Regardless of what same might say about the current musical landscape, great albums come out every year without fail. 2014 was no exception. Many established artist released their best works to date (Beyonce, St Vincent, Ingrid Michaelson) and those were complemented by many great debut albums from new artists as well (Azealia Banks, Betty Who, Kieza.) Amongst all this, there were some albums that I couldn’t stop listening to this year and I’m taking this time to recommend my top 5 of the year to you along with some honorable mentions that you should also check out. I’ve taken the liberty of making this experience EVEN EASIER by listing the key tracks from these albums and making a SPOTIFY playlist of them all together! I’ve included the key tracks from the honorable mentions as well so you can determine which albums you might want to check out in full.
# 5: Perfume Genius–Too Bright
!WARNING WARNING; THIS ALBUM IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART! The sensitivity and blatant depression that is conveyed by Perfume Genius in all his albums is “slightly” lightened here on Too Bright, but still tugs at the heartstrings. He’s one of the most experimental and honest male artists in the game right now and although he still shows his indie-ballad style on this record, his dabbling in synth-pop and more straightforward tunes could transition into a spot in the mainstream soon enough.
Key Tracks: “Grid”, “Fool”, “Queen”
#4: Betty Who–Take Me When You Go
I’ve followed Betty Who ever since she released her first E.P. The Movement in 2012 (actually it was so early on that it was a free download) and ever since then she’s blossomed into a budding pop sensation. She had early buzz when a proposal video in a Home Depot used her track “Somebody Loves You” went viral and after that subsequent touring and another E.P. Slow Dancing made way for her major label debut Take Me When You Go. Songs from both E.P.s show up here with new tracks as well. She has the sound of dance-floor pop icons like Kylie Minogue and Rihanna, but counters that with a singer-songwriter vocal and lyrical style. With the success of this release, she’s one to watch in 2015.
Key Tracks: “High Society”, “Alone Again”, “Dreaming About You”
#3: Mozart’s Sister–Being
Another synth-pop up-and-comer, Montreal’s own Mozart’s Sister is out for blood with this full-length debut Being. Songs from her previous E.P. Hello show up in re-worked version on this release, but it’s the new tracks that are the most telling to where her sound is going next. She’s been compared to her fellow Canadian songstress Grimes and American mezzo-soprano pop singer Sanitgold, but Mozart’s Sister has KILLER pipes and great musical composition skills that separate her stylistically from her peers. Being feels urgent and commanding when listened in full and leaves me curious as to what she’ll do next.
Key Tracks: “Good Thing Bad Thing”, “Enjoy”, “Lone Wolf”
#2: Röyksopp & Robyn–Do It Again
Although this was labeled a “mini-album,” nothing feels “mini” about this release at all. It feels concise and complete with great dance-pop arrangements and chilled-out beats galore. Robyn sings heartfelt lyrics on “Every Little Thing” and turns on the anthemic charm with the jam “Do It Again.” Every time this pair works together something memorable is produced and Do It Again proves that they can indeed do it over and over again.
Key Tracks: “Monument”, “SayIt”, “Every Little Thing”
#1: St. Vincent–St. Vincent
I could say so much about this artist and how much I admire her, but I’ll spare you the geek-out-fest and focus on why this self-titled album is clearly the album of the year. In the press she’s said that she self-titled this album because it’s the album where she felt she’s sounded “most like herself,” and I couldn’t agree more. After working with David Byrne of Talking Heads on the collaborative release Love This Giant in 2012, it would obviously impact her work for years to come. When working with such an icon and performing with him and learning tips and tricks, how could one NOT be excited to put them to use. This album still has nods to her previous releases like Strange Mercy and Actor with airy ballads and clever lyrical content, but is now enhanced with more pop-centric funk laced tracks like “Digital Witness” and dream-pop moments like “I Prefer Your Love.” This does feel like the real St. Vincent and because of the success of this release, she has been exposed to a whole new audience who can experience her more “accessible” sound. Yet, she still hasn’t sacrificed her performance-art-style live shows and she continues to “fight the good fight” in the media for women in music and artistic freedom as well.
Key Tracks: “Digital Witness”, “Rattlesnake”, “I Prefer Your Love”
Ingrid Michaelson–Light’s Out
Key Tracks: “Girls Chase Boys”, “Warpath”, “Afterlife”
MØ–No Mythologies to Follow
Key Tracks– “Waste of Time”, “Walk This Way”, “Glass”
Azealia Banks–Broke With Expensive Taste
Key Tracks: “Heavy Metal and Reflective”, “BBD”, “Miss Camaraderie”
Prince–Art Official Age
Key Tracks: “The Gold Standard”, “Breakfast Can Wait”, “What It Feels Like”
Faded Paper Figures–Relics
Key Tracks: “Breathing”, “On the Line”, “Spare Me”
Don’t forget to listen to the playlist below and comment what you think! Share this post as well if you feel so inclined!