It was a weird year for music.
Taylor Swift reinvented herself as the unwelcomed ambassador to New York City. Millions of people everywhere figured out how to remove U2’s new album from their iTunes library. Tom Petty scored a win for every AARP member still rocking out by finally achieving a Billboard Number One Album chart topper. Jack White got a really cool haircut while releasing the best-ever-selling vinyl for his record Lazaretto. Finally—and most recently—the lead singer from Creed became homeless and penniless.
It seemed to be the year of comebacks and debuts in albums. Bands and artists like Royal Blood, Temples, FKA Twigs, Interpol, and Todd Terje all had an incredible 2014. Spoon, TV on the Radio, and Damon Albarn came back stronger than ever. Sophomore slumps seemed far rarer than not, and the likes of The Orwells, Jack White, Future Islands, and Parquet Courts heavily outweighed the underwhelming works by Warpaint and Foster the People.
While it seemed impossible to top 2013’s year in music, there was no AM or Modern Vampires of the City or …Like Clockwork, the music gods managed to send some gems this way. After all, it is the time of year where many publications release their Albums of The Year, and The Phoenix is no different! So without further ado, here are the 10 Best Albums of 2014:
10. TV On The Radio – Seeds
TV On the Radio is the most recent arrival on this list, with Seeds just being released on November 18. It is the band’s first album since the death of bassist Gerard Smith, and it is a fantastic return. TV On the Radio has always been soulful and funky, but they exude those qualities on this record. “Happy Idiot” is the most danceable tune on the record, but there is no artificial pop element mixed in; there is no sort of over-production or engineering in the song or really the record.
Key Track: “Happy Idiot”
9. Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots
It is fascinating to think that this is Damon Albarn’s debut solo album. After being frontman for the Britpop band Blur and co-founder of the virtual band Gorillaz, the singer/songwriter has churned out a beautifully melancholy record in Everyday Robots. The title song and opening track sets the tone of the album with a piercing string section and somber lyricism by Albarn.
Key Track: “Lonely Press Play”
8. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
The intro to this album deserves recognition for it’s creative mix of electronic funk, - and the fact it’s called It’s Album Time. For fans of electronic music, Todd Terje has become a household name, and upon its release It’s Album Time has received top tier reviews. The album does well with combating the notion that all electronic music sounds the same, just look at track 8: “Alfonso Muskedunder – an eclectic mix of jazz and electronic music.
Key Track: “Intro (It’s Album Time)”
7. Mac DeMarco – Salad Days
Certainly the feel-good record of the year, Salad Days lyrically and musically achieves DeMarco probable aim: a very relaxed, vintage vibe. DeMarco is a Sarah Lawrence staple since headlining SLC’s S.L.A.M. FEST last year, utilizing his “college-sound.” There was no doubt that his album was met with great acclaim. not only by colleges nationwide but also by critics. Demarco incorporates African music, reggae, and independent rock into an eclectic mix of vintage sounding rock.
Key Track: “Blue Boy”
6. Spoon – They Want My Soul
Spoon does something exceptionally well on every album they release: they make pure rock and roll, the kind that never seems to grow old. With their first album in 2010, and lead singer/songwriter Britt Daniels off of working with indie super group Divine Fits, Spoon has made a solid comeback. Opening with “Rent I Pay,” Daniels and co. brings back a vintage sound that Spoon has perfected. They Want My Soul takes a turn with possibly the most beautiful song of the year “Inside Out”: a synth ballad utilizing Divine Fits’ own Alex Fichel’s keyboard abilities. The title track, “They Want My Soul,” holds the wittiest lyrics on the album, even referencing former Spoon track “Jonathan Swift.”
Key Track: “Inside Out”
5. The War On Drugs – Lost in the Dream
Though The War On Drugs were called out by Sun Kil Moon earlier this year for being “a beer commercial band,” Lost in the Dream cannot be denied its place amongst the greats of 2014. Living up to its hype and critical acclaim, the album opens with the beautiful and long-winded “Under the Pressure,” which seems to set the tempo for the album: an aesthetically pleasing, classic rock album that succeeds in producing a beautiful vintage sound.
Key Track: “Under the Pressure”
4. Royal Blood – Royal Blood
The heaviest of all albums on the list, but by far one of the best, Brighton duo Royal Blood broke thru this year via supporting Arctic Monkeys throughout their European tour. They also succeeded in achieving the fastest-selling debut album in Britain in the last three years. Royal Blood is a fast-paced and driving record that mirrors the work of The White Stripes, with just a drummer and guitarist providing the hard-rock sound that they have managed to make. Royal Blood has also become known as a fantastic live act (they have just recently been named supporters for Foo Fighters nationwide tour next year).
Key Track: “Figure It Out”
3. Jack White – Lazaretto
Jack White’s second solo record has boosted his reputation as one of the most influential artists of his generation. The experimentation he exhibits makes the album possibly the most original record of the year, filling songs with fiddle solos, eardrum-bursting guitar effects, and even making the first single off the album, “High Ball Stepper,” an instrumental piece. The record is a step forward from his last one, Blunderbuss, musically, with an emphasis on fiddle, electric guitar and a more original lyrical pattern. Jack White also became one of the most acclaimed live acts in the world this year, performing off of both Lazaretto and Blunderbuss as well as including tracks from The White Stripes and The Dead Weather. He will be performing at Madison Square Garden on January 30, 2015.
Key Track: “Would You Fight For My Love”
2. The Antlers – Familiars
The Brooklyn band has always had a knack of making quintessentially “indie” records, often including just enough musical creativity, artistic lyrics, a little pretention and a dreamy, melancholy vibe. However, Familiars has perfected this musical melancholia. Nine songs, each titled with a single word help set the stage for an album that sounds as if it was composed of nine beautiful epics. Musically, The Antlers draw off of smooth and dreamy compositions incorporating horns, piano, airy guitar effects, and lead singer’s, Peter Silberman’s, – often falsetto – vocals, all leading to a climatic crescendo. Yet, though all nine tracks follow a pattern, no two songs off the album sound the same.
Key Track: “Hotel”
1. Temples – Sun Structures
Having recently been praised by Rough Trade Records as number 1 on their top 100, Temples’ debut album comes through on top again. It’s a classic sounding album with a retro feel and look. With mystic lyrics reminiscent of a 1968 summer rather than a 2014 one, Temples has created a record that is vintage, yet original enough to captivate modern audiences. Musically, the record is up-tempo and filled with driving bass riffs accompanied by psychedelic guitar riffs found off of an Eric Burdon and The Animals record (but with even longer hair). Singer/Guitarist James Bagshaw and bassist Thomas Warmsley compliment each other vocally on the record, with incredible harmonies showcased as drummer Sam Toms drives the album forward.
Key Track: “Question Isn’t Answered”
by John David Crosby ’17