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2017 has been a bittersweet year, to say the least. Many troubles have happened outside of music, and we lost a lot of musical legends too: Tom Petty, Chester Bennington, Fats Domino, Malcolm Young, Chuck Berry, Chris Cornell, Lil Peep, Gregg Allman, Joni Sledge, Prodigy, and more. Still, all the turmoil of 2017 has resulted in somewhat of a creative revival. With each artist that passes, new generations of artists are born. Music is getting sharper and more socially relevant, thanks to all the artists inspired by the chaos and tribulations.

So carrying on with that optimistic spirit, NEST HQ is proud to present our annual superlative recognitions for this year in music, honoring six categories — Originals, Remixes, Music Videos, Albums, Producers, and Who To Watch — as voted upon collectively by the NEST HQ staff. As with previous years, our selections span a wide range of sounds and genres and feature those musicians who we believe are inspiring the community to progress while simultaneously creating new lanes and worlds for their music to reside.

Our first category kicks off today below. Read on for the 20 Best Original Songs of 2017, and check back in every day the rest of this week for each of the remaining categories.

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NEST HQ’s Best of 2017: Originals
*20 tracks listed in alphabetical order by artist

BROCKHAMPTON – GOLD [Question Everything, Inc]

BROCKHAMPTON came out of the gate swinging this year. The DIY “boy band” collective built off Internet friendships led by Kevin Abstract hit the spotlight in June of 2017 with the first album of their Saturation series, a three-part offering of full-length albums recorded in their Los Angeles home headquarters. One of the best single offerings from the crew was “GOLD” back on Saturation I. “GOLD” stands tall as a lighthouse, pointing the way for lost sailors looking for moody, instrumental-driven hip-hop with catchy hooks, incredible production, and lyrics that hit hard and stick. As a self-described modern day “boy band,” BROCKHAMPTON showcase exactly what that means on “GOLD” in a big way. — NB

DROELOE & San Holo – Lines of the Broken ft. CUT_ [bitbird]

Yet another bitbird insta-classic, “Lines of the Broken” from DROELOE and San Holo sounds like something that might come out of a music box sent from another dimension with its hyper-metallic sound design. Gently building into a bright, playfully funky arc, it feels like this songs lifts us all the way up before slowly lowering us back down to Earth with a soothing vocal harmony. — MH

Four Tet – Two Thousand and Seventeen [Text]

The past year has been a rollercoaster, and we’ve all felt its tremors, but despite all the existential dread and global tension, moments like the #MeToo movement have brought out glimmers of light for the future. Leave it to Four Tet, a producer who’s been evolving and informing the scene for the past twenty years, to capture all that tension, uncertain energy, and solemn hope into a cohesive track. “Two Thousand and Seventeen” leads us down into the murky dirt of the year atop a plucking instrument that breaks through the walls of noisy atmosphere, weaving it all into a beautiful elegy. — NR

Frank Ocean – Chanel [Blonded]

If our Best Of lists were numbered, I would unequivocally put Frank Ocean’s “Chanel” at the top. Not only is Frank one of the greatest musicians and voices of our generation, but everything he delivers to fans is pristine to the nth degree. The follow-up to his stunning 2016 album Blonde, “Chanel” explores his perpetual fascination with duality and deeply meaningful lyrics with polysemic references. Reportedly about Frank’s partner, “See on both sides like Chanel” refers to his dichotomous feminine and masculine appearance. It has been said that “Chanel” is also a message about bisexuality, serving as a double meaning for French designer Coco Chanel, who was a Nazi informant during WWII. There’s a reason why Frank is at the top, and “Chanel” is a perfect example. — NB

Future – Mask Off [Epic]

“Mask Off” transcends the concept of pop music despite its explosive popularity on the radio and its presence at every party you attended this year. Beyond the unshakeable desire to sing its drug-addled hook, Future and producer Metro Boomin crafted a solid production with understated rapping and that memorable flute melody. “Mask Off” has received billions of streams since its release on Future’s self-titled full-length album in February. Additionally, this house party anthem made its mark in the dance music world with countless edits and remixes in the hottest DJ sets of the year. Although 2017 was a year filled with chart-topping hip hop tracks and overnight-sensation SoundCloud rappers, “Mask Off” fought its way to the top because of its underlying intense narrative masked with an undeniably stimulating beat. — JM

Hundred Waters – Particle [OWSLA]

