16. Nicole Atkins, Neptune City (2007)
Musically, Nicole Atkins quickly established herself as a bit of an odd duck; she labeled her work as ‘pop-noir’, but attracted attention from heavy metal labels before her eventual signing with Columbia Records. Neptune City solved the question of genre by placing the focus firmly on Atkins’ powerful voice, with ballads like “The Way It Is” putting her vocals at centre stage. The album was musically solid as well: “Brooklyn’s on Fire” and “Party’s Over” used blues and soul as a basis to explore wilder, less conventional melodic structures. The result was one of the most exciting debuts of the decade, and a strong introduction to one of contemporary music’s most talented artists.