And Lorde shall lead them

And Lorde shall lead them

And Lorde shall lead them

1. Lorde
Pure Heroine

Pure Heroine, the debut album by Lorde — the songwriter and singer Ella Yelich-O’Connor, from New Zealand — commandeers those wide-open spaces with her lustrous voice and angel-choir harmonies carrying serious thoughts. She writes about suburban provincialism, peer pressure, insecurity, determination and — in the irresistible Royals — about pop-culture fantasies and class-conscious realities. She’s 17.

2. Laura Marling
Once I Was An Eagle

A seven-song suite that accelerates from folky contemplation to fierce East-meets-West strumming is the sweeping start to Laura Marling’s fourth album. The songs could be the chronicle of a breakup, but they lead her through legend and family memory, lament and accusation and hymn. Her nimble guitars and her serenely knowing voice make every conundrum intimate.

3. Vampire weekend
Modern Vampires of the City

Gravity and cleverness seesaw all the way through Vampire Weekend’s third album. The characters in the songs now face grown-up responsibilities and questions of faith. Meanwhile, the tunes are full of manic invention and nutty juxtapositions: Baroque pomp and trash-can drum sounds, rockabilly twang and digitally chopped-up vocals.

4. Nine Inch nails
Hesitation Marks

Restarting Nine Inch Nails for the first time since 2009, Trent Reznor didn’t return to blasting and shouting. Instead of guitars, pointillistic keyboards build the tension in many of the songs. The music makes every sparse syncopation matter, and it pulls inward instead of lashing out — just right for songs that are more a battle with himself than with the world.

5. M.I.A.

M.I.A. brags a lot on Matangi, her full first name. And she earns it, not entirely for her lyrics but for the dizzying cross-cultural barrage that surrounds them, mashing up geography and technologies. Her sounds are shinier than ever, her refrains are purposefully catchy and her attitude is newly cheerful, which just lets her pack more jolts into each song.

6. Janelle Monáe
The Electric Lady

This installation of Janelle Monáe’s continuing sci-fi epic — about a fugitive android, power, discrimination and rebellion — is actually a romantic prequel. That’s her opportunity to write love songs and invoke strong female role models — her mother included — as she continues to traverse pop history from hip-hop back to big bands, lingering at R&B and soul. Multiple agendas don’t hold back her exuberance.

7. David Bowie
The Next Day

After nearly a decade, David Bowie re-emerged bleak and brittle with The Next Day, an album that confronts mortality with bitter fury. The music looks back to his 1970s Berlin albums, with brusque drums and bristling guitars; as he sees time ravage youth, idealism, love and hope, the lush moments are disconsolate and the glimmers of pop are sardonic. “Just remember, duckies,” he sings. “Everybody gets got.”

8. Tal National

The repeating patterns of funk stay unpredictable in the frenetic grooves of Tal National, a band from Niger. The music keeps leaping ahead with one surprise after another: guitar parts that align and diverge and reconfigure, drumming that pounces on offbeats. The patterns are crisp, complex and tireless, but Tal National is no funk machine: It’s alive.

9. Laura Mvula
Sing to the Moon

Laura Mvula, an English singer and songwriter, arrives like an emissary from an alternate pop timeline, where Nina Simone, Gil Evans, the Swingle Singers and epic film scores loom larger than anything plugged in. Her voice is deliberately modest, and her songs take eccentric shapes; as she ponders her place in the world, orchestras and choirs materialise around her, rising toward a purely sonic redemption.

10. The Haxan Cloak

Bobby Krlic, who records as the Haxan Cloak, plunges deep for the sounds of the ambient, austerely suspenseful Excavation. There are throbs aimed for subwoofers, depth-charge descents, crackles of static and kick-in-the-head impacts. A beat or a pulse might appear and vanish. The tracks are amorphous and unmelodic, but too eventful and sometimes too brutal to recede into the background. This could be the sound of looking into the abyss and having the abyss look back.