2014 was not the easiest; from injustice in the domestic legal system to constant violence plaguing the international community, these are the records that got us through the chaos. Fueling our midnight study sessions, charging our house parties, replaying as we aimlessly browsed the internet, and even inspiring dissent, these tracks created euphoric escapism at times, and, at others, confronted us with issues larger than ourselves.
As we close out the year we’d like to give you a list of some of the notable sounds recommended by our staffers. From the indie-pop darlings to the metal heads, we may, well, have to agree-to-disagree on the best albums of the year; so, instead of a traditional list, a few of our staff offered-up hand-picked lists highlighting their favorite releases from the last 12 months.
In no particular order, here are some of the albums that moved us to action (or reclusion), and we hope you find inspiration (or escape) in them as we have. Happy Winter Break-ing from The B-Side.
— Penelope, Creative Director
Thom Yorke — Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes
Hitting us with a surprise release via BitTorrent, Thom Yorke continues to keep us on our toes with his latest. Filled with haunting tracks that will linger in the recesses of the mind for weeks, the effect of this album is nothing short of hypnotic. Falling in a similar vein as Radiohead’s latest “King of Limbs,” the nuanced electronic aspects in unison with Yorke’s eccentric voice garner this work a special spot on this list.
HM: Chet Faker — Built on Glass (review); tUnE-yArDs — Nikki Nack; Hozier — Hozier
Freddie Gibs and Madlib — Piñata
An album I’d like to highlight is Freddie Gibbs and Madlib’s record Piñata. It is the first full album collaboration that Madlib has put together, and the first to gain as much recognition as it did since Madvillainy, the classic MF Doom record. Each beat is crafted carefully and with vibrant, creative voices and rare sounds, particularly for a currently unambitious hip hop industry. Freddie Gibbs does the album justice with the help of mostly standard features and he gels well with the palate that Madlib places before him. All in all it’s an ingenious pairing, and we likely won’t hear anything from these two as a duo again, so savoring their chemistry is of huge importance.
Grouper — Ruins
Andy Stott — Faith in Strangers
Death Grips — The Powers That B, Niggas on the Moon
Actress — Ghettoville
Devonté Hynes — Palo Alto (score)
As Blood Orange, Dev Hynes is flawless. As the creator of the dreamy, alternative score for Gia Coppola’s dreamy, alternative debut film Palo Alto (2013), Dev Hynes is flawless. Did he wake up like this?
Run The Jewels — Run The Jewels 2
In what was otherwise a relatively mediocre year for rap music, there was a sole, towering monolith of a record, crackling with pure energy and packed floor to ceiling with bangers ferocious enough to upset the orbits of planets. In a year where abuse of authority was a popular basis for rioting, there was a record wherein two artists showed complete willingness to violently throw their hearts into the destruction of corrupt institutions and complete unwillingness to step off the throttle for even a second. With the widespread year-end list dominance RTJ2 has exhibited in various major publications I considered picking a different album as my list topper, but the truth is that no work of art of any kind in 2014 gave me the same experience of visceral, face-splitting euphoria, or moved me to get off my ass and go be a part of a revolution to anywhere near the same extent. Injustice isn’t going anywhere soon, but then again, neither are Mike and El — I take a great deal of solace in that. (review)
Against Me! — Transgender Dysphoria Blues
How To Dress Well — “What Is This Heart?”
Cloud Nothings — Here and Nowhere Else
clipping. — CLPPNG
Nouns — Still
Hardcore, 8-bit, ambient rock, and ’emo-revivial’ collide in an album from a band haphazardly named Nouns. Synth-fills, trailing guitars and lyrically-unembellished songs somehow manage to flow into a thoughtful, emotionally-charged album. With Philadelphia and Los Angeles dominating the punk scene, Noun’s music has, unsurprisingly, been influenced by bands from these epicenters such as Glocca Morra and Seahaven respectively, but this album came out of a location totally unexpected — Conway, Arkansas — Leaving me confused, excited, and a little melancholy. It’s one of the few albums of a year saturated with meticulously produced dance albums, that felt un-choreographed. The whole thing is pretty punk and DIY (by default of the groups production and recording abilities), and I hope to see more from this band in 2015.
Mica Levi – Under the Skin (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Frankie Cosmos – Zentropy
Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again (review)
Fear of Men – Loom