The Best Albums of 2014 (So Far), pt 4
We’re back with the 4th and final installment of our Best of 2014 album roundup! Read on to learn about our final fifteen picks for 2014’s best releases, and check out our Spotify playlist of a few of our favorite tracks, embedded below.
Jamie Cullum, Interlude (Island, 2014)
I did not want to like Jamie Cullum. I failed (as far back as 2004’s album Twentysomething and his version of Bob Dorough‘s song “But For Now”). Hard to say whether Interlude is a “this year’s release,” since only three tracks of it are presently available in the States (the album will see a proper US release from Blue Note Records in 2015). It’s an album of standards and collaborations, done old-school (i.e., with strings). But tastefully so. There will be a mood in your life for which this album is appropriate. – Michael R.
Lana Del Rey, Ultraviolence (UMG Recordings, 2014)
Once I decided to ignore the noise surrounding Lana Del Rey, I realized that her music and persona are actually a lot of fun. Del Rey’s Ultraviolence is peopled with sad/broken/desperate characters whose only saving grace is their willful ignorance of how pitiful they look from the outside. This may not sound like a good hang, but Del Rey’s voice, coupled with Dan Auerbach’s lush production creates a world that is simultaneously a throw-back while sparking with modern attitude. Imagine Frank Sinatra singing Miley Cyrus … well, don’t do that, but do check out Ultraviolence. – Daniel B.
Mac Demarco, Salad Days (Captured Tracks, 2014)
Definitely could draw comparisons to pieces of Beck’s One Foot in the Grave or Mutations, but the slack key guitar and light psychedelia also recall Robyn Hitchcock and at times an even tamer Tame Impala. – Mark R.
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, Piñata (Madlib Invazion, 2014)
I used to think Freddie Gibbs was underrated. He’s done a great job letting people know he lives the life he raps about. He’s believable, and on Piñata he’s never painted a better picture of this vision. The soul, the jazz, the breaks, the synths, and the attention to detail Madlib is known for all give this record some serious replay value. The instrumental version, Piñata Beats, has also been in heavy rotation this year. – Josh S.
Jasmin Kaset, Quiet Machine (Yewknee Records, 2014)
Nashville-based songwriter Jasmin Kaset’s second long-player is a stunner. Opening tracks “You Can Never Go Home Again” and “Porno Mtn” set the pace for the balance of Quiet Machine, with Kaset’s poetically personal lyrics paired with Jordan Lehning‘s simultaneously modern and timeless production to astonishing effect. – Mike S.
The Paperhead, Africa Avenue (Trouble In Mind, 2014)
Best release from a Nashville band this year! It’s groovy, Beatles-y, Kinky and an old fashion kind of good! With a bit more pop than their earlier psych records they own this sound now. I love them for it, and I find myself singing some of these songs for days at a time. – Josh S.
Parquet Courts, Content Nausea (What’s Your Rupture, 2014)
Less than six months after the release of Sunbathing Animal, the loveable goofballs of Parquet Courts are back with another LP. Released under the alternym Parkay Quarts (last used on 2013’s Tally All The Things That You Broke EP), Content Nausea marks a slight return to form to the free-wheeling lo-fi experimentation of their debut cassette release, American Specialties. The results are head-scratching in all the right ways, weird and wild and wonderful. – Mike S.
Run The Jewels, Run The Jewels 2 (Mass Appeal Records, 2014)
If you’re starting work on your best of 2015 list, go ahead and save a spot for Run The Jewels 3. If history is any indicator, the already-announced third album from the duo of El-P and Killer Mike, will be the best rap album of the year, just like the original RTJ was in 2013, and RTJ2 was in 2014. These two veteran MCs are producing the best work of their respective careers and show no signs of stopping anytime soon. – Mike S.
Ty Segall, Manipulator (Drag City, 2014)
It was interesting to observe this record come out this year. If you know much about Ty, you know he releases a LOT of records. I’ve just come to expect at least one, if not two, releases from some iteration of the dude every year. Not all have come with appearances on the late night talk show circuit, an NPR first listen, and INTERACTIVE music videos. Too bad none of the money spent on the push for this release went into the album art, because it’s pretty bad. – Josh S.
Sleepy Sun, Maui Tears (Dine Alone Records, 2014)
Hawaii. Black sand beaches. Whitewater walls of sound break against dark lava rock and leave crystalline droplets shimmering in the air. The new wave of psychedelia hasn’t broken yet. Listening to Maui Tears, think: Quicksilver Messenger Service meets Fleet Foxes (with a detour past Nirvana). (For a seasonal treat, check out Sleepy Sun’s cover of “What Child is This?” on Psych-Out Christmas, a weird and spotty compilation album released in 2013.) – Michael R.
St. Paul and the Broken Bones, Half the City (Single Lock Records, 2014)
Fans of Alabama Shakes should definitely seek this one out. Well recorded retro-soul, re-rendered so freshly that a double bill of the two bands might actually result in time travel. – Mark R.
Todd Terje, It’s Album Time (Olsen Records, 2014)
Despite what the album artwork might suggest, Terje is not a Richard Cheese-type novelty lounge act. This frequent Lindstrom collaborator fulfills the title of the album with very little filler. The vocal feature by Bryan Ferry is the ‘single’, but it is far from the highlight. Terje brings shows some real compositional skills, wedding accessible melodies and unexpected textures, spanning the realm from Air to Airto in the most infectious electronic music of the year. “Oh Joy” transcends the implied sarcasm of its title to really show how much fun the artist is having. – Mark R.
TV on the Radio, Seeds (Harvest Records, 2014)
TV on the Radio’s Seeds drops you into the middle of a soulful/sorrowful funeral and makes you happy to be there. In some ways this album feels as influenced by a past member as Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. The death of core member Gerard Smith from lung cancer permeates the atmosphere Seeds creates. Moving on from a loss, finding strength in routine, holding on to memories and letting them be a joy rather than a drag. These are all concepts that apply to the death of loved one just as easily as to the end of a relationship. There are no politics on this album, only healing and coping. TV on the Radio can give sensitivity the power it deserves and this is a beautiful and powerful album. – Daniel B.
Numero Group’s deluxe reissues of seminal ’90s noise rockers Unwound hit a high point this fall with No Energy. Collecting their 3rd and 4th proper LPs (1995’s The Future Of What and 1996’s Repetition), No Energy captures Unwound truly hitting their stride, when Justin Trosper’s swarm-of-bees guitar, Vern Rumsey’s serpentine bass, and Sara Lund’s perfectly syncopated drums coalesced into irresistibly catchy yet consistently challenging force. – Mike S.
Scott Walker & Sunn 0))), Soused (4AD, 2014)
Former-teen heartthrob and avant garde poster boy Scott Walker is picking up the pace. Soused, a five-song collaboration between Walker and drone metal demigods Sunn 0))), was issued less than two years after 2012’s career-defining Bish Bosch, the shortest interval between Walker releases in forty years. As with the previous release, there’s a new urgency to the proceedings that’s exhilarating, peaking midway through the album with the sprawling, relentless “Herod 2014,” which perfectly pairs Walker’s trembling baritone with Sunn 0)))’s monolithic, doomy drone. This one is certainly not for the faint of heart.