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Top Ten Albums of 2014

It’s that time of year again where we’re faced with the near-impossible task of choosing our favorite releases from another stellar twelve months of music. After even more complicated math and science than last year, we’ve finally arrived at our top ten records of 2014–find out what made the list and why we fell in love with them below!

Check out our staff’s individual album of the year lists here!

10. Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness – S/T

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness - ST

Throughout his numerous incarnations, Andrew McMahon has never run out of new topics to sing about, and his first solo full-length is no exception. Though he’s replaced songs about hanging with friends with songs about having a baby and juggling his busy life, there is something familiar about this record. Singles like the infectious “Cecilia and the Satellite” fit in flawlessly with his classic SoCo/Jack’s hits (especially when played live), and Glass Passenger era-sounding tracks like “Halls” and “See Her on the Weekend” make it effortless to slip into the easy-going rhythm of McMahon’s voice. Fans who’ve been with him over the years will appreciate being able to grow up with the singer-songwriter-piano-playing-maestro as he chronicles his journey into adulthood and beyond. (Sam Devotta, Writer)

9. Set It Off – Duality

Set It Off - Duality

Over the last few years Set It Off have been heading in a heavier, more theatrical direction since their early pop punk days, from the use of strings to Cody’s incredible vocal melodies and range. But Duality encompasses everything we love from the pop punk Set It Off and newer theatrical Set It Off. The album captures some of the band’s catchiest songs, from the gospel-esque lead single “Why Worry” to songs like “Ancient History” that make you wanna dance and sing along to every word in the chorus. And don’t forget about the incredible guest vocals from William Beckett (ex-The Academy Is…) on “Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing” and Jason Lancaster (ex-Go Radio) on “Tomorrow”. This is definitely the breakthrough album every Set It Off fan has been waiting for. (Fish, Gone Fishkin)

8. Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties – We Don’t Have Each Other

Aaron West - We Don't Have Each Other

“I’m starting to believe that there’s a God and he hates me.” Concept albums can be hit or miss, but Dan “Soupy” Campbell hit a home run on his solo debut We Don’t Have Each Other where a folk sound complements the complete heartache being belted to the heavens. Aaron West is a troubled man from Long Island having the worst year of his life, and in ten songs Campbell tells a story of mourning through relationships with family, religion, and above all a recently departed lover. Campbell is a well-respected lyricist, but his backing band the Roaring Twenties has a few familiar faces–such as drummer Mike Kennedy from the Wonder Years and Ace Enders from The Early November–who jump around from folky and wholesome minor chords mixed with bright, uplifting choruses that contrast perfectly with the lyrics. Various instruments from horns to harmonicas fit the themes of the songs so seamlessly that it creates a world that you are completely immersed in. Enders also produced the record, and the pairing of him and Campbell led to an album that will emotionally drain you in the best way possible. (Joseph Britton, Writer)

7. We Are The In Crowd – Weird Kids

We Are The In Crowd - Weird Kids

I’ve been a fan of We Are The In Crowd since their first EP Guaranteed To Disagree, so it’s been fun watching them grow and find their voice–but it’s only now with Weird Kids that they’ve really grabbed the mic, cranked the volume up to 10, and completely stolen the show. From the downright badass “The Best Thing (That Never Happened)” to the bittersweet anthem “Long Live The Kids”, there’s a track for every mood (honorable mention to “Manners”, a serious contender for my song of the year), making this an album I revisit consistently. On the very first listen back in February I already knew it would make this list–not only because it got 2014 off to an unbeatably high start, but because it signalled the arrival of pop punk’s new leaders. Weird Kids is fearless, irresistible, and destined to be a highlight of every fan’s playlist for years to come. (Alex Bear, Writer)

6. Neck Deep – Wishful Thinking

Neck Deep - Wishful Thinking

Neck Deep may be young as a band, but they’ve set the bar high for the pop punk genre this year with the release of their debut album Wishful Thinking. Already, they’ve got the formula down for irresistible fist pumps and chants, but not without slowing things down a notch to reflect on themes of change and growing up. Their music is wrapped up in ribbons of gritty, in-your-face guitar riffs that add the extra anthemic punch, the very epitome of what defines their genre. Looking back on the band’s last two EPs, it goes without saying that Neck Deep have matured from their beginnings just two years ago, creating a sound that fits perfectly in their niche and reminds us of the classic 2000s pop punk dynamic at its peak. (Emily Yee, Writer)

