It occurred to me that with all of the craziness of the holidays, my wonderful Dad’s 60th birthday, and, you know, getting married, that I never made my top albums of 2014 post. What can I say? It was a busy time, but 2014 produced some stellar albums, so I feel compelled to report my findings. These are all, of course, based solely on my opinion. Here we go!
15. Echosmith “Talking Dreams”
Ok, so technically this full-length album was released in 2013, but Echosmith exploded on the charts in 2014 with their mega-hit Cool Kids. This group, made up of four siblings, has all the laid-back, carefree vibe that stems from their home state of California, with 80’s dance-pop influences guaranteed to put you in a good mood.
Give it a listen: Cool Kids, Come Together, Ran Off Into the Night
14. Ed Sheeran “X”
When Ed Sheeran came on the scene a few years ago, he had that shy, quiet, singer-songwriter feel that, although charming and talented, grew a little tiresome. Thankfully, for his follow-up album, Sheeran drew influences from every class of music to give his sound a more sophisticated, polished, mature appeal. When I first heard the lead-single, Sing, I thought it was Justin Timberlake. Which is only the highest of compliments.
Give it a listen: Don’t, Thinking Out Loud
13. Vance Joy “Dream Your Life Away”
Every year, there is one indie singer/songwriter that captures my attention. This year’s artist was Vance Joy, an Australian native with some pretty impressive guitar skills and a yearning vocal style that pulls at the heartstrings.
Give it a listen: Riptide, Who Am I, All I Ever Wanted
12. Banks “Goddess”
“So I’ve got itches that scratch/And sometimes I don’t got a filter/But I’m no good at eating/All of my misspoken words” I heard that line and was immediately hooked by Banks. Her sound is dark, moody, edgy and mysterious, so put on this debut album if you’re feeling particularly dark.
Give it a listen: Beggin’ for Thread, Goddess, Waiting Game
11. Rose Ave. “You + Me”
When Pink combines with City and Colour, only good things can happen. That good thing is You + Me, a country meets indie-pop album. This collection of songs feels like a couple of friends, sitting around a campfire, jamming and relaxing. It makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
Give it a listen: Capsized, You and Me, Break the Cycle
10. Sia “1000 Forms of Fear”
Sia had one of the most visually-appealing and interesting music videos of the year with her mega-smash Chandelier. Sia has the vocal chops to prove why this is her sixth album, yet each new collection of songs feels fresh, inventive, and new.
Give it a listen: Elastic Heart, Chandelier
9. Alt-J “This Is All Yours”
Alt-J are one of those bands that are so difficult to categorize. They have definite rock influences, but also bring pop, indie, and electronic inspirations that blend into its own genre. The second album from this British group feels carefree and uplifting.
Give it a listen: Left Hand Free, Every Other Freckle
8. St. Vincent “St. Vincent”
Oh my goodness, Annie Clark can do no wrong. Clark has such a sarcastic, witty view on life and she has the guitar-shredding thing down pat. St. Vincent proves that Ms. Clark is only getting better with time.
Give it a listen: Bring Me Your Loves, Digital Witness, Rattlesnake
7. Jessie J “Sweet Talker”
Jessie J has the best vocals in pop music today. There. I said it. This girl gets so little credit for just how awesome she is. I bet you thought Bang Bang was Ariana Grande’s idea? Nope. Definitely on this awesome collection of dance-pop tracks.
Give it a listen: Ain’t Been Done, Masterpiece, Loud
6. Kongos “Lunatic”
Kongos are a group of brothers, who actually started their success in South Africa, where their father hails from. Kongos manage to incorporate accordians, group vocals, drum circles, and hand claps into a new blend of rock and roll. Anyone who can pull that off, I am an immediate fan.
Give it a listen: I’m Only Joking, Come With Me Now, Hey I Don’t Know
5. Bleachers “Strange Desire”
Bleachers takes everything amazing about 80’s pop and adds a dash of rock, interesting lyrical content, and Jack Antonoff’s charisma to power the whole project. Just don’t call it a side project.
Give it a listen: I Wanna Get Better, Rollercoaster, Reckless Love
4. Hozier “Hozier”
I am not sure how you would have missed Hozier’s mega-smash Take Me to Church, but it was truly the greatest debut single I have ever heard. Hozier has some serious vocal range from his years in an Irish choral group, as well as significant talent on the guitar. The haunting, blues-influenced tone of his entire album ensure that this guy is here from more than a one-hit wonder.
Give it a listen: Take Me to Church, Jackie and Wilson, Someone New
3. Walk the Moon “Talking Is Hard”
Walk the Moon came out with such an amazing debut album two years ago that I still, to this day, will listen to every single song at least once a month. That being said, I could not have been more ecstatic to find out that they had a follow-up coming out this year. Walk the Moon write, fun, upbeat, rock-pop gems and never fail. I have never disliked a song, even after falling on my butt to Shut Up and Dance in the middle of the dance floor at my wedding. Oh yeah. That happened.
Give it a listen: Shut Up and Dance, Sidekick, Portugal
2. Lake Street Dive Bad “Self Portraits”
Lake Street Dive was another band that I found through iTunes ‘Single of the Week’, and I could not be more happy that I did. Bad Self Portraits has amazing jazz influences, and the lead singer, Rachel Price, will take this Boston-based duo very far. One personal goal of mine for 2015 is to see this group live and in concert. Here’s hoping I make it a reality!
Give it a listen: Bad Self Portraits, What About Me, You Go Down Smooth
1. Sam Smith “In the Lonely Hour”
Unless you live under a rock, you understand what a monumental year Sam Smith had. This guy is about to sweep the Grammy’s, with an entire collection of heart-breaking songs sung with expertise. This guy makes every performance look completely effortless, despite the fact that he is hitting notes most people could only dream of. Sam Smith is a true talent, and I only hope his next album is as significant and impressive as his debut.
Give it a listen: I’m Not the Only One, Not In That Way, Latch (Acoustic)
So that’s it. My all-encompassing, but actually probably forgot somebody vital, list of the top 15 albums of 2014. You’ll notice no Taylor Swift. Sorry guys. I just can’t get on that train, even though I’m glad she’s dropped the whole “country” facade, and acknowledged that she is a pop act now.
As an apology for taking so long, I have also listed some exciting new projects, that I cannot wait for in 2015.
Ella Henderson Chapter One
Meghan Trainor Title
Imagine Dragons Smoke and Mirrors
Full-length albums from Mad Moon Riot and Ryn Weaver