At several points throughout 2017, a simple question was asked: What are you listening to? Whether we were fielding it or asking it, the reply was often specific to a singular song. With all due respect to the time-honored album and EP -- and from Slowdive's self-titled to Kendrick's DAMN. to Quiet Giant's You're in Heaven, there were quite a few of note -- this year was all about the song. Songs of passion, songs of empowerment, songs of not giving a damn and songs of giving every last damn imaginable soundtracked a year that tested the will of the people. As Daniel Brockman notes in his intense Year in Pop essay for Vanyaland, pop music is headed down a dangerous path; but it's also merging into one giant streamable playlist, where the underground battles for clicks and listens with Top 40, and this year's Vanyaland year-end recap -- a mere selection of our staff's favorites, and by no means a silly declaration of the absolute "best" -- reflects that. Our staff was asked to come up with their faves, and these are the responses, presented alphabetically. The lead entry, via Toronto's Alvvays, feels like an appropriate jump-off, and the featured image of the up top was shot by the late, great Eddy Leiva, from their October show at The Paradise.
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White Reaper, “Judy French”
Back in April, Louisville’s White Reaper continued Polyvinyl’s hot streak with The World’s Best American Band. The label had a massive year, with releases from Alvvays, Palehound, and Diane Coffee helping soundtrack 2017, but it was White Reaper who felt like the dark horse in all this. Their boastful LP title was proven possibly correct with “Judy French,” a punchy rock and roll throwback that reminded us of the days when we’d head to school with mid-’80s-era RATT cassettes plugged into our walkman. We probably didn’t think one of our favorite tracks of the year would recall the point just before the glam metal dam broke, but “Judy French” is that top-down, school’s-out, DGAF-about-homework jaunt to the carefree corners of youth. And that’s somewhere we all need to get back to.