EMA, The Future's Void

These are the bands that should be topping year-end lists.

In the YouTube era, where anyone with a webcam and a torrented copy of Garageband can hit the Billboard charts, it’s never been easier to independently release new music. But the accessibility provided by the Internet has come with a steep trade-off: It’s also never been easier for great works to go completely unnoticed, lost to the digital dustbins of time.

In January, for example, Forgotify launched to call attention to 4 million Spotify songs—roughly 20 percent of its catalog—that had never been listened to before. “We set out to give these neglected songs another way to reach your ear holes,” the app explained on its About page.

With this compilation, we hope to accomplish something similar. The problem with these types of lists is that they usually err on the side of the obvious, spotlighting at least a few critically acclaimed works that anyone who visited a record store in the past year would know and/or the lesser works of perennial favorites. To avoid such trappings, we set a couple of ground rules: Any album that received Pitchfork’s coveted Best New Music tag was automatically disqualified (with apologies to Ought, Vince Staples, and Angel Olsen), and we had to agree as a group that the record was a notable improvement from the artist’s last release.

We came away with 24 important but slept-on records that merit closer inspection and repeat listens. —Austin Powell

1) Diane Coffee
My Friend Fish (Western Vinyl)

Diane Coffee

Diane Coffee

Western Vinyl

Like the genius of Dennis Wilson buried in the Beach Boys or J. Tillman (Father John Misty) during his Fleet Foxes tenure, Shaun Fleming is best known as the drummer for a far more successful band—L.A. oddballs Foxygen. That should’ve changed with the release of his stunning solo debut under the alias Diane Coffee (or at least his cameo on Run the Jewels’ “Crown”). My Friend Fish is a profoundly weird record, a bedroom kaleidoscope of love and loneliness that pairs Foxygen’s funhouse revivalism with Spiritualized’s euphoria and the arms-wide-open vulnerability of early Girls. 

A former Disney voice actor, Fleming takes a starry-eyed approach to songwriting, wrapping cold-sweat narratives around gospel vibes and bellbottom grooves. (“Never Lonely” is my uncontested favorite song of the year.) Give it three spins; it’ll leave you dizzy and marveling at the fact that Fleming not only played nearly every instrument on the record but recorded it during a brief, two-week stint in an NYC apartment. —Austin Powell

2) Kevin Gates
By Any Means (Breadwinners Association)

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Rap critic Andrew Noz wrote that Kevin Gates “raps like Juvenile trying to crawl out of Chamillionaire’s throat.” An apt fit for the Baton Rouge, La., talent who was projected to turn pop in 2014 but didn’t particularly advance his stock after his XXL Freshman cover. Whereas some guys spent the year strapped to an impending major label debut, Gates is burdened with perpetual product: He’s put out six mixtapes (which are albums but distinguished in name by their lack of a formal record label) in two years. 

His best of the year is By Any Means, a hearty chili bowl of logjammed ideas. It packs adolescent turmoil with literal yet jarring imagery about watching breaking news from a foster home. But it’s mostly a vent for the guy—working in lots of angst about flailing and failing love, from the highs of doing it in an old Excursion to explainer-y talks with his girl to watching the birth of a child via iPhone. He’s a rapper in transition, perfectly happy to keep it real and nod the little things like buying a car and ditching his lease. “I Can’t Make This Up” is his “Juicy”—a gold star, beautiful struggle moment. Gates makes you feel most when he goes into villain mode and raps about the trap with flippant, stacked couplets like, “Dead broke, got mad at it, I’m back stacking, I’m flap-hacking, your flap-rattling.” —Ramon Ramirez

3) Various Artists  
Master Mix: Red Hot + Arthur Russell (Yep Roc)

Arthur Russell

Arthur Russell

Wild Combination

When he died of AIDS in 1992, Arthur Russell was barely known outside of a cadre of eclectic New York artists. His obscurity may have partly been the product of his vast and prolific stylistic interests, ranging from his avant-garde cello compositions to underground disco, the broad sweep of which has lead to his music resurfacing as a major influence on artists in this century. Red Hot’s two-disc tribute compilation attempts to capture all of those facets of the enigmatic artist, and it’s a credit to Russell’s music that it still feels extremely modern and new in the hands of those reimagining his catalogue. 

