(artwork by Dana Pacifico)
We are almost a month and a half into 2015, but I finally got around to publishing a full list of my favorites albums of 2014. There was a lot of great music released, so much so that I had to make a separate honorable mentions list of records that just missed the cut. Which makes the 50 records that did make it even more impressive.
If anything, these albums are more so my favorites of the year than “the best” as it’s all totally objective. But these were the albums that defined the 12 months of 2014, soundtracking endless drives into the cities, summer festivals, moments of solitude, as well as parties and celebrations of all kind. Looking back, it really was a pretty damn good year.
With that said, here are my 50 best albums of 2014:
49. Kevin Morby – Still Life
48. Temples – Sun Structures
47. Twin Peaks – Wild Onion
46. The Drums – Encyclopedia
45. The Horrors – Luminous
44. The Orwells – Disgraceland
43. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – I’m In Your Mind Fuzz
42. White Lung – Deep Fantasy
41. Caribou – Our Love
40. Ariel Pink – Pom Pom
39. Marissa Nadler – July
38. Blake Mills – Heigh Ho
37. Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow
36. Lydia Ainsworth – Right from Real
35. Alex G – DSU
34. Aphex Twin – Syro
33. Fear Of Men – Loom
32. Tune-Yards – Nikki Nack
31. Amen Dunes – Love
30. Mr Twin Sister – Mr Twin Sister
29. Hamilton Leithauser – Black Hours
28. Royal Blood – Royal Blood
27. Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
26. Alt J – This Is All Yours
25. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
24. Springtime Carnivore – Springtime Carnivore
23. Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal
22. Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence
21. The Antlers – Familiars
20. Tops – Picture You Staring
19. Hundred Waters – The Moon Rang Like A Bell
18. Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots
17. Real Estate – Atlas
16. The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers
15. St. Vincent – St. Vincent
14. Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else
13. Shabazz Palaces – Lese Majesty
12. Adult Jazz – Gist Is
11. Ty Segall – Manipulator
10. Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
It seems to come so easy to Mac DeMarco. He follows up 2 with an even more complete well rounded effort, that’s surprisingly very mature for someone who acts so goofy. From start to finish Mac delights with some delightful, polished material that even explores synth work. No matter, Mac is able to take anything and make it into his own. At 24-years-old, Mac is only just getting started.
9. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness
Angel Olsen is one of the most exciting voices in folk music at the moment, even more so as she experiences with more rock-oriented sounds as she did on Burn Your Fire For No Witness. While those moments (“Forgiven/Forgotten” / “High Five”) are stirring, it was the more haunting moments such as “White Fire” or “Windows” that stuck with me.
8. Beck – Morning Phase
With Morning Phase, Beck returned to the folk beauty that he touched on with Sea Change many years ago, and won a Grammy for Best Album as a result. A pretty amazing (unexpected) achievement, but one that’s definitely deserved. It’s a true album that has a living breathing pulse, with every song integral to the carefully crafted whole.
7. D’Angelo And The Vanguard – Black Messiah
Ironically if I rushed to get my list out December struck like so many others, this album would have been left off. But thankfully I waited (a bit too long, I admit) as the long-awaited return of D’Angelo is a triumphant effort that bleeds soul. He put so much into this record, and it shows.
6. Spoon – They Want My Soul
Spoon have been the most consistent rock band in America for some time now, and They Want My Soul is just further proof. While so many bands fade at this point of their careers, Spoon seem to have found new life. While this record is very Spoon in spirit, it sees them experiment with new sounds and methods to achieve it.
5. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2
The best hip-hop album of the year and probably the most fun. Although it’s a rap record, it’s a rock album in sprit, with super-charged mega beats that hit harder than most rock albums did this year. It’s a perfect party album, with hit after hit flying at you through the speakers, each track as fired up as the next. The first record from Killer Mike + El-P was good, but RTJ 2 is something else entirely. These guys are an exiting force, something that music really needed.
4. The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream
Fuck Mark Kozelek. That’s what I’ve been thinking of late when returning to Lost In The Dream, the triumphant and bold release from The War On Drugs. A band that released such a great record shouldn’t have to deal with the bullshit ego from another artist. It’s such a well produced record, with so much power and beauty found at every moment. I still remember my first listen to “Red Eyes” and wondering how the hell any other song on the album would beat it. I don’t think they did, but they sure did come close, with equally awesome efforts like the widescreen opener “Under the Pressure” and the hypnotic “An Ocean in Between the Waves.” This is a record that people will be returning to for a long time. Expect to see this high on the best of the decade lists. We’re halfway there…
3. Wild Beasts – Present Tense
Wild Beasts are so damn underrated. Although their latest effort Present Tense seemed to be liked by mostly everyone, it wasn’t quite loved as much as I love it. They’ve been so consistent for so long now, so it wasn’t a surprise that I enjoyed the album so much. But even I found myself somewhat surprised but the maturity found here. Sure there are some very Wild Beasts songs on here like “Wanderlust” or “A Simple Beautiful Truth,” but they found new ways to use space and ambience for powerful effect on more refrained, poignant moments like “Pregnant Pause” and the hypnotizing finisher “New Life.” I have a hard time picking just one definitive favorite track, which says it all about this magical album.
2. Alvvays – Alvvays
Alvvays debut album just happened to be one of my favorite albums of the year. It was the record of the summer for me, a listen that provided excited turns at every corner. “Archie, Marry Me” is the rightful benchmark, but it’s just one of the many highlights. At only 9 tracks long, there’s not fat to be found. Although they’re at their best when they’re creating tight brisk arrangements, they also capture something different on tracks like “Party Police” which are rather sincere and heartwarming. There’s something relatable to be found in all of the songs, which is possibly why this album connected to me so well. At the end of the day, it’s an album that I can put on at any time, anywhere and be taken away. That’s all the convincing I need.
1. Future Islands – Singles
This was the year of Future Islands. Not only here on this blog, but for many likeminded music fans across the country. The incredible “Seasons (Waiting On You)” was our first taste of this gem of an album, and although it’s arguably the song of the year (find out where it ranks here soon), the rest of the album is built with songs equally as strong and essential. Take the perfect album closer “A Dream of You and Me,” which would be my #1 if it wasn’t for “Seasons.” From start to finish, Singles hits on something universal, something that connects with you deep down in the pit of your stomach. It’s an album that captivated me throughout the year. I have memories listening to it on my flight back home to SXSW, as well as countless drives over the summer with the windows down as it blasted into the welcoming streets.
So often bands hit it big with an album with one truly great song, with the rest being forgettable filler. Future Islands did it the right way, with ten unforgettable songs creating an album that won’t be forgotten anytime soon. I don’t know how they’re going follow it up, but why worry about that now. Just enjoy this classic.