10. The 1975, “I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it”
While not as shocking as the deaths of some major musicians this year, I was thrown for a loop at just how good this British quintet’s second album turned out (since I swiftly dismissed the first one). Get past the somewhat cringe-inducing “Love Me” and you’re left with a continually unfolding double album-length collection veering between texture-heavy, Prefab Sprout-level tone poems, Wham!-worthy ballads and such wry conceits as, “If she says I’ve got to fix my teeth, then she’s so American.”
Favorite tracks: “She’s American”, “Somebody Else”, “The Sound”
9. Roisin Murphy, “Take Her Up to Monto”
Culled from the same sessions that made up my #1 album of last year, this could be its slightly evil twin. Even more insular and adventurous its predecessor, Monto is surely not an ideal place to dip into Murphy’s catalog, even though it has her most direct uptempo track since Overpowered (“Ten Miles High”) and a bossa-nova even your parents could enjoy (“Lip Service”). The final two songs go off the deep end, but she’s the kind of artist you want to attempt such death-defying leaps. From the warm bath of “Mastermind” onward, she rarely disappoints in that regard.
Favorites: “Mastermind”, “Thoughts Wasted”, “Ten Miles High”
8. Whitney, “Light Upon the Lake”
On a record that could’ve come out in 1973, this Chicago band (featuring former members of the Smith Westerns) lovingly graces that Beatles/Badfinger axis (Elton John is also a fan) without sounding as if covered in mothballs. Sometimes, all you need are ten songs in a mere half-hour to make an impact, although the hooks aplenty certainly don’t hurt. With falsetto vocals that slowly grow on you, occasional, unexpected horns and passages of sheer beauty (cue the title track), this is an unpretentious little gem of a debut album.
Favorite tracks: “The Falls”, “Light Upon The Lake”, “No Matter Where We Go”