7. Sleater-Kinney, The Center Won’t Hold (Mom + Pop)
One of the most admirable characteristics of venerable Portland trio Sleater-Kinney has been the fearlessness they’ve displayed for more than two decades. They confront, they agitate, and they continually defy expectations, which, ironically, is exactly what shook many in their 40s out of their middle-aged stupor upon hearing Sleater-Kinney’s ninth album. With the help of like-minded innovator Annie Clark (she of St. Vincent notoriety) as producer, co-conspirators Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker wrote the catchiest material of their career and turned their sound inside-out: arrangements are stripped bare, more focus is placed on the vocals, and atonal noise punctuates nearly every track. It’s an inspired shift in direction, although the decidedly mechanical drumming cost Brownstein and Tucker their longtime collaborator Janet Weiss, who left the band, dismayed with the final product and her reduced role in the band. Regardless of how Weiss feels – and she will be missed – such stunners as “Hurry on Home”, “Reach Out”, “Can I Go On”, “The Future is Here”, and the joyous “LOVE” are astounding marriages of pop, indie rock, and experimental music, making The Center Won’t Hold an instant classic.