1. Bad Bad Hats, Psychic Reader
Sounds like: No-bullshit, ultra-dynamic '90s-style alt rock in the tradition of Liz Phair, the Breeders, and That Dog. Kerry Alexander's lyrics are as sharp as her songs are catchy.
2. Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
Sounds like: Kinda like if Pavement was fronted by a brainy Australian woman. Barnett's lyrics are consistently brilliant, and she has a gift for juxtaposing mundane, funny details with heartbreaking lines about trying to keep your head together.
3. Beach House, Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars
Sounds like: Gorgeous shoegaze music built around electric organ drones and airy guitar arpeggios. The band put out two albums this year: Depression Cherry, which leans a bit more ethereal, and Thank Your Lucky Stars, which sounds a little more grungy and scuffed up.
4. Beach Slang, The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us
Sounds like: If you need your emo revival itch scratched, Beach Slang does it with aplomb. Think loud power chords lifted by anthemic sing-along vocals that (almost) make up for the fact that Japandroids didn't release an album this year.
5. Belle & Sebastian, Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance
Sounds like: It's got the classic Belle & Sebastian sound — wispy, melodic, literary — but a bit groovier in some songs, and more lushly produced in others.
6. Born Ruffians, RUFF
Sounds like: Imagine if Vampire Weekend had anxious Canadian cousins who were just as good with melody, but less predictable in their rhythms.
7. The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Mini Album Thingy Wingy
Sounds like: An old friend. BJM have been consistently putting out great records the last few years and you've probably been missing out. Sometimes the soul just needs some BJM, you know?
8. Broken Water, Wrought
Sounds like: The perfect midway point between the classic emo of Sunny Day Real Estate and Rainer Maria, but, like, a little less melodramatic.
9. Built to Spill, Untethered Moon
Sounds like: Built to Spill, really. Which is to say — unassuming lyrics set to either monumental guitar epics or jangly little pop tunes.
10. Bully, Feels Like
Sounds like: A band that can't decide whether they're the Pretenders or Nirvana and just compromised on something very fun and interesting between those extremes.
11. Car Seat Headrest, Teens of Style
Sounds like: Indie rock made by a guy who always sounds sleepy, but yet is more ambitious and restless than anyone else. Imagine if Guided by Voices were waaaay more morbid.
12. Ceremony, The L-Shaped Man
Sounds like: Like a hardcore band died and their ghosts ended up jamming with Ian Curtis in punk rock heaven.
13. Chastity Belt, Time to Go Home
Sounds like: Imagine if all the coolest stoner weirdo girls you knew in school got together to start a band and one of them turned out to be a world-class lead guitarist.
14. Damaged Bug, Cold Hot Plumbs
Sounds like: The guy from Thee Oh Sees got reallllllllly high and made his own versions of vintage psychedelic jams by Silver Apples and Can.
15. Deerhunter, Fading Frontier
Sounds like: Like one of the best American rock bands of the past decade coming out of a deep depression, and chilling out a bit, and kinda learning how to dance too.
16. Deradoorian, The Expanding Flower Planet
Sounds like: One of the girls from Dirty Projectors breaking out on her own and diving deep into groovy psychedelia.
17. Mac DeMarco, Another One
Sounds like: The album's title pretty much says it all — it's another chill-as-hell Mac DeMarco album. If you like Mac, you'll love this. If you don't, hell, give it a try, man. Life's too short. Enjoy life. Enjoy Mac.
18. Destroyer, Poison Season
Sounds like: The music the smartest, crankiest guy at the bar wishes was being played while he sips his red wine and reads The New Yorker.
19. Diet Cig, Over Easy
Sounds like: Fuzzy female-fronted pop-punk that jumps between diary confessionals and attitude-laden ex-boyfriend write-offs. "Fuck your Ivy League sweater" may be the best lyric of the year.
20. Doldrums, The Air Conditioned Nightmare
Sounds like: If Radiohead had an even more paranoid and depressive little brother who had a voice that sounded weirdly similar to Perry Farrell.
21. Electric Six, Bitch, Don't Let Me Die!
Sounds like: One the most productive and underrated bands in the world clocking in with yet another batch of rock songs brutally satirizing fragile masculinity.
22. Erase Errata, Lost Weekend
Sounds like: One of the best yet most unfairly ignored bands of the '00s coming back for one more round of politicized post-punk tunes before calling it a day.