Jose Gonzalez opens with the quiet ballad “This Is How We Walk on the Moon,” but it’s Robyn’s “Tell You (Today)” and Hot Chip’s dizzying “Go Bang” that drive the dance rhythms upward. Not all the covers challenge the originals, but each offers enough of a compelling take on Russell’s oeuvre to be worthwhile in their own unique ways, from the ballads contributed by Phosphorescent, Devendra Banhart, and Glen Hansard to Blood Orange’s immaculately suave take on “Is It All Over My Face & Tower of Meaning.” A supremely worthy tribute that hopefully exposes Russell’s music to a new generation. —Doug Freeman

4) Nick Waterhouse
Holly (Innovative Leisure Records)

Nick Waterhouse

Nick Waterhouse

Naj Jamal

Angeleno Nick Waterhouse may just be the coolest man in one of America’s coolest cities. Bespectacled, slim, and sartorially sharp, both Waterhouse’s looks and his music—razor-sharp, juke joint R&B—cut to the heart of distilled ‘60s cool. That style reaches its apotheosis on Holly, the singer-songwriter’s immediately captivating sophomore album. At almost exactly 30 minutes, it’s a lean listen, strutting confidently from the jagged guitar licks of “High Tiding” to the boastful horns of “This Is a Game” to the slinky, soulful mourn of “Hands on the Clock.” Throughout, Waterhouse takes a discerning eye to the seedy nocturnal underbelly of modern Los Angeles—he’s named Chinatown as an influence in interviews, and it shows in the album’s cool, critical, noir-inspired remove. —Patrick Caldwell

5) Neneh Cherry
Blank Project (Smalltown Supersound)

Neneh Cherry

Neneh Cherry

Kim Hiorthoy

You might know Neneh Cherry from her ‘80s dance hit “Buffalo Stance,” but the singer’s career has spanned genres and her origin story includes a stint singing with the Slits as a teenager. (She’s also the stepdaughter of legendary jazz trumpeter Don Cherry.) Her sound has always been delightfully unclassifiable, and her first solo album in nearly 20 years, Blank Project, finds her stitching together jazz, funk, R&B, and hip-hop. Produced by Four Tet, Blank Project lifts its rhythmic weight from U.K. synth and drum duo Rocketnumbernine, who allow Cherry the room to free associate and work the nerve raw on the title track and “Weightless.” The Robyn cameo on “Out of the Black” is a dream collaboration, but that track is almost the weakest one on the album.

Cherry’s 2012 LP with Swedish-Norwegian free jazz trio the Thing was also criminally overlooked, but Blank Project pulls from that—and her experimental early ‘80s outfit Rip Rig + Panic—while looking forward. She’s a collaborator in the true jazz sense, and she’s found common ground with Four Tet and Rocketnumbernine; it’s interesting to hear them swirl around the room together. It’s not a “comeback” album as much as an evolution. —Audra Schroeder

6) Dean Wareham
Dean Wareham (Double Feature)

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Dean Wareham has been making daydreamy makeout music since 1987, first as the guitarist for the minimalist but reverb-drenched shoegaze trio Galaxie 500, then as frontman for Luna, those essential indie balladeers of the 1990s, and most recently with his wife Britta Phillips, Luna’s bassist since 2000. Not many musicians wait 27 years to put out solo material, and in the case of the aptly titled Dean Wareham, the patience more than shows: Almost every song is a laid-back, effortless-sounding stunner, frictionless and dusted with fine, foxy melancholy. (Between this and Kevin Drew’s cheeky Darlings, it’s certainly been a big year for silvered dad-rock.)