5. Manchester Orchestra – Cope

Manchester Orchestra - Cope

With mesmeric vocals, crispy guitar riffs, and enough electricity to power the entire city of Detroit, Manchester Orchestra’s Cope is an expertly-crafted alternative rock symphony. Out the gate it grasps for air and holds on for dear life with the high-powered “Top Notch” and slowly decays into a vat of pure melodic emotion with songs like “Indentions” and the title track. One of 2014’s best alternative releases, Cope is an addicting Manchester Orchestra gateway drug that doesn’t rely on trend or cliché. (Eddie Barella, Program Director)

4. Copeland – Ixora

Copeland - Ixora

Some records hit you in the face the moment you hear them with their immediacy and urgency; others take their time seeping into your veins, revealing themselves layer by layer and slowly taking hold of you. Copeland’s newest effort Ixora is the latter–an unassuming masterpiece that marks a triumphant return for the band without any bombast or fanfare. Musically, the songs seem to sit at a comfortable halfway point between their two most recent albums, with the lingering electronic influence of 2009’s You Are My Sunshine dressing up the intimate songwriting that has always been at the heart of the band’s music. But there’s something new here, too: a sense of complete freedom, even in songs about feeling trapped. They didn’t make this record to satisfy anyone else’s expectations–they made this record because they needed to. And after four long, Copeland-free years, we desperately needed it, too. (Eleanor Grace, Managing Editor)

3. State Champs – The Acoustic Things

State Champs - The Acoustic Things

People get so wrapped up in what good pop punk sounds like that exceptional songwriting often goes unnoticed. State Champs quickly established themselves as a dominating band in the scene with the fast-paced, driving sound of their debut album The Finer Things, but the band slowed things down with The Acoustic Things, an acoustic re-recording of five songs off the album plus two new tracks that, musically, appeal to listeners of any genre of music. In the re-recordings–a personal favorite being “Elevated”–State Champs bring their lyrical content into the limelight without sacrificing their iconic energy. New tracks “Leave You In The Dark” and “If I’m Lucky” follow suit with relatable lyrics that are sure to be stuck in your head, like when singer Derek DiScanio sings, “Hello stranger, we haven’t had a past, but now I’ve learned so much, so much, time’s gone by so fast” in the latter. The stylistic diversity on The Acoustic Things proves that State Champs are more than just catchy guitar riffs, and are well on their way to taking over the Warped scene. (Tori Bilcik, Writer)

2. PVRIS – White Noise

PVRIS - White Noise

Choo choooooo! All aboard the PVRIS hype train! May as well call this train the Hogwarts Express because this shit is straight magic. We can talk the musical intricacies of PVRIS all day, but here are the basics. 1) The band can play. They may be new blood to the industry but they don’t look or act like they’re freshmen, and they sure as hell don’t sound like they’re new to this either. 2) White Noise is one of the best debut records in our corner of the music industry in years. It’s equal parts catchy, dark, poppy, and emotional. This record is going to sound good in ten years the way From Under The Cork Tree and All We Know Is Falling still hold relevance today. Hits like “St. Patrick” are making a crossover mainstream splash, and deeper cuts like “Ghosts” are still going to be somebody’s favorite song of the year (hint: mine). How high is the ceiling for PVRIS? Time will tell, but nearly two months after the release of White Noise, there are no signs of this band slowing down—that much is clear. (Matt Vogel, Music Director)

1. Taylor Swift – 1989

Taylor Swift - 1989

Our staff has tastes that range from the freshest indie acts to the most pizza-obsessed pop punk bands and everything in between, so when it comes time for our end of the year lists, you might think it would be hard for us to find an album we all agree on. This year, though, a certain blonde haired pop starlet came through with an album that not just us, but almost the entire internet as a collective, all fell in love with: 1989 by Taylor Swift. From beginning to end it’s the closest to a timeless pop record that you’ll find in recent memory, and it marks a new era for Swift in more ways than one. Not only has she ushered in the “pop” version of her music (rather than the forlorn country girl we came to know), but she’s also stronger and more confident in herself than she’s ever been before. On songs like “Blank Space,” “Shake It Off,” and “New Romance,” she’s learned that she shouldn’t let others dictate her happiness for her–and as we go into the new year, that doesn’t seem like too bad of a resolution for each of us, does it? (Tarynn Law, Writer)

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