AbsolutePunk.net’s Top Albums of 2014


This best of list was put together by the AbsolutePunk.net staff in 2014. It used an old system for ranking albums, but has been brought over to Chorus.fm for posterity.

One thing Jason has always said he enjoys about our staff here at AbsolutePunk is that we are willing to let our opinions and biases shine through. No one here is trying to be a robot, solely evaluating music in an objective manner – if there even exists such a way to listen to these albums, the ones that have made us feel more emotion than all the other music released in 2014. Subjective opinion and bias is present as much as ever on any given publication’s albums of the year list, and ours is no exception. The following 30 albums were hand-chosen by our 21 active AP.net staffers, voted upon in only the most scientific of voting fashions. The best thing about these types of lists, though, is not seeing what we rank, but why we rank it; so each album is accompanied by a blurb from a staff member who loved it. We believe that there is no greater impetus behind listening to music than hearing someone tell you why they love it, so we hope you find something new here, or revisit something you enjoyed all year. – Thomas Nassiff

  1. The Hotelier – Home Like Noplace is There
  2. Pianos Become the Teeth – Keep You
  3. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
  4. Copeland – Ixora
  5. The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream
  6. The Menzingers – Rented World
  7. Spoon – They Want my Soul
  8. Moose Blood – I’ll Keep You in Mind, From Time to Time
  9. Bleachers – Strange Desire
  10. Noah Gundersen – Ledges
  11. Modern Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss It All
  12. Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again
  13. Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown
  14. Taylor Swift – 1989
  15. PUP – PUP
  16. Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else
  17. The Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt
  18. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness – Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness
  19. FKA Twigs – LP1
  20. La Dispute – Rooms of the House
  21. Coldplay – Ghost Stories
  22. Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties – We Don’t Have Each Other
  23. Cymbals Eat Guitars – Lose
  24. Manchester Orchestra – Cope
  25. Ben Howard – I Forget Where We Were
  26. Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow
  27. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2
  28. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
  29. Walk the Moon – Talking is Hard
  30. Yellowcard – Lift a Sail

1. The Hotelier – Home, Like NoPlace Is There

What can be written about the Hotelier’s triumphant sophomore album that hasn’t been said already? A masterful work that brought the roar of a so-called “emo revival” into the critical limelight, Home, Like NoPlace Is There is also far, far more than a superfluous genre tag. Telling a loose story about a visit to one’s old house, post-eviction, this record excavates dust and memories from amongst the furniture and photographs that still linger there. Along the way, we encounter failure and self-loathing (“An Introduction to The Album”), struggles with identity (“Life in Drag”), and an inability to come to terms with the death of a friend (“Your Deep Rest”). In all cases, vocalist and lyricist Christian Holden writes with dense, literate poetry that is tough to parse at first, but which also rewards listeners for consistent attention and investment. There are still as many little nuances to discover in these songs after three dozen listens as there were after three, whether in a lyric that devastates (the exceptional “Dendron,” perhaps the year’s best closing track), a melody that sticks in your head (the splendid “The Scope of All This Rebuilding”), or a vocal moment so imbued with intense passion (the yelping urgency of that knockout “Among the Wildflowers” chorus) that it forces you to stop what you are doing and listen

Many of the songs on Home, Like NoPlace Is There deal with issues of abuse—drug abuse, abuse in relationships, etc.—but even people who haven’t struggled with similar situations in their lives will find things to love about this record. “Introduction” in particular is a steady rain of beautiful images, capturing intense loneliness (“Inside yourself, there’s a child/Counting stars in their timeout”), the brevity of life (“So fragile are bodies, so concave/Work in self-destructive ways”), and the feeling that your best will never be good enough (“Because I’m desperate here, a couple steps from the edge/I can’t seem to burn bright enough”). These are hugely emotional lyrics, and for many of us, they ring like snapshots of the worst days we’ve ever lived. That’s fitting, since Home, Like NoPlace Is There is at least partially a record about being too nostalgic and caring toomuch for your own good. It’s the kind of album that gives a noble, if fractured voice to those days, in the words of “In Framing,” “when you felt abandoned, when you felt alone.” No wonder it’s been compared to albums like Clarity and Deja Entendu; no wonder so many people on this website have credited it with reigniting their love, passion, and connection with music.

Lyrically striking, endlessly catchy, and passionately performed from first note to last, Home, Like NoPlace Is There is one of those rare albums that deserves the tag of “instant classic.” It’s also the breakthrough of a vital new voice for this scene, and an essential listen for fans of any genre–even for those that view “emo” as a four-letter word. And last, but not least, it’s the only fitting choice for the 2014 AbsolutePunk.net Album of the Year title: we can only hope that 2015 brings along something this special. [CM]

Key Tracks: “Introduction” and “Dendron”

2. Pianos Become The Teeth – Keep You

Pianos Become The Teeth’s third full-length album closes with vocalist Kyle Durfey attempting to find peace and perhaps finding it, as he somberly sings, So let’s say nothing some more/cuz the sand stays with me/so let’s say nothing some more/cuz the sand keeps you. It’s this realization that more or less thoroughly sums upKeep You – the Baltimore post-hardcore quintets breakthrough release. But let’s not just focus on that last passage, as the journey Keep You takes to that moment is full of quiet bursts of uneasy catharsis.

