Best Albums Of 2014
1. Big Apple Blues – Tomas Docker Band – Yusef Komunyakaa and Tomas Doncker concern themselves with what people do and don’t do for each other, with a sidetrip to Alabama and a layover in Fun City.
2. 1989 – Taylor Swift – A tragedy pretending to be a comedy about the inability to find true love for a 24 year old and the music that goes along with it. Peaks sky high and made her a bigger star than ever.
3. Popular Problems – Leonard Cohen – He is melodic the way a bassoon is melodic, or maybe the way the memory of a teenage love is melodic, the contours remain there even if the details are lost forever and the two first songs are among the best he has ever written and everything else is damn near perfect as well.
4. Most Messed Up – Old 97s – The honest roar of rock and roll as the boys channel the Replacements and Waylon, Williams, outlaw rock and booze fueled power pop one more time and longer than you’ve been alive.
5. LP 1 – FKA twigs – Tahliah Debrett Barnett aka Formerly Known As twigs, is the most exciting thing to happen to UK soundscape soul pop since Lana del Rey and like Lana she doesn’t sound like anything else: a deeply arranged indie soul hybrid. Imagine if Massive Attack had been so big 1D and a girl in Gloucestershire, England, became completely obsessed with them…something like that
6. Hollywood High – Mike Hudson And The Pagans – Cleveland rocks, even in LA, even 30 years after the fact, nothing is lost and nothing is left behind on this terrific punk, yeah, but just for a name because this label less hard rock.
7. Single Mothers – Justin Townes Earle – Perfection is not nothing, it is something, something great: 30 minute of perfect country heartbreakers. It matters.
8. In The Lonely Hour – Sam Smith – An In The Wee Small Hours Of The Morning for a different century with one of the sweetest and most wrenching singing you’ll ever hear and the songs to match.
9 Seeds- TV On The Radio – An astounding modern soul album that resurrects Brooklyn just to put a guitar through its heart. The album starts fast, keeps on moving, and bangs its way to the end with one piece of seduction after another.They were great when I saw them live earlier this year, much better than their Radio City gig, and this is why.
10. The Take Off And Landing Of Everything – Elbow – A sort of uncool, unelectronic, art band on their sixth album and first post-major breakthrough and they manage to top just about anything they’ve even done with the possible exception of “My Sad Captains” which tops it with room to spare.
11. Better Than Expected – Peter Stampfel And The Brooklyn And Lower Manhattan Banjo Squadron – Loose, friendly, up against the wall, melodic, they don’t make em like this any more.
12. Adventures In Bluesland – Phil Gammage – A New Wave stalwart continues his career trajectory through Americana to an East Coasts rock and blues sound uniquely his own. Add to that one of the best rock and roll singing voices you’ll hear and a mean harp, Gammage’s album stands as an organic response to synthetic emotions.
13. Caroline Kole – Caroline Kole – Finally, a 17 year old country gal taps into the Taylor Swift DNA.
14. Noise Vs Beauty – Bassnectar – The House album of the year lives up to its name as one of the best DJs Lorin Ashton, the Santa Cruz party album who added metal to a taste for bass. This is a step forward, a hard pressed masterpiece of beats and sound effects.
15. Too Bright – Perfume Genius – The riff that moves “Queen” is so great it instananeously changed Perfume Genius from another pop guy with a back story to a major songwriter. The rest of the album is pretty excellent as well.
16. Me. I Am Mariah… The elusive Chanteuse – Mariah Carey – Something of a disaster for Carey, this sprawling mess of an album keeps throwing up unexpected gems for over an hourand over and over again.
17. Everybody Down – Kate Tempest – Spoken word giant turns to rap and discover politics is pop and everywhere is monsters
18. Half Life – Marla Mase – Art rock spoken word child of Patti but grown up well.
19. Girlpool – Girlpool -I’ll take these cats over haim, or the black Keys, for that matter, any day. A Shaggs who aren’t Shaggs, a twisty topsy turvy lo hi fi band.
20. Elevation (The Upper Air) – Bernie Worrell – Jazz classics rearranged for solo piano that are so great it reminds you this man was a child protegee once upon a time. Bill Laswell produced.
21. They Want My Soul – Spoon – No, I’m not a fan, but this is a terrific album of classic rock circa 2014, A ver very strong soulful piece of work.
