Freshly Squeezed’s 20 Best Albums of 2014

20. St. Vincent: St. VincentSt_Vincent_artwork

Annie Clark’s self-titled fourth album as St. Vincent blended her unique post-punk sensibilities with her sharp-witted lyricism and edgy guitar playing. Eccentric, dynamic, and calculatedly cool, St. Vincent is a truly modern rock record.


19. SBTRKT: Wonder Where We LandWonder_Where_We_Land

The highly anticipated follow-up to 2011’s self-titled debut SBTRKT showed off a different side of Aaron Jerome’s production, highlighting the names it featured rather than the SBTRKT enigma itself. Wonder Where We Land attempts to redefine the role of the producer in 2014.

Read the full review here.


18. TV on the Radio: Seeds Tvotr_-_seeds

TV on the Radio’s first album in three years following the death of bassist Gerard Smith in 2011 found the band back on their feet and still creating some of the most anthemic art-rock around, even after all these years. A band that will define the 2000’s for millennials.

Read more about TV on the Radio here.


17. Phantogram: VoicesVoices_album_cover

Voices embodied a kind of dualism, exploring big themes of life and death, and pushing further into the separate territories of electronic and rock music, seamlessly combined here. A record for music lovers of all kinds.


16. Ryan Hemsworth: Alone for the First Timehomepage_large.ba499333

Ryan Hemsworth has undeniably changed the face of electronic music in the last few years, and on Alone for the First Time, he challenges its conventions further, blending swaddling, pillowy production with guest vocalists from his Secret Songs label.

Read the feature here.


15. Flying Lotus: You’re Dead!You're_Dead!

A jazzy, electronic tour de force, You’re Dead! is a psychedelic trip into the mind of Steven Ellison, and its collaborations with Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, and Thundercat are just the tip of the iceberg.


14. Chet Faker: Built on GlassBuilt_on_Glass_album_art 

Chet Faker’s hotly anticipated debut lived up to the high expectations from 2012’s Thinking in Textures EP. A spanning, double-sided album, Built on Glass features Faker’s easily recognizable croon and clever lyricism atop gorgeous electronic production.


13. Spoon: They Want My SoulThey_Want_My_Soul

Hands were clearly a common theme of album covers in 2014.

Spoon’s unique brand of indie rock lived on on They Want My Soul, which soundtracked the end of the summer for the discerning listener. One of the best albums of the year by one of the best bands of the last decade.


12. Glass Animals: ZabaGlass_animals_zaba

Glass Animals’ textured, tropical debut was one of the best breakout surprises of 2014, and one of the most under-appreciated albums of the year. A brilliantly poppy, catchy debut, Zaba combined jungle sounds and drum loops to create a multi-layered, captivating electronic production.


11. Tycho: AwakeTycho_-_Awake

The follow-up to 2011’s Dive, Awake features more of Scott Hansen’s stunning electronic instrumentation as Tycho. Awake is an album to get lost in; for planes and trains and long car rides. Its combination of electronic production with live instrumentation is what makes it a truly modern record, for listeners of all genres.


10. Sharon Van Etten: Are We ThereAreWeThere

Sharon Van Etten’s beautifully honest self-portrait on Are We There made for easily the best singer/songwriter record of 2014, showing off a lighter, more playful side of Etten, but whose sense of lyricism still carries the weight of the world. And it featured one of the best album covers of the year.


9. Alt-J: This Is All YoursAlt-J_-_This_is_all_yours

The hugely anticipated follow-up to 2012’s An Awesome WaveThis Is All Yours took listeners further into the parallel universe in which Alt-J exist, through Nara, its mythical and musical utopia. This Is All Yours is an album to do what you want with, and lose yourself in in the process.

Read the full review here.


8. Jungle: JungleAlbum_66_296_ff6

The self-titled debut from the mysterious London soul collective Jungle redefined the genre in 2014, with timeless tracks like “Time” and “Busy Earnin'” giving listeners just a taste of the funk that permeates Jungle. Dancy, groovy, and so so fresh, Jungle is what’s good in 2014.


7. The War on Drugs: Lost in the DreamLostinthedream

The War on Drugs’ third album chronicled Adam Granduciel’s battle with depression, exploring themes of death and loneliness. A true work of genius, Lost in the Dream channels the greats of 80s-era classic rock in its swirling, authentic production. A record stuck in the past and yet somehow so modern and relevant.


6. Little Dragon: Nabuma RubberbandLittle_Dragon_-_Nabuma_Rubberband

Little’s Dragon’s first album since 2011’s Ritual UnionNabuma Rubberband, was a complex, conceptual record that further cemented the Swedish band’s unique sound and style as one of the most consistently brilliant crossover electronic acts in the world.


5. Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 2RunTheJewelsRTJ2

Darkly funny, politically timely, and underminingly brilliant, Run the Jewels 2 dropped a proverbial bomb on 2014’s otherwise lacking year of hip-hop. Killer Mike and El-P are “the jewels runners, top tag team for two summers” and have their sights firmly set on taking over the world.

