9. Kimbra, 'The Golden Echo'
In a year when pop radio became increasingly defined by its own tunnel vision, the second full-length by the New Zealand-born singer Kimbra (a former chart-topper via her turn as Gotye's "Somebody I Used To Know" foil) was refreshing for the way it leaned increasingly outward, bringing slinky disco ("Miracle"), icy glitch ("90s Music") and sultry R&B together in the name of finding pop transcendence. The Golden Echo's hard left turns and buried production treasures — not to mention the assists from the R&B polymath Bilal and the pop savant Van Dyke Parks — show that there's still uncharted territory left in pop, and that Kimbra is more than willing to take a fantastic voyage in order to find it. M.J.