Best Music of 2014

Top 50 Albums of 2014

on December 12, 2014, 12:00am
view all

Deafheaven-Sunbather-cover220. Lil Herb – Welcome to Fazoland

Chicago’s Lil Herb is among the most interesting young rappers from rap’s most packed region, a 19-year-old phenom wise beyond his years. He’s gone toe to toe with many of the city’s other emerging talents — Lil Bibby, Lil Reese, Lil Durk, King L, Fredo Santana — and won, and he raps in a way that is accessible but doesn’t alienate purists pining for syllabic acrobatics. Herb writes like a correspondent reporting live from a war zone, and his acuity has grabbed the attention of many of the genre’s biggest stars.

Herb’s breakout tape, Welcome to Fazoland, established him as a player both in the drill scene and the national rap landscape — and earned him fans in the likes of Nicki Minaj and Common. (Drake already cosigned Herb last year.) Fazoland mixes soul samples and rattling trap subs, but it never mixes messages: It’s street rap that notes the innate sociopolitical nature of street life, doing so without the weighty, often tiresome preaching angle of conscious rap. –Sheldon Pearce

Download

__________________________________________________________

drake nothing was19. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time

Norway’s Todd Olsen (aka Todd Terje) has cultivated a growing underground following with his cheeky space-disco exploits. A prolific remixer, Terje had yet to release a full-length effort prior to 2014, making his debut’s It’s Album Time title that much more comedic. Satiated with the tones of disco and classic Chicago house, It’s Album Time is prime listening for all of those that generally avoid the repetition of these club genres.

Terje rarely allows more than a few bars to run before shifting to a new melody, breaking in a fresh sample or infusing some found sounds into the prevailing poolside vibes. The ease with which Terje twists from funky lounge house (“Leisure Suit Preben”) to outrun (“Delorean Dynamite”) and enchanting electropop (“Johnny and Mary” featuring Bryan Ferry) is the result of countless hours spent understanding his production tools and identifying his unique language. Just because the tracks might be far more whimsical than the IDM of Aphex Twin or Arca’s ambient industrial vibes, Terje’s time spent behind the console was no less demanding. On the flipside, fitting so many complex digital thoughts into such a beautifully structured framework is a much more daunting endeavor. –Derek Staples

Listen: Spotify | Rdio

Buy: Amazon

__________________________________________________________

Lady Lamb Ripey Pine18. Beyoncé – Beyoncé

The time before “I woke up like this” had entered into our public lexicon barely registers in my memory. It was as though we all opened our eyes on the morning of Beyoncé´’s release with prior knowledge of it, like a software update pushed directly to our brains in our sleep. With zero notice (and a day after we published our list of 2013’s Top Albums), Beyoncé was everywhere, forcing us to reevaluate all of our preconceived notions of modern femininity and female sexuality. Motherhood is both joyful and challenging; sex within a monogamous relationship can actually be pretty hot; beautiful women are more than just sex objects.

None of these themes were especially groundbreaking, but the honest, explicit way that Beyoncé thrust them into our faces was jaw-dropping. Not every track on Beyoncé soars, but the ones that do are damn near unforgettable from the first listen — from the relentless, dirty bass of “Drunk in Love” to the heart-swelling, sugary pop perfection of “XO”. With the release of Beyoncé, Beyoncé Knowles took a major leap forward as an artist, a brand, and an icon, while never compromising the honesty and strength that made us love her in the first place. –Katherine Flynn

Listen: Spotify | Rdio

Buy: Amazon

__________________________________________________________

mikal-cronin-mc217. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There

When you’re afraid of nothing and dive heart-first into a whirling vat of love, there’s a chance you will end up gnawing your way out the other side broken and bitter from it all. But to entertain a small hope that might allay the heartache is both a no-shit truism and the only coping mechanism we have. Sharon Van Etten uses both. She fights her way out of devastation with hope. With each album she presses further into the void, but this time that void slices open and her pain runs raw. Throughout Are We There, words escape Van Etten before she can even properly consider them, before she is aware they’ve sprung from her mind, are about to be shaped by her mouth, and will fly out between her lips (“I washed your dishes, then I shit in your bathroom”).

With its softly descending piano, synths, and R&B chords, Are We There’s ornate batch of songs build on Van Etten’s lyrics, for in the midst of heartache it was music that restored her soul. The rhythm is imbued with a superb sense of devastation: “Break my legs, so I won’t walk to you/ Cut my tongue so I can’t talk to you.” If that bitter blend of delusion and desperation isn’t a picture-perfect distillation of what it means to live in this era, then I really don’t know what is. Are We There is a temporary sanctuary bound tightly by Van Etten’s naked pain and doubt. I suppose the phantom question mark in the title is louder due to its absence — it’s open-ended, whispering where she is and where she needs us to be. –Lior Phillips

Listen: Spotify | Rdio

Buy: Amazon

__________________________________________________________

rplusseven16. Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright in the End

A mother says the title of Weezer’s ninth album in the first track’s opening moments, comforting her child. If this album were the end of the band’s career, it would indeed be “alright.” But, fortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case with Everything Will Be Alright in the End. The band’s return to form is a reminder that Rivers Cuomo and co. still have much to offer the alternative rock universe, whether it’s fashionable to like them or not. In this light, the new record comes across strangely comforting.

Cuomo once said about his band’s classic sophomore record, Pinkerton, “I’m not coloring anything or softening anything. This is who I am and if you don’t like it … well, we should probably part ways, and I’m just gonna tell you the very worst parts of myself.” That Cuomo seems to be back on Everything Will Be Alright in the End, with single “Back to the Shack” stating, “I had to go and make a few mistakes so I could find out who I am/ I’m letting all of these feelings out even if it means I fail.” Those lyrics could easily describe his band’s last five or so albums, and delivering this record, with that apology, puts the entirety of Weezer’s career in a different, much more favorable light. –Philip Cosores

Listen: Spotify | Rdio

Buy: Amazon

__________________________________________________________

view all
72 comments