EDITORS NOTE: We originally published this post on December 31st, but, due to a glitch in our server, we had issues making this visible to the public. Thank you to everyone who made this year possible, and we hope you enjoy the (belated) second half of our take on 2014's top albums!
We're back for day two of showing you guys our favorite albums, and we're now down to the nitty gritty. For those of you who haven't managed to take a look at numbers 50-25, make sure to check that out as well. With no time wasted, we'd love to present to you the second half of our list, starting with...
Ryan Hemsworth has been having a pretty transformative year, and if his album is any indication, he’s been through a lot since we last heard from him with Guilt Trips. Enter an even sadder, darker, much more worldly Hemsworth; the light, floaty aesthetic of Hemsworth still remains, but the lyrics are heavier than before, the sounds more influenced by a dramatic year filled with busy touring and nonstop actions of cities both far and wide.
What results is a stunning album that reads more like a short journal entry in the story of the young artist. Whatever he’s doing creatively is working great however, Alone For the First Time is nothing if not a stunning piece that successfully fights the sophomore slump.- Artham
As far as EP's that were sleeper hits in 2014 go, it would be a mistake not to include Vince Staples' Hell Can Wait on that list. At nearly 25 minutes, the project from the Long Beach rhymer who is probably best known for his affiliations with Odd Future and Mac Miller's alter ego Larry Fisherman, is enough to get us pumped for a full length album in 2015.
With it's sparse beats and laidback flows from the Stolen Youth rapper, Hell's strength is in its consistency; after the opening track "Fire," which sets the mood for the songs to follow, we're treated to the standout hit, "65 Hunnid." Staples is in his prime with this jam, giving us some insight into his gang banging past, while also noting his loneliness ( "You alone/ Car full of ni**as but you alone) and his bravado ( "Would've thrown that ni**a Bishop off the roof")
The joints that follow are all in a similar realm: "Screen Door" is one of a handful of recent tracks that uses higher pitch rhymes to its advantage, while "Hands Up" is the unfortunate truth that has affected the lives of many Americans. What's great about the latter is that it twists the popular club command into a bleak and completely different situation. Other highlights include the sub woofer anthem "Blue Suede" and the closer "Feelin The Love." Hell might be able to wait, be sure can't wait for Vince Staples to drop some more heat. - Nick
Proactively speaking, 2014 and the decade it claims will be known as the catalyst for the revolution and liminal reemergence of 3+ piece bands, particularly in the indie electronic and avant-garde sectors. From the immediate success of newcomers like Hundred Waters and Glass Animals, to a widespread retroactive appreciation for bands like The Postal Service and Cut Copy, we are witnessing the re-popularization of instrumentalists and composers in an era where electronic dance music reigns supreme. Bands like alt-J are paving the way for a growing interest in folktronica, indie electronic, and mellow mood-stabilizing productions.
Though the Leeds’ band has seen some recent changes over the past year, their revised core group of four show no signs of wavering. Their second full-length album was generally well-received upon its release on September 22nd, 2014 despite claims that it didn't live up to their first. For me, This Is All Yours embodies, at face value, a tangible peace-of-mind during a time when heavy electronic music encompassed every facet of my life. First heard in its entirety whilst hiking through the sinuous ranges of Sequoia National Park, alt-J’s sophomore album reminded me that instrumental variety and careful dissemination of the motifs established by their alt rock elders are the perfect recipe for success as a group of their caliber in an all but mainstream music scene. -Nathan
2014 has been utterly the year of feels, and this extended into more than just the future scene or the emotional touches of EDM music, but also into the world of trap and hip hop. Future's Honest was, for a lack of a better word, utterly honest. With free uses of the auto-tune function, the album was a fascinating look at one of rap's most progressive artists. Future is making the music of the future, and Honest was one of 2014's best looks into what music will be like in the upcoming few years. - Artham
SOHN surprised everyone this year when the English song writer, singer, and producer revealed his debut album, Tremors. The nine tracks are absolutely stunning and I suspect no one could have predicted such a beautiful collection of music from this upcoming musician. Considering that Tremors is SOHN's first official full length album, we've all been left in awe at the elegancy and clarity that clearly have gone behind the entire process. SOHN seems the auteur for most of his work, single handedly creating a unique soundscape that flows effortlessly from start to finish with an obvious intent to create an album experience. This intended flow is apparent and done with flawless design, which is mainly what makes Tremor stick out as such a significant album.
