If it isn't broken, then why the hell would you fix it? Jeff Tweedy's first album away from Wilco in over 20 years is a double disc that floats along like a billowy white cloud for over an hour. Teamed exclusively with his son Spencer (on the drum kit), Tweedy rattles off one August afternoon morsel after another, each stripped down to bare essentials, placing their immediate melodies front and center. No head-banging or song-dissecting here, just a whole lot of swooning and swaying.
29. Salad Days---Mac DeMarco
DeMarco's sound hasn't changed a whole lot since we last met up on 2012's 2, but his paradigm is shifting right before our eyes. An artist that used to treat a certain kind of immaturity as a defining virtue, Mac starts changing his tune on Salad Days, an album all about growing up, prioritizing kind actions, and discovering what really matters to you. Somehow the recovering slacker never comes off as preachy, but maybe that's because his majestic work on a fret board makes him sound like someone whose advice you'd be wise to heed.
28. Enter the Slasher House---Avey Tare's Slasher Flicks
It appears there's simply not enough room within Avey Tare's Animal Collective career to contain all the oddity he so deeply desires to deploy upon the unsuspecting citizens of the world. While Panda Bear was alone in a room somewhere crafting next week's hotly-anticipated Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, Tare surrounded himself with others who share his off-kilter views on music, resulting in an album that's both beautifully strange and strangely beautiful. Exquisitely textured and remarkably self-assured, Slasher House is one hell of an accomplishment from a guy who was just supposed to be enjoying his time off.
27. LP1---FKA twigs
2014's de facto debut LP of the year, Tahliah Debrett Barnett's meteoric rise to stardom began back in 2012, and doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon. LP1 represents an artist in unnerving command of both image and sonics, her odd-ball take on R&B completely removed what we're used to from the genre. The most nocturnal sound heard since The XX, twigs places the sensuality of both her voice and lyrics front-and-center, a stunningly bold presence that needs nothing more than a drum machine to command your undivided attention.
26. Tomorrow's Hits---The Men
The Men aren't fussy about their music; since the release of their 2010 debut, Immaculada, the Brooklyn-based four-piece has churned out a new album annually, and with Tomorrow's Hits dating back to early last March, it's not inconceivable to think they'll have another one out by the time you're done reading this. Nothing about their sound could be described as 'perfect,' but that's part of this group's charm, the hazy production only adding to their excitable, passionate delivery, as though every note they play might be their last. Guitars rage, drums pound, and Mike Perro's voice sears; these guys just love to rock.
25. G I R L---Pharrell
If you predicted that Pharrell Williams' second solo outing would sound like this, you're probably in possession of a crystal ball. Not only is hip hop completely absent from the disc's ten-pack of tracks, each song features barebones production that often neglects to invite more than two or three instruments at a time. Williams' voice doesn't exactly blow the doors off, but as any who's heard Get Lucky will tell you, the guy's appeal is mostly in his charm, which G I R L has in spades. Not unlike Jeff Tweedy's aforementioned Sukierae, this is the work of an established artist deciding to leave all his bells and whistles at home, and focus on pure song writing. The results are hard to argue with.
24. WORD O.K.---KOOL A.D.
I know that there are such things as Gangster Rap, Weed Rap, and Joke Rap, but is there such thing as Slacker Rap? If not, KOOL A.D. might have just started a new sub-genre, the former Das Racist member never sounding as though he's even gotten his ass off the couch. Following a cavalcade of mixtapes that bore mixed results, WORD O.K. stands as Victor Vazquez's proper solo debut, the rapper lyrically upping his game for the big stage, and seeing the production follow suit. This is comedic, cerebral, good times hip hop, helmed by an artist whose brain might be more powerful than his work ethic, but I'll be damned if he isn't fun to spend an hour with.23. Voices---Phantogram
Phantogram has been on the cusp of stardom for the better part of a decade now, When I'm Small becoming a mainstay of college radio stations since its release back in 2009. Waiting so long to re-emerge after that single turned into an unexpected smash undoubtably hurt their bid for greater fame, but one listen to Voices, and you'll know it was time well-spent. The band's sophomore album is decidedly more varied than their first offering, alternating between surprisingly physical rock, enveloping balladry, and neon-tinged electronic outbursts. Voices is a sampler platter of what makes Phantogram such an appealing act, and a virtual promise of more good things to come.
22. Brill Bruisers---The New Pornographers
While the likes of A.C. Newman, Dan Bejar, and Neko Case were releasing music before they teamed up to form The New Pornographers, it's their collective work as the most unlikely supergroup imaginable that truly put them on the map. BB sounds like a family reunion gone unthinkably right, with the band's seven members positively exuberant to be in each other's presence once again, resulting in one of the biggest and most purely joyous albums of last year. Everyone gets their turn to shine, unleashing one technicolored power-pop jam after another without ever letting up.
21. Syro---Aphex Twin
Another year, another comeback from a cult hero we all assumed was lost forever. Like Godspeed! You Black Emperor and My Bloody Valentine before him, Richard David James broke over a decade's worth of silence on a triumphant comeback that felt No Need At All to adjust to the times. Syro is almost more of a time machine than a proper album, an hour-long trip back to the days when the electronic composer was at the peak of his legendary powers, all of those insane sounds and that familiar exhilarating rush entering the world once more. Here's to hoping James won't make us wait another 13 years for his follow-up.
Hype Starts Here's Top 50 Albums of 2014:
Hype Starts Here's Top 100 Songs of 2014: