s fans have been eagerly and incessantly clamoring for another. And this year, an early Christmas gift arrived, complete with celebratory shows in select cities, almost all of them sold out. November 28th was the first of Hanson’s two-night run at the PlayStation Theater.
The stage was set, adorned with lights and garland, readying the audience for what was to come as greetings were given, drinks were purchased, and laughter wafted through the air. Projections of snowflakes swept across the floor, lending a more wintry feel to a surprisingly warm November night.
And then the lights were lowered. Screams, cheers, and claps commenced as Hanson stepped out, each formally dressed as if on the way to a holiday party; guitarist Isaac Hanson sported a green tie, drummer Zac Hanson a red bowtie, and pianist Taylor Hanson with a blue scarf dotted with white, resembling the snowflakes on stage. Immediately breaking into “Finally It’s Christmas,” the triumphant first track kicking off the new album, the crowd began singing along at the top of their lungs; they already had it memorized. Accompanying Hanson was a saxophone player, who often danced in coordinated movements with their bass player, laughing as they did so and giving a new meaning to the word “merry.” With this inclusion, Hanson’s sound was more jubilant than ever before, an elevation to a fuller, louder plane, similar to 2010’s Shout It Out, which features horns on many of its tracks. Hanson crafts each song in a different way, and are always up for experimentation. With 25 years under their collective belt, they search for new and innovative ways to enhance their music, and this new record is proof.
Hanson not only played songs off Finally It’s Christmas, but also songs off Snowed In. Though they were only children at the time, they still penned three original Christmas tracks, “At Christmas,” “Christmas Time,” and “Everybody Knows The Claus” as well as their own medley of “O Holy Night,” “Silent Night,” and “O Come All Ye Faithful.”
There were too many highlights of the show to count: you could say the best part was Taylor walking to the front of the stage during “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home),” shaking a tambourine and encouraging the crowd to sing background vocals with Isaac and Zac. Or when Isaac issued a challenge to the audience during “Til New Year’s Night,” one of the most standout tracks on Finally It’s Christmas, imploring the crowd to name each reindeer before launching back into the song Chuck Berry-style. Or maybe it was when Zac took over the piano during “Please Come Home,” his voice soaring over the keys while Taylor played drums. Objectively, however, it was “Joy To The Mountain” a capella that stood out the most, with Hanson’s harmonies in flight, echoing from floor to ceiling in the near-silent theater. It grabbed the audience and arrested them into a quiet trance, the lull of a Christmas lullaby.
The end of the show featured “Everybody Knows The Claus,” one of Snowed In’s most beloved tracks. Everyone was dancing with abandon, recalling the days of childhood and the mad dash to the local record store on the day Snowed In was first released, relishing every bit of it, second after second, minute after minute, meticulously taking it all in on cassette tape. And 20 years later, those experiences and memories are still emblazed in the brain and heart, which is what made this show so meaningful. Hanson always delivers to their fans, giving them nearly two hours of music, finally ending the encore with “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas.”
It was the perfect note to end on, allowing a moment of reflection and pause before the final bow and goodbye—until 2018.
There aren’t many feelings better than that of curating the perfect soundtrack. I’m not one to gloat, but I did a pretty good job of it myself at the tender age of 18. In our religion class – yes, I did the Catholic school thing – our teacher asked us to make a soundtrack to our lives, with descriptions on why we chose the songs, etc. Not a lot of people took the assignment very seriously (I had a friend asking me to draw his CD art five minutes before class started. Casual.), but I went all in.
I chose 18 songs for 18 years of life, and my explanations were memories and thoughts etched into my mind because of the songs. So I want to celebrate the launch of Imperfect Fifth with my soundtrack in full, with as many of the details (minus the photos) that I can include. So take a peek inside my 18 year old mind, and then perhaps make a playlist that reflects your world. (AND DON’T FORGET TO SUBMIT IT FOR CONSIDERATION!)
“I always said, ‘Don’t mess with the young girls at this school.'” – My geometry teacher
- Proclaimers – 500 Miles // “500 Miles” is one of the first songs I ever remember singing and dancing to in my life. (Of course, there was Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” also.) Erin and I used to dance in our living room to this song when we were really little. It is on the Benny & Joon soundtrack and it’s an amazing song. Erin and I shared this song as a favorite in common with Rosie Campbell, one of our friends since we moved to Missouri in 2nd grade.
- Spin Doctors – Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong // “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong” is another tune that I remember listening to when I was very young. It was also my ringback tone last year and, according to my mother, it should be my anthem.
- Tracy Chapman – Fast Car // “Fast Car” is such an amazing song. Not only did I listen to it in the early 90’s, but it also became mine and Michelle Verstraete’s song the summer after freshman year. We were listening to my iPod while laying out at her pool and that is when we discovered that we both shared a passion for 90’s music. Every time I hear it, I think of her. Also, it is a song that I listen to when I am in a rut. It reminds me to strive for my dreams and that they won’t just be handed to me.
- Sugar Ray – I Just Wanna Fly // I chose this song solely in honor of the Ferguson family. Vincent was my first friend in Missouri. On the way to my first Liberty Blue Jays game with him and his family, his big brother Billy made us listen to this song. It was his favorite. It reminds me of 2nd grade and my amazing friends.
- Sisqo – The Thong Song // When I was younger, I took karate. In 5th grade, this song was on every Saturday morning on our way home from class. My dad always turned it up and rolled the windows and sunroof down. It was a joke for our family. It reminds me of my dad. Also, when people started noticing his gray hair, he told them that he dyed it silver to look like Sisqo. **This party trick still works. Sometimes.
- Hanson – Broken Angel // When I was in 8th grade, I was obsessed (again) with Hanson. This song is about someone who has the ability to fulfill their dreams but just can’t seem to get it right. I listened to this song every single night before I went to sleep from 8th grade through 10th grade. It reminds me a lot of me.
- The Starting Line – Best of Me // This song begins slow and sweet and then changes tempo. It reminds me of several events in my life, like Warped Tour ’07 with Jenny Newcomer. It also reminds me of Jenny’s boyfriend, Troy, who played this song upside down on Erin’s left-handed guitar. But, more than anything, it was my “pump up” song for every big event in cheer over the past three years. It got me through competition and losing games.
- Hawthorne Heights – Ohio is For Lovers // This song is fun to sing in public. When I started wearing black nail polish during sophomore year, people began to ask me if I was emo. I would just sing the chorus of the song to them. Hawthorne Heights was MY band of the summer after sophomore year. Also, I saw them four times in concert before my favorite member of the band died tragically this year.
- The Rocket Summer – Save // I was told this song fits my personality. It is off of The Rocket Summer’s most recent album. The song really does make a lot of sense… when people “amaze” me, I invest more emotion into my efforts. Even though things frustrate me when I take chances and they prove fruitless, I question it and then move on to something more inviting. I want my life to count.
- Spin Doctors – Two Princes // This is supposed to be on Erin’s CD. I didn’t really mean to put it on mine, but now that it is on here… this is yet another song that I listened to frequently as a child. I remember the music video/ I am pretty sure it was my first glimpse at a true grungy outfit on a guy. I think of my childhood when I listen to it.
- LFO – Summer Girls // I hated LFO when they were popular. I always fought with people saying they were poseurs of NSYNC and Backstreet Boys. They made me angry. Freshman year, I was at Jenny’s birthday party and she had a dance to this song. She made me love this song. It is just so random and completely reminds me of her. Also, Matt Loehr was in my Spanish class freshman year and sang this song for us.
- Saving Jane – Girl Next Door // This song is catchy and was fun when it was popular. It came out and I laughed because I was a cheerleader and I felt like the “girl next door” anyways (because SPX doesn’t like cheerleaders). My mom and my sister sang it to me when I made prom court.
- Imogen Heap – Goodnight and Go // This song was on the first season of The OC, my favorite tv show ever. My friend and I used to sing it sophomore year all the time.
- Aaron Carter – Saturday Night // This song reminds me of cheer tryouts sophomore year. Actually, it was the spring of freshman year. It was the last song I heard before tryouts, and it was (unfortunately) stuck in my head the entire time… and then I made varsity. So, I always think of cheer when I hear it. I put it on my camp CD this year.
- Jeff Cunningham, Danny Cunningham, Billy Q – Moonbounce (Go Dumb) // This song makes me giggle so much! Jeff has been my neighbor and one of my best friends since 7th grade. He signed to a Canadian rap label in 8th grade, but it never really went anywhere. This summer, Jeff, his brother, and our friend Billy recorded this song in Jeff’s room as a complete joke. It is actually one of the worst songs I have ever heard, but they are complete hams and I listen to it all the time. I am going to miss them next year. Also, it reminds me of the moonbounce at prom. **Sadly, this song does not exist anywhere but my iTunes library.
- The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus – False Pretense // I love this band! “The world’s got a funny way of turning ’round on you/When a friend tries to stab you right in the face/Losing faith in everything I thought I hope I know.” These lyrics truly hit home for me. No matter how much I invested into my friendships over the past three years, my true friends pulled through this summer. This song reminds me that I could not have changed what happened with my estranged friends. I listen to it sometimes when I am angry.
- The Rocket Summer – Brat Pack // This song has been my high school anthem since sophomore year. I have always wanted to get out of high school, but I love my friends and we really are like our own little Brat Pack. Shout out to my oldest friend, Allison Bacchini!
- Rod Stewart – Forever Young // This is the song that my mom chose for my segment of the 8th grade graduation video. I love this song. I will always be young at heart, even when I grow up and have a job. This song reminds me constantly to keep the childlike qualities with me.
18 songs for 18 years of life.
BRING ON THE NEXT CHAPTER.
**Photo courtesy of my friends TPing the neighbors’ house and trailing it to our house so we had to clean it up. But that’s my little brother cleaning it up.