Can we call this year a wash? Looking back on it, 2014 might have been one of the most disappointing years in music I have heard in a long while. I look at my list, full of really great music, but lacking stuff that truly transcended. I might remember a few in the future, but 2014 was largely forgettable. This list is lacking and it saddens me. Yes 2014 made a nice late charge, but if often felt a little too little too late. But here we go anyways. Rules are obviously obvious. These are my favorite albums, not what I believe to be the best. Second, no EPs allowed. Mixtapes maybe. Alright, here we go, counting from 50 to 1. Forgive me.
Honorable Mentions (EP Only Edition):
Always by Panama
Do It Again by Royksopp & Robyn
Northtown by Shamir
Kauai by Childish Gambino
Mr Noah by Panda Bear
50. Me. I Am Mariah...The Elusive Chanteuse by Mariah Carey
It's weird to say this, but people slept on a Mariah Carey album. She doesn't have the voice she used to (She is 45 guys!), but she's like Kobe, half a step behind, but still damn impressive. And so is this record, and this comes from a person who was never much of a fan. So yes, I'm asking you to listen to a Mariah Carey album in 2014, and promise you will enjoy it.
49. Tomorrow's Modern Boxes by Thom Yorke
The bad news is this isn't a Radiohead album. It's not even as good as The Eraser, his previous dip into solo work. And yet it's still full of haunting music that might make you think your laptop is haunted. The music twitches and buzzes. It's bipolar, like your own musical palette. You'll eat it up.
48. I Never Learn by Lykke Li
It's a heartbreaker of an album, but that doesn't mean it hurts. It's mature and moody and damn good. And most importantly, it'll make you feel something, which is sadly rare when it comes to music these days. We should cherish this kind of stuff.
47. Michael by Les Sins
Les Sins is Toro Y Moi. Okay cool? Now that we have that out of the way, this album, almost entirely without actual vocals, instead filled with stellar production and gnarly samples is a great experimental dive. And when it works, it really lifts off.
46. Everything Will Be Alright in the End by Weezer
I had all but given up hope on Weezer. And they pull something like this AND TOTALLY REDEEM THEMSELVES. But seriously, who the hell thought that Weezer could make an album this good after years and years of mediocre to plain bad music? They once made an album with Hurley from Lost on the cover. Think about that. And then they made an album full of gems. One of the biggest and best surprises of the year.
45. You're Dead! by Flying Lotus
I know many people LOVE this album. I don't. It's difficult. It's mostly free form jazz mixed with god knows what and while I appreciate the skill and boldness, it's not something I tend to choose to listen to. And yet I can't leave it off this list, because the moments it sucks me in, it really gets me and I'm slayed.
44. Sunbathing Animal by Parquet Courts
Imagine how good these guys would be if they weren't always stoned. Wait, scratch that. Their half fried brains come up with great music that senselessly meanders, without any direction beyond being really good rock 'n roll. It's always summer when you listen to Parquet Courts. Ain't no problem with that.
43. Voices by Phantogram
The first time I heard Phantogram was when they opened for M83 and were cool as f*ck. They are still cool as f*ck, dropping a badass album that has plenty of umph. If it had a little more umph it would probably be higher, but I can't complain much. It's cheeky and I like it.
42. Songs of Innocence by U2
The iTunes debacle was a real shame when you realized that U2 and Apple gave us a really good album for free, just they were total creepers in their method. And so that is the narrative rather than the fact that U2 still makes pretty good music you guys.
41. Oxymoron by Schoolboy Q
Rap had a terrible year. But you can't pin that on Schoolboy Q, who dropped an album that might not be for anyone, but exudes confidence and personality. Maybe it's inflated into this spot because this list sorely lacks good rap, but who cares. It is abrasive rap that at least tried. And when it bangs, it bang bangs.
40. Days of Abandon by The Pains of Being Pure At Heart
On their last record, The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, a mouthful of a band name, tapped into 90s rock revivalism and really rocked it. But on their newest, they go back even further, to the 80's of your favorite John Hughes flicks. And it works again. Maybe with not as spectacular results, yet still pretty remarkable.
39. Ghost Stories by Coldplay
Coldplay fill up arenas, so it's surprising they released a relatively small, intimate, quiet storm of an album. It's kind of like Parachutes but kind of not. They will never be that band again. But it's nice that they went within for once. And the album stays slow, calm and controlled before finally erupting for one climactic song ("Sky Full of Stars"). It's nice, really nice, and very very pretty. And it's miles ahead of whatever Mylo Xyloto was.
38. El Pintor by Interpol
I guess I'm a bit of an Interpol apologist. Every album except their past one I've loved. So those who say this is a return to form, to them I say they never left. They still are making great rock music to listen to in the dark under a dim night light.
37. Singles by Future Islands
I can't explain why, but Singles feels like the best dad album of all-time. I don't even know what I even mean by that. It just feels like the music is geared toward my generation when it should really resonate with one a bit older. But despite the fact that listening to Future Islands makes me feel old, it also makes me feel good.
