Top 20 Singles of 2017
What's late December without an obligatory run down of the best music of the year? Here's what we've been vibing to at Tung HQ in 2017.
Miya Folick ‘Give It To Me’
The centre-piece to Miya Folick’s recently released EP, ‘Give It To Me’ is a song that could mean a thousand different things for a thousand different people. Languorous verses give way to a scream-into-the-void impeachment to a lover / a friend / an industry / the universe to make good on a promise of happiness. Since it came out, we’ve been listening to it every morning before starting to write, and my god it’s made us hungry for what we want…
Ibeyi’s music is forged from familial and spiritual connection. Combine their transcendent sound with the musicianship of saxophonist Kamasi Washington, former collaborator of Kendrick Lamar and Thundercat, and we’ve got ourselves a piece of music that wouldn’t sound out of place on another spiritual plane. If they continue to create pieces like this, 'deathless' is how we'll describe their legacy.
Following high profile collaborations with Gorillaz and Solange, Kelela made her triumphant return with ‘LMK’. Another serving of sultry R&B with a conscience, ‘LMK’ is the most commercial sounding track on the album, but a non-threatening bass minimalism allows her vocals to elevate the track to something more interesting. ‘LMK’ fits into a current trend in modern pop/R&B of reinforcing female agency and subverting the male gaze, a fave line being ‘Did you think you're my ride home baby? / ‘Cause my girls are parked behind’. Will be using on all future dates, while pretending we actually drive anywhere in London.
Francis and the Lights ‘May I Have This Dance (Remix)’
After the success of last year’s ‘Friends’, we kept our eyes and ears firmly trained on Francis Farewell Starlite’s next move. When it finally came in the form of a re-release and re-up of Farewell Starlite! album track ‘May I Have This Dance’, with added electronic punch and a Chance The Rapper verse, we weren't disappointed. The video, the official sequel to the ‘Friends’ promo, sees Chance practising a dance alone on a dance floor, later joined by Francis for a joyful choreographed piece.
TORRES ‘Three Futures’
This year has seen the birth of a Tung obsession with TORRES, and this track is where it all began. ‘Three Futures’ is a rich, slow-burn confessional which sees Scott singing to a past-love whom she has left because of a second, greater love. Her lyricism is at once poetic and plain - ‘You got me loaded on bergamot perfume / Downstairs in the TV Room’ - and conjures the banality of enduring a love she knew she wouldn’t end up choosing when it came down to it. It’s at once sad and freeing, and feels like a deferent attempt at closure.
Wolf Alice ‘Don’t Delete The Kisses’
This isn’t the first time Wolf Alice have made it into the Singles Of The Month round-up, and it’s unlikely to be the last. If ‘Yuk Foo’, the first release from this year's Visions of a Life, was reminiscent of their debut album’s ‘Your A Germ’, 'Don’t Delete The Kisses’ is the new ‘Bros’. Ellie Rowsell leaves behind her angry growl to deliver a series of softly-spoken, narrative and confessional verses as she describes the first flush of love she's too shy to do anything about. As the song develops so do her feelings and, eventually, in a punch-the-air final verse she goes for it. The chorus, at first a kind of wailing resignation to a life without love, becomes a euphoric soundtrack to a sprint into the sunset.
Frank Ocean, Jay Z, Tyler, The Creator 'Biking'
After an extended period of radio silence between the releases of Channel Orange and Blonde, it felt spoiling to get a single so soon after we were given not one but two albums. We're not ones to look a gift horse in the mouth though, and ‘Biking’ really is a gift. Frank Ocean relinquishes a certain amount of control to Jay Z, whose laconic verse sets the tone, and to Tyler, The Creator who adds his particular resonant edge, but Ocean is the centre of gravity here. A musing on life cycles and the concept of everlasting love as much a remembrance of hazy summer's evenings, this was the sound of The Tung's summer.
Lorde 'Green Light'
We've gotta admit, when we first heard the lead single from Lorde’s new album we were on the fence. It wasn't the Lorde we were used to, and with age we thought she’d get darker, not poppier. We reticently gave it one more chance and holy mother of God what were we thinking? This is the ultimate tune. It's a departure from the sound of 2013’s Pure Heroine, but we’re 100% here for it. In fact, one half of The Tung loves ‘Green Light’ so much that one time she cried listening to it on the way home from work. Admittedly it generally doesn’t take her much to leak salt water from her eyeballs but this time the over-abundance of emotion was real. Lorde, we love you.
Perfume Genius 'Slip Away'
For years now, Perfume Genius (real name Mike Hadreas) has been ripping himself open, tearing parts of himself out, and offering them, dripping, to his audience. Hadreas seeks to transcend the harsh realities of his existence, and in doing so he has created an album full of transcendent moments. The stripped minimalism of his first two albums it ignites on 'Slip Away' bursting into iridescent colour. ‘Let those voices slip away’ he sings, recalling those voices who whisper that ‘no family is safe when [he] sashays’ a la ‘Queen’. He's stronger now, and he's moving on.
