We’ve compiled our 30 favorite albums from 2014 and you can check out the full list below and take a listen to each album via Spotify. We’re such nice people that we also put together a playlist featuring one song from each album, which you can check out on Spotify by clicking the button below. Here’s to more great music in 2015!
Full Spotify Playlist
30. Jessie Ware- Tough Love
The Sade of our time turns out a sophomore album thats equal parts jamz and feelz, all anchored by her impeccable voice.
Essential Tracks: “Say You Love Me,” “Cruel,” “Tough”
29. Hozier- Hozier
Public service announcement: the mega-hit “Take Me to Church” is just one of many incredible Hozier songs that appear on his soulful debut album.
Essential Tracks: “From Eden,” “Someone New,” “Jackie and Wilson”
28. Sisyphus- Sisyphus
Sufjan Stevens + Son Lux + Serengeti = Pure Magic. Following their 2012 debut EP, this trio of artists delivered a full-length album in 2014 that seamlessly combined the styles and sounds of each individual member.
Essential Tracks: “Calm It Down”, “Rhythm of Devotion”, “Lion’s Share”, “Alcohol”
27. The Hotelier- Home, Like Noplace There Is
We’ve got a soft spot for this quartet out of Worcester, MA, but this album making our list was certainly not due to some kind of hometown bias. Emo has made its triumphant return and we certainly don’t hate it.
Essential Tracks: “Housebroken”, “Your Deep Rest”, “An Introduction to the Album”
26. Run the Jewels- Run the Jewels 2
Killer Mike and El-P return with a follow-up to their 2013 debut that is as much, if not more, of a crowd-pleaser than its predecessor.
Essential Tracks: “Early”, “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)”, “Blockbuster Night Part 1″
25. Wye Oak- Shriek
A definite departure from the sound captured on 2011’s Civilian, which makes us all the more excited to see what direction they will head in next.
Essential Tracks: “Before”, “Logic of Color”, “Sick Talk”
24. Tennis- Ritual in Repeat
Pop perfection once again from the husband and wife duo of Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore.
Essential Tracks: “Needle and a Knife”, “Bad Girls”, “Never Work for Free”
23. The Barr Brothers- Sleeping Operator
To say Sleeping Operator was well worth the 3-year wait would be a vast understatement. The immensely talented Brad Barr and co. certainly did not disappoint with this 13-track ear-pleaser.
Essential Tracks: “Half Crazy”, “Love Ain’t Enough”, “Come In The Water”, “Little Lover”
22. Ryan Adams- Ryan Adams
What is there to say about Ryan Adams that hasn’t been said before? His self-titled effort is deserving of all the praise bestowed on it this year.
Essential Tracks: “My Wrecking Ball”, “Gimme Something Good”, “Kim”, “Feels Like Fire”
21. Sylvan Esso- Sylvan Esso
The unexpected match-up of Amelia Meath’s folksy vocals and Nick Sanborn’s spry electronic production made for one hell of a debut album. A welcome surprise.
Essential Tracks: “Play It Right,” “Hey Mami,” “Coffee”
20. Alvvays- Alvvays
Alvvays burst onto the scene in 2014 with an album soaked in nostalgic sounds that brought to mind some of our favorite female-fronted bands from the ’90s like The Sundays and Mazzy Star.
Essential Tracks: “Archie, Marry Me”, “Party Police”, “Atop a Cake”
19. Vacationer- Relief
Kenny Vasoli, the former frontman of 2000s emo band The Starting Line, created a lush and layered record that’s the ideal soundtrack for a tropical vacation.
Essential Tracks: “Stay”, “Paradise Waiting”, “In The Grass”, “Heavenly”
18. FKA twigs- LP1
Possibly the most intimate album of all time, LP1 is a mesmerizing tour of FKA’s haunted mind and bedroom.
Essential Tracks: “Two Weeks,” “Lights On,” “Closer”
17. Against Me!- Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Laura Jane Grace dazzles on this album as she takes us through her transition to living life as a woman.
