Taylor Swift clapped back, Kendrick Lamar got personal, Lorde threw a high-concept party and more
Music was full of fury, confusion and resistance in our first post-election year. Albums came with titles like American Dream (LCD Soundsystem), American Teen (Khalid) and All American Made (Margo Price). And indeed, artists did get explicitly political, from Randy Newman to Jason Isbell to Jay-Z. But music in 2017 was also about a more slippery sense of self, as genre lines fall away and artists searched for identity and purpose in weird times. Some of the year's best classic rock came from pop stars like Kesha and Harry Styles; some of the year's most acclaimed pop statements came via glossier sounds from alterna-rock icons like Queens of the Stone Age, Foo Fighters, St. Vincent and Grizzly Bear. SZA melded emo self-evaluation with the sounds of modern R&B, Chris Stapleton joined classic soul to contemporary country, Jlin added experimental cutting-edge textures to Chicago dance music, Valerie June explored decades of American music and Drake pulled sounds and collaborators from all across the world. Here's the best of a tumultuous year.
50. Code Orange, 'Forever'
The Pittsburgh hardcore-from-hell outfit delivers state-of-the-art heaviness with its third full-length LP, and its first for storied metal imprint Roadrunner. Befitting drummer/vocalist Jami Morgan's well-documented love of Nine Inch Nails, Forever thrives on atmosphere as much as aggression. Merciless precision bludgeonings are still the focus – aptly, the band soundtracked the entrance of menacing wrestler Aleister Black at a recent WWE event – but the ominous ambient passages in tracks such as "The Mud" only heighten the album's thick aura of dread. The most riveting moments belong to guitarist Reba Meyers, who provides eerie melodic vocal turns on "Bleeding in the Blur" and "Dream2" in between the other tracks' beatdowns. H.S.
49. Foo Fighters, 'Concrete and Gold'
"I don't wanna be king/I just wanna sing a love song," declares Dave Grohl – a default mission statement from the eternal sideman-turned-frontman. It opens what might be his group's most polished set, produced by pop guru Greg Kurstin, who sweetens the Foos' hard rock hooks without de-fanging them. The paradigmatic "The Sky Is a Neighborhood" is latter-day Beatles with Queens of the Stone Age crunch; "Sunday Rain" even has Paul McCartney playing drums on it. From stadium dive bombers like "Run" and "La Dee Da" to the acoustic soul that opens "T-Shirt," it's classic rock from a punk who never stopped believing. W.H.