Exclaim!'s Top 25 Albums of 2014 So Far

BY Exclaim! StaffPublished Aug 7, 2014

Our Best of 2014 lists are still a few months away, but this year, we got to thinking: Why not take some time out now, just past 2014's halfway point, to discuss some of our favourites so far? In that spirit, we've assembled Exclaim!'s Top 25 Albums of 2014 So Far below.

Click next to read through the albums one by one, or use the list below to skip ahead to your favourites.

Exclaim!'s Top 25 Albums of 2014 So Far:

25. Thantifaxath
Sacred White Noise
(Dark Descent)

Sure, Thantifaxath's anonymous mystique has been responsible for a fair share of hype surrounding the Torontonian black metal outfit — choosing to keep your identities private can do that for a band — but when the appeal brought on by their mystery begins to fade, the band's stunning debut, Sacred White Noise, is enough to sustain interest on its own.

Thantifaxath use black metal as the colour palette for their highly technical songs, arriving at a fusion of black and death metal that's as melodic as it is unpredictable. Their vocalist's unhinged delivery has a hoarse, ashen quality to it that cuts across the thundering double-bass and winding guitars, all of which come to a head in one perfect nullifying moment in the album's final, staggering track, "Lost In Static Between Worlds." It's a punishing example of just how well it works.
Michael Rancic

24. Cloud Nothings
Here and Nowhere Else

The power-pop project of Baltimore's Dylan Baldi took a huge turn with their 2012 LP, Attack on Memory. With the expansion to a full band, Cloud Nothings became a tight, snarling outfit, establishing Cloud Nothings as a force to be reckoned with. The group's follow-up, Here and Nowhere Else, expands on Attack on Memory's shadowy ethos. In a scant 31 minutes, Baldi, bassist TJ Duke and drummer Jayson Gerycz tackle Baldi's morose lyrics (including gems such as "My mind is always wasted listening to you" and "I need a reason, I don't hear it, now I just see fear") with an unrelenting fierceness and sensory assault that marries poppy melody with noisy breakdowns.

Employing abrupt tempo changes and deafening guitar riffs and wails, Cloud Nothings ensconce pop hooks with an inescapable lo-fi rock sound, set to Baldi's rough wailing voice. That rare album to both mosh to and ponder, Here and Nowhere Else continues Baldi and co.'s hot streak with another collection of furiously introspective tunes.
Matt Bobkin

23. Ben Frost
(Mute/Bedroom Community)

Although Ben Frost prefers to keep company with fellow noise deconstructionists like Colin Stetson, Tim Hecker,and Swans (all of whom he has worked with over the past half-decade), the Iceland-via-Australian musician is quite a classicist at heart. Having used a five-year layover between albums to compose a handful of film scores, collaborate with dance companies and even direct the musical theatre version of The Wasp Factory, A U R O R A, his most fully-realized work to date, finds Frost at his most cinematic and melodious.

That's not to say that Ben has lost even a pittance of his edge; his fifth LP features some of the most brutal and challenging sounds to ever come from a synthesized instrument. But rather than utilize these collapsing musical sinews to wholly define his work, Frost chooses to sandwich rusted sound layers between swooping, soaring synth melodies, all the while completely abandoning his trademark cascading guitar and piano. Bringing in guest drummers to add a dramatic and thunderous backbeat, including Swans' Thor Harris and Greg Fox of Guardian Alien, Frost still seems concerned with giving his music a crunchy texture, creating for the listener a meticulously written, gorgeously performed piece of art that just happens to be encrusted within a burning, burping, blistering volcano of clamour.
Daniel Sylvester

22. Perfect Pussy
Say Yes To Love
(Captured Tracks)

It's been said that Brian Eno came up with the sound of his 1975 ambient debut, Discreet Music, while bedridden in a British hospital, unable to turn up the sound of his stereo. If that's the case, Syracuse punk outfit Perfect Pussy's first-ever full-length, Say Yes to Love, sounds as if it was inspired by time spent undergoing interrogation in Guantanamo Bay.

Featuring squalling feedback, propulsive percussion and riffs that sound like they were found in SST's mail slot circa 1987, the five-piece's Captured Tracks debut is discordant and jarring. Sufferers of tinnitus need not apply, as lead singer Meredith Graves' combative caterwauling constantly battles for space next to a series of never-ending feedback loops that dominate the album's 23-minute runtime (a length not much longer than the band's usual live sets).