Essential Tracks: “Transgender Dysphoria Blues”, “True Trans Soul Rebel”, “Fuckmylife666″, “Two Coffins”
16. Stars- No One Is Lost
As soon as lead single “From The Night” hit the airwaves we knew Stars had returned in a big way, and much to our delight the rest of the record was equally as tantalizing.
Essential Tracks: “From The Night”, “Are You Ok?”, “No One Is Lost”
15. Spoon- They Want My Soul
It has been confirmed that Spoon is simply not capable of making a subpar record.
Essential Tracks: “Do You”, “New York Kiss”, “Inside Out”, “Rent I Pay”
14. Conor Oberst- Upside Down Mountain
With the help of Jonathan Wilson and the ladies of First Aid Kit, the Bright Eyes frontman released yet another successful solo album, not to mention one of our favorite sets from this summer’s Newport Folk Festival.
Essential Tracks: “Zigzagging Toward the Light”, “Hundreds of Ways”, “Governor’s Ball”, “Double Life”
13. Shakey Graves- And the War Came
Alejandro Rose-Garcia continues to be one of our favorite songwriters in the world of folk music, and this year he also brought us quite the delightful discovery in Esmé Patterson.
Essential Tracks: “Only Son”, “Dearly Departed”, “Family and Genus”
12. Kevin Drew- Darlings
The Broken Social Scene frontman redefines crazysexycool with his 2014 solo release.
Essential Tracks: “You in Your Were”, “It’s Cool”, “Good Sex”, “Body Butter”, “And That’s All I Know”
11. The Rural Alberta Advantage- Mended With Gold
Powerful is probably the only way to describe Paul Banwatt’s drumming chops, which are front and center on this epic release. The RAA also put on one of the best shows we saw in 2014 at The Bowery Ballroom back in November.
Essential Tracks: “Our Love”, “On The Rocks”, “Terrified”, “45/33″
10. Caribou- Our Love
Caribou’s Our Love reminds us that electronic music can be beautiful, rich, and most importantly, human.
Essential Tracks: “Silver,” “Second Chance,” “Your Love Will Set You Free”
9. Will Dailey- National Throat
After escaping his major label deal, local Boston hero Will Dailey delivered one of 2014’s most funky and soulful albums. Between the horns, the shredding guitar solos, and the thoughtful arrangements, Dailey takes us along for the ride as he details the breakup with his label. National Throat brought Dailey two Boston Music Awards for Album and Artist of the year, and both deservedly so.
Essential Tracks: “Sunken Ship”, “Castle of Pretending”, “Lookout Johnny”, “We Will Always Be a Band”
8. Mina Tindle- Parades
More than half of Parades is in Tindle’s native language of French, but none of this gorgeous and unpredictable chamber-pop is lost in translation.
Essential Tracks: “Seaside,” “Pas Les Saisons,” “Taranta,” “I Command”
7. Rubblebucket- Survival Sounds
2014 was a trying year for Rubblebucket as lead singer Kalmia Traver recovered from her battle with ovarian cancer, but I’m sure they’ll look back on this year with fondness as well since they released their best record to date. This band has come a long way sonically since its 2009 self-titled debut and with Survival Sounds they found the perfect mix of their signature horn sounds paired with varied electronic elements. As long as they keep touring, Rubblebucket will be considered one of the best live acts around and to see this record come to life earlier this year was a complete and total joy.
Essential Tracks: “On the Ground”, “Carousel Ride”, “Shake Me Around”, “My Life”
6. Saintseneca- Dark Arc
When we saw Saintseneca at SXSW this year, we knew that 2014 was going to treat them well, and after the release of Dark Arc we can safely say that it did just that. Not only does lead singer Zac Little have one of the best mustaches in the biz, he’s also got a voice to match. A warbly croon that brings to mind Alec Ounsworth of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Little’s voice guides Dark Arc, but its epic arrangements are what make this album so special. It’s a shame that we didn’t get to catch the band perform live again after SXSW, but something tells us they’ll be riding the high from Dark Arc for quite some time.
