The Best Albums Of 2014: The Ballots

We compiled our year-end albums list by asking our contributors to submit their five favourite albums of the year. And our top ten albums of the year turned out pretty nicely, if we say so ourselves, but if you want to get an idea of how diverse our contributors’ tastes are, or if you just want to check out what you missed this year, then you might want to check out our staff list.

Alexander Si

UltraviolenceLDR[1]

1. Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence

On top of my list is, in my opinion, the best album of the 21st century. This record is like her vision of a horror movie, filled with genuine sentiments, and poetic lyrics. There are absolutely no filler tracks, the entire album seems effortless, and it sounds like the secret child of a god and a monster.

2. Taylor Swift – 1989
3. Paloma Faith – A Perfect Contradiction
4. Ed Sheeran – X
5. Coldplay – Ghost Stories

Angelo Mateo

Album art for Run the Jewels 2

1.Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2

El-P has somehow managed to make Run the Jewels’ sound even harder hitting than the first album. Killer Mike’s unstoppable flow is back and his lyricism on RTJ2 makes him one of hip hop’s elite. But what this album does spectacularly well is that Run the Jewels speaks to the collective political consciousness missing from much of this era’s hip hop. Run the Jewels 2 comes at an important time in America’s social history and speaks to race relations in the country. In the aftermath of Ferguson, Eric Garner, and Donald Sterling, Run the Jewels 2 is not only one of the best produced and well written albums of the year but it’s also one of the most important.

2. BADBADNOTGOOD – III

The boys from Toronto released III, their first full album of completely original material. It does not disappoint. This trio has crafted and honed their genre fusing sound of jazz, hip hop and electronica. Every repeat listen to this album will reveal more nuances within their multilayered tracks.

3. Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso

Not many people are talking about Sylvan Esso, but I wish they did. Amelia Meath’s folksy R&B vocals mixes with Nick Sanborn’s electropop for a sound that seems like another entry in an oversaturated field but is instead a refreshing take on the genre.

4. Damien Rice – My Favourite Faded Fantasy

My Favourite Faded Fantasy either ties or tops O as my favourite Damien Rice album. The record is a return to form for Rice. His songwriting and vocals are depressingly beautiful, without sounding melodramatic. Rick Rubin adds lush instrumentation to Rice’s usual barebones production, and it mostly works. Altogether, MFFF manages to sound fragile yet resonant, simple but elegant and sincere but ambitious.

5. Jessie Ware – Tough Love

There could have been others that could have made my list of top 5 albums. But this is my list of favourite albums, and I thoroughly enjoyed Jessie Ware’s Tough Love. I’ve played the album front to back multiple times in the past few months, and her smooth singing and catchy production is what gives Tough Love a spot on my list.

Ayla Shiblaq

Are We There (Album Artwork)

1. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
2. St. Vincent – St. Vincent
3. Iceage – Plowing into the Field of Love
4. Ought – More than Any Other Day
5. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness

Dede Akolo

1. St. Vincent – St. Vincent
2. Interpol – El Pintor
3. Little Dragon – Nabuma Rubberband
4. Junglepussy – Satisfaction Guaranteed
5. Warpaint – Warpaint

Claire Cowan

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1. Sam Smith – In the Lonely Hour

Okay, so initially when Adele made a breakthrough in music, I was convinced no one would ever sing with as much passion as she, but then Sam Smith happened. Surprising me out of nowhere, I discovered Disclosure’s “Latch”, which drew me a direct map right to the vocalist. Many, if not all of the tracks on this album feature some form of Smith’s heart as he tells stories of falling in and out of love, combined with his struggle of loving a man who ended up feeling differently. The passion is there, and the way he hangs onto certain words with his voice… I am certain my heart falls apart. Although I was personally fonder of Sam’s acoustic renditions of his songs, the album came together beautifully, and I look forward to seeing even more awards come as a result of this.

2. Odesza – In Return

After seeing Odesza play in New York City and Toronto, I am certain that they will never disappoint live, and through headphones. I had only come across Odesza about a year ago, and through watching their fan base grow, as well as the diversity of their music, it seems clear that they are capable of appealing to a wide range of people, without losing their sound. With summery electro sounds and features by many unrecognized artists, Odesza teams up with vocalists that seem to give just as much to the album as they do, bringing each track full circle with a balanced blend of their sound and their featured artist’s sound. Important tracks include “Say My Name” featuring Zyra, and “All We Need” featuring Shy Girls, filled with enough vocal and instrumental harmonies to keep my tendency to over-play each song very frequent. I have yet to see this group produce anything I disliked.