The best of these tracks, including “Holding Pattern” and “Babes in the Woods,” unspool into noisy, nervy bridges that showcase Wareham’s knack for freestyle form. And even with its typically vague lyrics—“There’s nothing wrong with the road we’re on/Searching, searching, feel the secret of the shining, yeah”—album closer “Happy & Free” could easily replace “Auld Lang Syne” as a wistful New Year’s Eve standard. You know what? There isn’t something in my eye. I’m just feeling emotions I forgot I ever had. —Miles Klee

7) Lace Curtains
A Signed Piece of Paper (Female Fantasy)

Lace Curtains

Lace Curtains

Matador

“What the fuck do i have to do to get out of 3 and a half star purgatory,” Michael Coomers once wrote in a letter to the music editor of the Austin Chronicle, responding to my review of his solo debut as Lace Curtains, 2012’s The Garden of Joy and the Well of Loneliness. He had a point on multiple levels. (For starters, the original rating was an error.) Coomers’ work has always been on the brink of breaking out without ever quite making. His last band, Austin garage-pop romantics Harlem, imploded right when things were starting to look good.

A Signed Piece of Paper, his second solo album, builds on everything that’s come before it. It’s a sobering, disheveled portrait of life slumming in L.A., one step removed from stardom, with little, mundane details adding a rare intimacy (see the slinky R&B of opener “The Fly”), whether he’s looking at photos of Kim Kardashian or listing early Metallica albums. He chronicles his own struggles with the music industry through veiled narratives about Sly Stone (“Boardwalk to the Alps”) and Notorious B.I.G. (“Wilshire and Fairfax”), but even in its darkest moments, there’s a hint of wry humor. “You catch more flies with honey,” he observes in “Crocodile Tears,” “but who wants to catch flies?” It’s four stars. Easy. —Austin Powell

8) Ava Luna 
Electric Balloon (Western Vinyl)

Ava Luna

Ava Luna

Western Vinyl

On their second proper full-length, Brooklyn’s Ava Luna eschewed just enough of the avant-strangeness preoccupying 2012’s Ice Level to settle on a soul-tinged post-punk that would make even the truest David Byrne purist proud. Electric Balloon doesn’t just bounce and sway on the herky-jerk stylings of vocalist Carlos Hernandez and his band (drums, bass, keys, and two backup vocalists), it finds space within the chaos. Think of it as the album in which the quintet stops sounding like a more abrasive Dirty Projectors and actually carves out their own way. 

Credit Hernandez—the spiritual and physical nucleus of the band—for that, sure, but extend just as many accolades towards singers Becca Kauffman and Felicia Douglass, who disown those DP comparisons through subtlety and soul in spaces in which their fellow Brooklynites would’ve tried to knock your socks off. For more of that, check the support squad on “Judy,” as well as the infinitely divine “PRPL,” in which Douglass exhibits the ways in which power can make its way without strength. —Chase Hoffberger

9) David Kilgour and the Heavy Eights  
End Times Undone (Merge)

David Kilgour

David Kilgour

Chris Knox

Though mainly known as the guitarist for the seminal New Zealand band the Clean, those who know understand that David Kilgour has additionally created more than his fair share of compelling works both as a solo artist and with his band the Heavy Eights. End Times Undone is no exception. In fact, it’s hands down one of the best records Kilgour has ever recorded. 

While the Clean remains an ongoing exercise for Kilgour and a continuing influence on a whole new generation of artists, you’d think he’d hang up his gloves and serve up some adult contempo record. Instead, Kilgour continues to push himself further and further, leaving brilliant records lying around like scraps of paper for whomever to listen. With End Times Undone, the artist takes some cues from his finest recordings, lying somewhere between the hazy jangle of 2001’s A Feather in the Engine and the heavy-vibed charm of 1991’s Here Come the Cars. —Randy Reynolds

10) PARTYNEXTDOOR  
PARTYNEXTDOOR 2

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The notion of taking early ‘90s R&B principles and expanding the imagery and texture with caustic, after-hours, purple kush-infused ideas has been an interesting one for a few years now. Drake’s 2011 masterpiece Take Care took the sound mainstream, and Drizzy pulled several fringe collaborators and idea men with him. 