Which is to say that Say Yes to Love is a hard listen. However, much like the vulnerable and emotional utterance with which the album shares its name, listening to Perfect Pussy's debut fills you with a scared and nervous energy, stripping you of your senses until you feel uncertain, bare and oddly cleansed.
Matthew Ritchie

21. The Roots
...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin
(Def Jam)

The announcement that the Roots' 11th studio album would be a new concept project expanding themes raised on previous conceptual effort Undun didn't really come as a surprise, as the group has been massaging this angle and approach for quite some time now. But with …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin, the Roots finally hit the mark in constructing a compelling thematic reality and accompanying soundtrack that remains consistent to the end.

The record tracks the thoughts of a series of characters (according to Questlove, though it all feels like one person) hustling their way through a hopeless and angst-ridden existence, marching towards an inevitable early demise with a mixture of indifference, anger, and relieved anticipation. Standout verses from Greg Porn and Black Thought — particularly on "When The People Cheer," on which the latter is allowed to explore a sad depravity not normally heard from him — add a wealth of complexity to the protagonist(s), while the record's musical arc guides the verses from early defiance to tired resignation and one final more positive sermon.

As always, the Roots deliver something worth repeating, with a grand share of beautiful moments.
Kevin Jones

20. The War on Drugs
Lost in the Dream
(Secretly Canadian)

In many ways picking up where 2011's Slave Ambient left off, the War on Drugs' third album, Lost in the Dream, continues to trade in the hazy psychedelics, '80s blue-collar rock and reverb-heavy sonic tension established on the Philadelphia-based group's early output. Singer and bandleader Adam Granduciel's journey of self-discovery and reckoning gets wrapped in a torrent of swelling guitars and swirling synths that drive a dividing line between despair and hope. Potent and enveloping, Granduciel's druggy melancholy shrouds his desires and obscures his worldview as he pulls away and looks at where he has been.

It's not surprising to hear that Granduciel was dealing with the end of a long term relationship during the recording of the album; his pain, vulnerability and searching for what's next gets channelled back into Lost in the Dream, creating the type of feedback loop that is the underlying foundation from which he and the band build. While the emotional space of the album gives it a depth, expansiveness and an inward feeling that's hard to replicate, it doesn't drag you down into those dark places we all go to sometimes when things aren't going exactly as we intended; rather, it transcends that feeling.
Anthony Augustine

19. How To Dress Well
"What Is This Heart?"
(Weird World)

How To Dress Well's third album, "What Is This Heart?", solidify Tom Krell's climatic shift from enigmatic bedroom producer to a multi-talented songwriter with a lot more to reveal to the world. Seemingly removed from the days in which distorted croons and lucid atmospherics found a "weirdo R&B" seal attached to his earlier tracks, this album finds Krell immersed in more rich, textured instrumentals, with production that allows him to apply bolder, angelic tones to his vocals, revealing a deeper, more intimate connection to pop music.

Sure, Tom still has those swoon-worthy R&B gems like "What You Wanted" and "Words I Can't Remember," but his less vulnerable moments result in glossy, percussive ballads like "A Power" and a brief application of Krell's love of guitar riffing from his emo days in "Childhood Faith In Love." At its core, "What Is This Heart?" is the tough question that often bears repeating throughout the course of the album. Now that Krell trusts himself enough to ask this question, the door is wide open for How To Dress Well, meaning things should only get better from here on out.
Max Mohenu

18. Royksopp & Robyn
Do It Again
(Arts & Crafts)

In the lead-up to Do It Again, the collaborative EP by Norwegian electronic duo Röyksopp and Swedish pop savant Robyn, both camps were heard to utter the same sentiment: that this wasn't the work of entities Röyksopp and Robyn, but of the trio as a band, a collective unit. "This doesn't sound like Röyksopp featuring Robyn or Robyn produced by Röyksopp, it's just something else entirely," read their release.

