Alessia Cara, "Know-It-All" (Def Jam)
You've heard the song "Here" by Cara, although you might not even know it. The smoky, sultry hit that started racing up charts in April has an intoxicating string section woven through Portishead-flavored trip-hop production. In it, the 19-year-old Canadian confronts the biggest problem that plagues an emerging adult racked with introversion: partying. There's much more to Cara's music. Take "Wild Things," which leads with an infectious, deep, hiccupping beat and gets tied together by a subtle piano line. Or "Seventeen" and "Outlaws," which are extraordinarily fun and lively. There's production in these soon-to-be-hits that smacks of Passion Pit, Santigold and Lorde. Cara started with a YouTube page, which she created at 13, covering pop hits with just her voice and an acoustic guitar. Def Jam clearly hooked her up with some smart producers. With Mark Ronson's production, "Outlaws" recalls the Amy Winehouse of "Back to Black." "I'm Yours" and "Scars" are B-sides that pack a punch. These songs are wiser than Cara's age in years, and her buoyant voice sounds resilient and strong. This is a great start to a long career.
Bill Chenevert, Philadelphia Inquirer