Well, 2014 was another strong year for music. As I get older in age, music seems to continue to thrive artistically and creatively. New styles mesh well with the old as various artists find new and innovative ways to keep music fresh, politically conscious, raw, and heartfelt. 2014 brought the return of some of music’s heaviest hitters (Foo Fighters, Eminem, Taylor Swift, Prince) who all released new records, and created the births of some very talented newcomers. (Bleachers, Sam Smith, Ariana Grande, and Fka Twigs) It’s always fun to sit back and reflect on the year that was. So get your iTunes or Spotify accounts ready and check out Jonesy’s Top 50 Albums of 2014.
50. Cloud Nothings-Here and Nowhere Else
There is more good in Cleveland besides Lebron and the new Big 3. Cloud Nothings continue to make quality garage rock. Think of an early Strokes vibe on their 4th album, Here and Nowhere Else. This is the follow-up LP to their breakthrough hit, Attack on Monday, and its the first time the band has performed as a three-piece. The end result is still all good. Check out “I’m Not Part of Me.”
49. Ought-More Than Any Other Day
“And there it comes again…” One of the signature lines from “Habit,” the fabulous lead single from this Canadian’s band debut album More Than Any Other Day. This band is keeping the art-punk revolution alive. This album is restless, honest, and raw. Led by singer/guitarist Tim Beeler, Ought are a breath of fresh air to Canada’s music scene. In 2014 they entered America. Can’t wait to see what they have in store next. Check out “Habit.”
48. Miranda Lambert-Platinum
She’s not just that Blake Shelton guy’s wife man! This lady is actually is the real deal. Said every country fan. Bottom line is in the world of country music Lambert is a household name. She totally reminds me of a character from ABC’s “Nashville.” But she also has that country pop crossover appeal that has worked for Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood. Platinum is Lambert’s 5th studio album and should be the one that takes her to the next level. Check out ” Something’s Bad” her duet with Carrie Underwood, and the heartfelt “Holding On To You.”
Auto Tune is alive and well in 2014 people. Future was in the news for a couple of reasons in 2014. First he completely blew it and cheated on his wife Ciara, which was a sour note for the Atlanta rapper/singer. (Ciara is beautiful bro…bad move) Then he released, Honest, his impressive sophomore album that continues to signify Future as one of the different and distinct voices in hip hop. The album features cameos from Wiz Khalifa, Pharrell, Andre 3000, and Drake. Check out “Never Satisfied” featuring OVO’s finest Drake.
46. Ty Segall-Manipulator
I really love this Ty Segall record. Manipulator is a bad ass collection of indie rock. Segall is a talented musician and songwriter. Manipulator is his first venture into psychedelic rock. There are plenty Tame Impala-esque grooves on this album (which I love) that makes this record a musical head trip. Segall is known to incorporate many elements of rock into his music, and his influence in glam rock is on display on this album. “Tall Man, Skinny Lady” is one of the highlights on this impressive compilation of work.
45. Pharrell Williams-GIRL
Pharrell Williams had a pretty big year in 2014. Unless you were living deep in a hole, you danced and sang along to Williams infectious hit, “Happy.” It was one of the biggest hits of 2013 and would be appearing on Williams’ second full length album GIRL. In March of 2014 Williams released GIRL, and performed for the first time at the Academy Awards. Although “Happy” lost to “Let it Go” from Frozen, it was the beginning of a big year for Pharrell and his “hat.” He took over Cee-Lo Green and Usher’s chair in the latest season of NBC’s The Voice, bringing the lovable Williams closer to his fans on a weekly basis. He hit the road in support of GIRL, performing at Coachella, and in various cities across the US. You probably have heard “Come Get it Bae” (feat. Miley Cyrus) on NBA commercials. Pharrell was always a mainstay in urban music, but now he is a bona fide pop star who continues to make important moves in the world of music. Check out “Brand New” feat. Justin Timberlake.
44. Damien Rice-My Favourite Faded Fantasy
It’s been awhile since we last heard from Irish singer/songwriter Damien Rice. Eight long years to be exact. But one of my favorite folk-soul brothers has returned with his third studio album of gems that tug on the heart-strings. You know what…I really just want Rice to be happy. His music can be so dark at times, but it’s just simply beautiful. Finely tuned arrangements and instrumentals take over many areas of this album and it’s easy to find yourself getting lost in the musical beauty of Rice’s work, especially when the average length of a song is over 5 minutes . “It Takes a Lot to Know a Man,” is a whopping 9 minute plus sucker punch to the soul. All I can say is well done Damien.
