Music: Best Albums of 2014

With 2014 drawing to a close (wow, is it really almost 2015?!?), it is time once again for our annual list of best albums. Yes…we know, we know, this is yet another list of which seem to be taking over the internet these days (there is even a Top 10 list of the worst Top 10 lists), but in our defense, we have been putting this bad boy out for several years now (see: Best Albums of 2012, Best Albums of 2013). Even though not directly related to clothing or fashion, it is certainly one of our favorite posts we do each year!

The rules this year are simple: Album has to be have been released in 2014, and has to be available on Spotify or Soundcloud, the two streaming services we do all of our listening on (Sorry T-Swift and The Black Keys, there is too much good music out there, and we don't have time to be worrying about going out of our way to get your albums...we are betting they would do things differently if they knew they missed out on a chance to be on our top 10 list :) )

Taj's Top 5:

1. ODESZA – In Return

The first time I heard about ODESZA was in release of their EP “My Friends Never Die”. I was blown away. Hungry for more. And then, ODESZA’s first full-length album “In Return” was released. This album takes you to another world with the use of electronic synths, drums, and guest vocals from unknown artist such as Monsoonsiren. The songs have an epic feeling to them (See: Sundara). This duo of DJ/Producers is marked to make a huge impact in the next wave of electronic music.

2. Skrillex – Recess

Let me be honest with you guys for a second. When Skrillex broke into the music scene with his bass-rattling dubstep, I wasn’t sure how I felt about it. I didn’t see a way this type of music could evolve. But it wasn’t the music that evolved when Skrillex debuted his first studio album “Recess”. It was the artist that had evolved. Skrillex stepped back, just a little, from the dubstep and went more into trap style beats when it came to recording. I was so impressed with his album that I went to see Skrillex perform at least five times over the summer.

3. Kid Cudi – Satellite Flight: The Journey to Mother Moon

Kid Cudi continues to push the edge of hip-hop and take you into another world. This time literally. Okay, figuratively. “Satellite Flight” starts out with a group of instrumentals that could score the film “Gravity”. The entire album in intertwined with vocals and moments of grand arrangements making for an experience rather than just another album of house party records.

4. Ed Sheeran – X

Maybe the most successful underrated artist out there right now. Ed Sheeran released a deluxe edition of his album “X” or as my roommate corrected me, “Multiply”. This album is simply flawless. With a pop aspect on songs about love, hurt, and finding one’s self; Ed Sheeran delivers a stellar insight into his life post-fame.

5. Mija & Skrillex – b2b

Spolier alert; this isn’t an album, so it shouldn’t count on this list. However, the scene talks of this live performance from Mija and Skrillex going back to back as one of the most ground breaking live recordings (and performances) of the year. A little bit of back story with this recording; Skrillex was wondering the Bonnaroo grounds when he overheard a DJ that goes by Mija playing an early sunrise set on a side stage. Skrillex asked if he could join her set, and history was made. More of a deep house vibe, the recording features records that nobody would think Skrillex would ever touch. Even playing Toto’s Africa at one point.

Brad's Top 5:

1. Beck - Morning Phase

As with each of the past 2 years, I ultimately reserve the #1 spot on my list for the album that I find myself repeatedly listening to from start to finish. Beck's latest album, Morning Phase, is a great example of an album that flows together seamlessly with a compilation of great songs that smoothly blend together. In his first album in 6 years, Beck brings exactly what I was looking for in 2014...moody vocals, slow tempo, heavy instrumentals and an immaculately produced album that provides me with 47 minutes of uninterrupted bliss while working on OLE MASON JARish type things.

2. Jenny Lewis - The Voyager

Having been previously known by a large audience for her work in Rilo Kiley, as well as collaborations with Ben Gibbard in indie cult favorite The Postal Service, Jenny Lewis is certainly a solo star. Lyrically, every word and verse serves a purpose, telling a great story along side catchy melodies and Jenny's signature vocals. This album is a big hit critically and commercially (you will notice a couple movie stars in below video), and has been in heavy rotation on my playlist since its release in July.

3. Almost Normal - In Technicolor

Andrew Sakher and Ashely Lampman are the duo behind my new favorite band. Covered extensively with a backstage pass by Taj in our Summer Music Series, I have already been on record locking them in as the next big thing. In Technicolor is innovative yet modern, keeping traditional instruments like drums and guitars, and combining them with an electronic sound. Throw in the rare talent and vocals of front woman Ashely, and you will see why this is one of my favorite albums of the year.

4. Sam Smith - The Lonely Hour

The first time I heard Sam Smith, I thought to myself, this is just a more commercial version of my boy James Blake (his album Overgrown was on our Best Albums of 2013). While I was somewhat right (they both have a very similar sound, and both have strong voices that they only occasionally exercise to full power), that does not discount Sam Smith in the slightest. On The Lonely Hour, he brings a soulful authenticity that is rather lacking from male singers on the radio these days.


5. Future Islands - Singles

This is not your typical album, and I must admit the first time I ever heard these guys I thought to myself "no thanks". That being said, the more I listened to them, the more I appreciated the unique sound and style of lead singer Samuel Herring. Their latest album "Singles", has a really great sound that stays with you long after you have listened. They also had this amazing performance this year that even left David Letterman speechless. These guys are weird, and I dig them.

Until next year!




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