5. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
Incorporating the improvisational spirit and ecstatic energy of hard bop jazz with Flying Lotus’ signature blend of ambient electronica and hip hop hooks, You’re Dead! immerses the listener in a twitchy, psychedelic journey, full of surprises and chaos.
Jazz music is viewed by many as a dated musical genre; You’re Dead! deserves its place on the top albums of 2014 for its innovation, creativity, and for infusing jazz music with new life and relevancy.
4. Timber Timbre – Hot Dreams
The Canadian folk-blues trio have always incorporated a cinematic quality in their music. For their third studio album, Hot Dreams, they pulled inspiration from sinister southern gothic themes and haunting tales of love, lust and the occult, to create the feeling of a film noir-style western. Lead singer Taylor Kirk’s haunting baritone, paired with the eerie atmospheric instrumentation featured throughout the album, immediately draws you into the glamorous yet menacing world unfurled. Hot Dreams feels so timeless and immersive, it’s undeniable that Timber Timbre are masters of storytelling.
3. D’Angelo and The Vanguard – Black Messiah
Originally intended for a late 2015 release date, D’Angelo decided to unleash his revolutionary spiritualism in light of the recent Ferguson protests and Occupy Wall Street movement. Black Messiah is one of the most raw and organic albums of the year, painstakingly crafted during his 15-year absence from the music scene, while battling drug and alcohol addiction. This is soul music with real soul: dark and tormented, yet spiritual and uplifting. With all of the racism, violence and oppression we’ve witnessed this year, Black Messiah’s message is essential.
2. St. Vincent – St. Vincent
Drawing a clear influence from her recent collaboration with ex-Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, St. Vincent’s eponymous fourth studio album is a departure from her previous sound, with glorious results. The album incorporates elements of funk and art-rock, all within St. Vincent’s distinct pop sensibility, to create an irresistibly confident and progressive release that nearly stole the top spot on my list.
1.Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste
This year saw the surprise release of Harlem rapper Azealia Banks’ highly anticipated debut album, Broke With Expensive Taste. It’s been three years since Banks’ breakout single “212,” but the delay has done nothing to affect the freshness of her tracks. The album is a fusion of hip hop, rap, UK garage and house; a seamless mix enabled by superb production, in addition to Banks’ confident rap phrasing and raw talent. Because of its fearlessly contemporary sound, unapologetic personality and all of the doubt and criticism surrounding its release, Broke With Expensive Taste has earned the top spot of 2014.