#MusicMonday: Top 15 Albums of 2014
Listen Here: Anna's Top 15 Albums 2014
1. Run the Jewels 2 – Run the Jewels
Whodat? RTJ is composed of NYC rapper-producer El-P and Atlanta rapper Killer Mike. El-P has propelled the underground hip hop scene for over two decades, producing for the likes of Cannibal Ox, Murs, Aesop Rock, Mr. Lif, Del tha Funkee Homosapien, and Das Racist, to name a few. Sonically, he’s known for his stripped down, minimalist, industrial, and futuristic beats (some say El-P invented Yeezus). Killer Mike is pure Atl., having made his musical debut on Outkast’s Stankonia. A Morehouse graduate, Killer Mike is also known for his activism, speaking out on subjects including the for-profit prison system, police brutality, and gay rights.
Good for: Adrenaline rushin’, poppin’ off, breakin’ shit.
Standout tracks: “Love Again,” “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry,” “Lie Cheat Steal.”
Soundz like: Death Grips, Danny Brown, Das Racist, MF Doom.
Best line: “there’s a truth where the filth is / there’s lies in the law / you want a whore with a white dress / I want a wife with a thong” (El-P on “Angel Duster”)
Fun fact: Killer Mike owns an Atlanta barbershop, Graffiti SWAG, with his wife.
2. Our Love – Caribou
Whodat? Canadian musician Dan Snaith, who has also recorded under the monikers Manitoba and Daphni. Snaith has been slaying the electronic music scene since the early 2000s. 2003’s Up in Flames is widely recognized to be among the best albums of the 2000s and Andorra won the 2008 Polaris Music Prize. 2010’s Swim was my favorite of his, that is until Our Love.
Good for: Chillin’, writin’, reflectin’.
Standout tracks: “Can’t Do Without You,” “Silver,” “Julia Brightly.”
Soundz like: Mount Kimbie, John Talabot, Lindstrom, Gold Panda.
Fun fact: Snaith has a PhD in mathematics. Smart BOYZ <3
3. Aquarius – Tinashe
Whodat? Tinashe Jorgensen Kachingwe (yes, that is her actual name) is an LA-based singer, actress, and former model. Her father is from Zimbabwe (hence Kachingwe) and her mother is Danish (hence Jorgensen) – what a combo. I suppose her unique ethic origins explain why she’s so fucking stunning. In fact, she got her start with a girl group called The Stunners when she was 14. From August to November 2012, she leaked two solo mixtapes online, each met with critical acclaim, and it’s been up hill from there.
Good for: Pre-gamin’, gamin’, after-partyin’, after-after-partin’….
Standout tracks: “2 On,” “Feels Like Vegas,” “All Hands on Deck.”
Soundz like: Aaliyah, Cassie, Ciara.
Fun fact: Tinashe has a black belt in Taekwondo. You betta werq!
4. Leaving EP – Spooky Black
Whodat? Spooky Black is a bit of an enigma. In typical post-Empire fashion, the 16-year-old Minnesotan came to prominence by posting his video “Without U” to YouTube, which now has over one million views. He dropped his delightfully ethereal Leaving EP in August, with the help of Drew the Architect, Kid Hnrk, and Doc McKinney (who has worked with The Weekend). The result is something gloomy, emotional, and totally unlike anything I’ve ever heard.
Good for: Cryin’, over-analyzin’, wallowin’, zonin’ da F out.
Standout tracks: “Intro (Leaving),” “Pull,” “Idle.”
Soundz like: Yung Lean, Shlohmo, The Weeknd.
Fun Fact: Homeboy rocks a du rag with STYLE.
5. Pinkprint – Nicki Minaj
Whodat? Onika Tanya Maraj, also known as Cookie, the Female Weezy, The Harajuku Barbie, Lap Dance Nika, Martha Zolanski, Nicki Lewinsky, Nicki Tersesa, Nicki the Boss, Nicki the Ninja, Nicole, Norman, Point Dexter, Roman Zolanski, Rosa, AND Tyrone.
Good for: Slayin’ simple bitches.
