Best of 2014: Top 30 Albums
To accompany the other yearend lists, here are my picks for the 30 best albums to catch my ear in 2014. Agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts in the comments section and tell me how wrong you think I am!
#30. Ingrid Michaelson – Lights Out
Lights Out is Ingrid’s first collaborative record, after writing all of her previous work solo. It really came together as a group effort with co-writers, guest artists and a crowd of supporters in the studio providing backing vocals and instrumentation. The mish-mash of songs that result shows Ingrid’s versatility as a recording artist and strengths as a songwriter and willing collaborator with a perfect blend of immediate and rewarding pop songs.
Full review (May 1, 2014)
#29. Sam Smith – In The Lonely Hour
With his skill and British background, it’s only natural that he get compared to Adele, who also gained fame at nearly the same age. Like her album 21, In The Lonely Hour is a soulful album about heartache, but where Adele sang about the experience of an 18-month long relationship, Sam sings from a less-knowledgeable perspective, about a one-night stand with someone who is already taken.
Full review (June 26, 2014)
#28. Bastille – All This Bad Blood
This album is made to be future nostalgia. Beyond Pompeii are songs that can be attached to fond memories of summer nights, a vacation or that special fling that was too short. Even if the record doesn’t provide anything breakthrough or original, its hooks and generalized lyrics cut right to the point of where they need to be.
Full review (March 16, 2014)
#27. Robyn & Röyksopp – Do It Again
The Do It Again EP is a short mix of songs that puts Robyn deeper in the electronic genre than she’s gone previously while likely bringing further awareness to Röyksopp to people who were unfamiliar with them until now. For both, it’s the first record of new material in nearly four years and is just enough to whet appetites until something grander comes.
Full review (July 10, 2014)
#26. Jenn Grant – Compostela
Compostela follows familiar territory in that it has a lot of Jenn’s now signature coo-ing over delicate melodies and instrumentation. She’s one of the most easily likeable singers on the Canadian music scene now and this album only goes to further push that as she sings about experiences both happy and painful. This album is less about forming an album of songs and more about the relief and liberation that comes from songwriting and recording.
Full review (November 25, 2014)
#25. Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways
Sonic Highways sticks with the band’s statute of keeping guitar and bass front and centre for the whole thing and once again, Dave Grohl finds a way to celebrate that in the creation of a record. Its central theme is around the songwriting process and the band’s travels across the United States incorporating inspiration from the cities they visit into the songs that end up on the album.
Full review (December 14, 2014)
#24. Passenger – Whispers
Listening to Whispers is not unlike sitting in a British pub listening to a local musician play songs to an attentive audience over a pitcher of draft beer. In this pub, Passenger has the small crowd in his palm of his hand as he sings songs of personal experiences and perspectives, love, story-telling, and at several points throughout, provides everyone the chance to sing along.
Full review (July 19, 2014)
#23. Imogen Heap – Sparks
Sparks has been in the works for over three years and Imogen has kept fans in the loop every step of the way through blogs, videos and audio recordings. What makes it such an impressive album isn’t the finished result in its basic audio format but the journey of how it came to be. The album can best be described with the saying “it’s not where you end up but how you get there that counts.”
Full review (September 8, 2014)
#22. Meaghan Smith – Have A Heart
Have A Heart is a pleasant record that plays both sides of the fence with her introduction into airplay on pop radio but also sticks with the sound that helped earn Meaghan the 2011 Juno Award for Best New Artist and a permanent place on holiday playlists every December. It’s easy to criticize a singer for shifting toward the mainstream but it’s commendable when one does it without losing touch of their roots.
Full review (May 20, 2014)
#21. Kacey Musgraves – Same Trailer Different Park
The songwriting is the primary grab of this album where Kacey leaves behind the standard tales of country living and provides a fresh perspective to life in the place she calls home. Her sound is refreshing but not overwhelming, sitting comfortably enough within the genre that non-country fans can still easily be won over with her style of tell-it-like-is singing.
Full review (March 2, 2014)
#20. Catherine MacLellan – The Raven’s Sun
The sound of the recording is, if anything, a complement to Catherine’s abilities as a musician and with collaborator and producer Chris Gauthier along side, musicianship is a key component to this record with the guitar playing as big a part in the storytelling as Catherine’s voice.
Full review (September 14, 2014)
#19. Kris Delmhorst – Blood Test
Blood Test is an album of changing tides, with references to the sea in several songs that provide a more wide-open and often liberating perspective on topics discussed in the songs. It’s about security, reassurance, and recollecting your thoughts, memories and desires and organizing them in a way that brings the greatest amount of peace of mind and satisfaction.
Full review (May 21, 2014)
#18. Soundtrack – The Fault In Our Stars
The soundtrack to The Fault In Our Stars is the passing of the musical torch to the next generation with songs written and performed just for them that have the same sense of timelessness to make it this generation’s Romeo + Juliet or Garden State. It’s a generation-defining collection of music that has the potential to stick for decades and be one of the key moments for the 30-somethings of the 2030’s. It’s an instant and longterm classic.
Full review (June 27, 2014)
#17. Clean Bandit – New Eyes
For such a fusion of different styles, it’s hard to really pinpoint where Clean Bandit fit on the musical spectrum. There are songs on New Eyes that can appeal to just about anyone but at the same time, it’s almost too niche. My one regret with the album is having not discovered it before summer began as it would have made for an awesome soundtrack for those hot and sunny summer days.
Full review (September 3, 2014)
#16. Tori Amos – Unreprentant Geraldines
Unrepentant Geraldines is Tori’s 14th studio album and in comparison to her last four, it’s an easier listen. That isn’t to say it’s a breeze but Tori has eased up on the development of side characters and multiple mindsets that take place within the walls of her music. For now, we’re back to seeing things through her eyes and much of that touches on the progression of life.
Full review (June 2, 2014)