Is Tinashe the new Ashanti? Christina Millian? or Mya? Let’s hope she’s more than all of those ladies who came and left the world of R&B quicker than a Kardashian headline. It’s hard to be a female in R&B music who has staying power that’s not names Beyonce or Mary J. Blige. It seems like every couple of years you have a couple new one hit wonders who drop a couple hits and are dubbed the next big thing, only to evaporate like bubbles into thin air over time. Hopefully Tinashe isn’t one of those, because her debut album Aquarius, is a breath of fresh air. Besides being an attractive entertainer, who also models and acts, Tinashe has some pipes on her. For her debut record she worked with a gang of “it” producers such as DJ Mustard, Boi Ida, and Mike Will Made It. Check out “Pretend” featuring Asap Rocky. It’s a catchy mix of urban pop.
42. Parquet Courts-Sunbathing Animal
New York City rock n’ roll is alive and well in the form of the four piece band known as Parquet Courts. Sometimes three is a charm. Parquet Courts third album, Sunbathing Animal, made the rest of the country stop and pay attention to this little New York engine that could. Lead singer Andrew Savage sounds a lot like Kele from Bloc Party, but really brings it all over this high-octane punk-pop ride. This is indie garage rock at it’s finest. I can hear the influences from the Strokes, to the Pixies, and even the Talking Heads on Sunbathing Animal. Check out “Black and White,” and “What Color is Blood.”
41. Damon Albarn-Everyday Robots
Maybe the leader of Gorillaz is really a robot. He might just be from outer space. Wherever he is from, he continues to put his finger on the pulse of innovative and creative music. Albarn is influenced by various types of music which is evident on his work with Blur, The Good, Bad, & the Queen, and the Gorillaz, and various elements of folk and soul are all over Everyday Robots. I consider this album the ultimate collection of mood music. Check out “Lonely Press Play.”
40. Eric Church-The Outsiders
Eric Church headlines the second country artist to crack my top 50. I have slowly learned to appreciate some country music over time. I can’t get with it all, but the stuff that I do listen to, is pretty good. Case in point, Eric Church’s latest album The Outsiders. This is a very strong album. Church is a solid singer-songwriter with a very smooth voice. If you listen to a track like “Talledega” you can’t just help but nod your head along and say this dude has got talent. Church is part of the Jason Aldean, Luke Bryan, and Zac Brown Band new era of country music. All of these guys have crossover appeal and elements of rock and pop in their traditional country base sound. Church came into promise for his hit “Springsteen” in 2011. The Outsiders builds on those underrated musical skills of Eric Church. Check out “Talledega” and “Give Me Back My Hometown.”
39. Ryan Adams-Ryan Adams
Everyone’s favorite emo heart-throb is back. Grab your cleanex folks. Although Ryan Adams music may make you want to jump out a window, you have to admit it is pretty damn good. Adams is a true singer-songwriter, in every sense of the word. He keeps it 100 with his guitar on every song he creates. His latest self-titled album continues to have Adams hitting you where it hurts, but he’s extremely honest and open on record and that’s why I think his fans resonate with him so much. “Gimmie Something Good” and “Kim” are two of the stand outs on this quality piece of music.
38. Future Islands-Singles
Synthpop is alive and well with Future Islands. This Maryland based band reps Baltimore and is flash of 1980’s fever for modern times. Think Culture Club meets the Thompson Twins meets Eurasure and you get Future Islands. Lead singer Samuel Herring has such a distinct voice, that you can’t help but want to jump on that 80’s joy ride with this band. Their music is such a flash back for me, but yet it still feels timely. This is fun club music for the masses. Stellar tracks are “Spirit” and “Seasons” (Waiting on you).
37. St. Paul and the Broken Bones-Half the City
Soul music is alive and kicking in Birmingham, Alabama. That is the home of the 7 piece act known as St. Paul and the Broken Bones whose debut record Half the City rocked my mind this year. Led by Paul Janeway, the Broken Bones have a great big throwback sound. Full horn section. Half the City was produced by Ben Tanner of the Alabama Shakes, another band from that area that came to fame with a great soul retro sound. St. Paul and the Broken Bones are as talented as any act out there in music today, and word on the street is that their live show is incredible. The lead single “Call Me” is a classic and a former SOTD.
