My 30 Favorite Albums of 2014: 30-21

30. Brick Mower - Teenage Graceland (Don Giovanni).

This pop/punk trio from East Brunswick, NJ crank out some instantly catchy tunes reminiscent of Face to Face or Jawbreaker.

29. The Hold Steady - Teeth Dreams (Washington Square/Razor & Tie). 

After a 2nd, 3rd, and 4th LP as good as the streak of Separation Sunday, Boys And Girls in America, and Stay Positive (maybe 3 of the top 20 LPs of the 00's?), cementing yourself as the bar band of this generation, what do you do for your 6th LP without repeating yourself? Teeth Dreams is the next logical step, different enough to be notable but similar enough for old fans to enjoy. And track for track it is probably a little better than 2010's Heaven Is Whenever.

28. Grass Is Green - Vacation Vinny (Exploding in Sound). 

This Boston-based quartet is one of the standouts of the burgeoning MA-based retro-punk scene. I always thought of them as sort of Pavement crossed with heavier guitars, recalling Sebadoh at times.

27. Sharon Van Etten - Are We There (Jagjaguwar). 

Van Etten has been crafting smart indie pop songs for quite some time, but this release really put her on the map. It blends folk, pop, and alt/country very well with great vocals and lyrics.

26. Drive-By Truckers - English Oceans (ATO)

 The Truckers are in a similar position as the Hold Steady, with nothing to prove at this point, as one of the best alt/country-Southern rock bands going today. But this is another strong bounce-back effort after a previous spotty release by their standards. Mike Cooley's contributions are very strong on this release balancing out Patterson Hood's normally reliable output.

25. Hurry - Everything/Nothing (Hot Green)

Hurry have a retro 90's punk/grunge sound crossed with a fuzzy shoegaze wall-of-noise vibe and it sounds glorious, sort of like a good shoegazey Weezer. The local Philly rock scene is so good that a band like Hurry can get lost in the shuffle and that would be a crime.

24. Priests - Bodies and Control and Money and Power (Don Gionvanni)

Melodic hardcore noise-rock with an obvious nod to Bikini Kill. That's a pretty awesome way to describe a band. Katie Alice Greer (of Chain and the Gang) delivers such powerful and interesting vocals that you will be pushing repeat on this 17-minute album many times.

23. Hospitality - Trouble (Merge) 

This felt like a more challenging record for the Brooklyn-based indie pop trio, led by Amber Papini. The music is a little more angular moving back and forth from riffs that recall Blondie, Television, and others from that era. And it delves into universal topics that are a little more difficult to express in 4-minute pop songs, highlighting disconnectedness, distance, fear, and unease.

22. Lydia Loveless - Somewhere Else (Bloodshot) 

If you like alt/country and strong female vocalists, then you will love this album. Think Patti Smith fronting Uncle Tupelo. The 24 year-old Ohio native already has 3 LPs and an EP to her credit and this is her finest so far.

21. Woods - With Light And Love (Woodsist)

It's hard to find a more consistently good band over the last 5 or so years than Woods. This album is no exception with another collection of 60's-tinged indie folk-rock songs with melodies you'll be humming to yourself all day. It's kind of like the Byrds meet the Flaming Lips.

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