36. Xscape by Michael Jackson
Posthumous albums are a strange brew. It's hard to really listen to them and fully enjoy them since. The artist is dead. And the music has been changed, and is not exactly what the artist had intended. But that doesn't mean it still can't be good, which is why as a big Michael Jackson fan, I was pleasantly surprised by Xscape, since it actually had some pretty good Michael Jackson music and at points might be better than Invincible, and I love Invincible.
35. Morning Phase by Beck
I'm gonna admit something. I wasn't so hot about Sea Change. Not my thing. I usually like weirdo Beck, not sad sack Beck. And this is also sad sack Beck. But it's still cool, because it's still Beck and Beck is awesome. Just go back to being weirdo Beck. I miss weirdo Beck. Beck Beck Beck Goose.
34. The Inevitable End by Royksopp
Royksopp's "final" album is also one of their best, an electric tour de force. You'll dance, you'll cry, you'll smile. It's just drop dead gorgeous and it'll be "sad" to watch them go (get it? You get it).
33. Nikki Nack by tUnE-yArDs
Yes it's basically a white girl making African influenced music, but once that novelty wears off, you realize that there is a genuine appreciation here and skill in the appropriation. Plus it's weird as hell, and I dig that.
32. Wonder Where We Land by SBTRKT
Somehow, someway, dubstep made it's way on the list. Well, it's actually more post-dubstep electronic stuff, but it's still here. Kinda. But nevermind that, because this new SBTRKT album is a mix of really funky instrumental tracks, really cool tracks featuring Sampha, and weird guest stars who may or maynot work. It's definitely not safe, and I reward ambition.
31. Queen of the Clouds by Tove Lo
Swedish chicks make the best pop music. No joke, this stuff is awesome. Robyn has good company. And I don't even really like pop music normally, but her attitude and the general badass catchiness of the proceedings really won me over. She's a hot mess and I'm hot for her. Okay, I should stop before I go to hell.
30. 2014 Forest Hills Drive by J. Cole
The years most honest and genuine album is a rap LP. Deeply personal and lacking mainstream singles, J. Cole's solid record isn't a classic, but it sounds awfully close to one. Nas would be proud.
29. Sound of a Woman by Kiesza
It's two decades too late, and yet strangely right on time. A great throwback record to the days when house music diva's ruled a small section of the airways. Brought me back, way back. Love these nostalgia trips. Now team up with Disclosure already.
28. Lost in the Dream by The War on Drugs
It's a critical darling, one of the best reviewed albums of the year, and will end up on alot of end of the year lists, especially near the top. And I agree, kinda. It is very good indie rock seeped in Americana. It's just not usually my jam, so forgive me that it's not higher.
27. Hesitant Alien by Gerard Way
My Chemical Romance was a good band. I don't care what anyone says. They were legit. And so now that they are gone, I needed this. It's not that same, but it's good in it's own way. It's a grab bag of glam rock, britpop and 80s "stuff". It's very cool and unlike most solo albums, it does not suck. Quite the opposite.
26. Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey
When I first listened to Lana Del Rey, back when she had no idea what she wanted to be as an artist or even how to sing properly, I really dug it. She was a complete and utter mess, but a fascinating one. So it's a shame she kinda figured it out and actually made a genuinely good album. I miss the crazy, but hey everybody has to grow up. Just sucks she now makes sad girl music and ditched her gangster Nancy Sinatra style. But this isn't a bad consolation prize.
25. Hozier by Hozier
If this year proved anything, it's that white boys got soul. And the debut by Hozier is proof in the pudding. It's a little bluegrassy (if that's even a word), a little churchy, a little folksy. And while he's far from the first person to appropriate gospel into popular music (thank you Ray Charles), he's one of the few that doesn't make you cringe. This is a great debut and can't wait to hear more from this guy.
24. Atlas by Real Estate
Real Estate doesn't leave much of an impression. Their music is sunny yet dripped in melancholy. It's kinda soft and songs do tend to blend together. And yet it is very good, almost better than it has any right to be. And this album is all sorts of amazing. I just wished other people could remember them enough to appreciate them like they should.
23. Ices by Lia Ices
Similar to the tUnE-yArDs' record, Lia Ices takes world music and spins it. And I dunno why, but I love it when she does it. It feels so fresh and different. And with such a slacker of a year musically, we need more people pushing the right buttons. Now you might be like, who the hell is Lia Ices? Look her up, give her a listen, since this is some great stuff.
22. Food by Kelis
It's hard to imagine this is the same Kelis who was once with Nas and made a stupid song about milkshakes. She's been kinda legit for a while, but this is really the coming out party. Produced by TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek, it has a really great sound and her voice takes it to another level. A real diamond in the rough.
21. Art Official Age by Prince
Prince is back guys. Did you hear me? Prince is back. Just ignore that other album.
20. In The Lonely Hour by Sam Smith
I complain alot about this album. I wish it had some teeth. I wish it wasn't just the male version of Adele's 21. I wish the production had some kind of edge. But then I need to shut the hell up because Sam Smith can sing. Like really sing. Pop music hasn't had a vocalist like this really since, I dunno, Whitney and Mariah during their peaks. I am not exaggerating, his voice is an impressive weapon and he'll figure out how to truly wield it soon enough.
