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The 40 Best Albums of 2014 So Far

July 01, 2014

10. Temples | Sun Structures

For the top ten, an explanation seems necessary, so coming in at number ten is the debut effort from the newest English psych rockers, Temples. Released back in February, Sun Structures harkens back to The Beatles' Revolver-era with a psychedelic sound rooted in classic rock and roll songwriting.

Essential Tracks: "Shelter Song," "Keep in the Dark," "Mesmerize"

9. Woods | With Light and With Love

Woods' most polished album in their nearly ten-year career cracks the top ten. With Light and With Love finds a band maturing far beyond their years as the group exudes a certain confidence with their craft as they work through their eighth record. Surely, things still get weird, particularly on the nine-minute title track, so fear not. Full review.

Essential Tracks: "Shepherd," "New Light," "Moving to the Left"

8. Warpaint | Warpaint

Warpaint's second studio effort comes in at number eight as one of the very best of the first half of the year. Throughout the 12-track album, the quartet dabbles in the ethereal world of indie rock while exploring the outer boundaries of the psychedelic world. Read our full review here.

Essential Tracks: "Disco//Very," "Drive," "Love is to Die"

7. The String Cheese Incident | Song In My Head

String Cheese certainly came out swinging with their first album in nine years. Pairing up with Talking Heads' Jerry Harrison, the band delivered a collection of tunes they had road-tested over the years.

Song in My Head runs the emotional and stylistic gamut from the joyful, rolling newgrass of Bill Nershi’s “Colorado Bluebird Sky” to the urgency and searching of Michael Kang’s Latin-dosed “Betray The Dark” to the nimble energy of “Rosie.” Here's the full review.

Essential Tracks: "Colorado Bluebird Sky," "Let's Go Outside," "Rosie"

6. Jack White | Lazaretto

After the more delicate Blunderbuss, rock's guitar god opted for an album that displayed just that. From the instrumental "High Ball Stepper" to "Would You Fight For My Love?" which could've easily found itself on a White Stripes record, White is on a tear with his equally-talented band. Clocking in at just under 40-minutes, Lazaretto gets right to the point and maintains its aggressiveness from the very first note.

Essential Tracks: "Lazaretto," "Would You Fight For My Love?," "Just One Drink"

5. Cloud Nothings | Here and Nowhere Else

Easily the most pleasant surprise of the year, Cloud Nothings' fourth album is quite possibly the most powerful of the year in the world of (indie) rock. The Cleveland rockers generate the same type of power as a trio that Cobain, Novoselic and Grohl used to as grunge was on the rise. With Cloud Nothings, that sound is alive and very, very well.

Essential Tracks: "Now Hear In," "Quieter Today," "I'm Not Part of Me"

4. Umphrey's McGee | Similar Skin

It’s ironic that a bunch of guys who grew up worshipping Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls would make a record that their rival Detroit Pistons (nicknamed “The Bad Boys”) would have loved. That’s what Umphrey’s McGee have here with their eighth studio album. A heavy, unapologetic, rock-and-roll exhibition from start to finish that will have speakers everywhere trembling in fear for what is the Chicago sextet’s strongest work to date.

Full review.

Essential Tracks: "Cut the Cable," "Puppet String," "Hourglass"

3. The War on Drugs | Lost In The Dream

On their third LP Lost in the Dream, War on Drugs frontman Adam Granduciel may as well have locked himself in the studio withDarkness on the Edge of Town and a bag of pot. Call it Daydream Springsteen: under that cloud of hazy, effected guitar, clattering piano and buzzing saxophone, there’s Granduciel searching for truth, his speech-singing delivery every bit as percussive as the steady beat.

Read the full Lost in the Dream review here.

Essential Tracks: "Red Eyes," "Under the Pressure," "An Ocean in Between the Waves"

2. Real Estate | Atlas

Recorded in the studio that birthed some of Wilco's finest works, Real Estate's Atlas finds the band once again straddling the line between a buttoned-up indie rock band and a free-willing jamband in the best ways imaginable. Melodic, gorgeous and never once directionless, this album will get plenty of spins from the months of October-February.

Real Estate chatted with us about the origins of Atlas prior to the release of the record. Read the full interview here.

Essential Tracks: "Had to Hear," "Talking Backwards," "Crime"

1. Beck | Morning Phase

Beck's first album in six years ranks as our best of 2014 thus far. Few albums released this year rival the storytelling the singer/songwriter accomplished with this thirteen-track effort. He very well may have the song of the year in "Blue Moon" as well.

For a guy who built his reputation on the self-deprecating "Loser" and "Where It's At," the shift to a more delicate mood was a high risk high reward decision. And here he is, reaping the reward. Read our review here.

Essential Tracks: "Morning," "Blue Moon," "Blackbird Chain"

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Comments

I feel like this is just a list of bands we’ve all heard of that have put out an album this year.

By Dude. - 07/02/14

Benmont Tench - “You Should Be So Lucky”

 

By D - 07/02/14

I have not listened to every album on the list but I have heard the new albums from moe. Umphrey’s McGee and CRB and I like all three of them. Ryan Adams and Counting Crows have new albums coming out in the fall. I’ve heard new songs from both Ryan Adams and Counting Crows and really like what I’ve heard so far. Should be great.

By Peace Love And Music - 07/02/14

Surprised that Ray Lamontagne’s Supernova failed to make the cut. Also thought Seun Kuti and the Egypt 80’s new album deserved mention.

By Ryan - 07/02/14

I’ve compiled these into a playlist for your listening pleasure.
http://music.xbox.com/playlist/relix-best-40/aba82f9e-8078-00fe-1002-f17fbc3f64d1?action=play

Here are a few Albums that made my top 40 that didn’t hit here:
Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe: New Ammo
Snarky Puppy: We Like It Here
Miles Davis: Live at the Fillmore 1970
Brad Mehldau: Mehliana Taming the Dragon
Gramatik: Age of Reason
Beth Hart & Joe Bonamassa: Live in Amsterdam
SoulJazz Orchestra: Inner Fire
Les Claypool’s Duo de Twang: Four foot Shack
Nick Moss: Time Ain’t Free

By JungleJon - 07/02/14

St. Vincent needs to be on this list.

By kglnyc - 07/02/14

Temples and Warpaint shouldn’t be anywhere near this top 10.

By Andrew G - 07/02/14

There are some genuinely bad albums on this list.

By Bumblaster - 07/02/14

Uh, FUTURE ISLANDS….

By J - 07/02/14

Elbow’s Takeoff and Landing of Everything is so fully realized - definitely should be on here…...

By Geoffrey Little - 07/02/14

ditto elbow

By sean c - 07/14/14

The String Cheese album has warmed over bad disco. How can that be in the top 10? There are some good songs by Billy and Kieth on it, but 1/2 the album is just filler and throw away material.

By Doug - 07/16/14

Um…..St. Vincent….....?

By Brian - 07/20/14

I personally would have Wigout At Jagbags as #1.  I also agree with the calls for St. Vincent to have been included.

By @bryontreece - 07/21/14

It’s Warpaint’s 3rd Album.

By Ben - 07/22/14

No Old 97s?  Your suspect.

By Sam Ruskin - 09/26/14

Most of your suggestions are plain crap; - no! almost all of dem…

By chungaman - 10/13/14

Nels Cline Singers - MACROSCOPE
MSMW - Juice
The Budos Band -
Rubblebucket
John Coltrane - Offering: Live at Temple University

By Marcus O'Crawfish - 10/30/14

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