“When everything’s clear like cold water go feel better.“ - Little Dragon, Klapp Klapp
I rather enjoyed music this year. As I spent time re-listening to albums and songs in preparation for this post, I realized how much music I heard that I thought was genuinely good and interesting. In the midst of all the cotton candy confection on terrestrial radio and vine—a place that increasingly became where I discovered new to me sounds and artists and songs, some of which I actually liked—there were a lot of artists releasing confident and risk-taking songs and albums.
It almost seems anachronistic for artists to attempt to put out complete and connected albums with strong thematic ties or storytelling flourishes today. We live in the age of the eternally shuffled on streaming services like Spotify and Pandora and Rdio (my personal fave). The music video (even if it’s just lyrics or a static image) and soundcloud dominate the young ear. So why put together an album whose songs work better together? Especially with the standard being about 10 songs and 45 minutes these days? I don’t know but I’m glad folks did.
My Favorite Albums of 2014
- Nabuma Rubberband - Little Dragon
- Art Official Age - Prince
- Piñata - Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
- Black Messiah - D’Angelo & The Vanguard
- Tough Love - Jessie Ware
- A Love Like Ours - Dominique Toney
- Sylvan Esso - Sylvan Esso
- Jungle - Jungle
- Oxymoron - Schoolboy Q
- With Metropole Orkest. - Laura Mvula
Some notes: D’Angelo did me dirty like Beyoncé did last December and put out an album that’s impossible to deny but that I haven’t had the time to sit with like I have with other albums. In fact, Black Messiah’s inclusion bumped Mary J. Blige’s The London Sessions—another late in the year entry—out of my top ten but you should really cop that one too. You’ll also have to forgive the nepotism but my sister’s album is good y’all.
Little Dragon, Prince, and Freddie Gibbs with Madlib on the production produced the albums I kept coming back to this year, though. Every time I hear just one song from their releases I want to hear the whole collection. Art Official Cage is a revelation. I haven’t enjoyed the purple one this much since the Batman soundtrack.
Like Pusha T’s album last year, Piñata was the get hyped soundtrack for 2014. I bumped that in the car on road trips, in the morning on the ride to work, on the way home to take the edge off (or get it up). I was Thuggin’.
Ultimately, though, there’s a certain sound and sensibility that gets to me (gets me) more than everything else. Little Dragon is one of those bands and Nabuma Rubberband is one of those albums. Love it.
Other albums worthy of consideration - Michael Jackson’s XSCAPE; Kelis’s Food; alt-J’s This is All Yours; FKA Twigs - LP1; Sam Smith’s In The Lonely Hour; Jóhan Jóhannsson’s The Theory of Everything soundtrack; The Juan Mclean’s In A Dream; and, Nicki Minaj’s The Pinkprint
The Top Songs of 2014
Rdio helpfully made a playlist. It’s pretty accurate although last.fm notes a few differences. Klapp Klapp was the song I went back to the most this year though less so in the last quarter of 2014. Drake’s 0 to 100/The Catch Up and D’Angelo’s Sugah Daddy deserve mention for the back 90 of this year.
Two important musical notes for me at the end of 2014 came out 22 and 25 years ago but seemed especially relevant for the complex ways I was/am feeling about the world. The hope and clarity of Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 and the anger and obstinance of Ice Cube’s The Predator were what my soul needed as America in the Fall of this year felt more like Los Angeles in the Spring of ’92. Rage and sadness and uprising and the knowledge and power to the people.
We are a part of a rhythm nation and 20 years after Rodney King we’re still asking “when will they shoot?” and so we’re going to make it rough.