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Albums of the Year

Actress, Ghettoville

The Top Albums of 2014

Music writing and music enthusiasm don’t mix—let’s change that. With the help of an army of YouTube commenters, we gush over our selections for the 31 best albums of the year.

A cardinal sin of music writing—sandwiched between sloth and envy—is enthusiasm. Either by venturing into superlatives (your critical balance is at stake) or by describing the music: a sure path into a minefield of over-modified prose.

Yet when listening to the music we love, as writers or readers, enthusiasm and description become our primal communication. We are caught up in the moment, taken aloft by the rhythm and melody, so where can we express it? In the only place where reputations are thankfully disposable and honesty reigns brutally supreme: YouTube comments.

Below are my 31 favorite albums of the year, alongside YouTube commentary from various videos off those albums (or in the case of more obscure artists, from their other videos). My take on these commenters’ takes: I agree with every single one of them. Sic throughout.

Playlists

 

31. FKA Twigs, LP1
 

OMFG. I am very picky about my music and vids. I've already watched six of FKA twigs videos and every single one of them is better than anything her contemporaries are doing. She's about to blow up the internet ; she might be the new Bowie. OMFG. »

perfection in every second »

Its poetry & noise put together to make beautiful music... I love it. I'm enthralled... »

she's arguably one of the most interesting artists right now »

I don't know why but this song reminds me of those Renaissance paintings or those statues made by the Ancient Greeks. »

listen to this in the dark and you will LOSE YOURSELF »

 

30. Sleaford Mods, Divide and Exit
 

Too all the silly gits who don't "get" this music - you obviously didn't grow up working class in the Midlands of England. Not that you needed to to appreciate a groovin little tune when you hear one. But if you did, council estates and all, this speaks to your bones and makes them want to dance a jig. »

The sound of the future today. Genius and poet. »

Shit day at work with a manager that doesn't have a F~~~~~~g clue, so I've come here and it's helped a lot, listened to half a dozen of your songs and I feel a bit more Human. Come to the North East we need you see I'm even smiling. Thanks both of you. »

This is the punkest band in the world today. »

This is what music will be like for the next five years. »

 

29. Sylvan Esso, Sylvan Esso
 

best album of the year »

My phone has died twice, not from looking thru facebook, or texting. Its died twice because every time the song ends i start it over again. I love this jam »

I love the mood of this song so much. it always remembers me to a conversation i had with a stranger in a empty starbucks in munich early in the morning. he was such a nice young man. it was just a encounter for 15 min and we both knew they we wouldnt see each other again but it was so nice and special. and this song was playing there at this time »

never heard anything so amazing »

 

28. White Lung, Deep Fantasy
 

fuck, this sound is simply badass. PERFECT! »

A little shoegaze with your punky noise? Tastes good. I like that band the Babies too, their song "Baby" is a great one. »

This shit fucking ROCKS. »

I played this song during yoga the other day. The results were interesting. »

 

27. Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden
 

This just came on sirius xm while I was in the drive thru at taco bell. I refused to turn it down. Got some less than amused looks from other people in line and the people at the windows. »

wow this is freaking amazing, I hate labels but it's like shoegaze, Ozzy, sludgy grunge black metal had a lovechild and it was good...thank you universe »

Pallbearer is one of the best bands I've ever heard, regardless of genre. »

When did metal transform itself from hellraising music to this blossoming explosion of beauty? »

This song is so beautiful... I want it for my funeral... »

 

26. Against Me!, Transgender Dysphoria Blues
 

I really don't get why people bitch about not being able to relate to this album, when at it's core the album is about someone who is an outsider in society and doesn't fit in to society's idea of "normal" and we can all relate to that. »

This song makes me really think I can do anything. It doesn't matter what society tells you. Its really just up to me on what I want to do and who I look up to! I think this will be the song that will help me through my hellish freshman year »

I am very glad I discovered this band, not even just glad, I'm grateful. »

The best fuck you song to anybody who didn't get you or bullied you. »

This makes me think of my abusers. Not gonna lie. »

 

25. D'Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah
 

This is the greatest album of the decade. »

If you could steal music from the Gods and bring it back to people on Earth, I think it would sound something like this. »

D'angelo just ruined every other record released this year. Every fuckin' 'best of' list now looks lame. »