Twenty-one-year-old Mississauga, Canada-born Jahron Anthony Brathwaite (stage name: PARTYNEXTDOOR) is maybe a tad late to the buffet, but his second record PARTYNEXTDOOR 2 (his eponymous debut dropped last year) is beautifully bloated at 18 robust songs. “East Liberty” is synthetic-pumping bass with forward lyrics about rental cars and the motherfucking ocean. Drake shows up on “Recognize”—it’s duty-driven and excellent. The arresting, wait-for-the-drop masterpiece is the stripper-humanizing “SLS.” “Is he balling for you though?” he mansplains to his muse. But songs like T-Pain’s “I’m ‘n Luv (Wit a Stripper)” stop short at the narrator’s self-interested fantasies; on “SLS,” he sees a life and a background story, “Marriage ‘cause girl we came from nothing, she learned that shit just from her older cousin.” —Ramon Ramirez

11) Kero Kero Bonito
Intro Bonito (Double Denim Records)

Kero Kero Bonito

Kero Kero Bonito

Charlotte Rutherford

“Whichever console you play/No matter how many hours a day/I could win at any game/Whether you’re a boy or a girl or a supercomputer,” raps Sarah Bonito on “Sick Beat,” atop a layer of pillowy pop synths and a cannily deployed sample from “Super Mario 64.” That’s quite the throw of the gauntlet, but London trio Kero Kero Bonito backs it up on debut album Intro Bonito, a toweringly catchy fusion of contemporary J-Pop and South London hip-hop. Bonito raps and sings in both Japanese and English as she tackles video gaming as proxy for feminism (“Sick Beat”), the general unpleasantness of infants (“Babies (Are So Strange)”), and the dullness of small towns (“Small Town”). The results are as fascinating as they are occasionally strange. —Patrick Caldwell

12) EMA
The Future’s Void (Matador)

Jason Reed

Erika M. Anderson is a Nine Inch Nails-loving former Oakland, Calif., substitute teacher turned post-blog, post-indie rock bubble small venue headliner. As EMA, she wrote the year’s best record about the Internet. In an interview, EMA said that The Future’s Void is about “the feeling of being online… I was processing what had happened to me over the past years.” Sonically, that sense of dread and digital isolation is nailed with dust-bowl production—layered guitars that warble, paranormal synths, the occasional sullen piano ballad.

You can tell she’s not big on her contemporaries; on highlight “So Blonde,” one that contains a leading rock chorus, EMA’s detached singing snickers, “Let me tell you ‘bout this girl I know. She’s so blonde.” But she barks the “so” with Trent Reznor fury. Her affection for ‘90s NIN is just a jumping-off point (she reportedly almost collaborated with the band’s keyboardist on the album before deciding to build it all herself). What stars here is her centralized, astute songwriting. EMA followed up 2011’s critically acclaimed Past Life Martyred Saints with a navel-gazing passion project, and the best thing she’s done. —Ramon Ramirez

13) Mica Levi
Under the Skin soundtrack (Milan Records)

Mica Levi

Mica Levi

Steve Legere

The opening scene of Under the Skin, Jonathan Glazer’s remake of the novel of the same name, is one of its most striking. It’s a creation story, in which Scarlett Johansson’s nameless alien assumes the identity of a lifeless woman and appears on Earth. We’re never told why she’s there, which makes her subsequent stalking and harvesting of men even more unsettling. The mood is set by the score of composer Mica Levi—singer of U.K. group Micachu & the Shapes—who keeps the tension perverse throughout, heavy-lidded, pitch-shifted strings accenting every unsettling scene. (See 2011’s live recording Chopped & Screwed for a hint of those strings.)

