As with our album class of 2017, it’s been a rough year for the socio-political conscious. On one hand we were given another landmark gem from Kendrick Lamar in DAMN. On the other we had and have a state of affairs that necessitated a 100-song compilation reflection on Our First 100 Days in this madness, two of which are represented on this list of stand-out tracks of the year (Iron Reagan, Tim Heidecker).

Politics aside, like 2016 and the year before it, there were plenty of voices soldiering on with narratives capable of standing on their own with or without an agenda. For the voices that did choose to skewer our current administration, those like Father John Misty and Ice Cube offered up some timeless expressions both, pure aggression in Ice Cube’s case, harrowing and comedic in Misty’s.

For those that shelved the political statements, there were all sorts of storytellers changing the game. Whether for charity and blowing up the dance-floor in the name of humanity with J Balvin and Willy William‘s Beyoncé-studded remix of “Mi Gente,” or Mount Eerie questioning whether death is art in one of the most devastating songs about a lost loved one ever, the sentiments were brilliant and raw as ever.

Thus same as it has been every year previous — here’s to you, the top lyric class of 2017, we’re honored to have been able to listen.

J Balvin, Willy William – ‘Mi Gente‘ ft. Beyoncé

Pop-star studded with everyone from David Guetta to Diplo, and of course Beyoncé, this new remix of the Columbian reggeaton monster fusion dance smash builds upon the Latinidad pride of its narrative, Beyoncé sings in both Spanish and English, using her English verses to tell an allegory about love — wink, Jay-Z, nudge — alluding to how actions speak louder than words. When Puerto Rico and other Latanidad areas were hit by the hurricane season — Beyoncé pledged to donate proceeds to relief efforts — the rumble this track made was a beautiful expression of human perseverance: [LISTEN] – Gavin Paul

Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – ‘Fear is Like a Forest

As endearing as the Kurt and Courtney lackadaisical jam poet combo are on the lead single “Over Everything” that started this whole country-punk collaboration and tour, solving each others worries with a “bend[ing] blues riff that hangs over everything,” it was Barnett’s partner’s song, “Fear is Like a Forest.” that the two reinterpreted with Crazy Horse-ian riff warrior spirits in the name of letting go that of which you cannot control to achieve that in which you can, that proved why making a record was a good idea: [LISTEN] – G.P.

Action Bronson – ‘Dealer Plates

Never one to take life too seriously, Action Bronson affirms his place in rap culture. He links back with Harry Fraud who concocts a sweet brew full of delicate aromatics and heavy breaks. What’s most endearing is that Bronson knows his lane and he stays firmly in it. His crass attitude is a reminder that an artist should stay committed to their vision no matter what. A brash loudmouth who doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘quit’: [LISTEN] – Jeff Min

The Alchemist – ‘Try My Hand

The Alchemist crafts a wicked beat for Mobb Deep to hold court over. It’s the sound of exhaust and chains rumbling against the pavement; dark and full of ire and mischief. Both Havoc and Prodigy are doing what they do best, which is strike fear into the heart’s of their enemies. It’s a posthumous effort from Prodigy, but one that captures his stark, matter-of-fact attitude. A legend who left the world too soon: [LISTEN] – J.M.

Big K.R.I.T. – ‘Aux Cord

The mighty Big K.R.I.T. pays homage to the greats that came before him, acknowledging their influence not only on him personally but on music and pop culture as a whole. The beat is mellow and laid back, as chill as a hot summer evening in the South.He’s using the aux cord analogy to let those know that there is whole other world out there, the analog sounds of yesteryear that warm the soul: [LISTEN] – J.M.

Alex Cameron – ‘True Lies

With his second statement this year, Forced Witness, the rusty-razor sharp Aussie Alex Cameron ditched the pockmark, washed-up rock star alter-ego of his unveiling, Jumping the Shark, for a whole new set of hilariously awful characters, hell bent on putting a sour taste in your mouth without sacrificing your dance floor prowess. “True Lies” doesn’t hold back with the tongue in the cheek, with this Clickhole-ian subversive skewering of the 80s schmooze pop sound, mashing the shamelessness of a modern-day porn addict with a woodblock-lulled island vibe that could easily replace Robert Palmer‘s “Addicted to Love” in that scene from Cocktail where Tom Cruise turns bottle-flipping into a peacocking show of studliness for a woman on the other side of the bar: [LISTEN] – G.P.

