This year, the WPGU 107.1 music staff sat down to determine the best albums of the year in alternative music. We’ll be counting down ten albums every day this week, revealing our top ten on Friday. On Saturday we’ll have our honorable mention list, where our staff writer’s will reveal their personal favorites that didn’t make the list, including those from other genres, like the rap and jazz world, that weren’t eligible for this list. Think we missed something? Think something should be higher? Let us know in the comments!
50 – Say Anything – Anarchy, My Dear
If one band is still doing something unique in pop-punk, it’s Say Anything. The songs frontman Max Bemis wrote for Anarchy, My Dear, his band’s 4th LP, represent a positive turn in his life, but positivity does nothing to take away from the emotional draw of his music. “If you’re the sun I’m a black hole/There must be something in the way you burn that makes me lose control,” he sings, or rather, screams, with strained vocal chords on the album’s seven and a half minute-long closing track “My Stephen Hawking.” Spinning stories and metaphors into emotionally charged pop-punk songs is what Bemis does best, and it is also what he does on this record.
Written by Maddie Rehayem
49 – Porcelain Raft- Strange Weekend
Strange Weekend is an album that wears its influences on its sleeves. Its combination of shoegaze and dream pop lead to inevitable comparisons to My Bloody Valentine and M83, but Mauro Remiddi still manages to create compelling pop tunes that each build their own lonely world. The song writing is excellent and elevates the album from an average pop record to an album worth returning to for multiple listens.
Written by Eric Holmes
48 – Smashing Pumpkins – Oceania
This might be Billy and his crew’s best work this decade. The guitar-rock sound gets kicked out of the studio, while a more elaborate, almost orchestral sound gets ushered in. Billy may have been in the news a lot this year bashing other musicians, but don’t forget he’s not just a talking head and can still make good music.
Written by Stanton Polanski
47 – Animal Collective-Centipede Hz
Animal Collective’s ninth studio album is just as enthralling and psychedelic as could be expected. It continues their pattern of trippy albums, and it reminds listeners of the value of an album as a whole piece of art. Also in line with past albums, Centipede Hz’s lyrics are aggressive at times, and heartbreakingly tender at other times. “Applesauce” is one of the most likeable songs of the year; it may even be one of the most memorable songs that Animal Collective has written to date.
Written by Claire Schroeder
46 – Muse – The 2nd Law
The 2nd Law begins with a blare of guitars and percussion that give away to Matthew Bellamy’s quiet voice, from the beginning letting fans know that Muse’s new album will continue what they do best–the dynamic back and forth of huge and small sounds, something that made this album great. Second track “Madness” was a highlight of the year, that surprised fans and newcomers with how good it wove together synth, vocals, and huge guitar riffs. Closing tracks, which pay homage to the second law of thermodynamics, were perhaps the best instrumentals of the year, something else Muse consistently makes marvelously.
Written by David Christians
45 – Avett Brothers – The Carpenter
Sure, this year’s Avett Brothers record didn’t match the legendary nature of Emotionalism or I and Love and You, but it still was original in its own right. Up until now, pretty much every album released by this North Carolina-based group was legendary. While The Carpenter was not, it was still one of the best folk/alt-country albums of the year.
Written by Boswell Hutson
44 – Pond – Beard, Wives, Denim
If you like Tame Impala, there’s a strong chance you will like this band – because it’s basically just the members of Tame Impala playing different instruments. I checked out some of the SXSW clips and it looks like they killed it. The energetic sound fits the singer’s style, as he spent a lot of the set singing while in the crowd.
Written by Stanton Polanski
43 – The Lumineers – The Lumineers
This debut album for these Mumford & Sons-ish Americans gave us a round of songs to stomp our feet to. Though not packing an incredibly original sound, the Lumineers showed they know how to make catchy songs. This is most strongly evidenced by “Ho Hey,” the song everyone turns up when it comes on the radio.
Written by Charlie Weller
42 – of Montreal – Paralytic Stalks
A vast shift from its glitzy, soulful predecessor False Priest (2010), Paralytic Stalks was an important album for Kevin Barnes. With its combination of psychotic orchestrals, gritty lyrics and seemingly ever-deepening oceans of sound, the album redefined, yet again, the band’s image while still quoting its past. Barnes unabashedly shows his darker side in this collection of anthems and, though it may taste funny at first, I recommend trying giving it a few chances before judging. The first five tracks, back to back, are my favorite.
Written by Lise Graham
41 – Lana Del Rey – Born To Die
Despite the criticism Lana Del Rey received over the last year (yes, we all saw her on SNL and no, we no longer care), “Born to Die” is one of the most refreshing and innovative pop albums we’ve heard in a while. Her jazzy vocals, melancholy lyrics, and hip-hop inspired beats make for an interesting and captivating album. Like her or not, Lana’s not going anywhere anytime soon.
Written by Erika Harwood