Well, I would have posted this yesterday but I didn’t finish it before I went out and then when I got home I had a long nap and then I just couldn’t be arsed, so here it is now. My 25 fave albums of the year, of the albums that I got around to actually properly listening to. Let the record show that I typed up the majority of this naked because I couldn’t find a t-shirt, that 2014 was an average-to-abysmal year for music and that I didn’t even listen to 1989.
25. MAROON 5 – V
in short: The quality of Maroon 5 albums have been in decline since Songs About Jane but V represents more of a plateau than a further dip. There are some great tracks on here, the Gwen Stefani collaboration ‘My Heart Is Open’ is gorgeous, but, I’ll just go ahead and say it: I need Tedder, Blanco and Martin to step away from these Maroon 5 records, because they don’t do them any good.
skip to: ‘Maps’, ‘It Was Always You’, ‘My Heart Is Open’ feat. Gwen Stefani
skip over: ‘In Your Pocket’, ‘Sex And Candy’
24. ARIANA GRANDE – MY EVERYTHING
in short: My Everything lacks the character and identity that was strong on Ariana’s debut Yours Truly but she has the vocal chops to make even the most uninteresting track on this album rise above average. Ariana is strange to me in as much as she is utterly unfascinating but still holds so much more promise as a pop act. For 2015, if Ariana could work on her stage presence that would be fabulous.
skip to: ‘Problem’ feat. Iggy Azalea, ‘Love Me Harder’ feat. The Weeknd
skip over: ‘Why Try’, ‘My Everything’
23. ST. VINCENT – ST. VINCENT
in short: I like it when artists have put out a couple of records before they go for a self-titled. A self-titled feels like a complete representation of an artist and when it comes in a few albums down the line, it makes me feel like I am listening to the most complete representation of an artist after a couple of drafts – ie. the best representation there is. I came onto the St. Vincent record late, and only gave it a try because it was so reduced in the iTunes store but I’m exceptionally glad that I did – it’s tight, bright and electric.
skip to: ‘Rattlesnake’, ‘Regret’, ‘Bring Me Your Loves’
skip over: ‘Huey Newton’
22. LYKKE LI – I NEVER LEARN
in short: Gloriously anguished and atmospheric, but it can be hard going. Wallowing in someone else’s misery for half an hour is a strange endeavour, but if you can close off from the emotive retching, it stands repeated listens.
skip to: ‘No Rest For The Wicked’, ‘Just Like A Dream’, ‘Sleeping Alone’
skip over: ‘Silverline’
21. ONE DIRECTION – FOUR
in short: 1D “grew up” and got incrementally more dad rock. This record doesn’t have the same ebullience that Take Me Home offered or the confidence of Midnight Memories, but there are still some highlights and Zayn remains, as ever, the sexiest member of the band both in face and vocals.
skip to: ‘Where Do Broken Hearts Go’, ‘No Control’, ‘Fireproof’
skip over: ‘Clouds’, ‘Act My Age’
20. KATY B – LITTLE RED
in short: Not a million miles from the garage dance chick On A Mission, still Katy B is much more classic though no less fresh on Little Red. So much of this record is club ready, but with more than a few tears-on-the-dancefloor tracks to break up the fun.
skip to: ‘Aaliyah’ feat. Jessie Ware, ‘Crying For No Reason’, ‘Tumbling Down’
skip over: ‘Next Thing,’ ‘Still’
19. LA ROUX – TROUBLE IN PARADISE
in short: La Roux’s long, long, long awaited album was only 9 tracks long but where she may have scrimped on timestamp she more than made up for it in quality. It sounds like neon pastels. It sounds like pina coladas. It sounds like garish print fabric. It sounds amazing.
skip to: ‘Kiss And Not Tell’, ‘Cruel Sexuality’, ‘Sexotheque’
skip over: ‘Silent Partner’
18. JHENE AIKO – SOULED OUT
in short: Though the phrase “alt-R&B” gives me the shivers, I think Souled Out actually fits the description. It is R&B to the core but unusual and experimental enough to not be R&B in the classic sense. I don’t think anything on this record is as good as ‘Bed Peace’ from the Sail Out EP, but if distorted beats and perfectly clear vocals are your vibe you cannot go wrong with this album.
skip to: ‘To Love & Die’ feat. Cocaine 80s, ‘The Pressure’, ‘Eternal Sunshine’, ‘Pretty Bird’ Freestyle feat. Common
skip over: ‘W.A.Y.S.’, ‘Remember’
17. MARIAH CAREY – ME. I AM MARIAH. THE ELUSIVE CHANTEUSE…
in short: Mariah has had a rough year, and while this album should have performed well commercially (it’s her best since The Emancipation Of Mimi) it dropped off and even the singles failed to pop. Such a shame. She sounds incredible, as always, and there’s a great mix of the “urban” Mariah I suspect she prefers to be and classic R&B/pop Mariah sprinkling extra glitter on everything she touches.
