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My belated list of the top 10 albums of 2014

Banks, Goddess

LA siren Jillian Banks is much more than a product of the recent crop of minimal, futuristic "alt-R&B." Paired with her dusky vocals, Banks' entrancing debut album employs woozy beats, pulsating bass shudders, and distorted electronic effects to create a soundscape that is dark, moody, sultry, enigmatic, and brooding. The raw, confessional tales of seduction, scorned love, and heartbreak showcase Banks as both empowering ("Fucking with a goddess and you get a little colder," on the shadowy title track) and vulnerable ("Please, give me something to convince me that I am not a monster," on album opener "Alibi"), but there's also room for playfully sinister lyricism ("My words can come out as a pistol / And I'm no good at aiming / But I can aim it at you," on the menacing "Beggin for Thread").

Top tracks: "Beggin for Thread" • "This Is What It Feels Like" • "Fuck Em Only We Know" • "Change"




The Pretty Reckless, Going to Hell

I must say I was pretty skeptical when I first heard about The Pretty Reckless, fronted by former Gossip Girl (♥) star Taylor Momsen, back in 2010. However, after listening to the hard rock band's second album, Going to Hell, I noticed how much their sound and songwriting has matured and become a lot more polished. The satanic, angsty post-grunge numbers, laced with sexual innuendos and religious themes, you'd come to expect from the band are fully present here—namely "Going to Hell" (one of the most badass songs you'll hear in a long time), "Follow Me Down," and "Sweet Things." But the album also offers a few surprises, with songs that best showcase Momsen's dynamic vocal range, such as the hauntingly ethereal "Absolution," the wistful mellowness of "Blame Me," and the bluesy folk ballad "House on a Hill." Dark, sleazy, raw, unapologetic, and vulnerable, Going to Hell is one hell of a ride, from the brazen guitar riffs to the critiques of religious conventions.

Top tracks: "Going to Hell"
"Follow Me Down" "Absolution" "Blame Me"




Azealia Banks, Broke with Expensive Taste

After years of nasty Twitter spats and battling with former record label Interscope, the outspoken NYC rapper finally dropped her long-awaited debut album last month—and it was worth the fucking wait. Despite mixing older material (including her timeless, deliciously filthy breakthrough hit "212" and a slightly updated version of "Luxury" from her 2012 mixtape Fantasea) with newer songs, the album showcases Banks' signature sass and grit throughout, as well as her sharp lyrical craft, while offering a diverse, eclectic sonic palette that incorporates deep house, UK garage, grime, R&B, jazz, and even surf-pop.

Top tracks: "Chasing Time" • "Miss Amor" • "Ice Princess" • "JFK" (in addition to previously released cuts "212," "Luxury," and "Yung Rapunxel")





FKA twigs, LP1

Despite the hypnotizing lead single "Two Weeks," LP1 came off a bit too samey to me on first listen, but as you delve deeper into the album, the many nuances of FKA twigs' singular brand of experimental electro-R&B become more and more apparent. Amidst a swirling cocktail of surreal imagery and lustful sensuality, twigs' delicate, ethereal vocals are underpinned by spacey electronics, clattering beats, and distorted basslines, resulting in an intricate, hallucinatory, mesmerizing, and idiosyncratic body of work. No wonder Robert Pattinson is reportedly having the best sex of his life with twigs.

Top tracks: "Two Weeks" • "Lights On" • "Preface" • "Pendulum"





Tinashe, Aquarius

Tinashe is responsible for some of the sleekest, sultriest R&B last year. While "2 On" is the album's undeniable party anthem (and one of the best singles of 2014), it's songs like "Bet," "Cold Sweat," and the title track that place Tinashe closer to electro-R&B experimentalists such as Banks and FKA twigs. The trippy red-light special "Feels Like Vegas," which finds the singer putting on a private show for her man, could easily rival Beyoncé's equally steamy "Partition." Fun fact: In 2008 and 2009, Tinashe guest-starred in three episodes of Two and a Half Men as Celeste, Jake's (Angus T. Jones) girlfriend. Who knew something this good could come out of such a shitty show?

