BELATED, I’M REALLY SORRY ABOUT THAT, BUT:
2014 was the year that pop hooks harpooned the brains of music lovers. Just when it looked as if singles and streaming would supersede the art of the album, artists from all walks of life released dense material, packaged with care from their hearts to our ears, demanding our attention past the Billboard Hot 100. From the frigid ether of FKA Twigs to the opiate-and-LSD saturated warmth of The War on Drugs, the year gave us a lot to absorb.
This is WUD Music’s informal and inexact Best Albums of 2014; we hope you enjoy, and comment with some of your favorites of the year!
Honorable Mention: Perfume Genius – “Too Bright”
Mike Hadreas explodes on “Too Bright”. If the theme of life is a constant struggle for power, 2014 saw artists taking the power that they deserved. Hadreas composed an album unlike anything he has previously released, bursting at the seams with triumphant swagger punctuated by introspection before leaping to its greatest heights.
10. Sharon Van Etten – “Are We There”
“I can’t wait / Til we’re afraid / Of nothing” she croons, opening the album with a familiar anxiety. Aside from being one of our favorite shows we had the pleasure of putting on this year, Sharon Van Etten’s “Are We There” is everything a lovelorn album should be. The swift decline from love and the unparalleled pain of heartbreak reverberates in Van Etten’s voice, from the brooding of “I Love You But I’m Lost” to the anguish of “Your Love Is Killing Me”.
9. Against Me! – “Transgender Dysphoria Blues”
“There’s a brave new world that’s raging inside of me” is the summation of “Transgender Dysphoria Blues”. Laura Jane Grace and Against Me! have created the most involved punk in what feels like eons, hacking away at the status quo while showcasing the barely-in-check crises that underlie every vertex of Grace’s world.
8. FKA twigs – “LP1”
It’s like someone threw a gospel choir into a blender with an extensive collection of synths and haunting bass: the ridiculously smooth mixture produced is FKA twigs. She is confidence unparalleled, she is honest, she’s “from a different planet where everyone is sexy and has a perfect falsetto” (courtesy of Tori Dexter).
7. Vince Staples – “Hell Can Wait”
Hip-hop is incontrovertibly a sociopolitical movement, and Vince Staples sure as shit knows his history. More than that, Staples is a guide to the present, exploring day-to-day realities that often go ignored, and refusing to back down from what he knows to be true.
6. Mac DeMarco – “Salad Days”
From MK Gavigan: “I think iTunes stopped counting the times I played this album. I think a truly good album can be listened to in all moods, because it gives you comfort whenever you need it. I will argue that “Treat Her Better” is the most beautiful love song ever written.”
5. St. Vincent – “St. Vincent”
GUITARS. GUITARS ARE STILL ALIVE. Annie Clark has proven this point time and time again, but the incredibly groovy eponymous album solidified St. Vincent’s name as a truly virtuosic musician. Every calculated pluck of a string and stiff-spined dance is reinforced by her soulful polyphonic pipes. She’s the goddess of a new and wholly unique form of pop-rock that grows more and more rewarding every time Clark bops across a guitar or croons softly to her loves.
4. Run the Jewels – “RTJ2”
From Tori Dexter: “Explosive is not generally a compliment, but in this case it’s the only compliment that fits. Everyone from Pitchfork to XXL to NPR has said everything that needs to be said about this album much more eloquently than I ever could, so I’ll leave you with this – it’s what I listen to on the bus when I’m pissed off at everyone and it always helps.”
3. The War on Drugs – “Lost in the Dream”
Besides being one of the best sad-dad albums of 2014, “Lost in the Dream” is a magnificent soundscape that grooves like Springsteen and teeters on the brink of LSD trips in 1986. Frontman Adam Granduciel carves his way through loving and loss, unabashed in the transmutation of raw emotion into intense Americana (as on “Red Eyes”), and swelling to tightly controlled emotional chaos (“An Ocean In Between the Waves”).
2. Lana Del Ray – “Ultraviolence”
From Louis Menchaca: “This summer Lana managed to release an album even chiller and more intense than Born to Die, a feat I didn’t think was possible. With Ultraviolence, Lana and Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys (the album’s main producer) fully realized an all-enveloping, echoey sound of tenor drums, vocals, synthesizers, and guitars filled with sad lyrics and sprinkled with string timbres. Plus, “Brooklyn Baby” and “Old Money” remind us why nobody else does what Lana Del Rey does quite like Lana Del Rey.”
1. ScHoolboy Q – “Oxymoron”
ScHoolboy’s “Oxymoron” crackled across the stage early in 2014, but maybe that’s why it’s WUD Music’s favorite album of the year. Over the months of school and summer, dropping “Gangsta”, “Collard Greens”, or “Break The Bank” was easily the best way to start a party, even if it’s just you in your car. The whole album was put together cohesively, one banger after another, flowing like a gangsta rap classic without any trace of stagnation from ScHoolboy, promising even greater things to come.
That’s our list! We hope 2015 brings its A game and can’t wait to listen!
The author Brian Edwards based this list on an informal analysis of the predominant tastes of the WUD Music committee, with specific advice from Tori Dexter, Mary Kate Gavigan, Louis Menchaca, and Andrew Mackens.