20 / The Life and Times / The Magician EP

Suburban Hymns’ creeping shoegazing presence bursts into view on The Magician. “Hush” bulks up My Bloody Valentine, “I Know You Are” revels in backwards layers, and “The Sound of the Ground” uses delayed feedback for a magnificent ache. The only caveat? Epley’s vocal melodies blend in rather than stand out.

19 / I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness / Fear Is on Our Side

The sigh of how “A fire swept through…” starts the record, and true to the band and album names, this gothic atmosphere never subsides. Yet the brittle ’80s club beat of “According to Plan” and the chorus-laden leads of “At Last Is All” are evocative evidence of the burned past.

18 / Russian Circles / Enter

Mathematics may be required to determine the point a third of the way between the bruising muscularity of Pelican and the optimistic exhales of Explosions in the Sky, but that’s the extent of Russian Circles’ studies. Enter is far more concerned with bloody knuckles and sudden concussions than trigonometric equations.

17 / TV on the Radio / Return to Cookie Mountain

A year-defining platter for some, a measured progression in my view, Cookie Mountain swims in buzz and swirl, obfuscating the direct punch of “Wolf Like Me,” breaking with the midpoint jaunt of “I Was a Lover,” congealing in the swaying melancholy of “Tonight.” I’m still waiting for their epochal statement.

16 / Accelera Deck / A Landslide of Stars

Chris Jeely pulls another surprising turn, enlisting a drummer to play passionate, pummeling rock over his recent forays into processed guitar and laptop loops. Landslide comes alive when this underbelly bristles, overtaking the chugging guitar in “Fire Sermon” or revealing its skeleton in “Embrace.” Biggest question: where does this lead?

15 / Silkworm / Chokes! EP

Chokes! concludes Silkworm’s tremendous run with a victory lap, not a eulogy. “Bar Ice,” “Internat’l Harbor of Grace,” and “Lily White & Cherry Red” recall the nouveau classic rock of Lifestyle and Italian Platinum, while the live “Spanish Harlem Incident” is an apt remembrance of the missed Michael Dahlquist.

14 / Tim Hecker / Harmony in Ultraviolet

My initial impulse was to call Harmony in Ultraviolet a symphony of noise, but such classical terminology implies the usage of appropriate forms. Instead, Tim Hecker erodes these structures until only cascading waves remain. “Chimeras” and “Blood Rainbow” show their skeletal remnants, but carefully conceal the pathway to full excavation.

13 / Mission of Burma / The Obliterati

The elder statesmen of post-punk give their progeny a talking to, but with looser moments like the disco homage in “Donna Sumeria,” the backwards incantations of “Careening with Conviction,” and the one-liners in “Nancy Reagan’s Head,” it feels playfully revitalized, not stern. Watch out, would-be dance-punks: “2wice” still spanks hard.

12 / Paik / Monster of the Absolute

Don’t let the miasmic intro and outro fool you; Monster of the Absolute is secretly Paik’s most approachable album. Shaping the layers of smoke and fog of Satin Black into discernable structures, Paik avoids the grand plateaus of The Orson Fader in favor of oscillating, weighty riffs and pulsing rhythms.

11 / Norfolk and Western / The Unsung Colony

Between A Gilded Age EP and this album, Adam Selzer’s one-time recording project became a genuine band, with beneficial collaboration replacing insularity. “Barrels on Fire” and “Arrangements Made” embrace larger gestures, the skeletal folk songs blossoming with horns and strings. Now you can yearn for rustic antiquity in brilliant Technicolor.

10 / Errors / How Clean Is Your Acid House? EP

At only eighteen minutes, nineteen seconds, Errors’ debut employs a frustrating economy with its endlessly listenable combination of programmed beats, post-rock guitars, and whirring synthesizers. This slyly propulsive set maximizes its brief running time, glancing introspective vocoders against boom-boom-clap beats with melody leaking out the sides. Now about that full-length…

09 / Hammock / Raising Your Voice… Trying to Stop an Echo

Venture out on another blissful trip into glimmering horizons, occasionally dozing off in the passenger’s seat as the sun peeks through the clouds. Awaken when the carefully crafted ambience blooms into early ’90s shoegaze on the title track and “…Like Starlight into Day.” Dream of this repeating tomorrow evening. Rest.

08 / Nina Nastasia / On Leaving

It’s quite a ruse. Departing from the gothic milieu and indirect malice of her previous work, On Leaving initially seems timid; populated with half-finished sketches, not full-bodied songs. Yet Nastasia colors these tales of daily routine with such subtle shading that the bold strokes become curiously mute until suddenly striking.

07 / Chin Up Chin Up / This Harness Can’t Ride Anything

Quirky without seeming forced, cloying, or cute, Chin Up Chin Up invests these ten tracks with long life spans and hooks to spare. The hush of “Mansioned,” the insistent pulse of “Water Planes in Snow,” and the accelerating click of “Landlocked Lifeguards” triumph over oblique lyrics and misdirecting song titles.

06 / Isis / In the Absence of Truth

Releasing the thematic stranglehold of panoptic surveillance, Isis incorporates deft drum patterns, slightly more coherent singing, and a vague fixation on Middle Eastern mysticism. What remain the same, however, are the epic compositions, which glide effortlessly from throttling metal to introspective meditation, especially in “Garden of Light” and “Holy Tears.”

05 / Clark / Body Riddle

Body Riddle is a triumph of electronic narrative: foreshadowing and reprising its strongest notes while varying moods and textures. The swirling violin in “Frau Wav,” the thump of “Ted,” and the exuberant clicking of “Night Knuckles” build up to the charging, cathartic finale “The Autumnal Crash.” DJ Shadow’s envy grows.

04 / Jesu / Silver EP

Recognizing how his glorious remix of Pelican’s “Angel Tears” illuminated the darker corners of Jesu’s self-titled debut, Justin Broadrick re-appropriates his own massive shoegazing aesthetic for Silver. The shimmering noise now glides over the once-oppressive heft, allowing for new, rewarding directions: the driving “Star,” the slow-burning “Wolves,” the glistening “Silver.”

03 / Pinebender / Working Nine to Wolf

Albums rarely plead for more twelve-minute epics, but bookends like the shuddering, mammoth blues of “Parade of Horribles” and the cathartic feedback crests of “Fifth and Last” deny logical arguments with Pinebender’s success. Between these pillars, melodic exploits, threatening rumble, and veering dynamics arrive in smaller—though still excellent—packages.

02 / Benoît Pioulard / Précis

A pseudonym is appropriate for this confluence of avant-garde soundscapes and affecting songwriting, since such subtle misdirection turns potentially precious acoustic songs into aesthetic achievements. This split personality merges in the gentle swell of “Patter,” the claps and ooohs of “Triggering Back,” and the inviting strum of “Sous la Plage.”

01 / Tungsten74 / Binaurally Yours

Their signature expanse recedes, revealing classically derived melodies within their improvisational repertoire and their most approachable, finest record to date. Whether basking in a glorious haze, blaring like an exploding arcade, driving in concentric grooves or aching with newfound delicacy, Tungsten74 surpasses its previous bounds. Album of the year? “Absolutely.”