Favorite Albums of 2014

2014 was another great year for music, featuring great blockbuster releases as well as amazing projects from the indie community.  Every genre was bolstered by solid releases, some progressive and some just plain fun.  2014 was also a very innovative year for music as artists reinvented the way they promoted their music and the way that we as listeners obtain this music. While this year may not have boasted as many incredible albums as 2012 and 2013, it was undoubtedly a year that music fans will not soon forget.

So without further ado, here are Revel in Sound’s favorite albums of 2014:


Southsiders artwork Southsiders may not be Atmosphere’s best work, but the rapper’s latest is a very enjoyable project that largely flew under the radar.  The album can be brutally honest and open at one moment, and then quickly shift to an upbeat, more light-hearted track.  At its best, Southsiders is lyrical, raw, and heartfelt, all while keeping things from getting too sappy.

Favorite Tracks: Arthur’s Song, Mrs. Interpret


Everything Will Be Alright in the End Weezer’s first album since 2010, Everything Will Be Alright in the End is in many ways a return to form for the alt-rockers.  Featuring the band’s signature heavy pop-punk jams and incredibly catchy hooks, Weezer pleases fans both old and new with their most recent effort.  While it may not break any ground in the alt-rock realm, it’s still a solid release from one of the genre’s most prolific bands.

Favorite Tracks: Back to the Shack, The British Are Coming


Logic_Under_Pressure_9.10.14 Logic’s major label debut Under Pressure give him a chance to showcase his mic skills and his witty wordplay, all while creating an album that may be a tad too familiar, but is still a memorable one.  The beats suit him well, and his varying subject matter makes for a truly interesting listen.  The future seems bright for the young emcee.

Favorite Tracks: Soul Food, Nikki


present tense 2014 was a crowded year in the indie pop and indie rock communities, but Present Tense definitely stands out among the rest.  The album is varied in its sound and style, ranging from lively electro-pop tracks to more subdued ballads, resulting in an engrossing listen.

Favorite Tracks: Wanderlust, Mecca


ab-soul-these-days While These Days… does not quite manage to escape the shadow of its predecessor Control System, Ab-Soul still crafts a worthy sequel, and one of the most diverse hip-hop albums of the year.  For every emotional, lyrical track, there is a club banger to follow it.  Though this variety somewhat hurts the album more than it helps, These Days… is definitely worth a listen.

Favorite Tracks: Stigmata, God’s Reign


Singles artwork Over hyped? Probably, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that Singles is undoubtedly a great album.  It’s spirited, breezy, and poppy, all while maintaining a uniqueness that makes the band stand out.  The album mixes catchy, danceable tunes with more relaxed tracks into a project that is an essential listen for any fan of the genre.

Favorite Tracks: Seasons (Waiting On You), Back in the Tall Grass


Manchester_Orchestra_Cope From the first blaring guitar riff of the opening track “Top Notch”, you know that you’re in for a great rock album.  But Cope is much more than your average alt-rock project.  The band keeps up the heavy instrumentals throughout the album, but the smooth, high pitched voice of front man Andy Hull provides great contrast, and yet is very fitting.  Not to mention the witty and honest lyricism of Hull, which elevates the project above many other of the year’s alt-rock releases.

Favorite Tracks: Top Notch, Girl Harbor


Silver_Mt._Zion_-_Fuck_Off_Get_Free_We_Pour_Light_On_Everything Undoubtedly one of the year’s most progressive and ambitious projects, Silver Mt Zion’s 2014 effort is one of the most intriguing listens of the year.  From the sprawling title track, to the nearly 15 minute rock jam “Austerity Blues”, Silver Mt Zion cover a wide variety of styles and moods creating an album that is both hard-hitting and emotional.  Listening to the incredibly experimental and rather inaccessible project may be a daunting task, but one that is very worthwhile.

Favorite Track: Austerity Blues


timber-timbre-hot-dreams Dreamy, chill, and moody. Hot Dreams mixes these together with a style that is both retro and progressive.  The album is beautifully poetic at points and rather creepy at others. The great contrast that Timber Timbre puts in to this project is truly powerful and one of the most unique albums of the year.