36. Prince-Art Official Age
2014 was the year an old legend made a nice comeback to critical prominence. Prince, who has been putting in work for over three decades released two new offerings of music in 2014, Art Official Age and Plectrumelectrum with his new all girl band, 3rdeyegirl. Both showcased Prince bringing a return to funk and R&B that has been missing from his repertoire for years. Art Official Age is my favorite of the two discs. Prince gets back into his new age R&B sound on this effort. If you are a true Prince fan, you were very happy to hear him return to form with this effort. Check out “Clouds” and “Breakdown.”
I thought that it would be pretty hard to top this duo’s debut album, Eyelid Movies but if you give people five years, they can make something work. That’s what happened to Josh Carter and Sarah Barthel, otherwise known as Phantogram. The duo toured extensively for their debut and really took their time making their follow up. Voices came out in February of this year and is really solid record from top to bottom. Their electronic and guitar hybrid sound really shines bright on this record and especially on my favorite track off the album, “Howling at the Moon.”
34. Jack White-Lazaretto
Jack White is one of the most consistent artists in all of music. Whether it’s leading the White Stripes, jamming with the Raconteurs or the Dead Weather, or making solo albums, White always does his due dilligence. Lazaretto, White’s second solol album, was a rocking tour de force. Jack White’s guitar playing has been on another level since he first debuted into the world of indie rock. The album was inspired by a collection of short stories and poems that White wrote when he was 19. He’s so talented that there is a little bit of everything found on Lazaretto from country to funk, to blue grass, to even a little bit of hip hop, as heard in the title track. White’s live show continues to flourish and he is making a name for himself as one of the most talented artists on the planet. There is nothing musically that Jack White can’t do. I’m convinced. Check out “Alone in my Home’ and “High Ball Stepper.”
33. Perfume Genius-Too Bright
A pretty interesting debut record came out this year. It came from an artist called Perfume Genius, which is the stage name for Mike Hadreas, a solo artist from Seattle. The album makes a lot of noise for not being a loud album. Piano heavy tracks actually appear throughout most of Too Bright, which showcase Hadreas amazing ability to write and play. The songs on Too Bright are full of imagery and intrigue, and Hadreas is not one to shy away from his emotions. “Fool” and “Queen” are two of the album’s high points.
32. Real Estate-Atlas
Atlas is one of my favorite driving records. I feel like Real Estate have made the perfect go for a long drive album that just gets better after every listen. Ok, maybe I’m a little bias because these guys are from New Jersey, but regardless of where they came from, their music is quality. Atlas was one of the most critically acclaimed records of the year. It’s tender in all of the right places. In my opinion, this is Real Estate’s best album. It’s the groups third, so the sky is the limit on how far this band can soar. “Talking Backwards” is one of the catchiest tunes on the album. I feel like this band is waiting for that big single to take them to that next level. You can’t find that single on Atlas, but you will find a solid collection of songs from top to bottom.
Banks is one bad ass chick. She’s on that new wave of R&B that is ripping through our sound waves. Picture her as a female version of The Weeknd. Her music is dark and sexy. She is a very talented singer/songwriter who is starting to make a name for herself with her debut record Goddess. The minute I heard “Waiting Game” I knew this chick had arrived and was going to be a force. “Brain” and “Drowning” continued to build on the buzz of Banks, who dropped singles before releasing her first full length. If you like sultry R&B music with an edge, you must definitely check out Banks.
30. Bleachers-Strange Desire
Bleachers have taken over the spot of fun band to listen to. I would say Fun. held that spot last year, and what a coincidence, that a member of Fun. is also in Bleachers! Jack Antonoff, formerly of Steel Train, and Fun. started to work on his personal side project while being on the road with Fun. He called this project Bleachers. He also kept the project a secret until he released the bands lead single “I Wanna Get Better” in February of this year. Antonoff is one of those music nerd wunderkinds who is really gifted when it comes to songwriting and craffting music. Strange Desire is filled with light hearted rock-pop anthems like “Rollercoaster” and “Take Me Away.”
