Saturday, December 20, 2014

Best Albums of 2014

I've been itching to get back into blogging and discuss popular music once again. I'm hoping in 2015, I'll get back in the regularity of it all again--like I did 2008-2012. But anyway, here is my list of my best... or rather, favourite albums of 2014: 

1. Jessie Ware - Tough Love. Whilst the critics loved it, I wasn't a fan of English singer, Jessie Ware's debut album Devotion. There's no eloquent way to put it: I just simply found it boring and a little meandering. However, this sophomore offering is quite the turnaround. Tough Love takes the sensuality that the critics loved about its predecessor and injected life, delivering a set of beautifully crafted take on pop that comfortably stretches over R&B, soul and sort-of modernist Motown. Best Track: Kind of... Sometimes... Maybe.

2. D'Angelo & The Vanguard - Black Messiah. I believe this is the album that made every music enthusiast appreciate neo-soul again. American singer, D'Angelo delivered his first album since 2000's Voodoo fourteen years ago (which is still a regular fixture in my music-listening routine). Aside from the fact that this is a great soul record, what's more impressive is how effortlessly D'Angelo makes it seems like no time has passed since Voodoo, and seems to pick up where that album left off. Best Track: Really Love.

3. Sam Smith - In the Lonely Hour. As far as lovely ballads that tug at the heart-strings go, Sam Smith delivered the years' most beautiful and lovelorn record, carried by his incredibly emotive and soulful vocal. Best Track: Leave Your Lover. 

4. Hozier. Irish singer/songwriter Hozier weaved together elements from blues, soul and indie rock, overcut with his booming, soulful, versatile vocal, to create his wonderful eponymous debut album. Best Track: Take Me to Church. 

5. Taylor Swift - 1989. Taylor's fifth album is the year's biggest success story in more ways than one: Becoming only one of three albums (with the Frozen soundtrack and Sam Smith's album) to sell a million copies--which it did in its first week (her third record to do so) and just all-round being a successful detour from the country/pop that she had showcased on her last four albums (maybe sans Red) Best Track: Out of the Woods. 

6. Tinashe - Aquarius.  It didn't hit me until this year that there is a new age of R&B arising (PBR&B), popularized by the likes of Frank Ocean, The Weeknd and FKA Twigs (who unfortunately doesn't feature on my list). The general sound is  moody, atmospheric soundscapes with hushed synths and a soft vocal: American singer Tinashe's debut is another entry into this new sound and it's pretty good. Best Track: Feels Like Vegas. 

 7. The Veronicas. The last Veronicas album, seven years ago, is still one of my favourite pop albums ever. I'm not sure why the follow-up took so long, but it was definitely worth the wait. Capitalising on their signature mix of rock, pop with electronic undertones. Best Track: Line of Fire. 

8. Banks - Goddess.  Similar to Tinashe's debut, but with a more alternative edge, Bank's debut album is downbeat, synth-laden and mood stricken, with a vocal reminiscent of that of Aaliyah. Best Track: Brain.

9. St. Vincent. Four albums deep into her career, this is the first record I've heard of American singer St. Vincent and it's brilliant--an eccentric and stylish exploration of different types of rock to thrilling results. Best Track: Birth in Reverse. 

10. Bombay Bicycle Club - So Long, See You Tomorrow. Great follow-up to A Different Kind of Fox, another captivating record from the British band. 

11. Azealia Banks - Broke with Expensive Taste. After numerous delays and run-in's with celebrities on Twitter, rapper Azalea Banks finally dropped her much-awaited debut album--ambitious, creative, assertive and at time strange--it's everything I expected and ultimately, wanted. Best Track: Desperado.

12. Beck - Morning Phase. Up until this release, I hadn't listened to a Beck album since 2002's Sea Change, but with all the acclaim I couldn't resist. Understandably, he's in a different space musically than he was twelve years ago as the deep hypnotic, spacey instrumentation I loved about that record has been replaced with a country/folky mentality that's just as satisfying and enjoyable. 

13. Mariah Carey - Me. I Am Mariah... The Elusive Chanteuse. There was no way I wasn't going to include this. It hasn't been the best year for Mariah--a flop album, divorce and criticisms over her vocal--but still, through the bullshit, managed to deliver a stellar R&B album. Best Track: You Don't Know What to Do.  

14. Royal Blood. Think Disclosure and then think unapologetic early 2000's rock. Heavy guitars, drums and vocals to die for (almost Matt Bellamy like)--British rock duo Royal Blood delivered an impressive debut. Best Track: Little Monster.

15. Ariana Grande - My Everything. Ariana's first album was great because it reminded me of '90s R&B (my favourite genre of music) a sound that she was able to pull off effectively thanks to her silky, Mariah-esque vocals. This follow-up definitely wasn't a '90s throwback, but enjoyable nonetheless: A masterclass in mainstream pop. Best Track: Love Me Harder.  

16. Sia - 1000 Forms of Fear. This album delivered one of the year's biggest pop hits ("Chandelier"), thankfully there was more to it than that, abliet a lot it more commercial than her previous work, but there's nothing wrong with that. Best Track: Free the Animal. 

17. Ed Sheeran - X. My best friend said Ed Sheeran's sophomore album sounded like Ed Sheeran parodying himself. For a while I agreed, however eventually the set grew me. What's not to love, even if it's just for the lovelorn "Thinking Out Loud." Best Track: Thinking Out Loud. 

18. Interpol - El Pintor. Interpol delivered their best album since their debut: Hollowing, textured galvanising guitars and drum work. 

19. Charli XCX - Sucker. Following a high-profile feature that put her on the map, British singer/songwriter Charli XCX dropped her fun, indie-punk/electronica pop-infused eponymous debut. Best Track: Break the Rules 

20. Nicki Minaj - The Pinkprint. If we pretend that, "Anaconda" doesn't exist, Nicki Minaj's third album isn't bad--there's a lot to like, it's relieves us of the hyper-eccentric and disjointed nature of her last album delivers more downbeat and introspective. Best Track: All Things Go. 

21. The Black Keys - Turn Blue. Eight album from American rock duo and third full-length collaboration with producer Danger Mouse landed the band yet another solid offering in their inventory. 

22. Alt-J - This is All Yours. The second album English band Alt-J wasn't as interesting as their debut, turning in something more downbeat, a little experimental and odd-Miley Cyrus sampling, but still thoroughly enjoyable. 

23. Kiesza - Sound of a Woman. From the, "ooh ah" screech of lead single, "Hideaway," to the '90s house beats of, "No Enemiesz," Canadian singer, Kiesza's major label debut is an album filled with '90s nostalgia. 

24. Foo Fighters - Sonic Highways. There aren't that many rock bands I like that are as consistently good as the Foo Fighters. And this album is no exception--it didn't hit me as hard as 2011's Wasting Light, but the energy is still as potent as ever. 

25. Iggy Azalea - The New Classic / Reclassified. Think of this as a pop album, rather than a rap one and then the controversy surrounding Iggy Azalea as a rapper fades away. Best Track: Fancy. 

Significant mentions: 

Silk Rhodes - Growing Pains
Lykke Li - I Never Learn
FKA Twigs - LP1 (Critically acclaimed, but just too skeletal and minimalistic for me to enjoy)  
Jhenè Aiko - Souled Out
J. Cole - 2014 Forest Hill Drive
Tove Lo - Truth Serum EP
Ella Henderson - Chapter One
Ben Howard - I Forgot We We Were
Thom Yorke - Tomorrow's Modern Boxes (Not really for me, I appreciate what he tried to do)
Lana Del Ray - Ultraviolence (Interesting, but didn't enjoy it as much as her last album)

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