Alex's Top 150 Albums Of 2014

Frequent contributor Alex Wood has assembled his list of the top 150 albums of the year.

1. Jack White- Lazaretto

Lazaretto is an instant classic, an album that successfully combines the sounds of Jack White’s past work and influences to create something wholly his own. A record free of crazy effects and using no compression in the production process, each song consists of layers of instruments sounding the way they actually sound. White’s riffs rival any of his best work with the Stripes or Raconteurs while the lyrics balance playfulness with attitude, creative imagery with straightforward concepts. This record belongs in any rock fan’s collection and is as much ‘classic rock’ as most of the classics.

2. Parquet Courts- Sunbathing Animal

The endlessly prolific Parquet Courts struck gold this year with Sunbathing Animal. The album finds the band straying further from their punk roots, stretching out comfortably into wandering jams that somehow meander with precision, always building and growing while circling back to prior musical themes and lyrical sections. The record is packed with energy, drawing easy comparisons to early Velvet Underground or the earliest years of the post-punk scene with its clever lyrics and sharp, angular riffs. Sunbathing Animal is evidence of the New York four-piece’s maturation, accomplished solely through solid songwriting.

3. Prince & 3RDEYEGIRL- Plectrumelectrum

Prince returned with a vengeance in 2014, releasing two acclaimed full-lengths simultaneously. Plectrumelectrum featured a new band, 3RDEYEGIRL, consisting of three female musicians from three different countries, and surprisingly wound up being amongst the hardest rocking records of the year. The album is rooted in the funkiness and sexuality fans expect from Prince, but with a focus on heavy guitar riffs and solos. The record feels like collaboration between all members, with guitar duties split between Prince and Donna Grantis and vocals contributed by all members. Plectrumelectrum is amongst Prince’s most straightforward rock records to date and, above all else, a reminder of the musician’s ability to shred on a guitar.

4. Kishi Bashi- Lighght

Japanese violinist and songwriter Kishi Bashi produced a stunning and creative collection of songs with 2014’s Lighght. The songs are constantly moving, their textures created by the versatility of the violin work while held in place by warm acoustic guitar and a tight rhythm section. Songs jump from sad violin strokes to upbeat dance numbers in a matter of seconds as members fade in and out of the mix. Kishi Bashi’s vocal delivery is unparalleled, comfortably covering a massive range while delivering gorgeous melodies and distinctive lyrics. Production is dense but clean, allowing the listener to hear each layer of the complex music. Though an impossible album to define by genre, the songs form a truly cohesive whole, becoming one of the year’s catchiest and most unique records.

5. St. Paul & The Broken Bones- Half The City

After two EPs, soul outfit St. Paul & The Broken Bones perfected their sound with 2014’s Half The City. The record is as nostalgic as it is refreshing, a nod to blatant influences that goes far beyond imitation. Paul Janeway’s vocals have the emotional intensity of Otis Redding’s, and the six-piece backing band knows exactly how to execute the classic soul sound to emphasize the powerful vocal delivery. Every instrument enters and exits songs as needed, with a horn section adding an extra punch and a dirty organ providing a necessary, nostalgic touch. The rhythm section keeps energy high, even in slower ballads, paying close attention to dynamics and soloists. Full of talent and passion, St. Paul & The Broken Bones are a breath of fresh air in the often-stale soul revival scene.

6. Prince- Art Official Age

Prince’s second 2014 release stands in stark contrast to Plectrumelectrum. Art Official Age is classic Prince, with funky dance beats full of synthesizers, vocal effects and drum machines. The songs insert Prince’s sexy, smooth vocal hooks into a funk-meets-EDM musical backdrop. The record rarely slows down or falters, yet breaks new ground constantly. From spoken word sections to rap verses to guitar solos to electric keyboard ballads to horn lines, the album finds Prince exploring all possibilities with a successful result that sounds like the record Prince has been trying to make for decades.

7. Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood- Juice

It’s possible that Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood are the best jam band around today. The jazz trio’s already stellar musicianship only improves with the addition of guitarist John Scofield. The four listen closely to one another while performing yet constantly discover new directions to take each groove. Juice sounds more laid-back than 2006’s Out Louder, infusing Afro-Latin rhythms into the group’s blend of jazz, fusion, and rock, with each composition sounding effortless despite the complex musical proficiency. In the end, Juice is an easy yet rewarding listen, and a hard record to dislike.

