The pessimists among us often argue that life and all its fads are cyclical. They’ll tell you each flavor of the month is a revolving door of eventualities, and what seems new now was old-hat not long ago. As much as we glass-half-fullers tend to disagree out of sheer spite, yearly music trends often paint those same pessimists as realists.

I’m not saying you should side with the cynics of the world – I truthfully would rather avoid spreading another wet blanket over an sea of online annoyances. On the contrary, the immeasurable novelty found in the tracks released over the past three months has made this one of the most exciting quarters of music since I started writing over two years ago. At the same time however, it’s worth acknowledging that the best songs from January to March were destined to have a slower, softer, more wintry feel from the start.

Those leisurely, smooth themes don’t take a trained eye to spot, either. Troye Sivan Charlie Burg, and Ethan Gruska all stripped down their faster 2017 tracks to accommodate an audience searching for temperate simplicity during the winter months. Other artists like Vance Joy, Conner Youngblood, and Arms Akimbo took a similar “less is more” approach, removing their familiar upbeat percussion to highlight heartfelt lyricism and accentuate the purest aspects of their normally undervalued voices.

Equally as palpable was the directness used by artists with a personal vendetta for a particular individual. A sizable percentage of these artists’ stories aren’t directed at an audience using third person pronouns like he, she, or they – each song instead puts a strong emphasis on the second person. For example, Brandi Carlile relives the disdain of a former lover after hearing a sentimental song, exclaiming “I wonder how your doing, but I wish I didn’t care, because I gave you all I had and got the worst of you.” Similarly, Soccer Mommy scorns at a controlling counterpart, commanding them “I don’t want to be your f*cking dog.” The evolution of those “yous” to encompass the release of quelled emotions is perhaps the most obscure songwriting parallel this quarter had to offer. First Aid Kit’s “To Live a Life,” Lucy Dacus’s “Yours & Mine,” and Lucy Rose’s “All That Fear” all begin modestly, but build into complex and majestic crescendos of power and dynamism. First Aid Kit reasserted that same point to Consequence of Sound about their song “To Live a Life,” telling them “While the start of the song is very sparse, we wanted it to build a little. At the very end we wanted it to feel like you were entering a dream world.”

Even with the soft theme, a few familiar faces did their best to sway the collective tempo to a more buoyant equilibrium. Kacey Musgraves balanced out her traditionally country characteristics with upbeat and strikingly appealing series of ballads, while Germany’s media sensation Kim Petras released yet another stellar party-starter with her February single “Heart to Break.” Stereotypes effectively remixed Foster the People’s “Sit Next To Me” to fill in the provocative blanks that Mark Foster and company have truthfully struggled to identify since their iconic 2011 debut album Torches. Most importantly, “God’s Plan” officially forced me to revoke my status as a lifetime Drake hater. Scoff at me all you want, but I previously sided with a friend’s evaluation that “Drake sounds like everyone wants him to rap, but he just wants to go to bed.” Regardless, hearing “God’s Plan” while shuffling any playlist should be considered grounds to get ignorantly cathartic no matter what the setting.

All in all, I’d advise against blasting this playlist in a full car with the windows down – it’s still too damn cold for that kind of summery behavior. Whether you’re cooking in the comfort of your kitchen, softly crooning in you’re not-so-spacious cubicle, or simply nestled up in the solitude of your car seat during your daily commute, this playlist will be most effective in smaller, more intimate settings. The playlist contains my favorite 25 songs released over the past three months, and as always the songs are in no particular order with a restriction of only one song per artist. Enjoy!!

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