20 Best Pop Albums of 2016

Rihanna, Gaga, the 1975 and more of the year in hooks

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Perfume, 'Cosmic Explorer'
20
16/20

16. Perfume, 'Cosmic Explorer'

Not many groups release their best work a decade and a half into their career, but Cosmic Explorer – the year's most expansive and infectious J-Pop album – is Perfume's high point to date. As on their past four LPs, this trio of female singers – who go by Kashiyuka, A~chan and Nocchi – were abetted here by electronic whiz Yasutaka Nakata, who handles all writing and production duties, wiring indelible pop hooks into dramatic EDM structures. Churning gears of rhythm send melodies pinging about the mix until they're borne upward on explosively cresting electronic waves. Cosmic Explorer may be sugary and exhilarating, but don't overlook its ambitions – the nearly six-minute "Story" is a dance-pop mini-symphony. K.H.

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