5. Fiona Apple, 'The Idler Wheel Is Wiser . . .'
The year's most exquisite musical tantrum is also the most thrilling record of Apple's 15-year career. Her voice is all over the place – heaving, squealing, mewling and growling; the multitracked "Hot Knife" suggests an all-female gospel quartet in heat, and the full-body animal hollers in "Regret" (singing about "hot piss") are downright frightening. The music – stripped-down and entirely acoustic – is rangy, strange and gorgeous. It's a record that makes the simple act of being alive sound as scary and out of control as it too often is.