Appropriately, only the title track bears any striking resemblance to their previous work together in 2009-2010. Twin ten-minute epics "Monument" and "Inside the Idle Hour Club" provide drama and structure to the five-song, 35-minute EP, while a three-song suite of dark, moody electro-pop fills it out. The lyrics of "Monument" — "This will be my monument/ This will be a beacon when I'm gone" — foretell the EP's themes of the passage of time, death and decay, but it's the music itself that makes Do It Again so beguiling, alternating between swirling ambience and pounding club fare with style and grace. Here's hoping those reportedly inspired, fruitful sessions yield another gem like this.
Stephen Carlick

17. Popcaan
Where We Come From

Carrying the torch for the new generation of dancehall artists emerging out of Jamaica is Portmore product and former Vybz Kartel protégé Popcaan. With his conscious lyrics touching on everyday issues like bills, politics, corruption, crime and gyals(!), Popcaan's debut album, Where We Come From, is a breezy, melodic slice of everyday Jamaican life that is both locally and globally relatable. Executive-produced by New York producer Dre Skull (who quarterbacked Vybz's classic Kingston Story) and featuring top-notch beats by the likes of Dre himself, Dubbel Dutch, Jamie Roberts, Anju Blaxx and Adee Instrumentals, Where We Come From is a banging record that is a refreshing combination of classic dancehall traditions and new-age/futuristic headways.

As an example, peep lead single "Everything Nice," a minimalist vessel of positivity that finds the young dancehall upstart flowing weightlessly over a gorgeous, sparse cloud of a beat that forces the listener to kick back, grab a Red Stripe and a little something-something to puff on. Or check rally cry "The System," with its wistful, galloping beat served up by Dre Skull, which Popcaan uses as the catalyst to speak out on the many injustices that people of all races, colours and creeds face on a daily basis. With a debut album this solid, there's no doubt we'd ever forget where Popcaan came from. He's one to watch, no doubt about it.
Mark Bozzer

16. Timber Timbre
Hot Dreams
(Arts & Crafts)

The record that has, by far, notched the most rotations on my home system to date this year is Timber Timbre's epic fifth album. This has paid real dividends, as it is an album still revealing itself in delightfully subtle ways. The resonant saxophone of Colin Stetson suggests Andy McKay's work in Roxy Music, for instance, and is a perfect complement to Taylor Kirk's virile vocals. The strings are lush but never overbearing, while an array of vintage keyboards adds to the evocative soundscapes.

Hot Dreams covers a wide swathe of emotional territory, evoking feelings of dread and anxiety, fear and loathing, loneliness and deep melancholy, yet at times (as on the title track) it exudes real eroticism. Recruiting underrated wordsmith Simone Schmidt (Fiver, the Highest Order, $100) to pen lyrics to two songs ("Curtains?!" and "Bring Me Simple Men") was definitely a smart move. The Timber Timbre sound can be termed noir-esque, but their version is filmed in vivid cinemascope, not minimal black and white. Viewing/listening is highly recommended.
Kerry Doole

15. Pharoahe Monch
PTSD: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
(W.A.R. Media)

Anchored by "Bad M.F." and "Damage," a pair of considered blasts of braggadocio over some Lee Stone jugular production, Pharoahe Monch's old-man truth-telling hasn't sounded this laser-focused or cutthroat since "Simon Says." "Fuck swag/ I got moxie," he blurts on the former, owning every asthmatic day of his 41 years on Planet Lyricism.

As is the case with all Monch LPs, the verbiage outweighs the production. Exercises like the extended city-as-wild-morass metaphor of "The Jungle" or the optimistic Wu-Tang flip "D.R.E.A.M." (with Talib Kweli) win by putting a playful twist on Chuck D-esque socio-political commentary. On PTSD, the king of Queens isn't always telling the kids to get off his lawn, but when he does, it's with a refreshing bluntness that doesn't require the listener to look up his lexicon on Wikipedia: "Go tell your favourite rapper, 'Eat a bag of baby dicks.'"
Luke Fox

14. Future Islands

While the Baltimore-based synth-pop trio are rarely mentioned nowadays without bringing up their famous Letterman performance, they are so much more than a single performance. Their aptly-titled fourth LP, Singles, is a collection of songs that are all strong enough to be played on their own with no context, but also flow together into a cohesive, endlessly catchy record that sucks the listener in and doesn't let go.

The ten songs on the record each sounds meticulously crafted and refined, with its own unique personality, from the bouncy groove of "Doves" to the pensive-yet-positive mourning on "A Song For Our Grandfathers." The album's jerking bass-lines, plinking keys and Samuel T. Herring's versatile voice — seamlessly shifting from smooth croon to death metal howl with a bounce of personality — manages to make synth-pop sound warm, personable and inviting.