29. Mac Demarco-Salad Days
Mac Demarco may have released my most underrated album of the year. Salad Days is soooo dope. It’s just a different album full of surprises and artistic moments. Demarco’s music is all over the place. The beats and grooves on Salad Days are catchy and off center, which is why I like it so much. Demarco’s voice is nothing to scream about. He has an interesting falsetto, that’s effective at times, but when he sings it’s kind of like he’s talking to you. Almost has that Dylan-esque feel to it. Demarco is a multi-instrumentalist and very talented songwriter. I got onto this album late, but it’s something that is constantly being played in my album rotation. Check out “Salad Days” the title track and “Let Her Go.”
28. Lykke Li-I Never Learn
Lykke Li is three for three when it comes to dropping dope albums. Sweeden’s finest continued to show America that she is the real deal with her third release I Never Learn, which came out in May of this year. On this effort Lykke Li made a push to get past the pop label that was unfairly given to her after her debut record. She wants to be taken more seriously as a singer/songwriter and I Never Learn is filled with very personal musical anecdotes about her life , especially after dealing with a terrible heartbreak. The end result was a collection of strong, well-crafted, honest music that isn’t meant to be poppy. “No Rest For the Wicked” and “Gun Shot” are two of the album’s standouts.
27. First Aid Kit-Stay Gold
Anyone that follows my SOTD on Jones and B, know that I really love me some First Aid Kit. This Swedish folk duo have appeared on my daily song lists numerous times with their gorgeous harmonies and their country-influenced pop songs. The ladies of First Aid Kit which happen to be a set of sisters, are incredibly talented. I am such a big fan of multi-part harmonies and these sisters shine at that. The Soderberg sisters sing perfectly in sync with one another. Stay Gold is a strong follow-up to 2012’s The Lion’s Roar. These ladies keep getting better with their songwriting and song craftsmanship. “My Silver Lining” is a phenomenal song from this album. Be sure to check out that and “Shattered and Hollowed.”
26. Schoolboy Q-Oxymoron
Looks like TDE (Top Dawg Entertainment) has another major player on its team. Schoolboy Q is the latest heavyweight to emerge from Kendrick Lamar’s TDE group. Schoolboy Q stepped into the limelight with a number 1 album this year with Oxymoron. Q proved that there was more firepower in TDE’s arsenal besides the poetic, heat blower that’s Kendrick Lamar. Schoolboy Q gets open on the gritty tales of life in South Central, LA. As far as top rap albums that dropped in 2014, this was definitely one of em. Schoolboy Q came correct with “Man of the Year.” Check that joint out.
25. Ariana Grande-My Everything
This wouldn’t be an official top 50 list for this year without Ariana Grande on the list. The former Nickelodon star had a HUGE year dominating the pop charts with three mega singles, “Problem” feat. Iggy Azalea, “Break Free” feat. Zedd, and “Bang Bang” featuring Jessie J and Nicki Minaj. Grande spent a lot of time at number 1 in 2014 butthe rest of her debut album, My Everything actually held up. It’s a quality debut from a pop star who seems to be the real deal. She’s only 21, is dating a major rap star, Big Sean, has already held her own on SNL and is racking up nominations for the major awards of 2014 (Grammy’s, American Music Awards) Expect a major tour in 2015. Be sure to check out “Love Me Harder” her duet with the Weeknd.
24. YG-My Krazy Life
Compton came back in a big way in 2014 thanks to this 24-year-old rapper otherwise known as YG. Signed to Young Jeezy’s CTE world, YG hit the streets with a ferocious debut album. My Krazy Life. YG is signed to the legendary Def Jam records and he continues their legacy of impressive and important rap music. Chances are you have nodded your head to “My Nigga” featuring Rich Homie Quan and Jeezy or “Who You Love” feat. Drake and produced by DJ Mustard. Both are certified bangers.
23. Coldplay-Ghost Stories
Chris Martin was in the news this year for something besides his breakup and “conscious uncoupling” from his former wife Gwenyth Paltrow and new coupling with Jennifer Lawrence. His band, Coldplay, made an impressive album called Ghost Stories this year and went on an extensive world tour to support it. At this point in the game Coldplay will never be able to make another Parachutes or A Rush of Blood to the Head. They are too big and too mainstream to make an album that relevant and poignant that stands alone from its contemperaries. However, Martin can still write a damn good song. Case in point, “A Sky Full of Stars” and the fabulous “Magic.”
