20. The Range – Potential
Origin: Providence, Rhode Island
The Gist: Potential is notable for James Hinton’s unorthodox approach of building each song around samples of undiscovered artists that he found on YouTube. Using the voices of these relative unknowns, Hinton is able to capture truly raw emotions that he accentuates with elements of down-tempo, house, and grime.
Why It Rules: It’s an album about unwavering determination in the face of adversity, a meditation on what it is to strive for a goal that may not be attainable. The record’s opening line of “Right now I don’t have a backup plan for if I don’t make it” serves as its mission statement, a combination of fear and anxiety fueling ambition, and the rest of the album captures those feelings perfectly. –David Sackllah
19. Kevin Morby – Singing Saw
Origin: Woodstock, New York, via Los Angeles, California
The Gist: The former Woods bassist and Babies frontman reaches a new high on his beautifully arranged third solo effort, which merges Dylan-esque folk rock with a distinctly modern sensibility.
Why It Rules: Kevin Morby’s sepia-toned Singing Saw rings with echoes of the past, and the LA-based songwriter clearly isn’t trying to hide his debt to ‘60s singer-songwriters (the album’s release synced neatly with the 50th anniversary of Blonde on Blonde). But Morby’s voice is all his own, the product of late nights and long hours spent alone. Like most classic or soon-to-be classic records, Singing Saw has a pleasant, indescribable blurriness to it, as if it’s touching on truths that can’t be transcribed on the lyric sheet. –Collin Brennan
18. Deftones – Gore
Origin: Sacramento, California
The Gist: The making of Deftones’ follow-up to 2012’s Koi No Yokan was marked by creative tension, but all for the better.
Why It Rules: Prettier than its name implies, Gore is the alt-metal veterans’ best effort in years. It’s also their most balanced, giving moody experimentalism and powerful volume equal room to roam. –Ryan Bray
17. Various Artists – Sing Street (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Origin: Dublin, Ireland
The Gist: The soundtrack to John Carney’s film of the same name, Sing Street
combines original songs by the titular fictional band and real-life musicians of the era. While predominantly featuring seminal New Wave acts like The Cure, Duran Duran, and Joe Jackson, there’s also a dash of heavy metal and straight-up punk.
Why It Rules: The new songs sound right at home alongside the vintage tunes, proving just how perfectly director John Carney, composer Gary Clark, and — on one song — Adam friggin’ Levine nailed the sonic atmosphere of being a young person in 1985. –Dan Caffrey
16. Mothers – When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired
Origin: Athens, Georgia
The Gist: Mothers formed out of songwriter Kristine Leschper’s art school solo project, before recruiting band members to join her and flesh out her music. This lineup resulted in the band’s debut record, When You Walk a Long Distance You Are Tired.
Why It Rules: Leschper has a knack for tapping into the stagnant weariness that hangs over a gray day, letting her slight Georgia drawl flutter above sparse arrangements. It’s a comforting sadness, reflecting the exhaustion the record’s title implies while becoming something transcendentally beautiful in itself. –Dusty Henry