The year 2014 set standards and yet broke boundaries in the world of music that put the US into a music loving tizzy. Taylor Swift brought back the appreciation of an album to hold and Beyonce took another approach to music marketing. There were different sides of music that were explored; new characters of the music world were developed; and albums were dropped that were nothing ever heard before. There were so many new albums to choose from, so making this list of the top 14 albums of 2014 was very hard.
1. Beck – Morning Phase
I will be honest, I did not like this album the first time I listened to it. Why? Because I was hoping and praying for something similar to Guero, which is one of my favorite albums of all time. But this is something that shows Beck’s musical longevity. Musicians should be able to evolve, and explore other ends of the artistic spectrum with their gifts. Beck is also the artist that I would love to have a cup of coffee with and a long conversation. He’s the one person that I’d love to pick his brain.
2. Future Islands – Singles
My goodness, this band is one of the most energetic bands I have seen…on TV at least. I hope I can see them play when they come to Atlanta’s Variety Playhouse Feb. 26, 2015. But at first when I heard “Seasons (Waiting on You)” I thought this was straight from the 80s. Then coming to realize that this album was from this year, it made me curious. These songs are lyrically beautiful, and are played wonderfully. And the songs unleash the listener’s imaginations like no other.
3. Hospitality – Trouble
I was turned on to this album by a coworker. I didn’t know much about Hospitality, but I could relate to the dreaminess in their music. It’s an atmosphere that takes people back to a nostalgic time. This is daydreaming music to me. Or road tripping music. Really, any kind of occasion music.
4. Röyksopp and Robyn – Do it Again
This was the duet album that led all other duet albums. This is not something like Faith and Tim, y’all. This is an album that you can dance, run, relax and even sleep to (I have before, don’t judge). It is, to me, a very classic album, and it will be remembered for a long time.
5. Porter Robinson – Worlds
This is an EDM prodigy. And I say this strongly because the “young DJ” trend started with him and Martin Garrix. Personally, I would see Porter Robinson over Garrix any day of the week. Garrix is just nice to look at in my opinion. But back to Robinson; he really showed a greater appreciation for electronic music that grazes the atmospheric realm. It’s ambient, yet strong, which is something that not a lot of people can grasp. At least not a lot of people his age.
6. The Hunger Games – Mockingjay: Part 1 Soundtrack
Lorde curated this album, repeat. LORDE. CURATED. THIS. ALBUM. Which means that the anti-pop movement runs rampant in this album. One of my favorite tracks in this album is by CHVRCHES, “Dead Air.” It plays out as an upbeat yet intense track, but it still has the signature beat that the group holds dear. Lorde also drops “Yellow Flicker Beat,” which brings out the darkness in the film. And the film is pretty dark, if you ask me.
7. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
I started listening to Against Me! after my crush gave me their CD As The Urban Cowboy one summer. And it was history after that! I’ve followed Against Me! through the years, and when the announcement of the lead singer’s sex change was causing controversy, I didn’t see what the big deal was. She’s an artist, she can do what she wants. The transition didn’t change their music, but it changed their dynamic into something stronger. There’s a deeper meaning to their music, but there will always be fast drums and hard guitar riffs.
8. FKA Twigs – LP1
The next genre that is getting the electronic makeover is R&B. And this is a very difficult genre because there’s a fine line between something rhythmic that keeps the R&B soul, and atmospheric. FKA Twigs is constantly straddling that line, but her lyrics still show that all of her emotions are on the track, and probably all over the studio floor. It’s an album with a lot of integrity.
9. Alt-J – This Is All Yours
There’s a funny story that I was told about a song from this album. “Left Hand Free” was a response to Alt-J’s record label’s request for the band to be more “poppy.” Truthfully, Alt-J made it quite okay for alternative music to straddle the line between rock and atmospheric. There is nothing wrong with their sound! So “Left Hand Free” sounds like them, at least they sound like that to me. There’s also “Hunger on the Pine,” where they sampled Miley Cyrus, which made me like her even more.
10. Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways
This is not a sell-out album. In fact, this is an album that really walks us into the lives of Foo Fighters as they are recording this actual album. Foo Fighters launched an HBO series that followed the recording of their album, showing different songs in different cities. This struck an amazing chord with me because 1) Dave Grohl is everything that I want in a man; 2) they were able to capture each cities’ eclectic music cultures; and 3) who does this for an album!? This is so cool!
11. La Roux – Trouble in Paradise
La Roux is in a league all her own. There’s no other artist like her, or has the ability to partner a “choir boy” voice with sleek electronic sound. It makes a very different sound that’s enjoyable above all else. Trouble in Paradise showcases an 80s feel, from the album cover to the melodies. It makes me want to get acquainted with Miami Vice #MillenialHistoryLesson.
12. Banks – Goddess
Like Lorde, Banks is amongst the ladies in music that are becoming the “anti-pop star.” Banks had a slightly different trait in her music that set her apart from Lorde and other songstresses. That trait? Her music is much, much darker lyrically. Perfect example in her track “Goddess”: “You never got this / You put her down, you liked her hopeless / To walk around, feeling unnoticed.” That darker shadow in her music is ballsy, and it helps people really grasp their darker sides. Not to mention her voice is like velvet.
13. Spoon – They Want My Soul
Spoon’s most recent album wasn’t a push for a comeback, or even a step towards a “younger sound.” It was, in fact, a continuation of their signature step worthy music. I always can recognize Spoon by the lead singer’s voice, call me crazy, but I think his voice is so distinctive, and it cannot be copied. The raspiness lives on in their 2014 album, making it an immediate favorite.
14. Jack White – Lazaretto
2014 was the year for Jack White, among other artists. We have learned so much about this man in one year, and it showed in his music, and his business Third Man Records. White has the opportunity to become a part of music history as he continues to preserve music history, and paying homage to old style rock, bluegrass, and folk. As a lot of musicians are moving forward towards more modern approaches to the art, White plants his feet right where he is, keeping the old style alive.
Honorable Mentions: Sia – 1000 Forms of Fear; The Black Keys – Turn Blue; and Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright In The End