My Favorite Albums of 2014

I was there for the British Invasion. There for the Motown Sound. There for what became classic rock. There for the icons of 80s. There for grunge, hip-hop and teen pop of the 90s[1]. There to see popular music splinter in a zillion directions in the 00s. And here for the blurring of genres in the 10s.
Big statement but true – I loved more music released in 2014 than released in any other year. No fewer than 21 full-length CDs (and 11 EPs) from this year rocked my world. And that world was international – eight albums came from artists outside the U.S[2].

My previous blog reviewed my 2014 favorite, London singer/songwriter Katy B’s Little Red. Here are the other 20 that made 2014 so noteworthy, beginning with two that finished close to the top.

Banks Goddess Lorde meets Ellie Goulding, i.e. a gothic Stevie Nicks meets folktronica. Haunting vocals over dark minimalist background music. It’s simultaneously eerie and captivating.

Royal Blood Royal Blood – Massive, gut-punching, eardrum-splitting, vomit inducing garage rock. These two guys have to have some DNA connection to Led Zeppelin, both guys in The Black Keys and Jack White. And exactly how do they sound like all three at the same time?

And now the rest in no particular order.

Prince Art Official Age and Plectrumelectrum – Because it’s Prince.

Kitten Kitten – From Rolling Stone: “Chloe Chaidez’s musical prodigiousness was apparent to anyone who saw her band Kitten open for Paramore in 2013 – she wailed, crept around the stage and held her own in the face of a hyper-dynamic headliner.”[3] I was there and I agree. And she made a great debut album, too. Oh, and she just turned 20.

Pvris (“Paris”) White Noise – Alt-rock, electronic rock, synthpop, post-punk, etc., etc. – like Kitten (see above) they are a genre-less band fronted by a young, charismatic female making music that defies easy comparisons.[4]

Mary J. Blige The London Sessions The Queen of Soul, Version 2 went to London, got immersed in their music culture and made her best album in ten years.

U2 Songs of Innocence – Yet another masterpiece that stands up to any of their best work. And iTunes gave it to me for free. Yet another reason to love Apple.

Gary Clark, Jr. Live – The blues spirit of Hendrix lives.

Goapele Strong As Glass – Continuing the line running from Sade to Erykah Badu.

Raydio + O-DOne Drop – “One of the best neo soul/hip hop/soul albums you will hear this year.  O-D has some extra mellow, yet banging, beats that drive the lovely voice of K. Raydio.”[5]

Liv Kristine Vervain – The voice of an angel in goth metal heaven.

Lindsey Stirling Shatter Me – 6 million YouTube subscribers. 190 million views. Plays a little violin. Stradivarius would be proud although I’m not sure how he’d feel about dubstep.

Broods Evergreen – Synth-pop brother-sister duo from New Zealand making elegant, atmospheric and catchy music.

Paloma Faith A Perfect Contradiction – Her eccentric style isn’t for everybody. But it is for me.

Jessie Ware Tough Love – Her throwback quiet storm vocals are as smooth and soulful as it gets. And not having her Devotion on my 2013 Best of List was an egregious and mystifying error.

Brooke Fraser Brutal Romantic – A dark, edgy album that’s a far cry from her poppy, folksy Something’s In the Water days. Somewhere, fellow New Zealander Lorde is smiling.

Sia 1000 Forms of FearChandelier is one of the best songs of the year and Sia’s voice is magical.

Lana Del Rey Ultraviolence­ – This album is as dark as a black hole but her languid vocals, songs of despair and fuzzy, psychedelic production by Dan Auerbach (The Black Keys) makes this very compelling listening. You just need to be in the right mood, like morbidly depressed.

Pharrell Williams GIRL – Plenty of Motown/retro-soul to make you plenty happy.

Neon Trees Pop Psychology – A clever and fun pop rock album.


[1] To be fair, I semi-checked out of popular music in the 90s.

[2] U.K (Paloma Faith, Jessie Ware, Royal Blood, U2), Norway (Liv Kristine), New Zealand (Broods and Brooke Fraser), Australia (Sia). And the albums by Mary J. Blige and Banks were heavily influenced by the London music culture.


[4] Having said that, they do sound similar to VersaEmerge (now Versa) probably due to their producer, Blake Harnage, being the principal songwriter of Versa.

[5] Damon “Jank” Joy, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (blog)

Explore posts in the same categories: Best Of, Reviews

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