Chance the Rapper – ‘Come Back Barack

With so much political turmoil flooding the world, it was necessary to break up the action with a few laughs. Chance and the SNL cast did just that with a rousing plea for Barack Obama to return to the nation’s capital. In classic ’90s R&B fashion, they swoon over the former president like he were a god. He’s their Black Jesus and with his help they can rid the world of evil once and for all. Pure comedic gold: [LISTEN] – J.M.

The Chats – ‘Smoko

‘Smoko’ is Australian speak for a smoke break. And The Chats are four Aussie kids from Queensland with a healthy sense of humor and an affinity for scuzzy indie rock that Americans would probably make in a garage, but for reasons unknown The Chats have done so in a shed. The result is a kind of viral schtick that has leaked out from the Facebook feed to be worthy of a 7” purchase. Or at least a little empathy for people that are on smoke breaks: [LISTEN] – G.P.

Dude York – ‘Love Is

A few alright Seattle kids showing 90s ladies of rock gnar veins — a Sleater-Kinney-meets-L7 power pop super nugget, hair-whipping in its acceptance of love in its toxic but damn intoxicating form. Though singer Claire England riot grrrls aside two dudes, citing Courtney levels of drain-you fury, all three trio a perfectly cathartic last Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind okay‘ scene vibe that swaps guitar pedals for Beck‘s droopy key-work: [LISTEN] – G.P.

Edo. G – ‘Freedom

Edo G. steps back up to the plate to offer wisdom in a time full of false prophets. He believes that the people have been inundated with the wrong messages, and that there needs to be less nonsense and more knowledge. Even rappers are held accountable, emphasizing the need for more substance and less fluff. He’s always been a voice of the people and he shines yet again as an ambassador for the truth: [LISTEN] – J.M.

Father John Misty – ‘Pure Comedy

Misty can be a bit insufferable sometimes with his socio-political balladry, but if there’s anyone primed to write a song around the absurdity of the modern man at his current state, it’s a job for the former sad drummer dude in Fleet Foxes who gobbled a bunch of mushrooms, wrote “Bored in the USA” and became king of the indie rock internet troll game. Shit ain’t funny anymore under the Cheeto in Chief, and with this near seven-minute, string-and-horn-lulled yearn into the cosmos, Misty reminds us that we’re both doomed and saved by ourselves in the fullest range of emotions he’s painted with yet: [LISTEN] – G.P.

Craig Finn – ‘God in Chicago

A talk-sing meditation on all of that wretchedly beautiful tension that binds itself between death and the people that are tasked with picking up the pieces of said life past — Finn’s non-rawk side continues to be the closest you can get to his heart, as these characters follow a somber piano fill on a concrete-jungle journey that finds a few things more than a connection to a higher power in a big city: [LISTEN] – G.P.

Frank Ocean – ‘Chanel

Very few explore duality the way Frank Ocean does. He uses the perspective to his advantage crafting yet another cryptic song that offers a glimpse into his world. He begins by explaining how his man is just as polarizing; exemplary of the masculine/feminine worlds. His honesty and willingness to put his personal life on display is an example of fearless songwriting. The sky has opened up and he’s spreading his wings even wider: [LISTEN] – J.M.

Freddie Gibbs – ‘Crushed Glass

It was a harrowing 2017 for Freddie Gibbs, but he persevered and is now a wiser man. He’s as motivated as ever, driven by the knowledge that the journey can end at anytime. The newfound perspective has only made him sharper and more determined to tell his story. He’s being introspective, but it’s understandable considering the severity of the charges. It’s a new beginning and he’s ready to show the world just how skilled he is: [LISTEN] – J.M.

