Favorite Albums of 2014

Throughout 2014, I had a lot of trouble finding any new music to really get interested in, which proved particularly frustrating since 2013 was overflowing with interesting stuff — so much so that I didn’t get to everything I wanted to. By the time December rolled around, I had barely reviewed any albums. I suppose I had resigned myself to waiting for the year-end critics lists to use as a launchpad to refocus my efforts. (A special shout out to AllMusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine, whose Tumblr post of his 100 favorite albums of 2014 was particularly helpful. His Twitter account is a must-follow, as well.) At any rate, I have finally (I’m posting this in May 2015) finished reviewing all of the albums released in 2014 I wanted to review — 57 in all — and I have presented them as a top 50 (+1) favorite albums list below. Enjoy!

Actually, one more thing: I originally intended to review Sam Smith’s In the Lonely Hour, Ed Sheeran’s x, and Taylor Swift’s 1989 to bring the total up to 60. (The first two were nominated for Album of the Year, while 1989 was the bestselling album of 2014.) The problem was, it got so late that I just needed to get past 2014 already. And since I (for the most part) only review music I like and would pretty much be reviewing those three records just to write something negative (I’m not a fan of the three artists or what I have sampled from the albums themselves), I decided this just wasn’t a good use of my time.

Honorable Mention: Tricky – Adrian Thaws (September 9, !K7)

Tricky the trip-hop god returns with an album that’s more hip-hop than trip-hop. Not as good as 2013’s comeback False Idols, but worthy of some play if you can get past the unevenness (and a few muzak tracks). | Review

#50: Thom Yorke – Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes (September 26, Self-Released)

An interesting album from the idiosyncratic Radiohead frontman that explores the hollower sounds of electronic rock. More a study of form and what makes music functional than an album of considerable content, but still worth a spin (if you feel like buying it via BitTorrent, of course). | Review

#49: Interpol – El Pintor (September 9, Matador)

El Pintor is pretty much exactly what you would expect a new Interpol album to sound like, which I suppose is both good and bad. It can’t touch Turn On the Bright Lights, but it’ll do, even if the songs start to run together a little during repeat plays. | Review

#48: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Hypnotic Eye (July 29, Reprise)

Not bad for a guy about to become a senior citizen. Some good tracks here, particularly the closer “Shadow People.” The album doesn’t compare particularly favorably to past classics, but it’s a pleasure to hear the old band at work. | Review

2015 Grammy Award Nominations

  • Best Rock Album

#47: Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2 (October 28, Mass Appeal)

Ridiculously overrated, with only a few tracks — “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)” chief among them — worthy of the acclaim. Mostly, it’s the pretty pedestrian production that makes Run the Jewels 2 a letdown, but it still has enough great moments to single out the album as one of the essential listens of 2014. | Review

#46: Smashing Pumpkins – Monuments to an Elegy (December 9, Martha’s Music)

It’s been a long time since the Smashing Pumpkins have done anything of significance, but I actually like what Billy Corgan brings to the table with Monuments to an Elegy, which coats its flashes of past triumphs with the same tiresome post-grunge glaze that eventually led to a dead end at the end of the ’90s. Ultimately, it’s an uneven record, but it’s the most interesting Corgan production in ages. | Review

#45: Bruce Springsteen – High Hopes (January 14, Columbia)

Speaking of uneven records, this one is certainly all over the place. It’s by design, of course (High Hopes is an odds-and-ends album), but the result is one of Springsteen’s less satisfying releases. Thankfully, that doesn’t rule it out from being pretty damn enjoyable regardless — Springsteen’s overall catalog is still quite strong even when counting his more mediocre efforts of late. Some tracks simply stun, like “Hunter of Invisible Game,” which has quickly become one of my favorite songs by the Boss. | Review

#44: Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots (April 29, Warner Bros.)