19. Broke With Expensive Taste by Azealia Banks
Too little too late? Hardly. Instead Azealia proves good things happen to those who wait.
18. White Women by Chromeo
I maybe an idiot, but I really truly don't know if Chromeo is a joke, because they aren't that funny, and the music is damn catchy. They sound like they could be a modern day Hall & Oates with a sense of humor. And that's no slouch. Plus they got some heavy hitters joining the party, so maybe I don't even care if it's all a big practical joke being pulled over my eyes and ears. They got me.
17. Post Tropical by James Vincent McMorrow
Another white boy with soul, even better than the first. And they're all Irish, haha. Sometimes I stumble upon real treats and I'm glad I found James after hearing his killer "Higher Love" cover and discovered that this folk singer had chops for some R&B type stylings. Glad he went that direction and hope he continues to explore it to the fullest. Our ears are thankful.
16. Seeds by TV on the Radio
What happens when one of your band members passes? You keep making music that he would have been proud of. And that's what TV on the Radio did and it's beautiful and touching.
15. LP1 BY FKA twigs
The album cover makes me uncomfortable and so does much of the album material. It's dripping with sex. Unlike anything I've ever really heard. And it's not terribly explicit, it just sweats it, through the pores of the music itself. It's completely bizarre and yet there is no denying that this is something truly special. There is such craft, energy, rhythm, feeling, poetry. It maynot be wholly my cup of tea, but this actually might be the best album of the year. It really is a masterpiece.
14. Our Love by Caribou
Probably the best (okay second best) electronic album of the year, it's a rich, layered musing on all types of love. And it's ear candy for the masses. Headphones not included.
13. Run The Jewels 2 by Run The Jewels
Many people will say this is the best rap album of the year. They might be right.
12. Too Bright by Perfume Genius
It's beautiful. Just beautiful. A baroque pop(?) album that feels like the beginning of something and the end of something else. Like an introvert becoming an extrovert, spilling the contents of his heart so long hidden so deep. It left me stunned. Albums rarely leave me stunned. I don't know what else to say.
11. It's Album Time by Todd Terje
One word. Groovy.
10. Sucker by Charli XCX
Trashy but not trash, brash and a little bratty, Charli XCX expands her sound by maturing into the immature. She knows her audience is young and kinda dumb, so is the album. But that's not giving her enough credit. It's also f*cking fantastic and should have been the album on everyone's summer rotation, the soundtrack to everyones pool party. Alas it was not, but hopefully this will finally make her the pop star she already knows she is.
9. Days & Nights by Daley
Been a good solid year for R&B and it's fringes. Plus score another for the Brits. Daley is a revelation, a fantastic debut with a smooth androgynous voice that grabs hold and never lets go. I'm fine with that, because it doesn't get much smoother than this.
8. Black Messiah by D'Angelo and The Vanguard
Maybe it's the the emotion in me, but the fact that this album is real, honest to goodness real makes it deserve a place on this list. And the fact that it's f*cking amazing also warrants this spot. I amended this list just to place this album because it's just perfect and it's D'Angelo and the world really needed this.
7. "What Is This Heart?" by How To Dress Well
Alternative R&B is here to stay. And this might be the prime example, a sweeping R&B epic that will leave you soaked.
6. Tough Love by Jessie Ware
It may lack the urgency and freshness of her debut, but that's her debut and this is her maturing. The expansion of her sound and her voice really shines here, cementing her as a legitimate threat to be the best voice in the biz. There is a reason EVERYONE is or wants to work with her. My little secret is growing up. Wait, that sounded wrong.
5. G I R L by Pharrell Williams
How do you make a truly great pop album? Well, it doesn't hurt that you might be the best producer in the game and are known for making some of the biggest hits in the past 20 years of pop. Add to the fact you seemingly are a vampire that doesn't age, including your voice, and speaking of voice, have found yours in what type of music your stylings belong to. Oh and throw in a killer duet with Justin Timberlake and you got this new classic. Haters gonna hate.
4. St. Vincent by St. Vincent
How do you even start to explain the brilliance of St. Vincent and her self titled album? You don't.
3. Under Pressure by Logic
My favorite rap album of the year wasn't made for the kids of today. It was made for people like me, those who remember hip-hop's history, who used to listen to A Tribe Called Quest, Nas and even The Red Hot Chili Peppers, who want a classic album rather than some flash in the pan. Yes, it feels an awful lot like Kendrick's album, but there is too much skill, too much thought, too much flow, too much good sh*t for this to be some lame copycat. This right here, this is legit.
2. This Is All Yours by Alt-J
Triangles are my favorite shape.
1. They Want My Soul by Spoon
Personally, I think this is the best album Spoon has ever made. And that's good enough to be my favorite album of the year. It's not saying much, but it is what it is. Oh and I should say this album is all sorts of amazing. Listen to it. Like now. Like right now. Now. NOW! GO!