23. Future Punx, This Is Post-Wave
Sounds like: Cyborg clones of Devo in their late '70s prime sent back from the future to save us all.
24. Gardens & Villa, Music for Dogs
Sounds like: Someone finally got around to sounding like those amazing rock albums Brian Eno made in the '70s. Such a great idea!
25. Girlpool, Before the World Was Big
Sounds like: Folk-rock that's cute in a sing-songy way but mean in a very punk way. The dual high-pitched female harmonies hit so hard that it's no wonder the duo eschews drums on the whole album.
26. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Asunder, Sweet And Other Distress
Sounds like: If Explosions in the Sky make soaring instrumental music for the movie version of your life where you win, Godspeed make soaring instrumental music for the movie version of your life where you lose. And this time around, it's a truly crushing defeat.
Sample track: "Peasantry or Light! Inside of Light!"
27. Colleen Green, I Want to Grow Up
Sounds like: A cool stoner girl mastering the art of '90s indie rock while dealing with crushing anxiety and loneliness.
28. Julia Holter, Have You in My Wilderness
Sounds like: The soundtrack to a whimsical yet melancholy movie about a young woman lost at sea. And somehow Wes Anderson was not involved at all!
29. Hop Along, Painted Shut
Sounds like: '90s-style emo arpeggio-playing guitars (think American Football or Owls) bolstered by the powerful, instantly memorable vocals of singer Frances Quinlan. Best listened to at full volume.
30. Jenny Hval, Apocalypse, Girl
Sounds like: An incisive yet witty feminist social critique set to a funhouse mirror version of '70s rock.
31. Institute, Catharsis
Sounds like: Wiry and Wire-y post-punk. A bunch of dudes from Texas who love Crass but also love krautrock make a record that sounds like falling down the stairs drunk. In the best way possible.
32. Lady Lamb, After
Sounds like: Music that's a lot weirder and less straightforward than you'd think, with lyrics as strong as the voice that sings them.
33. Lower Dens, Escape from Evil
Sounds like: Music from a city of the future where gender is a fluid concept and emotions are more important than money.
34. Magic Potion, Deep Web
Sounds like: It's 95 degrees but you've got the perfect piece of shade, a reclining lawn chair, and your beverage of choice. Like if Real Estate lived in the cooler part of town.
35. Makeshift Shelters, Something So Personal
Sounds like: A band fronted by a girl who hates that she writes so many songs about dudes, and so she makes sure those songs are full of hilarious jokes at their expense.
36. Laura Marling, Short Movie
Sounds like: A folk singer who clearly worships Joni Mitchell trying her hand at some electric new wave vibes.
37. Archy Marshall, A New Place 2 Drown
Sounds like: The guy from King Krule setting his guitar aside to make a mostly ambient portrait of the grimier corners of contemporary London.
38. Micachu and the Shapes, Good Sad Happy Bad
Sounds like: The ideal soundtrack to walking around in an unfamiliar part of town in the middle of the night and somehow feeling simultaneously at ease and on edge.
39. Moon King, Secret Life
Sounds like: There's a magical world hidden deep inside your mind, and this music is your only way to get there.
40. The Mountain Goats, Beat the Champ
Sounds like: The poet laureate of indie folk spending an entire album pondering the lives of small-time wrestlers.
41. The Mynabirds, Lovers Know
Sounds like: An idealist, romantic woman moving to Los Angeles to find love and a new direction, but finding something a lot deeper somewhere along the way.
42. Neon Indian, Vega Intl. Night School
Sounds like: The sort of glamorous nightlife you imagine other people are enjoying while you're at home watching Netflix or reading a book.
43. Joanna Newsom, Divers
Sounds like: One of the most brilliant musicians of her generation writing powerful, poignant music about love, loss, and time.
44. No Joy, More Faithful
Sounds like: Someone finally had the genius idea to fuse My Bloody Valentine, Stevie Nicks, and Murmur-era R.E.M. into something at once familiar and entirely new.
45. Jim O'Rourke, Simple Songs
Sounds like: The work of a songwriter so sophisticated and self-assured that he could write a record as sophisticated as this and title it Simple Songs.
46. Of Montreal, Aureate Gloom
Sounds like: Kevin Barnes finally finished his multi-album nervous breakdown, got a divorce, got a new band, and still can't help but feel angsty AF. But as always, his angst is also funky AF.
