Top 20 Albums of 2014 (20-11)

#20 Cymbals Eat Guitars: Lose
“Our parents got us a dog so we could learn about loss/The slow education,” Joe D’Agostino sings on Lose‘s standout track “Chambers.” But a dog isn’t the only thing that gets lost on Cymbals Eat Guitars‘ third album. D’Agostino seemingly loses himself on the album to a drug addiction, to anxiety, to paranoia, to nostalgia. But through all the loss, Lose manages to Cymbals Eat Guitars most anthemic record yet. – Adam Morgan

#19 Beyonce: Beyonce
This album fucked you up before you even heard it, that’s how important it is. The unparalleled secrecy, the surprise release, the companion videos, the footnote it quickly and boldly secured in discussions on modern feminism. In less than 24 hours, Beyoncé leveled the playing field and proved Queen Bey’s peerlessness (how the fuck did this and Magna Carta Holy Grail come out of the same couple??). Yeezus was a great album and important for Kanye’s development, but he’s lucky this album came out too late for the 2013 lists. ‘Cause this shit? This is hard as fuck. It’s sexy, it’s angry, it could give a flying fuck about your permission to be itself. It demands you catch up or get left behind, because this is what we talk about when we talk about pop music now. Even if there were better albums that followed in 2014, everything about Beyoncé is a genre-defining masterpiece. – Dan Derks

#18 EMA: Future’s Void
EMA‘s latest entry deals largely with themes of alienation, similar to her last album. Future’s Void differs in that digital alienation is explored, along with the price of broadcasting your most personal thoughts and sentiments for the entire world to see. Although most of us have not shared in the same introspective depth-delving as her, a reflection on maintaining one’s individuality in an era of increasing interconnectedness is uncomfortably compelling. – Jacob Tollefson

#17 The New Pornographers: Brill Bruisers
Pop is simple that’s why its popular. The New Pornographers may be the greatest purveyors of pop we currently have. The Canadian supergroup of singer/songwriter talent proved this with their new album, Brill Bruisers. The combination of Neko Case and AC Newman, who have already produced so many of the group’s iconic songs, add to that catalog with “Another Drug Deal of the Heart” and the album’s titular track. Perhaps the album’s best track is penned by Daniel Bejar whose “War on the East Coast” might be the best love song the band has ever written. – Adam Morgan

#16 Mitski: Bury Me at Makeout Creek
Things start simply – five seconds of silence before a gentle guitar and accordion underscore a love-as-geography metaphor. Then suddenly, a feedback squeal gets us to the real business of Bury Me at Makeout Creek. Over the course of its 30 minutes, the album continues its exploration of the idea of location as both an act of removal and an act of stasis, focused on the tyranny of need for what (or who) is not in front of you. As a songwriter, Mitski utilizes all tools and aesthetics while remaining singular in focus. The DNA of these tracks is a sprawling helix, familiar and foreign all at once. – Dan Derks

#15 Ty Segall: Manipulator
Ty Segall continues his fuzzed-out journey into the realm of garage rock in a straight-forward guitar heavy ensemble of psychedelia. Segall’s frenzied guitar riffs contrast with his clean guiltless vocals to fuse into a definite statement of Segall’s songwriting prowess. The titular song of the album demonstrates his ability to use heavy riff infused music to great effect. Segall also does not hold back on reminding the audience that he has not forgotten the art of the dominant guitar solo, and that in my mind is a great thing. – Jacob Tollefson

#14 Strand of Oaks: Heal
Heal, to me at least, encapsulates the feeling of our in-between era. This is especially of the “rock” genre if one wanted to look at all of the bands and sub-genres that fall under that label. In this odd era there are very few “definitive” artists that the average person on the street could point to as being “the” act in the way the Rolling Stones or Nirvana would have been in their day. Today’s scene is seemingly flooded with revivalists of every era, with few artists breaking away and creating something drastically different from the past. Strand of Oaks lampshades this in “Shut In” with the line, “I was born in the middle, maybe too late, everything good had already been made.” Strand of Oaks gives an earnest delivery in Heal and manages to borrow some of the best aspects of the past while creating an individual vision and inching towards the future, even if just slightly. – Jacob Tollefson

#13 A Sunny Day in Glasgow: Sea When Absent
The sun may never set on the British Empire, but from what I hear it doesn’t rise that much over Scotland. Which is why I love the tinge of optimism in a band named A Sunny Day In Glasgow. Their fourth album Sea When Absent is a twisting, turning, sometimes exceedingly bright, sometimes muddled joy. Mixed with beautifully catchy vocal lines, the ever changing character of the music makes each track its own little overture. The standout track “In Love With Useless” is at one point subtle cascading vocals before becoming a complete unleash of euphoria with accented guitar stabs. – Grady O’Brien

#12 Radiator Hospital: Torch Song
Right around the time I first heard Radiator Hospital‘s Torch Song, I went on an hour-long walk with a friend of a good friend. On it, we talked about the concept of “emotional chicken” – two people find themselves on the same wavelength, in the same pocket of energy and interest, but instead of acknowledging it early on they just keep coming at each other until one of them has to admit what’s going on, that they’re feeling something big. In the 21st century equivalent of liner notes, singer Sam Cooke-Parrot posted on the band’s WordPress that the album is about “[finding] the Perfect Person and the circumstances of your lives keep you apart.” Torch Song colors in every white space with power pop pacing, leaving the listener with a vivid map of their own heart’s motorway. – Dan Derks

#11 Alt-J: This is All Yours
Alt-J is all over the place with this one. However the controlled-chaos and manic energy adds to the rather persuasive appeal of This Is All Yours. From the electronic pulsing of “Hunger of the Pine” to the more conventional “Left Hand Free” Alt-J manages to take Ok Computer-era Radiohead and combines a fair mix of The Flaming Lips-circa Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots to come up with an entirely original approach and an excellent second album. – Jacob Tollefson

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