Tim Heidecker – ‘Trump Talking Nukes

Written among 100 contributions to many of the music responses to the Trump Administration, this one for Our First 100 Days, comedian Tim Heidecker has been known to write some pretty great songs. Aside from Father John Misty‘s “Pure Comedy,” this is the best piano ballad take on offering some sort of solace in knowing that a man named Donald Trump is in control of our nuclear codes. Except in Heidecker’s narrative there’s no humor thread, it’s a straight sobering and somber remembrance of his own coming-of-age and the various eras of people attempting to destroy humanity via terrorism or most terrifyingly, just plain old crazy: [LISTEN] – G.P.

Lilly Hiatt – ‘The Night David Bowie Died

Some of the best songs are reactionary, especially to people’s deaths. Whether you ascribe to the universe channeling energy and artists tapping into that energy or not — mind you, there’s also a theory that David Bowie actually held the universe together — for Hiatt on the night David Bowie died, it opened a portal into this crunchy country-PJ Harvey howler about past regrets with an ex-lover that was the second-most cathartic thing to come out of Nashville this year aside Margo Price: [LISTEN] – G.P.

Ice Cube – ‘Good Cop Bad Cop

Uncle Cube throws an explosive grenade into the arena, riling the masses out of their comfortable slumber. The beat hits the ground like lightening and provides the 1.21 gigawatts needed to take flight. With plenty of experience to draw from, Cube explains how even good cops are bad when they let their partners get away with murder. It was an important sight to see, and helped bridge the generational gap even more: [LISTEN] – J.M.

Iron Reagan – ‘Dark Days Ahead

Another Our First 100 Days contribution on the list, opposite Tim Heidecker‘s coming-of-age ballad, Iron Reagan are a thrash metal crew from Richmond, Virginia, and use their ...100 Days space to unleash absolute fury in the face of a fairly straight-forward narrative about these dark political times. An ominous oh-eeh-oh chorus flanks the middle of the song, while ‘trust’, as it should be, gets thrown over the fire in effigy: [LISTEN] – G.P.

Joey Bada$$ – ‘Land of the Free

One of the brightest voices in rap gives his two cents on a nation in turmoil. Some would say a lot has changed, but he’s focusing on the things that haven’t like the systematic oppression of black men and women in America. He’s another lyricist who believes that it’ll take more than a black president in office to change the country. He believes in his heart that change begins with the self: [LISTEN] – J.M.

Kidz in the Hall – ‘Dear Eastside

The Kidz make their return with a deeper, more sophisticated sound. They’re paying homage to the South Side of Chicago, and letting the love for their hometown be their guiding light. The beat is mellow and smooth, a lazy Sunday effort that turns the chill level up ten notches. The vibe is decidedly nostalgic and they’re reminiscing over the people and places that once were. A pause in the rat race to reflect and regroup: [LISTEN] – J.M.

Kendrick Lamar – ‘Humble

Another rousing effort from the hottest lyricist in the game. He’s overcome adversity and blown minds, showed rappers that it’s possible to stay true and still make it big. Even after all the accolades he’s still willing to stay humble, rapping about when he had nothing to eat and drink but syrup sandwiches and Kool-Aid. Times have changed and he’s in a different world. His head is spinning and he’s thirsting for the real: [LISTEN] – J.M.

Land of Talk – ‘This Time

Seven years gone, Broken Social Scene alumnus Elizabeth Powell revived her beloved crew Land of Talk first with the meditative “Inner Lover,” departing from the muddy indie rock she mastered fender cathartics in. An ill-father, fatigue, the darkness crept up quick in her absence. But this second taste, and return to guitar, is all sunshine and hope bursting through the tour van window with Sharon Van Etten on harmonies: [LISTEN] – G.P.

Logic – ‘1-800-273-8255

Logic examines suicide in America, specifically among teens. It’s an epidemic that has stolen a generation of young people, and he takes listeners into the mind of a person on the brink; the loneliness, pain and belief that there is no way out. Not only does he offer words of kindness and compassion, but he also provides the number for the suicide prevention hotline. A powerful song from an equally powerful lyricist: [LISTEN] – J.M.