You see, Durfey is still trying to come to terms with the passing of his father, as some of the lines from simmering opener “Ripple Water Shine” suggest (I’m still waiting for that drink at Otto’s/and I’m still slowly waiting for what follows/for what I’ve learned about being so defined by someone dying/and for thinking before I speak/and hoping for something bigger). The luscious layers of said track sets the tone for the dynamic shift Pianos bring forth on Keep You. The screaming and breakdowns are gone, instead replaced with controlled, sometimes soothing cleans while each song builds, bursts, and blooms in a variety of intriguing styles. “Lesions” feels like a curveball on Keep You with its booming chorus, while Durfey tries to convince us that he’s doing just fine but ultimately confessing that he wears a stock smile so well/But who deals with anything like this well? and admitting he still may be lost. No one ever said coping would be easy and it’s Durfey’s continued honesty that sets Keep You apart from its contemporaries. 

The slow, delicate build of album standout “Late Lives” results in an euphoric crescendo with Durfey revealing, And in the end, that’s as good as it gets, man. And like you said, that’s as good as it gets, man, proving that Pianos Become The Teeth can unleash their fury in a variety of soundscapes. Keep You is still a heavy record in the sense that it’ll shake you to your core and resonate with you for months. 

So let’s circle back to Keep You’s seven minute closer “Say Nothing.” It slowly develops until Durfey unleashes the album’s one true howl but instead escalating the issue, the song recoils and gently exits into the abyss. No heartbreaking audio clips, no final screams, just Durfey hopefully finding some semblance of peace. [DB]

Key Tracks: “Late Lives,” “Say Nothing”

3. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues

Over the past few years, Against Me!, with their brilliant frontwoman and her courageous story, have stretched far beyond the usual punk publications that have always covered their every move – they’ve been everywhere, and everyone has noticed. All of that publicity and awareness lead right into the release of Transgender Dysphoria Blues; Laura Jane Grace delivered on her “imagine me, six-foot-two, in heels, fucking screaming into someone’s face” quote – she delivered on it while Against Me! snaked around the country on several nationwide tours, and she delivered on it while they played a song called “Fuckmylife666” on David Letterman’s late-night television show. 

All of the attention and critical praise has been more than well deserved. Transgender Dysphoria Blues is a rarity in that it’s the most important punk album of the year – and among the genre’s most important works ever – while also being the genre’s best album of the year. On the surface, it’s a rollicking, anthemic punk-rock-and-roll barn-burner; Grace doesn’t scream as much as she does on older Against Me! albums, but when she does, she bowls you over. On the surface, it has everything you need: Jangling guitars, Replacements vibes throughout, an extraordinary performance from the rhythm section, shout-along choruses and fist-pumping, punk-as-fuck, in-your-face lyrics like, “Black me out / I want to piss on the walls of your house / I want to chop those brass rings off your fat fucking fingers / As if you were a kingmaker / Black me out.”

But if you’re reading this website, you know the backstory. You know what Laura Jane Grace had to go through to reveal her transgender dysphoria in a very public way, and the outpouring of support the punk community showed for her. Transgender Dysphoria Blues chronicles the life of someone living in a skin that never felt theirs, right from its opening title track: “You want them to notice the ragged ends of your summer dress / You want the to see you like they see every other girl / They just see a fa.ggot / They’ll hold their breath not to catch the sick.”

The album succeeds on so many levels it’s hard to name them all. It somehow manages to present this unimaginable struggle – complete with the all the prejudice and hate spewed at the LGBT community – in a digestible fashion to the masses. But its universal appeal is accompanied by a harsh, blunt challenge: There are parts of this record that are absolutely difficult to listen to, and Grace wouldn’t have it any other way. That challenge makes Transgender Dysphoria Blues all the more rewarding when it manages to fully sink its teeth into you, undeniable in its glam-punk catchiness while tackling, white-knuckled, a serious subject matter in the most intimate ways possible. Its individual tunes, especially song-of-the-year contender “Fuckmylife666,” deliver poignant looks inward (“Don’t wanna live without teeth / Don’t wanna die without bite”), amongst brutally honest moments (“Chipped nail polish and a barbed-wire dress / Is your mother proud of your eyelashes?), and occasional statements of moving forward (“No more troubled sleep, there’s a brave new world that’s raging inside of me”). 

