Year end lists can be tricky.
Once you look past the sheer volume of releases put out in 2014, the task of ranking them is daunting at best. That’s partly why we didn’t. Instead, we had eight of our contributors and staff members answer a series of questions, the trickiest of which was: what was your favourite album of 2014?
The results were varied and in no particular order. They are not consensus across the board, but rather each contributor’s own pick for the year. And sure, some gems were left off—Run the Jewels 2 and even our cover subject Caribou’s Our Love, along with many, many others didn’t ultimately claim top spots even if they were definitely among the year’s best and our favourites—but ultimately, the list is still a varied and solid snapshot of the year.
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Rich Gang - Tha Tour Part 1
Michael Keaton's Birdman wasn't the only aging avian auteur attempting to launch a comeback with an ambitious project. The YMCMB ringleader forced his way back into our hearts alongside zeitgeist-owning rappers Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan with the incredible Rich Gang effort Tha Tour Part 1. That it's both a mixtape and a promotional vessel for like ten shows in the south doesn't change the fact that this Rich Gang effort was better than any rap album released this year. London On Da Track's thugged-out, neo-classical production offered the perfect backdrop for Thugger and his hubbie Quan to legitimize themselves over and over again across 20 tracks. Quality, meet quantity. (Josiah Hughes)
Dirty Beaches – Stateless
Alex Zhang Hungtai’s final release as Dirty Beaches transcends the measly definition of an album with four titanic tone floats into the great unknown. Stateless shimmers in vivid contrast to the abrasive blasts of his b-side collection, Neon Gods of Lost Youth, released earlier in 2014. Scuttling back on land, the Last Lizard has now shed his scales and looks on into the future. (Jesse Locke)
Sharon Van Etten - Are We There
In a year full of great hurt songs and hurt records, Are We There was the one that hurt the hardest. It avoids the breakup album cliches by presenting a candid, almost uncomfortably intimate perspective on complicated love, with Etten's raw, howling voice at its centre. (Ryan McNutt)
Sun Kil Moon – Benji
Mark Kozelek’s harrow-fest Benji is the most profoundly moving record of 2014, as well as the most effective aerosol can safety PSA ever. “Plaintive solo acoustic dude” is probably my least-favourite genre, but it turns out that laying bare family tragedies, fading memories, and personal sexual history makes for some transcendent music. Don’t burn aerosol cans, people! (Jeremy Mersereau)
Travis Scott - Days Before Rodeo
Because it's the closest thing we got to Yeezus 2 in 2014. (Aaron Zorgel)
Brooklyn’s Pains of Being Pure At Heart’s third LP flew under the radar, likely because they don’t reinvent the wheel with Days of Abandon. Instead, Kip Berman studiously polishes, distills, and ultimately perfects the British, Scottish, and New Zealand indie pop of the ‘80s, all while presenting it in a shimmering, cardigan-ready package. Each vocal coo, each handclap, each spike of jangly guitar felt in its proper place—here, indie pop at its platonic ideal. (Mark Teo)
Sturgill Simpson - Metamodern Sounds In Country Music
Sturgill Simpson's second album is like Honkey Tonk Heroes loaded up on cough syrup. A true country traditionalist, this drug-tasting Kentucky born son of a former undercover narc has had his problems with Nashville, but would rather let his songs do the talking than be the poster boy for authenticity. The result is a stunning series of songs with subject matter ranging from psychogenic hallucinations to Buddhism, all executed with the panache and drive of a modern day Waylon Jennings. (Tyler Munro)
Röyksopp & Robyn – Do It Again
The resurgence of the EP is what makes dream projects like this possible. Every time this pair-up happens, it’s been magical, and they just did it again. (Chayne Japal)
That an album as powerful and personal as this could be so fun, so joyously huge, is no small feat. Laura Jane Grace is pure cloud-light catharsis under all the weight this album sheds. Some may be reticent to admit that this is Against Me! at their best, but front to back, it’s straight chills. (Nicole Villeneuve)