Lupe Fiasco – ‘Black Power L-Word

Lupe reinserts himself into the conversation of greatest rapper of all time. He’s been quiet but not inactive; his mind always searching for the next big verse. The wordplay is nasty; laying down knowledge without getting too academic. There’s no one overarching narrative, but rather a series of them packed into every verse. He’s extending his range, stretching his lyrical legs for what is shaping up to be a legendary run: [LISTEN] – J.M.

Laura Marling – ‘Wild Fire

While there’s usually lots to unpack in a Laura Marling joint, the Brit songbird at a spritely 27-years-young having dropped six albums now with narratives that rival some of Joni Mitchell and Bobby Dylan‘s finest, with this taste from Semper Femina, we’re witnessing Marling hone in already on the concept of a craft taking a lifetime of energy to master the simple; connection and disconnection here at its finest laced with some of the most beautiful harmonies of the year: [LISTEN] – G.P.

MF Doom – ‘Notebook 3

The Missing Notebook Rhymes was a short-lived run, but still potent work from one of the most enigmatic lyricists in the game. The beat has a toon-like feel reminiscent of the work he did with Danger Mouse for The Mouse and the Mask. It’s classic villainy, a madman on the streets running amok. It’s a lyrical circus and he juggles rhymes like it were second nature, an archival piece that shows how deep his rhyme book is: [LISTEN] – J.M.

Kevin Morby – ‘Aboard My Train

One of Morby’s few exercises in lighthearted songwriting on this year’s City Music, handclaps and call-and-response expressions in grate-fullness punctuate this cruiser of a thank-you to all the friends and lovers he’s met up to this point in his life, using train-stations as a metaphor for the ways in which the natural progression of connection is to eventually depart, and that’s alright baby, ’cause ain’t nothing really a rock and roll song about it can’t heal: [LISTEN] – G.P.

Mount Eerie – ‘Real Death

The irony is not lost in the opening verse to Phil Elverum’s absolutely heartbreaking account of his wife’s (Geneviève Gosselin) sudden death to pancreatic cancer in which Elverum asserts that “when real death enters the house, all poetry is dumb.” At least to the listener. It’s simultaneously gross and one of the most beautiful songs written about the loss of a loved one. Maybe art shouldn’t be made from death. But regardless of how Elverum actually feels about putting this out into the world, it’s out and living and breathing the spirit of Gosselin in this evolving piece of timeless wood-block and drum machine folk: [LISTEN] – G.P.

The National – ‘Carin at the Liquor Store

The kind of Brooklyn indie rock misery, Matt Berninger found another distillate of catharsis to cook up with this feet-shuffler of a frustrated lover’s lament, while the imagery is some of his finest he’s ever created, full of bodies falling into rivers on the weekends, liquor store stalking sessions and the ghost of American novelist John Cheever. Meanwhile, the rest of The National make everything shimmer with aqua-velvet guitar riffs and some haunting backing vocals that set you off on your hero’s journey to cure what ails you “in the house of love:” [LISTEN] – G.P.

Conor Oberst – ‘Tachycardia

The full-band version of the sparse piano version Oberst cut the year previous, this companion piece recorded with The Felice Brothers feels like that final scene in that weirdo-charming movie Frank, when ‘Frank’ reunites with his bandmates without his head-mask. Oberst went to hell and back in 2014 with a rape accusation against him and a cyst on his brain. “Tachycardia” is an exhumation of sorts for some of those demons he wrestled with. And to hear him back with a band and wiping the window clean here is a beautiful alt-country thing: [LISTEN] – G.P.

Oddisee – ‘Never Lived

The DC-born lyricist/producer has been on fire with a recent run of albums under the Mellow Music imprint, and he’s finally getting the recognition he deserves. Lyrically he’s a stalwart, and his words and perspective have only sharpened as he’s aged. He’s taking survey of the phonies and letting everyone know that no one will deter him from his destiny. He’s a man on a mission, and nothing will get in his way: [LISTEN] – J.M.

DJ Premier – ‘Our Streets’ feat. A$AP Ferg

Premier has expanded his sound to cater to a variety of styles. But his bread and butter has and always will be boom-baps with the Ginsu cuts slicing and dicing over the top. It never gets old like listening to Marvin Gaye or watching old Jordan highlights. A$AP Ferg steps up big, living up to the hype with a smooth delivery. It’s an effort that closes the generation gap just a little bit more: [LISTEN] – J.M.