8. Chet Faker- Built On Glass

Australian electronic musician Nick Murphy, AKA Chet Faker, first gained fame from a sleek cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.” Far from a one-hit-wonder, Chet Faker’s debut full-length builds on his distinctive sound, with laid-back keyboards and layers of vocals moving songs slowly forward over clean electronic drumbeats. As layers are added and subtracted, songs grow to emotional climaxes and diminish to spacious electronic passages, constantly keeping the compositions moving. The tracks are anchored by Murphy’s earnest, heartfelt vocal delivery, thick with harmonies and incessantly soulful, making his songs about love and loss feel genuine and making Built On Glass a truly moving listen.

9. Thom Yorke- Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes

Radiohead’s Thom Yorke released Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes on a random Sunday night through BitTorrent, eliminating any middleman from the process of selling his music. The record is an eerie, spacious electronic endeavor that shows Yorke’s love of the European electronic scene. Relying primarily on keyboards and synthesizers drenched in trippy effects, the album is as much about Nigel Godrich’s flawless production as it is Yorke’s songs. Glitchy noises and vocal effects flutter through the background of songs constantly, making the simple compositions sound restless and alive. A unique release amongst countless electronic albums this year, Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes is completely new territory for Thom Yorke and substantiation for the singer’s relevance in the contemporary scene.

10. Beck- Morning Phase

Morning Phase is considered a companion piece to 2002’s Sea Change, and comparisons between the two are almost too easy. The new album, Beck’s first in six years, finds the musician at his most serious, lyrically, contemplating relationships and heartbreak, with beautiful musical arrangements to match. Songs are dense, with layers of strings, piano, acoustic guitar and background vocals combining to create a passionate backdrop that passes its aching tendencies on to the listener. The record’s sadness is matched by its beauty, and the perfect production emphasizes every piece of the musical puzzle, making every song sound purposeful and calculated, as though Beck reflected on the songs daily for the past six years. Morning Phase is a gorgeous record as complex as anything Beck has done, and serves as a welcome return for the musical mastermind.


1. Jack White- Lazaretto

2. Parquet Courts- Sunbathing Animal

3. Prince & 3RDEYEGIRL- Plectrumelectrum

4. Kishi Bashi- Lighght

5. St. Paul & The Broken Bones- Half The City

6. Prince- Art Official Age

7. Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood- Juice

8. Chet Faker- Built On Glass

9. Thom Yorke- Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes

10. Beck- Morning Phase

11. Ryan Adams- Ryan Adams

12. The Men- Tomorrow’s Hits

13. St. Vincent- St. Vincent

14. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks- Wig Out At Jagbags

15. Edward David Anderson- Lies & Wishes

16. Sylvan Esso- Sylvan Esso

17. Duo De Twang- Four Foot Shack

18. TV On The Radio- Quartz

19. Future Islands- Singles

20. Ty Segall- Manupulator

21. Robert Plant & The Sensational Space Shifters- Lullaby and… The Ceaseless Roar

22. The Black Keys- Turn Blue

23. Conor Oberst- Upside Down Mountain

24. Nickel Creek- A Dotted Line

25. Broken Bells- After The Disco

26. Spoon- They Want My Soul

27. Owen Pallett- In Conflict

28. Aphex Twin- Syro

29. tUnE yArDs- Nikki Nack

30. Todd Terje- It’s Album Time

31. Sun Kil Moon- Benji

32. Sturgill Simpson- Metamodern Sounds In Country Music

33. Run The Jewels- Run The Jewels 2

34. Matt Wilson Quartet + John Medeski- Gathering Call

35. Woods- With Light & With Love

36. Radio Moscow- Magical Dirt

37. The New Pornographers- Brill Bruisers

38. Foxygen- …And Star Power

39. Chad VanGaalen- Shrink Dust

40. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings- Give The People What They Want

