25 Great Albums from 2014

A new year means new opportunities, new challenges and new experiences. Most importantly, though, a new year means a new music. While we wait to see what tunes 2015 will bring, it's worth taking the time to think about the music that 2014 brought. In no particular order, here are 25 great albums from 2014:

 

1.Run The Jewels 2

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As one of the best rap releases in quite some time, Killer Mike and El-P, the duo that make up Run The Jewels, proved that they don't only run the jewels--they run the rap game, too. The two create a unique space where they rap savagely back and forth over harsh production, making their own vicious world for listeners to join. They rap for their own sake and don't need anyone's approval, even though approval seems to be the only response this album receives.

 

2. Our Love

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Caribou's newest album used very skilled electronic production and careful use of vocals to explore love. He presents relationships in a complicated way because love isn't usually as simple as feeling all good or all bad. The album examines love in a genuine manner, and listeners can feel the love that Caribou put into the record. It's thoughtful, it's skillful and it's beautiful.

 

3. Hell Can Wait

Photo courtesy of Vince Staples / Facebook

Vince Staples' EP combines wonderful storytelling with a west coast sound that completely captures the lifestyle that he wants to portray. He finds a balance between making a catchy song and sending a message, a difficult equilibrium to manage.

 

4. A Place Like This

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From the duo that starred on Drake's "Hold On, We're Going Home," this short release from Majid Jordan creates a calm, dark atmosphere that mixes R&B with interesting and catchy production. The two prove that they are not simply one-hit wonders, and nothing this year really sounds quite like their EP.

 

5. It's Album Time

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Todd Terje took a long time to finally release his debut album. However, with interesting mixes that focus mostly on instrumental and electronic production, It's Album Time flows from one song to the next until reaching the wonderful "Inspector Norse," finishing the album strongly and proving that the album was worth the wait.

 

6. You're Dead!

Photo courtesy of Flying Lotus / Facebook

As one of the more interesting releasing of the year, Flying Lotus' newest album showed off a combination of intellectual prowess and a great use of instruments. Flying Lotus takes listeners on a weird and twisted journey that's worth taking.

 

7. LP1

Photo courtesy of FKA Twigs / Facebook

Although the album takes some getting used to, FKA Twigs' LP1 was one of the most intriguing releases of 2014. Her beautiful vocals over experimental production really showed off her talent for challenging genres with her own unique style.

 

8.Lost in the Dream

Photo courtesy of The War On Drugs / Facebook

The War On Drugs' newest album is a slow but heartfelt record. He and his band created a wonderful dream for listeners to get lost in, and although the album can often seem sad, the audience can't help but be happy with the final product.

 

9. My Krazy Life

Photo courtesy of YG / Facebook

Unexpectedly, YG proved that he knows how to make a lot of songs that could easily be successful singles. Put together into one place, the songs make up an album that not only consistently retains a great west coast sound, but that also is consistently fun to listen to, especially at parties.

 

10. I Love Makonnen EP (Original Release)

Photo courtesy of ILoveMakonnen / Facebook

Although I Love Makonnen re-released his EP with new songs, his original release was one of the weirdest EP's to date. However, just like with "Tuesday," I Love Makonnen has a unique charm that invites listeners to sing along with him, regardless of how good their voice is. Whether he has the club going up or he reminisces about his ex Brianna, the release was weird, funny and simply fun.

 

11. Ultraviolence

Photo courtesy of Lana Del Rey / Facebook

It's hard to imagine that much of what Lana sings about actually happens to her. But that doesn't mean that she isn't able to create a cool world with her newest album, one that speaks to money, fame and power with crisp production and the help of The Black Key's Dan Auerbach.

 

12. Oxymoron

Photo courtesy of Schoolboy Q / Facebook

Schoolboy Q's Oxymoron shows off Schoolboy's abilities to tell stories and capture the essence of his gangster life before becoming a Top Dawg Entertainment rapper. His flows and vocal inflections are great throughout the album and he has a good mix of introspective and party music.