22. 50 Catherine Street – Robin Gibb – Grandiloquent pop triumph farewell
23. Dirty Gold – Angel Haze – If you can get past the life lines, this is a brilliant rap album hiding out as a mainstream hip hop album
24. The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part I Soundtrack – Various Artists – Oh Lorde gets her hip hop cred updated and everybody is the better for it. So much better than that godawful movie.
25. RTJ2 – Run The Jewels – North meets South, and South wins but not by as much as you might believe.
26. Morning Phase – Beck – It feels like it may or may not be a masterpiece but if it is a not, it has enough strong songs to lift itself to one of his better efforts.
27. Hendra – Ben Watt – Moody ballads by the guy from “Everything But The Girl” putting down his DJ mantle but keeping the hardware.
28. Tribute – John Newman – Rudimental soul man already owns the UK and should do the exact same here on this disco beats album.
29. True: Avicii By Avicii – The remixes beat the originals and how
30. The Future’s Void – EMA – New face of singer songwriter, all beat and smack.
31. Days And Nights – Daley – Northern soul is alive and well and this guy is singing it
32. Croz – David Crosby – He almost cut his hair, ergo jazz inflected folk-rock where the melodies take forever to sink in but the voice is always there.
33. Here And Nowhere Else – Cloud Nothings – Hard wall of sound melodic punk rock
34. Shatter Me – Lindsey Stirling – Classically trained musician gets her dance on.
35. The Haden Triplets – The Haden Triplets – Three voices, one modern folk album echoing all the way back to the Carter Family.
36. Love, Marriage And Divorce – Toni Braxton And Babyface – 80s r&b greats deal with the D word.
37. This Is What I Do – Boy George – Perhaps not king of everything but he seems to have survived his 30s and 40s and returned in pretty good shape for his 50s.
38. Riser – Dierks Bentley – Strong new country boy album, Not as clever lyrically as Blake Shelton, but the songs are better.
39. Honest – Future – Husky harsh unique voice and then he autotunes it.
40. St. Vincent – St. Vincent – Just because it is her most accessible album doesn’t make it her best, but it doesn’t hurt.
41. Pinata – Freddie Gibbs And Madlibs – Two great rappers without a great subject matter.
42. Oxymoron – Schoolboy Q – This years Kendrick Lamar except not quite as mainstream.
43. Rise Of An Empire – Young Money – Weezy’s kids.
44. The Crystal Method – The Crystal Method – Mainstream modern house, meaning LeAnn Rimes sings one song (not track) and Dia Frampton another.