I could go on about this record endlessly; but the most straightforward thing I can say about it is, if you somehow haven’t given it the time of day yet, you need to now. [TN]

Key Tracks: “Fuckmylife666,” “Two Coffins”

4. Copeland – Ixora

As many reunions as there were in 2014, Copeland is one that no one saw coming. After calling it quits after the band’s strongest release yet in 2008 with You Are My Sunshine, three of the members went to form States while Aaron Marsh decided to focus on producing and his family. When Ixora was announced, there was a lot of questions that were yet to be cleared but upon it’s official release, everything and more was answered for us. Not only was the band able to tap into their music euphoria that made people fall in love so many years ago, but they were also able to exceed any kind of expectations that were had. Further expanding their already diverse and unique sound, the band once again pushed the envelope in stunning fashion. While six years is quite some time to wait for a record, when you’re not expecting it, the blow’s softened. But with that being said, let’s cross our fingers that we’re able to enjoy some more magic a lot sooner.[KI]

Key Tracks: “Erase” & “World Turn”

5. The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream

You might not be able to tell from the sound of Lost In The Dream, but The War On Drugs’ Adam Granduciel is something of a perfectionist. Following the touring cycle for 2011’s Slave Ambient, Granduciel found himself in a pit of depression and anxiety, failing to come to grips with what people who don’t tour in a band call a “normal life.” Over the course of two years, much of Lost In The Dream was written, rewritten, recorded, rerecorded, rewritten again, rerecorded once again, etc. It’s remarkable, then, that this album sounds as organic and effortless as it does. From the moment the drums kick in on the sprawling opener “Under The Pressure,” each instrument falls squarely into place, breathing life into the track’s peaks and valleys where plenty of room for improvisation is rightly taken advantage of. At the hazy center of it all is Granduciel’s vocals, soothing as ever with a hint of paranoia, complete with references to Tom Petty. This is 21st century Americana. 

On the flip side, of course this album could only be put together by a perfectionist. There are so many little nuances and production flourishes that could only be achieved through either dumb luck or meticulous planning and construction. First of all, the sequencing on the record is impeccable. The infectious lead single comes early on in the track listing, an instrumental track sets the mood for the closing three tracks, and the opening track and closing tracks are perfect for their roles. The record plays out like a journey, with moments of tension and relief coming exactly when they need to. This doesn’t even scratch the surface of what these songs contain, from the reverb-drenched vocals in “Red Eyes” to the shimmering guitar effects on “An Ocean In Between The Waves” and the synth pads that lay down the mood for “The Haunting Idle,” each song is packed with layers of depth that could only be constructed and drummed up by someone that isn’t afraid to reconstruct and rebuild his vision on the fly. Despite all of this, the songwriting remains the album’s biggest feat, and it’s the reason why this album has seen so much acclaim this year. At its core, these are just damn good songs, and with the strong performances by Granduciel and the guest musicians who feature on the record, Lost In The Dream is the strongest album from The War On Drugs yet. [JJ]

Key Tracks: “Red Eyes,” “Burning”

6. The Menzingers – Rented World

It’s no secret that On The Impossible Past is the most beloved work from Scranton, PA rockers The Menzingers. It was, after all, the 2012 AbsolutePunk.net Album of the Year, so to say that the band had expectations to meet with their fourth LP would be the understatement of the century. Leave it to The Menzingers to shatter expectations. Not only is Rented World anything but On The Impossible Pastpt. 2, but there’s a very strong case to be made for Rented World being even better than its predecessor. If you just rolled your eyes I completely understand, but hear me out. From the fiery opener “I Don’t Wanna Be An Asshole Anymore” to the roaring lead single “In Remission,” The Menzingers have written a collection of some of the best punk rock jams to come out in years. Vocalists Tom May and Greg Barnett’s lyrics cut right to the chase this time around; from a torn up lottery ticket in his back pocket to the couple arguing in the bathroom at a shitty party, Barnett’s specific details make the general sentiments he screams in the choruses hit that much harder. The riffs and songwriting throughout the record prove that lyrics aren’t the only thing that makes this band special, but when the two elements lock perfectly into place with one another the results are truly transcendent. Case in point: “Transient Love.” Smack dab in the middle of the album, Barnett lets out the desperate plea of “All I ever wanted was to make things right” as the band’s riffs and grooves reach a new peak for the group. It’s one of the most powerful songs the band has penned to date, and it’s just one of many painstakingly emotional passages on the record. Four albums in and The Menzingers are still doing what they do best, proving that punk rock is far from dead as long as bands like them are still around. [JJ]

Key Tracks: “Transient Love,” “Nothing Feels Good Anymore”

