A matter of four writers liking lots of different things and many of the same things.
20. Parquet Courts Sunbathing Animal
Parquet Courts are easy to like: Sunbathing Animal tumbles from one haphazard hook to the next, each disguised as some off-the-cuff idea from four dudes who stumbled into the studio after last call. Parquet Courts are also easy to get wrong: Andrew Savage’s speak-sung lyrics tend to drip out like a leaky faucet, copping Malkmus’ couldn’t-give-two-shits delivery, but they’re filtered with befuddled, possible-brilliant meaning about everything from displaced U.S. veterans to anxiety attacks: a reminder that seemingly tossed-together bands shouldn’t always be tossed off. Key Track: “Instant Disassembly” — Lauren Beck
19. Panda Bear Mr Noah EP
Four songs coming late in the year from master sound manipulator, dreamer, and core Animal Collective member Noah Lennox, as if to say, “I’ve heard your bubbling space disco, Todd Terje; and your swoony electro-pop, Caribou; and your mangled robot intestines, Aphex Twin… And I raise you 300 earworms.” Actions speak louder than words. Key Track: “Mr Noah” — LB
18. BRONCHO Just Enough Hip to Be Woman
While the plentiful hooks on Just Enough Hip to Be Woman are an obvious entry point, its 30-some minutes cross deceivingly vast territory, taking the sneery punk of BRONCHO’s debut and moving it across moody psych dirges, 80s new wave, and whatever springs to mind when you imagine Julian Casablancas playing slobcore. The Okie trio’s natural ease challenges anything that could bum them out (lyrical testimony: “If you try to bum me out—it’s on”), while also making them sound like they’re already three-fourths of the way there. The so-called millennial dilemma of wanting nothing to do and dealing with the depression of doing nothing, now has a proper soundtrack. Key Track: “Class Historian” — LB
17. Container Adhesive EP
One pronounced trend this year has been noise, that rather alienating experimental sound that eschews traditional song structure and shake appeal. Predictably, fashion-noise followed: a less abrasive, more restrained approach. The glitchy, static, panic-inducing means are the same, but the product is something much more approachable and adaptable outside of an abandoned warehouse. Container’s EP is a perfect example of dark electronic noise that retains its characteristic nastiness, but with a techno edge that makes it party material. Key Track: “Glaze” — Nicole Disser
16. Allo Darlin’ We Come From the Same Place
On the title track of Allo Darlin’s third release, singer Elizabeth Morris sings, “I’m just trying to make it through another Tuesday,” sounding tender but giving little indication of defeat. Earlier in the album, she notes what a particular pair of lips tastes like when kissing (“Juicy Fruit,” in this case), which isn’t the first time the metaphor has popped up in one of their albums. Then, a few measures later: “Nothing feels the way it did before, and I’m grateful for that.” No album this year better captures everyday trials and victories—and the exhilaration of the rare someone throwing them completely off track. Key Track: “We Come From the Same Place” — LB
15. A Sunny Day in Glasgow Sea When Absent
The most direct record yet by the most original and most underrated indie-pop group of the last decade. Bandleader Ben Daniels’ attempts to connect are still kinda cryptic, built from weird repetitions of language, ungainly swells of sound. But he’s now got better mastery of shape and density, studying uncommon pop geometry at a post-graduate level. Key Track: “Oh, I’m a Wrecker (What to Say to Crazy People)” — Jeff Klingman
14.Tony Molina Dissed and Dismissed
No one ever has enough time. Listening to the 12-track, 12-minute cassette from Bay Area hardcore vet Tony Molina, reissued this year via Slumberland, is the rare occurrence of barely needing any. If Weezer’s Blue Album was the more emo one of their early catalog, and Rivers shorthanded feelings of anxiety and despair by dissolving slow builds into finales, we’d have a close approximation of Molina’s writing: power chords, mini narrative arcs, and ideas that play with just how instantly emotion can be conveyed. Dissed and Dismissed works smarter, not harder. Key Track: “Don’t Come Back” — LB
These are the best albums of 2014? This is some of the most uninspired and unexamined vomit I’ve ever heard. It’s a self-indulgent, jerk-off fest – I would feel less depraved listening to Taylor Swift, at least while I drown in that bubblegum kitsch I’ll get to hear a pop hook.