Margo Price – ‘Loner

With her sophomore effort All American Made, Nashville country darling Margo Price made all the right moves and went much more topical than a rehashing of the woe-is-me narrative, “Loner” being the purest form of that outward songwriting muscle, in which she crafts a whirring lap-steel of an existential query aimed at the loners of the world, and why y’all must question your happiness in order to find it: [LISTEN] – G.P.

Priests – ‘JJ

DC quartet Priests were spawned from the belly of the administration beast, and took the opportunity like many of their punkish descendants in the same area code to make a statement out of the mess. “JJ,” though is one of the more personal darts on 2017’s Nothing Feels Natural, though, grafting a bit of surf-rock into its teeth in order to tear down the ego of an ex-lover. “Who deserves anything anyway/What a stupid concept,” lead singer Katie Alice Greer confides at the end, in this vulnerable display of acceptance: [LISTEN] – G.P.

Protomartyr – ‘Half Sister

Laced with mythical talking horses and ghosts as “a metaphysical way to portray guilt that hasn’t been dealt with,” Joe Casey told NPR, “Half Sister” is one of the most dense exercises in post-punk ever created. It’s like a therapeutic seizure in bottled up and ready to explode for all your haunting desires, Casey delivering the goods in that beautiful dead-pan half Ian Curtis, half disillusioned insurance salesman staring off into the abyss on the train, while the rest of Protomartyr are there to match him in an air-tight display of feedback and controlled thrash: [LISTEN] – G.P.

Raekwon – ‘Marvin

Raekwon concocts a bittersweet dish, one that honors the life of legendary singer Marvin Gaye. For those who don’t know Gaye’s life was mired in turmoil. The ghosts of his father haunted his life and drove Marvin to the edge; his father eventually shot Marvin during an altercation. Raekwon details the tragedy, and delivers the eulogy over a beat with Marvin-like vocals floating over the top. It’s a somber, but altogether fresh ode: [LISTEN] – J.M.

Shilpa Ray – ‘EMT Police and the Fire Department

Taken from her debut record, Door Girl, Shilpa Ray recounts the night at Pianos on the Lower East Side in Manhattan, in which she was/is a door girl at the infamous rock club, turning a true account of a night when emergency response teams were sent to break up a brawl, and the depravity she witnessed amongst fellow members of her generation. Part Patti Smith poet howl, part absolute punk fury, this is what happens when you piss off the girl checking your I.D. at a rock club where everyone is probably in a band: [LISTEN] – G.P.

Rick Ross – ‘Idols Become Rivals

Rick Ross claps back at Birdman and Cash Money. He used to admire the Cash Money ethos but after some shady dealings he no longer feels any sense of allegiance. The fallout was swift and enough a shock that he would dedicate several verses to the situation. He’s pointing specifically at Birdman who not only faked his way to the top but took advantage of those who helped him get there: [LISTEN] – J.M.

Scarface – ‘Black Still

Another elder statesman speaks up about social injustice. He’s mad and delivering devastating punches at the powers that be. The beat is seething, and mirrors the frustration he’s feeling as a black man in America. He’s fed up and redirecting that rage back at the system that has treated him like a common criminal. The American Dream is a farce and he’s not afraid to shout it out from the mountaintop: [LISTEN] – J.M.

Shabazz Palaces – ‘Shine a Light

Shabazz Palaces forge further on into deep space, pushing the boundaries of rap to places unknown. The beat is laced with dramatic violins, adding a distinct air of refinement and sophistication. Butler is painting an abstract composition, but still letting enough of his point of view shine through so he doesn’t lose his audience. It’s a bold and ambitious approach that has come to define the Shabazz Palaces ethos; avant-garde and wildly ambitious: [LISTEN] – J.M.