The film is heavy on visuals but not dialogue, and Levi’s score tries to fill in the wordless dread. The soundtrack’s standout is “Love,” however, which floats above a scene in which Johansson’s alien experiences the titular emotion, but not for long. In a piece for the Guardian, Levi explained they “were looking at the natural sound of an instrument to try and find something identifiably human in it, then slowing things down or changing the pitch of it to make it feel uncomfortable. There was a lot of talk of perverting material. It does sound creepy, but we were going for sexy.” The soundtrack manages to be both. —Audra Schroeder

14) Owl John Owl John (Atlantic)

Owl John

Owl John

Atlantic

Scott Hutchison, the face of anthemic sad-sackers and cult favorites Frightened Rabbit, found himself at a crossroads early this year, around the end of a long tour. “I thought we were going to … go straight back into writing another album, and the guy at the label knew things weren’t really quite right,” Hutchison told Interview. “He basically was like, ‘We’ll pay for this record. Go away, make a record and indulge yourself.’”

The result is a solo project called Owl John, and while the first tracks released under that moniker don’t fully depart from the chiming, rain-streaked morbidity of Hutchison’s main act, they represent a subtle sonic shift. Take the sinister electronic pulse that emerges two-thirds of the way through “Ten Tons of Silence” or the phaser-like distortion of the pokerfaced “Hate Music,” and it’s clear that this dude is inching his way toward an atmospheric songcraft that doesn’t rely on high melodrama or a meaty Scottish brogue to make its bruising mark. —Miles Klee

15) Mary Gauthier
Trouble & Love (In the Black)

Mary Gauthier

Mary Gauthier

All Eyes Media

 Although she didn’t begin songwriting until she was 35, Mary Gauthier quickly garnered critical acclaim with her sophomore 1999 album, Drag Queens in Limousines. All of Gauthier’s work wrangles autobiographically from the New Orleans orphan’s troubled and distinguished life, which often leaves stellar albums like 2010’s The Foundling too solipsistic to be universally relatable. Trouble & Love finds the right balance, however—deeply personal and raw with emotion but relatable as only a tortured heartbreak album can be.

At times defiant, hurt, cold, bitter, and desperate, the LP chronicles Gauthier’s emergence following a ruptured relationship but with unflinchingly steeled awareness and introspection. The sparse, rootsy accompaniment allows her twang to carry every hint of hurt and resolve, through the brutal “How You Learn to Live Alone” to the glimmer of hope in closer “Another Train.” Gauthier may never achieve mainstream popularity, but with Trouble & Love, she’s crafted one of the great and timeless heartbreak albums of our time. —Doug Freeman

16) SZA Z (Top Dawg Entertainment)

Top Dawg Entertainment posse-stringer SZA humbled her brethren (especially Kendrick Lamar) with her painfully underrated debut, Z. It’s belittling and damaging to use “female-fronted” in rock writing because that is not a genre of music, but it’s important to hat tip the bevy of women in R&B putting out not just gorgeously voiced work with bold, oddball production, but music that offers sharply lived in and compelling African-American perspectives (Mapei, Azalea Banks, Tinashe, and Kelela have all been killing it).

SZA (real name Solana Rowe) is a 24-year-old former marine biology student, bartender, and Sephora makeup sales representative. Her music masks the past with synthesizer dance jams like “Julia,” but the day glow of bored afternoons playing Nintendo between miserable shifts shines bright here. On “Child’s Play,” guest Chance the Rapper gets excited about taking an Uber to his neighbor’s place. SZA lulls with her textbook voice, and lands blows about love with words like, “Type A personality, just dumb enough to lie to me.” —Ramon Ramirez

17) Sleaford Mods
Divide and Exit (Harbinger Sound)