I have never been especially into Blur and have never once listened to Gorillaz by choice, but I rather liked Everyday Robots — another album I found to be uneven. The slower stretches tend to just be dull, but there is a stately grace — almost a funereal tone — to the album that I found accomplished and charming. | Review

#43: Leonard Cohen – Popular Problems (September 23, Columbia)

Leonard Cohen is nothing less than a legendary figure at this point, but he has an aura of mystery about him — for some reason, I have never felt particularly compelled to dive headlong into his discography, which isn’t especially bulky considering his first album was released almost fifty years ago. Popular Problems was nearly a mixed bag for me, ultimately, but it’s an album I plan to spend a lot more time with. | Review

#42: Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways (November 11, RCA)

Sonic Highways is a textbook example of a project that wound up being far less than the sum of its parts; neither the HBO documentary series nor the album itself, when taken on their own, are all that great. It’s also a case of too much for not enough — eight full hours of documentary for just eight songs, with very little of the documentary run time actually focusing on the making of the album itself. Maybe I just wanted something a little different from this project. Even so, around half the tracks on Sonic Highways — “Something from Nothing,” “The Feast and the Famine,” “Outside,” “I Am a River” — are first-rate Foo Fighters material, and “Congregation” and “Subterranean” are pretty good, too. Still, Sonic Highways left me wanting a little more. | Review

#41: Johnny Marr – Playland (October 7, Sire)

Not in the same league as Marr’s first solo album, 2013’s excellent The Messenger, but improvements are present on Playland nonetheless. For one, the production is better, and even if the knockout songs — “Candidate,” “This Tension” — are few and far between this time around, it’s still a solid album overall from the former Smiths guitarist. | Review

#40: Coldplay – Ghost Stories (May 20, Atlantic/Parlophone)

Production-wise, Ghost Stories is big-budget bliss. You can actually hear the money in the music, which is always exciting for audiophiles. Not all of the music is terribly impressive (the Avicii-co-produced “A Sky Full of Stars” may have been nominated for a Grammy, but that doesn’t make it good), but a few tracks — “Magic,” “Midnight,” “Another’s Arms” — elevate the album above its status as a mere palate cleanser. | Review

2015 Grammy Award Nominations

  • Best Pop Vocal Album
  • Best Pop Duo/Group Performance – “A Sky Full of Stars”

#39: Swans – To Be Kind (May 13, Young God/Mute)

Easily the most ambitious album I heard all year, which isn’t the same thing as the best. As fascinating as To Be Kind is, it’s also a complete chore to sit through. With a duration of just over two hours, I doubt I will listen to it again, even if some tracks — including, yes, the 34-minute “Bring the Sun/Toussaint L’Ouverture” — are worth revisiting. | Review

#38: Ex Hex – Rips (October 7, Merge)

Rips may be loud, but at least it’s a high-octane thrill ride courtesy of girl power trio Ex Hex. Fronted by the seemingly omnipresent (at least in the underground) Mary Timony — she’s also been in the indie rock bands Wild Flag, Helium, and Autoclave — I found Ex Hex to be quite articulate even with their stripped down, Ramones-y approach. There are flourishes (e.g., clever guitar fills, killer vocal harmonies) present that only become noticeable with repeat listens. | Review

#37: AC/DC – Rock or Bust (December 2, Columbia/Albert)

AC/DC reteams with producer Brendan O’Brien — who produced 2008’s Black Ice, as well — to deliver a surprisingly solid follow-up, this time without Malcolm Young, who is now suffering from dementia and will never play in the band again. As a result, the band sounds as purposeful as it has since Back in Black — made in response to founding lead vocalist Bon Scott’s death, of course — and Rock or Bust may just be the last good effort we get from AC/DC. | Review

#36: Beck – Morning Phase (February 25, Capitol)

Without a doubt, Morning Phase is good, but it isn’t any better than that, so its dominant Grammy night really took me by surprise, particularly since a critically acclaimed commercial powerhouse (Beyoncé’s self-titled 2013 album) was nominated alongside of it and was expected to win. Morning Phase is a case of the craft being better than the material: the songs are good, but aren’t exceptional, while the lush production really is outstanding. Repeat listens, however, reveal Morning Phase to be an album that is less formidable than it initially appears, which is too bad. | Review

2015 Grammy Award Nominations

  • WIN: Album of the Year
  • WIN: Best Rock Album
  • WIN: Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical
  • Best Rock Performance – “Blue Moon”
  • Best Rock Song – “Blue Moon”

#35: Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence (June 17, Interscope)

I didn’t pay any attention to Lana Del Rey when her debut Born to Die became an enormous hit, but I actually enjoyed Ultraviolence a lot. There are some standout tracks like the title track, “West Coast,” and “Money Power Glory,” and the black-and-white production has a smoky appeal. It’s just a fun album to immerse yourself in.  | Review

