1) Lykke Li - I Never Learn
It doesn't take a reading of Pitchfork's informative profile, or more than a cursory glance at the song titles to understand that Lykke Li's third album, "I Never Learn," is infused with heartbreak: Just hit play. You'll feel it. And yet, it is not inaccessible, or too tear-streaked. There is certainly a glimpse of hope. Lykke Li's lyrics are universal to breakups; the emotion comes from the strength of her voice, matched with layers of sound. The Swedish singer-songwriter has taken the pop genre, stripped it of generic belted-out ballads, and breathed in an element of style and feeling.
2) tUnE-yArDs - Nikki Nack
Seeing Merrill Garbus, the brilliance behind tUnE-yArDs, perform up-close and live is an enlightening experience. A chance to to view what's difficult to wrap your brain around just by listening: The incredible range of her voice. No, that is not an instrument, or backup singer. Yes, Merrill is creating the entire range with her own larynx, a series of loops, along with a dizzying change-up of instruments from drums to ukelele. Her third album, "Nikki Nack," is still in line with tUnE-yArDs singular sound, but it is more mature, and at times subdued. Merrill tackles inner struggles, like depression, with wit and honesty in songs like "Wait For A Minute.," and the flawed world around her in "Real Thing."
3) The Horrors - Luminous
For some, The Horrors fourth album "Luminous" leaves something -- a level of progression -- to be desired. Maybe there isn't a hefty shift, but there is maturity from the British rock band. The album is a solid rock album (laced with synth) anchored by the single "I See You," an epic seven minute song. The Horrors are open about their musical influences, and the album has trace influences of My Bloody Valentine and others, but the band is also taking the influences and making them their own.
4) Brian Eno & Karl Hyde - Someday World
"Someday World" is another in Brian Eno's prodigious list of collaborations (he's helped the likes of David Byrne, U2, Coldplay, as well as doing solo work and Roxy Music). This time Eno is working with Underworld frontman Karl Hyde (along with a member each from Coldplay and Roxy Music, his daughter and a young producer). The songs echo with a mix of influences -- synth tones, blaring horns, rhythmic beats, and droning voices. And though the sound isn't necessarily moving us forward into the future, there is an enjoyable (and palpable) energy from these creative minds.