12. Katy B, Honey (Virgin EMI)
A big reason why I loved Katy B’s 2014 album Little Red so much was because it came on the heels of a debut that was a minor cult hit and swung for the fences. It tried to establish Kathleen Brian as the next Adele, and while “Crying For No Reason” did very well in the UK, and despite critical acclaim, it never quite panned out that way. Along the way, though, it seems Katy B is perfectly happy doing her own thing, and as her very unorthodox follow-up Honey proves, her own thing is remaining fully ensconced in London club culture. Compared to the higher-gloss Little Red, Honey is a lot more understated, which seems to be exactly what she was going for on this record. It’s a smart move, too, because by assuming control over the album’s direction she shows listeners just how astute a student of the most cutting-edge club sounds she really is. From Canadian phenom Kaytranada, the well-known Major Lazer, to veteran innovator Four Tet, she works with 13 different producers on Honey, a lot of the time transforming existing instrumental tracks into something entirely new. The entire album feels like a manic night out: she gets steamy (“Honey”, “Heavy”), romantic (“Who Am I”), celebratory (“Turn the Music Louder (Rumble)”), dipping into everything from grime, to house, to R&B, to electronica. Honey’s eclectic nature made it a less immediate-sounding album than Little Red, but as the year went on it wriggled into my head, thanks to those varied and energetic tracks, to the point where it sounds familiar, vibrant, and most importantly, vital.