Albums of The Year: 2014

Best New Albums

Kimbra - The Golden Echo

No surprise here, I’m a humongous Kimbra fan. This was my most-anticipated album of the year. One of the things I love about Kimbra is her experimentation and refusal to pigeonhole her sound. The Golden Echo is incredibly varied, and totally different from her first album. It blows my mind that Miracle wasn’t a huge hit.

St. Vincent - St. Vincent

It took a few listens for this album to grow on me, but some of the tracks are absolutely killer and then the album as a whole really took shape. It’s a solid evolution from her earlier work filtered through her time with David Byrne. Brilliantly walks the line between robotic and soulful.

D’Angelo and the Vanguard - Black Messiah

I’m not sure what I expected from D’Angelo, but it certainly wasn’t this. It sounds nothing like you’d expect of the hook-driven R&B of 2014. There’s clear 70’s and 80’s influences but produced in a completely new way. With 14 years since his last album (Voodoo) he clearly didn’t want to just repeat himself. 

Darren Korb - Transistor (OST)

Darren Korb’s soundtrack for Bastion blew everyone’s minds with his “acoustic frontier trip hop”, and it’s hard to overstate my anticipation for his work on Transistor. The first trailer (linked above) removed any concerns. While Bastion was a lush world destroyed and being rebuilt, Transistor is a technological world slowly dying. I linked the trailer above so you can see how the music perfectly complemented the art of the game. Korb’s signature mix of electronic and acoustic sounds is helped along by Ashley Barrett’s mournful vocals scattered throughout the track. 

Neil Cicierega - Mouth Sounds

Who would have thought that one the most talked about albums of the year would be a mash-up album revolving around Smash Mouth? Neil Cicierega has basically made a career of making weird internet phenomenons (Ultimate Showdown, Potter Puppet Pals) and this is no different. It’s not the “best” but it might have gotten the most play this year and is one I recommend to everyone I meet. Seriously. Just listen to it.

  • Best Song: D’oh   (Dave Matthews Band + Sir Mix-A-Lot + Talking Heads + Homer Simpson)
  • Also Listen To: Smooth Flow   (Santana & Rob Thomas + Enya)
  • Honorable Mention: Modest Mouth   (Modest Mouse + Smash Mouth) 

A FEW MORE

Snarky Puppy - We Like It Here

Probably the best work from this jazz collective. Some days I really dig the technical precision, grooves, and crazy solos of this album. But other days the precision feels overly mechanical and cold. Regardless, definitely good music to work to.

Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang - Four Foot Shack

Typical Les Claypool weirdness, but this time it’s vaguely-bluegrass covers. Hard to recommend the album as its mostly a novelty but the covers of Man in the Box and Stayin’ Alive are hilarious.

Closure in Moscow - Pink Lemonade

I only discovered this band last week from another Best of 2014 list, so my thoughts on it haven’t really settled down but I'm into it.  Most of the tracks could be mistaken for The Mars Volta, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

DISCOVERED IN 2014

Balkan Beat Box - Nu Med

First time I heard Jason Derulo’s Talk Dirty, I wondered “why is there a klezmer-ish sax solo in this solo in this song?” Turns out Talk Dirty is sampled from Balkan Beat Box’s Hermetico, which is a way better song anyway.  From wikipedia: “an Israeli musical group [based in New York]… plays Mediterranean-influeced music that incorporates Jewish, Eastern European (mainly Balkan) and Middle Eastern traditions, Gypsy punk, and electronica." Whole album is a great listen and probably the album I work to the most.

Aloe Blacc - Good Things

Take Me Back was featured in an episode of House of Lies (that show is filled with great music) and I had to immediately buy the whole album. The album isn’t the strongest as a whole, but there are some great songs mixed in.

Guardians of the Galaxy Mix-Tape

Truly the album that defined 2014, and it’s made up of mostly 40+ year old songs. I knew most of these songs already, but their inclusion in the movie and the soundtrack really made them stand out anew. It’s a perfect mix-tape.