Standout tracks: “Feelin’ Myself,” “Only,” “Want Some More.”
Soundz like: No one.
Notable slays: “These bitches suck, so I nickname these bitches BJJJJJ;” “I’m with some hood girls lookin’ back at it, and a good girl in my tax bracket;” “just on this song alone, bitch is on her fourth flow;” “Football touchdown on the Boeing jet / you my son, I’m just not showing yet.”
Boss bitchez: Jezebel called Pinkprint a “liberation narrative,” championing women embracing “unapologetic ego,” “the permission to feel good.” “More than anything, this is an album about autonomy, which translates to freedom – self-drivenness, autoeroticism – and being on your own for the first time, the gingerness and loneliness that accompany it.”
Fun fact: According to Wikipedia, Nicki Minaj’s discography consists of three studio albums, three compilation albums, three mixtapes, SIXTY-SIX singles, and SEVENTY-ONE music videos, causing me to wonder whether Nicki Minaj is actually a machine.
6. Panasonic EP – The Range
Whodat? Providence producer James Hinton, whose 2013 album Nonfiction won the hearts of all the critics. For reasons unclear to me, Panasonic hasn’t garnered quite the same acclaim, but a great once put it, “fuck critics, you can kiss my whole asshole.”
Good for: Workin’, contemplatin’, chilllaxin’.
Standout tracks: “Ed Reed Jersey,” “Sony,” “Slow Build.”
Soundz like: Gold Panda, DJ Rashad, Actress.
Fun Fact: Hinton graduated from Brown University – Ivy League shawwwwwty!
7. Syro – Aphex Twin
Whodat? The Guardian called 43-year-old Richard D. James “the most inventive and influential figure in contemporary electronic music.” His 1992 album Selected Ambient Works is widely regarded as one of the best ambient albums of all times, and his beautiful electronic tracks have accompanied many a Sofia Coppola film. Syro is his first studio album in 13 years.
Good for: Feelin’ brilliant.
Standout tracks: “minipops 67 [120.2][source field mix],” “XMAS_EVE10 [thanaton2 mix],” “aisatsana .”
Soundz like: Jon Hopkins, Boards of Canada, Squarepusher.
Fun fact: James described himself in a Guardian interview: “I’m just some irritating, lying, ginger kid from Cornwall who should have been locked up in some youth detention centre. I just managed to escape and blag it into music.”
8. Ultraviolence – Lana Del Rey
Whodat? You don’t know who Lana Del Rey is?!?
Good for: Feelin’ fragile, bein’ a babe in distress, wantin’ money power & glory.
Standout tracks: “Ultraviolence,” “Brooklyn Baby,” “Shades of Cool.”
Soundz like: Sky Ferreira, Banks.
Critics-say-whaaaaat: Entertainment Weekly called Del Rey “a highly stylized vixen who romanticizes fatalism to near-pornographic levels, creating fantastically decadent moments of film-noir melodrama.”
9. Too Bright – Queen
Whodat? Seattle-based musician Mike Hadreas, a homosexual.
Good for: Feelin’ melancholy & profound.
Standout tracks: “Queen,” “Fool,” “Grid.”
Soundz like: David Bowie, Twin Shadow, Youth Lagoon.
Fun fact: The promotional video for Hadreas’s 2012 album, Put Your Back N 2 It, which featured two shirtless men embracing, was deemed “unsafe for family viewing” by YouTube. How gay.
10. PartyNextDoor Two – PartyNextDoor
Whodat? Drake’s protégé Jahron Brathwaite, a Canadian singer signed to OVO Sound.
Good for: Gettin’ it in.
Standout tracks: “FWU,” “Thirsty,” “Recognize.”
Notable samples: Disclosure’s “Latch” (on “Sex on the Beach”), Missy Elliott’s “Ching-a-Ling” (on “Thirsty”), and Holy Other’s “Know Where” (on “East Liberty”).
Soundz like: The Weeknd, Miguel, Jeremih.
Also check out: “Wus good/ Curious.”
