Well kiddos, another year behind us. We made it around the Sun again. The Seahawks won the Super Bowl. Ferguson happened. Outkast played the same exact show 50+ times. North Korea gave it their best shot. George Clooney got married to a lawyer instead of a supermodel. BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, we got some amazing new music. Music is a completely subjective thing, so I have some trouble decreeing that these are the **ALL TIME BEST ALBUMS OF THE YEAR** but without any further ado, may I present…
TOP 20 ALBUMS THAT MADE ME FEEL SOME TYPE OF WAY IN 2014
All of the #feels below.
1: JUNGLE – JUNGLE
Type of feels: quitting my job to be a back-up singer in a disco band type feels
This was my favorite album of 2014, no question. From start to finish, Jungle’s *debut* release is a masterpiece. The music is sophisticated. The melodies are catchy. The lyrics are enticing. The tone is varied. Bottom line: the talent is unprecedented. From the exuberant “Busy Earnin” to the contemplative “Accelerate”, the groove is absolutely addictive. They revamp the glory days of funk and soul with an electro-facelift suited for the modern day. It is my humble opinion that Jungle was the best thing that happened to music in 2014. Just turn on the album, it speaks for itself.
2: RUN THE JEWELS – RTJ2
I mean what is there to even say. Run The Jewels 2 is a brilliantly gritty piece of glistening gold. Killer Mike and El-P are like yin and yang—combining their aggressive beats and intelligent lyrics to create something searing and provocative. It takes a lot to make a hip hop record truly great – and RTJ2 has it all. We love the 1-2 punch of ultra-hype “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)” and the slow-burning melt of “All My Life”. A perfect storm of biting humor and righteous anger, this album/duo is the razor-sharp revival that modern hip-hop so desperately needed.
Despite having toured with Pretty Lights and being featured on the Divergent soundtrack, the flirtatious, exhilarating In Return is what has catapulted these Seattle boys into the stratosphere. I’ve listened to this album pretty incessantly since the day it was released and I’m not stopping any time soon. Full, rich instrumentation soars from track to track and though a wide variety of tone is explored, it’s all incredibly uplifting. The whole album is so thoughtful and deliberate–from the sweeping melodies to the smallest details. Odesza sounds like how a smile feels.
4: D’ANGELO – BLACK MESSIAH
D’Angelo has been threatening a new album for damn near 15 years and on a random December night, he finally delivered. Though I knew the 90’s legend wouldn’t disappoint, I certainly didn’t anticipate the down-right funk-nastiest release of the year. Tight harmonies and catchy riffs color this album with an attitude all it’s own. From the Big Easy-esque “Back To The Future Part I” to the sensual “Really Love”, there Is nothing like it. With the sophistication of jazz and the power of soul carrying this progressive album, D’Angelo proves that he is so much more than a naked torso on an album cover.
5: LITTLE DRAGON – NABUMA RUBBERBAND
Alt-pop is alive and well, thanks to this brilliant release from one of Sweden’s most important export. (Yes, that includes Ikea). The tracks are extremely varied, but there is a intangible cosmic thread that ties Nabuma Rubberband together. In on track, they warn girls about the dangers of beauty. In another, they say f*ck it and move to Paris. My God, this album is so easy to love. Even when the song is somber, Yumi’s voice is calm and soothing–somehow breathy and rich at the same. This album single-handedly catapulted me into Spotify’s Top 10% of Little Dragon listeners worldwide (srsly I got an email about it). I regret nothing.
6: GLASS ANIMALS – ZABA
These uber-wavy brit boys gave us something fresh and enticing with their first album Zaba. The style is the same throughout, but they play with rhythm, tone and flavor. From tripped out highs to subsonic lows, their funky brand of psychedelic-rock truly knows no bounds. The lyrics are borderline nonsensical, but I still know exactly what they mean. There’s something strangely sexual about the way they proposition their “peanut butter vibes”. Lyrical and dynamic, their unique sound imitates nobody. Also that cover of “Love Lockdown” is epic.