45. Ledgers – Noah Gundersen – Superior sing songwriter and his family releases career defining album.
46. Drowners – Drowners – A modern day the Strokes without the rich kids ‘tude.
47. Long Time… Seldom Scene – The Seldom Scene – Superb bluegrass
48. Choir Of Echoes – Peggy Sue – Indie pop, really lovely in places
49. Small Time Heroes – Hurray For The Riff Raff – Modern Americana resurrects the washboard
50. Blank Slate – Neneh Cherry – Recorded over five days, this has the immediacy of a profound thought
51. Held In Splendor – Quilt – An acoustic white blues with hints of folk psychedelia round the edges.
52. Oblation – Floor – A wall of guitars and melodies that edge through, they call it sludge rock from the early 00s.
53. Eject – Cazzette – As close to straight up house as pop music gets.
54. Rave Tapes – Mogwai – Scottish instrumental go electronic but sound about the same.
55. Rivers To Cross – NEEDTOBREATHE – Not the breakthrough I thought it would but still strong Southern rock
56. Live 1965 – The Rolling Stones – The girls in the audience scream so loud they sound like another instrument.
57. Cheatahs – Cheatahs – Buzz band deliver fuzzed out indie rock
58. All Love’s Legal – Planningtorock – Experimental rock album takes on misogynists and other haters.
59. The Light And The Color – Teens – Indie pop soul.
60. Dizzy Heights – Neil Finn- Some great songs, shame about the production
61. Music Speaks – Candice Glover – American Idol releases a soulful debut
62. Abracaci – Caetano Veloso – Brazilian indie pop
63. Wasted Years – Off! – 17 songs, 24 minutes, all kinda rock.
64. Live At The Hideout – Screaming Females – Steve Albini recorded this excellent live sampler.
65. Diploid Love – Brody Dalle – Don’t miss with this electronic rocker, she is like a baby with her cub.
66. Phantom And The Ghost – Styles P- The gangster and gentleman has the mood and has the flow for the same old stories.
67. Put Your Needle Down – The Secret Sisters – T Bone Burnett discovered Americana
68. Lift Your Spirit – Aloe Blacc – Good spirited soul guy and his name ain’t Pharrell.
69. My Crazy Life – YG – A Young Moneyer goes forth
70. We Got A Love – Shit Robot – Disco DJ from DFA, second cut isn’t as deep but still better than most
71. The New Classic – Iggy Azalea – Aussie chick rapper is a lot of fun.
72. Rise Of The Phoenix – The Floacist – Pretty food sing speak poetic stuff
73. Tomorrow’s Hits – The Men – Classic rocker surprise
74. Guilty Of Everything – Nothing – Fuzz rock
75. Say Yes To Love – Perfect Pussy – Very loud punk rock
76. Beg, Borrow, Steal – Ohio Express – Bubblegum superheroes clean up their garage gum roots with this extended rerelease of their first album from 1967.
77. Z – SZA – New r&b gets it right for once; temperate but crazed, sexual mood music by SZA,with the obligato rap added by the likes of Chance The Rapper who exactly captures the mood of hazed out sex; pure seduction and she doesn’t even know if she wants you.
78. Le Beat Group Electrique – Wreckless Eric – Lo fi back in his bed sit with his cassette player, recording superb song after superb song which no one will hear. Except me and you.
79. Initiation – Haunted Hearts – Dreamy soundscapes with hooks and chops to spare.
80. Our Year – Kelly Willis And Bruce Robison – Not as great as last years model but sure is good enough
81. Definitely Maybe Deluxe Edition – Oasis – One of the greatest albums of all time thrives in the ‘luxe version.
82. Disgraceland – The Orwells – Really, truly classic rockers in the tradition of, I dunno, the Ramones.
83. In Conflict – Owen Pallet – Sounds like the sorta stuff Animal Collective were thinking of meets James Blake.
84. Do It Again – Royksopp and Robyn – Where art meets commerce.
85. Are We There Yet – Sharon Van Etten – Moody blues singer songwriter intensity.
86. Beautiful – V/A – For Jessie Mueller’s incredible vocals and the acoustic version of “Walking In The Rain”
87. The Beauty Of Destruction – Devil You Know – You know the hardcore form and so do they.
88. Blue Smoke – Dolly Parton – Enough good stuff to rescue it from the duets.
89. DCONSTRUCTED – V/A – EDM has never been more kid friendly
90. Oblation – Floor – Heavy duty metal riffs like a sinking sledgehammer.
91. Al My Friends – The Songs Of Greg Allman – Live and recorded, hang around for Vince Gill
92. The Garden Spot Programs 1950 – Hank Williams – Recently discovered and very fine indeed, his usual band is missing but it stills sounds absolutely brilliant.
93. The New Classic – Iggy Azalea – Australian, white rapper crosses over pop but there aren’t any other songs as great as “Fancy”. There are quite a few NEARLY as good.
94. Sheezus – Lily Allen – She hasn’t lost much off her fast ball, it still zips by your ear like a missile.
95. About Last Night – Sleeper Agent – Has the gift of all great pop rock albums: consistency
96. To Be Kind – Swans – One song lasts 30 minutes and that’s the price of heavy duty drone art.
97. Burn Your Witness For No Fire – Angel Olsen – With her sophomore album, Angel redefines her singer songwriter loner folk Billy “Prince” Billy approved experimental classic songs for electronic full band and it works on nearly every track. High five.
98. White Women – Chromeo – Great disco album.
99. Sea When Absent – A Sunny Day In Glasgow – Experimental soundscapes drenched in melody
100. Goin’ Home – Kenny Wayne Shepherd – Superb blues album, my problem with his voice remains but this rocks all over any real caveats.
101. Numbskull – Wesley Wolfe – Art pop masterpiece about dealing with lowered expectations and doing it yourself and really not compromising too much on the road to eternity.Maybe a coming of age or maybe a dealing with it.