47. Protomartyr, The Agent Intellect
Sounds like: Simultaneously catchy and unsettling post-punk that sounds like where it's from — the ruins of Detroit.
48. PWR BTTM, Ugly Cherries
Sounds like: Well-crafted indie glam tunes about having fun while being broke and queer in the suburbs.
49. Ratboys, AOID
Sounds like: Being young and confused and trying to make some sense of life while playing an acoustic guitar.
50. Sexwitch, Sexwitch
Sounds like: Natasha Khan from Bat for Lashes teaming up with a psychedelic band to turn old folk songs into sexy, witchy jams. That's a literal description of this record, by the way, not a metaphor.
51. Shannon and the Clams, Gone by the Dawn
Sounds like: '60s R&B/garage rock with a dose of modern psychedelic flavor. Imagine you (in a varsity jacket) and your best girl (in a poodle skirt) taking a mild drug trip at the local drive-in.
52. Sleater-Kinney, No Cities to Love
Sounds like: One of the greatest rock bands of all time returning after a decade with a set of new songs that are just as urgent and powerful as anything they ever did back in the day.
53. Soak, Before We Forgot How to Dream
Sounds like: A wise-beyond-her-years Irish songwriter with a talent for writing songs that make small moments in life sound magical and romantic.
54. Speedy Ortiz, Foil Deer
Sounds like: The kind of female rock star who sings "I'm not bossy, I'm the boss" in the chorus of a towering rock jam and absolutely means it.
55. Sports, Naked All the Time
Sounds like: You know that moment when you're out swimming late and the sun starts to go down but the bugs haven't quite come out yet? Sounds like that. Or, you know, if chillwave went through puberty.
56. Swervedriver, I Wasn't Born to Lose You
Sounds like: One of the great shoegaze bands of the '90s coming back with a set of songs that sound as though they could've easily come out circa 1996.
57. Teen Girl Scientist Monthly, Hyper Trophy
Sounds like: Perky, almost superhumanly catchy suburban alt-rock with a dark, subversive edge.
58. Thee Oh Sees, Mutilator Defeated At Last
Sounds like: One of the best underground rock bands in the world really doubling down on the psychedelic side of their music.
59. Titus Andronicus, The Most Lamentable Tragedy
Sounds like: New Jersey's most ambitious punk band sprawling out over a triple album and getting in touch with their inner Springsteens.
60. Toro y Moi, What For?
Sounds like: The king of chillwave discovering that he can rock out like the love child of Weezer and Electric Light Orchestra.
61. Torres, Sprinter
Sounds like: Someone who has held in a lot of painful emotions and grim thoughts and is letting it all come out slowly over the course of several dark, tightly wound songs.
62. Twerps, Range Anxiety
Sounds like: If the Feelies were a bit more buzzed, and Australian. Range Anxiety has sneakily sophisticated arrangements for a jangle-pop record, and the melodies are a perfect balance of lovely and sloppy.
63. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Multi-Love
Sounds like: Prince, if he took a LOT of acid, then chased it with some molly.
64. Veruca Salt, Ghost Notes
Sounds like: The majestically rocking Veruca Salt you might remember from the mid-'90s, back with a vengeance. Also, with a fresh perspective on the anxieties and insecurities that led to them breaking up the first time around.
65. Kurt Vile, B'lieve I'm Goin Down
Sounds like: Imagine Kurt Vile…but…even more chill. Imagine late-night Kurt Vile jam...but for 3 a.m. instead of 2 a.m. There's even a song with psychedelic banjo. How are you going to say no to that?
66. Jimmy Whispers, Summer in Pain
Sounds like: Some guy inviting you over to his place, and he pulls out some instruments and plays some songs just for you. And like, it's a little awkward, but the songs are actually really good!
67. Wolf Alice, My Love Is Cool
Sounds like: The graduates of a version of Hogwarts where instead of wizardry, the kids master every variation of '90s alt-rock, from the Smashing Pumpkins and Pixies to PJ Harvey and Hole. And the lead singer is Hermione, of course.
68. Yo La Tengo, Stuff Like That There
Sounds like: Indie's chillest elder statesmen doing unplugged versions of miscellaneous oldies, plus a few songs from their own back catalog.
69. Yumi Zouma, A Long Walk Home for Parted Lovers
Sounds like: A nightclub on Xanax. Extremely listenable dance pop tracks. Like a massage for the ears.