The ultimate reason for SOHN's debut album selected in the top 50 has to be his amazing vocals on several tracks. The powerful and emotional tones of his lyrics stick out vividly in my mind and are permanently imprinted as the songs leave an undeniable mark. SOHN's singing matched with experimental moods and beats creates a euphoric atmosphere where you can't help but hear the special sounds streaming out of any speakers. The album single, "The Wheel" is the second opening track on Tremors and is gently structured with flavour of fresh music that seems unheard of before. My favourite track is close to the album ending and creates an dark emotional stir of vocals with heavy notes on "Lessons". Overall SOHN's work is absolutely astonishing and it has left us all eager to see what he will create next. -Alex L.
Tensnake has been taking dance and house world by storm ever since he first started to appear on the scene around the mid-2000s. He’s notorious for bringing some of the best tropical and disco vibes while also destroying the dance floor with insane levels of aural heat with his tracks and remixes. His signature warm weather sound has everything you’d expect as far as the synth palette, marimbas, solid kicks, and shimmering production, but there’s something special that producer Marco Niemerski does when he steps into his Tensnake shoes. It’s impossible to resist his grooves.
Finally in 2014, the German producer responsible for house essentials like “Coma Cat” and “In The End (I Want You To Cry)” released his first full-length album titled Glow. With a cast of big names including Jamie Lidell, MNEK, Fiora, and most notably the legendary Nile Rodgers, Tensnake tapped into a more relaxed convergence of disco, pop, and deep house for his album. The album was received with mixed reviews and seemed to take on more classic disco vibes, bringing about comparisons to the most recent Daft Punk album.
It wasn’t as house as most people may have thought it would be, but it’s a solid pop album. Tracks like “Love Sublime,” “Pressure,” and “Feel Of Love” hook you in with insanely good disco pop vibes and sing along potential, whereas “See Right Through” and “No Relief” fulfill those deep house cravings that long term Tensnake fans had in mind. Not only can old school fans enjoy Glow, but it’s accessible enough for new people to enter the world of Tensnake.- Lauren J.
The music life cycle can be observed in many different forms. As the artist, as the audience, as the reporter, or even as a non-interested follower. I’ve done it as all four before, but this year I was able to have a zoomed in view on up and coming DMV rapper GoldLink’s staggering success in almost a blink of an eye. For most of the journey, we were left behind the curtain on who Link really was, which was an effective and popular approach as an artist this year.
In April he released his first complete project, The God Complex, and from there the genre “future bounce” was born again in hip-hop. The nine track release was a great first start for the kid, backed by out-of-the-pocket productions phenomenally executed by close friends Louie Lastic and Fingalick. Link served up not only a telling narrative on tracks like “When I Die” and “Bedtime Story” but also others like “Planet Paradise” and “Ay Ay” that give you a new reason to dance. The God Complex shot the young emcee into immediate success, gaining support from Beats by Dre, SBTRKT, Flume, and even his most recent collaboration with similarly anonymous artist Zhu. I said it when I first shared the album on EARMILK, and I’ll say it again: watch this kid for a blow up in 2015. After analyzing just how much of an impact he made with this project, I’m lost on any reason to believe otherwise.- John Saunders
The last time D’angelo put out an album, the world was a much different place. The new millenium had literally just begun, the internet was still slow and our computers large, and almost all of our writer’s were in some stage of grade school. While more than a decade had escaped in which D’angelo became a mythical creature of a time long past, he finally came back when we needed him most, and boy did he show us what we’ve been missing. Black Messiah was an emotional, experimental, honest, and an overall masterpiece. D’angelo and the Vanguard, please don’t make us wait 14 years for your next project. - Artham
Tycho's fourth official album, 'Awake' shows an ever expanding musical creativity from Scott Hansen. The overall present mood that follows the flow of the eight tracks is pleasant and euphoric. Tycho seems flawlessly able to construct a unique soundscape again and again that can completely consume the listener in bliss. Tracks such as "L" and "Awake" are vibrant and joyous in design, which sound suited for a beach adventure or forest exploration. Other works such as "Dye" and "Plains" are much more mellow and dramatic in their musical tones. You could easily hear any of these songs on a rainy day or long road trip. The actual release of Awake felt perfectly fit for the middle of March when spring rears it's softer side.
