20. Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, 'Skeleton Tree'
Though reliably seeped in the candlelit melodies and Southern gothic gloom that Nick Cave has been dredging from the swamps for more than 30 years, the 16th album from his Bad Seeds is shadowed by tragedy. Cave recorded parts of the album while still reeling from the death of his 15-year-old son, the singer bravely plunging emotional depths with his worn, world-weary voice. In eight songs, all of them agonized ballads, Cave sings love songs haunted by loss, confusion and the questioning of God. His scenes view himself and his cast of characters in the center of the infinity of nature or the mundanity of supermarkets. It's impossible not to hear mourning and desperation in songs like the title track: "I called out, I called out/Right across the sea/But the echo comes back empty/And nothing is for free." C.W.