41. Greensky Bluegrass- If Sorrows Swim

42. Ex-Hex- Rips

43. Jenny Lewis- The Voyager

44. D’Angelo And The Vanguard- Black Messiah

45. Nick Waterhouse- Holly

46. Iceage- Plowing Into The Field Of Love

47. King Tuff- Black Moon Spell

48. Tweedy- Sukierae

49. Hurray For The Riff Raff- Small Town Heroes

50. Flying Lotus- You’re Dead!

51. First Aid Kit- Stay Gold

52. People Under The Stairs- 12 Step Program

53. FKA Twigs- LP1

54. Mac DeMarco- Salad Days

55. The War On Drugs- Lost In The Dream

56. Freeman- Freeman

57. Band Of Skulls- Himalayan

58. The New Basement Tapes- Lost On The River

59. Alt-J- This Is All Yours

60. Ought- More Than Any Other Day

61. Strand Of Oaks- Heal

62. Old 97’s- Most Messed Up

63. Black Lips- Underneath The Rainbow

64. Christopher Owens- A New Testament

65. Reigning Sound- Shattered

66. Justin Townes Earle- Single Mothers

67. The Growlers- Chinese Fountain

68. Damien Rice- My Favourite Faded Fantasy

69. Cloud Nothings- Here And Nowhere Else

70. Deerhoof- La Isla Bonita

71. Thee Oh Sees- Drop

72. Johnny Marr- Playland

73. Caribou- One Love

74. Lydia Loveless- Somewhere Else

75. Courtney Barnett- The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas

76. White Lung- Deep Fantasy

77. Parquet Courts- Content Nausea

78. Marco Benevento- Swift

79. Real Estate- Atlas

80. Temples- Sun Structures

81. TOPS- Picture You Staring

82. David Bazan and Passenger String Quartet- Volume 1

83. together PANGEA- Badillac

84. Flaming Lips & Fwends- With A Little Help From My Fwends

85. Hard Working Americans- Hard Working Americans

86. Bruce Springsteen- High Hopes

87. Andrew Bird- Things Are Really Great Here, Sort Of…

88. The Rentals- Lost In Alphaville

89. Allah-Las- Worship The Sun

90. Phantogram- Voices

91. Rob Cantor- Not A Trampoline

92. Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy- Singer’s Grave A Sea Of Tongues

93. Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers- Hypnotic Eye

94. Luke Winslow-King- Everlasting Arms

95. Mogwai- Rave Tapes

96. The Hold Steady- Teeth Dreams

97. OFF!- Wasted Years

98. Bob Mould- Beauty & Rain

99. U2- Songs Of Innocence

100. Total Control- Typical System

101. Shellac- Dude Incredible

102. Drive-By Truckers- English Oceans

103. J Mascis- Tied To A Star

104. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib- Piñata

105. Lykke Li- I Never Learn

106. Julian Casablancas + The Voidz- Tyranny

107. Brian eno & Karl Hyde- Someday World

108. She & Him- Classics

109. Thurston Moore- The Best Day

110. The Bad Plus- Inevitable Western

111. Steve Gunn- Way Out Weather

112. The Roots- …And Then You Shoot Your Cousin

113. Damon Albarn- Everyday Robots

114. Alvvays- Alvvays

115. A Sunny Day In Glasgow- Sea When Absent

116. The Preatures- Blue Planet Eyes

117. Sharon Van Etten- Are We There

118. Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks- Enter The Slash House

119. Fucked Up- Glass Boys

120. Neil Young- Storytone

121. Smashing Pumpkins- Monuments To An Elegy

122. Linda Perhacs- The Soul Of All Natural Things

123. Shabazz Palaces- Lese Majesty

124. The Notwist- Close To The Glass

125. Bill Frisell- Guitar In The Space Age

126. NehruvianDOOM- NehruvianDOOM

127. Morgan Delt- Morgan Delt

128. Mr. Twin Sister- Mr .Twin Sister

129. The Coral- The Curse Of Love

130. Quilt- Held In Splendor

131. The Infamous Stringdusters- Let It Go

132. Zammuto- Anchor

133. Elbow- The Take Off And Landing Of Everything

134. Bela Fleck & Abagail Washburn- Bela Fleck & Abagail Washburn

135. EMA- The Future’s Void

136. Morrissey- World Peace Is None Of Your Business

137. Kevin Drew- Darlings

138. Delta Spirit- Into The Wide

139. Jessica Lea Mayfield- Make My Head Sing

140. Coldplay- Ghost Stories

141. Circulatory System- Mosaics Within Mosaics

142. Perfect Pussy- Say Yes To Love

143. The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart- Days Of Abandon

144. Robyn Hitchcock- The Man Upstairs

145. Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra- Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light On Everything

146. Marissa Nadler- July

147. Leonard Cohen- Popular Problems

148. Hospitality- Trouble

149- Pink Floyd- The Endless River

150. Foo Fighters- Sonic Highways

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