I made the mistake of listening to this song while driving. I WASN'T READY! I had to pull over and just let loose. My goodness! 4:45 and beyond.. I blacked out..So.. much.. FUNK! »

It's not fair to pick a favorite on this album. »

 

24. Sharon Van Etten, Are We There
 

Heard this song this am and I cannot get it out of my head. What a captivating voice to sing such a haunting song »

dear lord there have been so many amazing albums this year. this, angel olsen, hundred waters, sun kil moon, fucked up, and from what i've heard off of iceage's new record thats shaping up to be an AMAZING album. ;alkdjfa;lsdkjfa;skdf i fucking love music and i fucking love van etten i wanna scream it to the sky!!! »

This album is a masterpiece. »

I imagine being on the road with this song while the sun sets »

 

23. Dean Blunt, Black Metal
 

the more I listen to this song, the more it's stuck in my head. What is this witchcraft? »

Man the whole fucking album is stellar. »

A+++++ dark arts »

album of the year incoming »

 

22. Angel Olsen, Burn Your Fire for No Witness
 

I personally think she's the best of the year I love it so much! #unfucktheworld! »

Fuck Barry White. This album saved my life. »

Burn your fire for witness was the first album that impressed me so much that I immediately stopped everything and listened to the whole 45 mins at once! »

I just had a quarrel with my best friends and I'm spending saturday night home alone. So I guess this song is going to be the soundtrack of my night »

Been waiting to hear this since I was born. Going to buy my first record player and record because of this song. »

 

21. Actress, Ghettoville
 

terrific track. one for a sign of the times, where the mundane brutality of la vie quotidienne is interrupted. only with even larger out-of-control catastrophic systems. good stuff! »

I love this song. The beginning of the song is very ominous and gloomy and slowly but steady things get more happy, even though the melody from the beginning of the song keeps playing. It is sad and happy at the same time, which is basically the human existence. »

such a fucking sad song, so much nostalgic euphoria. especially when framed by the crushing bleakness of time, towers and skyline, the futility of the joy contained in its watercolour impression of a high becomes so devastatingly clear... »

Gothic as f**k. Slendermans disco right there. »

i've been following this guy since 2010 when splaszh's youtube videos on had like 300 views apiece. half of them mine. I was the coolest kid in New Jersey. I lifted every day and got drunk every night with my collar popped but when I was alone, in private, this artist was my obsession »

 

20. iceage, Plowing Into the Field of Love
 

Iceage is the best punk band in the world »

The new album is just amazing. They are great, no other words. »

I think this is my favorite so far, it's like Queen if they never went to a music conservatory and Freddy Mercury tried bath salts. But I'm impressed by how these guys are becoming better and better songwriters, this song is beautifully chaotic and messy but at the same time well structured and you can tell they've all evolved as musicians even though this song sounds like a drunk friend singing at your wedding. »

To me this song is about knowing you are of great value or at least of great potential for being someone of great value, prestige, and praise but selling yourself short. Waiting for someone to come along to realize and recognize your worth but that person never coming around..... »

KILLER!!! Love this band.. Album of the Year! »

 

19. Perfume Genius, Too Bright
 

This is the most important song of the year. »

"No family is safe when I sashay" - probably the most meaningful and loaded seven words in any song of 2014. »

It represents my relationship with human society. I am a fool. But a fool with hope. I'll do a little move. And I'll plume and I'll plume... »

"I don't need your love, I don't need you to understand...... I need you to listen." Such pain and honesty in a lyric. »

This is my new anthem. »

 

18. Grouper, Ruins
 

All noise and distraction gets switched off when listening to this. It enables meditative glimpses, like little else I know, into the quiet, essential beauty of the mind I know I have, but can seldom reach. If music can do this, the value of it is immeasurable. Liz Harris knows exactly what she's doing here. And I for one, appreciate her genius. »

I feel like my soul is being separated from my physical form and floating through the atmosphere into space while listening to this. My emotions belong to the universe »

No words can describe this »

I love this song! it just brings out so many emotions in me. I just think of past friends, past lovers, what might of been and what still might be. »

Goosebumps every time. I have not taken the lyrics apart yet only because it is so mysterious and ethereal the way I hear it. I hope this artist gets recognition or whatever they seek. »

Became one of my favorite albums of the year while I was listening to it for the first time. »

 

