15. Alt-JAn Awesome Wave (Canvasback)

It’s an uphill battle when talking about a band that is hindered by an unpronounceable symbol name, a la the Artist Formerly Known As Prince: ∆ (“Delta?” “Equilateral Triangle?” “Hell no, that shit is isosceles in Arial!”). But when it translates into a blithely enchanting collection of trip-hop-influenced indie rock, confusion subsides, and you give yourself over to the sweet-dreams world of keyboards, drum machines (“Tessellate”) and semi-acoustic shivers (“Breezeblocks”). -LH
 


14. GroundislavaFeel Me (Friends Of Friends)

The title of Groundislava’s first full-length, Feel Me, sounds like a creepy command, but it gradually reveals itself to be a gentle invitation. Merging gauzy, ambient tones with bits of chintzy 8-bit schmaltz, snippets of puffed-out cloud-rap and a pop song-craft that’s not too far from the ’80s New Wave he idealizes, Groundislava isn’t afraid to pursue his cheesiest and most sentimental ideas. But unlike other cerebral dancefloor pranksters, he totally commits. The synths swell, the drums knock, and the vocals yearn. With contributions from Baths, Clive Tanaka and Shlohmo on the highlight “Bottle Service,” the album is simultaneously an internal and communal experience, carving out space for poignant reflections, goofy Skrillex references and club-ready ambiance. -DJ
 


13. JapandroidsCelebration Rock (Polyvinyl)

You know when your friend told you that he really needs to be in your two-piece band, because, hey, two people can’t really bring it? Just toss that punk a copy of Japandroids’ Celebration Rock—a title that takes itself quite literally in its copiously joyful noise. The duo has cranked out consistently excellent scuzz-rock (and buzz-saw covers) since its inception, but Celebration Rock, spearheaded by its flawless penultimate track, “The House That Heaven Built,” is a pivotal point for Brian King and David Prowse: They’ve stepped into “serious” and “mature” anthem territory, embodying an extreme urgency—the album bears down with the inertia of a bullet train—yet they retain an endearing level of youth. -LH
 


12. Death GripsThe Money Store (Epic)

I first heard about Death Grips thanks to a Scene Report we ran on Sacramento. And as I listened to MC Ride’s guttural shouting on “Guillotine,” supported by synth rhythms so threatening but so eerily simple, it immediately felt like Death Grips was too ferocious to be contained to a local scene. The drama that ensued this year with Ride, drummer Zach Hill and Epic might have made the duo seem more trouble than it was worth, but if you ever start to doubt the talent of this team, just go back to The Money Store. Hill’s noise-rock heartbeat combines with Ride’s unbridled, seasoned rage to make the soundtrack to a scattered nightmare. This is visceral music, what your id would sound like if it started a band. -CW
 


11. SpiritualizedSweet Heart Sweet Light (Fat Possum)

“Do we really need another Spirtualized record?” That’s how I felt when Sweet Heart Sweet Light was first announced, and along with its garish cover art, it was hard to gather up much excitement for the record leading up to its release. It’s easy to take Jason Pierce for granted. His fans have mostly decided that the 47-year-old wrote his Spiritualized masterpiece 15 years ago, and even he seemed to begrudgingly acknowledge that recently, performing Ladies And Genetlmen We Are Floating In Space in its entirety at ATP and reissuing the album in a collector’s edition that included each song on 12 mini CDs. Then a funny thing happened: He released another great album. Creatively invigorated by his performances of Ladies And Gentlemen but physically drained by experimental chemotherapy for a liver disease, Pierce somehow crafted 11 songs of gospel-tinged psychedelic rock that harken back to his glory days while also pointing toward a hopeful future, never more so than on the final track, “So Long You Pretty Thing,” which Pierce co-wrote with his 11-year-old daughter. Turns out we can never have enough Spiritualized albums. -DJ
 

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