Sleaford Mods

Sleaford Mods

Simon Parfrement

British duo Sleaford Mods are refreshingly blunt on their latest album, Divide and Exit. Singer Jason Williamson gasps through each song, spitting minimalist poetry about “St. George’s flag twats” and other colorfully sharp barbs. There’s not much in the way of harmony, chorus, or hooks, and yet there’s something that loops you in. Comparisons to the Fall have already been cast, but Williamson and beatmaker Andrew Fearn don’t seem concerned with them. Williamson has more modern targets in his sights, like “complete arseholes” Kasabian. “You’re Brave” is nearly a taunt, Williamson chanting over an electronic beat as he calls some wanker a “tit rifle.” Indeed, much of the album feels like a dare, and perhaps that’s the appeal. Skip straight to the canned laughter of “Liveable Shit” for proof. —Audra Schroeder

18) The Greyhounds
Accumulator (Ardent Records)

The Greyhounds

The Greyhounds

Facebook

Years spent backing JJ Grey & Mofro meant that Austinites Andrew Trube and Anthony Farrell could only employ their funked up Greyhounds as an auxiliary outfit when they’d come in from the road. That is, until Ardent Studios came calling in 2013. The longstanding Memphis cornerstone was launching an imprint and wanted Trube and Farrell’s help opening it up. Thus came Accumulator, the first of three albums for the label, an 11-track effort released in early April. 

The album doesn’t contain any new material—it’s material scraped from previous DIY releases repurposed into a pseudo greatest hits collection—but it does pack plenty of punch. Note the cooled-out lead single “What’s on Your Mind” and dangerously slow burn of “Yours to Steal,” two tracks retooled from 2011 EP Spring Training, or the sweet Hammond B3 sounds Farrell pushes through the fat funk of “You’re Gone.” The organist and accompanying guitarist’s chemistry is palpable (check “Get Back”) and laced with humor (“Amazing”), subtlety (“All Over But the Shoutin’”), and more than enough soul. Together, they’ve parlayed a side gig into a run this summer with Tedeschi Trucks Band and dished up an exemplary primer for a new batch of material soon to come. —Chase Hoffberger

19) Reigning Sound
Shattered (Merge)

Greg Cartwright

Greg Cartwright

Kyle Dean Reinford

It’s one thing to release a criminally overlooked album. It’s quite another to make a career out of them. Greg Cartwright is the best songwriter you can’t name three records by, a pillar of the Memphis punk scene, known for his time in the incomparable (and recently reunited) Oblivians, the Compulsive Gamblers, and his work on Mary Weiss’ 2007 comeback record, Dangerous Game. (This Spotify primer should really be a 2-LP greatest hits collection.)

The secret to his songwriting with Reigning Sound has been its immediacy and malleability, the way the same songs can be construed as girl-group pop, bleary-eyed country, or R&B scorchers, dependent on the night and/or album. He does a little bit of everything here, but while he could fill a jukebox with his tales of eternal teenage angst and brash heartbreak, Shattered ultimately finds Cartwright eager to pick up the pieces from a struggling relationship and try again—a fleeting desperation best captured in the bittersweet “Once More.” And he’s all the better for it. —Austin Powell

20) Steve Gunn  
Way Out Weather (PoB)

Steve Gunn

Steve Gunn

Constance Mensh

Beginning in 2005 as a member of GHQ, no one probably including Steve Gunn could have imagined the important work he’d be pulling off as a songwriter in 2014. Though 2008’s Sundowner did show Gunn stepping out into vocals, it wasn’t until 2013’s Time Off that Gunn made the plunge into full singer-songwriter mode. Not unlike Michael Chapman’s Window, the tight trio setting of Gunn, Tripp, and Truscinski created a whirlpool of folk, psych, and loner auras not heard in ages.

