Top 30 Albums of 2014 (So Far)

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Best Albums of 2014 So Far

Ben Frost AuroraBen FrostA U R O R A
(Bedroom Community/Mute)

Electronic music continues to spread its web into far-out and often strange new subgenres in the blink of an eye, but even with an already complicated landscape of sounds, Ben Frost finds a way to carve out a unique niche of his own. New album A U R O R A, partially written and recorded in the Republic of Congo, features members of Swans and Guardian Alien contributing to a beautiful yet harsh combination of ambient and industrial soundscapes. It’s consistently intense and climactic, but so richly detailed, it could very well be called a headphones record. – JT

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Future Islands SinglesFuture IslandsSingles

Treble has always had a soft spot for Future Islands, but it’s good to see that the rest of the world loves them as well. Singles marks an important leap forward for the band. Yes, that in part means bigger stages, Late Show appearances, and gifs of Sam Herring’s infectious dance moves. But, more importantly, it brings stronger, more layered production, an even wider variety of sonic influences, and vocal takes that better capture the audacity that makes Herring such an incredibly endearing frontman. It’s as heartfelt as albums come, and just as fun too. – ATB

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Freddie Gibbs Madlib PinataFreddie Gibbs and MadlibPiñata
(Madlib Invazion)

Madlib has a Midas touch when it comes to hip-hop, so it’s no surprise that he fills Piñata with fresh and sophisticated bangers. Freddie Gibbs, on the other hand, has a more varied track record. But on Piñata Gibbs finds his best voice, perhaps inspired (intimidated?) by Madlib’s tight execution. He brings graphic, self-aware verses to the mix, constantly switching up his flow to adapt to Madlib’s notoriously challenging compositions. Whatever the formula for success may be, it works; this record is a strong contender for rap album of the year. – ATB

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Lone Airglow TestingLoneReality Testing

UK producer Matt Cutler has taken essentially a new direction with every album he’s released, be it house, IDM, dubstep or instrumental hip-hop. And those elements all come together quite stunningly on his latest, Reality Testing, particularly the hip-hop elements. It’s, at heart, a house record, but not in the same way that Disclosure is house, or Todd Terje is house, or patron saint Frankie Knuckles was. This is space-age, ultra-cool, shape-shifting type shit. And if this is where electronic music is headed, then let Reality Testing guide the way. – JT

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Nux Vomica albumNux VomicaNux Vomica

It’s telling that one of the three massive tracks on Nux Vomica’s new self-titled release is called “Sanity is for the Passive,” because nothing this Portland-based crust-sludge outfit does is by any means passive, nor does the album seem, at any point, sane. This is gut-wrenching, powerful hardcore and metal music swirling in a melodic, psychedelic vortex. And though a minimum song length for this blistering outfit is about 11 minutes, every single second is captivating, pushing the limits of crust punk and redefining just what the style can be. – JT

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Angel Olsen Burn Your Fire For No WitnessAngel OlsenBurn Your Fire For No Witness

Singer/songwriter Angel Olsen already sounded stunning on her 2012 debut; here, she takes full advantage of her six-string and powerhouse voice box, captivating the listener at every turn. Add in a little distortion and full-band arrangements and the result is nothing short of mesmerizing. Olsen et al. carefully balance the thin line between robustness and vulnerability, delivering slow-burn ballads alongside raw and dusty folk-rock. Each song here is perfectly crafted and flawlessly delivered. – ATB

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Ought More Than Any Other DayOughtMore Than Any Other Day

Tim Beeler is one of the year’s most distinctive new vocalists. He rushes towards excitability like a gag David Byrne just released from a can, but also mutters with timid disappointment like the between breaths of a delta bluesman. His Montreal-based band Ought runs through their eight-song debut with jarring precision, relaxed limits and intense concentrations on the modal values of repetition, economy and space. Keeler’s rawboned guitar asks the same questions as his voice does. There are so many sounds on More Than Any Other Day that haven’t been heard for a long time, which is strange for that odd strain of post-punk that remains timeless. Ought’s miniature epics peel layers back over time, and there’s never a less-than-fresh moment no matter how many times they’re heard. – PP

Owen Pallett In ConflictOwen PallettIn Conflict

It was fitting that Canadian Owen Pallett got real, live Academy Award acclaim for his part in composing the music score for Her, since few of his generation have as malleable a flair for the cinematic. In Conflict perpetuates Pallett’s completeness as sound sculptor, finding equal amounts of transcendence from live orchestration and keyboards. At the same time, Pallett’s gradual reveal as a personal lyricist brings that grandeur down to eye level in stunning disclosures like “I Am Not Afraid,” “Song For Five & Six” and “The Passions.” It’s a practical law of science that talents as complete as Pallett’s can’t stay obscured from public view for too long.- PP

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Parquet Courts Sunbathing AnimalParquet CourtsSunbathing Animal
(What’s Your Rupture?/Mom+Pop)

As influences go, those of Brooklyn-via-Texas post-punks Parquet Courts are well-worn: Television, Wire, The Velvet Underground, The Fall, etc. And yet, against some pretty mundane odds, what Parquet Courts catalyze those influences into on Sunbathing Animal isn’t just new or novel, it’s a revelation. Few rock ‘n’ roll records in recent memory have found the sweet spot between vintage and modern as easily as Parquet Courts have here, whether it’s the driving punk of “Black and White,” or the dreamy dirge of “Instant Dissasembly.”  – JT

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Perfect Pussy Say Yes to LovePerfect PussySay Yes to Love
(Captured Tracks)

Perfect Pussy may come across initially like just another hardcore punk band, but they aren’t — they’re anything but. Meredith Graves is a ferocious frontwoman who sounds like she’s pissed off about a lot of things. Say Yes To Love is raw and abrasive all throughout — a stunning debut album from an important band that demands to be heard much closely. The only problem with this record is it’s too damn short. – GM

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