This collective piece of work was selected specially for the summer season to bloom in popularity as it quickly became an audience favourite. Further developing his project, Tycho extended the excitement around Awake and released a deluxe version, which features remixes from fellow experimental artists such as Tom Cruise, Bibio, Beacon, and Christopher Willits. My personal favourite remix on the deluxe edition is Bibio's rendition to "Spectre" because it leaves small traces of the original mood, but adds a typical vintage Bibio vibe. - Alex L.
Even though BANKS’s debut studio album Goddess did not garner the attention or the radio play that ideally Harvest Records would of liked, BANKS’s brooding lyrics accompanied by equally sinister as well as seductive production make the young starlet’s an unforgettable, twisted masterpiece. The production is definitely the standout quality that ultimately makes this album one of the top releases of 2014. Take for example tracks such as the titular track “Goddess,” the riveting stand out cut “Beggin for Thread,” and of course the Shlohmo produced atmospheric “Brain,” all of which feature some of the most lush and exhilarating production found on any song this year. With Goddess BANKS plows her way into the limelight as a temptress singer-songwriter that has only scratched the surface of her potential. If you’re in a dismal mood then I encourage you to listen to the 26 year-old artist’s Goddess because the album may just soothe those sorrows of yours, or at the very least become your soundtrack of the now. - Adam
Chaz Bundick will probably be best known for being one of the leaders in the surge of chillwave because of his project Toro Y Moi, but his side project Les Sins is nothing to be ignored. Bundick’s debut album as Les Sins sneaks in some of his smooth signature synths and a lot of the same danceability that makes releases like Anything In Return and the Freaking Out EP truly shine. Les Sins is not Toro Y Moi though. It has stronger leanings into the genres that clearly influence Bundick, such as R&B, hop-hop, and house.
There’s a little bit of everything going on with Michael. The album opens up with the vocally driven, glossy R&B house track “Talk About,” which serves as a nice lead into the record. The attitude is there, but it also flirts with that classic Toro Y Moi sound. Tracks like this will please Toro fans the most. They also break up the heavier swag that comes through with “Toy” or “Drop” and the dark electronic atmosphere of tracks like “Past” and “Minato.” At times the album gets funky as in “Sticky,” but the best tracks are soulful, disco-tinged “Why” and the sass that Bundick brings with “Bother.” Some people might dislike the lack of fluidity throughout the album, but the only real problem is that it’s too short—clocking in at just over 40-minutes. Although that just means that it’s one of those albums that can easily end up on repeat.- Lauren J
The Seattle based duo Odesza discovered an otherworldly blend of pop, electronic, and ambient genres and presented us their finely crafted album In Return this year. While their prior releases had won us over with their uninhibited approach to exploring new sounds, this full length project captivated us all. It is a truly rare feat to produce an entire album that is so architecturally sound. From start to finish, we see the guys pave new roads within their own distinct sound with the help of several featured vocalists. After one listen, you'll hardly need us to tell you why In Return ranked in our top albums of the year. -Paige
According to a recent infographic from Future Classic, main man Chet Faker not only killed the game this year in 26 countries, but he also blew every other Australian musician out of the water. With 9 ARIA nominations, 5 of them awarded (including Best Male Artist), Chet made an impact that only some will ever do. His debut album Built on Glass released on Future Classic garnered over 40 million plays on Spotify and over 20 million on Soundcloud, and isn’t necessarily surprising to me by any means.