#34: Weezer – Everything Will Be Alright in the End (October 7, Republic)

Weezer is one of the few classic alternative bands I’m supposed to like but don’t. It’s actually not that I actively dislike them, I just don’t go out of my way to listen to them. So it was with great surprise that I actually found Everything Will Be Alright in the End to be quite enjoyable. It’s not as good as their classic debut, but it’s Weezer’s most well-received album of the new century. Hopefully their next album will be even better. | Review

#33: Bob Mould – Beauty & Ruin (June 3, Merge)

Not as good as Bob’s last album (2012’s excellent Silver Age), but it will more than do. Some songs are really good — “Low Season,” “Tomorrow Morning,” “The War” — others fail to make much of a lasting impression, but still manage to provide enjoyment. It’s a good album overall, particularly if you like stripped down, muscular hard rock. (AllMusic files the album under “noise pop.”) | Review

#32: EMA – The Future’s Void (April 8, Matador)

A most intriguing album, to be sure, The Future’s Void is essentially an indie rock album but with significant electronic and psychedelic elements. From the opening roar of “Satellites,” you know you’d better buckle up your seatbelt and hold tight. Not all of the songs are as exciting — the exceptions are “Smoulder” and “Solace,” which straight up plagiarizes Don Henley’s “All She Wants to Do Is Dance” but is still awesome — but the album is really solid overall. | Review

#31: Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues (January 21, Xtra Mile)

I’m not typically into punk music, but Transgender Dysphoria Blues is a truly startling work. This is intense, purposeful music that adequately expresses confusion and pain in a way few records, if any, manage to do. Many artists make albums as a way to express how misunderstood they feel; what Laura Jane Grace does with Transgender Dysphoria Blues is articulate her angst really well and shed light on what a portion of the human population endures that I honestly hadn’t spent much time or effort attempting to understand. An essential cultural document, Transgender Dysphoria Blues also happens to be good music too. | Review

#30: Robert Plant – lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar (September 9, Nonesuch)

Even with Robert Plant taking home an Album of the Year Grammy less than a decade ago for the Raising Sand album he did with Alison Krauss, I had no idea he had this album in him. Jimmy Page was always the true genius and artistic force in Led Zeppelin, and given Plant’s status as a senior citizen, a really good solo album from him seemed highly unlikely. lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar is a joy to listen to, exploring lots of folk and acoustic blues sounds. It never sounds like Led Zeppelin at all (again, no Jimmy Page here), but that’s a good thing. | Review

#29: Lee Ann Womack – The Way I’m Livin’ (September 23, Sugar Hill)

A wonderful album from the country veteran. The title track is great, and also particularly fantastic is Womack’s cover of “Out on the Weekend” from Neil Young’s Harvest album. If I had to pinpoint what holds back the album from being even better, it’s that Womack isn’t a writer — she doesn’t receive a writing or co-writing credit for any song on the record, and the album does feel perceptively uneven as a result. | Review

2015 Grammy Award Nominations

  • Best Country Album
  • Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical

#28: The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers (August 26, Matador)

I’m new to the New Pornographers, but I like their candy-coated sound and sweet harmonies. There are some standout tracks on Brill Bruisers, too, like “Backstairs,” “Another Drug Deal of the Heart,” and “Dancehall Domine.” By the time the closer “You Tell Me Where” comes along, you’ll want to immediately play the whole record again. | Review

#27: Lenny Kravitz – Strut (September 23, Roxie)

Definitely never thought I would like an album by Lenny Kravitz, but I liked Strut a lot. He’s clearly quite a craftsman at this point in his career, and there are lots of standout tracks on Strut: “The Pleasure and the Pain,” “New York City,” “Dirty White Boots,” “Frankenstein,” and the title track are as good as contemporary mainstream rock gets. | Review

#26: Wilko Johnson & Roger Daltrey – Going Back Home (April 8, Chess)

Roger Daltrey sounds more vital on Going Back Home than he has in decades with the Who. The album was intended as a sendoff for Johnson after being diagnosed with terminal cancer, but he has miraculously survived extensive and invasive surgery removing several organs. Going Back Home really is the best kind of blues-rock, played at full speed and with complete abandon; the results are a total joy. | Review

#25: Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams (September 9, Blue Note)