SiR – ‘Something Foreign

A cool breeze blows through R&B and riding the wave is SiR. The style is subdued and understated, a moment of contemplation that has him analyzing pop stardom. The scene is saturated with phonies and it’s helping him put his own work into perspective. Peace of mind and the freedom to create are the driving influences in his life, and no trends will tell him otherwise. Schoolboy Q enters the fray and helps accent the sentiments being expressed: [LISTEN] – J.M.

Syd – ‘Body

Syd steps out on her own and proves that she has the chops to run the ship solo. The beat is dark and menacing and she careens in and out of the shadows like a phantom. She reduces her voice down to a whisper, and her sultriness shines brighter than it ever has before. There’s no mincing of words, all she wants is the body; her carnal desires raging uncontrollably like a wildfire: [LISTEN] – J.M.

Thundercat – ‘Friend Zone

The coolest nerd on the planet explains how to recognize if you’re in the friend zone. It starts with looking in the mirror and taking survey of what the reflection is saying. And that’s pretty much it. Sure he has funky hair and plays computer games all night, but he also can wield the bass like a golden ax. His sense of humor is a breathe of fresh air compared to all the braggadocio floating around: [LISTEN] – J.M.

Tove Lo – ‘Disco Tits

If only we could include the puppet’s lines about bbq sauce and fries in the official video, but nevertheless, dark-pop Swede export’s “Disco Tits” was still one of the best seedy dance-floor jams to take your clothes off to this year; an absolutely filthy and sultry adventure in hedonism, getting “high as fuck,” “sweatin’ from head to toe,” with nipples hard and “ready to go,” cut with all sorts of synthetic beats that are pretty hard to resist: [LISTEN] – G.P.

Vagabon – ‘The Embers

Cameroon-born Lætitia Tamko is Vagabon, landing in NYC and growing up in Harlem, writes about assimilating into the indie-rock scene in which she blew up as a dominant force in the loud-soft game. In her mid-20s, the small fish, large tank metaphor may not be the most original narrative, but in that subset of Big Thiefs and Waxahatchees Tamko’s a refreshing talent to see in the mix, rivaling what Hop Along‘s Frances Quinlan has done over three records of work, with just one record to her name as of now: [LISTEN] – G.P.

War on Drugs – ‘Thinking of a Place

Of all the Bosswave-ian super chill mantras Adam Granduciel and WoD unleashed on A Deeper Understanding, this epic 11-minute moonlight ride hit upon that meditative element the purest, “just moving through the dark” with those celestial synths and those layers of deep thought that only exist on the other side of a good attention span; this is one of those jams you can play for thirty-minutes straight on repeat and work through half a state of pavement under your wheels before you realize you’re out of gas: [LISTEN] – G.P.

White Reaper – ‘Judy French

Louisville glam cock-rockers White Reaper exploded into the summer with a fistful of PBR-swilling riffs that had enough potency to in them to make your American Apparel swim trunks pregnant. As far as adventures in irresponsibility and the tail-chase nostalgia of your inner bro go, with “Judy French,” with its pining for that summer sweetheart of your dreams, was just about as close as you could get to another spin of “The Boys are Back in Town” to tap some freewheelin’ lust this year:  [LISTEN] – G.P.

Neil Young – ‘Powderfinger

This stripped down version of Uncle Neil’s plugged-in classic has made the rounds on the interwebs before, but paired with an album he’s been sitting on for four decades he dropped out of the blue this year — Hitchhiker — in which he recorded acoustic versions of some of his greatest songs in one evening take during a full moon, “pausing only for weed, beer, or coke,” is immaculate Neil. Despite the drugs,  he’s at the peak of his powers here without a fuzzy Crazy Horse guitar drone to hide behind, channeling one of his most perfect metaphors of his generation, to not let pride get in the way of your life: [LISTEN] – G.P.

Your Old Droog – ‘You the Type

Rap always needs that dude that’ll put things into perspective. Your Old Droog is that man, thumping skulls and questioning all the suspect fellas out there. The beat is thick and angry, an apt landscape for Droog to throw his lyrical haymakers. There’s always that one douche who is saying or doing something that irks you. A catty chump who just doesn’t know when to shut their mouth. Droog is fed up and he’s taking aim: [LISTEN] – J.M.