Exclaim!'s 2014 in Lists: Top 10 Underrated Records of 2014

Exclaim!'s 2014 in Lists: Top 10 Underrated Records of 2014
Our best albums of the year by genre lists kick off this Friday with the first part of our Best Pop & Rock Albums of 2014 list. Until then, tide yourself over by getting acquainted with ten albums you may have missed out on in 2014.

Don't forget to head over to our 2014 in Lists section to see more of our Year-End coverage.

10. 36?
Where Do We Go From Here?

Calgary's Taylor Cochrane is at once a snotty punk, an ambient balladeer, a swaggering falsetto singer and a folkie delivering soaring anthems — and that's all on the first five songs. He's backed up from brilliant work by drummer Ryan Kusz and two multi-instrumentalists who make sense of Cochrane's mayhem. Most bands who try to do everything fail miserably; this one succeeds brilliantly, despite an ungooglable name. (Michael Barclay)

9. Foxes in Fiction
Ontario Gothic
(Orchid Tapes)

With Owen Pallett's co-sign (and violin parts) and Beach House's slow-burning dream pop sensibilities, Foxes in Fiction's gorgeous Ontario Gothic should have been huge this year. Those who heard it have been rightly beguiled by its intimacy and warmth; those who didn't have a warm blanket of an album waiting for them this winter. (Stephen Carlick)

8. Indian
From All Purity

In a year of fantastic doom releases, the blistering savagery of Indian went woefully under-heard. From All Purity has a guitar tone and an emotional register not unlike bubbling pitch. There's just enough black metal acidity to pour into the wounds that the doom opens, so that it cauterizes as well as cuts. For anyone who appreciates albums that want to do terrible things to you, From All Purity should definitely be revisited. (Natalie Zina Walschots)

Much Less Normal

LNRDCROY's Much Less Normal emerged as one of the finest moments for Canadian electronic music in 2014. Merging kosmische, retro Warp ambience and classic minimal techno, LNRDCROY (aka Leon Campbell) ticked all the right boxes. It was lo-fi with hi-fi ambitions, adventurous but familiar, and well worth getting lost in. (Brock Thiessen)

6. Taylor McFerrin
Early Riser

Eight years in the making, McFerrin's brilliant blend of jazz, electronic and soul doesn't disappoint. The cast of characters he surrounds himself with only enhance his compositional ideas: Robert Glasper, labelmate Thundercat, and even dad Bobby McFerrin. McFerrin's genre blending makes for another stunning entry in Brainfeeder's catalogue. (Calum Slingerland)

5. Sturgill Simpson
Metamodern Sounds in Country Music
(High Top Mountain Records/Sony Music Canada)

"The boys and me are still working on the sound," drawls Kentucky-born Sturgill Simpson on "Life of Sin." Bullshit — these guys have their psychedelic country nailed down. A drop of acid-washed outlaw country as subversive as it is addictive (imagine Waylon Jennings backed by the New Riders of the Purple Sage, but with a wink), their "metamodern sound" is among the very best you didn't hear this year. (Stuart Henderson)

4. Step Brothers
Lord Steppington

Friends since childhood, Los Angeles MC/producers Alchemist and Evidence finally team up for a full-length LP, and it's childish in the best Will Ferrell way possible. Belligerent raps battle Al's thick, grimy beats for space, as the duo ignore precision and polish. The result is something free and fun. And on "Byron G," '90s rap nerds get themselves a Whooliganz reunion, complete with a capable verse from kiddie-rapper-turned-actor Scott Caan. (Luke Fox)

3. A Sunny Day in Glasgow
Sea Went Absent

A bi-continental band blend shoegaze, dream pop and synth-laden R&B into a towering song cycle, all without members ever setting foot in the same room. Yet, A Sunny Day in Glasgow's first album in four years failed to capture the imagination of the indie world this summer. That's a shame, since the record's high-def sonic swirl proved to be one of the year's most exciting and idiosyncratic musical syntheses. (Ian Gormely)

2. Sylvan Esso
(Dine Alone)

Members of two different folk groups — one a cappella, one psychedelic — produced a sublime and lustrous album, a perfect union between Appalachian folk crooning and humble electronic production. Sylvan Esso flirt with the fabric of each song without ever slipping into straight electro or falling into pop ballads. Filled with a downbeat simplicity, Sylvan Esso is an electro-pop album you're not embarrassed to like. (Ashley Hampson)

1. Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra
Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything

On Godspeed You! Black Emperor members' other project, Thee Silver Mt. Zion's Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything channels the band's ever-present political outrage into a far more personal narrative that's backed by some seriously propulsive wall-of-noise arrangements. Beyond highlights like the "Kashmir"-esque riffage of "Take Away These Early Grave Blues" and the guitar solo conclusion of "What We Loved Was Not Enough," the album is an exceptional balance of cacophony and melody — in other words, Thee Silver Mt. Zion in peak form. (Chris Bilton)