31. Milky Chance – Sadnecessary
The best thing about Milky Chance, and what makes them deserving of a spot on this list, is by far the vocal stylings of Clemens Rehbein. Even though “Stolen Dance” has come to be one of the most popular and recognizable songs on the radio, “Flashed Junk Mind” and “Stunner” are works of art. Not only are the vocals unique and recognizable, but the instrumentation is a combination of jazz and modern alt/pop-rock in a way that sounds unlike anything else to come out this year.
32. Ex Hex – Rips
Ex Hex is perhaps the most exciting new band to emerge this year. While Mary Timony, Besty Wright, and Laura Harris are already veterans in the Washington D.C. music scene, they have truly struck gold with this recent project. Rips shows the potential of basic rocking, with the trio performing with only the essentials: guitar, bass, drums. Between the three of them, Ex Hex may appear to have a simple structure, but each musician is talented enough that, in performance, they succeed at sounding like a much larger and more complex band. I have nothing against aging rockers, but it is worth noting that the entire album carries so much youthful energy that it is really easy to forget that the band members are middle-aged.
33. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
Despite spending a decade or so honing his particular brand of disco/electronic music through live shows, singles and various guest appearances, Norwegian producer Todd Terje released his debut album just this year. The aptly titled It’s Album Time combines singles from Terje’s past work with some new content to create one of the best electronic records of the year. It’s the sonic equivalent of the umbrella in your cocktail: cheesy, fun and sure to bring a smile to your face. If you pick up one electronic album this year, make it this one and dance your heart out.
34. First Aid Kit – Stay Gold
After a two year break from releasing any full length album, the Swedish sister duo with haunting harmonies, First Aid Kit, is back with even more angelic vocals. While the harmonies on Stay Gold still nod towards their Fleet Foxes influence, this time around they’re veering towards an alternative country-western feel, especially in the title track “My Silver Lining” and “Master Pretender” complete with lap steel. But some songs are simply to highlight the beautiful partnership these singers have and the sounds they resonate together, like in “Shattered and Hallow.” This album emphasizes how far the two have come since the early days of online recognition, to now sharing their beautiful sound with more and more eager listeners.
35. Aphex Twin – Syro
It may be difficult for college-age listeners to fully appreciate the footprint that Aphex Twin left on electronic music in the 90’s, simply because the majority of us weren’t listening to electronic dance music in kindergarten. The simplest way to put it is that Richard D. James, the man behind Aphex Twin (and SO many other pseudonyms) basically reinvited electronic dance music. He fused techno with ambient, breakbeats with industrial, and in doing so earned himself recognition as one of the most important innovators of electronic music in history. The beauty of Syro is that it feels no pressure to keep trying to change the game. Before Syro, the most recent Aphex Twin album, drukQs came out in 2001, putting 13 years of silence between releases. That’s 13 years that James could have spent formulating the next big direction shift, but instead Syro sounds a lot like Aphex Twin sounded 13 years ago, only this time it’s even more fresh and interesting. Not once does the music sound laborious, despite its meticulously designed layers of buzzes, hums, kicks, snares, synths, and texts. Syro is as organic as an electronic composition can be and more than enough reason for James to kick back and know that he’s still got it.
36. Cloud Nothings – Here and No Where Else
This year, the punk trio Cloud Nothings released their third studio album and fourth album overall as a band, and this time have really hit a solid mix on their noise-rock post hard-core sound. This album steps away from the beginnings of the group as a solo project and brought out other members showing their unique contribution to the music, something that was often only seen as a live aspect for this band. So if you didn’t catch wind of this release earlier, check out their album Here and No Where Else.
37. Tweedy – Sukierae
I will always have a soft spot in my heart for everything that comes from the creative mind of Jeff Tweedy. His new outfit, consisting of himself and his son Spencer on drums, was one of his most personal works to date. This album focused a lot on Jeff’s relationship with his sons and more importantly his wife who, when writing and recording, was fighting cancer. For Jeff Tweedy and Wilco fans, this album is a must-listen.
38. Foxygen – …And Star Power
Before this year, if you asked me what I expected from a follow up to We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, I would say I was hopeful but realistic. Indie bands that explode on musical radars quickly seem to fade from memory as quickly as they enter it. Luckily, …And Star Power proved that Foxygen is more than a one-and-done follow-up. Clocking in at just over 82 minutes, it’s chock full of of Sam France’s antics, which is both a blessing and a major annoyance. With no major singles like “No Destruction” or “San Francisco,” …And Star Power is inherently inaccessible, especially due to its length. After a couple of listens (if you have that amount of time), however, it becomes apparent that the album is more of a cohesive whole, with interludes intact. In a world where that is becoming increasingly rarefied, Foxygen succeeds.
39. Tycho – Awake
Like how minimalist and tasteful the cover is, Tycho’s album Awake is the ultimate compilations of futuristic and modern instrumental music. Hailing from San Francisco, Tycho has emerged as an artist who can truly create dreamlike visuals through the music he produces. His music can be branded as a modern, fresh, and clean approach to electronic ambient music. His latest album reflects on how he masterfully retains the consist theme of guitar with steady tempo of drums throughout his album, which are the most prominent in songs like “Awake”, “Apogee”, and “Spectre”. However, even with these the backbone of the guitar and drums, each song give off a unique vibe, depending on the tempo and what synth Tycho injects. What else can you expect from this album is surprise. It’s melodic and beautiful and the layering creates elegant soundscapes that warmly envelop the listeners ear while the album runs its course.
40. Broken Bells – After the Disco
Ever since the Broken Bells released first self-titled album in 2010, I listened to it nonstop for several months. What more can a girl ask for than a collaboration between The Shin’s lead singer James Mercer and the renowned music producer Danger Mouse, who has previously worked with artists like Jack White and Gorillaz. After the Disco is the duo’s latest creation, and the four-year wait for a new release was definitely worth it. Songs like “Holding on the Light” and “Control” displays a more retro sounding side to this project with spunky bass and jazzy sounds. Also After the Disco seems to be more moody, nodding to bittersweet songs like “The Angel and the Fool”.