22. Thom Yorke-Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes
This wouldnt’ be a best of list without a mention from my favorite band of all time, Radiohead. Mr. Thom Yorke, lead singer of the famous aforementioned group, released his second LP in 2014, in complete Beyonce “no press” fashion. The result was a collection of post modern, dark, eclectic, electronic based music with an artsy twist. Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes follows the path of The Eraser, Yorke’s first solo venture. He creates music that isn’t Radiohead worthy yet artistic in expression and delivery, and very much a “solo” project. Yorke very rarely plays the solo tip. He did drop an all album with his all-star collaboration project, Atoms for Peace, in 2013. But Yorke had more non-Radiohead music in his spectrum and this time decided to release the album via Bit Torrent, a peer-to-peer file sharing service this past September. Yorke has always been known as an innovator for his sound and freshness. Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes definitely needs to grow on you, but when it does, you realize why it’s such good album. Check out “The Mother Lode.”
21. Interpol-El Pintor
I was very excited to find out that Interpol was reuniting in 2014. Although El Pintor was the first release without long time band member Carlos Dengler, the band got back to its rock roots on their latest piece of work. They tested out their new sound across the country this year at various festivals such as Lollapooloza, Austin City Limits, FYF Fest, Governor’s Ball, and Glastonbury. Interpol sounds very confident on this album. It’s reminiscent of their first record, Turn On the Bright Lights, which was a no-nonsense rock album from start to finish. The songs on El Pintor can hang with some of the band’s best work. Be sure to check out “All the Rage Back Home” and “Everything is Wrong.”
20. Jenny Lewis-The Voyager
Jenny Lewis is one of the baddest chicks in the indie rock game today. She has been putting in work on the solo tip and as the front woman for the band Rilo Kiley for years. She’s pretty awesome. She dropped her critically acclaimed new album, The Voyager this past July. It took her five years to complete this album, and happened through one of the toughest times of her life. Rilo Kiley broke up and she was dealing with a lot of personal issues. She ended up working with Ryan Adams who produced the album and helped her get into a better place to record some of the best work that she has made in her career. Check out “She’s Not Me” and “The New You.”
19. Lana Del Rey-Ultraviolence
Lana Del Rey released one of the most talked about albums of 2014. Produced by Dan Auerbach from Black Keys fame, Del Rey dropped a very personal record that reclaimed some of her lost glory as one of the strong female vocalists of the modern-day. Anytime an artist can work with a producer of Auerbach’s caliber, the results should be promising and they were for Ultraviolence. The album was critically acclaimed and proved that Del Ray has the chops to be a legit solo artist in pop music today. The very cool “West Coast,” is one of my favorite tracks on the album, but “Brooklyn Baby” and “Shades of Cool” also show off Del Rey’s vocal chops and songwriting skills.
18. Caribou-Our Love
I was pretty blown away by the Caribou album this year. I didn’t know much about this Canadian artist until stumbling on his amazing album Our Love towards the end of this year. Caribou is Dan Snaith, who initially went under the stage name Manitoba. Our Love has a lot of hip hop and R&B influences on it. The album is on many end of the year best of lists. It’s the perfect mood music for a dinner party at your crib. Check out “Can’t Do Without You,” and “Our Love.”
17. Foo Fighters-Sonic Highways
Dave Grohl is a bona fide rock star. He really is the man. He pulled off a pretty incredible year. Not only was he inducted into the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame as one of the members of Nirvana, but he starred, co-produced, and directed one of the coolest shows to hit cable tv in years, HBO’s music documentary “Sonic Highways.” The Foo Fighters released their 8th studio album, Sonic Highways in a very different way. Grohl and his band mates traveled to 8 different American cities and created a different track in each of those cities based on the vibe and soul of that city’s musical past. They filmed all 8 of these experiences and created the show “Sonic Highways.” Every episode gave you an up close and personal look into the making of the latest Foo Fighters record. Some call the show over the top, but I fail to agree. I thought it was a very savvy look into a legendary band and how they make original American music. Sure the video clips at the end with the song lyrics appearing on the screen is a little dramatic, but I saw a new side of Grohl and his band throughout the series and it made me appreciate the album more. Check out “Congregation” and “In the Clear.”
16. The Black Keys-Turn Blue
Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney are no strangers to best of lists. It seems like every time the Black Keys drop a new album it falls somewhere on that year’s “Best Of” recap. Same rule applied for Turn Blue, the Keys latest full length LP. This is the 8th studio album from Akron’s finest and they didn’t disappoint again. The band hooked up with Danger Mouse who handled production duties and helped co-write the album. The Keys explored psychedelic rock this time out, while incorporating a lot of soul into their sound. Auerbach went through a painful divorce during the making of the album, so a lot of his emotions lie all over this record. Check out the beautiful “Weight of Love,” and the rocking “Bullet in the Brain.”
