Top 10 Albums/EPs of 2014 Pt 1 (Albums 10-8)

10. Quarterbacks - Quarterboy

Though not intended to be anything more than a collection of his acoustic demos, Quarterboy just might be the defining installment in Dean Engle's Quarterbacks discography, soon to be 4 albums deep. The Quarterboy demos are stripped of the frenetic punk energy injected into the "official" versions of the songs, laying bare the true emotion that lies beneath their chipper, fast-paced exterior. The spacious, echoey arrangements of the demo for "Sportscenter" bring out melancholy hinted at in its more abrasive counterpart, better setting the tone for the narrator's submission to the unchanging passage of time. The moody one-two punch of "Center" and "Pool" is one of the year's most gut-wrenching musical moments, two honest meditations on young love and the conflicted feelings, awkward exchanges and regret that ultimately come with it. There's an overwhelming sadness in Engle's voice and in the fuzzy, acoustic warblings that seep from his guitar that will consume all who listen to Quarterboy: it's the sonic equivalent of the feelings of embarrassment that hit you while lying a wake at night, remembering every little stupid thing you've said since elementary school.

RIYL: Elliott Smith, Beat Happening, Lois

9. Kool A.D. - Word O.K.
(March 2014 Self-Released)

The self-proclaimed "best rapper in the world", Kool A.D. is Victor Vazquez, the former half of hip-hop duo Das Racist, a visual artist whose work is a psychedelic fusion of Keith Haring and Ub Iwerks, and above all, a post-modern prophet. In our current pop-cultural climate which acknowledges the absurd, self-aware genius of artists like Lil B and Tim & Eric, it's high time for Kool AD's work to garner more recognition. The material on his most recent mixtape, Word O.K. serves up dry wit in spades, but not haughtily so. Vazquez's laid-back flow pairs nicely with his deadpan sense of humor, delivered with the deft conveyance of the class clown: self-referential and intelligent but often charmingly blunt and immature, laughing at his own inside jokes mid-track. It's not just the lyricism that'll keep you coming back for more; the jazzy production that flows lazily through the tape just adds to Kool AD's relaxed aesthetic, especially on the sleek opener "Open Letter". If you listen to any track off Word O.K. though, let it be "Tight". Its sour, slippery beat provided by chillwave maven Toro y Moi establishes a seedy atmosphere to match the acerbic lyricism of Vazquez and his features, Lakutis and Mr. MF'in Exquire.

RIYL: Lil B, Danny Brown, Le1f

8. Sarrasine - EP1
(July 2014 Self-Released)

Weaving strident lead guitar through a buttery weft of fuzzed-out chords and warbly bass, Argentinean shoegaze outfit finds just the right balance between beauty and abrasion. The album compiles just about everything I love about everything I love about 90s music. Evident in their debut release, EP1, is the proto-grunge bombast of Dinosaur Jr's Green Mind and Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream, the jangly charm of Sarah Records, the weighty nothingness of Slowdive. It's a must-have download for dream pop diehards that's stunning from start to finish.

RIYL: Sonic Youth, Brighter, MBV