The Menzingers | photo courtesy of the artist

Year-End Mania is the Key’s annual survey of the things below the surface that made 2016 incredible. Today, as we’re about to step into another calendar year, Key Contributor Brendan Menapace picks his favorite songs from the future.

Every year, when I’m compiling a list of my favorite music from the year, I always end up with a few songs that were released as singles before the actual album comes out the following year. I never know whether I should include them or not with the current year or wait. This year, I gave them a list of their own. Here are the top six songs released this year from 2017 albums.

  1. The Menzingers – “Lookers”

Let me be clear here: “Lookers” isn’t just my favorite song of 2016. It is my favorite song of 2017 as well. Unless David Bowie and Freddie Mercury come back to Earth and do another song like “Under Pressure,” I think it’s a safe bet that “Lookers” will still top my list this time next year. Like the Power Rangers, The Menzingers seem to have found some sort of rock or something that gives them the supernatural ability to write Oneders-quality hooks. “Lookers” captures the special brand of nostalgia reserved for people still living their youth. It’s nothing fancy. It’s just really, really good.

  1. Cloud Nothings – “Modern Act”

Cloud Nothings mastermind Dylan Baldi pretty much summed 2016 up perfectly with this one: “Can’t stand the modern act / Who’s war is this? What god is that? / Feels like the tide is only starting to come in.” Word. Aside from the poignant lyrics, Cloud Nothings seem to have taken a deep breath when it comes to writing the music, too. It’s less of a race between Baldi and drummer Jayson Gerycz, who’s speedy drums sat way high up in the mix in last year’s excellent Here and Nowhere Else. It also helps that next year’s Life Without Sound is produced by John Goodmanson, whose previous work with Death Cab for Cutie is prevalent on this new material.

  1. Ty Segall – “Orange Color Queen”

Speaking of taking a deep breath and relaxing a little, Ty Segall doesn’t do that. Between his annual solo releases and countless side projects, it’s safe that there’s always going to be a Ty Segall album every year. But, unlike this year’s tummy-ache-rock album Emotional Mugger (also one of my favorites from this year), Segall looks to be going back to his (relatively) more traditional psyche roots with this one. It’s still got some loopy guitar.

  1. The Orwells – “Double Feature”

The Orwells always reminded me of the kids I went to high school with who showed up reeking of cigarettes and hungover on a Wednesday. Your parents heard some things and told you not to hang out with them, but you knew they were largely harmless and fun, but you were a little intimidated by them, too. “Double Feature” acts as an ambitious thesis statement for the suburban Chicago garage-dwellers. There’s a new perspective after a major label debut, tireless touring and an infamous appearance on Letterman. There’s no way to tell if the lyrics are autobiographical at all, but singer Mario Cuomo sings, “Should’ve been a doctor or a lawyer / Should’ve never listened to Destroyer.” The song, which tops 7 minutes, is the closer on next year’s “Terrible Human Beings,” and is sure to be a bright spot in the sometimes-oversaturated garage rock revival world.

  1. Pine Barons – “Clowns”

Pine Barons, another local favorite, are one of those bands that’s really hard to describe. Like when someone asks, “What kind of music do you like?” They have punk sensibilities, there’s some garage rock influence, there’s some jamming. But what Pine Barons do so well is make it all make sense. “Clowns” has so many different voices within one song, and I don’t just mean the effortless vocal harmonies. Pine Barons, much like ogres, have layers. (Sorry.)

  1. Brand New – “I Am a Nightmare”

OK, I might be cheating on this. It might be wishful thinking for me to assume this is from a 2017 release, but I’m sick of Brand New dangling carrots in front of me. This is the closest we’ve come to Your Favorite Weapon-era Brand New, complete with the familiar snare intro just like “Jude Law and a Semester Abroad,” but it doesn’t sound like a contrived effort to recreate something from youth or forced nostalgia.  There is, however, less teen angst directed at girls, bandmates and Taking Back Sunday. Hopefully, Brand New manages to put out a full length before they fulfill their own prophecy of being 18 forever and calling it quits in 2018, as they’ve hinted at nightly on tour this year. (Maybe those MoBo dudes got some dirt on that. We’ll have to ask.)