7: THE BLACK KEYS – TURN BLUE
Nobody seems to agree with me here, but I think this is one of the Black Key’s best albums. With melodic ease, Turn Blue chronicles the grit, pain and—finally—the resolution of heartbreak (Auerbach was going through a nasty divorce at the time). Long-time producer Danger Mouse joins the ranks again, and his presence is readily felt in the dialed-up psychedelics. The opening track echoes Pink Floyd in their glory days (and that is not a statement that I throw around lightly). Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney relish in raw, unadulterated rock and roll and every second resonates beautifully. If you disagree, just roll a j and give this album a second chance.
8: PORTER ROBINSON – WORLDS
Although he’s been packing festival tents since puberty, I’m going to go ahead and say that 2014 was Porter Robinson’s most impressive year to date. With this album, the prodigal son of EDM left abrasive bangers behind and unleashed a new creative vision that left the industry in starry-eyed awe. Sweeping and cinematic, these songs create a universe that is beyond the common conception of beauty. His sound is still heavy and rhythmic, but in a different, more mature way. He’s all grown up (#callme). “Worlds” is the beginning of an exciting, new chapter for Porter Robinson–he is a legend and he’s here to stay.
9: CHET FAKER – BUILT ON GLASS
In the book of genre-bending, Chet Faker deserves his own chapter. Part electro, part alt-rock, and completely brilliant, this Aussie illuminates emotional pleas with an entirely new light. His music is patient–building slowly and growing to an uneasy climax that feels inexplicably delicate. His voice is spun gold, and he isn’t afraid wander around the same melodic line for the entirety of a song and GUESS WHAT it never gets old. His collaborative work with friend/hottest-producer-du-jour Flume has been excellent, but Built On Glass is beautiful monster all it’s own.
10: FKA TWIGS – LP1
This album is a fearless, seductive journey through the mind of this year’s most daring pop import, FKA Twigs. This bite-size woman has a larger-than-life presence both in the studio and on the stage. Right when you think you have a read on her, she comes at you from left field and drags you down her rabbit hole. She has re-ignited the creativity in pop music with this weird, unapologetic, barrier-breaking album. “Two Weeks” might be the sexiest song of the entire year. This whole album makes me sweat.
11: SAM SMITH – IN THE LONELY HOUR
Sam Smith is a new type of icon for a new generation of music lovers. He’s sweet, he’s poised and he’s pure class. Though he crashed into public eye in 2013 as the vocalist on the all-time-catchiest-song-ever “Latch” by Disclosure, 2014 was all about Sam. His elegance is understated–he doesn’t need bells, whistles or fire-cannons to entice us. This album exhibits his #flawless talent and his songwriting is relatable in it’s heartache and humility. Sam Smith has the kind of gift we only receive every other decade and quite frankly WE. ARE. NOT. WORTHY.
Banks has been releasing things here and there for about a year, but in Fall 2014 she finally made it official with this brilliantly brooding full-length album. Appealing to the over-thinkers and the chronically-dissatisfied, her songs are strangely empowering. Somebody hurt this girl, and her poetic lyrics are her retaliation. And they’re my retaliation too. She’s helped create a new brand of girl power rooted in introspection and emotional awareness. This raven-haired beauty is already changing the landscape for female artists, we can’t wait to see where she goes next.
13: SPOON – THEY WANT MY SOUL
I’ve been a Spoon fan for 10+ years and trust me, I was certain that they’re best days were behind them. (To be honest, I thought they had broken up). But then came this album. They’ve never relied on any tricks or spectacle to entice their fans–they’re just a bloody brilliant rock band. And, man, how they’ve benefitted from the time to mature and diversify. The hits of the past, though iconic to my Pacific Northwestern teenage years, shy in comparison to the ease and approachability of the new anthems on They Want My Soul. This has been my go-to soundtrack on mellow afternoons.
14: BASSNECTAR – NOISE VS BEAUTY
As electronic music has devolved into the insufferable trend that it is today, Lorin Ashton has brazenly stayed true to himself and his vision. It’s not about endorsements or ticket sales for him, it’s about giving his fans a once-in-a-lifetime experience–and that’s exactly what he’s done with NVSB. This album explores a large perspective of complex emotions; joy, rage, empowerment, defiance–it’s all there. With this highly-anticipated release, Ashton silences all the closed-minded haters spewing the same old line “all electronic music sounds the same”. The only thing uniform across this entire album is the way it makes me want to round up my fellow bassfreaks so we can get in the pit to try and love someone.
