The past 12 months exploded with exciting new artists, both on the charts and throughout underground – from A$AP Ferg's trippy trap music to Brandy Clark's bullsh*t-calling country to Lorde's world-weary teen-rap to Parquet Courts' neo-Nineties indie rock, from hip-hop to EDM to country. Here are the 20 best debut albums from a year teeming with them.
20. Darkside, 'Psychic'
Is their name a tribute to Pink Floyd? You could be excused for thinking so, given electronic music savant Nicolas Jarr and Dave Harrington's fondness for cosmic, proggy drift, falsetto vocals and opening an album with an 11-minute moon shot. It's the sound of luxury shuttles orbiting the Earth – full, rich, gorgeous and sleepily funky.
19. AlunaGeorge, 'Body Music'
Recently, Britain has produced a lot of electronic soul duos in the tradition of Yaz and Erasure. This one adds some hip-hop to the mix; it's the sound of London after dark. Aluna Francis purs over producer George Reids' smooth-tronic beats and breaks. For maximum nostalgia factor, the group covers Montell Jordan's "The Is How We Do It" like they were taking a swing at an Otis Redding tune.
18. Laura Mvula, 'Sing to the Moon'
A conservatory-trained British soul singer who separates herself from Adele Nation (and, franky, raises the stylistic bar on Ms. Adkins) with sheer diversity; Sing to the Moon draws on and smoothly amalgamates jazzy melodies, pop ballads, orchestral doo-wop and smart gospel. There doesn't seem to be anything she can't sing, belt and make her own.
17. Palma Violets, '180'
"No crossed arms," Palma Violets' merch guy and hype man said at a New York show. "Tonight is the night to fight against that." This band gave the London rock scene a shot of punk earnestness with a debut full of garageland guitars, Strokesy singing and psych-nuggets organ, all in the service of songs unafraid of a good yell-along chorus. Raise your glasses.
16. Ariana Grande, 'Yours Truly'
This 20-year-old Boca Raton native's debut starts with Mantovani-strings amd moves into Glee-via-doo-wop harmonies before resolving into semi-modern pop with guest spots from Mac Miller and Big Sean. The stylistic child of early Janet, Whitney and Mariah, she could be, as Homer Simpson, once put it, bigger than curly fries.