Top tracks: "2 On" • "Feels Like Vegas" • "Bet" • "Cold Sweat"





MØ, No Mythologies to Follow

A highly energetic, uniquely Scandinavian mix of synthpop, R&B, dancehall, dub, and '60s girl-group grooves. The Danish singer's soulful yet brash vocals are set against a mélange of rhythms and sounds, such as squealing synths ("Red in the Grey"), lush guitar riffs ("Maiden"), glitchy electronics ("Walk This Way"), and massive horn sections ("Don't Wanna Dance," "Pilgrim"). Last year, MØ was also featured on Swedish songstress Elliphant's electro-hop jam "One More."

Top tracks: "Don't Wanna Dance" • "Maiden" • "Red in the Grey" • "Walk This Way"





iamamiwhoami, BLUE

Perhaps iamamiwhoami's most accessible record to date. Although not as ambitious nor adventurous as their previous offerings, BLUE is a solid collection of dreamy, ethereal synthpop gems, and a breath of fresh air in the sad state of today's electronic music (or rather, "EDM"). Plus, the album's aquatic themes are an interesting departure from the frostiness of the group's previous works.

Top tracks: "blue blue" • "chasing kites" • "tap your glass"
• "thin"




Tove Lo, Queen of the Clouds

Insanely catchy Swedish electropop with sharp, frank lyrics about love, sex, partying, and heartbreak. Her post-breakup anthem "Habits (Stay High)" has some of the wittiest lyrics of last year: "I eat my dinner in my bathtub / Then I go to sex clubs / Watching freaky people getting it on."

Top tracks: "Not on Drugs" • "Talking Body"
"Got Love" • "This Time Around"




Lykke Li, I Never Learn

Inspired by a painful heartbreak, Lykke Li delivers a gorgeous set of lonesome, sumptuously sad breakup ballads on her third album.

Top tracks:
"Never Gonna Love Again" • "Silver Line" • "I Never Learn" • "Gunshot"




La Roux, Trouble in Paradise

Back in 2009, La Roux exploded onto the scene with killer singles "In for the Kill" and "Bulletproof," and most people just assumed that Elly Jackson (or "that red-haired chick with the crazy hairdo") was a solo act, when La Roux was actually a duo. Five years and a less-than-amicable split from bandmate Ben Langmaid later, Jackson has finally returned as a solo artist, with the long-overdue follow-up to La Roux's Grammy Award-winning eponymous debut album. It's not a total departure from synthpop, but unlike the icy, Game Boy-esque synth motifs that permeated its predecessor, Trouble in Paradise offers a warmer, more playful take on the genre (as conveyed by the album's tropical-themed artwork), while drawing on funk, disco, ragga, and dub. Even though I still prefer La Roux's debut, Trouble in Paradise is nevertheless an enjoyable listen and a welcome return from Jackson.

Top tracks: "Kiss and Not Tell" • "Uptight Downtown" • "Sexotheque" • "Silent Partner"





Sadly, 2014 was also the year that two of the most brilliant electronic music duos broke up: The Knife and Crystal Castles. RIP :(



But let's not forget the sickest music video of 2014:

Comments

  1. Irina, this list is art. MO and Tove Lo are brilliant.

    RIP CRYSTAL CASTLES :(

    Did you see Alice Glass has a solo album en route? Maybe the dream will live on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, love! How do you like Banks? Her album is a must-listen.

      I was so stoked to hear about Alice's solo album a few months ago, but then I found out it was some fanmade shiz :/ http://whatifrecords.tumblr.com/post/99499384283/alice-glass-widowspeak-february-13th-2015 I do hope she actually releases a solo album sometime in the future, that would be everything

      Delete
    2. I like what I've heard! I have to investigate her more, but her music (for lack of a better term) is pretty hot.

      UGH I KNOW ALICE COME BACK TO US

      Delete
    3. Do it, gurl! Her music is sex :D

      I bet it was Alice who was behind the whole thing just to screw with out heads, DAT BITCH! Also, I strongly believe Fever Ray should give us a second album as well

      Delete

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