40. After The Disco---Broken Bells
Just when you thought the still-surprising pairing of The Shins' James Mercer and super-producer Danger Mouse had run its course, the duo comes back with the best offering of their short career. While there's nothing here to replace High Road as their primary radio representation, ATD is robust and intricate, a collection of 13 songs that constantly takes risks, and catches you off guard in ways the band's debut album wasn't ready to pull off.
39. Hell Can Wait---Vince Staples
Trust me, I loved Staples' verse on Earl Sweatshirt's Hive
as much as more than the next person, but even I wasn't prepared for Hell Can Wait. This is sinful hip-hop by an artist in notable command of both his aura and perception, tucking thoughtful and desperate lyrics into a bed of earthquake-inducing beats, establishing both his identity and worldview in a brisk 23 minutes.
38. Atlas---Real Estate
This, my friends, is the sound of a band who knows who they are. Still only three LPs into what will hopefully be a long career, Real Estate has defined their identity to a degree that few other acts can claim, causing Atlas to sound wholly familiar and intrinsic upon the very first listen. Martin Courtney and Matt Mondanile's guitars still tangle up into the most comfortingly laid-back of knots, while the former's voice makes breathy pronouncements with the brut force of a pillow.
37. Built on Glass---Chet Faker
Chet Faker's music might feature more glossy production than we're used to from the 'bedroom pop' upstart genre, but there's little doubt about the settings in which Built on Glass was meant to be played. Sounding not unlike James Blake on happy pills, Faker throws longing, sex, defeat, romance, and hope into an elecro-pop blender, and the results are frequently glorious.
36. In Conflict---Owen Pallett
Is it even possible for Owen Pallett to create an ugly sound? The inaccurately-titled In Conflict is exclusively furnished with the loveliest of notes, each track gliding into and out of existence like a warm breeze, while Pallett's gentle, stately voice floats weightlessly over the proceedings. Watch out, Sufjan Stevens; Pallett's coming to steal your, 'King of Orchestral Pop,' crown, and he's coming fast.
35. Morning Phase---Beck
For such a long-awaited release by such an enigmatic artist, the intentions of Morning Phase are pretty obvious; create a sequel to 2002's Sea Change. Tabling all of the eccentric instrumentation that we're used to hearing from Bek David Campbell, MP is a sublimely sleepy record, packed exclusively with mid-to-down tempo loveliness that wraps you up in the most tender of embraces.
34. Rips---Ex Hex
Ex Hex may be a new band, but leader Mary Timony is no stranger to the game, having now been an active recording artist for the better part of 25 years. Perhaps that's why Rips feels so fully realized, a lightning-fast 35 minutes of back-to-basics pop-punk goodness that goes straight for the pleasure center, leaving all complexity at the door on its way in.
33. Darlings---Kevin Drew
Kevin Drew made his name in a band that once sported no fewer than 19 members; in the year 2014, only he marches on. Darlings, the first proper solo disc in Drew's lengthy career, couldn't be farther removed from Broken Social Scene, trading in the heart-swelling bombast of that band for a modest, electro-tinged groove that's far more inclined to host the after-party than the big, bustling main event.
32. 9 Dead Alive---Rodrigo y Gabriela
Welcome back RodGab; you've been sorely missed. 9 Dead Alive marks the duo's first album by themselves in nearly five years, though time has done almost nothing to change their ways. It's still just their two acoustic guitars, strummed and picked at warp speed with dazzling interplay that somehow makes a single genre out of rock, metal, and nuevo flamenco. They sound virtually the same as they always have, and virtually no one else sounds like them.
31. Drop the Vowels---Millie & Andrea
For my money, this is the better of Andy Stott's two 2014 LP's, even if he needed Miles Whittaker's help to pull it off. Drop the Vowels is a dark, dangerous place to be; serrated sounds slice through the air as dense beats land with a force that reverberates through the foggy, nighttime air. There's always been a ghostly feeling to Stott's otherworldly instrumentals, but the menace that Whittaker brings takes this album to a different place entirely.
Hype Starts Here's Top 50 Albums of 2014:
Hype Starts Here's Top 100 Songs of 2014: