10. The White Buffalo - Shadows, Greys, & Evil Ways
The album is a narrative about a couple named Joe & Jolene. With a voice that's a cross between Eddie Vedder and Cat Stevens, Jake Smith uses the story to tackle the topics of young love, PTSD, and forgiveness.
9. Lissie - Back to Forever
Lissie Maurus avoids the sophomore slump entirely with this stylistically diverse pop record, which ranges from the Fleetwood Mac flutter of "Sleepwalking" to the riot grrrl rawk of "Shameless" to the piano ballad title track.
8. The Flaming Lips - The Terror
It wasn't until seeing the FLips on the muddy banks of the mighty Mississippi that I was able to truly appreciate this album's horrifying bewitchery. Those looking for Yoshimi singalongs will be disappointed, but it is infinitely better than both Embryonic and Heady Fwends.
7. Broken Anchor - Fresh Lemonade
It would've been even higher on the list if six of the songs hadn't been recycled from previous EPs. Although, with the addition of "Canada," their catchiest song yet, it'd be a crime not to put it on. (Learn the story behind "Canada" in my podcast interview with Broken Anchor.)
6. Generationals - Heza
Not really what you'd expect from a NOLA band, but it's a laid-back summer spin. Put it on at the end of the barbecue when your mouth's full of s'mores and your head's full of dreams.
5. Phoenix - Bankrupt!
The four Frenchmen return with a more cohesive effort than Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. It's a little darker than their previous records, suggesting an emotional depth that will hopefully stick around for their next release.
4. Daft Punk - Random Access Memories
Like nearly every critic in the country, I was smitten with the warm analog electro-R&B of the band's long-awaited fifth LP. The live instrumentation results in the most sentient offer from the robots, proving that they are in fact, human after all. While the longer tracks "Giorgio by Moroder" and "Touch" are the album's most challenging, they also provide its best moments.
3. Goldspot - Aerogramme
Siddhartha Khosla mined his family's history from his father's unsent letters on napkins to his own childhood days spent in India to create a biographical work of art. Chock full of instruments rarely heard in pop music on this continent, it's a feast for the ears. Throw out your copy of Modern Vampires of the City, and replace it with this. (Hear Sidd discuss the origins of several of the album's songs on my podcast.)
2. The Postelles - ...And It Shook Me
It may have all the hooks of a perfect summer album, but make sure to bring the tear-free sunscreen 'cause some of the songs have an underlying sense of melancholy. Also beware, the hooks have barbs. You won't be able to get them out of your head.
1. Man Man - On Oni Pond
The faintly familiar brass and woodwind introduction eases you in, but it's all a ruse. Once the organ blasts open the wonderfully weird "Pink Wonton" featuring spy movie guitar riffs and Chinese backup singers, you know damn well it's a Man Man album. There's not a dud in the bunch either. "Head On" is a radio hit, "Fangs" deserves a spot on your Halloween playlist, and "Paul's Grotesque" contains the grooviest jam of the year. After I listen to it once, all I want to do is listen again.