1. Liturgy, 'The Ark Work'
The most ambitious art-rock statement of the year is an ecstatic jumble of disciplines, ideas and textures. Once a metal band (at least peripherally), the Brooklyn bluster-cullers of Liturgy still build with a blackened base coat of euphoric blastgaze. But on their third album, that's merely one ingredient in an intense mish-mash of future-minded concepts. You can imagine links to the synthetic horns blasting pastel scribbles from the vaporwave cassette underground and the monumental tone swells that earned John Luther Adams a Pulitzer Prize. Songs sputter and hiccup with disorienting digital processing — once a staple of chin-stroke-y "glitch techno," now a staple of big room "complextro" dubstep. The glockenspiels of mid-Aughts indie rock are recontextualized into shimmering walls; the triplet flows of mid-10s Southern rap are rethought as polyrhythmic alt-metal moans. Any cutting-edge contemporary movement seems up for grabs — and all aiming for some combination of transcendence and bloodshed.