15. Alt-J-This is All Yours
Prog rock has a new name, and it’s Alt-J. After breaking through with their debut record An Awesome Wave, this English rock band did something that was very hard to do. They made a better sophomore album. This is All Yours is a record that establishes Alt-J’s place in the musical landscape. For their debut they were playing clubs around America. Now they have sold out Madison Square Garden for their upcoming spring tour, and that is due to work of mouth, critical praise, and a strong festival touring schedule that increased their audience. Alt-J aren’t known for their hit singles. They don’t make music to be played on the radio, but their experimental indie sound has really resonated with a much larger audience on this second go round. Playing every major festival from Coachella to Bonnaroo to Glastonbury surely helped their cause. The band even sampled Miley Cyrus on one of their tracks, “Hunger of the Pine.” Now you know they have made it. Check out “Every Other Freckle” and “Left Hand Free.”
14. Beck-Morning Phase
I have always been a big fan of Beck. No matter how old her gets, he still seems to be one step ahead of the game musically. He crosses genres and boundaries with ease, which is something I think is very hard to do in music. He’s incredibly talented and is a true troubadour of alternative music. I especially like when Beck gets dark. He did that on 2002’s Sea Change, and he wentback to his more serious side with this year’s Morning Phase. This album is a beautiful collection of songs from Beck. “Blue Moon” and “Walking Light” hit the spot with every listen.
13. Flying Lotus-You’re Dead
Flying Lotus is one of the dopest producer/musicians around right now. Steven Ellison, who goes by Flying Lotus, has been releasing mind-bending, critically acclaimed, electronic music since his 2006 debut 1983. Ever since then the beats have gotten iller and trippier, and Flying Lotus has established himself as a musical force on the experimental/electronic hip hop scene. he has remixed Radiohead, worked with Mac Miller and Erykah Badu, and goes by the alias Captain Murphy when he raps. In 2014 he released the fabulous You’re Dead, a musical odyssey unlike anything else you have heard this year. Check out “Never Gonna Catch Me’ featuring Kendrick Lamar and “Siren Song.”
12. Fka Twigs-LP1
England’s FKA Twigs dropped one of the hottest debuts of 2014, with her breakthrough album LP1. Trip hop is alive and well with this experimental new wave R&B music. Tahliah Debrett Barnett, otherwise known as Fka Twigs, a very talented singer/songwriter/producer/dancer made 2014 her bitch with her debut record. Take one listen to “Two Weeks” and you know this chick ain’t playing around. Fka Twigs has one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year as critics and listeners alike have loved her rawness and vulnerability on record. Her futuristic, and Sade like sultry grooves are very apparent all over the record. Although now she is gaining publicity for dating Twilight’s own Robert Pattinson, she should be more known for tracks like “Pendulum” and “Video Girl.”
11. Sun Kil Moon-Benji
Although I think this band has one of the worst band names around, I couldn’t be more impressed with their music. Sun Kil Moon is the home base for Mark Kozelek, an extremely talented singer-songwriter from San Francisco, California. His band is named after the Korean lightweight boxer, Sung-Kil Moon. Sun Kil Moon make delicious indie folk rock music. Kozelek is clearly most comfortable behind an acoustic guitar. Their sixth album Benji, is one of the most talked about albums of the year and rightfully so. The album is very melancholy. As an older gent, Kozelek holds no punches with his lyrics. Benji is an honest confession of his soul. His music is like musical poetry with his guitar being his aide, as he just gets real with all of us throughout the album’s 11 tracks. Check out “Carissa” and “Ben’s My Friend.”
Andrew Hozier-Byrne had a pretty big year. This Irish singer-songwriter broke through with his bluesy debut album that struck a sweet note with indie listeners across the board. Then Lebron James goes and throws his jam “Take Me to Church” in his commercial for Beats and dude’s the musical guest on SNL. Yeah, it was that kind of year for Hozier. His self-titled debut fit in quite well to the indie world of music this year. Hozier is not reaching that Adele or Sam Smith level of European solo chart dominance, but he has hit the road in support of his debut and is racking up fans with the quickness after every stop he plays. Check out “Jackie and Wilson” and “Like Real People Do.”
