Best Albums of 2014: # 20, 19, 18

jenny lewis

20. Jenny Lewis – THE VOYAGER

In a year where Christine McVie rejoined Fleetwood Mac and last year’s debut album from Haim remained a constant presence on my MP3 player, Lewis picked the perfect moment to return. Her first record since 2008 is her most concise and well-crafted, with an emphasis on the latter—her voice was arguably made for this most unapologetically glossy, sunshiny California pop. With plenty of astute character sketches (“Late Bloomer”) and refreshingly candid self-critiques (“She’s Not Me”), she avoids the shallow end of the pool and surfaces a veteran with much to say.

Favorite tracks: “Head Underwater”, “She’s Not Me”, “Late Bloomer”


19. Erasure – THE VIOLET FLAME

With EDM now becoming the validated genre ‘90s “electronica” never was, this venerable duo’s ’80s synth-pop doesn’t seem as dated as it did ten or twenty years ago. In other words, with their massive influence finally, openly acknowledged, they’re in an ideal place to take a victory lap, and they’ve done just that on their 16th album: their most consistent since NIGHTBIRD, boasting at least a couple of melodies strong enough to stand tall with their greatest hits. As an added bonus, Andy Bell’s voice continues to deepen exquisitely with age.

Favorite tracks: “Reason”, “Be The One”, “Paradise”


18. Owen Pallett – IN CONFLICT

Although not the first to juxtapose alternately pastoral and rambunctious string sections against electronic laptop soundscapes (Bjork did it 17 years ago), the synthesis Pallett achieves from delicately smashing them together has little precedent. Sounding like Andrew Bird by way of The Hidden Cameras’ Joel Gibb, Pallett’s ambitious, stretching-the-definition-of-pop songs are pleasant little puzzles that take a few spins to sink in. Standout “The Riverbed” packs a wallop I wish the rest of the album had, but I’m intrigued enough to give it all ample time and attention.

Favorite tracks: “On A Path”, “The Passions”, “The Riverbed”