15: LANA DEL REY – ULTRAVIOLENCE
After a long period of aloof inactivity, the world had been waiting patiently for Lana Del Rey’s next installment. And what she delivered was exactly what I had been hoping for — a dark, free-wheeling glimpse into the world of pop’s most tragic beauty. With Dan Auerbach at the helm, Ultraviolence makes her previous records look like bubble-gum pop. At moments psychedelic, (at others troubling), this album zig-zags between emotions all too familiar to the modern “cool girl” while still retaining the Del Rey glamour we have been hungry for. Many listeners ask, “Um…is she okay?” Short answer: No. But she likes it that way.
16: FUTURE ISLANDS – SINGLES
They don’t rely on any gimmick, there is no signature element that sets Future Islands apart from the rest of the rock world. They’re just really good, and it’s that simple. And they’re in their prime on 2014’s Singles. Fitting to the title, I feel like every song on this album can easily stand on it’s own. Lacking any self-indulgent sugar-coating, this album forces you to level with yourself. There is so much wisdom packed on to this excellent album…every 20-something needs to give a good, hard listen to “Seasons (Waiting On You)” to remind yourself of the bittersweet realities of the world.
17: JAMES VINCENT MCMORROW – POST TROPICAL
There is something so distinctly nostalgic about James Vincent McMorrow’s music. The perfectly imperfect tone of McMorrow’s voice layers elegantly with stark instrumentation resulting in something that stirs the soul. Minimal in its structure only, this album haunts me with the complexity of faded loves and leaves me yearning for the innocence of childhood adventures. Despite hope-filled lyrics, there is an overarching melancholy on this album. So if you’re needing the inimitable therapy that a sad song brings (as I so often did in 2014), look no further than Post Tropical. But have the tissues ready.
18: JACK WHITE – LAZARETTO
There are few musicians in this generation that share the unbridled genius of Jack White. Lazaretto shows the world that Jack’s solo vision is just as worthy-of-respect as his other projects (The Raconteurs, The White Stripes, The Dead Weather to name a few). Lazaretto is the gritty Jack White jam session that we’ve all dreamed of bearing witness to. Forever the brooding stepchild of the rock world, Jack White knows how to keep music simple without sacrificing any power or angst. Fundamental blues structure perfectly punctuated with razor-sharp guitar riffs come together to pack a mean punch without ever over-complicating. Unapologetic and irreverent, this is one of the best rock albums of the last few years.
19: SCHOOLBOY Q – OXYMORON
Rap is in one of the most progressive eras to date. As producers experiment with electronic and rock influences, what results is a fresh, open-minded take on hip-hop. This album echoes that pseudo-reformist movement but it also delivers a much-needed dose of West Coast Gangster Sh*t. Q is one of my all-time favorites and I was admittedly nervous about this habitually delayed follow-up album, which had a lot to live up to after Habits & Contradictions and Setbacks (which are both sheer brilliance). I’m pleased to report that here was not a single track on Oxymoron that disappointed me. From the bouncy party-anthem “Los Awesome” to the menacing threat “The Purge”, this album is dynamic and attentive to every style. Q called on many famous friends to help this vision come to life—-Kendrick, 2 Chainz, Kurupt, SZA, Tyler the Creator I mean DAMN THE GANGS ALL HERE!
20: JESSIE WARE – TOUGH LOVE
I’m a huge fan of this new wave of pop princesses coming out of Europe. Somewhere between Charli, Adele and Ellie lies the elegant, level-headed Jessie Ware. Her talent is clear, but what entices me more is how relatable, accessible and normal she seems. Her melodic, borderline-retro brand of synth-pop is at its best on Tough Love, which is undoubtedly her most vulnerable release thus far. Her songs aren’t over-the-top declarations of love or despair, but instead they highlight the intricacies of emotion and connection that echo through all of our lives. With this album, we are all Jessie Ware.