2014 was a wonderful year in music. D’Angelo returned to the game, Run The Jewels did it again, and FKA twigs practically redefined sexuality in music, or something like that. Oh, yeah, and a ton of fantastic music was released. The following are our top musical moments of 2014, as decided by the LYFSTYL staff.
Editor Kevin Vanstone’s Top Albums:
1) Ought – More Than Any Other Day
Top track: Habit
Ought’s More Than Any Other Day is a gritty, visceral album that pulls the listener along on a frantic ride full of screeching guitars and singer Tim Beeler’s unique inflections. The opening treble of ‘Pleasant Heart’, ‘Today More Than Any Other Day’, and ‘Habit’ is more than enough to set the hook deep. Don’t fight it – bite down and turn it up.
2) Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2
Top track: Oh My Darling (Don’t Cry)
With their debut, self-titled album, the duo of Killer Mike and El-P proved they could make their business model work – releasing their music for free and then touring the continent to follow-up. The experiment was so successful that Run The Jewels returned with a sequel, and the resulting album has been their best offering yet. RTJ2 is the product of two hip-hop titans coming together to flick off the music industry, all while rocking to El-P’s sublime production. It was the best rap album of the year, hands down.
3) Sun Kil Moon – Benji
Top track: Ben’s My Friend
Mark Kozalek is one grumpy man, but behind the grumpy persona is a man that can do wonders on the acoustic guitar. Benji is an in-depth collection of raw stories stemming from Kozalek’s life. From the crushing opening song ‘Carissa,’ to the haunting track ‘Rich Ramirez Died Today Of Natural Causes,’ Kozalek mines meaning out of life’s little mysteries in a style that is completely his own, and it’s beautiful.
4) Odesza – In Return
Top track: Say My Name (feat. Zyra)
Odesza doesn’t seem to be able to sit still for very long. Their 2012 debut Summer’s Gone was immediately followed up by the 2013 EP My Friends Never Die, and in 2014 the duo have once again planted their flag as electronic heavyweights with In Return. While Harrison Mills and Clayton Knight are no strangers to vocal sampling, the features found on In Return demonstrate a musical craftsmanship that seems to have surpasses Odesza’s initial work. I can’t wait to hear how they out-do themselves next time around.
5) D’Angelo and The Vanguard – Black Messiah
Top track: Sugah Daddy
15 years of radio silence was hardly enough to hold back the hype train once Questlove broke the news. 2014 would be the year D’Angelo returned to music, and the album we had all been waiting for was ready. It was a surprise release to remember, a rare occasion where the hype was completely dwarfed by the final product. I can comfortably say Black Messiah will be the best funk album of the decade, and we’re only halfway there. It was a long 15 years of perfectionism and polish, but in 2014 we were finally able to say that the wait for Black Messiah was worth it.
6) Swans – To Be Kind
7) St. Vincent – St. Vincent
8) King Tuff – Black Moon Spell
9) Caribou – Our Love
10) Schoolboy Q – Oxymoron
Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
Ex Hex – Rips
Temples – Sun Structures
Isaiah Rashad – Cilvia Demo
Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal
Thee Silver Mt. Lion – Fuck Off Get Free
Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Pinata
Top Live Music Moments:
1) Chance The Rapper – Pemberton Music Festival [Pemberton, British Columbia]
2) Ought – Take Away Show [Paris, France]
3) Outkast – Sasquatch! Music Festival [Gorge, Washington]
4) Nas (Illmatic) – Pemberton Music Festival [Pemberton, British Columbia]
5) The Bright Light Social Hour – Sasquatch! Music Festival [Gorge, Washington]
Editor Rupa Jogani’s Top Albums
1) Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2
Top Track: Love Again (Akinyele Back)
On the heels of their hugely anticipated debut collaborative album, Run the Jewels, Killer Mike and El-P joined forces once more on their equally great if not better RTJ2. Even at 40, these guys can still deliver fresh sounds we didn’t realize we were sorely missing. They came to show us that you don’t have to be in your teens to deliver thought-provoking, well-made music fit for eternity.
2) Caribou – Our Love
Top Track: Our Love
Dan Snaith came back on our speakers four years after his critically acclaimed Swim LP. He reminded us that mathematicians (also scholars as a whole) can put out enigmatic music without drifting away into left-right-brain spheres. It’s a love album, as the title suggests, filled with warm bubbling synths, subtle polyrhythms and true pop songs. He wrote it with thanks and wholehearted adoration for his fans and his life, and that resonates clearly in Our Love.
3) FKA twigs – LP1
Top Track: Two Weeks
It comes as no surprise that FKA twigs’ album made my top list and honestly, I can’t add any new analysis or fervent love for it so I’ll let my previous review do it the justice it deserves.
4) Young Fathers – Dead
Top Track: War
The underdog winners of 2014’s Mercury Prize came as a shock for many critics but not for this guy (er, girl, I guess). When I interviewed them earlier in the year, before any shortlist was announced and they were just bubbling on the radar, their entire being exuded creativity. The Edinburgh based trio seek to push boundaries in their art, with their audience, and always within themselves. Dead is cerebral, dissonant, and the true shake-up the music community desperately needed.
5) How To Dress Well – What Is This Heart?
Top Track: Pour Cyril
Chicago-native Tom Krell’s heavily emotive album, What Is This Heart? is arguably his most pop-forward album he’s created yet. Keeping true to his songwriting background, Krell utilized sweeping orchestral melodies to complement his vocal reverb throughout the LP. His visceral lyricism shimmers and guides the album on the exploration of love and its emotional duality of despair. Beautiful at every given moment, I could not stop returning to What Is This Heart? time and time again.
6) Jim-E Stack – Tell Me I Belong
7) Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste
8) Lone – Reality Testing
9) Glass Animals – Zaba
10) D’Angelo – Black Messiah
Jon Hopkins – Asleep Versions
Perfume Genius – Too Bright
Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
The Range – Panasonic
Ben Frost – A U R O R A
Sango – Da Rocinha 2
Clark – Clark
Isaiah Rashad – Cilvia Demo
Hundred Waters – The Moon Rang Like A Bell
Top Live Music Moments
1) Jon Hopkins at Pitchfork Music Festival
2) きゃりーぱみゅぱみゅ (Kyary Pamyu Pamyu) at House of Blues [Chicago]
3) How to Dress Well at Museum of Contemporary Art [Chicago]
4) Young Fathers on KEXP
5) Jacques Greene at Chop Shop [Chicago]