Whether or not this is a return to form for Ryan Adams is not for me to say — I have never really investigated his solo career or Whiskeytown, his former band. I still liked Ryan Adams a lot, and found many songs worth playing on repeat: “Am I Safe,” “Gimme Something Good,” “Trouble,” “Feels Like Fire,” etc. | Review

2015 Grammy Award Nominations

  • Best Rock Album
  • Best Rock Performance – “Gimme Something Good”
  • Best Rock Song – “Gimme Something Good”

#24: Pharrell Williams – G I R L (March 4, Columbia)

Given the sheer ubiquity of Pharrell Williams in the mainstream over the past few years, it would be understandable if we started to feel some Pharrell fatigue. That day may still come, but considering how long it took Williams to release his first solo album in the wake of all his producing and guest vocal success, it could be a little while before we get another G I R L if Williams continues working with others at his current clip. G I R L is a perfect showcase for Williams’ many talents, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that it is less than the sum of its parts as a result. Still, the production is marvelous and there are lots of memorable songs (including, obviously, “Happy”). | Review

2015 Grammy Award Nominations

  • WIN: Best Urban Contemporary Album
  • WIN: Best Music Video – “Happy”
  • Album of the Year

Note: Williams also won in the Best Pop Solo Performance category for a live version of “Happy” which does not appear on the album.

#23: Jack White – Lazaretto (June 10, Columbia/XL/Third Man)

I’m a huge fan of Jack White’s various projects, and enjoyed his 2012 solo debut Blunderbuss a lot, but I just couldn’t get into Lazaretto for the longest time. Thankfully, though, it has been growing on me considerably lately — had I given myself some more time to fiddle with this list, it might have ranked even higher. Though some songs still tend to fly on by without really registering unless I am paying careful attention, Lazaretto is shaping up to be a classic grower. | Review

2015 Grammy Award Nominations

  • WIN: Best Rock Performance – “Lazaretto”
  • Best Alternative Music Album
  • Best Rock Song – “Lazaretto”

#22: K. Michelle – Anybody Wanna Buy a Heart? (December 9, Atlantic)

Not just a solid contemporary R&B album, but a classy one as well — of all the R&B I sampled in 2014, K. Michelle sounds the most traditional. Which makes her status as a reality television celebrity nothing short of confounding. I have never seen her show on VH1 — in fact, I don’t watch anything at all on VH1 nowadays — but judging by the material Anybody Wanna Buy a Heart?, K. Michelle is quite an artist, and deserves to be considered an artist first and reality TV star second. | Review

#21: Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks – Wig Out at Jagbags (January 7, Matador)

While Wig Out at Jagbags doesn’t really compare to, say, Slanted and Enchanted by Malkmus’ former band Pavement — honestly though, few albums are in that league — it is still a really, really solid album of considerable craft. Only a few songs — “Houston Hades,” “J Smoov,” and “Chartjunk” — are truly stunning (“Lariat” is probably the next contender for that list), but overall, this is another really good album and joyous set of tunes from arguably the greatest alternative singer/songwriter. | Review

#20: The Black Keys – Turn Blue (May 13, Nonesuch)

Another solid effort from the duo that finds them exploring a more psychedelic template this time around. Songwriting-wise, Turn Blue is a step below both 2011’s El Camino and 2010’s Brothers — none of the songs are bad or even less than pretty good, but killer songs are few and far between, with just one (the borderline disco track “10 Lovers”) registering as an immediate favorite. | Review

2015 Grammy Award Nominations

  • Best Rock Album
  • Best Rock Performance – “Fever”
  • Best Rock Song – “Fever”

#19: FKA twigs – LP1 (August 5, Young Turks)

The Twilight Saga‘s Rob Pattinson is many things, and one of them is the fiancé of FKA twigs, an emerging British R&B artist. LP1, as its title states, is her first album, and it’s a good one. Despite its nondescript title, LP1 reveals itself to be pretty personal and particular, and its electro R&B production, despite not exploring anything truly new, is well executed. | Review

2015 Grammy Award Nominations

  • Best Recording Package

#18: Angaleena Presley – American Middle Class (October 14, Slate Creek)

This may be Presley’s debut LP, but she released it at the age of 38 after toiling away in Nashville for years. You can hear the weariness on the record, and that’s a lot of its charm — at first I wasn’t sure if I was going to like American Middle Class that much, but I’m loving it more and more with each listen. | Review