The Black Madonna 'He Is The Voice I Hear'
The Black Madonna has been a pretty singular force in electronic music this year. She’s unafraid to blend style and genre in her live sets, and so too apparently in her solo productions. ‘He Is The Voice I Hear’ enlists Christoforo LaBarbera to provide a virtuosic piano intro, and Davide Rossi to deliver a lush string section, layering stabbing violins over a sweeping bassline. After a slow-burn start, the track erupts into a four to the floor banger, with a disco bass line providing a grooving comfort to the anxious melody. It’s part jazz movement, part piano-house, part string-synth Moroder. Whatever it is, we've been grooving to it all year long.
George Fitzgerald ‘Burns’
George Fitzegerald first came to attention after the release of his Child EP on Will Saul’s AUS label which remains a favourite to this day. After a dip in form, new single ‘Burns’ is just as powerful as that first release, driven by a beat of intergalactic proportions. For all its muscularity, Fitzgerald keep things simple, building tension before eventually hitting us with a tidal wave of sound. This is music for both personal and public listening.
Superorganism ‘Something For Your Mind’
The first single from newcomers Superorganism was the perfect antidote to the influx of hyper-shiny stadium pop dominating the airwaves this year. Stripped back, conversational vocals throw it back to the The Mouldy Peaches-era Americana; had this song been released 2007 it would no doubt be soundtracking an indie movie staring Ellen Page and Michael Cera. This is perhaps one of the more eccentric records of 2017 (there's a literal apple-crunch sample) but that’s what makes it so damn good. Here’s hoping this 8-piece transatlantic collective continues to keep it distinctly bizarre.
Obongjayer 'Set Alight'
On ‘Set Alight’ it's poetry first, music second. Such is the eloquence through which Obongjayer describes the connection between mind, body and soul on this track, it could probably have made this list devoid of any musical accompaniment at all. But why stop at story-telling when you can create a dystopian track with a heart-pump kick, worked 8-bit on the off-beat and some of the smoothest sax this side of the Atlantic?
Charli XCX ‘Boys’
Oh my god what an absolute joy of a single, and let’s not even get started on the video. Production credits go to Jerker Hansson (Zara Larsson, Terror Jr) and Cass Lowe (Snakehips, Rudimental), but you could be forgiven for assuming ‘Boys’ was the result of a lazy afternoon in the studio messing around with the PC Music guys, with whom Charli worked on her 2016 Vroom Vroom EP and this year’s genre-defying mixtape release Number 1 Angel. It’s all light as-a-feather whimsy and Pac-Man bleeps beneath lyrics that feel like they were sung from a fluffy pink four-poster bed. We love it.
Grace Lightman ‘ Fangs’
Grace Lightman has fast become a favourite at The Tung HQ. Her languorous voice gives us strong Nancy Sinatra vibes, as does her penchant for a treacly, atmospheric intro. In ‘Fangs’ her sanguineous vocals drip over stabbing synths, as she laments a relationship turned cruel. The video is worth is special mention too, with its American Psycho-esque protective plastic encased room, camera panning on women drinking glasses of blood which, in my head at least, belong to all the mean men they’ve killed. Something strange this way comes, and Grace Lightman is at the helm.
Mura Masa 'Nuggets feat. Bonzai'
We at The Tung HQ were pretty into this year's Mura Masa album, and of all the singles set free before the final drop this has to be our favourite. ‘Nuggets’ contains a whirlwind of influences, with many a nod to contemporary trends. The walking bass line has a dancehall feel, the vinyl scratch reminds us of 90s hip hop, and the tropical house backing vocal panning from left to right compliments Bonzai’s tight rhymes. Bedroom producers are nothing new but Mura Masa has certainly pushed some of the big-guns out of the way.
Benjamin Clementine ‘God Save The Jungle’
Benjamin Clementine doesn’t just write songs. He writes poems, sung against a backdrop of Queen-inflected musical theatrics, and the result is music of biblical weight and complexity. Like on 'The Phantom of Aleppoville', harpsichord makes a strong appearance on 'God Save The Jungle' and, whilst on paper it should be ludicrous, under Clementine’s stewardship it makes perfect sense. It's a dark song, a critique of the refugee crisis and misplaced national identity - a modern masterpiece.
Future ft Kendrick Lamar 'Mask Off remix'
When Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn, aka Future, dropped two full length studio albums with in a week of each other many were blindsided. Less surprising was the critical reception Kung Fu Kenny's remix of Mask Off received. Whatever Kendrick touches turns to gold. Don’t get me wrong, I was already sold with the original, from the infectious Tommy Butler sample to that booming kick and bassline, but Kendrick spits truths like none of his contemporaries. Bow down to one of the 21st centuries greatest story tellers.
Portugal. The Man 'Feel It Still'
It feels like Portugal. The Man have been around for ages. We've been fans for a while - ‘Modern Jesus’ is a particular favourite for a Tung Sunday session - but ‘Feel It Still’ feels less melancholic than their old stuff. Oozing funk, vocals playing a call and response with the brass section, that rumbling bass intro that wouldn’t be out of place in a Tarantino movie. This track makes us want to move.
Thundercat 'Friend Zone'
Debuted on Valentine’s Day, Thundercat takes us on a lyrical journey that any singleton will find all too familiar. 'Friend Zone' is an R&B record for the 21st century; synths pan before a solitary clap bounces us into a head-nodding rhythm. This is a track that oozes funk.