3. Gorgon City – Sirens

The perfect combination of UK electronic and power vocals, Gorgon City comes out with Sirens, their debut album. With tracks featuring well-known artists such as Jennifer Hudson, and rising talent such as Erik Hassle, this LP has consistent dance-worthy tracks matched with vocals that will grind their way into your head through strong rhythms and lyrics. Notable tracks such as “Ready For Your Love” with English singer MNEK, and “Try Me Out” featuring Anne-Marie, create a stronghold of deep house vibes. Coming out of this album, Erik Hassle is certainly an artist to look into, as his solo tracks led me to stumbling upon Gorgon City. This album will forever be on replay until a new album surfaces.

4. SBTRKT – Wonder Where We Land

First stumbling across SBTRKT’s work in “Wildfire,” his track with the front woman of Little Dragon, I was interested in attempting to place his sound to a genre. Wonder Where We Land offers various tracks that all produce completely different sounds within themselves, making it extremely tedious to try and find a common trend among the group. Tracks such as “Temporary View” featuring a common collaboration partner, Sampha, as well as “Look Away” with Caroline Polachek; SBTRKT has now provided me with an album more diverse than Toronto. Unfortunately being in attendance when he played Danforth Music Hall on Halloween night to witness various technical difficulties, this album still cuts it as extremely influential to artists exploring deeper sounds.

5. Banks – Goddess

Banks seems to be eerie and monotone like Lana Del Rey, but with a wider vocal range and force. Only discovering her music this year, I was immediately drawn to “Waiting Game”, and “This Is What It Feels Like” due to their depressing lyrics and low bass colliding with Banks’ dark vocals. There has definitely been a lot of talk regarding whether or not Banks has won her listeners over, but Goddess fulfilled my hopes for exactly what I had been looking for in an up and coming female artist.

Elysse Cloma

Album art for Ruins

1. Grouper – Ruins
2. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness
3. Pallbearer – Foundations of Burden
4. Single Mothers – Negative Qualities
5. Future – Honest

James Li

Swans-To-Be-Kind

1. Swans – To Be Kind

Swans hit a new stride, three decades into their career and just shy of Michael Gira’s 60th birthday. Gira conducts waves of noise and hammering percussion like a maestro, making for an immense, physical, engulfing listen. It’s hard to do the album justice in a few words – the damn thing is two hours long!

2. Grouper – Ruins

Just like the title suggests, the tracks on this album are more like crumbling skeletal ruins than they are fully-fleshed songs. All you get is Liz Harris’s murmured vocals and stark piano playing, and that’s all you need.

3. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There

Doctors recommend Are We There for post-breakup depression. Ingest aurally, preferably in a dark locked bedroom. Side effects include heartache and catharsis. If tears persist for more than four hours, seek emergency medical attention.

4. Sun Kil Moon – Benji

Benji is Mark’s bland grey simple reality, as he takes you through small-town Ohio, Panera Breads, his lifelong struggle with depression, his middle-aged anxieties, and the deaths in his family. If you’re in the right mood, every song on this album can ruin you emotionally.

5. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Piñata

Freddie Gibbs’s tough-talking raps and Madlib’s smooth “Blaxplotation on wax” production are like chicken and waffles. An odd couple on paper, but once you have it, you can’t get enough.

Kalina Nedelcheva

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1. Temples – Sun Structures
2. Wolfmother – New Crown
3. The Pretty Reckless – Going to Hell
4. Band of Skulls – Himalayan
5. Chet Faker – Built on Glass

Maria Solusky-Dolnycky

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1. Mac DeMarco – Salad Days

Without a doubt, this record is Mac’s most mature musical effort to date, filled with buoyant, feel-good tunes with a sobering aftertaste; the music feels fresh and vibrant, and the lyrics feel poignant, relevant, and relatable.

2. Real Estate – Atlas

Real Estate grows up and feels the pain of doing so; though still breezy, the songs on this record carry more weight.

3. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire for No Witness

This feels like Angel’s grittiest, edgiest record yet; that being said, she doesn’t lose her ability to evoke a rosy softness when the moment calls for it.

4. Bahamas – Bahamas Is Afie

Afie Jurvanen charms with a record that is sensitive, evocative, beautiful, and accessible.

5. Chad VanGaalen – Shrink Dust

This record skims a cornucopia of genres, and boasts a collection of quirky, strange, and straight-up good songs.

