Arctic Monkeys, Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino (Domino) – Alex Turner of Sheffield's beloved Arctic Monkeys has heightened his drama in recent years, but nothing could prepare listeners for the tale of a cheesy nightclub on a moon base. The lyrics are packed with sly sci-fi references, and while lounge elements may water down the rock, Arctic Monkeys have still managed to give us a work quite unlike anything in pop music.
Lake Street Dive, Free Yourself Up (Nonesuch) – This Boston foursome manages every couple years to belt out a dozen perfect pop gems of Motown-meets-'40s-bebop, and the action never flags in Free Yourself Up. Lead vocalist Rachael Price gives listeners her typical dazzling delivery on "Good Kisser," but when she wails "Musta Been Something," the toughest dancers will grow weak-kneed.
Kleenex Girl Wonder, Vana Mundi (Happy Happy Birthday to Me) – Graham Smith has spent 20 years in New York's Kleenex Girl Wonder offering up wise, sassy lyrics and punchy guitar riffs. Vana Mundi launches with no-holds-barred chords and frank lyrics, delivered not in a power-punk sense, but in sonic waves that both demand our attention and deserve it.