7. Queens of the Stone Age, Villains (Matador)
I was skeptical upon learning that Mark Ronson was going to produce the seventh Queens of the Stone Age album. Not that the idea had zero chance of working, but so often have these big name cross-genre collaborations, especially in mainstream American music, fail to generate anything of worth. When I heard the end result of this seeming oil-and-water partnership, however, I was blown away by how Ronson and QOTSA were able to meet comfortably in the middle: Josh Homme’s bleary-eyed desert rock hybrid is lent some serious groove, funk, and polish thanks to Ronson, who knows a thing or two about groove, having worked with the likes of Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga, and Bruno Mars. Yes, this is some of the most seriously catchy music of Homme’s career (“The Way You Used to Do” remains one of the only mainstream radio tracks from 2017 that I actually still like) but the heavy side of the band his the hardest since Songs For the Deaf. “The Evil Has Landed” goes from Houses of the Holy funk to a throttling four-on-the floor jam, “Domesticated Animals” hammers out a contagious three-chord riff, while “Feet Don’t Fail Me” is a thunderous opening track. Toss in a pair of truly pretty songs in “Fortress” and “Villains of Circumstance”, and you’ve got a record that was probably the most pleasant surprise for me. I was excited for a new Queens of the Stone Age album, but thanks to Ronson and Homme, Villains exceeded all my expectations.