When I think of 2014 as a year of revival and preservation, I think of Chet Faker’s jazz-like nature and casual piano masterpieces. “Gold” was by far the most successful track off of the album, but each piece represents it’s own reflective characteristic of Faker himself. From the ominous nature of “Blush” to the 80s groove of “1998”, Chet redefined what it means to make modern music, and just how authentic you can really make it. He distinguished himself and his sound from all of the others, and sold out shows across the entire globe. Built on Glass will go down as one of my favorite projects of all time. It’s a bold statement especially as someone who is constantly listening to music of all kinds and shapes. Perhaps Faker’s ability to display his own shapes and kinds was the main reason he propelled himself into being his home continent’s number one artist.- John Saunders
Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) has risen to become one of the most respected and influential record labels in the hip-hop genre thanks to an amazing line-up of artist—notably Kendrick Lamar & Schoolboy Q—and in-house producers who have been able to craft some of the most inventive hip-hop albums of recent memory. And the label has decided to start the year with some new blood, by releasing the debut album of their newest signee, Isaiah Rashad.
Isaiah Rashad’s Cilvia Demo, is a slow-riding, introspective work that serves as a perfect introduction to Isaiah as not only an artist, but as an individual. The album contains 14 tracks filled with highly personal anecdotes of growing up fatherless in Tennessee, a history of ill-fated relationships & substance abuse, and the challenges of remaining honest in a deceitful industry. Rather than portraying himself as an infallible, high and mighty rap star, Isaiah openly confesses his flaws and insecurities on this record. The vulnerability that permeates throughout the project is what makes Isaiah’s words not only relatable, but also real, as though he is speaking to a close friend rather than a random listener. He is able to speak on a number of societal ills, like institutionalized racism, without sounding preachy or dull, which is an accomplishment within itself.
Although rap veterans like Andre 3000 and Scarface have done this type of southern confessional rap for years, Rashad manages to stay true to his southern roots without sounding redundant. This is due to a creative use of flow, melody, and wordplay that stand out on the minimal and abstract instrumentals provided by producers Antydote, Mr. Carmack, Farhot, and D. Sanders. The laid-back and experimental beats are definitely a nice change of pace from the trap heavy sound that has become popular in the last couple of years. And the sparsity of guest features, aside from a few of his TDE brethren and songstress SZA, allows for Rashad to remain the center of attention and proves him capable of handling a solo project single-handedly. - Rasheed
In 2013, a production dyad known merely as J and T released a 7” called Jungle. All we knew about them at the time is that they were from the UK and were heavily influenced by funk and dance music. When they finally released their debut album this past summer, the boys from across the pond were poised to take the world by storm. With their ultra catchy hits “Busy Earnin,” and “The Heat” making waves all over the internet, Jungle has had a successful 2014. Jungle’s debut album will go down as one of the better dance albums of the year.- Winston B.
Los Angeles' vibrant hip hop scene has been steadily growing strong in 2014, and My Krazy Life was a stunning addition to the long list of LA-based rap discography. YG's perfect flow and bass heavy beats brought life back into hip hop, and while we aren't discussing politics with his rhymes, sometimes we just need a great party and the right guy to do it. YG argues his album is the best hip hop album of 2014, and while we might not agree that it is THE best, it certainly was one of the best. My Krazy Life was the perfect album that brought craziness, as well as great party tracks like "My N*gga," and "Who Do you Love?," bringing some serious radio hits that everyone would enjoy. -Artham
Regardless of that you think of Logic's music, know that he and his Visionary Music Crew members redefine what hustling in the music industry means. I remember seeing the Maryland rapper come up on most of the blogs before he reached his tipping point; after gaining a steady buzz with the release of his Young, Broke and Infamous and Young Sinatra mixtapes, Logic has successfully made the transition to a studio album with the release of Under Pressure.
