Top Albums 2014

Didn’t get to spend as much time with albums this year. Been more of a singles years. That said, two albums were released this year that are tremendous efforts. One, a long-awaited album from a singer / songwriter. The other, a coupling of veteran rappers in a follow-up to a decent album.

Damien Rice – My Favourite Faded Fantasy
Eight years after the release of the just OK 9 (save one of his best songs “9 Crimes”), Rice’s return was one of strength. The album has not-so-much of the loud / quiet / loud / quiet / loud of O, and seems to be more polished. But that’s not a deterrent, far from it. A song like “Trusty And True” benefits from that structure. It’s a slow build. Sort of akin to Sigur Rós’ “Festival.” Though a less boisterous finale, but no less powerful. Also love that he brought in collaborators like David Rawlings, Alex Somers (Jónsi), Tina Dico and Markéta Irglová.

Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2
Abrasive. Fast. Political. Deft. Profane. Ballsy. Hype. Brutal. These are all words, along with hundreds more, that can describe Run The Jewels 2. It’s not for every one. Gotta know that going in. Killer Mike and El-P teamed up last year for the first Run The Jewels album, which was alright. Had a couple of good songs, but nothing to write home about. Straight out the gate, Run The Jewels 2 completely flips the script. It’s intense, to say the least. Also has a super short running time of 39 minutes. In that limited time, they never let off the gas. It’s all a streak of rubber, cloud of thirty weight. As expressed in the track “Blockbuster Night, Pt. 1”, via Killer Mike: “Top of the morning, my fist to your face is fucking Folgers.” Goodsweetlord. Run The Jewels 2 is what Watch The Throne wishes it was. Mikey and Jaime (Killer Mike and El-P’s names, which they use as nicknames) are all balls and bravado. But not in the way that Jay-Z and Kanye displayed on Watch The Throne. Which seemed more “I’m the greatest cause I drive Bentley’s and I’m with Beyonce / Kim K” way. It’s more in the Alvin Mack school of “let’s open up a can of kick ass and kill ’em all, let the paramedics sort ’em out” vein.

Worth mentioning:
Vince Staples – Shyne Coldchain Vol. 2 mixtape / Hell Can Wait EPStaples is an up-and-coming rapper out of Compton. Which’ll, of course, draw comparisons to his short term predecessor, Kendrick Lamar. Both the mix tape and EP are full of good tracks, but not yet whole albums. That said, “Nate” is my pick for song of the year. Followed closely by “Limos,” featuring Teyana Taylor, which is in my top five. Staples is already guesting all over the place, from the likes of Common and Earl Sweatshirt. He’ll pop in 2015, if he’s not overshadowed by Lamar who has a new album releasing.

Benjamin Booker – Benjamin Booker
Booker came roaring out of New Orleans with his self-titled debut. I haven’t had enough time to sit with his album, but it’s damn good, raw rock ‘n’ roll. The opening track, “Violent Shiver,” is currently on constant repeat.

Disappointment of the year:
Foo Fighters – Sonic Highways
With all the build up, all the hype, the scope from the onset, this almost had to be a letdown. I thought Grohl and Co. were going to emulate each region a little more. No. Not really. In fact, some of the guest contributions are so small, they’re barely audible. I like the Foo Fighters. Though feel like the last few albums have been a bit monotonous. Sonic Highways feels like more of the same. Which is a miss. A big miss, considering the genesis of the project.

Haven’t had a chance to listen, but probably would fit in:
The Haden Triplets – The Haden Triplets
D’Angelo – Black Messiah
Rob Ickes, Jerry Douglas, Mike Auldridge – Three Bells / Earls of Leicester – Earls of Leicester
PRhyme – PRhyme
Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music


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