If nothing else, 2014 was a year filled with an impressive number of Midwest albums, and good albums at that. It was hard to narrow down one expansive list to a much smaller list the MWA staff could agree on – but we sat down and hashed it out for you. After much deliberation and hours of extra listening, we’ve been able to collect our 12 favorite albums released in 2014. Tell the world what your favorites were in the comments section below.

SPOILER ALERT: We still don’t give a shit about Kanye.

Love Stained Heart by Pop Goes The Evil

“I mentioned Pop Goes The Evil’s “Eat Your Heart Out” in our “Favorite Songs of 2014” post, but Love Stained Heart deserves its own recognition. The eight track release is just as dark and dramatic as it is energetic and playful. Front-man Lucas Frazier has an undeniable flair for theatrics and the way it translates to the music is truly something that you need to experience for yourself.” – Eric Slager

Boys on Boys on Boys on Boys on Boys on Boys by Evasive Backflip

“Evasive Backflip are one of most entertaining and interesting bands to come along in quite some time. Their live show is an explosion of angular, erratic rock songs with influences ranging from noise, prog, punk, and even free jazz. Boys on Boys is the perfect way to sum up their two years as a band. The energy of their live performance shines through not only in the album’s actual live recordings but throughout the entirety of this 12-track epic. This album blends their live experience with their incredible talent for composition and song structure in a way that is hard to ignore. These guys are the Cream of experimental rock.” – Dan Jarvis

Something Wicked by North By North

“Also ranked as one of MWA’s best vinyl releases of the year, this album is a tour-de-force when it comes to rock and roll. Every song on it is powered by driving guitar and a hypnotic vocal punch from lead singer Nate Girard, backed by Kendra Blank, on keys. Something Wicked is the fruition of years of hard work and jamming together. Every track has something unique to it, whether it be the style of the music or the clever lyrical storylines. This entire album is worth a sit down listen, but the stand out single for me has to be “Her Name Was Vengeance”. -Patrick David

Cocktail by Faux Paw

“The album starts: ‘I’m too drunk to keep my hands off me.’ Hah, yes! What follows is a touch over 18 minutes of some of the most interesting indie rock Indiana has to offer. Cocktail jumps from songs that ooze fuzzy rock melodies to the surfiness of ‘Boxer Brief’ and then to the alt-country inspired ‘Corn’ with clever lyricism woven through them all. Every listen makes the album that much better; the variety of songs strikes the perfect balance. It’s just that good. Faux Paw is one band of many proving that Indiana’s music scene is kicking ass.” -Alyssa Lee

Drive Out by Carter Hulsey

“Early this year saw the release of country/folk record Drive Out from Missouri singer-songwriter, Carter Hulsey. Benefiting from sparse, almost minimalist instrumentation, the record focuses on Hulsey’s strengths as a lyricist and songwriter. If you’ve ever found yourself doubting the future of the genre, just throw on Drive Out and let its refreshingly honest and oftentimes raw tracks put your mind at ease.” – Eric Slager

Back in Black by Archie Powell and the Exports

“From the slow, echo-y ballads like ‘Electrocute My Heart’ to the extremely hard ‘Mambo No. 9’ and ‘Everything’s Fucked’ this album delivers on every track. It’s easy to drop the needle on this record and find yourself flipping it over again and again at the end of it. While the whole album is a knock out I’ve been playing ‘Lean’ so much that I think the grooves are getting deeper on that track. Guttural screams and hard rock energy throughout the album makes this one of the best releases of the year.” – Patrick David

Pals by Velocicopter

“I can’t say enough great things about Velocicopter. From the explosive intro of ‘Tongues’ all the way through to the 8 minute epic, ‘Major Arcana’, Pals is a fucking powerhouse. Meg MacDuff’s voice has an immediacy to it that hits you like brick to the face and doesn’t stop. Combined with a solid rhythm section (backed by Matt Haywood, who has quickly become one of my favorite drummers in Chicago) and David Ducasse’s guitar work, V-Cop is making some of the best damn rock music in all of the Midwest. Oh, and they’re even better in person.” – Dan Jarvis

Fuel Your Delusion vol. 4 by Mutts

“With an early December release, Mutts was cutting it close for inclusion on any ‘Best Of’ lists. Fuel Your Delusion vol. 4 is so damn good though that they could have waited until ten minutes to midnight on New Year’s Eve and I would have still found a way to include it. The fourth full-length and seventh overall release from Mutts has the guys combining elements of everything they’ve picked up over the last five or so years. There’s not much I can say about Mutts at this point that hasn’t already been said, so just give the record a listen and thank us later.” – Eric Slager

Wretched Pinups by Swimsuit Addition

“This is Swimsuit Addition’s magnum opus. From start to finish, this album delivers. Composed of a few of the band’s earlier singles and some brand new material, it serves as a great document of where the band is at right now and where they’re going. They’ve continued to expand their sound with the use of synths, vocal harmonies, and mind-melting guitar riffs. Swimsuit Addition are continually setting themselves apart from being labelled as “just another girl band”. Everyone in Chicago should have listened to this album by now.” – Dan Jarvis

Projection Room by Sleepy Kitty

“With a rock sound straight out of the ’60s and ’70s, Projection Room offers a modern twist on classic rock and is a great example what Sleepy Kitty have to offer. Paige Brubeck’s lovely echoing vocals set the tone for the album while Evan Sult keeps the rhythm on the drums. This duo have been making a name for themselves across the country and deserve every bit of the praise they get. Projection Room is an album you can toss on when you want to just drift away and get lost in the music. There are plenty of fast tracks to speed you up and slow ones to chill you out mixed with a quick “mic got left on bit” type track here and there. This album was a great way to get through 2014 and I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to hear what they’ve got in store for 2015.” -Patrick David

Last Time For Everything  by Shiloh

“Shiloh have been an ever-growing presence in Chicago’s music scene for years now. Their third and latest album, Last Time For Everything, is a brilliant piece of power pop sprinkled with hints of punk rock and even a dash of country. They have the pop sensibilities of Big Star, the energy and presence of The Replacements, and the “don’t give a fuck” attitude of Pavement. Last Time is easily Shiloh’s best album to date. The entire album is overflowing with catchy rock riffs, upbeat vocal harmonies, and a healthy does of Midwestern sarcasm. It’ll keep you coming back for more.” – Dan Jarvis

The Brave by Zigtebra

“Honestly, what’s not to love about Zigtebra? Bubbling electronic melodies and straight-forward guitar work swirl around Zebra’s slinky vocals in the outfit’s sophomore album. Each song builds and builds its layers, always landing on a really strong chorus and knowing just how to grab the listener. Minimalistic composition and guitar accompaniments, each a part of this uncomplicated but perfectly orchestrated album, work in tandem to create a really strong collection of songs. Enjoy The Brave in its entirety, and good luck not singing along with ‘Say Ah! (Make a Joyful Noise)’, it is absolutely infectious.” -Alyssa Lee

Pop Goes the Evil | Evasive Backflip | North By North | Faux Paw | Carter Hulsey
Archie Powell & the Exports | Velocicopter | Mutts | Swimsuit Addition
Sleepy Kitty | Shiloh | Zigtebra

Best of 2014 | Favorite 7 EPs | Favorite 8 Music Videos | Favorite 7 Vinyl Releases | Favorite 11 Songs | Favorite 5 Chicago Venues