18. Laurel Halo, 'Dust'
Never fitting neatly into the mold of, say, "ambient" or even "IDM," Laurel Halo's third studio album revels in stacking textures and structural elements, the Michigan artist unabashedly pushing her brand of dance music towards the new-music avant garde. Her voice features prominently, but never in any kind of sing-along way. Sometimes disembodied, plaintive phrases hang over coughing snares, shoegaze-y swirls and what sounds like a xylophone or maybe wind chimes. Other times, instrumental numbers creak and groan like an ominous, cinematic interlude. Probably the closest thing to a proper single is "Moontalk," an uptempo, major-key outing that finds a sort of tropical, global-house vibe with Halo's voice showing up as cooing incantations, chanted almost-choruses and far-away laughter. And is that the long-lost sound of circuits busy on a phone switchboard? A.C.