 

13. The Moon Rang Like a Bell

Photo courtesy of Hundred Waters / Facebook

The Moon Rang Like A Bell is difficult to describe besides admitting that much of the album is very dream-like. Hundred Waters pulls listeners into a sort of mesmerized state with songs that don't quite fit into one genre or another, moving dreamily and eerily, taking the audience along with them.

 

14. "What Is This Heart?"

Photo courtesy of How To Dress Well / Facebook

Photo courtesy of How To Dress Well / Facebook

How To Dress Well's newest album is chocked full of emotion. His appropriately titled record explores serious subjects through cool, dark R&B that deserves a listen.

 

15. Lighght

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As a very unique release, Lighght revels in a sweet space of bliss that is created through particular instrument use and often very high pitched singing. The album sparkles and enjoys itself, with songs titled "The Ballad of Mr. Steak" and "Hahahah Pt. 1," among others.

 

16. Tha Tour Part 1

Photo courtesy of Birdman / Facebook

Although it's hard to imagine that a mixtape full of songs featuring mainly Rich Homie Quan, Young Thug and Birdman was a good idea, somehow the trio pulled it off. While there are admittedly a few misses here and there throughout the very large offering, many of the tracks find a perfect balance between the two main stars, Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan, especially given Young Thug's ability to transform his voice to fit the circumstances.

 

17. Lese Majesty

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Shabazz Palaces's newest album is like rap in outer space. The alien-like production combined with thoughtful rapping gives the album a sense of divinity and otherworldly highness.

 

18. Syro

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Syro demonstrates Aphex Twin's continued expertise in his field of music. He knows how to craft these electronic songs so that they sound interesting and great, and his newest album is robotically energized.

 

19. Cilvia Demo

Photo courtesy of Isaiah Rashad / Facebook

As the newest member in TDE, Isaiah Rashad released his Cilvia Demo and continued the reign of Top Dawg Entertainment. Isaiah bears some similarities to fellow TDE member, Kendrick Lamar, but manages to show off his own unique talents, as well. His lyrical abilities are astounding and he seems to have a bright future ahead of him.

 

20. 1989

Photo courtesy of Taylor Swift / Facebook

She may have a questionable track record, but Taylor Swift proved a lot with her newest release, 1989. Going "full pop," she hones in on her songwriting abilities and crafts extremely well-made pop songs that impress even those who might have been skeptical of her music before.

 

21. Z

Photo courtesy of SZA / Facebook

SZA, the only female singer in TDE, creates her own sultry, cool lane where she sings over chill beats, allowing listeners to relax and enter her calm world of music. The smooth R&B beckons listeners back time and time again, with good solo efforts and great tracks featuring Chance the Rapper and label mate Kendrick Lamar.

 

22. They Want My Soul

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Spoon provides great music whenever they release an album, and They Want My Soul is no different. The songs sound great, and it doesn't take long before listeners are singing along. It is probably one of the best alternative rock albums to come out in 2014.

 

23. Strangers

Photo courtesy of RAC / Facebook

Although RAC stands for Remix Artist Collective, RAC's debut album Strangers is completely original content, and it's good. Full of featured artists like Tegan and Sara, Tokyo Police Club and St. Lucia, the album was released in two parts, both of which are extremely fun to listen to.

 

24. Everyday Robots

Photo courtesy of Damon Albarn / Facebook

Originally known for his involvement with the Gorillaz, Damon Albarn showed everyone that he was able to make a very interesting solo album. It has many thought-provoking tracks that sound good, too, and Mr. Albarn seems to be talented no matter where he goes with music.

 

25. Black Messiah

Photo courtesy of D'Angelo / Facebook

With probably one of the latest releases in 2014, D'Angelo and the Vanguard wowed audiences with their somewhat sudden release of Black Messiah, especially after so long since D'Angelo's last release. Critic acclaim already went through the roof, and the jazzy, funky sounds implemented by D'Angelo and his band combined with D'Angelo's pleasant vocals makes for an album that's definitely worth a listen.

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Jonathan Reed