9. Future Islands - Singles
Future Island frontman Samuel T. Herring wins the award for most compelling onstage performer in 2014, bounding across the stage with the operatic bombast of a man impassioned, while simultaneously gyrating every inch of his body awkwardly -- each spasm perfectly ill timed.
There's an element of everyman about him, like one of disillusioned young men from '60s English kitchen sink dramas -- behind the fragile bravado and chest thumping, not all seems well. Somehow, it works.
Like Herring's on stage persona, Future Islands' soulful '80s synth pop is awkward, unorthodox, can be brittle and cold. However, it is original, authentic, and absolutely absorbing. Their fourth album Singles exudes all of this and then some.
8. Ratking - So It Goes
Ratking shatter the gilded mediocrity of mainstream hip-hop, and with punk-like distain for the status quo, explore the dark underbelly of a post Bloomberg New York.
Amidst the shiny exteriors of million dollar listings, with verbal dexterity, this Harlem based trio assures us that it is still a city of cheap hustlers, hopeless addicts, and police brutality.
Lyrically dense, with beats that flit between woozy synths and jarring reverb, this is a record that demands to be listened to.
7. Caribou - Our Love
EDM's explosion over the past few years in the United States has seen the genre grow bloated and stodgy, corporate, bland, and mind-numbingly predictable. In this suffocating malaise, it's reassuring to know that acts like Caribou are still putting out records that are consistently brilliant.
This year's Our Love continues a wonderful run the Canadian has been on for over a decade now. His new release is at times brazenly euphoric, overflowing with sumptuous melodies, nagging hooks, and studio wizardry that proves there is still plenty of room for subtlety, creativity and the unexpected in dance music.
6. Gruff Rhys - American Interior
Apparently, Gruff Rhys' fourth solo outing, American Interior, is inspired by an 18th century explorer who tried in vain to find a Welsh-speaking native American tribe along the Missouri (there's an app, film, and book too).
Such a weighty concept may have buried lesser mortals than the Super Furry Animals frontman. Not so here. Like a psychedelic Lewis and Clark, American Interiors takes history, myth, and nationhood and spins them into an engrossing record, full of the same wit and other worldliness of the Super Furries, while weaving a story that is both tragic and bizarre.