Favorite Tracks: Hot Dreams, Curtains?!


Damon-albarn-everyday-robots An ever-evolving artist, Damon Albarn, former Blur frontman, has finally released his solo debut, and as with his other projects, it is a very intriguing project.  The album combines electronic music with elements of art-pop that creates a sound that is far different than Albarn’s former projects.  It’s a relaxing listen that couples thought-provoking instrumentals with Albarn’s smooth, somber vocals.

Favorite Tracks: Everyday Robots, Mr. Tembo


WYR0514tubejktnoguidlines Sunbathing Animal utilizes a distinct lo-fi rock sound that allows the album to sound as though it was recorded back in the 60s or 70s.  It’s instrumental style fits that of those eras, but the signing of frontman Andrew Savage gives the band a sound all their own.  The album’s combination frenzied, hectic garage rock tracks with more down-tempo indie rock jams gives it much needed diversity that many indie-rock albums do not possess.

Favorite Tracks: Black and White, Vienna II


Music U2 Surprise Album The unorthodox release of U2’s latest was perhaps the bigger story than the album itself, and while fans and critics may be split over the groups method of release, the music itself is surprisingly solid.  The album’s first track “The Miracle of Joey Ramone” gets the album off to a hot start, with it’s razor sharp guitars, but it’s moments like the more mellow and electronic “Sleep Like a Baby Tonight” that make Songs of Innocence a memorable project.

Favorite Tracks: The Miracle of Joey Ramone, Sleep Like a Baby Tonight


Cadillactica_STANDARD Cadillactica, K.R.I.T.’s second studio album, and the first to hold a candle to his mixtapes, is one of the year’s best hip-hop projects.  Sure, it’s not very innovative, but K.R.I.T.’s immense mic skills carry the album, and bolster his claim as being the “King of the South”, which is both a track on the album and a rather realistic statement, considering the current state of southern hip-hop.

Favorite Tracks: King of the South, Cadillactica


royal blood Royal Blood isn’t very diverse or innovative, but in terms of pure entertainment, it is definitely a winner.  The album is heavy, hard-hitting, and a rather wild ride throughout.  The duo don’t let up in this style, and for 32 minutes, they will undoubtedly keep your attention.  Not to mention that tracks like “Come on Over” and “Little Monster” feature some of the most catchy guitar riffs of the year.

Favorite Tracks: Out of the Black, Come on Over


oxymoron A lot was riding on Schoolboy’s second album, and he had a lot to prove.  Luckily for him, and for his fans, Oxymoron is a true success that is incredibly fun all while furthering Schoolboy’s tormented gangster image.  The album features several great party tracks, but also contains some of the most brutally honest tracks of the young rapper’s career.  It’s this dichotomy that drives the album, and that makes it a truly memorable project.

Favorite Tracks: Man of the Year, Break the Bank


roots_cousinlp The Roots continue their hot streak of politcally conscious, conceptual albums with a project that is perhaps the bleakest of the groups career. From the grimy, somber instrumentals to Black Thought’s grim lyrics, the Roots latest is not for the faint of heart.  It’s a powerful album, and one that is hard to swallow, but well worthwhile.

Favorite Tracks: Black Rock, The Dark (Trinity)


ultraviolence In some ways a departure from her previous work, Ultraviolence is a far more organic album, which can be credited in large part to the album’s producer Dan Auerbach.  However, Lana still remains the star as her smooth, sensual voice flows so beautifully over the intricate instrumentals. It’s a moody album, as we’ve come to expect from her, but one that features backing tracks that are far more fitting than in her earlier work.

Favorite Tracks: West Coast, Brooklyn Baby


dead-front-cover Dead, the studio debut from the Scottish hip-hop outfit, is far from a traditional hip-hop album.  In fact, labeling the album as such places it in a box that does even begin to describe the genre-blending music that this group is creating.  The vocal delivery is sometimes sung, sometimes rapped, and even yelled at points, as the duo floats over progressive, electronic beats.  It’s different for sure, but it’s familiar qualities allow the listener to easily adjust to the group’s unique style.