Marko Cindric

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1. RAMZi – Bébites

Phoebé Guillemot’s proficiency with Ableton is hard to come by. With its peculiar samples and off-kilter rhythms, Bébites explores a sonic rainforest that’s overwhelmingly lush from top to bottom, and continuously strays from the path in new and unexpected ways. Songs like “ZOMB BY,” “BALWO,” and “BAMBATCHEWFiREMAN/\IMGONNAKiCKHiSASS” generate an almost primal urge to dance; others, such as the echoey, diffused “STAR KÈ,” have a pensive edge to them that feels equally powerful, but on a more cerebral level. All in all, Bébites feels like the product of a higher understanding of nature — human and otherwise — making it my favourite release of 2014.

2. Zoo Owl – Hollow

It doesn’t take much digging to learn that I strongly admire Zoo Owl as both an artist and a performer – his live performances are among the best Toronto has to offer, and his debut LP does not disappoint when it comes to capturing that energy. Hollow as a record is cohesive, atmospheric, and empowering, and tracks like “Break Out” and “Mayflower” will keep you raving long into the afterhours. Zoo Owl does a remarkable job of converting the lush, mysterious natural world into a set of sonic ideas, and his uniform aesthetic in doing so is one of many reasons why Hollow is as effective as it is.

3. Odonis Odonis – Hard Boiled Soft Boiled

Local rockers Odonis Odonis covered all the bases with their latest effort: ‘Hard Boiled’ tracks like “New Obsession” and “Order in the Court” will get your psyche thrashing before the band submerges you into the gorgeous ‘Soft Boiled’ soundscapes of “Angus Mountain” and “High Note.” This record evokes those feelings of tempestuous frustration and romantic distress you thought you left back in high school, and it feels so good. We did it, Toronto.

4. Mozart’s Sister – Being

Caila Thompson-Hannant wants you to dance, and she will stop at nothing to make it so. Masterfully layering ‘80s synth-pop tones, distinct sampling techniques, and her powerful vocal range, Thompson-Hannant composes Being as an introspective study of existence in flux, making the title particularly appropriate.

5. Actress – Ghettoville

Darren Cunningham operates in a sonic realm that is not for everyone, and his latest release, Ghettoville, is no exception to the trend: tracks on this record operate on a similar logic to progressive house, often falling into a single groove and relying on subtle changes to generate a sense of progression. But Cunningham’s true brilliance shines through on the tones he employs — Ghettoville sounds like a hip-hop vaporwave mixtape exhumed from the desert, and it’s absolutely brilliant.

Melissa Vincent

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1. Merkabah – Moloch

Soul draining, gut-wrenching, run me over again and again with a brass steam roller and try to resuscitate me with a concoction of eternal pain and uncomfortable desire. An encompassing, abrasive assault and hands down the best one I’ve heard all year. Be careful on your trip down the abyss.

2. Marissa Nadler – July
3. Swans – To Be Kind
4. Wild Beasts – Present Tense
5. Indian – From All Purity

Sayem Khan

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1. Travi$ Scott – Days Before Rodeo

This album is fire and it’s literally meant to be a teaser for Travis’ next album Rodeo. This guy knows how to rap and make you feel what he wants to make you fell. The production on this album is crazy too. This album has tracks that make you wanna roll up in the club, but then there’s tracks like “Drugs You Should Try It” and “Grey” that show you that rappers other than Drake have feelings too.

2. spooky black – Leaving EP

Post-breakup feelings are a bitch.

3. FKA twigs – LP1

A good friend of mine said I was living in ignorance and played tracks from this album and RTJ2 while we were in the car. I felt so ashamed that I hadn’t heard these albums earlier. But honestly LP1 was so fire. My favourite track is “Two Weeks”. This woman’s voice is absolutely amazing.

4. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2

From the moment the beat on “Jeopardy” starts, until the moment “Angel Duster” ends, this album plays with your head in such disgustingly amazing ways. This is true I don’t give a shit what you think type rap. I don’t know how else to describe it.

5. Childish Gambino – Kauai

With the exception of “Pop Thieves,” this album was basically a perfect Childish Gambino creation. Once you’ve got Jaden Smith doing poetry on your songs there’s no way that’s going wrong. Childish needs to do this singing and poetry and soft beats stuff more often.

Stuart Oakes

TWIGS-FACEBOOK-AVATAR[1]

1. FKA twigs – LP1
2. Frankie Cosmos – Zentropy
3. The Delines – Colfax
4. Future – Honest
5. La Dispute – Rooms of the House

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