With nary a weak song in the bunch, Singles proves that, while Future Islands' live performance may have lurched them into the long-deserved spotlight, it's the music that got them onto the Letterman stage in the first place.
Matt Bobkin

13. Agalloch
The Serpent and the Sphere
(Profound Lore)

Nearly 20 years into their career, Portland, Oregon's Agalloch have become the benchmark for emotive, complex American black metal. Combining charred neo-folk with lugubrious doom and a progressive, profoundly intellectual approach to lyrics and concept, their oeuvre is characterized both by exceptional quality and an ability to balance the cerebral against the deeply emotive.

Wildly ambitious in scope and concept, The Serpent and the Sphere engages conceptually with the very fabric of the universe, from quantum mechanics to creation myths, star stuff to heart work. The lyrics stretch and explore the fabric of creation and time, while the impossibly complex guitars conjure it. There's a wracked, wounded tenderness to the record, as well, that belies its high-mindedness and keeps it from being sterile, captured in the bloody edges of the drumming and the occasional rasping, ragged edge of the vocals, and in the achingly lovely acoustic guitar passages that allow the album space to weep and breathe. The Serpent and the Sphere is something rare, otherworldly, and may be Agalloch's magnum opus.
Natalie Zina Walschots

12. Taylor McFerrin
Early Riser

From the opening bars of "Postpartum," Brainfeeder's fingerprints are all over Taylor McFerrin's debut album. Brooklyn, NY-based McFerrin is primarily known as a DJ, producer and remixer, but as Early Riser demonstrates, his songwriting and arranging skills are equally impressive. The album's instrumental tracks are augmented by several vocal tracks featuring special guests, such as label-mate RYAT, Nai Palm (of Hiatus Kaiyote) and, to address the elephant in the room, McFerrin senior, of "Don't Worry, Be Happy" fame.

Contemporary soul-jazz favourites Thundercat and Robert Glasper also appear on the album, on the Bob James-esque instrumental "Already There," on which they're joined by the incredible rhythms of Marcus Gilmore, one of the most respected young jazz drummers around (and son of legendary jazz drummer Roy Haynes). Bearing the influence of R&B, jazz fusion and hip hop, Early Riser is more than the stylistic sum of its parts, pushing into new ground while retaining one foot in the comfortably familiar. Emotive, psychedelic and captivating, McFerrin's debut stands shoulder-to-shoulder with similar jazzy downtempo artists such as Flying Lotus and Shigeto.
Vince Pollard

11. Future

Somewhere in between "My momma ain't raised no hoe" war chants and soliloquys about "T-Shirts," Future's most recent effort, Honest, excels at being just that: honest. No longer a rookie to the game, Future is well aware of his strengths and weaknesses. Is he a world weary wordsmith? Nope. Excluding asides to Ciara, money and dope, does he cover the widest range of topics? Not really.

However, Future's unique ear for production set the scene for the pained portrait of "turning up" that is Nayvadius DeMun Wilburn. From the cyborg-inspired bass-lines and standout guest verses of Pharrell and Pusha T on "Move That Dope" to the dry-cry crooning of "I'll be Yours," Honest delivers a concussive blast of warbly auto-tuned bangers that many of his peers are still attempting to replicate. Add to it Future's knack for scribing catchy hooks with these same forward-thinking melodies and you have one of the strongest releases of the year so far.
Jabbari Weekes

10. YG
My Krazy Life
(CTE/Def Jam)

What makes YG's My Krazy Life so enthralling is the intersection of traditional West Coast rap music and contemporary trap. DJ Mustard is on the beats for the entire project, honing a familiar sparse synth formula alongside 808 percussion, but tempos have jumped back up to 90-some beats per minute. Subject-wise, YG brazenly embodies the L.A. gang lifestyle in perhaps the rawest form we've heard yet. Far from Kendrick's good kid survival tales, YG celebrates his Piru Bloods family and a keen prowess for home invasions.

Those gang affiliations reach near-humorous levels, as the letter C is replaced with Bs throughout the album. Compton becomes "Bompton," where YG and his peers spend their days "Bicken Back Bein Bool." Beyond the braggadocio. there are moments of interesting self-reflection, but for the most part, this is that aggressive gangster shit. Think NWA, think Spice 1, think Compton's Most Wanted. YG and DJ Mustard are carrying that torch now.
Michael J. Warren

9. Lykke Li
I Never Learn

The product of more than two years of writing and an American exodus that followed what Lykke Li has described as the biggest breakup of her life, I Never Learn benefits from a singular focus and a visceral quality that her previous work lacked. I Never Learn is at once heart-wrenching and comforting: it's dangerously easy to wallow in the album's reverb-drenched, Spectorian wall of sound, which accentuates the desperation and loneliness at the core of these songs and turns the sweeping "No Rest for the Wicked," "Never Gonna Love Again" and "Heart of Steel" into rousing, eye-of-the-storm anthems.