17. Owen Pallett, In Conflict
 

This is easily one of the most beautifully composed and executed songs of the century. Rise, rise again!!! »

If you listen to it enough, you will wake up at night with your favorite song playing in your head! »

the sweetest 45 first seconds of my life »

Absolutely beautiful. This song had me in tears by the time it was over. Owen's voice is just amazing. <3 »

Owen Pallett makes me want to be the best artist possible. I hope he never stops making music. One of the best composers of our time. »

Reminds me of L.A. and what a horrible place it is, with mostly horrible people. »

 

16. Marissa Nadler, July
 

This song dissolves my physical being to the point there's absolutely nothing left of me aside from my true essence »

holy mother of god. this song, its beautiful. I...wow »

A couple of days ago i was at the beach and it was late and i just stood on the shore watching the black waves stretch on and on... I was playing this song on my phone while this random couple were making out behind me...it felt so melancholic! God l love you Marissa! »

Scientifically we, like all matter, are atoms in vibration. Sound is like a way for us to return to our most basic form of existence, where we could be anything. »

that chorus is sending shivers down my spine. »

 

15. Flying Lotus, You’re Dead!
 

This is what plays when my alarm goes off, Its like a symphony for how my mind wakes up. »

As a 16 year old, I fucking love artists like Flying Lotus. I'm definitely in that period of life people have described to me before where you're slowly getting closer to adult life and you realise more about how life works, how people interact, some bitter realisations you never made before. Just trying to figure shit out, and wondering how you're gonna look at everything 5 - 10 years from now. To me, FL is perfect for the late nights of that kind of thinking: He plays with your emotions, is extremely soulful, and puts it all together in a perfect package. It always takes me a while to really appreciate any new stuff he puts out, but when it starts to warm up to me it instantly becomes perfect. »

FlyLo is one of those artists producers in the future will try to sample and fail miserably »

 

14. Vessel, Punish, Honey
 

Sounds like a party for cows with balance disorders. Which is nice. »

feel like i´m crossing the border to a beligerant yet virtuous and wild country through a wooden shaky bridge »

the dozers from fraggle rock have become zombies. and now the cute little guys are slowly emerging from the ground, coming for you. this is their theme music. »

I always picture a dark nighttime forest when i hear this song. »

great textures, huge space...sounds like cave echos that have been reverberating since antiquity. super like it!! »

 

13. Cloud Nothings, Here and Nowhere Else
 

this is definitely near the top of the year-end list, if the year-end list isn't full of pretentious garbage. »

Currently my #1 song of the year from my #1 album of the year. »

Might be the single most kickass tune I've heard this year. And that's saying a lot. »

I picture pouring rain on a motorway. It's good! »

pure genius, i'm speechless »

The last minute or so of this song is the pinnacle of the album for me. And it's a masterpiece of an album. »

 

12. St. Vincent, St. Vincent
 

Saw her on SNL, I thought o myself "This is really... weird! I'm not sure what to think of it." A month or 2 later, I look her up on YouTube to investigate further (I'm a bit curious). I listen to Digital Witness, and I think to myself, "This is really... weird! I'm still not sure what to think of it." I then listen to a few more of her songs, and again I'm thinking "This is very... odd! Still not sure what to think, I mean she's a fantastic musician, but it's very weird." I listen to this entire album before I finally decide that this is probably the 3rd best thing that's ever happened to my hears ever. »

She is seriously the female David Bowie. It is like good new wave was reborn inside her or something. »

My favorite album of the year so far. My favorite album right now, and for a while now. »

Annie Clark is on a whole new level of music-making, I fear one day she will disappear into her music, her body slowly turned into soundwaves leaving nothing but a guitar that will create feedback with anything in a twenty meter radius. Scientist will later find encoded messages in the feedback from Annie telling us to join her in whichever dimension she is now. »

 

11. The Bad Plus, Inevitable Western
 

Utter Brilliance. »

Astonishingly great writing. So logical and lyrical. Builds and circles back to a stunning crescendo. I love this. »

Brilliance unleashed. »

So this piece starts out in a 4-4-4-3 rhythm. What happens next? »

 

10. Teen, The Way and Color
 

This band needs more publicity here on You Tube. Took me forever to find anything that has been posted on them. »

 

