What a year is was!
2014 saw the birth of Playback as a ‘thing’ and we couldn’t be more proud of what we’ve accomplished over the past couple of months. We’ve got a lot on deck for next year and I can’t wait to share it with everybody. 2015 will be a blast!
…but to the business at hand!
It’s time to look back at the year in music that 2014 was and to count down the very best (in our humble opinion) albums of the year!
10 – Freddie Gibbs & Madlib | Pinata
Somehow the perfect mix of Freddie Gibbs’ technical ability and Madlibs ability to seemingly improvise beats flows so well through this album that even the hard cuts don’t have seems. If this list was the “Realest Albums of 2014” this one would be no. 1 without a doubt. The classic “been there, got out, still represent” storytelling is so great, it’s hard to understand how Gibbs went so underrepresented for so long. An instant classic.
9 – Ty Segall | Manipulator
How do I put into words the amount of music that Ty Segall has up his sleeve? Well, by the time I’m finished this post he’ll probably be done another album or 3. His 2014 offering, Manipulator, is the most diligently crafted he’s released in his career and bodes well for the future. Combining 70’s garage rock and psyche-rock-glam-Jack White-ish sensibility to production Segall’s work is one of a kind.
8 – Mac Demarco | Salad Days
There is no greater split artistic personality than Mac Demarco. Between laughing at poop-jokes and deadpanning lyrics that’ll make you question your own existence the sheer poetry that this Alberta turned Brooklyn-native comes up with. A Pitchfork and Vice darling, Demarco is one of these guys that has a sort of magnetism that can’t be ignored just by being himself. His music reflects this.
7 – St. Vincent | Self-Titled
When I saw St. Vincent play at NXNE in July the sight lines were horrible. I ended up watching a majority of the performance on a screen 10 stories above my head (get your shit together NXNE). Regardless of all of this, it was also the best performance I saw all year. Hands down. About a month later she played SNL as the musical guest and everybody freaked out. “Who is this woman? What the hell is she doing on the ground? Wait… do I even like this song?” It was a bit of a let down to see St. Vincent torn apart for a non-traditional live set on a sketch stage. In the end, it doesn’t matter. 2014 was kicked into high gear when this was released early in the spring.
6 – D’Angelo & The Vanguard | Black Messiah
I’m going to spoil anybody’s day who hasn’t yet listened to this record: this is not the best R&B record of all time. This is not even D’Angelo’s best record overall. That being said, it still makes our list. Over a decade in the making, the amount of work put into this project is self evident. The attention to detail of every snare, slap, and clap, as well as D’Angelo’s ability to take all of his many influences over the last 10+ years and combine them into a listenable whole is unparallelled.
5 – Caribou | Our Love
Dan Snaith pretty much ran the entire gambit of what he is capable of with this release. Critically acclaimed, Our Love, feels like Caribou’s comfort zone. Mature, melancholic at times, fun at other times, Snaith does exactly what he’s good at – electronic indie psych-dance, and retains his composure when stepping out into R&B and Rap realms.
4 – Todd Terje | It’s Album Time
I spoke to a masters student about the single off of Todd Terje’s It’s Album Time, ‘Inspector Norse’. He told me that this was the single most ‘happy’ song he had ever studied and during his own DJ sets would play this in the middle of the night to make sure absolutely everybody was having a good time. I argued that any song off this record would have the exact same effect to varying degrees. He agreed. Todd Terje released my, personally, favourite album of the year just because it makes me fucking smile every time I hear it. Isn’t that what good music is all about?
3 – Aphex Twin | Syro
It would be difficult to pinpoint someone else who had a bigger impact on electronic music over the last 30 years. Even Radiohead’s transformation with OK Computer towards the end of the century was not unprecedented due to Aphex Twin’s previous exploration of the electronic elements used. Richard James’ shadow continued to be cast far into the 00’s and 10’s as we neared the midway point of this decade. Similar to D’Angelo, this record is a culmination of work produced over 13 years of reclusivness and due to the fact that there were no surprises. Again, spoiler to those who haven’t heard it yet: but this is not the best electronic album of all time – but this is exactly what you’d expect from Aphex Twin, if he released it in 2005 or 2025.
2 – The War On Drugs | Lost In A Dream
This one is really challenging to listen to. Authentic and artificial, happy and heart-breakingly sad, the dualism of the sound of this record (without even touching on the subject matter of the lyrics) is enthralling. Regarding the aforementioned subject matter – yeah, it’s pretty heavy stuff too. Touching on band ‘linchpin’ Adam Granduciel’s personal struggles of loneliness, depression, and fear of dying, this record pulls on a lot of heartstrings at points, but also tells the world to ‘fuck off’ in such an originally beautiful way that it was really difficult to rank this at a mere 2nd place on our list.
1 – FKA Twigs | LP1
I had to make it official somehow; this album perfectly represented the time in which it was made. Futuristic R&B, low-synth bass, wavy layered synth, and incredible vocal work that brings forth sometimes very raunchy and sometimes very subtle lyrics which are beautifully written and composed. This album completely and perfectly reflected the mood of the times in 2014.