9. Sharon Van Etten-Are We There
Anyone who follows my music column here on Jones and B knows how much I love Sharon Van Etten. I have a soft spot for female singer-songwriters. And Van Etten is representing Brooklyn! But on the reals, Sharon Van Etten, who actually hails from Jersey (stand up!) has been hitting my musical hot spot for a while now. Ever since I heard her second album Epic I was into to her husky voice and multi-part harmonies. A major feature of Van Etten’s music is harmonies, which she uses to create such a beautiful sound. She followed up Epic with the amazing Tramp, which showed major growth as a songwriter. Now Van Etten has completed the hat trick with Are We There, a collection of honest, heartfelt, dark and somber tunes that resonate within the soul. Sharon Van Etten knows how to get tender, but also has complete command of where she is going with her music. It’s usually an emotional roller coaster with her and it’s no difference on Are We There. Be sure to check out “Every Time the Sun Goes Up,” and “You Know Me Well.”
8. Taylor Swift-1989
2014 was the year of Taylor Swift. Love her or hate her, Swift was everywhere this year. She is one of the few major players in the music industry today. 1989 is Swift’s 5th solo album and her first full pop album. She’s already dominated country music and now she is taking over the pop world. 1989 is the highest selling album of 2014 as well. It sold 1.287 million copies in its first week of release. In an era when no one buys full length albums, this is a huge deal. It shows that Swift crosses genres and age groups, and her ability to sell is on another level from the rest of her peers. Hate it if you want to, but 1989 is a damn good pop record. “Blank Space” is one of the dopest tracks of this year. “Out of the Woods” and “Wildest Dreams” are also quality tracks. Swift worked with Ryan Tedder, Jack Antonoff, and Max Martin on 1989. And based on the picks from her 25th bday party, maybe a collabo with Bey and Jay is coming next?
7. Jessie Ware-Tough Love
I really enjoyed Tough Love, the latest album from English singer-songwriter Jessie Ware. Ware made a name for herself with her 2012 debut Devotion. Jessie Ware is a pure soul chick. She makes classic sounding modern-day R&B music that’s on point. She has a flair for the dramatic in her music, but maintains a retro feel to her sultry sound. Ware also likes to mix in electronic grooves into her music that work really well. There are so many good songs on Tough Love. It’s an album that you can play straight through from start to finish. “Kind of…Sometimes…Maybe” is off the chains. But so is “Sweetest Song,” and “You and I (Forever),” “All of You,” and the beautiful “Say You Love Me.” You can’t go wrong with this album. It’s a true contender for best album of the year.
6. TV On The Radio-Seeds
Brooklyn’s finest, TV On the Radio, is back with their best album in years with 2014’s Seeds. The band is back in full effect after the loss of one of their former members, Gerard Smith, who lost a courageous fight to lung cancer. After taking some well-needed time off, the band came back focused and hungry and have made one of the best albums of their career with Seeds. The album is filled with energy and purpose and was the perfect comeback record for TVOTR. “Happy Idiot” has a groove that you just haven’t heard from before with these guys. Whereas “Careful You” and “Test Pilot” showcase their ability to make heavy, meaningful, mood music. This is an all around great album to add to your collection. TVOTR take their influences from Prince, Bad Brains, Earth, Wind, and Fire, and the Pixies to create an organic and unique sound. Get this album. You won’t be disappointed.
5. Run The Jewels-RTJ2
Sometimes an unlikely combination creates the best winning formula around. That’s what happened when Atlanta’s own Killer Mike, joined forces with New York’s El-P and created Run the Jewels. These guys had the runaway most critically acclaimed rap album of the year. The beats on this album are bananas. They are grimey and raw and aggressive. Killer Mike and El P are both veterans of the indie rap game. They hold nothing back verbally on this album. RTJ2 is artistically creative. This is not a commercial album whose singles you’ll hear on the iTunes Top 100 chart. This is a true rap fan’s dream, especially if you like being challenged by artists who like to think outside the box. Be sure to check out “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” and “Blockbuster Night Part 1.”
