The 14 Best Rock Songs I Discovered in 2017
Written by C.I. DeMann on January 23, 2018
Every couple months, my KPSU radio show “Six Degrees of Rockination” has a theme. On January 6, 2018, that theme was my favorite musical discoveries from the last year. To be clear, not all of these bands and songs were new in 2017, but they were new to me. I discovered them in 2017, so I celebrated them in this show. What songs did I play?
Hanson – “Thinking ‘Bout Somethin’”
Possibly my favorite discovery from the entire year, this song has everything. Horns, organ, cowbell, energy. I thought Hanson’s career began and ended with “MMMBop,” but, oh boy, was I wrong. This rock/funk/soul number is phenomenal.
The Record Company – “Off the Ground”
Right from the opening bass riff, this song grabs me. Then when the chorus hits and the entire band comes in, I’m 100% sold. I found a bunch of great songs from the Record Company this year. If you like this one, check out “Baby I’m Broken” or “Rita Mae Young.”
The Parlor Mob – “Everything You’re Breathing For”
I like the way this song starts soft and minimalistic, then when the rest of the band comes in, it gets rockin’ in a hurry. Also, there’s some quality vocals later in the song. I love when singers aren’t afraid to turn loose and really hit those big notes.
Michael Kiwanuka – “Black Man in a White Man’s World”
There’s so much to love about this song. It starts with just him singing to handclaps. Eventually there’s an entire band playing along, but even then, it’s simple and stripped down. The drums are playing softly, the guitar’s playing softly. It’s almost like no one wants to overpower the simple beauty of the vocals. I really, really like that.
The Wanton Bishops – “Waslaha”
I flippin’ love this song. At its heart, it’s a simple blues song, but then they put that cool electronic riff over the whole thing, and it makes the entire song blow up. I’ve heard electronic grooves used this way before – Joe Jackson’s “Steppin’ Out” and David Gray’s “Babylon” come to mind – and I love it every time.
The Menzingers – “I Don’t Wanna Be an Asshole Anymore”
I’ve known about the Menzingers for a few years now, but I’d never heard this song before. It’s phenomenal. That opening chord progression gets me every time. And who can’t relate to the lyrics?
Anderson East – “Find ‘Em, Fool ‘Em, and Forget ‘Em”
Our second song with piano and horns! Just like with the Hanson song, I don’t know if this should be called rock, funk, soul, or what. I just know I love it. I also like how he sings “remember the four F’s” even though there are only three F’s in this song. I bet you can guess what the fourth F is.
The Strypes – “Oh Cruel World”
Perhaps the most fascinating song of the hour, to my ears, at least. The new Strypes album really takes some chances, including this slow burner. I love how quiet and moody it is, I love the Bo Diddly beat, I love the handclaps and wood blocks in the background, and I love how it has a little crescendo at the end. Just a wonderful song by some young musicians who are still evolving.
Lights Over Bridgeport – “Saving April”
This one’s neck-and-neck with the Hanson song for my favorite discovery of the year. I absolutely love the energy of this one, with the guitar’s eighth notes and the drummer’s driving, persistent beat. Throw in the emo lyrics and the soaring chorus and I am 100% in.
Public Animal – “It Don’t Seem Right”
This is just a tiny little band from Toronto that I discovered on Bandcamp, but I absolutely love this song. I love the rocking power chords, I love the organ, I love the female voice. And I think I also kind of love how unknown the band is. Will they be a huge deal five years from now? If they keep putting out rockers like this, maybe so.
The Temper Trap – “Tombstone”
Such a great pop song. I love how it starts quiet and moody, then becomes huge and soaring in the chorus. If you like this, check out their songs “Trembling Hands” and “Ordinary World.” These Australians remind me a lot of the band Snow Patrol.
Beware of Darkness – “Howl”
Oh, we’re rockin’ now! This trio out of Southern California have a quasi-metal sound and a heroin-chic look. If you like this song, you’d also like “Muthafucka.” It’s exactly what you’d expect from the title. These guys don’t mess around.
AM Taxi – “Charissa”
This band is one of my favorite discoveries of the year. It’s a side project from some of the guys in the band Lucky Boys Confusion and it’s possible they’ve already broken up. If so, at least they put out a few amazing songs. If you like this one, also try “Woodpecker” and “Tanner Boyle vs the 7th Grade.”
The Heavy – “Turn Up”
And the hour ends with our third song featuring piano and horns. I’ve known and loved the Heavy for years, but this new song might be my favorite. The energy is tremendous, the groove is irresistible, and it’s got those classic James Brown-style vocals. Or is it Otis Redding? Or Wilson Pickett? Whoever he sounds like, it’s a wonderful song from a wonderful band.
And there you have it, my favorite discoveries of 2017. And guess what? This isn’t just a list I came up with. This was an actual hour-long radio show. Want to hear it? Here’s the link. A solid hour featuring my favorite musical discoveries of 2017.