7. Spoon – They Want My Soul

Perhaps my favorite personal anecdote about They Want My Soul is that I first heard about it via actual word-of-mouth. Two older dudes at my job were discussing the merits of Spoon’s new album, and where it landed in the band’s revered canon. They were really passionate about it! And so, as someone who had always heard of Spoon but never actually heard them (shame on me, especially for being a fellow Texan), I stopped eavesdropping and gave the thing a listen. It was immediate. Everything clicked, but I didn’t know enough to engage in real conversation. I couldn’t check Wikipedia and post on the forum. That’s when I delved into the band’s back catalog and devoured their Texan history. I came out the other side with not just a new favorite album, but a band whose past has flawlessly soundtracked my present. So while there’s no more infuriating term than “indie rock,” They Want My Soul succeeds at being purely that; adventurous, smart and just-plain-fun. [BS]

Key Track: “Do You”

8Moose Blood – I’ll Keep You in Mind, From Time to Time

Moose Blood’s debut album was a staple listen as summer winded down and fall set into motion for me. In a word, I’ll Keep You in Mind, From Time to Time is charming. The UK emo sensibilities are weaved into pop influences, hooks, and riffs. While some of the lyrics may not be the best penned of the year – or really anywhere close – the simplicity and storyteller nature of them make them relatable, and the heavy accentuation makes it even easier to sing along. That’s the beauty of this record – the fact that a song about girls with short hair (“I Hope You’re Missing Me”), reminiscing about a girl in the past and growing up (“Chin Up”), or namedropping iconic scene favorites such as Bukowski, Morrissey, Clarity, “The Sound of Settling,” and High Fidelity all on one standout song (“Bukowski”) all feel so relatable and even nostalgic. While primarily sun soaked, the album also touches on the darker parts of growing up, evident on the somber opener “Cherry,” “Gum,” and appropriately titled “I Hope You’re Miserable.” The album explores these darker themes, nostalgia, and the simplicity of daily relationships and memories. The result is an incredibly relatable and charming record, and easily one of the best albums of the year and most impressive debuts. [RG]

Key Tracks: “Bukowski” and “Chin Up”

9. Bleachers – Strange Desire

While many have bemoaned the loss of Jack Antonoff’s Steel Train project and the seeming endless delay of new fun. material, Antonoff himself launched headlong into writing a soundtrack to a phantom John Hughes movie. Titling this new project Bleachers, Antonoff might have been written off for trying to emptily mimic signifiers of an era many of his listeners (this writer included) were not present for, drawing in an audience based simply on a false nostalgia. One listen to Bleachers’ debut album Strange Desire’s curiously overlooked third single “Rollercoaster” dispels this notion entirely: a rousing anthem destined to be heard in a rom-com climax scene, it is the kind of undeniable triumph that lands you a gig writing for the worlds biggest pop star (ahem). The rest of Strange Desire produces mantras (“I Wanna Get Better”), toys with the alternate universe pop of Grimes (“Take Me Away”) and even features a regrettable turn from Yoko Ono, but Antonoff’s deep aversion to cynicism brings even these outliers comfortably into the fold. And that is what ultimately makesStrange Desire so compelling: backed by Antonoff’s sincere, sonorous singing, these anthems avoid becoming kitschy curios of high school. Instead, these songs link the problems of adulthood with those faced in youth, forcing the realization that even though both are a little silly, they’re also still deadly serious. [RD]

Key Tracks: “Rollercoaster” and “I Wanna Get Better”

10. Noah Gundersen – Ledges

A soft-voiced folkie who can explode his songs into chilling climaxes of emotional bombast, Noah Gundersen is a talent who needs to be heard. Accompanied by little more than acoustic guitar, piano, violin, and the gorgeous voice of his sister Abby, Gundersen’s Ledges is a work that worms its way into your soul and stays there. The secret is in Gundersen’s vocal delivery, which portrays a kind of candid fragility that I don’t think I’ve heard on record in a long time. It gives his characters worlds of nuance and feeling, from the man watching his lover take their son away on “Boathouse” to the guy in the title track who is trying futilely to change himself for the woman he loves. At times a break-up album (the sublime “First Defeat,” or the cleverly metaphorical “Cigarettes”), Ledges also explores mortality, poverty, spirituality, sexuality, infidelity, and much more. Suffice to say that no album stayed with me more in 2014. [CM]

Key Tracks: “Ledges” and “First Defeat”

10. Modern Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss It All

There’s something perfect about the word “Gonna” being in the title of Modern Baseball’s second album. It’s colloquial. It’s how people talk. It’s, ugh, real. And those are the sort of emotions and stories that populateYou’re Gonna Miss It All. They aren’t flashy or cool. Staying in bed all day, being sad on the sidewalk, leaving a party because parties stink; some of its stuff you wouldn’t even put in your diary. But placed in these young dudes’ hands, it’s enthralling. It’s so much fun because it reminds us of the moments that we sometimes too easily forget. We obviously remember the big stuff, but it’s those little moments in between that give the milestones their meaning. And what this album really emphasizes is that moments that seem inconsequential at first can end up becoming the catalyst for the stories that mean the most. [BS]