Favorite Tracks: No Way, Dip


clppng Another experimental hip hop group, Clipping seems to favor a more accessible rapping style laid over heavy, industrial beats.  In many ways, CLPPNG is a deconstruction of popular hip hop, combining familiar elements such as sub bass hits and claps with more experimental percussion. The beats are minimal, but they undoubtedly rattle your stereo system.

Favorite Tracks: Work Work, Story 2


antemasque Antemasque doesn’t really push any envelopes.  In fact, it’s about as safe as alt-rock albums get.  But the group performs the genre so well, it’s just too hard to resist.  From the frenzied, fast paced “I Got No Remorse” to the more detailed and laid back “Drown All Your Witches”, Antemasque keep things interesting for the album’s rather short runtime.  If your looking for some great, heavy alternative rock, look no further.

Favorite Tracks: 4AM, I Got No Remorse, Drown All Your Witches


dark comedy One of the best albums of the year from the indie hip-hop community, Dark Comedy is an honest look into the life of Open Mike Eagle, and in some ways, is rather comical as the title suggests.  Mike employs a sing/rap style that fits his more down-tempo beat selections, and his lyrics use a lot of popular references, making the album relatable to all.  This is most apparent on the track “Doug Stamper” which features a hilarious verse from comedian Hannibal Buress. “LeBron needs to stop taking HGH, went from one hair band to like eighty-eight” raps Buress.

Favorite Tracks: Dark Comedy Morning Show, Doug Stamper


FKA_twigs_-_LP1 Perhaps the most progessive R&B album since Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE, FKA Twigs’ LP1 is a remarkable project that is incredibly ambitious while still being very enjoyable.  The instrumentals are hazy and dreamy, and feature heavy experimentation.  The vocals are a beautiful compliment to the thought provoking instrumentation, and bring the album a level of accessibility that would be absent without them.

Favorite Tracks: Two Weeks, Kicks


Mac_DeMarco_Salad_Days His vocal delivery may be similar to that of Bob Dylan’s, but combined with his psychedelic folk sound, Mac Demarco’s sound is undeniably his own.  Salad Days is a seemingly drug-induced trip into Demarco’s life, and one that sounds all too happy considering it’s subject matter.  The guitar work on the album is another strong point for the project, mixing hazy acoustic guitars with glistening electric guitars in a relaxing and atmospheric way.

Favorite Tracks: Salad Days, Brother


range of light S. Carey’s second solo project is a truly beautiful one that uses very organic sounds that give it a very natural feel.  The track “Alpenglow” is one of the year’s best in any genre, featuring S. Carey’s soft vocal delivery coupled with an atmospheric piano melody and ethreal soundscapes behind it.  The album also serves as a showcase for S. Carey’s incredible percussion skills and his diverse musical abilities in a project that was criminally overlooked this year.

Favorite Tracks: Alpenglow, Fire-Scene


st vincent It seems strange that St. Vincent decided to make her fourth album a self-titled project.  Perhaps it is because this album best describes her as an artist.  The album is undoubtedly weird in it’s progressive, art-pop style, but it’s nonetheless an enjoyable work.  Tracks like “Digital Witness” and “Birth in Reverse” have an addictive groove to them, while tracks like “Severed Crossed Fingers” and “Bring Me Your Loves” showcase the quirkiness that only St. Vincent can make so entertaining.

Favorite Tracks: Digital Witness, Birth in Reverse


Beck_-_Morning_Phase In many ways a sequel to his 2002 album Sea Change, Morning Phase shows off the more folksy side of Beck, a style that he does incredibly well. It’s a rather mellow album from an artist who sometimes favors the abrasive. However, Beck performs with such prowess that he would appear to be a folk veteran.  The track “Blue Moon” is a definite standout with it’s dreamy vocals and it’s skilled guitar work, while the track “Wave” features Beck alone with a string section, and is a particularly beautiful track.

Favorite Tracks: Blue Moon, Wave


arewethere.lpout Singer/Songwriter Sharon Van Etten created one of the most compelling albums of 2014 in the indie rock genre just by doing what she does best: writing such compelling songs.  Her style may not be the most innovative, but she is incredibly effective in her respective field. “Your Love is Killing Me” is an exceptional track from the album that showcases her abilities as both a lyricist and a musician.  It’s a moody album, and one that is particularly great in a crowded field of overly-sappy and even depressing singer/songwriters.

