1. Calvin Harris feat. Frank Ocean & Migos: “Slide”
You guys, this song is really good. Calvin Harris, the electro-dance producer (and recent Taylor Swift flame), decided to team up with two completely different artists in the introspective and ingenious soul-singer Frank Ocean, and Atlanta trap-rap kings Migos, who are currently basking in the spotlight with their chart-topping single “Bad and Boujee.” “Slide” features an unexpected collision of worlds, but it ultimately works in the best possible way. Harris’s silky, shimmery beat is an immediate earworm — I can already picture it setting the mood for some laid-back July barbecues.
Frank Ocean is the song’s anchor, and I love when he drops the pitched-up “I might!” during the verses as the beat drops out. But my favorite part is the verse by Offset, one of the two “Migos” that appear. His fast flow punches the track up a notch, bringing it from “really good” to “great.”
I was a fan the first time I heard “Slide,” and my love for the song has only grown each time I’ve listened. Now we don’t have to wring our hands over what the 2017 “Song of the Summer” will be. We have it locked in, everybody can go home.
2. Ryan Adams: “Do You Still Love Me?”
Ryan Adams’s recent full-blown embrace of 1980s anthem rock has led to some pretty excellent songs in the last few years, starting with 2014’s self-titled album (check out “Gimme Something Good”) and continuing with his front-to-back cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989. (Just realized I’ve now mentioned T-Swift twice — February was a very “Swift-adjacent” month). “Do You Still Love Me?” is another mid-tempo, heartland rocker that starts and stops with bursts of guitar and floating organ lines, building to a very satisfying chorus. It’s like Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and Foreigner all wrapped into a delicious package. I would have loved this as a classic-rock-obsessed high-schooler. The song does not qualify as original or challenging in any sense of those words, but sometimes you just need to relax with some comfort food.
3. Dirty Projectors: “Little Bubble”
The opposite of comfort food is the new Dirty Projectors album. Similar to Ryan Adams, frontman Dave Longstreth tries to deal on-record with a recent breakup, but Longstreth deviates from Adams in that he has always gravitated toward the esoteric. Dirty Projectors’ biggest hit is probably 2009’s “Stillness is the Move” and it is weird, but also exciting, unexpected, and refreshing. Since then, Longstreth’s bandmates, including former girlfriend Amber Coffman (who had one of my favorite songs of last year), have left the band, leaving Longstreth fully at the helm.
“Little Bubble” is probably the most accessible, objectively gorgeous track on the album. He talks about mornings before, how “Rays of light like champagne / filter through and fill the room / We wake with no alarm,” but then later, mornings remind him that “There’s no one else here / I’m alone and the cold October light hits like a black hole.” The chorus is just beautiful — as a piano, strings, and bubble sound effects provide the backing, Longstreth poignantly sings “We had our own little bubble, for a while.”
4. You’ll Never Get to Heaven: “Beyond the Clouds”
I had never heard of this band, You’ll Never Get to Heaven, until a few days ago. “Beyond the Clouds” promptly enveloped me on the very first listen. It’s dreamy, nostalgia-inducing, and captivating, combining elements of Hazel English moods and Beach House-like indie pop. Here’s hoping there are more good things to come from the group.
5. DJ Khaled feat. Beyoncé & Jay Z: “Shining”
I mostly think DJ Khaled is a huge joke, but one thing he excels at is getting exciting, top-notch artists on his tracks. I expected “Shining” to be a little bloated, but I was pleasantly surprised to find an insanely catchy song with a great beat that plays exactly to Beyoncé and Jay Z’s strengths. Yonce takes charge of the first half of the track, dripping with swagger and confidence. Jay takes the back half of the track and sounds more engaged than he has in the past few years — he’s probably tired of getting shown up by his wife all the time.
Here’s a running Spotify playlist of all the Five Quality Tracks songs for each month in 2017 (or at least, all the tracks that are on Spotify).