Read the full review here.


4. Mac DeMarco: Salad DaysMac_DeMarco_Salad_Days

Mac DeMarco’s follow-up to 2011’s inspired a whole generation of youngsters to grow their hair out, quit their jobs, and chase their dreams. Well, not really, but listening to Salad Days sure feels like you’re doing everything just right.


3. Todd Terje: It’s Album TimeTodd_Terje_-_It's_Album_Time_album_cover

The Norwegian disco king Todd Terje released his debut album It’s Album Time this year to widespread critical acclaim. A jumpy, playful record that’s almost entirely instrumental, the album’s centrepiece, a cover of “Johnny and Mary” by Robert Palmer featuring Bryan Ferry cements It’s Album Time as an instant classic.


2. FKA twigs: LP1FKA_twigs_-_LP1

If you didn’t like FKA twigs’ debut, then you didn’t spend enough time with it. Cerebral, evocative, and boundary-pushing, LP1 represents an innovative approach to songwriting in 2014 and should be sticking around for years to come. A perfectly crafted pop record, FKA twigs’ debut shows us why we don’t need to listen to Nicki Minaj in 2014.


1. Caribou: Our LoveCaribou_Our_Love

Dan Snaith’s fourth album as Caribou, and the follow-up to 2010’s Swim, Our Love, explored pop music’s most universal theme in its inviting 42 minutes of euphoric dance music. “Can’t Do Without You” and “Our Love” are album highlights, but Snaith entreats you to enter his world on Our Love, and it’s hard to come back.

Read the full review here.

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Alt-J: ‘This Is All Yours’

Alt-J_-_This_is_all_yours

“There will always be artists experimenting with different styles. There will be few this good.”

Alt-J has always been discordant. Their debut, 2012’s ‘An Awesome Wave,’ epitomized modern music in its diverse and eclectic landscape, drawing on a number of different sources and ideas. Their follow-up, ‘This Is All Yours,’ travels further down the rabbit hole. Miley Cyrus vocal samples and bird calls weave around subtle hooks and rich textures. Whereas ‘An Awesome Wave’ was a triumph of eclecticism, however, ‘This Is All Yours’ is a concept album. Enter Nara—the album’s contextual framework—a city in Japan known for its large, aggressive deer. Unlike ‘An Awesome Wave,’ which was experimental and diverse in its sense of place, ‘This Is All Yours’ creates a fictionalized ‘Nara’ where nature and technology exist harmoniously.

2014 (and the latter part of 2013) has been dominated by ‘art rock’ albums that bring into question the relationship between humans and technology. Arcade Fire’s ‘Reflektor’ suggested that art, like a computer screen, operates as a mirror for our own preconceptions and reflections. With ‘This Is All Yours,’ Alt-J has accomplished something a little different. In Nara we have a sort of utopia, where a technological society and the natural world function in harmony, an idea evoked by the refrain in ‘Arrival in Nara,’ “though I cannot see I can hear.”

Nevertheless, there remain darker complications in Nara—and of course it wouldn’t be a utopia if we had to leave. The climax of the album occurs as though in full wide-screen format in songs like ‘The Gospel of John Hurt,’ and the epic ‘Bloodflood Pt. II,’ which suggests the conflict of a movie battle scene. The song’s final build-up is evocative of Sigur Rós, and the line ‘A flood of blood straight to the heart’ now spans almost 10 minutes of Alt-J’s career.

Weaker songs like ‘Pusher’ feel like filler, but the album’s lead singles (‘Hunger of the Pine,’ ‘Left Hand Free,’ and ‘Every Other Freckle’) are instant Alt-J classics—although ‘Left Hand Free’ is the most distinctly different. Comparisons of its hillbilly alt-rock to The Black Keys miss the connection to fellow English artist Jake Bugg, the Black Keys’ opener on their latest tour.

Like any good album since Pink Floyd, ‘This Is All Yours’ has two sides, separated by the minute-long track ‘Garden of England’—an interlude comprised of bird noises and flutes. But the track that seems most Floydian in influence is quasi-title track ‘Nara,’ which renders the argument that Alt-J is ‘the next Radiohead’ beside the point. There will always be artists experimenting with different styles. There will be few this good.

‘This Is All Yours’ grows on you, like ivy climbing its way up a tree. It has a rawness, a sense of existing in the natural world interposed with sounds found in the hip-hop loop boards of old electronic keyboards. The sonically beautiful ‘Choice Kingdom’ and ‘Warm Foothills’ create an abundance of natural sound images—guest vocalist Maria Hackman and Joe Newman’s interplay on the latter (which also features Conor Oberst) injects the human side of ‘This Is All Yours.’ Alt-J ends the album after ‘Leaving Nara’ with a subdued cover of Bill Withers’ ‘Lovely Day,’ signifying our arrival back in the world outside of Nara—and it feels utopic. The effect is one of the strongest moments on ‘This Is All Yours’ and contributes to the ever-evolving sound of a band at the forefront of modern music.