40 Best Country Albums of 2014

The greatest statements from the year's outsiders, small town heroes and American middle class

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Eli Young Band, '10,000 Towns'
40
22/40

22. Eli Young Band, '10,000 Towns'

With the loose, barroom rumble of the Red Dirt Texas tradition and a knack for catchy pop polish, Eli Young Band's fifth LP boasts reliable country-rock anthems and smart acoustic strummers. "Hallelujah and amen for the lies I caught you in," they sing on "Revelation," propping a middle finger on the neck of their guitars — if the lyrics aren’t punishing enough, the dirty beat sure is. Paired with moments like the near-Semisonic-esque "Let's Do Something Tonight," 10,000 Towns showed how an earnest twang is possible without always resorting to balladry and slow-burners. M.M.

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