#17: Charli XCX – SUCKER (December 16, Atlantic/Asylum/Neon Gold)

Contemporary pop albums don’t get much better than SUCKER. The budding British star’s potty mouth is absolutely charming — her first words on the record are, “You said you wanna bang / Well, fuck you, suckerrrrr!!!!!” — and the intense blasts of pop throughout the album are thrilling: just listen to “Caught in the Middle,” “Famous,” “Gold Coins” or the title track for validation. Easily the most compulsively listenable album of 2014. | Review

#16: Big K.R.I.T. – Cadillactica (November 11, Def Jam)

The best rap album of 2014, hands down. Unlike most modern rap productions, Cadillactica actually uses legitimate bass, and its Southern-fried sensibilities pitch the record somewhere in between All Eyez on Me and Aquemini…which happen to be two of my favorite rap albums of all time. Needless to say, I liked Cadillactica a lot, even if it is a little long — a couple of the weaker songs could have been excised. Oddly, the first third of the record is easily the weakest, relying on contemporary production techniques that have gotten stale, as if afraid listeners wouldn’t dig the album’s mostly retro sound. Regardless, Cadillactica is absolutely an album worthy of total immersion. | Review

#15: Little Big Town – Pain Killer (October 21, Capitol Nashville)

A surefire nominee for Best Country Album at the 2016 Grammys (“Day Drinking” was the lead single released ahead of the October 1 cutoff), Pain Killer is immensely pleasurable, whether it’s the aforementioned “Day Drinking” or the stunning “Tumble and Fall,” which rides the bass part of Britpop band the Verve’s “Sonnet” — which has a very similar sweep, as well — to sweet victory. Pain Killer reminds me of an early-period Eagles album: there’s greatness here, but by distributing lead vocal duties relatively equally, the group is probably holding themselves back a bit from touching greater glory. Hopefully soon the group will decide on its Don Henley and make their Hotel California. | Review

2015 Grammy Award Nominations

  • Best Country Duo/Group Performance – “Day Drinking”

#14: Rosanne Cash – The River & the Thread (January 14, Blue Note)

Few albums released in 2014 were as graceful as The River & the Thread. Its songs don’t feel composed as much as finely woven together with only the most tender and delicate of hands pressing pen to paper and fingertips to instruments. As a result, there are some of the best-written songs of the year here, such as the Grammy-winning opener “A Feather’s Not a Bird” and the just-as-worthy closer “Money Road.” | Review

2015 Grammy Award Nominations

  • WIN: Best Americana Album
  • WIN: Best American Roots Performance – “A Feather’s Not a Bird”
  • WIN: Best American Roots Song – “A Feather’s Not a Bird”

#13: Future Islands – Singles (March 25, 4AD)

There aren’t many bands from Baltimore, I have noticed — and I keep track because I grew up in nearby Annapolis. I’m therefore not sure what Baltimore music is supposed to sound like, if there is any kind of local scene at all (it’s not a big city, nor is it a city known for its music), but I dig Future Islands and their new wave approach to contemporary indie rock. Singles‘ best songs — “Doves,” “A Song for Our Grandfathers,” “Like the Moon” — are simply unforgettable. | Review

#12: TV on the Radio – Seeds (November 18, Harvest)

Before giving Seeds a spin, I had not listened to any of TV on the Radio’s albums from start to finish — pretty much the only song of theirs I was familiar with was “Wolf Like Me.” Nothing on Seeds exceeds the heights of that song, but the material is quite strong nonetheless. At least half of the album — led by “Careful You” — is mesmerizingly top-shelf, and the rest is good, too. | Review

#11: The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream (March 18, Secretly Canadian)

I loved Kurt Vile’s Wakin on a Pretty Daze in 2013, and this hazy stroke of brilliance is pretty much more of the same. (Vile used to be in the War on Drugs before setting off on his own, it’s worth noting.) “Under the Pressure,” the lead track, is probably my favorite song of the year, and while the rest of the songs don’t quite reach the heights of the opener, it’s still a damn enjoyable listen. | Review

#10: Miranda Lambert – Platinum (June 3, RCA Nashville)

