Well fellow earbuds, another year is about to come to a close. It was full of good music, and bad. But mostly good. I tried to soak as much of it in as I possibly could but as a fellow colleague of mine told me that I try to remember on the daily, “there’s no way you can listen to every song on your ipod in a day.” I really do keep that in mind as new albums come my way. And I’m sure I will have missed a few gems that I will kick myself for in the next few months. And it wouldn’t be me unless I share with you my personal list of great albums that came across my pod this year. Let it be known these aren’t the “BEST” albums of 2014 because there are just way too many that would fall into that category. This is just a list of my favorites that weren’t too shabby in a year full of radio filler. I’ll make a separate list of singles later. For now, here are the albums. Remember, these are just my particular favorites. They held my attention for more than just one run through in my ipod. I’m sure some will disagree, and that’s fine. And really, it doesn’t matter. Because it’s MY list. Enjoy earbudders.
1. Gorgon City – Sirens. Just enough dance that makes me want to care and just enough divadom to make me shake it and break it. There is enough here for everyone who enjoys dance and electronic music. I wish more music was like this. It doesn’t matter if this is played in your living room, or on your ipod, or iphone with headphones. It is good quality music.
2. Mary J. Blige – The London Sessions. The queen of hip-hop soul delivers strongly on this one. A mix of r&b and house music, this is really what I’ve been waiting for from her. Changing with the times, she worked with Sam Smith and Disclosure, two of my particular favorite Brit artists to create a refreshing makeover of her voice and sound. This album makes me remember why she’s the queen. All hail.
3. Young the Giant – Mind Over Matter. I wasn’t a huge fan of YTG’s previous album but I completely changed my mind with this one. This was one of my first favorites of the new year. They combine pop with a little bit of groove behind them. I was pleasantly surprised. There is not one bad song on this album. Nice job guys.
4. Jessie Ware – Tough Love. One of the best r&b albums that really wasn’t labeled as an r&b album. You can hear the pain and desperation and loneliness in her voice, backed with slow and melodic beats. She reveals the ups and downs and love and everything in between.
5. Deap Vally – Sistronix. One of the best rock albums I’ve heard this year. This sister duo make Jack White sound obsolete. A mix of garage rock, songs about life, money, and struggles, and you have a great listen. Turn the volume up on this one. Loudly.
6. Nico Vega – Lead to Light. A mix of rock and 80s synths, this one is a no brainer. The lead vocalist, is loud, scratchy, and very reminiscent of Patty Smythe. There are enough radio friendly keepers to keep your attention at will. It’s a fun album about love and life.
7. Keiza – Sound of a Woman. This woman is like a little kid on coffee, candy, and red bull when performing – loud clothes, dance moves, etc. An excellent voice with beats to match. Throw this one on at a party and watch the ones standing in the corner finally get the stick out of their asses and move.
8. Sam Smith – In the Lonely Hour. There is something about white boy blue eye soul that is just easy on the ears. He’s another one where you can hear the disappointment of love lost forever. You just want to hug him and reassure him that everything will be ok in time. We’ve all been there.
9. Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways. Once again, Dave Grohl and the boys deliver. The album only has 8 songs but enough rock power and hutzpah to blow out every Marshall speaker on the planet.
10. Annie Mac – Annie Mac Presents 2014. The one DJ on this list who knows what works for dance heads like myself. This album is a very nice compilation of unknowns and knowns in the electronic/house/dance world. It flows nicely and leaves me wanting a lot more.
11. Mapei – Hey Hey. She made a splash on the scene with her song, “Don’t Wait,” but this whole album is pretty stellar, with a mixture of dance, and heavy on percussion with a message of positivity (“Change” among one of the standouts). It’s an album you can listen to anywhere in any mood and she’ll put a smile on your face. She reminds me a lot of Nenah Cherry. She also reminds me of a female Andre 3000. She wasn’t afraid to use horns and go a little crazy with production when necessary.
12. Royal Blood – Royal Blood. Crunchy guitars, loud vocals, and frustration towards life. Great combination. There are times this sounds like a 70s throwback band, where the music is battling against the vocals for superiority. It’s sad that in the gazillion bands I hear played on the radio, that this band seems to be omitted. Get on that rock radio.
13. Banks – Goddess. The voice of an angel, the soothing beats of downtempo r&b. I truly fell in LOVE with this album this past year.
14. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues. Another favorite of mine, Laura Jean Grace and the boys deliver a short, to the point, punk rock album full of ball bustin’ roller coaster emotion.
15. The Veronicas – The Veronicas. Canadian twins deliver an album of all of the place styles. It’s a great pop mix of dance, new wave, rock, and a little rap. They were quite the surprise late in the year.
16. Daley – Days & Nights. Yet another Brit singer throwing down in r&b land with a very unique voice that is easy to listen to whether you are winding down after a hard day’s work or going for a nice drive to clear the head.
17. Jennifer Hudson – JHUD. One of the overlooked albums of the year. It really upsets me that she never gets the credit she deserves. This album delivers and has something for everyone. Her voice is truly from heaven. Whether it’s straight up r&b, pop, or dance, or singing with a live band, Jennifer Hudson is truly the gem music is made of.
18. Cherub – Year of the Caprese. I swear this album sounds like it was made in their bedroom. Some songs are very minimalistic in delivery. And some are just rip roaring on the dancefloor and break something jams. Trust me when I say you won’t be disappointed.
19. St. Vincent – St. Vincent. A little hip-hop, a little synth, a little rock, and make for a very enjoyable album. Well done, Annie.
20. Bad Suns – Language and Perspective. Loud pop rock with insights about life. Can’t go wrong.
1. Pitbull – Globalization. Say what you want about him, but this boy can spit. Only he does it backed by a party beat. He wants everyone to have a good time, while also boast his bragadocial wordplay to the females. I find it entertainingly amusing. With all the crap hip-hop out there, and all the so called bosses rapping about weed, and women, and sex, and yada yada yada, I’d much rather listen to someone getting me off the couch and on the dance floor. Keep doing your thing Armando. And thank you for pulling your pants up.
2. Kele – Trick. Yes, the lead singer of Bloc Party released another solo album. You didn’t know? Yes, he did. And it’s good. In fact, I wish BP would do more albums like this. He has the right vocal delivery with electronic support to make it likable without it wearing on you like many electronic albums do after a period of time. The album isn’t too long, and it’s not too short in length which is always good for me. Be a little open minded and check him out.
3. Kelela – Cut 4 Me. I thoroughly enjoyed this mix of rap and r&b. It was quite the standout in a lackluster year of rap – just in my own opinion.
4. The Glitch Mob – Love Death Immortality. This is another album I thought was overlooked for the year. Great beats. Great rhythms. Great everything.
5. Walk the Moon – Talking is Hard. This whole album sounds like an 80s arena rock anthem throwback set to new wave dance/rock music. Another diamond in the rough.
6. D’angelo and the Vanguard – Black Messiah. I added this last minute. I also added this not so much because the album is good. I’ve listened to it three times now and I can honestly say, I only like half of it if that much. But I’m so glad this talent in neo soul r&b has returned. I had pretty much written him off after his drug issues and car crash some years ago. But that write off was off the table once I saw him perform online at Jay-Z’s Made in America Festival. I thought there was hope. Well, there was hope. I just wish the whole album was as good as the bits and pieces I liked. But welcome back D. You have sorely been missed.
That’s it for me for albums of the year kids… next up. My favorite songs of the year. Stay tuned.
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