Essential Tracks: “Happy Alone”, “Takmit”, “Blood Bath”, “Visions”
5. Bombay Bicycle Club- So Long, See You Tomorrow
So Long, See You Tomorrow begins with the glorious, dazzling bang of “Overdone.” From there, BBC keeps turning out song after song of electro-pop euphoria. Despite simple lyrics, So Long, See You Tomorrow is so sonically jampacked that you’ll hear and feel something new even when your record is worn.
Essential Tracks: “Overdone,” “Home by Now,” “Luna”
4. Jenny Lewis- The Voyager
Jenny Lewis has long been regarded as indie music royalty, a role she certainly plays into with her bo$$ bitch ‘tude and regal stage attire. Yet on Lewis’ long-awaited The Voyager, she embraced a role far less glamorous: that of an unmarried, childless 30-something. Lewis explores this tricky theme through her classically confessional lyrics. And lucky for us, her wry stories of middle-aged malaise are layered over incredibly catchy SoCal folk-pop. In short, The Voyager’s sun-drenched vibes and shadowy lyrics make for an album that will age as well as Jenny Lewis has.
Essential Tracks: “The Voyager,” “Head Underwater,” “She’s Not Me,” “Just One of the Guys”
3. Big Scary- Not Art
Technically a 2013 release, but the follow-up to 2011’s Vacation didn’t reach us Stateside until early 2014. The duo of Tom Iansek and Jo Syme have been favorites of ours for quite some time, but with Not Art they have truly outdone themselves. You don’t have to take just our word for it either as the record landed them the Australian Music Prize, which is equivalent to Canada’s Polaris Prize or the Mercury Prize in the UK. The subtleties and nuances that you pick up with each additional listen is what sets this album apart from the rest of Big Scary’s catalog, and the rest of the albums released in 2014 for that matter. It’ll be tough for Tom and Jo to top this one, but we’re sure they’re up to the task and cannot wait to hear what comes next.
Essential Tracks: “Luck Now”, “Harmony Sometimes”, “Invest”, “Belgian Blues”
2. Grey Season- Time Will Tell You Well
Grey Season wowed us all in 2014 by putting out not only one of the best records amongst the impressive crop of Boston bands who put out albums this year, but also one of the best records of 2014 period. Recorded primarily at Levon Helm’s barn in Woodstock, NY, Time Will Tell You Well is perfect for summertime porch sitting or anytime you feel like a night of beer drinking. Catchy melodies, impressive harmonies, and furious banjo picking are all commonplace on this record, and for those of you M&T faithful out there, you know that those three items are a recipe for success in our minds. These Boston boys have a long career ahead of them and if TWTYW is any indication, it’s going to be one hell of a ride.
Essential Tracks: “Satellites”, “Aragon Mill”, “New Kind of Dirty”, “Look at Us Now”
1. Kishi Bashi- Lighght
On Lighght, Kishi Bashi boldly goes where most violinist/composers rarely do, and the result is ambitious, extravagant, and our favorite album of the year. Kishi Bashi builds off of his first album’s signature baroque pop, but seamlessly adds in bold disco and prog-rock inspirations. The album’s themes vary as well, from the absurdist wackiness of “The Ballad of Mr. Steak” to the heartfelt sentiment of “Q&A,” an acoustic love song that Lennon-McCartney would have happily taken credit for. Despite tonal twists and thematic turns, the album is intensely coherent, and each song is clearly branded with the Kishi Bashi stamp of wonderful weirdness. For one album (and one person) to accomplish so much is simply astounding. This frenzied journey with Kishi Bashi will likely leave you a bit exhausted, but only in the way that truly great music does.
Essential Tracks: “Philosophize in It! Chemalize with It!, “Q&A,” Hahaha Pt. 1”, “The Ballad of Mr. Steak”