In no particular order:
Junip / Junip City (City Slang / Mute)
This album can seem an understatement at first listen. Almost like some of the music leaves you wanting more, as if it doesn’t quite deliver as much punch as you are expecting. Jose Gonzales’ vocals sit right in between emotive and dramatically understated, almost like a melancholy complacency. But everything that seems missing is actually there, nearly hidden in the details. Spotify.
Earl Sweatshirt / Doris (Tan Cressida / Columbia)
Although his lyrical content doesn’t sit well with me some (sometimes a lot of) the time, He’s in the running for my favorite living lyricist. This whole album seemingly functions as a confession, an intimate look into Earl’s mind and his struggles with his newfound infamy, his lack of motivation, and his discontent of everyone’s expectations of his life. Spotify.
Woodkid / The Golden Age (Green United Music)
Woodkid, otherwise known as Yoann Lemoine, is one of those do-it-all creatives. He’s worked as a photographer, a DP/Cinematographer/Director, and is now making music. His film background shows in this music, which at times feels more like a movie score soundtrack than just another 14 song album. We’ve been waiting for this album since the premiere of the “Iron” Video. Go watch it now on vimeo. Spotify.
Nine Inch Nails / Hesitation Marks (Columbia / The Null Corporation)
This is not your NIN of the 90s. It’s not as angry. There’s not as much hate. This is NIN stripped down, presenting the elements of the NIN sound in a spartan and minimalist way, forcing you to really experience them in this uneasy atmosphere the slowly driving beats create. It’s easy to forget about the vocals, to forget about what Trent Reznor is saying even though the lyrics are more exposed with the simpler instrumentation. Listen close though, they are perhaps the most personal lyrics he’s ever written. Spotify.
Midlake / Antiphon (Bella Union)
The forced antiquated sounds of the trendy modern folk-rock band that bring to mind images of wool vests, steam trains, fedoras (real fedoras), pomade, and suspenders are like a thorn in my side. Midlake, however, manages to not only to produce a timeless sound incredibly well, they do so honestly; in a way that’s relevant for 2014. Unconventional song structures and unique mixes of a familiar, sometimes antiquated sounds, and great harmonies in the vocals come together into a great album. Spotify.
Windhand / Soma (Relapse Records)
There’s not much to say about this one. It’s dark, it’s mean. It starts grinding, and doesn’t really stop for an hour and 15 (besides 7 minutes of “Evergreen” towards the end there). The wailing and echoing is haunting. All of these seemingly negative forces at work all come together to make something awesome. Spotify.
Arcade Fire / Reflektor (Merge Records)
Reflektor – another instant classic Arcade Fire album. It’s distinctively Arcade Fire, with an expected progression, or evolution in their music. Meeting expectations isn’t a bad thing in this case, as expectations were high. Just like every album before it, it takes a minute to digest. But in the end, it’s imaginative and full sounding, strange and quirky, running the middle ground between pop and drug inspired art rock. Listen to the lyrics once you’ve got a handle on the sound. Spotify.
Jay-Z / Magna Carta… Holy Grail (Roc-A-Fella / Roc Nation / Universal)
Jay Z shows that he’s still on top. Jay Z performed “Picasso Baby” for six hours straight at the Chelsea Pace, dancing and rapping to the likes of Marina Abramovic and Picasso’s granddaughter herself in a private/public concert. He has worked tirelessly to bring an appreciation for his art, which started as poetry about his experiences dealing cocaine and selling CDs out of his car in Bed-Stuy. Spotify.
Bored Nothing / Bored Nothing (Spunk Records)
This album is simple. It’s melodic, and relaxing, and a little depressing. The lyrics are super personal and super honest, almost a a cynical train-of-thought transcription. Don’t miss the song “Bliss”, it’s about anything but. Spotify.
Local Natives/ Hummingbird (Frenchkiss Records)
This is my favorite album of the year… and perhaps ever. From beginning to end, it simply doesn’t stop being perfect. Just listen to it. Spotify.