Key Track: “Broken Cash Machine”

12. Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again

Joyce Manor is not here to defend pop-punk, revive emo, or save rock and roll. Instead, Never Hungover Again is just a bunch of hardcore loving dudes who also happen to be awesome at writing pop hooks. Take the stunning “Falling In Love Again” – Barry Johnson’s brash delivery is offset by swelling strings and an incredibly catching chorus. That’s Joyce Manor at its best and they stuff that much greatness into Hungover’s brief nineteen minute runtime. Tracks like “In The Army Now” and “Christmas Card” only add to the fun, as Joyce Manor’s third album will give you an incredible buzz without the morning-after headache. [DB]

Key Tracks: Falling In Love Again Catalina Fight Song

13. Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown

I’m perhaps one of the last writers on this staff who might be expected to write about an Every Time I Die record in our end-of-the-year list. While I’ve been a casual fan of the band over the past several years, nothing has grabbed my attention like From Parts Unknown did this year, firmly inserting itself into my daily listening for the last half of the year. As has become expected from the Buffalo band, the record provides a balance of aggression and sometimes-biting, sometimes-thoughtful lyricism courtesy of Keith Buckley. Musically, it’s a technical masterpiece of hardcore with the usual tinges of Southern rock at certain moments, and ultimately it will stand the test of time as this band’s most powerful full-length. It’s a beast all dozen songs through, without ever offering a moment for listeners to catch their breath. [TN]

Key Tracks: “Decayin’ With The Boys,” “Idiot”

14. Taylor Swift – 1989

If there was a moment for Taylor Swift to falter, it was this one. Finally casting aside the increasingly hollow pretense of being a country artist, she announced her first “official” venture into pop music. The snide remarks about her love life seemed to have subsided in the time between Red and 1989, but they could always have reared up again, more ferocious and nasty than ever. Instead, Swift seems to have finally won over her detractors, or at least left them grasping for ammunition that hasn’t materialized. Thin though her twangy veneer may have been, shedding it has proven to be transformative for Swift, as she’s appropriated aspects of everyone from Lorde to Chvrches, from Jack Antonoff to the never-ending parade of sax-loop hits, proving that she truly is holding court in pop music and everyone else is at her beck and call. 1989 is not only her most stylistically diverse album, and also happens to be her most self-aware, as she gleefully skewers her public image on “Blank Space” and asserts indifference to criticism on “Shake it Off,” endearing her more to a wider audience than the caustic “Bad Blood,” which is more in line with her ballads of old than most of 1989. As it turns out though, Swift remains most adept at evoking archetypes as part of her own canon, this time summoning the spirit of James Dean for the impossibly smooth guitar of “Style,” and it feels like the timeless essence of her characters has seeped into the music for the first time. No one is standing in Swift’s way anymore, least of all herself, and as she revels in the freedom this has afforded her, we might as well celebrate the coronation of the first documented, official pop Queen of the 2010s. [RD]

Key Tracks: “Style” and “Out of the Woods”

15. PUP – PUP

This album was the first in a long time that made me feel something. It didn’t make me feel old and washed up, and it wasn’t a pretentious pile of shit filled with meaningless metaphors. It’s almost unbelievable that PUP is the debut release for this band, but maybe that’s part of what makes it so powerful. 

I saw PUP right before this album came out at a rad little showcase during SXSW. I hand’t heard of them, but impressed by the energy and raw sound coming from some lil ol’ Canadians. The album dropped in April and I was instantly blown away. I’ve been lucky to catch the band two more times in Austin, and once again at Riot Fest Chicago. They took up a lot of my year to say the least. 

I still can’t put my finger on exactly what made this album my number one of the year, but it has to do with the shredding and intricate guitar riffs, the tightest drums you’ve ever heard, and the piercing wail that is nothing but genuine. Tracks like “Guilt Trip” and “Yukon” sum up what this band does best – have feelings and tell stories. [CD]

Key tracks: “Reservoir”, “Dark Days”

16. Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else

Back in the beginning of 2014 I wrote the blurb for Cloud Nothings in our most anticipated albums list. While at the time, people seemed to overlook the fact that I thought the band had a chance at putting out one of the best albums of the year. Guess what? They did. Here and Nowhere Else follows up 2012’s breakout album, Attack On Memory in the most abrasive way possible. While the production is quite different, the band took their sound to the next level. The fast paced guitar work is quicker than ever, the melodies are more infectious and the drumming is completely insane throughout the whole half hour album. While the band has been championed by the indie heavyweights like Pitchfork and Stereogum, their sound is still very rooted in the niche that we cater to. If the next album is even close to how bombastically great Here and Nowhere Else is, we’re all in for a treat. [KI]