Lyrically, Logic is at his prime, as Pressure is probably is most introspective to date. Revealing his family ties ( "Under Pressure") his nicotine addiction ( "Nikki") and life growing up ("Gang Related") he reveals everything to old fans and new listeners.
Although the project features tributes from some of the genre's greats--the Kanye West-esque introduction and the Midnight Marauders inspired Thalia who links each track together with a thought provoking quotable, to name a couple--he's left a ton of gems for the Bobby Soxers and male fans who've followed him through his releases. Besides the rhymer's ability to drop dynamic bars, one of his strengths has to be the loyal fan base that he's built over the years. Long time collaborator 6ix carries most of the production work, but the album also features some great work from DJ Dahi and M-Phazes.
Structurally, Under Pressure has no weak spots. While some of the tracks are strangely similar to the work on Kendrick Lamar's monumental album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, we can't knock him for coming through with a quality project with his debut release. - Nick V.
Porter Robinson originally emerged onto the scene and quickly took his throne as one of the princes of EDM. While he headlined many of the largest festivals around the globe, little did we know that he was in the studio composing something of a very different tune. Robinson dropped Worlds this year and surprised us all. Rather than songs built for the dance floor or festival stages, he dove headfirst into a whole new electronic landscape with heavy classical influences.
To boot, Robinson soon after took off on an a full North American tour to flaunt his massive live show to accompany the album. The release of Worlds marked a key turning point for Robinson. Not only did it allow him to showcase his musical prowess, but it may just be the very beginning of a whole new journey for the young producer. -Paige
As a LA citizen, Oxymoron was an early highlight in the first half of the year. While there were arguments initially that ScHoolboy Q may have under-delivered in this release, the album was in fact stunning the way that it does. "Man of the Year" saw ScHoolboy Q in the same funny light as he was with A$AP Rocky in "Brand New Guy," while he got a little more serious with tracks like "Hell of a Night," and "Prescription/Oxymoron." Q manages to bring out his great party vibe, while still exploring the underlying dangers and his personal love for his daughter all in the same album. More dynamic than ever, Oxymoron was a great victory for those on the West Coast. -Artham
Our Love provides an intimate view into Dan Snaith's life and his relationships in a way no other Caribou album has. In short, Caribou's most personal album has turned out to be his best. "Can't Do Without You" and "Our Love" releases teased the rest of the album with minimal lyrics and hard-hitting dance productions, departing from Caribou's past psychedelia and exploring the deep sounds of modern dance music. While many of the songs fit the dance mold, they are more thoughtful and pensive than most in that genre, dripping with melancholy about the responsibilities of growing up. Snaith said as much about the album in an interview with EARMILK earlier this year, citing the influence of fatherhood and aging parents on Our Love. But the feelings expressed by Snaith's falsetto on the album are universal; the dearth of lyrics and poignant emotion flowing through Our Love's tracks allow listeners to apply Caribou's words and feelings to their own situations and relationships. Snaith started down this reflective path of infusing his music with intimacy and feeling on Swim and went all out on Our Love, crafting one of the year's best dance albums in the process. -Peter
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib may have not only released the best rap album of 2014, but may have crafted one of the most complete and genre defining hip-hop albums of the decade. This unexpected combination of creative minds was three years in the making, which is something that is evident the album’s cohesiveness and careful attention to detail .The beats are not the spaced out experimental productions that Madlib is known for, but still manage to be some of the producer’s best work yet.The wide array of 70’s obscure soul samples create the perfect blaxploitation-film inspired backdrop for Freddie Gibbs’ gangsta exploits. Although Freddie may not be the most technical rapper around, his raw subject matter, clever wordplay, and overall bravado manages to dominate every single track and permeates with undeniable authenticity. - Rasheed
FKA twigs evokes sex effortlessly with the aesthetic of an angel. Since breaking onto the scene in 2012 with the Bandcamp-released EP1, twigs has become eponymous with elegance and wordliness, directing and starring in a slick advert for Google Glass and appearing on countless magazine covers as the essence of modern high fashion. Then came the music videos, which turned the petite chanteuse into a dancing cartoon-like babydoll, with bulging eyes, bright red cheeks and shimmering skin. The highlight of her career so far however has been the music, specifically her crowning jewel LP1.