4. Sam Smith-In the Lonely Hour
Lately it seems like every year there is one new solo artist (who usually hails from England) who takes the music world by storm with their voice, style, charisma, and charm. This year that honor goes to Sam Smith. The 22-year-old has had quite the year. He came into the limelight for his appearance on Naughty Boy’s “La La La” and Disclosure’s breakthrough single “Latch.” Both of those tracks opened Smith up to a very large audience. In March SNL got a hold of him as he was set to drop his debut album in the US, In the Lonely Hour. The album was anchored by the mega hit “Stay With Me” which hit number 2 in the US and number 1 in the UK. It literally was everywhere and was covered by everyone. But the album is well-balanced. Smith, who is heavily influenced by Amy Winehouse and Adele, is trying to make a career out of this music thing. He is extremely humble and shy, but has one of the best falsettos that you will ever hear. Be sure to check out “I Told You Now,” and “I’m Not the Only One.”
3. The War on Drugs-Lost In a Dream
I had a real tough time picking my top three albums of the year because I really loved all three of these records. Philadelphia’s own, The War on Drugs, released a beautiful record in Lost in a Dream. This is truly a flawless album. Led by singer Adam Granduciel, who sounds a lot like a mixture of Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, and Bruce Springsteen, The War on Drugs created majestic musical sonnets that was therapy to the ears of its listeners. The grooves of “Red Eyes,” and “Under the Pressure” are simply on another level. You just get lost in those songs. The pain that Granduciel was experiencing after the Slave Ambient tour is on full display all throughout Lost In a Dream. “Burning,” and “Eyes to the Wind” showcase Granduciel’s softer, emotional side. Overall, this is a classic American rock album. It’s tender, it’s inviting, it’s mysterious, yet wholesome and inspiring. And it is truly a great driving CD. It was really hard to put this album number 3, because it easily could have been the best of the bunch.
2. Spoon-They Want My Soul
My favorite band from Austin really hit my ears hard in 2014 with one of the best albums of their illustrious career with They Want My Soul. Spoon has always delivered unapologetic funky rock music. They are indie rock kings that make solid musicwith an edge. Britt Daniel and company are heavily influenced with soul in their music, that sometimes gets overlooked by the sound of their rocking guitars. But at the end of the day there is one word I can think of to describe Spoon and that’s consistent. This band has been consistently good throughout their entire catalog, from 2001’s Girls Can Tell to 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga to their amazing album released this year, They Want My Soul. The band took their time after 2010’s Transference to make this record and the time off seemed to work well. This album is fun, and upbeat, and finds the band in a good place emotionally and musically. “Do You” is a perfect song. “Outlier” is trance like and fresh. “Knock Knock Knock” bangs hard. “Rainy Taxi” makes you think. Daniel, who is at the center and core of Spoon, kept the band’s signature sound on The Want My Soul but stretched his vulnerability and creativity to new heights on this record. It somehow sounds and feels different from past Spoon albums. And, it features my favorite song of 2014, “Inside Out.” There was not a better song than “Inside Out” made this year. I know that is a bold proclamation, but sit down and listen to that song a couple of times. It’s just a perfect song. Well done Spoon. Well done.
1. St. Vincent-St. Vincent
And then there was one…Mucho props to Annie Clark. She, otherwise known to the masses as St. Vincent, has released the best album of 2014. This was a very close call. All of the albums in the top 10 were great in their own respective rights but Ms. Clark did her damn thing with her self-titled fourth album. Great albums are strong from top to bottom without any holes. St. Vincent is that album. From the opening sounds of “Rattlesnake” to the last beat in “Severed Crossed Fingers” Clark took us on a musical joyride of different sounds mixing funk, dance, rock, and pop. She loves to play with different arrangements and is influenced by a lot of different types of creative music. She truly is the definition of an artist and shreds on the guitar. She recorded an album with David Byrne of the Talking Heads called Love This Giant in 2012, where I’m sure she picked up a few things on being unpredictable with her music. Byrne has spoken nothing but high praise of Clark, who although a private person, is extremely expressive on record. Listen to the pure beauty of “I Prefer Your Love” or the funk of “Digital Witness” and you’ll notice that there is nothing this chick can’t handle. She rocks out heavy on “Regret,” and connects sonically with “Every Tear Disappears.” She has a tenderness to her voice and incredible control with her tone. This year she’s played SNL and St. Vincent has been nominated for a Grammy for Best Alternative Album. She has toured all over the country in support of St. Vincent and the world is starting to know how much of a musical powerhouse Annie Clark really is. If you appreciate creative, diverse, authentic, quality music, St. Vincent is a record that you must own. I guarantee you will be impressed.