9. Bing & Ruth, Tomorrow Was the Golden Age
 

Album of the year! »

this is so unbelievably gorgeous »

One of the most compelling atmospheres I have heard in music for a while; really beautiful! »

Thoughtcore »

This Is the best song of the years. »

 

8. Fear of Men, Loom
 

wow! I feel like floating! a very good song. »

i like the melody's of this tune its stays in my head and thats good ....what dreams may come . »

Fear of Men has quickly become one of my favorite bands. Thank you. »

Amazing... so sensitive, delicate... breath taking... I'm lost... »

there is so much melancholy and serenity in their songs »

 

7. Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 2
 

These guys beats are like if what kanye does actually worked and didn't sound like a bag of shit »

To those of you familiar with literary short stories, this is based off of the story "Hunters in the Snow" by Tobias Wolff. The story chronicles Tub, Frank, and Kenny well being hunters during winter. Kenny usually picks on Tub until, out of panic, Tub shoots Kenny. Insert South Park reference. Frank and Tub then proceed to eat at a diner after driving and not take Kenny to the hospital while he is dying. »

Are you fukkin kidding me???? When the beat changes at 02:33, that is insane. The whole album is something else, unofficial album of the year. »

that beat needs to be scrubbed for a week straight, shit is so dirty »

 

6. Wye Oak, Shriek
 

I love and always will love this song. »

This is the catchiest 2-chord progression ever »

This will be on repeat until April 29th. »

i was literally obsessed with this song all summer and i just found it again adn i cant stop listening oh my god one of my all time favorite songs »

 

5. Aphex Twin, Syro
 

The best piece of music I've ever heard. »

Some people just haven't developed the neural connections to understand artists like Aphex Twin, Boards of Canada etc., and that's perfectly ok. Just don't flood the internet corners of those artists with unintelligent and irrelevant comments. You will get many likes, but believe me, if the people that liked your comments were to somehow surface and show themselves it wouldn't be very flattering for you… Or maybe it would be, because feeling insulted would require critical thinking from your part… »

I am one of the few in my town who has a giant double sided sticker for this album. And no it is not for sale. »

 

4. A Winged Victory for the Sullen, ATOMOS
 

One of the most beautiful pieces of modern ambient/classical music. »

Best song of existence. ;P »

It somehow combines the lost memory of being a happy kid riding a new bike like nothing else mattered on a sunny California day with the feeling you had the last time you were sitting on a beach next to a fire with friends watching a sunset’s dying blush, or like the time you came to your senses and became smart, or noble, or smart and noble and asked someone for forgiveness. Then! Then it all vanishes with a sorrowful fading whisper, until there is nothing left but you sitting there wondering what just happened, except you do not remember how you got there. It is deeply emotive. To me it feels like pain medication or remembrance medication or both at the same time. I become absorbed by listening to it. I feel like it is inside of me, and somehow it is helping me to catch my breath and tap into what my dead wife was feeling when she was dying of cancer. It is so touching. It makes me reflect. It makes me feel depressed in a good way. »

right in the feels. »

 

3. Tune-Yards, nikki nack
 

Wonderful song from one of the best albums of the last decade or two. »

There are not enough fun people in the world to enjoy this song »

One half of me is like omfg that was so amazing share it on everything but then the other half is like dafuq »

Fuck the norm, this song is awesome. »

One of my favorites from the album!!!!, but that's saying a lot giving the fact that every track is great!!! »

I've been sitting all day. This song literally brought me to my feet and I found myself dancing for the first time in years. »

Take that world »

 

2. CEO, Wonderland
 

best artist of our generation »

Song of the year. Goes so deep. On par with '1981' and 'Babylon'. A masterpiece. »

i have seen this 1 mil times »

Eric is the best musician of our time. »

Strange...addictive...masterpiece. »

 

Album of the Year: Andy Stott, Faith in Strangers
 

Stunning album, going to be in the list of best albums this year for sure! »

I love this new masterpiece by the man Andy Stott. »

Listened to the album the whole way through whilst on an frosty morning walk. Keep coming back to this track, perfect for thinking. »

I could put this on repeat 50 times and feel like it's just one long masterpiece with something new to offer every listen. »

Album of the year. »

biopic

Andrew Womack is a founding editor of The Morning News. He is always working on the next installment of the Albums of the Year series at TMN. More by Andrew Womack