skip to: ‘#Beautiful’ feat. Miguel, ‘Thirsty’, ‘Supernatural’, ‘It’s A Wrap’ feat. Mary J. Blige
skip over: ‘Faded’, ‘Betcha Gon’ Know’ feat. R. Kelly
16. THE PRETTY RECKLESS – GOING TO HELL
in short: A more “rock” listen than Light Me Up, which makes it harder to identify highlights because I’m not much of a rocker. This record continues the (kinda cliche, if I’m honest) religious and sacreligious themes of the first album but gets darker and more twisted than before.
skip to: ‘Going To Hell’, ‘Heaven Knows’, ‘Why’d You Bring A Shotgun To The Party’
skip over: ‘Sweet Things’, ‘Waiting For A Friend’
15. NICK JONAS – NICK JONAS
in short: there is the odd startling moment where Nick comes over kinda psycho on this album (he sounds like the neediest most insecure boyfriend ever) but I’m choosing to overlook that and focus on the A+ Timberlake-esque bops and also Nick’s deliciously perfect arms that I know you can’t hear when you listen to this record, but that doesn’t keep them off my mind and therefore doesn’t stop this review being biased.
skip to: ‘Jealous’, ‘Teacher’, ‘Numb’ feat. Angel Haze, ‘Take Over’
skip over: ‘Push’, ‘Nothing Would Be Better’
14. JESSIE WARE – TOUGH LOVE
in short: “Singer/songwriter” is usually enough to completely put me off an artist but Jessie Ware shows that it doesn’t have to mean trite acoustic love songs and a lot of pontificating about The X Factor or “real artistry”. Tough Love is a beautiful, nuanced pop record and Jessie has one of the most gorgeous voices around.
skip to: ‘Cruel’, ‘Say You Love Me’, ‘Pieces’
skip over: ‘Champagne Kisses’
13. PRINCE & 3RDEYEGIRL – PLECTRUMELECTRUM
in short: Probably not the best of Prince’s double album release this year but my favourite nonetheless. As I mentioned before, 3RDEYEGIRL are like crack-Haim and they play like the devil. I’m not really a rock fan but this album makes me feel like I could be. It’s so full of girl power. Even when Prince pops up, exuding virile feminitiy. How’s that for an oxymoron.
skip to: ‘PRETZELBODYLOGIC’, ‘FIXURLIFEUP’, ‘BOYTROUBLE’
skip over: ‘AINTTURNINROUND’
12. KELIS – FOOD
in short: Kelis continues to prove herself as one of the most versatile artists alive with another outstanding album that sounds nothing like the one before or the one before that. Food is all funk, soul and heart; organic, with real instruments and Kelis at her most raspy and alluring.
skip to: ‘Breakfast’, ‘Jerk Ribs’, ‘Cobbler’, ‘Friday Fish Fry’
skip over: ‘Floyd’
11. CHER LLOYD – SORRY I’M LATE
in short: This album didn’t even make my long list until I listened to it on a whim the other day when I was building my bed and I realised almost every great pop song from the latter half of the year had taken cues from this record somehow. It took me almost an entire year to come around to it, but this is an excellent album.
skip to: ‘Just Be Mine’, ‘I Wish’ feat. T.I., ‘Human’
skip over: ‘Sirens’
10. NICOLE SCHERZINGER – BIG FAT LIE
in short: A better overall listen than Killer Love (Nicole was not kidding about those Janet Jackson influences) but not as many obvious jams. Still, it’s the first album this year that I played a number of times in a row after the first listen, so something’s been done right. A consistent R&B pop record by an incredibly talented and criminally under-rated star.
skip to: ‘Your Love’, ‘Electric Blue’, ‘On The Rocks’, ‘God Of War’, ‘Run’
skip over: ‘Big Fat Lie’, ‘Little Boy’
9. AZEALIA BANKS – BROKE WITH EXPENSIVE TASTE
in short: No one thought a full-length debut from everyone’s most problematic fave Azealia Banks would ever see the light of day, but it arrived, to no fanfare, a mere month ago and proved to be excellent despite Azealia’s self-destructive, self-sabotaging gobshite streak. Azealia is unquestionably a talented rapper, but this record is primarily a trap/house album. Genres clash all over the place, but dammit, it works.
