I decided I wanted to go and listen to the next ten songs off the Best of 2017 compilation (that I wrote about in an earlier blog post). Since Hoopla only allows you to keep an album for a few days I realized I had to re-download it. When I searched, I found (much to my surprise and amusement) several compilations for 2017 divided by genre. I picked Best of Indie 2017 and decided to check out the first 10 songs on there. This time, the artists weren’t listed with the tracks so I had to go and find them after I listened.

1. Green Light – Lorde (3:54)

Vocal and piano intro… thought these indie songs might be different than the general best of 2017. Still we’re doing very simple (very simple) intros with barely anything but vocal going on. Chorus adds 4 on the floor bass drum & big backup vocals. 2nd verse breaks down to almost nothing (in predictable fashion). Simple 4 chords looping. Actually, it’s only 3 chords. “I”ll be seeing you wherever I go”. A group of people singing / shouting at the end (known in the biz as “gang vocals”).

2. ILYSB – LANY (3:30)

Vocals, claps, light keyboards… sparse intro again. Pre-chorus also pretty empty. When is the beat going to come in? “I love you so bad”. So far, these songs follow the ‘everything drops out’ formula that was going on in the other Best of 2017 I analyzed. Maybe it’s a 2017 thing. Four chords looping throughout the whole song. I’m going to have to talk about something new if I’m going to keep this listening / writing exercise interesting.

3. Love – Lana Del Ray (4:34)

Is Lana Del Ray really ‘indie’? “It’s enough to be young and in love”. I really like this vibe. Great vocal delivery. Longing a bit for her youth it sounds like this singer is. Music is pretty subtle, yet anthemic. Tympani hits. Still four chords the whole time (why do I waste my time with interesting chord changes in my own material? I should just pick 4 simple chords and loop them. If I want to put myself to sleep.) Music just goes around in circles for 4 minutes. Kinda works with the ethos of this song though.

4. Walking On A Dream – Empire of the Sun (3:16)

This has an 80’s vibe a little bit. More traditional arrangements with drum beat and simple bass line, which is still only holding down the root note of the passing 4 chords. “We are always running for the thrill of it…” Decent.

5. Old School – Urban Cone (3:04) Not sure what this compilation is all about. None of this sounds particularly ‘indie’ to me. “Let me love you old school” the guy sings. Nice groove here, and the bass is moving around a bit more to contribute to it. Maybe in an ‘old-school’ way?

6. Alaska – Maggie Rogers (3:08)

Very sparse intro again. Nice layered vocals. This chord progression is revolutionary in that it’s actually an 8 bar loop instead of 4. (I know… I’m the old guy here.) A little more motion harmonically than the other songs. Very pretty voice on this singer.

7. Cold Little Heart – Michael Kiwanuka

Wow! Guitars! Soulful male vocal. Melodic female ‘oohs’ float around in the periphery. This is the first song on this compilation to have what appears to be a ‘real’ instrument on it: namely guitars. Electrics and acoustics. *I’m not ruling out that these are really samples.

8. Figures – Jessie Reyez (3:57)

My favorite so far. Has an Amy Winehouse attitude a little bit. There’s a good dash of R&B going on here (on the Indie compilation?) Very unique vocal timbre. More guitar in here as well. “How in the fuck would you feel if you couldn’t get me back?” Something I ask strangers on the Lawrence bus. Low and swirling electric piano mingles with vocal oohs and ahhs. No percussion to speak of on this song (except for the chunking guitar chords marking the 2s and 4s).

9. Bruises – Lewis Capaldi (3:39)

Intro simply piano and male vocal. All these are relationship songs. The subject matter will prove to be offensive to no-one. Ah. Turns out this whole song is just piano and vocals. Some double tracked ‘oohs’ for the… bridge part? “There may be something in the water, cause every day it’s gettin’ colder”. While lyrically bland (and a perfect fit for a dental office playlist) this song does get points for the bare arrangement of simply voice and piano. Balls.

10. Die Young – Sylvan Esso (3:31)

More subdued female lead vocal delivery. Cool ‘blocky’ synth part… almost an LCD Soundsystem type structure. Rhythm accents on the 16th notes. “I was gonna die young… now I gotta wait for you.” Gee. Sorry.

The tracks I listened to on “Best of Indie 2017” are not that different from the vanilla “Best of 2017”. The lion’s share of these are relationship songs. They almost all start with vocals and a simple background, get slightly more involved during the choruses (which are mostly 4 chord loops), then break down to nothing for the verses.

Good news: here are the other options for my next listening session:

Best of 2017 Hip Hop
Best of 2017 Latin
Best of 2017 Dance
Best of 2017 Rock

I’ll check back in a week or so and do the Hip Hop one. Fun stuff! Thanks for reading and feel free to let me know your favorite indie song of 2017 in the comments. Or maybe define what ‘indie’ means to you in this topsy turvy world.

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