10 Fantastic Albums I Discovered in the Past Year (Part 3 of 3)

If you haven’t already, read the first 3 albums from a few posts ago, and then go read the next 4 from my previous post.

If you think my opinion of music has merit, check these out!

(They’re in no particular order, but they’re all awesome.)

For each, I’ll answer HOW they came to my attention, WHY they’re great, and WHO should take special notice to them, and highlight tracks. Just click any of the titles or covers to hear them on Spotify.

It should be noted that every one of these albums is recommended to be listened to as a whole.
My top list of songs or singles would look quite different than this one, and these are records that deserve a full front-to-back listen!




HOW?: I often frequent BestEverAlbums.com, a website where albums are ranked to get a general consensus of both the public opinion and critical opinion for any given album or artist’s discography. It’s a great resource. This album is currently 3rd on the list of top-rated 2014 albums, and I was listening to the top-listed albums when this one caught my attention.

WHY?: The War on Drugs is culmination of really cool elements; Dylan-meets-Springsteen-ish vocals, chill synth landscapes, and a driving rock and roll feel that hasn’t really been that present in popular music since the late 70s. There is heavy programming here, but it not harsh and heavy-presence synth leads that saturate music today, nor is it so in the background that it feels like it’s just there to take up space and sweeten the mix. (Dynamically, think Talk Talk.) There’s a larger-than-life texture througout that one could (only vaguely) compare to Coldplay or Joshua-Tree-era-U2, but it feels more refined and essential here, never gimmicky or self-important. There are many great guitar licks that pepper the arrangements, and the lyrics here are relatable without getting too specific. This is a record one can get lost in; it’s atmospheric.

WHO?: People who like music with a dreamy soundscape, 70s soft rock with 80s synth textures, etc.

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: Opener “Under the Pressure” doesn’t have a distinctive hook to it, but is somehow still highly memorable in texture, and always gets me excited with each listen. The guitar textures and riffing in “An Ocean Between the Waves” plays extremely well against the walls of vocal layering. Lyrics are particularly strong in “Eyes to the Wind“.



HOW?: This quirky indie rock outfit showed up in my email about a year and a half ago via NoiseTrade‘s email newsletter. Their then-single “Noises” captivated me with it’s strong melodic hooks and powerfully honest lyrics. Following them since, they’ve appeared to be a quite down-to-earth and look to create an honest interaction with fans through their music.

WHY?: Despite Mains’ more-aggressive voice, there were alot of elements that reminded me of the reasons I’ve always loved Relient K. (Just to be clear, I love Mains’ voice, I’m just saying it’s not very comparable to the singsongy/boyish charm of Matt Theissen’s). When I heard RK’s Matt Hoopes would be producing Mains’ 2nd record, I knew it was going to be a memorable project. The end result is an album blazon with impressive tracks that retain the same great songwriting and performance as their first, but now with even more distinctive production and thematic cohesion. The drumming here (by ex-Paramore member Zac Farro) is strong as well.

WHO?: Relient K fans (especially those who loved “Forget and Not Slow Down“), or just fans of good catchy indie rock with a bit of grit. If you want lyrics that resonate emotionally on a personal level, this is a great album for you.

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: The aforementioned “Noises” is rightfully the biggest single here, with a distinctive hook and honestly brutal lyrics.  My favorite track is “In the Night“, as I think the chorus is one of the most fantastic parts of this album. The title track, which closes the album, is a fantastic bookend, similar to how Collapsible Lung closed it’s own album. Ending on a deeply emotional track that rehashes the ideas explored throughout the record is a concept proven effective once again here. This album shines best, of course, as a whole.



HOW?:  I’m so stoked about these guys right now. Joywave is an indie electronic rock (?) band from right here in Rochester, and I believe they are going big places very soon. (They sort of are already, but I think they’re going farther). I’ve been acutely aware of them for a few years (I followed The Hoodies, who were a modestly successful Rochester alt-rock band from a few years back who 3/4  of are now 3/5 of Joywave) but recently started listening to them seriously, leading up to a local gig they played in early June at the Bug Jar, (after a string of gigs with The Killers),  where they proceeded to blow my mind! (S/O to my friend Malcolm for prodding me to listen.)

WHY?: This stuff is just good. Not sure what more I can say. The sounds here are interesting, using all sort of samples and synths is conduction with guitars and drums to create a driving 80s throwback feel that is distinctly different than the Haims and Hawk-in-Paris’ in the genre. This music has it’s feet firmly planted in the current as well as the past. The sounds here seem new and have elements of the type of sampling used in a lot of hip-hop and dance music, without seeming distracting or corny.

WHO?: Anyone who likes catchy pop that doesn’t sound a recycled Ke$ha song, or anyone in the Rochester area. This album/EP (the band hasn’t truly designated it one or the other) has deep ties to the Eastman Kodak legacy (you can read about it here), and is hard not to impress Rochesterians given that all other local music seems to pale in comparison.

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: Every last one of them. It’s a short listen anyway, so do your ears a favor and listen front to back. They also have a new EP, “How Do You Feel?“, which is also amazing. I’ll discuss it more in a later post.



Leave a comment below and let me know if you’ve enjoyed (or hated) any of my suggestions!





And now, a bonus album!

I didn’t include this album in the main list since it’s almost 10 years old, but I never really listened to it until this past winter.

HOW?: Like most my age, I first heard JEW through their hit radio single, “The Middle“, years ago, but that was about it. I remember hearing Jon Foreman of Switchfoot continuously reference the album Clarity as being influential to Switchfoot’s direction in the early years of their career, so I sat down a little over a year ago and listened to it. It was, put bluntly, an aha moment for me. I could go on and on about how perfect that album is, but I don’t have room here to do so. This past year, in compiling music to listen do during my homework sessions in my dorm, I decided to give Futures a listen.

WHY?: This is an album full of great catchy songs, fun guitar riffs, and straightforward lyrics that perfectly encapsulate the best of what modern-radio rock was in the mid-2000s (not that there wasn’t crap in that era–Nickelback, I’m looking at you).

WHO?: Fans of songs like “The Middle”, and people who remember some of the rock hits of the early 2000s with fondness. This isn’t super-heavy stuff, nor is it terribly watered down. It’s middle of the road, intensity-wise, but song writing-wise, I think it shines. This is some of JEW’s best work, second only to Clarity. Bleed American (where “The Middle” was from) is a fan-favorite, but it falls just barely short of Futures, in my honest opinion.

HIGHLIGHT TRACKS: While “Pain” was the aggressive lead single from the album, “Kill” and “Work” are standout tracks here; both perfect pop-rock songs, in my opinion. Fans of earlier Clarity-era JEW will love “The World You Love“, and “Drugs or Me” is one of those powerfully resonant songs that can easily bring one to tears, especially if they’ve watched friend of family member lose themselves to any sort of addiction. The whole album, once again, is GREAT front to back.


Please comment with more albums for me to check out! Especially recent ones!


Stop back later this week, as I hope to post again, hopefully about something different. 😉

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