skip to: ‘JFK’ feat. Theophilus London, ‘212’ feat. Lazy Jay, ‘Nude Beach A-Go-Go’
skip over: ‘BBD’, ‘Soda’
8. MARY J. BLIGE – THE LONDON SESSIONS
in short: I haven’t liked a Mary J. album this much since No More Drama – twelve years ago! Her vocal, as always, is the draw, the centrepiece, the foundation but Disclosure put in some excellent production work that compliments Mary J. as an artist without compromising her own sound. What I’m saying is, the songs sound like true collaborations, not just Mary J. Blige singing Disclosure songs.
skip to: ‘Therapy’, ‘Right Now’, ‘My Loving’, ‘Whole Damn Year’
skip over: ‘Not Loving You’, ‘Worth My Time’
7. SCHOOLBOY Q – OXYMORON
in short: I feel like most of the 10 people who read this blog are not big on hip hop, unless it’s white girl pop rap (and that’s regardless of the gender or ethnicity of the artist), but I promise you ScHoolboy Q delivers on this record. His wordplay is fire, and his flow is energetic and diverse.
skip to: ‘Collard Greens’ feat. Kendrick Lamar, ‘The Purge’ feat. Tyler, The Creator & Kurupt, ‘Man Of The Year’
skip over: ‘What They Want’ feat. 2 Chainz
6. TINASHE – AQUARIUS
in short: I was disappointed that Aquarius didn’t offer more ‘2 On’ style jams, but regardless of whether there are obvious singles or not, it’s a strong, cohesive debut from the most exciting and interesting popstar to launch this year.
skip to: ‘2 On’ feat. ScHoolboy Q, ‘Pretend’ feat. A$AP Rocky, ‘All Hands On Deck’, ‘Feels Like Vegas’
skip over: all the interludes
5. MICHAEL JACKSON – XSCAPE
in short: Listening to XSCAPE is sometimes a disheartening reminder that there will never be another Michael Jackson. Ever. The producers involved in updating Michael’s original demos did an exceptional job, and while we’ll never know how they would have ended up under Michael’s careful eye, they all might have come very close to his standards.
skip to: ‘A Place With No Name’, ‘Do You Know Where Your Children Are’, ‘Blue Gangsta’
skip over: ‘Loving You’
4. DANITY KANE – DK3
in short: The best girlband album of the year. I harbour resentment to Danity Kane, but not enough to mark them down. DK3 is a strutting, sassy bop from beginning to end and those harmonies are on point. Drips with attitude.
skip to: ‘Lemonade’ feat. Tyga, ‘All In A Day’s Work’, ‘Rage’
skip over: ‘Tell Me’
3. NEON TREES – POP PSYCHOLOGY
in short: Everything about this album, from the band name to the artwork to the music itself, is NEON. Really bright, really shiny, really energetic and really fun even though it deals primarily with lead singer Tyler’s struggles with his sexuality and his subsequent therapy sessions. I don’t think I’ve ever met a Neon Trees fan ~irl, so if there’s one record you take away from this countdown to listen to I hope it’s this one and I hope you are converted.
skip to: ‘Text Me In The Morning’, ‘Sleeping With A Friend’, ‘First Things First’
skip over: ‘Voices In The Halls’
2. LEIGHTON MEESTER – HEARTSTRINGS
in short: In 2009, all I wanted from a world that had treated me cruelly was a Leighton Meester album. As the years wore on, and songs leaked and singles were released and then almost all hope dried up, I began to think my wish would never come true. Until it did. Five years on, Leighton is in a much softer, folkier place than she was when she was doing sultry-R&B pop with Robin Thicke or skatepark pop with Cobra Starship, but she is much better suited to it. As a bonus check out this acoustic cover of Fleetwood Mac – ‘Dreams’ which has become something of an obsession of mine.
skip to: ‘Good For One Thing’, ‘Dreaming’, ‘Blue Afternoon’
skip over: ‘Run Away’
1. NICKI MINAJ – THE PINKPRINT
in short: Finally, the album from Nicki that I’ve been waiting for. Deeply personal, well produced, rhyming at peak level and with her flow uncompromised while retaining pop sensibilities. Less cheap hashtagging, more storytelling. Collaborations that make creative sense not just commercial sense. I can barely fault any track, I’ve rated them all 4 or 5 stars. I think on The Pinkprint Nicki has finally worked the balance between global popstar and hip hop heavyweight and I couldn’t be more thrilled. Despite being the last album I bought this year (it wasn’t released until the second week of December) I have played it more than any record on this list. I love it.
skip to: ‘The Crying Game’ feat. Jessie Ware, ‘Feeling Myself’ feat. Beyoncé, ‘Want Some More’, ‘Trini Dem Girls’ feat. Lunchmoney Lewis, ‘Anaconda’, ‘Big Daddy’ feat. Meek Mill, ‘Shanghai’
skip over: ‘Pills N Potions’