Favorite Tracks: Taking Chances, Your Love is Killing Me


pinata One of the best producer/rapper combinations in recent memory, Piñata is a tribute to boom-bap hip-hop that oozes with the sounds of the 90s. Freddie Gibbs embodies the average gangster rapper, but his varied flows and smooth delivery give the rapper a great presence over a set of incredible instrumentals courtesy of famed producer Madlib.  Each beat is so meticulously crafted and fit Gibb’s lyricism so well.  Not to mention the slew of features from skilled rappers, both old and young, that give the album yet another layer of intrigue.

Favorite Tracks: High, Scarface, Deeper


burn-your-fire2 2014 was a great year for singer/songwriters, and Angel Olsen’s latest ranks among the year’s best in the genre.  Burn Your Fire For No Witness is a sobering listen, with many of its tracks keeping things on the mellow side, namely the track “White Fire”.  It’s a beautifully sad piece featuring just Olsen and her guitar.  Her lyrics are both riveting and chilling, but never boring, on this track, as well as the entire project.  Olsen also creates solid rock tracks that ooze with nostalgia and are covered in hazy effects, such as on “Forgiven/Forgotten” or “High and Wild”.  No matter what style she is emulating on this album, she pulls it off marvelously.

Favorite Tracks: White Fire, Windows, Forgiven/Forgotten


turnblue While many deemed the Black Keys “sell outs” after their 2011 effort, El Camino, the duo’s latest seems to prove that the two are back to doing whatever they want.  The album’s fantastic, and near seven minute, opening track “Weight of Love” starts the album off on a great note, featuring one of the most powerful guitar solos of the year by frontman Dan Auerbach.  The lead single “Fever” may be a bit of a crowd-pleaser, but it is undeniably catchy, and the albums closer “Gotta Get Away” is a great classic rock track that sounds like something straight out of the 70s.  Fans can rest assured that the Keys are back on the right track after this excellent album, and that there is definitely more great work to come from one of indie-rocks best.

Favorite Tracks: Weight of Love, Fever, Gotta Get Away


lazaretto Lazaretto serves as the follow up to White’s 2012 solo debut, Blunderbuss, and builds on where its predecessor left off, combining White’s signature, garage rock jams with his the country and bluegrass sounds that he explored on his debut.  The album’s lead single, “Lazaretto”, is the albums best, featuring a great guitar riff that is up there with the best of White’s illustrious career.  The track is incredibly fun as it showcases his charisma that fans have come to love.  “Temporary Ground” is a great country rock number, while the more ballad like “Entitlment” displays White’s lyricism with a more folky sound.  While Lazaretto is far from ground-breaking, it’s an incredibly solid effort, ranking among the prolific rocker’s best.

Favorite Tracks: Lazaretto, Three Women, That Black Bat Licorice


hotelier The Hotelier have a sound that is rather reminiscent of late 90s pop-punk.  But the album’s strong sense of nostalgia is not only from its sound, but its lyrics.  The album is a study as to who and what make a home, and the ways it can change over time, as is described on the albums excellent opener “An Introduction to the Album”.  The album is filled with great story telling, such as on the track “Your Deep Rest”, a tribute to a lost friend, and an honest take on coping with loss.  Home, Like No Place Is There is a very familiar album instrumentally, but what makes it great is its emotion and power.  It’s a very humanizing listen, and one that makes the listener take on honest look at life, both the good, and the bad.

Favorite Tracks: An Introduction to the Album, Dendron, Your Deep Rest


cloud nothings After breaking into the mainstream with their solid 2012 effort, Attack on Memory, Cloud Nothings return with an album that builds off of what the group established, but perfects it.  Perhaps the biggest change for the group is the departure of their secondary guitarist, leaving all of the guitar work to lead vocalist Dylan Baldi.  In turn, the album has a much more raw sound, and places a lot more emphasis on the lyrics.  The track “I’m Not Part of Me” is one of the year’s best tracks featuring an emotional hook and verses dealing with a broken relationship.  Tracks like “Psychic Trauma” and “Pattern Walks” showcase the band’s heavier, punk side, characterized by Baldi’s raspy vocal delivery.  While Here and Nowhere Else may be very similar to its predecessor, it makes just enough changes to keep things interesting while maintaining the sound that fans have come to enjoy.

