2017 was a year of bridge-burning recklessness and reckoning, the consequences of which were addressed by beloved veterans as well as younger artists finding their voice. Varied themes of loss rippled through much of their music, alongside recurring messages of hope, community, and personal resolve.

SAMPHA, Process

The South London singer-songwriter and onetime Drake keyboardist dove into personal caves of loss with this powerfully affecting full-length debut, which won the UK’s Mercury Prize in September. His raw falsetto haunted, as did ballads “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” (“in my mother’s home”) and “What Shouldn’t I Be?,” and spare, electronically sculpted arrangements that balanced the weighty primal fears (separation, dislocation, failure, love, violence, death) that “Process” sifted through.

GREGG ALLMAN, Southern Blood

The enduringly influential Allman Brother left the world a profound statement about his life and time, delivering a knowing perspective on rock and road life during an era when the likes of Jackson Browne, Willie Dixon, Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, Little Feat and Dan Penn were helping shape pop culture. Allman knew he was slipping into his grave when he recorded this in Muscle Shoals, and he all but wrote his own epitaph with masterful interpretations of songs by artists meaningful to his creative evolution.

RYAN ADAMS, Prisoner

Crunching guitars and synths voiced Adams’ post-breakup anguish and resistance to change, alongside aching melodies that offered healing despite his vow that “nothing matters anymore” on memorable track “To Be Without You.” The music’s melancholy, acoustic-textured beauty made it one of Adams’ most compulsively listenable albums, and a steadying companion for many an unmoored soul in a year when struggling to extract sense from chaos became a daily pastime.

SHARON JONES & THE DAP-KINGS, Soul of a Woman

Recorded on days when the cancer that ultimately claimed the valiant diva wasn’t sucking her energy away, this swan song became a commentary on life’s rich pageant. Arrangements faithfully evoking ’60s and ’70s soul created fuller context as Jones, musically cradled by her supportive Dap-Kings family, unexpectedly tempered gutsy defiance with playfulness, tender yearning and gospel conviction.

FATHER JOHN MISTY, Pure Comedy

An ambitious look at contemporary society that evoked Elton John’s lush melodicism and Randy Newman’s merciless satire, Josh Tillman’s third FJM album proved timely. Packed with irony, hooks and compelling tunes, it skewered religious hypocrites, pop culture and the entertainment industry, and spared no one on any side of political divides.

CAROLINE SPENCE, Spades & Roses

Some of the most melodic and emotionally intelligent songs to be heard in any genre emanated from this unassuming Virginia native. Lyrical and sonic intimacy set this apart as luminously as the deep hooks of gems like “Heart of Somebody” and “Softball,” a quiet but metaphorically loaded anthem that resonated with women refusing to stay on the bench.

KENDRICK LAMAR, DAMN

Less musically ambitious than 2015’s landmark “To Pimp a Butterfly,” “DAMN.” nonetheless fortified the Compton rapper’s rep as a deep thinker and bridge-building artist. Lamar flexed more refined storytelling muscle over vintage soul samples and sirens while referencing Black Power, his father’s near-murder, Fox News, racism, prison, gun control, Deuteronomy and his own do-right fatigue in succinctly titled tracks — “Blood,” “Lust,” “Pride,” “Fear,” “Love,” “God” — that strived to communicate something elemental about living conscientiously in these 21st-century United States.

THE STEEL WHEELS, Wild as We Came Here

The Virginia-based quartet achieved topical relevance minus specifics with poetic beauties like “Till No One is Free,” which condemned gun violence and political malfeasance without pointing fingers. Their stirring blend of gospel-ribbed Appalachian melodies, vivid storytelling, Eric Brubaker’s evocative fiddling, and tightly braided harmonies behind guitarist/banjoist Trent Wagler’s soulful baritone produced one of Americana’s finest releases.

MAVIS STAPLES, If All I Was Was Black

The Virginia-based quartet achieved topical relevance minus specifics with poetic beauties like “Till No One is Free,” which condemned gun violence and political malfeasance without pointing fingers. Their stirring blend of gospel-ribbed Appalachian melodies, vivid storytelling, Eric Brubaker’s evocative fiddling, and tightly braided harmonies behind guitarist/banjoist Trent Wagler’s soulful baritone produced one of Americana’s finest releases.

PHOEBE BRIDGERS, Stranger in the Alps

The Pasadena-raised songwriter’s first full-length album made melancholy seem magnetic. Buoyed by sturdy pop hooks and Tony Berg’s and Ethan Gruska’s uncluttered production, tracks like catchy single “Motion Sickness” crystallized the delicate tension between Bridgers’ girlish vocal vulnerability and darkly insightful lyrics.

CHRIS STAPLETON, From A Room: Volumes 1 and 2

Releasing two albums within six months of each other, the burly Kentucky troubadour continued to reinvigorate country with Southern rock, bluegrass, gospel, and rivers of muddy soul. Stapleton’s a gritty, once-in-a-generation vocalist on par with George Jones and Otis Redding, but wife Morgane’s lockstep harmonies proved essential too as he dug into his relatable stories of hardship, redemption and gratitude.

ROBERT PLANT, Carry Fire

Rock’s penultimate frontman and his appropriately named Sensational Space Shifters seamlessly wove African, American and Arabic rhythms throughout a culture-crossing foray where the mystical was political, and vice versa.

SUNNY SWEENEY, Trophy

Sweeney sings like a Texas Patty Loveless, but it was her smart, bracingly honest songwriting about addiction, aging, childlessness, and modern relationships that reminded why traditional country was once celebrated as music of, by, and for working-class America.

ANOUAR BRAHEM, Blue Maqams

The Tunisian oudist teamed with bassist Dave Holland, drummer Jack DeJohnette and pianist Django Bates for a deep, dreamy marriage of jazz improvisation and Arabic tradition, with pensive oud-piano dialogues expressing much across shifting time signatures and cultural expectations.

MARGO PRICE, All American Made

The Illinois-raised farmer’s daughter reaped just rewards for her tangy twang and thoughtful songwriting. No less than Willie Nelson offered approving benediction with a moving duet, and Price’s innocence-lost title track and woman-championing “Pay Gap” toed the waters of political commentary.

MILES MOSLEY, Uprising

The Kamasi Washington bassist recorded his funky debut during the West Coast Get Down sessions that produced Washington’s “The Epic,” and the heady creativity defining that masterwork also animated this bold, statement-making set.

BIG THIEF, Capacity

An acoustic indie-rock sleeper that prompted more questions than answers. Adrianne Lenker’s girlish vocals lulled ears while deceptively simple tracks like the rape-themed “Watering,” “Mythological Beauty” and “Coma” lyrically eviscerated the complacent and the guilty.

THE WAR ON DRUGS, A Deeper Understanding

Famously introspective and creatively controlling frontman Adam Granduciel welcomed greater bandmate input on their major-label debut, trading the lonesome beauty of earlier releases for a brighter sound that felt cheerier yet still atmospheric and true.

TINARIWEN, Elwan

Home seemed like a mirage throughout the Saharan rockers’ broodingly song-focused seventh album, recorded in Joshua Tree, southern Morocco and Paris as their Malian homeland continued to be destabilized by insurgent extremists.

VALERIE JUNE, The Order of Time

The Brooklyn-based Tennessean’s distinctively old-soul voice and heartfelt gumbo of country blues, Appalachian folk, gospel, soul, and droney desert rock was warmly received by audiences hungry for respite from escalating political negativity.