13. Randy Newman, 'Dark Matter'
Newman opens his first album of new material in eight years with three songs that play the end of Western civilization for laughs – starting with a Marx Brothers version of the Scopes Trial and culminating with a Vladimir Putin variety show – and then hits one that plays the end of life for tears: "Lost Without You," in which a husband listens in the shadows as his dying wife tells her kids to take care of him after she's gone. It's a stunning miniature, with swells of American prairie strings and horns giving way to Newman alone at the piano delivering a simple message: The darkness is coming to us all, one way or the other. J.L.