102. Hendra – Ben Watts – Mood music from a former electronics guy
103. Beauty And Ruin – Bob Mould – In which Mould feels his age and remembers his father
104. Built On Glass – Chet Faker – Massive Attacking dub drums and electronic soul machinery plus good baritone singer.
105. Neon Steeple – Crowder – Not for the first time, David Crowder gives us the best CCM album of the year.
106. Common Ground – Dave Alvin And Phil Alvin – Former Blasters blast through Big Bill Broonzy
107. Mutineers – David Gray – Singer songwriter’s singer songwriter shows off his skills.
108. Some Day World – Eno + Hyde – A missed opportunity, until they decide to jam at the end of tracks.
109. Glass Boys – Fucked Up – The slow versions are the killers
110. Travelling Local – Futuristic – Art rap
111. Hank – Hank Marvin – The Shadows Fender enthusiast guitarist sounds as good as he did over 50 years ago on this covers album.
112. Initiation – Haunted Hearts – Dum Dum Girl and Crocodile marry and give birth to an album better than its parts
113. Lazaretto – Jack white – Awful fussy for a blues album, but not awful.
114. Our Year – Kelly Willis And Bruce Robison – Second album in as many years isn’t quite as consistent but still mighty pretty.
115. Talk Dirty – Jason Derulo – One sex pop track after another, Jason gets himself sexually harassed by the music biz and likes it.
116. Goin’ Back Home – Wilko Johnson And Roger Daltrey – Pub Rocks last call.
117. Once More ‘Round The Sun – Mastodon – This is the album Metallica can’t do any more.
118. Between The Bars – The Civil War – Four covers, each one better than the other and “Sour Times” best of all
119. Sunbathing Animals – Parquet Court – Indie rocker of the year
120. Do It Again – Roykscopp And Robyn – Experimental meets dance pop
121. Oh, Common Man – Fireworks – Emo rockers or pop punk but get the pop part right and that’s the hardest part.
122. Live At The Jazz Cafe, London – D’Angelo – Recorded in ’95. Of course time doesn’t seem to mean the same thing to D as it does to us. One wish? He had give more than 90 seconds to the Ohio Players cover.
123. Band Of Brothers – Willie Nelson – Good country doze
124. A Town called Paradise – A page from calvin Harris’s book, but Tiesto knows how to use it.
125. Deep Fantasy – White Lung – Hard rocking triumph
126. Fuego – Phish – This is where the jam band writes the songs needed to mention their name in the same breath as the Grateful Dead. Almost ridiculously self-controlled, these fine classic rock meets jazz make it their best album not recorded live so far.
127. The Breeze (An appreciation Of JJ cale – Eric Clapton And Friends – Puts cale out of the one hit wonder bin and into the blues greats pantheon.
128. Strange Desire – Bleachers – Like fun. without the broadway showtunes jones.
129. Dread And trouble – Chronixx – Wrote his first song at the age of five.
130. New Eyes – Clean Bandit – Beats meet strings
131. Black Messiah – D’Angelo – A unique and inspired take on modern r&b, with some of the most impassioned rhythms (if, indeed, rhythms can be impassioned) and vocals (which can be impassioned and more so when they have a tune to sing)
132. Into The Woods – Movie Soundtrack – Loved the movie and this is one great Sondheim composition after another and mostly well sung
133. Family – Thompson – Really good family union, especially Linda.
134. Sucker – Charli XCX – Exactly what we want from pop with attitude, one great song after another. Like Avril lavigne if Avril Lavigne was Joan Jett.
135. The London Sessions – Mary J. Blige – A great meeting of minds, a Queen of Soul and her gallant Knights.
136. Molly Drake – Molly Drake – Imagine, if you will, everything you wish Nick Drake’s mom might have been. Well, she was.
137. The Pinkprint – Nicki Minaj – Too long, if it had been half an hour of the cream stuff it would have been a masterpiece. What it is is an album filled with great moments.
138. Monuments To An Elegy – The Smashing Pumpkins – The one we’ve waited twenty for years for, the follow up to Mellon Collie, an astounding return to form with all Corgan’s gifts returned to him… for one album only?
139. Attica – Wussy –Indie stalwarts much loved by Robert Christgau.
140. All In A Day – Young Thug – A solid piece of modern rap thuggery with sharper than average beats.