Forget 2016 — Here's Some Of 2017's Best Music NPR Music editor and reviewer Stephen Thompson recommends new songs by Sinkane, Little Simz, Japandroids and more.
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Forget 2016 — Here's Some Of 2017's Best Music

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Forget 2016 — Here's Some Of 2017's Best Music

Forget 2016 — Here's Some Of 2017's Best Music

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Finally today, let's start the new year off with some music. Last week we brought you the hits from 2016, so this week we're going to look ahead at 2017 and check out some fresh new music.


MARTIN: Well, that was a good start. That is a song called "U'Huh" by the artist Sinkane. That's just one song NPR Music's Stephen Thompson has been jamming out to, and he's going to tell us more. Welcome back, Stephen Thompson. Happy New Year, thanks for joining us.

STEPHEN THOMPSON, BYLINE: Happy New Year to you, too. It's great to be here.

MARTIN: So Sinkane, came tell me more about them.

THOMPSON: Well, Sinkane's a really interesting musician. I believe based in Brooklyn now, but he's lived in London, in Sudan, in Ohio. And I think his music reflects kind of that globe-trotting nature.


SINKANE: (Singing) Well, I'm the first to say. It's all going to be all right. Been feeling that weight. It's all going to be all right. It's always been this way. It's always going to be all right. There ain't no golden days. We're always going to be all right. Kulu shi tamaam.

THOMPSON: If you're going to start off a discussion of the music of 2017, if you're looking at 2017 in general, you want a song where the chorus says everything is fine, we're all going to be all right.

MARTIN: (Laughter) Absolutely. So he sings and plays all the instruments himself?

THOMPSON: Yeah, he's just a really, really talented and interesting guy. And I think that the music reflects that kind of searching nature. None of his songs sound like they're coming from one place in the world.

MARTIN: Speaking of, you know, getting music from the world and enjoying it, there's a band out of Mali that you want to talk about.

THOMPSON: Yeah, they're called to Tinariwen. They've been around for ages and really come of the worldwide consciousness in the last 10 or 15 years. They play I guess what you would call, like, desert blues. They're from the Sahara Desert region in Northern Mali. And they're touring musicians who have sort of traveled the world over the course of the last, gosh, like nearly 40 years. And what I love about this particular song which is called "Sastanaqqam" is it sounds incredibly epic and flowing, and it feels like it manages to be searching and compact at the same time.


TINARIWEN: (Singing in foreign language).

THOMPSON: And the guitars are killer. So you can hear how it can be sort of trance inducing and to be brought into kind of a trance in a song that is that - that is that short. It's a three-minute, like, it's the length of a pop song.

MARTIN: Thanks for that. So let's go to something I think that might be a little bit more familiar to folks, a little hip-hop.


LITTLE SIMZ: (Rapping) Company is maybe all I needed right now, and you're an easy target. Don't take that the wrong way, but ride shotgun with me.

SYD: (Singing) When I'm out you know I got one. If you don't, then you better cop one 'cause I always keep them rolling shotgun, shotgun, shotgun.

MARTIN: I think we've heard her before. This is...

THOMPSON: Little Simz. She's a singer and rapper from the U.K. And it's a little bit of a fudge to call this a 2017 record because it technically came out on December 16th, but we're going to let it slide because she's still - she's just still being heard for the first time. She just has this really kind of twisty wordplay that still feels like very just musical. It has that like a - almost a sweet quality to it, and she's a wonderful, wonderful live performer.

MARTIN: All right. We are going around the globe here. And next you have a Canadian band for us called...

THOMPSON: Japandroids. Like you said, they're a Canadian rock band, and their songs are all about, like, just, like, living the fullest possible life. And each song just feels like this kind of roll the windows down anthem. But when you pick them apart, they have this real feeling to them. As a, you know, like kind of a dude in his 40s, these songs that are about, like, staying young even though you're getting old, they really speak to me directly. So the album and the song we're going to play here is called "Near To The Wild Heart Of Life."


JAPANDROIDS: (Singing) And it got me all fired up to go far away and make some music from the sound of singing, baby. Oh, oh. And it got me all fired up.

THOMPSON: So you get a lot of - in the chorus is you get a lot of (singing) whoa, whoa.


MARTIN: We need that.

THOMPSON: And we need that...

MARTIN: We need that right now.

THOMPSON: ...Especially in an album coming out in, like, late January, you know?


MARTIN: Absolutely, sludge season. All right, and so you've taken us around the world and we love that, but you cut right back to D.C., a local D.C. band, tell us more.

THOMPSON: Yeah, bringing it all home. The band is called Priests. And you listen to the song and it's got like kind of a real garage rock quality to it, kind of just like a classic, almost vintage rumble, but then the voice comes in. It's a woman named Katie Alice Greer, and she's got so much soul and power in her voice, and you just immediately think she is a rock star.


PRIESTS: (Singing) ...And wrong. But I always felt like overrun and come baby, I think I kind of know what you're made of.

MARTIN: We got to go because we're rocking out in here so...


THOMPSON: We're having a moment.

MARTIN: ...We're having a moment. That's Stephen Thompson of NPR Music giving us a look ahead to some music of 2017. Stephen Thompson, thank you.

THOMPSON: Thank you.


PRIESTS: (Singing) ...Normal day. You were just a rich girl all live in a very big jacket on a very big...

MARTIN: For Sunday, New Year's Day, that's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michel Martin. Let's keep the conversation going in the new year. Hey, make it a resolution to tweet us on Twitter @npratc. You can tweet me @nprmichel. We are back next weekend. Thank you for listening. We hope you have a great week.

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