In a year when Beyonce loomed large and challengers to the R&B throne like Tinashe rose quickly, twigs staked her claim to the genre's future by wrapping catchy choruses in innovative synthesizer symphonies and throbbing, aggressive, non-comformist beats. To top it all off, she vocalized dirty pillow talk with British sophistication, choosing her words deliberately while juxtaposing adult angst with her near-child-like soprano. "Two Weeks" and "Video Girl" have hit the hardest so far, but the ambitious album brings heat from start to finish, cementing its status as one of the best of the year. - Peter
Run The Jewels 2 is the best hip-hop album of 2014; it is not a matter of ifs or buts but a fact. The experience one gets by listening to the album by rap’s dynamic duo El-P and Killer Mike can best be described as a sonic high-speed chase with its many twist, turns, and straight up wild breakaways. Take, for example, “All Due Respect” which features none other than legendary drummer Travis Barker, is one of the tracks that take you as Drake would say “0 to 100, real quick” as the combined sputtering of the New York rapper/producer and the Atlanta political hip-hop old head induces a state of audio frenzy. Slow burners such as “All My Life” and the introductory “Jeopardy” juxtapose wild breakaway tracks like “All Due Respect” and album single “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”.What this makes for is a genre blending and balanced project that has as much of a punk aesthetic as it does hip-hop.
Overall, RTJ2 is an enterprising and electric project that not only captivates, but also demands the attention of anyone who listens. As they say, practice makes perfect and from the acclaim that RTJ2 has garnered, the decades of practice between El-P and Killer Mike has paid off in the fruition of a perfect album. -Adam
The moment that we are never prepared for is death, and what happens after it. We can read articles and learn about the chemical rush but still not know, because really, death is in the memories. Steven Ellison –aka Flying Lotus- has become increasingly more universal thematically with each passing album, but on his fifth LP You’re Dead! he may have put the final nail in the coffin. Safe to say 2014 was his year in the industry, although he’s been a major name in alt-electronic music for a while now, verses from Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg and a jazz-fusion appearance by legend Herbie Hancock prove that he’s almost reached that status.
Tickets were sold out months prior to each stop on the You’re Dead! Tour, perhaps because people wanted to know his interpretation. I doubt they were disappointed since Ellison managed to cover EDM, drum n’ bass, electronic, jazz-fusion, ambient, progressive and alt-hip-hop in just 38 minutes. He enlisted live performers Deatoni Parks, Kamasi Washington and his ever-present bass partner Thundercat to turn complicated beats into seamless bursts of adrenaline –was that the moment of death I just heard?
On the LP, Lotus systematically chronicles the loss of both family members and artistic inspirations with his own goofball brand of humor. You’re Dead! is a plethora of complex instrumentals enhanced by vocal sampling and verses that only begin to put the puzzle pieces together for us. He strays from the more obvious morbidity of death and has the ghosts of his past simply make comical –yet introspective- appearances rather than haunt the listener. After a listen, we face the moment with complete calm, certainty and by taking the glamour out of death he answers that question. - Cailey L.
... And that's it! Thanks for ending the year with us. What were your favorite albums, what did we miss? Comment below.