50. The Go! Team – Rolling Blackouts
The third album from the Go! Team is slightly more mature, but only slightly. The cheerleader chants are here, the rollerskating rap staples are alive and well, yes, but leader Ian Parton amps up the instrumentals and girl group numbers. There’s more variation, more challenging diversity, more fun. Overall, a satisfying listen from a group determined to build upon a winning formula.
49. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
The title track describes how one feels upon realizing they are not necessarily as unique as they were raised to believe, but rather discovering what machine in the world they want to be a cog for. It’s an all-too real feeling for most people, particularly Generation Y’ers, and not only are Fleet Foxes tackling it lyrically, they’re doing so musically as well, building upon their glorious, harmonious sound. The results may not give any solid answers, but they are rewarding nonetheless.
48. Green Day – Awesome As Fuck
Green Day’s second official live album predictably gives its share of live versions from their latest album, but the middle third is so satisfyingly punk and old skool you can feel the energy eeking out of your speakers. For anyone who’s never seen this band’s full throttle live show, let this serve as a reminder you need to put Green Day on your bucket list.
47. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – S/T
The Internet can provide a perfect sense of anonymity for those who wish to share art, but are a little camera shy. We’ve seen it many times over the years, and we can chalk up UMO as the latest, a band from Portland we knew very little about for a long time. What their art tells us is that they have incredible, hooky potential for the forseeable future. This is a strong, half-hour long, infectious, lo-fi debut.
46. The Decemberists – The King Is Dead
After the conceptual mess that was The Hazards of Love, Colin Meloy has reined it in and gone back to the beginning for this refreshing album. Keeping it short and sweet at 10 tracks in 40 minutes, there’s nothing here to bore. The focus of melody, the natural blending of rock and folk, and the sharpness of Meloy’s voice all blend together for one of the band’s strongest albums in years.
45. Cass McCombs – Wit’s End
Not for the faint of heart, McCombs has outdone himself with despair. If Catacombs was a tribute to loneliness, Wit’s End contains the sounds that inspired the entire concept of loneliness. He has always been one to delve into somber emotions and downtrodden structure, but here McCombs digs the hole further, albeit with his most subtle, subdued, and brilliant songwriting yet.
44. EMA – Past Life Martyred Saints
I’ve mentioned before this album has many different sounds, but you’re just going to have to listen to understand. Never have I heard someone throw so much at the dartboard and hit the bull’s eye so consistently. An album of this ambition usually is dismissed as directionless, but the one theme tying it all together is the raw, unbridled, and unafraid emotion throughout.
43. I Break Horses – Hearts
This is a disc too many people slept on. Incorporating shoegaze, dream-pop, and dense instrumentation, this new band have created a meticulous, enjoyable, and surprisingly precise debut. The flaws here, of which there are few, give a human quality to the grand soundscape the band has made, which only supports the notion I Break Horses are just getting started.
42. Teams vs. Star Slinger – S/T EP
What happens when you get a producer who specializes in ambient sounds and combine him with a rising star, high hat heavy DJ who just wants to make booties shake? One of the most interesting, fun, and repeatable EPs of the year. And definitely booty shaking. Lots of it. The sound texture and beat structure work great together here, and the chosen samples only amplify the enjoyment.
41. Dominique Young Unique – Glamorous Touch Mixtape
Dominique’s been busy, churning out three mixtapes in a year and half. This one, the strongest of her latest two, finds the Florida-bred female rapper spitting her trademark rapid-fire delivery alongside unusual beats and rock-inspired sounds. If Domination was the strong introduction, Glamorous Touch is proof this girl can rap over almost anything. It’s also proof we should keep an eye out for her in the future.