11. Broke With Expensive Taste – Azealia Banks
Whodat? Azealia Banks is best known for her twitter battles with everyone from Kreashawn to Lil’ Kim to Disclosure, which hint at her lyrical talent (see below). While she doesn’t have the vocal versatility of Nicki, homegirl can rap. And she’s smoking hot. And after waiting for 2 and a half years, we finally got dat album, whose title also happens to describe my lifestyle.
Good for: Feelin’ phresh.
Standout tracks: “Ice Princess,” “Heavy Metal and Reflective,” “Chasing Time.”
Watch these videos: “Chasing Time,” “Heavy Metal and Reflective,” “Harlem Shake (Azealia Banks remix).”
Notable twitter slays: “U want no mediocre but…Have you seen your wife?” (to T.I.); “I wouldn’t even let you smell my pussy you evil faggot” (to Perez Hilton); “you do sound like the bootleg ghost face and I will definitely flame you on a track any given Sunday” (to Action Bronson); “tell him to go back to his trailer park and eat his microwave hot pocket dinner and suck on his sisters tiddies” (about Eminem).
Fun fact: Azealia went to the same high school as Nicki Minaj – both were trained as actresses at the Manhattan’s LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts.
12. Honest – Future
Whodat? Nayvadius Cash, a Scorpio from Atlanta who got his start with The Dungeon Family, which also produced Outkast.
Standout tracks: “Move That Dope,” “My Momma,” “I Won.”
Good for: Blowin’ purple smoke.
Critics-say-whaaaaat: Pitchfork said Future comes "as close as anyone to perfecting this thread of ringtone pop, where singing and rapping are practically the same thing, and conversing 100% through Auto-Tune doesn't mean you still can't talk about how you used to sell drugs. It would almost feel antiquated if Future weren't amassing hits, or if he weren't bringing some subtle new dimensions to the micro-genre.”
Fun Fact: Future has a daughter with Ciara.
13. My Krazy Life - YG
Whodat? Compton rapper Keenon Daequan Ray Jackson and co-creator of the Pu$haz Ink. Record label along with 2014 star DJ Mustard.
Good for: Gettin’ ratchet, blowin’ out speakers, SUV cruizin’.
Standout tracks: “I Just Wanna Party,” “My N*gga,” “Who Do You Love?”
My favorite: In May, Pitchfork interviewed YG for its Guest Lists feature. I am kind of obsessed with Pitchfork’s treatment of and interactions with gangster rappers. Below are some highlights from the May interview:
Dumbest Recent Purchase: I mean, I brought all the homies when I was on tour. I paid for that shit. Then I had to fly the homies back home. That shit was as expensive as a motherfucker.
Dream Vacation: I don’t know, bro. I ain’t into stuff like that shit.
Worst Habit: Drinking alcohol. I’ve been drinking so much.
Fun fact: Shots were fired during the filming of his 2012 music video “I’m a Thug,” forcing police to shut down the set. And that’s what I like to call going hard in the mother fucking paint.
14. Hell Can Wait – Vince Staples
Whodat? Long Beach, California rapper best known for his collaborations with Odd Future, particularly Earl Sweatshirt’s 2010 debut, Earl.
Good for: Feelin’ tough.
Standout tracks: “65 Hunnid,” “Blue Suede,” “Feelin the Love.”
Beef: Although he’s frequently collaborated with Odd Future, Tyler the Creator is not a fan: “I really, really dislike Vince,” Tyler has said.
15. Soft Opening - Posse
Whodat? Seattle musicians Paul Wittman-Todd, Sacha Maxim, and Jon Salzman. Wittman-Todd described Posse as a “very responsible, very punctual band.” In fact, music is a side job for all three. Wittman-Todd is an electric engineer, Sacha Maxim works at Microsoft, and Jon Salzman is a therapist.
Good for: Feelin’ chill & breezy.
Over-it: Pitchfork described Soft Opening as “the kind of meditative rock record that carries a hypnotic ennui.”
Standout tracks: “Talk,” “Shut up.”
Soundz like: Yo La Tengo. Lotus Plaza, Ducktails.
Fun fact: Whittmann-Todd and Sacha Maxim met at a Seattle lesbian bar.
Written by Anna Dorn