25. Sza – Ctrl (2017)
Refreshingly vulnerable, bawdy lyrics, and featuring a vibe that shifts between neo-soul, chillwave, 80s pop, and a smattering of other influences. Ctrl is fun, but not for the pearl-clutching crowd. Standouts: Supermodel; Drew Barrymore; The Weekend.
24. The National – Trouble Will Find Me (2013)
Lyrically as cryptic as ever, Trouble Will Find Me, finds The National at peace with what they are: rich, layered, and stubbornly beautiful alternative rock. Their music is nothing if it isn’t a bit gloomy. Still, their catalog is an embarassment of riches, and Trouble Will Find Me is yet another valued addition to the canon. Standouts: Sea of Love, Graceless, I Need My Girl.
23. Junip – Junip (2013)
Junip is in essence a solo album by Swedish folk-rock artist José González, with help from sideman Tobias Winterkorn. For fans of González, Junip serves as a (somewhat) electrified offshot of his previous work. The two are not trying to set the world ablaze; and that’s okay. There is still a lot to love here. Standouts: Line of Fire, Villain, Head First.
22. D’Angelo/The Vanguard – Black Messiah (2014)
Eschewing the chill, neo-soul vibes that brought him fame, for a more muscular vibe, D’Angelo returns after a 14 year hiatus with Black Messiah, invoking clear sense of urgency and purpose. Featuring new-found skills as a guitarist, Black Messiah is a masterstroke, indicative of the times. Standouts: Aint that Easy, Charade, Till it’s Done (Tutu).
21. Japandroids – Celebration Rock (2012)
Clocking in at a shade over 35 minutes, Celebration Rock is a real romp that gets straight to the point. The Vancouver-based Japandroids never let up, with a collection of beefy rock tunes that are just as heavy on melody as they are overdrive. The Replacements are an obvious comparison, but there are other elements of punk and classic rock here that make this one of the best of the last decade. Standouts: Adrenaline Nightshift, Continuous Thunder, The House that Heaven Built.
20. The Twilight Singers – Dynamite Steps (2011)
I’ll get this out of the way now: this album is probably ranked too low. It is a remarkable piece of work. The brainchild of Afghan Whigs front man Greg Dulli, Dynamite Steps is by far his most complete and fully realized piece of work (which is saying a lot). Dynamic and enriched by appearances from Mark Lanegan and Ani DiFranco, Dynamite Steps shines from start to finish. Standouts: Get Lucky, She Was Stolen, Dynamite Steps.