Surprise! It’s 2015! Good riddance, 2014. You were a hot mess. But the music you brought us is worth keeping (and sharing!).
I know everyone makes cool lists of Top 10 Albums of the Year or even Top 50 or Top Whatever. Back when I was much cooler, I put a lot of effort into narrowing my list down to 10 and calling them the “best.” But since I don’t spend nearly the amount of time and energy on discovering music as I did 5 or 10 years ago (and because my obsession with pop stars has ruined any shred of street cred I had left), I present to you a list of 17ish albums. They might not be the best, but they’re my favorites — my soundtrack to 2014.
Atlas: Year One by Sleeping at Last
This is probably my swooniest entry on the list. Atlas: Year One actually isn’t an album — it’s a collection of six EPs: Darkness, Light, Space 1, Space 2, Land, and Oceans. Every song is beautiful to the point of weeping — the arrangements that swell and build, the careful lyrical stories. Really, so much crying has ensued.
Islands by Bear’s Den
I love this British gem. Islands is a sad, somewhat haunting, yet badass, collection of folky banjos and layered harmonies. It’s like the adorable, sleepy lovechild of Snow Patrol & Band of Horses (?) Agape, the opening track will get stuck in your head in the best way possible. Also Think of England. (We get it. You’re British.)
Ixora by Copeland
Sigh. When I found out Copeland was reuniting to record a new album, I practically started counting down the days til its release. Ixora feels like a logical progression for Copeland. Comfortable piano & guitar ballads + tense beat-driven songs make a lovely collection. In Her Arms You Will Never Starve is perfection.
1989 by Taylor Swift
I mean, obviously. What can be said about 1989 that hasn’t been said already? I went to Target to buy it the day it came out. The only other items in my purchase were 2 boxes of tampons. “I bet this is the girliest purchase you’ll have all day,” I said to the young male Target employee. He laughed and said I needed some chocolate. He was correct. If you haven’t listened to and fallen in love with this album yet, what are you even doing with your life?
Ryan Adams by Ryan Adams
Coming out of retirement (?) to make this album was a pretty good idea. It’s full of heavy, grungy guitar riffs but still manages an overall lightness that makes it easy to listen to. (Easy listening? Sorry, Ryan. I didn’t mean it.) He played a lot of these tunes at his concert a couple months ago, which was magical. He’s so weird, but he’s a musical wizard, and this album is proof.
Strange Desire by Bleachers
Stop what you’re doing, and put on your dancing shoes. Jack Antonoff’s (of fun. fame) first solo project is dark and dancey, and you’ve probably seen/heard me singing it at the top of my lungs in my car a time or two. His voice has this powerful weight that is perfectly paired with fun and flashy beats. There’s also a chance he made this whole thing on his laptop, which is very cool.
Sling Shot to Heaven by Margot & the Nuclear So & So’s
I’m very judicious in my vinyl purchases, and this made the cut. I haven’t loved a Margot album since The Dust of Retreat, but this one so simple and pretty in a way that leaves room for my imagination to make up scenarios for how these songs would play out in real life. That might not make sense, but the point is: this album is a treasure, and I will listen to it on repeat in my pajamas every Saturday morning til forever.
Twin Forks by Twin Forks
And here we have Chris Carrabba’s (Dashboard Confessional) first Twin Forks album, which is a super fun folky / alt-country band that makes you want to slap your knee and dance around in a circle with your buds. It’s less severe than a Dashboard album but with all the good, charming parts. You’ll cry a lot less mascara tears, I promise. Bonus: they’re really fun in concert!
Best of Boiler Room Classics by Mike Adams at His Honest Weight
My pal Mike Adams’ (name drop!) second album should be in everyone’s collection. There’s something to be savored in every line, like riddles you have to let settle into your brain. He does all the instrumentation himself, and the whole thing has a production quality that makes it sound like it’s been ringing in your ears for decades. Best of Boiler Room Classics is a real treat. Watch this infomercial to experience some of the awesomeness.
Morning Phase by Beck
Beck’s always been hit or miss with me, and I think it’s because he’s too good at reinventing himself. Each album is drastically different from the previous one, and I’m just not emotionally prepared for that instability. This album is pure gold, though. Slow tempos, ethereal layered vocals, stripped down just enough to be filled back in with the perfect amount of orchestral arrangements. Morning Phase is just so dark and sleepy and pretty and unassuming.
All Sons & Daughters by All Sons & Daughters
All Sons & Daughters is my favorite Christian band. There’s no flash. No pizzazz. No stuff that doesn’t matter. I’m drawn to the simplicity of their arrangements paired with meaningful, important lyrics. This self-titled album is a lovely follow-up to their first album Season One. If you’ve ever been burnt out on Christian music (*raises hand*) or too snobby to attempt to like it (*raises hand*), give All Sons & Daughters a try.
Multiply by Ed Sheeran
I’ll be the first to admit I wasn’t a fan of Ed Sheeran’s debut album. I was reluctant to give Multiply a try, but I kind of got hooked after one listen. (Although I did have to remove a song called “The Man” from my Spotify playlist. No gracias.) He has a couple poppy beat-driven tracks on the radio, but my favorites are the ones that slow down and showcase his voice like Tenerife Sea or Thinking Out Loud. Give this album a try. You’ll find something you like. Bonus: Ed is an adorable British redhead I’d like to hug.
Lighght by Kishi Bashi
Kishi Bashi is so weird, and I love it. There’s a song on this album called The Ballad of Mr. Steak that is literally about a personified piece of steak. But the music itself is so fun and dancey that the strange subject matter doesn’t really…matter? There are epically catchy orchestra arrangements and electronic sweetness reminiscent of ELO. Come to think of it, his vocals might remind me of ELO, too. God bless ELO.
FOUR by One Direction
I LOVE ONE DIRECTION, AND I DON’T CARE WHAT YOU SAY. Is anything I write here going to convince you to listen to this if you haven’t already? My ears are addicted to every song on this album, which you can hear on repeat in my room while I’m dancing in the mirror. “Tara, do you have floor seats to their concert next fall?” Thank you for asking, you. The answer is YES. YES I DO. (Hi, Harry! *wink*)
Classics by She & Him
I’ve loved She & Him since before I saw them live and my car got towed. This album breathes new life into some old classics (see what they did there?). Zooey’s voice has a way of transporting you to the 50s / 60s whether she’s singing The Itsy Bitsy Spider or anything else, so she really can do no wrong. I’m not sure how she has time to put out albums while she’s also making my favorite TV show and being a full-time Cool Person. But I’ll take it!
1000 Forms of Fear by Sia
When I heard the song Chandelier for the first time, I was like I’M GOING TO CLIMB A MOUNTAIN. I’M GOING TO BECOME PRESIDENT. I’M GOING TO WAKE UP BEFORE 7A.M. I was sure the rest of 1000 Forms of Fear couldn’t come close to its greatness, but was pleasantly surprised. It’s catchy and powerful and serious and fun all at the same time. She’s definitely the real deal as far as female pop artists go. Also, the video for Chandelier is the best thing I’ve ever seen.
Dream Your Life Away by Vance Joy
The first time I heard of Vance Joy, Taylor Swift was doing a cover of his single Riptide, so he had me at hello. Dream Your Life Away is such a triumphant musical debut. It’s not overwrought. It has lots of hand-claps and falsettos and stark guitar pieces. And his voice has this unique quality that makes me want to kiss him on the mouth. (That’s also partly due to the fact that he’s a 6’4″ Australian babe. *faint*)
What are some of your favorite 2014 tunes? Share! Share!