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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Lady Antebellum, '747'

36. Lady Antebellum, '747'

Lady Antebellum have always owned the swollen, sentimental ballads that made them, but on their last two albums, the trio have shown that they're also not afraid to get goofy or head downtown for some un-self-conscious fun. On "Freestyle," the one with the "Fleetwood Macklemore" line, they quote McConaughey and use a Billy Joel flow to consider skinny-dipping from the perspective of the innocent fish getting their first glimpse at human genitalia. On "Sounded Good at the Time," they rewrite "Need You Now" from the perspective of someone who has happily moved on. Even "Damn You Seventeen," a weepy duet about two high school sweethearts who clearly haven't, is less about young love than young frivolity, a lament for the days when a Def Leppard cassette could just be a Def Leppard cassette. N.M.

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