There may be a lot of tears on Li's pillow — "Love Me Like I'm Not Made of Stone" chills like a beautifully broken version of the Everly Brothers' "Love Hurts" given the Plastic Ono Band treatment — but that pain also gives the majestic dance pop of "Gunshot" a powerful cathartic quality and the album as a whole its overwhelming emotional resonance.
Thierry Côté

8. Sharon Van Etten
Are We There

Are We There currently stands as the breakup album of the year. Tracing the frayed endings of a long-term relationship, Van Etten again converts her emotions into gorgeously profound statements. It's a habit that the songwriter has embraced throughout the years, having channelled similar feelings on her past three records, but Are We There feels decidedly more mournful and yet, more astute and confident. Consider the question she retroactively poses on "Taking Chances": "Why do we think that we've no plight?"

Van Etten also takes the production reins on her fourth album, adding sonic flourishes to her own thoughts to convey them with more sharpness than ever. There's a heavier emphasis on keyboards and organs, yet Van Etten still churns out effortlessly sombre guitar riffs. Yes, this album trembles with fragility, but when Van Etten tearfully roars through the line, "Burn my skin so I can't feel you/ Stab my eyes so I can't see," you fear her as much as you might sympathize.
Melody Lau

7. Swans
To Be Kind
(Young God)

For over 30 years, Michael Gira and Swans have confronted and defied the expectations of what a rock-and-roll act should be. From the aggressive barrages of kinetic no-wave found on early titles Filth and Cop to the equally swampy and swooning Children of God, to this decade's reboot as purveyors of sonic ecstasy, Swans have always existed as more than just another "experimental" rock band. In 2012, Gira and company appeared to reach a pinnacle with the outright epic The Seer, a triple LP that seemed impossible to trump.

Enter To Be Kind, a thrilling song cycle even more daring and fervent than its predecessor. Riding in on the throbbing bass groove of "Screen Shot" and cresting with the over half-hour-long "Bring the Sun, Toussaint L'Ouverture," which includes a musique concrète-influenced bridge section, this gargantuan effort finds Gira somehow managing to outdo himself. As the title track, which closes the album, comes to its dramatic conclusion, it's undeniable: Gira has achieved the sublime yet again. How is this even possible?
Bryon Hayes

6. Schoolboy Q
(Top Dawg)

Schoolboy Q has two proven ways to cope with stress; brash confidence and the self-destructive use of narcotics. Contradictions define both his personality and Oxymoron, his major-label debut: Is it "Los Awesome" or "Fuck L.A."? Is Q the near-suicidal negligent father in "Prescription" or the "Man of the Year"? The answers are of course a little of column A, a little of column B, but that overall conflicted theme allows room for a variety of raps.

The beats run the gamut of what a hip-hop record can be: commercial appeal defines a few, but they're mixed with a few experimental offerings and boom-bap influences. Schoolboy Q wilfully embraces the gangsta rap label, but there's greater nuance to him than that designation implies. Oxymoron is a tale of bad influences and bad decisions, but from a man who's looking to move beyond them and bask in the life rap stardom has to offer.
Michael J. Warren

5. St. Vincent
St. Vincent
(Loma Vista/Republic Records)

Annie Clark has been heralded as a guitar hero of sorts ever since she stepped out as a solo artist in 2007 with her debut album, Marry Me. Her technical finesse when it comes to the instrument is indisputable, but it's on her fourth self-titled full-length that Clark has finally achieved the status of a rock deity. On St. Vincent, Clark works from a palette of synthesized, polished electronics, the gritty clamour of guitars and live drums for to create an otherworldly portrait, and some of her best work yet. Woven between each song's impeccable arrangements, though, are lyrics that are direct, empathetic and, contrary to Clark's ice-cold stare on the album cover, human. She sings of the mundane, of taking out the garbage, masturbation and getting lost in the digital abyss, but twists them into fantastical timeless tales. Even when St. Vincent spirals into darkness and isolation, Clark triumphs with a sense of agility and playfulness that elevates her onto the powerful throne she so deserves.
Melody Lau