Favorite Tracks: I’m Not Part of Me, Now Here In, Psychic Trauma


spoon Spoon’s first album since their mediocre 2010 effort, They Want My Soul is a return to form for the band, as well as being one of the group’s best works.  The album is light, varied, and an all-around superb listen.  From the Strokes-esque intro track, and lead single, “Rent I Pay” to the dreamy and funky “Inside Out” to the piano ballad style of “I Just Don’t Understand”, They Want My Soul is full of surprises that never stray far past the familiar, but are more than enough to keep the listener interested and engaged.  The album’s standout track “New York Kiss” is an incredible synth rock piece, with arpeggios running all across the track, a catchy drum beat, and even a xylophone.  It’s this type of fearless instrumental and stylistic variation that makes Spoon the band that they are, and make this album a great one.

Favorite Tracks: New York Kiss, Rent I Pay, Rainy Taxi


seeds Seeds begins with a familiar sounding track, much like their previous work, and at first it appears that you are in for just another TV on the Radio album.  But Seeds is far from what we expected from the alt-rock band.  It’s a sprawling, emotional work that takes a much more electronic turn for the band into a style that suits them well, but never loses the usual TV on the Radio tone.  The second track “Careful You” is a great, atmospheric track with heavy synths and a minimal synthetic beat.  However, it’s tied together by the signature vocals of the band’s frontman Tunde Adebimpe.  The recent loss of the band’s bassist, Gerard Smith, is felt in a variety of ways, but mostly tied to the album’s emotional tone.  The track “Test Pilot” is a somber and passionate love song, and a beautiful one at that.  The over two minute long instrumental at the beginning of “Ride”, placed nearly half-way through the project, seems to be a sort of tribute to their band’s fallen member.  It’s moments like these that make Seeds truly memorable, both at the end of the year, and in the band’s discography.

Favorite Tracks: Careful You, Happy Idiot, Test Pilot


shabazz-palaces-lese-majesty Shabazz Palaces are undoubtedly the most experimental and unpredictable group and hip-hop right now, no question.  No other group is so progressive, so futuristic, so fearless as these two are.  In fact, calling Shabazz Palaces a hip-hop group but’s them into a box that doesn’t do them justice.  It’s these characteristics that made their 2011 effort Black Up great, and their most recent work Lese Majesty even better.  From the hazy, trippy intro track “Dawn in Luxor” to the dreamy, deconstructed jazz style of “Ishmael”, the duo cover all sorts of genres and use everything and anything as an instrument.  Even the vocals of Ishmael Butler are an instrument of sorts as each line is so poetic, and so fitting with the previous line, that his words flow into one continuous stream.  Not to detract from the emcees lyrics, which discuss everything from ancient rulers to traveling through space.  The album is a whole may be too indulgent for some, but for those willing to give the duo a chance, it’s not too hard to find immense enjoyment in such a masterful work.

Favorite Tracks: Forerunner Forray, Dawn In Luxor, New Black Wave


youredead The most progressive and most entertaining of Flying Lotus’ discography, You’re Dead is an incredible 40 minute experience that fuses jazz, electronic music, and hip-hop into one cohesive project.  It’s futuristic and truly a marvel to listen to.  The lead single “Never Catch Me” is the album’s most immediately entertaining track, as it features the first vocal to be heard on the album, courtesy of Kendrick Lamar.  Lamar’s verse is a true standout in a year where he featured on seemingly every rap album produced.  Not to be outdone on his own album, Flying Lotus’ beat is a freaky, jazzy hip-hop beat that quickly transforms into trippy breakdown that transitions perfectly into the druggy “Dead Man’s Tetris”.  And while these two tracks featuring great guest verses give the album some variation, the album is at its best when it’s indulging into another instrumental trip, whether it be in groovy bass lines, spastic drums, or just plain atmosphere.  You’re Dead isn’t afraid to venture into new territory, and it’s a great step forward for an already forward-thinking artist.

