3. "Pure Heroine," Lorde
"Pure Heroine" is the album Lana Del Ray fans have been clamoring for, which is a shame since it's actually the debut of 17-year-old New Zealander Lorde, who is a fresh face for the pop industry in terms of her style as much as her presence. You're bound to know her, considering how often radio stations play her first single, "Royals."
Lorde wrote every song on the album, which explores the concept of youth in today's society, as well as the six others on the extended edition. There's a bleak, surprisingly mature aura throughout it ("I know we're not everlasting/We're a train wreck bound to happen," she sings on "A World Alone"). However, she manages to avoid an air of pretension by keeping her lyrics grounded in reality.
Highlights: "Tennis Court," "Royals," "Still Sane"
2. "Yeezus," Kanye West
In hindsight, West's 2010 album title, "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy," might have been a more apt title for "Yeezus" since it's the rapper's darkest, most twisted album yet. His rhymes are as clever as ever, even if you find them stupid and/or offensive ("A monster about to come alive again/Soon as I pull up and park the Benz/We get this b---- shaking like Parkinson's" is the album's intro).
West seems to search for a new sound with each album, and here, he's created an electronic, industrial hip-hop album. The resulting experiment is extremely jarring; tracks are full of synthesizers, and the vocals on "Hold My Liquor" crank Auto-Tune up to the point that they're a barely-coherent, drunken slur.
Still, West's experiment paid off, creating another fantastic record. Say what you want about him as a person, but there's no denying his musical skills.
Highlights: "On Sight," "Black Skinhead," "I Am a God"
1. "Modern Vampires of the City," Vampire Weekend
In my review in May, I declared "Modern Vampires of the City" one of the best albums I had heard all year. Obviously given its position on this list, I stand by that statement. I can't think of a single album released this year that's as much of an enjoyable audio trip as "Modern Vampires."
There's more emotional heft in "Modern Vampires" than the band's previous two albums, and there's an atmosphere of (arguably newfound) maturity throughout it. Lead singer Ezra Koenig's lyrics are still as witty as ever, though. While it's tempting to just listen to the catchy tracks (the entire album is a gigantic earworm), it's best to block out the distraction of the music in order to stop and analyze the words.
Highlights: "Unbelievers," "Step," "Diane Young"