Key Tracks: “Psychic Trauma” & “I’m Not Part of Me”

16. The Gaslight Anthem – Get Hurt

While prior albums were riddled with references to New Jersey’s boardwalks, ferris wheels, and “quiet Edison sky,” Get Hurt’s sweeping title track finds Brian Fallon “think[ing] I’m gonna move to California.” While it doesn’t sum up the album’s lyrical themes the way nearly any other line in that song does, it still feels like the album’s thesis statement: this is not just another Gaslight record. Fallon was, prior to the album’s release, rather adamant that Get Hurt would be entirely new territory for the band. Whether or not that statement rings true, it’s hard to argue the quality of these songs on their own. “1,000 Years” finds Fallon crooning perhaps his catchiest hook yet, “Dark Places” would fit perfectly on the band’s breakthrough The ’59 Sound (and likely be the standout on that album), and the aforementioned “Get Hurt” is just a beautiful song, easily one of The Gaslight Anthem’s very best. Perhaps neither the band’s best nor most cohesive album, Get Hurt is still a far cry from a disappointment, and hopefully will pave the way for a more experimental followup. [ZD]

Key Track: “Get Hurt”

18. Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness – Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness

Andrew McMahon deserves all of the recognition in the world. With an intimidating resume and a knack for melody, Andrew could easily stand on the Grammy stage in a few years. His music has been on a course for a wider audience for a while, and his first full length solo effort, Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness, is going to take him one step further. He hasn’t completely removed himself from is roots, but he’s managed to deliver a fresh batch of music that sounds immediately familiar. The opening notes of “Canyon Moon” bring in more of a subdued pop feel, but it’s not long until “Cecelia And The Satellite” revs up with one of the most memorable sounds of the year. Fans of Andrew’s earlier work will feel right at home with one-two punch “Driving Through A Dream” and “Halls.” Combined with the heartwarming “Rainy Girl,” the album is incredibly well rounded. [AS]

Key track: “Driving Through a Dream”

19. FKA Twigs – LP1

FKA Twigs had a lot of expectations to meet with her debut record. Following the stunning EP2 from last year, Twigs’ profile continued to increase as anticipation for LP1 grew and grew. Thankfully, the English crooner delivered and then some on her first full length album. Look no further than lead single “Two Weeks” for an example of all of FKA Twigs’ biggest strengths, from her serene, breathy yet commanding voice right down to the lush and deeply layered production. If you thought singing was the only strength FKA Twigs had then think again, every last track on LP1 was either produced or co-produced by Twigs herself, and she teams up with the likes of Arca, Clams Casino, Paul Epworth, Dev Hynes, Emile Haynie and Sampha to bring you a big, grandiose picture of her abstract and forlorn R&B. LP1 basks in its cynical, lonely, narcissistic mood, and FKA Twigs sells each line like it might be her last. Few records were as immersive as LP1 this year, and as a result it remains one of the most memorable and confident debut records in recent memory. [JJ]

Key Track: “Two Weeks”

20. La Dispute – Rooms Of The House

La Dispute records have a way of leaving you emotionally drained. From the raw and scrappy Vancouverand Somewhere At The Bottom of the River… to the sprawling Wildlife, the Michigan-based post-hardcore band excels in making you feel like you just got hit by a very large truck by the end of their albums. On this year’s Rooms of the House, however, frontman Jordan Dreyer actually has you feeling oddly optimistic on the understated spoken word outro “Objects In Space.” Not that there aren’t plenty of moments on the record that crash with the intensity of a collapsing bridge, but songs like “Objects,” “Woman (In Mirror),” and “Woman (Reading)” find La Dispute exploring a softer side, one that sounds much more refined and focused than any of their past attempts at settling down. Still, melodrama is what we know and love from La Dispute, and the pulverizing mid-album apex of “For Mayor In Splitsville,” “35,” and “Stay Happy There” is the best run of songs they’ve had on a record yet. Dreyer’s vocals have come a long way even from Wildlife, and his few flirtations with actual melody go over quite well while his usual yelps pack a much stronger punch than they have in the past, and in the case of “Splitsville” you get both flavors at once. This is La Dispute’s finest outing yet, refining their sound into the best possible representation of the band while pushing themselves into new territory as Dreyer explores the remaining memories of a relationship gone wrong through objects scattered around the rooms of the house. It’s heavy, it’s emotional, and it’s raw; everything a La Dispute album should be.[JJ]

Key Track: “For Mayor In Splitsville”

