Best Albums of 2014: # 14, 13, 12


14. Mac DeMarco – SALAD DAYS

This 24-year-old Canadian’s “slacker rock” is like something John Lennon and Harry Nilsson would’ve cooked up together forty years ago if they never made it to the bar and holed up in their hotel rooms, strung out on pot more than booze. The opener/title track is nearly worthy of Lennon even as it exudes wisdom while half-wearing a shit-eating grin. The instrumentation abruptly switches over from guitars to old-sounding synths on the album’s second half, but the songwriting rarely wavers. SALAD DAYS ain’t a “great” LP, but it’s inspiring enough you suspect DeMarco will make one sooner rather than later.

Favorite tracks: “Salad Days”, “Passing Out Pieces”, “Chamber of Reflection”


13. Neneh Cherry – BLANK PROJECT

Best known for “Buffalo Stance” twenty-five years ago, Cherry’s flash-in-the-pan status is unearned. On her first domestic solo release in over two decades, as the title suggests, she opts for a sparse palette: percussion, vocals, subtle electronics. Not quite drums n’ bass nor trip-hop in the Portishead sense, these ten minimalist queries place Cherry, who sounds as urgent and personable as she ever did, front and center. Even a high-profile guest such as Robyn doesn’t obscure that, in the most heartfelt since, this is Cherry’s project: solid enough to make up for the time she’s been away and distinct enough to hope this is just the start of a great second act.

Favorite tracks: “Naked”, “Spit Three Times”, “Out of The Black”


12. Sun Kil Moon – BENJI

Whether you find Mark Kozelek’s shenanigans boorish or amusing, they don’t distract from the compellingly raw confessionals on his latest album. His recent shift from character sketches to autobiographical narratives has left some longtime fans scratching their heads, but it’s what moved me to pay more attention to him. His occasional bouts of self-deprecating humor are also something I hadn’t previously noticed in his work (of which I’ve heard only a small fraction of, admittedly), but it renders his often rambling tunes bearable and likable—it also enables him to pull off the breezy lounge pop of “Ben’s My Friend” without seeming like a total cheeseball.

Favorite tracks: “Carissa”, “I Love My Dad”, “Ben’s My Friend”