I wouldn’t say 2014 was a down year for albums, but aside from the top 10, many 2014 releases probably wouldn’t have bested last year’s top albums. Read below for my Honorable Mention releases aka albums/EPs that were somewhere near the top 50, but I just couldn’t rank.
Duck Sauce – Quack (Amazon)
There wasn’t more fun listen than A-Trak and Armand Van Helden aka Duck Sauce’s long-awaited full debut, Quack (of course). Singles have been trickling out since 2009, but the full set was well worth the weight with funk-filled disco house that was a constant for workouts and weekends. The nostalgic fun of “NRG” and “It’s You” were addictive, but the hilarity of “Charlie Chazz & Rappin’ Ralph” and sly appearance of Chromeo’s Dave-1 (brothers Macklovitch unite!) on “Everyone” were my favorites. Pro-tip: Skip the god awful skits that litter Quack and buy/DL the “Club Mix” for endless replays.
Top Songs: “Charlie Chazz & Rappin’ Ralph”, “Everyone”, “Anyway”
Haley Bonar – Last War (Amazon)
The sounds of Midwesterner Haley Bonar have typically been solid alt country/folk fare, but the indie rock direction of Last Ware were much more to my liking. From the gravel-toned guitar riffs of “Woke Up In My Future” to the rumble of “Can’t Believe Our Luck”, the new path seemed to suit Bonar’s engaging narratives and earnest vocals.
Top Songs: “Kill The Fun”, “Bad Reputation”, “Woke Up In My Future”
Childish Gambino – Kauai EP (Amazon)
Donald can spit clever rhymes with the best of them, but the Kauai EP was an excellent display of how talented this guy is, no matter the genre. The R&B-tinged effort was brief, but a stellar collection of the smoother side of CG.
Top Songs: “Sober”, “Pop Thieves”, “Retro”
ODESZA – In Return (Amazon)
Pretty Lights was my go-to study-time album in 2013, but ODESZA held that title in 2014. The duo’s second proper album showed off ODESZA’s growth as potential pop producers with a delicate balance of sample and vocal-featured electronic rhythmic tracks. Ideal for quiet, concentrated listening and weekend mood-setting sessions.
Top Songs: “Say My Name”, “Always This Late”, “Sun Models”
Isaiah Rashad – Civilia Demo (Amazon)
2014 proved the Top Dawg Entertainment label wasn’t just a one-act show (Kendrick Lamar) thanks to Schoolboy Q’s surprise success and the little promoted promise of Isaiah Rashad. Rashad’s “Civilia Demo” certainly didn’t sound like a demo based quality production and rhymes fill with poignant stories (“Tranquility”), posse cuts (“Shot You Down”) and nods to the greats (“Brad Jordan”). It also doesn’t hurt when you reference No Limit Records and sound even better than Master P could (“R.I.P. Kevin Miller”).
Top Songs: “Shot You Down”, “R.I.P.” Kevin Miller”, “Menthol”
Broken Ankles (Freeway + Girl Talk) – Broken Ankles EP (Amazon)
Surprise pairings often gain a lot of fanfare when announced, but the results don’t always match the initial fervor. Girl Talk aka Gregg Gillis and Philly rapper Freeway couldn’t have been a more unlikely alliance but Gillis’ sample-based beats showed his ability to create more than mash-ups and Freeway still had plenty to rap about. Even Just Blaze and Kanye had to be jealous of how Gillis’s production made Freeway sound like he was back in vintage Roc-a-fella mode on Broken Ankles.
Top Songs: “Tolerated”, “Tell Me Yeah”, “Lived It”