21. Coldplay – Ghost Stories

I just saw Unbroken last week and forgot that Coldplay had released a new song for the movie. As “Miracles” played through the credits, I realized what a perfect song it was for an emotionally moving movie. If it had been included on Ghost Stories, it would have been a favorite. Coldplay’s sound is always evolving, and I pray “Miracles” is a sampling of what we could hear on 2015’s A Head Full of Dreams.Mylo Xyloto was a chocolate and peanut butter sundae and Ghost Stories is a slab of dark chocolate: simple, elegant, and refined. The production melts like a caramel drizzle and what I had written off as an okay album in early 2014, turned into a top favorite for me. It was an acquired taste. The sound achieved on “Magic,” “Ink,” and “True Love” is Coldplay at their best. Here’s to hoping that A Head Full of Dreams satisfies in all of the right ways. Don’t miss Coldplay when they tour in 2015. They put on a live show like no other, and you may not have the chance to see them again for a while. [AS]

Key Track: “Ink”

22. Aaron West and The Roaring Twenties – We Don’t Have Each Other

Some were surprised to see The Wonder Years frontman Dan Campbell take on a fully folky sound with his first solo release –*but Campbell’s lyricism has always drawn inspiration from the work of The Mountain Goats, and on We Don’t Have Each Other, Campbell finally unleashes those influences that aren’t always heard in TWY’s music. A nine-song character study into a terribly sad year of Aaron West’s life sees Campbell operate with a full eight-man band, and with the help of producer Ace Enders of The Early November, the record successfully marries brilliant storytelling and prose with instantly accessible folk-rock-and-roll. [TN]

Key Tracks: “Runnin’ Scared,” “The Thunderbird Inn”

22. Cymbals Eat Guitars – LOSE

On Cymbals Eat Guitars’ “Chambers,” Joseph D’Agostino sings “The feds shut down Silk Road, so I’m out in the cold/I don’t know anyone,” is a casual expression of the isolation endured by someone incapable of forming a human connection with even a drug dealer. Lyrics of this sort abound across LOSE, the bands third album that explicitly draws from The Wrens and adopts Titus Andronicus’ reckless pipes and choruses, synthesizing them with the influence of titanic 90s indie bands that has been present from the first. D’Agostino has seen victims of child abuse become crack addicts, offhandedly discarded friends, and abused benzos to the point where entire seasons have been lost to his memory’s abyss. All that is to say that he’s not exactly the most well-adjusted person in the world, but the anxieties and anger that he tries to squash with self-medication come pouring out all over LOSE. This is indie rock finally brought into the age of Myspace graves, but without endless moralizing; D’Agostino understands that these remain innately human conditions. [RD]

Key Track: “Chambers”

22. Manchester Orchestra – Cope

Voting for Cope amongst our staff was a divided enterprise. It seemed as though each individual staff member had their own opinion on whether to vote for Cope on its own, or combine the album with its acoustic rendition, Hope, into one vote. That says a lot about this record in my eyes – Cope is a wall of sound, with layers upon layers of guitars dominating the album. Hope is a brilliantly composed acoustic rendition, but it lets the lyrics shine much more than the louder Cope does, successfully highlighting the one portion of the album that was most easily overlooked originally. It may not be as dynamic as Manchester Orchestra’s previous LPs, but Cope and Hope supply a quality set of songs that only sound better within the band’s continually evolving live set. [TN]

Key Tracks: “Every Stone,” “Cope”

25. Ben Howard – I Forget Where We Were

Following the success of 2011’s folk-pop record Every Kingdom, Ben Howard received many awards, praise and embarked on a relentless touring schedule. However, this sophomore release sees the British artist develop and hone in on the more brooding moments of his otherwise breezy debut. Focusing on a more fully electric approach, the delays and reverbs that soak the record prove to only emphasise Howard’s impeccable guitar playing rather than hinder them. There’s a heavy sense of scorn throughout I Forget Where We Were which verges on cynicism, although, rather than leaving a bitter taste in the mouth it makes for an extremely relatable and powerful listen – something fans of the debut may find hard to stomach, but should really push through. Any of the twee or dull moments of the debut are lost and all of the more profound and interesting aspects are brought to the surface 100%. There hasn’t been another record this year that encompasses an overall presence or atmosphere as well as this for me, it’s drenched in a tone that identifies itself as an incredibly immersive and surrounding listen.[KH]

Key Track: “I Forget Where We Were”

25. Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow

For a band to release four albums in as many years is quite the rarity nowadays in itself but for each one to build upon the last in a natural yet high speed manner is truly a spectacle of evolution that really doesn’t exist with bands or artists nowadays. It’s this current pinnacle in the mapping of the cohesive progression of Bombay Bicycle Club that lead the album to take the number one spot on my personal list. The display of influence and genre-melding from all over the world combined with the bands instantly recognisable sound leads to some of the most interesting and intricate moments in Bombay Bicycle Club’s career. The buzzsaw bass and guitars on “Overdone” mixed with samples of Indian TV music snippets, the club banger sound of “Carry Me” juxtaposed with a dark Interpol-esque bridge or the heart wrenching “Eyes Off You” are all examples of their undeniable expansion. A perfect record for all seasons of the year and without a doubt one of the best rhythm sections working in music today, possibly overlooked in general, Ed Nash on bass and Suren De Saram on drums/percussion have been a favourite of mine since A Different Kind Of Fix but they are now truly flourishing as one of the most important duos in music today. [KH]