4. Tanya Tagaq
(Six Shooter Records)

Expanding upon Inuk artist Tanya Tagaq's previous experiments in presenting traditional throat-singing in a modern musical context, Animism marks the birth of a new genus of visceral aural expression. Tagaq, with the aid of producer Jesse Zubot, has created a soundscape by turns uniquely harrowing and gorgeous, one that fearlessly harnesses the intense emotionality of the vocal virtuoso's core craft to communicate heavy universal concepts in a language beyond words and far more intimate than purely instrument-derived sound is capable of.

An unexpected melting pot of influences shape the broad range of sounds drawn from to support Tagaq's evolved take on an often harsh vocal style: breakbeats rub shoulders with cinematic, Elfman-esque horn swells; skittering violin is tickled by spacious field recordings; avant-garde classical bumps up against hypnotic tribal thumping; operatic histrionics are bolstered by guttural rhythmic breathing. At every turn, Tagaq's indomitable presence challenges both herself and the listener to feel at a depth uncommonly demanded. The effect can be overwhelming; profoundly unsettling one moment, cathartic, sensual and invigorating the next. Animism stands unique and vital in the landscape of popular music, brazen, beautiful and unapologetically passionate in a culture often frightened to dip beneath the surface.
Scott A. Gray

3. White Lung
Deep Fantasy

On paper there's little difference between White Lung's third album and the records that came before it: ten explosive songs in about 20 minutes, recorded in Vancouver with producer Jesse Gander. Deep Fantasy is unmistakably a White Lung record, but one that finds the Vancouver group expanding their unique spin on noisy punk rock.

Writing and recording without a bass player — founding member Grady Mackintosh was booted from the group last fall — forced the remaining trio to dig deep and find a heretofore hidden clarity in their music. Anne-Marie Vassiliou's thundering drums form the focal point around which the chaos swirls. Sitting high in the mix, Mish Way's snarling vocals are now even more sharpened with pointed social critiques, and guitarist Kenneth Williams anchors his busy guitar work with a newfound heavy bottom end. Focused yet still uncompromising, Deep Fantasy seethes with fury while sucking listeners into its sonic vortex. White Lung 2.0 might look a lot like its predecessor but it's undoubtedly better, harder, faster and stronger in every way.
Ian Gormely

2. Owen Pallett
In Conflict
(Secret City)

Owen Pallett is responsible for two of my favourite things in 2014. The first is a series of articles for Slate and Buzzfeed wherein Pallett applied his background in classical composition to explain why pop songs including "Teenage Dream" and "Get Lucky" are so effective. The second, more important by far, is In Conflict, Pallett's fourth full-length album — his lushest, most surprising and perhaps best record to date.

At first glance these seem like two completely separate projects, but they're more interwoven than you might think. In Conflict is the most sonically varied of Pallett's records — more keyboard loops, more big drum sounds — but part of its thrill is in how at times it's the closest he's come to translating his string and synth flourishes into proper pop songs. Tracks like "The Secret Seven" and "On a Path" burst with big choruses and catchy melodies, and Pallett's singing has never been more compelling. Yet, at the same time, the back half of the album holds some of his proggiest, densest creations.

In Conflict is the sound of Pallett's once-intimate violin project becoming seemingly sonically and compositionally limitless.
Ryan McNutt

1. Mac DeMarco
Salad Days
(Captured Tracks)

Has any artist achieved so much in 2014 while appearing to try so little? Mac DeMarco's aptly titled third album, Salad Days, is the kind of popular breakthrough indie artists spend their entire career striving towards. Yet Demarco achieved it seemingly buoyed only by effortless cool and ample amounts of wit and charm.

Salad Days is the definition of easy-breezy, a collection of songs seemingly written in a hammock-induced daydream, guitars threatening to float off into the ether. Which hardly makes it a record without substance: DeMarco might be indie rock's clown prince, but he is no fool. Even while celebrating a self-imagined mythology DeMarco shows incredible dexterity with hooks, both musical and lyrical.

His songs are as reflective of classic rock traditions as they are hipster detachment, creating a record that feels as steeped in nostalgia as it is a product of the present. Fittingly, Salad Days seems primed to live on long after the glow of youth wears off.
Ian Gormely

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