On Way Out Weather, Gunn continues his homespun strain of folk, psych, and loner-isms but with a larger group of players that help to create a truly captivating ideal of Americana without all the Dylan nods and mod production so many records continue to suffer from. The unity heard and felt within each composition and how harmonious it is as a whole is nothing short of brilliant. —Randy Reynolds

21) Timber Timbre
Hot Dreams (Arts & Crafts)

Timbre Timber

Timbre Timber

Arts & Crafts

With 2011’s Creep On Creepin’ On, Canada’s Timber Timbre laced their dark atmospherics with a touch of soulful pop, creating a beautiful otherworldly soundscape. Hot Dreams keeps that sense of gentle melody but dives more deeply into experimental and psychedelic sounds that seem to meld Richard Hawley with Daniel Lanois. Frontman Tyler Kirk’s low, mournfully seductive vocals roll out languorously and full of a building dread in the vein of Kurt Wagner. Hot Dreams is at turns disturbing, almost apocalyptic, as it unsettlingly winds through genres, from twisted spaghetti Western guitar tones on “Bring Me Simple Men” to the cosmic lounge of “Grand Canyon,” which feels drawn from some ominously ethereal soundtrack. Timber Timbre slowly draws you into their warped world until suddenly you find yourself irrecoverably through the glass darkly. —Doug Freeman

22) Alvvays
Alvvays (Polyvinyl)

Alvvays

Alvvays

Jess Baumung

None of the weapons in Alvvays’ arsenal are especially unique. On the Toronto quintet’s self-titled debut, you’ll find reverb-laced, analogue-sounding production, sunny surf rock licks, and a whole lot of songs about longing. It’s a sound that says California more than it says Canada—think Best Coast, Girls, or Vivian Girls, and you’re well on your way. But while the tools may not be new, they’ve hardly ever been more skillfully employed. Alvvays is a pop marvel, careening from the wonderfully wistful “Archie, Marry Me” to the tuneful sorrow of “Next of Kin” to the gentle bob of “Red Planet.” If the mark of great pop music is its emotional immediacy, then Alvvays, with singer Molly Rankin’s immensely gripping croon an especially strong asset, may have just made the best pop record of the year. —Patrick Caldwell

23) Amen Dunes  
Love (Sacred Bones)

Amen Dunes

Amen Dunes

Sacred Bones

This is the record Damon McMahon was destined to make. After years of toiling in the avant-folk scene, focusing primarily on more improvisational works, the Brooklyn-based songwriter worked with members of Bon Iver, Iceage, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor to flesh out and fully capture his fleeting visions as Amen Dunes. His fourth record under the alias, Love, swings like a pendulum from the haunting fatalism of Nico to the loner pop melancholy of Daniel Johnston. It’s a work of shadows and revelations, all wooden floor creaks and warbled trembling. If you’re not gripped by “Lonely Richard,” just skip this altogether. It isn’t for you.

“I really feel like this is my Astral Weeks, or something,” McMahon told Spin. “I wanted it to be a huge record. I think I achieved that.” —Austin Powell

24) Spray Paint Clean Blood, Regular Acid (Monofonus Press)

Spray Paint

Spray Paint

Strange Victory Touring

Trio Spray Paint, assembled from the phantom limbs of Austin punk-noise band When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth, have pieced together the perfect ode to Texas as an altered state with Clean Blood, Regular Acid. The songs hinge on the tandem chants and riffs of George Dishner and Cory Plump, propelled along by drummer Chris Stephenson, and there’s a bit of the repetitive chaos of fellow Texas groups like Rusted Shut here (“Cussin”), as well as echoes of early ‘80s Sonic Youth (“Rest Versus Rust”).

It’s a love letter to Texas punk past, present, and future (and apparently, “Texas Talking Powder”), but anyone with a penchant for heavy rhythms will be able to find solace. They’ve also got some pretty legit fans. Check out Plump’s track-by-track commentary for Stereogum for the origin stories of several of the album’s songs: “If my memory serves me I believe we started jamming on the drumbeat of Sonic Youth’s ‘Shaking Hell’ and ended up with this.” —Audra Schroeder 

Photo via Matador Records