Adele wrote much of the material on her sophomore album, 21, and her vocals and lyrics deliver from new depths, earning wide acclaim as one of the year's best. The opening track "Rolling in the Deep" was Adele's first number-one hit in the U.S., and wails like a dark disco classic. The scorned anthem sets the tone for a collection of soul songs still brittle from a breakup. On the Rick Rubin-produced "Don't You Remember," Adele affirms: "I know I have a fickle heart and a bitterness, and a wandering eye…" Another standout, "Someone Like You," stings with the rawness of remaining in love with someone who's moved on, particularly the lingering punch line: "Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead."
Laura Checkoway, Google Play