Key Track: “Luna”

25. Run the Jewels – RTJ2

According to this critic, 2014 was a down year for hip-hop until El-P and Killer Mike dropped their second effort under the moniker Run The Jewels. After blowing listeners and critics away with their debut in 2013, the duo upped their game and dropped a game changer in later 2014 with RTJ2. Under the bombastic beats there is a simmering rage coming forth from Killer Mike, as he fires away some of his best verses yet with El-P being the perfect complement to these barbs (“Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)” and “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” are just the tip of the iceberg that is RTJ2. 2014 will be remembered as the beginning of Run The Jewel’s dominance over not only the hip-hop community but the mainstream in its entirety. Run the jewels fast indeed. [DB]

Key Tracks: “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck),” “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”

25. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams

When Ryan Adams dropped his self-titled record back in September, I immediately felt like it was the prolific songwriter’s best album in at least a decade. Fast-forward a few months, and it might actually be my favorite self-contained set of songs he’s ever assembled. Sure, he’s made albums with loftier high points (the acclaimed trio of HeartbreakerGold, and Love is Hell), but Ryan Adams is a perfect rebirth for his career because it has a taut cohesion that none of his other work can muster. It doesn’t hurt that the songs all explore welcome influences, from Petty (“Gimme Something Good”) to Springsteen (“I Just Might”), or that the reverb-drenched production has a foreboding darkness that makes every song feel thrillingly unpredictable. And when Adams tosses out an acoustic ballad like “My Wrecking Ball,” an elegy for his late grandmother, it’s a welcome reminder that no one can do that kind of song better than him. A lot of classic rockers came back to the game this year—Springsteen, Petty, and U2 among them—but here, it feels like Adams crafted the kind of record they all wanted to make. [CM]

Key Track: “Gimme Something Good”

25. Walk the Moon – Talking is Hard

One of the worst decisions made this year was the choice to release Walk the Moon’s second major label LP in December instead of June. Packed to the brim with bright choruses, layers of 80s synths, and jangly guitar riffs, Talking is Hard is the kind of album that seems tailor-made for late-night drives in mid-July. “Shut Up and Dance,” the pounding lead single, might be the year’s single catchiest song (give or take a couple Taylor Swift or Ingrid Michaelson jams), while instantly memorable gems like “Avalanche” and “Work This Body” show that these guys have a near-unparalleled knack for melody. An explosion of different influences, Talking is Hard alternatively sounds like everyone from Michael Jackson and Phil Collins to Vampire Weekend and The 1975. And while winter is an admittedly less-than-ideal time to listen to wistful end-of-summer anthems like “Come Under the Covers” and “Aquaman,” that fact hardly takes away from the sheer level of pop craftsmanship on display here. [CM]

Key Track: “Aquaman”

30. Yellowcard – Lift A Sail

Few albums will ever mean as much to me as Yellowcard’s 2012 masterpiece Southern Air. That record played as I drove away from my hometown, on the way to my senior year of college and away from the carefree protections of youth. Such a personal connection was always going to make it difficult for me to hear Lift a Sail as anything but a step down, but luckily, the band chose this record to really change things up. A more grown-up and experimental sound graces these 13 tracks. We still get songs about California, but gone are the wistful summer jams, replaced here with struggle, responsibility, and tragedy. It’s the band’s darkest album, born from the paralyzing injury that singer Ryan Key’s wife suffered last year. The songs aren’t depressing, though. In fact, this album’s best moments—from the rousing “Transmission Home” to the forward-looking “Illuminate,” all the way to the ringing guitar solo of the title track—all spark with hopeful resilience. That’s the mood that carries through this record’s bright hooks, dingy electronics, symphonic arrangements, and passionate vocals, and although these songs probably won’t ever mean as much to me as the ones from Southern Air, it’s hard for me to look at Lift a Sail and see anything other than Yellowcard’s supreme album-length accomplishment. [CM]

Key Track: “Lift a Sail”

Contributor Key

[TN] Thomas Nassiff [CM] Craig Manning [DB] Drew Beringer [KI] Keagan Ilvonen [JJ] Jake Jenkins [BS] Blake Solomon [RD] Ryan Dennehy [RG] Ryan Gardner [CD] Caitlin DeWeese [ZD] Zac Djamoos [AS]Anthony Sorendino [KH] Kyle Huntington

This article was originally published on AbsolutePunk.net