Below are my 30 favorite albums of 2014, arranged in descending order. 2014 was a relative weak year in music in my opinion. There wasn’t any huge standout hits like years past and the second half of the year was really weak, but 2014 does have a greater number of more evenly great albums than normal though. My final year end list has changed significantly from my mid-year list. The number one on this list made a huge jump from midyear. Who is it? Read on to find out.
As always, my favorite track from each album is embedded below together with a short write-up of why I have loved that album. (The write-ups get progressively longer as we get close to the top rankings)
30. FKA twigs – LP1
29. Warpaint – Warpaint
28. Sam Smith – In The Lonely Hour
27. Conor Oberst – Upside Down Mountain
26. alt-J – This Is All Yours
25. Wye Oak – Shriek
24. Fear of Men – Loom
23. Taylor Swift – 1989
22. First Aid Kit – Stay Gold
21. Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
20. Shovels & Rope – Swimmin Time
19. Alvvays – Alvvays
18. Grouper – Ruins
17. Tennis – Ritual In Repeat
16. Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else
15. Jenny Lewis – The Voyager
14. Future Islands – Singles
13. Charli XCX – Sucker
12. St Vincent – St Vincent
What else is there to be said of Annie Clark? She is our indie-rock guitar goddess and her self-titled record might finally be the one to push her to the bigger public’s consciousness – a place she rightfully earned
11. JJ – V
Don’t call it a comeback. After a minor misstep and years of missing in action, the mysterious Swedish duo finally comes back and returns to atmospheric and immersive synth worlds they have created with their earlier records. And now, it’s even more epic in scale
10. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
Unlike her ground-breaking world-searching previous record Tramp, Are We There finally finds Sharon Van Etten at ease. It seems that Sharon has finally found her calling music-wise and Are We There finds her guiding us there to settle with her at this wonderful place.
09. Electric Youth – Innerworld
Do you love 80s-style big-synths music? Some may find it cheesy, but I love it a lot. Innerworld from the LA-based duo Electric Youth allowed me to indulge in this kind of goodness. Innerworld is the record that would fit perfect in an 80s movie, one that is massively scoped and endlessly romantic. I unashamedly love it so.
08. Sun Kil Moon – Benji
Despite the massive trolling antics that Mark Kozelak has been engaging in these past few months (which diminished my opinion of him personally), there’s no denying that he created a masterpiece with Benji under his Sun Kil Moon moniker. Benji is emphatically mortal and a lot of times depressingly so. It’s humanness is what makes it special.
07. Lykke Li – I Never Learn
With her third record, Lykke Li has moved completely away from her quirky folk beginnings and all the way into full-blown diva territory. Under the biggest production backing her to date, Lykke Li gave us the most sweeping break-up record you never knew you may need to hear in your life.
06. Real Estate – Atlas
With experience comes refinement. With over five years under the belt as band, Real Estate are practically a veteran in today’s youth-laden music world. And that experience has led to their most polished and refined record to date, the exquisite Atlas. There is no finer guitar-work to be found in this year’s albums than Atlas, making it a treat to listen (and watch live) to.
05. Strand of Oaks – HEAL
HEAL, as the name implies, is Timothy Showalter’s catharsis. Going away from his confessional acoustic beginnings, HEAL is Showalter’s way of shouting to the skies and giving the middle finger to all the past years of bad luck – broken marriage, car accident, that has plagued him. Soaring and anthemic, held up by crunching guitars, HEAL is the life-affirming record that Showalter needed to record and that we are lucky enough to listen to.
04. Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal
There has been a steady buzz building towards Parquet Courts leading to this year. Sunbathing Animal, their raucous third record, went out and shattered all that. For the past few years now, the rock portion of indie rock has been steadily disappearing, displaced by the increased prominence of r&B and electronic influences. Parquet Courts went out and showed that rock is not yet to be forgotten. With it’s mix of sneering guitar licks and stoner blues, Sunbathing Animal is the record that keeps rock and roll alive in 2014.
03. Allo Darlin’ – We Come From The Same Place
We Come From The Same Place, the third record from UK quartet Allo Darlin’ is neither complex nor does it aspire to be. It won’t change worlds and rewrite music history. It probably won’t even get mentioned in most year-end lists. But it made it in mine for one reason. The songs that Allo Darlin’ created for We Come Form Same Place were able to distill music to it’s simplest emotions – the ones which are the purest and most beautiful.
There is a wonderful nostalgia that springs forth as Elizabeth Morris sings of childhood memories and loves, of summer-time romances in the rain, and of clumsy dances in the backrooms of student bars. Allo Darlin’ made us remember what it was like to be young once. And I am thankful for that.
02. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness
Angel Olsen has created one devastating sophomore album. Burn Your Fire is a record that penetrates you soul and buries itself deep. After the promise of her stunning debut two years back, I knew I would be in for a treat with Olsen’s second effort. Burn Your Fire surpassed all those expectations and more.
As fans of hers know, the music of Angel works best when it is stark and silent, with just the veracity of her voice providing the depth of the impact. Despite going to a fuller production for Burn Your Fire, producer John Congleton never lost sight of that fact and made sure the whole focal point of the record is Olsen and her voice. The result is an album that is one of the most affecting of the year. There is no more beautifully sad line than when Angel sings in Hi-Five, ” “Are you lonely too? Hi five! So am I!“.
01. The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream
If you had read my mid-year list, you would notice that I only Lost in the Dream as my #6 record back in July. A lot have changed since then. Tons of albums have come and gone over the second half of the year, but for some reason, I kept coming back and listening to Lost in the Dream. And I finally figured out why. With its grand sweeping scope and blend of classic America rock, Lost in the Dream is timeless. It is all at once solemn and cathartic. It is moving and inspiring . It is above all else unforgettable.
Adam Granduciel and his bandmates spent a whole year on the road crafting Lost in the Dream to be the best it can be and it shows. Years from now when I have forgotten all that 2014 has released, Lost in the Dream will be the one that sticks with me. It is the record I will play and remember what 2014 was, music-wise. And that is why this is my favorite record for the year.