An hourlong hodgepodge of Nashville goodness, Miranda Lambert’s latest reaffirms her position as the queen of contemporary country, and is the best country album of 2014 I have come across. I almost get the sense these days that Nashville is the last remaining bastion of the traditional record factory process: where talented writers and players come together in an attempt to just make authentic, great music. Platinum, with its variety of tracks, celebrates this process by being an ideal example of it. | Review

2015 Grammy Award Nominations

  • WIN: Best Country Album
  • Best Country Solo Performance – “Automatic”
  • Best Country Duo/Group Performance – “Somethin’ Bad”
  • Best Country Song – “Automatic”

#9: alt-J – This Is All Yours (September 23, Infectious)

An excellent effort from indie rockers alt-J, who scored a deserved Grammy nom for This Is All Yours. There’s a mystical vibe to the record, and hooks are present on many songs too, so there are some great singles like “Every Other Freckle” and “Left Hand Free,” which have found their way onto alternative radio. | Review

2015 Grammy Award Nominations

  • Best Alternative Music Album

#8: FREEMAN – FREEMAN (July 22, Partisan)

Aaron Freeman stops performing as Gene Ween, forms his own band, names it after his last name (his real one), and releases this stellar album. It’s remarkably accomplished and suitably adult — Freeman left Ween to reclaim his sobriety, but he appears to have stumbled upon some form of paradise with this album. | Review

#7: St. Vincent – St. Vincent (February 25, Republic/Loma Vista)

A deserving winner of the Best Alternative Music Album Grammy which, these days, encapsulates all of indie rock with just five nominees. (These days, what was “alternative” twenty years ago is now filed under Best Rock Album, in most cases.) St. Vincent reminds me a lot of PJ Harvey when she was a few albums into her career. | Review

2015 Grammy Award Nominations

  • WIN: Best Alternative Music Album

#6: Spoon – They Want My Soul (August 5, Loma Vista)

Spoon continues its long-running streak of quality indie rock with They Want My Soul, which is just plain good stuff. The mastering isn’t great (i.e., it’s quite a loud record), but the content is excellent. Terrific groove-based rock, presented in a concise manner — They Want My Soul is just 37 minutes long. | Review

#5: Jenny Lewis – The Voyager (July 29, Warner Bros.)

One of the easier albums of 2014 to recommend; The Voyager has a lot of middle-of-the-road appeal. Unfortunately, since Lewis is branded as an indie rock artist — even though she’s signed to major-label Warner Bros. — The Voyager barely managed to crack the top ten on the Billboard 200. If sales were based on merit, The Voyager would have done as well as the album it sounds a lot like: Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours. | Review

#4: Aphex Twin – Syro (September 23, Warp)

The most richly satisfying electronic album I heard in 2014, Syro endlessly explores texture after texture on track after track. Always good to hear an old master back at work, doing what he does best. If it weren’t for the bland, palate cleanser of a closer (“aisatsana [102]”), Syro could have been my #1. | Review

2015 Grammy Award Nominations

  • WIN: Best Dance/Electronic Album

#3: D’Angelo and The Vanguard – Black Messiah (December 15, RCA)

Thank God D’Angelo emerged from the abyss and dropped this grenade on us to breathe some much needed life into a disappointing year. Not as good as Voodoo, his magnum opus — as is often the case with albums by seasoned vets, D’Angelo’s craft is better than his songs. A good problem to have if the songs are good. | Review

#2: Stevie Nicks – 24 Karat Gold: Songs from the Vault (September 30, Reprise)

A terrible idea for an album on paper: collect the best of Stevie Nicks’ demos that never have seen the light of day, and head into the studio with them to cut a brand new studio album. Neither Nicks nor Fleetwood Mac have released a relevant LP in decades, so surely Nicks’ best songs in her vaults have been unearthed by now, right? Nope: 24 Karat Gold is absolutely fantastic, displaying a lot of variety. The sound is contemporary, but the songs are pure and classicist. | Review

#1: Sun Kil Moon – Benji (February 11, Caldo Verde)

It may have the worst cover on the list (seriously, it’s terrible), but it’s the 2014 album I enjoyed the most and is the one I came the closest to considering a masterpiece. Ultimately, I just couldn’t quite pull the trigger on a 5-star rating though — I’m not sold as to whether this is going to be a lasting, all-time classic or just a very good singer/songwriter album. Time will tell, but regardless of whether the lyrical approach is too direct (it very well might be), I found these songs startling and effective. | Review

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