“Particle” was the first single released in May, ahead of Hundred Waters’ critically-acclaimed third album Communicating. The experimental pop trio are known for their blend of electronic and organic sounds, with “Particle” as one of their most bass-heavy offerings thus far. Nicole Miglis yet again demonstrates her unparalleled lyrical depth, and creates a masterpiece which conveys a deep sense of sadness. The production represents the next evolution of Hundred Waters, as they continue to paint their own ever-expanding bright and beautiful universe of novel watercolor washes. — CS

Iglooghost – White Gum [Brainfeeder]

IGLOOGHOST crushes hard with “White Gum,” one of many standout cuts from his debut full length album Neo Wax Bloom. The composition lacks any formulaic structure, instead opting for a maximalist approach and the non-existence of loops or repetition. It’s fast and chaotic, with unpredictable drum patterns and orchestra sections that launch the listener into complete disarray. With “White Gum,” IGLOOGHOST confirms his dedication to take risks, and to settle for nothing less than productions which strike that magical eureka moment. — CS

josh pan & X&G – nowhere [OWSLA]

This haunting, unforgettable collaboration from josh pan and X&G is an evocative, down-tempo piano song brought to life by an utterly eerie, one-of-a-kind production quality. A subtle, understated progression, driven by josh’s spooky vocal builds up into a dancey groove then recedes back to the elegant simplicity of the verses. As “nowhere” builds and drops a final time, it descends into a cacophony of laser-sounding synths that feel like they’re electrocuting our brains in the most wonderful way. — MH

Kyle Watson – Road Trips [This Ain’t Bristol]

Kyle Watson’s “Road Trips” became a rare cross-over hit, used as a secret weapon by underground and mainstream DJs alike. It embraced the tripped-out, lo-fi aesthetics and high-octane bass rumbles that defined two polar opposites of this year’s house music spectrum, and it also set up a massive year for the This Ain’t Bristol label, who have by now cemented their reputation for providing essential fare to DJs globally. We first heard it when Wongo played it in his NEST HQ MiniMix, and then again and again as 2017’s festival season rolled by. By uniting so many of the elements that spread through dance music this year into one tune, “Road Trips” earned its place as an unstoppable force. — NR

Mija & Kelli Schaefer – Bad For U [never_b_alone.mp3]

Mija tapped Portland-based indie artist Kelli Schaefer to rework her original “Bad For You” into the delightfully twisted, dark and down-tempo sonic universe that is “Bad For U.” Kelli’s vocals sound like they’re being transmitted from across the galaxy as they slip and slide through the rich, reverberating tapestry of Mija’s production work. We’re hoping this blatantly Bjork-inspired song is along the lines of what Mija’s forthcoming EP How To Measure The Distance Between Lovers is going to sound like. — MH

Post Malone – rockstar [Republic]

There’s no arguing that Post Malone has had of the best years in 2017. He lives like a modern day rock ‘n roll cowboy, regularly hitting beer bongs, going absolutely HAM on stage for his shows, and crafting some of the best hooks of the year. His latest and currently most played radio hit “rockstar” (produced by Tank God, who met Post in a studio and showed him the beat) is definitely his standout track of 2017. It’s an ode to the “live fast, die young” motto many young and reckless musicians swear by. It also marks Post’s first collaboration with 21 Savage, who shines on the track with his signature monotonous droning. From start to finish, “rockstar” is as captivating as the lifestyle itself. — NB

Skrillex – Would You Ever [OWSLA]

2017 has been a landmark year of exploration and growth for Sonny as he collaborates freely with whoever’s inspiring him, from DJ Sliink and Wale to Sirah, Vindata & NSTASIA, Incubus, and Kendrick Lamar, to name just a few. His biggest song of the year, “Would You Ever,” reunites Skrillex with emerging singer/songwriter Poo Bear, who last joined forces for the Justin-Bieber featuring “Where Are Ü Now.” The song embraces a latent softness that’s percolated through Sonny’s music since even the earliest Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites days, doubling down on the heart-tugging side of his soul and polishing all the signature elements of his sound to a sheen. Its hopeful, questioning refrain bubbles into a leaping, momentous ride that becomes a timeless addition to his discography. — NR

Tennyson – Cry Bird [OWSLA]