Favorite Tracks: Never Catch Me, The Boys Who Died in Their Sleep, Coronus, the Terminator


war on drugs From the atmospheric hi-hats and guitars at the beginning of the album’s first track “Under the Pressure”, your ears are immediately intrigued as the track quickly turns into a psychedelic folk-rock jam.  Lost in the Dream is full of surprises and never ceases to entertain.  The hazy atmosphere of the album is so well kept up throughout the project, it really lives up to its title as the listener feels truly lost in some sort of dream, and a happy one at that.  Lead vocalist Adam Granduciel brings a sort of narration to accompany this musically induced dream state, and while his voice often gets lost in the thick haze surrounding each track, his lyrics fit perfectly with the sounds that the band creates.  The instrumentation on each track is so lush, so lavishly produce, that it can be so easy to be absorbed into the album’s soundscape, and impossible to escape until the album’s final seconds fade away.  It’s perhaps the most cohesive and holistic album of 2014, and is an all-around excellent piece of folk-rock that many consider to be one of the year’s best.

Favorite Tracks: Under the Pressure, Red Eyes, Disappearing


run-the-jewels-2 When RTJ released their first album last year, many thought that the project was just a one-off release to serve as a victory lap for the rappers’ excellent years in 2012.  Run The Jewels 2 is here to show that the group isn’t going anywhere and that the duo aren’t going anywhere except the top.  It’s by far the year’s best rap album, and RTJ knows it.  El-P and Killer Mike are as aggressive and braggadocios as ever, laying waste to anyone that stands in their way.  The album burst onto the scene with the pounding bass of “Jeopardy” then moves into the sample-heavy banger “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”.  With each track, it’s impossible to not push the volume a little higher, as El-P’s beats are best played at a high volume to best enjoy the bass heavy bangers that make each track so powerful.

What sets RTJ2 apart from its predecessor is the album’s sense of cohesion as a project as a whole.  While the first album was a great time, this sequel is a far deeper album, thematically and musically.  El-P’s production is far more progressive than he has been as of late, but maintains the signature banger tone of his work on the last album.  Both rappers have stepped up their game as well, both in lyrics and flows, particularly Killer Mike who goes off on nearly every track.  It’s great to who two rappers that work so well together and who have so much fun on making such compelling work.  With a third album already announced, RTJ doesn’t seem to be slowing down, and that’s perfectly fine by me.


Benjisunkilmoon There was no other album released this year that could match the heart, the emotion, the sheer power of Benji.  It’s a beautiful album in many respects, and undoubtedly one of the best album not only of 2014, but of recent memory.  And while the album may just be one man and his guitar for the majority of its duration, it’s one of the most moving albums I have ever listened to.

The album may appear to dark for some, as each track centers on death, from the tragically unexpected deaths of a cousin and an uncle, to the dreaded death of a mother that has yet to take place.  Yet, the tracks are not so much about the deaths themselves, but the reactions of lead vocalist Mark Kozelek and those around him.  This makes the album a truly cathartic experience, as we can all relate to the albums themes and lyrics.  While you would expect to leave the album feeling depressed and saddened, Benji leaves it’s listeners in a place of reflection, thinking back to those that we have lost, but with feelings of reverence rather than sadness.

And therein lies the true beauty of the album.  It’s not progressive, it’s not incredibly unique, it’s not very diverse, but it doesn’t need to be.  It’s a truly amazing thing when music can be so simple instrumentally and yet can be so compelling.  Kozelek doesn’t need catchy hooks, bass drops, or thundering drums to create the most memorable music of the year.  Just his guitar and his voice.  Simplicity is an amazing thing, and Benji provides a lesson that the music industry can learn from.  Sure, catchy pop songs, club-bangers, and stadium-shaking EDM tracks have their place, but Sun Kil Moon shows us what music is all about, what it has always been about: the heart.

Favorite Tracks: Carissa, I Watched the Film the Song Remains the Same, Micheline, Pray For Newtown


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