Top 20 Albums of 2014 (10-01)

#10 Joyce Manor: Never Hungover Again
I didn’t need Joyce Manor to relive my high school days but the emo-revival needed a record like Never Hungover Again. Because while the so-called revival has been building since the beginning of this decade, no one record has been quite as front to back good as Joyce Manor’s third record. Its careful combination of melancholic lyrics, pop songwriting, and youthful energy poise it as the class of 2014’s version of Taking Back Sunday‘s Tell All Your Friends or Braid‘s Frame & Canvas. – Adam Morgan

#09 Aphex Twin: Syro
Few albums had staying power like Syro this year. In the months since the album dropped, peeling away Syro’s quirks and details and simply beautiful melodies has been one of my most enriching musical experiences of 2014. The album’s power lies in the way in which new sonic discoveries reveal themselves on almost every listen. It will be a shame if Aphex Twin waits another 13 years to gift us another album, but if he does disappear for a decade-plus, it’s nice to know he’s left us with such a dense, complex work in Syro. – Mark Steinbach

#08 Spoon: They Want My Soul
In the case of Spoon, I think they have been hurt by their consistency. How many front-to-back perfect albums can one band put out? Yet you hear talk of Radiohead or The White Stripes being considered for the best band of our generation. I defy you to choose a year that Spoon has released an album and say that it didn’t deserve a spot in a top 20 albums of that year. 2014 is no different. They Want My Soul delivers a collection of thumping rockers like “Rent I Pay,” “Do You,” and album’s the titular track who take distorted drums and build beautiful yet interesting pop songs around them. Its a trick that Britt Daniel has delivered consistently over the last two decades but that does not make it any less amazing – Adam Morgan

#07 Caribou: Our Love
Catching a glimpse of the album art for Caribou’s Our Love and listening to it are paralleled experiences similar to diving head first into a busy kaleidoscope of colors and floating around, taking it all in for a little while. Dan Snaith, of Caribou has created an easy to love, psych-pop album complete with glittery blissful tracks with comfortable repetition. “Cant Do Without You” is an elated synth heavy track, while “Silver” one of my personal favorites off the album, is lush, low and seriously soothing. While not based on a single kind of love or person of interest, Snaith’s basic idea was to create a detailed, intimate album as a testament of human connection in general, which he did with untouched merit. – Jana Capozzoli

#06 Real Estate: Atlas
It seems nowadays there isn’t a whole lot of room for subtlety. Don’t believe me? Just sashay over to twitter dot com or watch Fox news (don’t actually watch Fox news). This is why I found Real Estate’s Atlas to be so refreshing. The Brooklyn by way of New Jersey group made a perfectly understated album that is as pleasant as it is layered. Evoking sounds of The Shins or Death Cab if Ben Gibbard took a Prozac, there are plenty of smooth riffs and gentle vocal lines to occupy your brain space, but in a good way, I promise. – Grady O’Brien

#05 Angel Olsen: Burn Your Fire for No Witness
When I saw Angel Olsen live, she appeared on stage wearing a short, bright red dress full of sequins. Shining and gleaming in contrast to the dark garb her bandmates wore, Angel resembled the exact divine creature her name resonates. As spiritual as she looked, timid and benevolent she was anything but. Burn Your Fire for No Witness is a collection of bold vocals and fearless guitar playing, much like her stage presence. Fueled by what seems like vigor, and a little heartache, the energy on this album is contagious and explosive. Olsen emotes with passion and an admirable vulnerability, especially on tracks like “Hi-Five” and “Stars” where strength gleams amongst a hurricane of grace. – Jana Capozzoli

#04 Future Islands: Singles
Future IslandsSingles is an elated howling collection of ballads relatable to everyone. All ten tracks seem to resonate with the strength and power to be a top charted “single,” and with an immovable force like Samuel T. Herring behind all of it, it is no surprise. Herring may not be your typical young, hot pop-star, but him and the other band members have been making waves ever since 2003. Singles is full of life from the opening anthem “Seasons (Waiting on You)” to the very last synth note of “A Dream of You and Me.” Emotional and beautifully aggressive and upbeat Singles is everything you love about pop music, but more unleashed. – Jana Capozzoli

#03 St. Vincent: St. Vincent
The artwork for St. Vincent’s self-titled album shows her seated on what we might as well just call a throne. Except when listening to the album, it’s hard to tell exactly what she’s ruling over. The hypnotically rhythmic “Rattlesnake,” the bouncy, frantic “Birth in Reverse,” and the banging, yet gentle “Huey Newton” (among many, many others) comprise an out of this world musical experience. “Am I the only one in the only world,” St. Vincent asks on the aforementioned “Rattlesnake.” After listening to this mind-bending cosmic journey of an album I’m constantly left wondering: to which world is she referring? – Grady O’Brien

#02 The War on Drugs: Lost in the Dream
No band made things look as easy as The War on Drugs this year. Strong the whole way through, Lost in the Dream reminds me a bit of Tame Impala’s Lonerism or Destoyer’s Kaputt, two recent, critically acclaimed albums that very unapologetically took established, vintage genres (60s psychedelic rock, ‘80s soft rock, respectively) and gave them refreshing, modern takes. Like these other two recent classics, Lost in the Dream manages to craft an entirely original hour of music, full of nostalgic warmth. – Mark Steinbach

#01 Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 2
As questions of how race affects the American experience have become their most necessary, Iggy Azalea has had a profound breakthrough as the premiere minstrel artist of the 21st century. Without Run the Jewels 2, I firmly believe that anyone who is conscious of the changes our country has gone through this past year would be completely swallowed by the undertow. It is not only one of those albums that was released at exactly the right moment, just when we needed it, but Mike and El have proven to be the cultural superheroes we need to save our asses from the burning train car. Much in the way that 1968’s The White Album provided the perfect soundtrack for 1969, RTJ2 gave many the right words to describe their anger this Fall and will continue to feed our hearts and minds as we head into the next Presidential election cycle. By then, RTJ3 will undoubtedly bring the discussion and dissent to a whole new level. I can’t fucking wait. – Dan Derks

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