Tennyson has taken robust advantage of 2017, touring relentlessly throughout the United States, Europe, and Asia, and releasing the wondrous Uh Oh! EP: a sturdy ship steered by their dedication to fulfillment, joy, and vibrance. Among the hours and hours of discussion, selecting “Cry Bird” as one of the best original songs of this year was a no brainer. The record is a cozy soup of garbage can bells, stomping, shiny objects, and soul compost, where years of theory and jazz melt into dynamic productions. Every section of the record is layered deeply and thoughtfully, and the inclusion of the West Los Angeles Children’s Choir pushed the song into a space almost overwhelmingly whimsical. As far as we are concerned, “Cry Bird” is everything that a song should be. — DN

The Black Madonna – He Is The Voice I Hear [We Still Believe]

The Black Madonna’s had a stellar year, kicking it off as Mixmag‘s DJ of the Year before moving into a springtime residency at London’s XOYO. Her pedigree has never been higher, yet rather than capitalizing on her resurgent fame with a number of singles, she chose to only release one this year: “He Is The Voice I Hear.” Its piano-led opening breathes with vivacity, setting the listener up for a disco powerhouse breakdown that lasts ten short minutes. “He Is The Voice I Hear” is the stuff of legend, a song that will never fade. — NR

The M Machine – Voyeur [Mad Zoo]

As the kings of indie-electronica, The M Machine create texture and fullness in pop records so strange you might think they belong on neighboring planets. They refuse to write within any popular constructs, yet are still so discernibly precise in their productions and artistic choices. There is something so legitimately intoxicatingly otherworldly about their music, and “Voyeur” made this year’s “Best Of” because it is M Machine inside and out, and that’s really the best way that I can put it. — DN

Tsuruda – Slippin’ [Division]

This year presented bass music that embraced all things weird and wacky. Among it all, Tsuruda propelled himself to the forefront with his first full-length album and graced us with “Slippin’,” a production that opens with intricately-arranged percussion and an ominous buildup that’s worth the suspense. This track drops with abstract sound design that feels like a duck getting strangled. Tsuruda’s entire Move LP is filled with noises we’ve never heard before, but “Slippin’” holds the crown because of Tsuruda’s method of manipulating a droning, squeaky tone into such an attractive sound. — JM

Virtual Riot – Never Let Me Go [Disciple]

While Virtual Riot has released a wide range of music this year, he remarkably hit his stride with “Never Let Me Go.” Known as a pioneer of the neo-age dubstep revolution, he combines the best of the genre with emotional, melodic chord progressions and modern, high-precision sound design to create a space that occupies the best of both worlds. Its best quality however, is the fact it makes you feel something – ultimately achieving a record that stands strong as one of the year’s best. — CS

Virtual Self – Ghost Voices [self-released]

Wow, where do I start? It feels like the mainstream US audience is finally ready for DDR-inspired, neo-trance directed music, and all it took was an EDM messiah like Porter Robinson to get us there. The launch of the Virtual Self project has been one of the most exciting parts of 2017, and “Ghost Voices” is just honestly plain amazing. It checks all the boxes: it’s nostalgic, hard, deep, fantastically cheesy at times, raw — even somewhat poorly mixed — but it is soused in emotion and incredibly forward-thinking melodically, technically and sonically. — DN

Wavedash – Like That [self-released]

In the era of never-ending track IDs, WAVEDASH ignited quite the fire for their highly-anticipated dubstep track “Like That.” Appearing mysteriously in sets from artists like Skrillex, Jauz, and Excision, “Like That” is charged with mechanical, authentic sound design spanning a multitude of genres. WAVEDASH dropped this track in February within their debut Hundred EP to satisfy the suspense of bassheads everywhere, and all year it has delivered. – JM

Yung Skrrt – Holy Ocean [self-released]

For the larger part of this decade, Yung Skrrt’s been an insider producer, garnering acclaim among other producers through his previous projects Catt Moop and HYDRABADD before turning that knowledge towards a new sense of vocal gymnastics. With his standout song of 2017, “Holy Ocean,” Skrrt expands upon all his past work by finding a soft wistfulness to cross through, blending rap into song, vocal into melody, and charting a blueprint for the future. – NR


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Words by Neal Rahman, Molly Hankins, Dani Noguera, Nathan Beer, Cassie Sheets, and Jordan Mafi
Artwork by DISCHETTO

Come back tomorrow for NEST HQ’s 20 Best Remixes of 2017.

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