Best of 2014MusicOpinion

Staff Picks: The Best Albums of 2014

Emertainment Monthly Music Staff

The Emertainment music staff once again collaborated for another best of 2014 list. This time, we’re sharing some of our most beloved albums. Happy listening!


Pianos Become the Teeth – Keep You

Keep You marks a dramatic evolution in the post-hardcore quintet’s sound, most notably with frontman Kyle Durfey, once known for his trademark raspy wail, not screaming once on the entire record. Instead we learn Durfey has a rich, almost ghostly singing voice through which he delivers his most gravely intimate lyrics yet. In response, the guitars opt for a cleaner tone and David Haik’s drumming tends to stay in the background, but in a way the retains all the dexterity and emotional pull that brought PBTT to this point in the first place. Keep You shows Pianos Become the Teeth taking colossal leaps forward as a band, and we can only hope they go up from here. Bring tissues, for there may be tears. – Phillip Morgan


Sia – 1000 Forms of Fear

Oh Sia, how we love thee. The elusive artist known for penning many of pop’s biggest hits had one of her own this year with “Chandelier.” The song was wildly popular among radio stations and its accompanying music video launched countless parodies. However, 1000 Forms of Fear exposes the depth of Sia that was hidden by all those comedic YouTube remakes. It’s emotional, vulnerable, and just plain stunning. “Fear” might be the focus, but Sia is anything but afraid of bearing her soul in this gorgeous catharsis of an album. – Tessa Roy


Ed Sheeran – X

This album has propelled Ed Sheeran into the pop mainstream. With enough of the chill and the cleverness from his last album plus the great additions of some R&B-flavored beats and slick spoken-word verses, every track has a place on a playlist of some kind. – Keely Chisholm


You Blew It! – Keep Doing What You’re Doing

Anyone who didn’t think emo was capable of anything beyond self-loathing and whiny singers wishing girls would hook up with them is going to be blown away by You Blew It!’s sophomore release. Ironically titled Keep Doing What You’re Doing, this album offers ten tracks of point-blank social criticism and brutally honest self-examination from the pained yet endearing voice of frontman Tanner Jones, accompanied to near perfection with cerebral indie rock coated in a pop-punkish lacquer that gives the record all the energy it deserves. With music that is equal parts memorable and profound, You Blew It! more than delivers on this record, and we certainly hope they keep doing what they’re doing. – Phillip Morgan


Azealia Banks – Broke With Expensive Taste

She’s controversial, she’s outspoken, she’ll call others out and drop names if she sees fit… But we wouldn’t want Azealia Banks any other way. The rapper made headlines this year after igniting a Twitter war with Iggy Azalea, which resulted in her being branded as petulant and jealous. Nevertheless, Banks succeeded in starting a much-needed conversation on cultural appropriation in the world of hip-hop. And at the same time, she ended her battle with Interscope Records and independently dropped a brilliant album. Broke With Expensive Taste is just as loud as Banks herself, combining electronic and Caribbean elements with biting verses. It’s one hell of a debut from a fearless, boundary-pushing artist. – Tessa Roy


You Me At Six – Cavalier Youth

No surprise here, British rock group’s fourth studio album brims with power chords, provocative lyrics, and—you guessed it—youth. There’s an overarching feeling of being wild, uncensored, and a little confused that fills the tracks with heart and raw emotion. In other words, it’s the feeling we can all relate to at one point or another, no matter how old we are. – Keely Chisholm


La Dispute – Rooms of the House

The third album from post hardcore quintet La Dispute once again finds frontman Jordan Dreyer spewing beautifully hoarse spoken word, but on Rooms of the House his approach is more personable than usual, this time portraying a man reflecting on the slow deterioration of his marriage amidst tragedy ranging from natural disaster to stillbirth. The rest of the band is more subtle and melodic than before, but still include plenty of emotionally-charged moments for those yearning for the grief-fueled rage of Wildlife. This record proves that La Dispute doesn’t need to sound aggressive to write emotionally-gripping music, and they’re still at the top of their game musically and poetically. Have your poetry snaps handy. – Phillip Morgan


Kiesza – Sound of a Woman

Sure, “Hideaway” was Kiesza’s epic breakout single, but her debut album includes a lot more material that may be even better. Sound of a Woman is an eclectic mix of tracks drawn from 90s deep house and modern electro-pop influences. It includes a handful of gorgeous ballads, like “Piano” and title track “Sound of a Woman” that position Kiesza as a vocal powerhouse. However, the real highlights of the album are the upbeat, clubworthy tracks. Go ahead and push play on “No Enemiesz.” We dare you not to dance. – Tessa Roy


Braid – No Coast

It’s been 16 years since Braid’s last album, but while No Coast finds Braid in somewhat familiar territory, the band’s execution has improved tremendously. The intricate rhythms still have all of the crazy time shifts and sudden breaks that shape Braid’s playfully disjointed sound, but Bob Nanna and Chris Broach have become so adept at sharing lead vocals and angular guitar melodies they switch almost seamlessly now. Some of their youthful grit may have been forfeited to Will Yip’s modern production, but the sleeker, more mature sound fits perfectly with their older, wiser mindset. An unlikely masterpiece that embraces the passage of time and builds on all of Braid’s strengths, No Coast shows that Braid are far from out of things to say. – Phillip Morgan


FKA Twigs – LP1

LP1 is one of those albums that makes for some head-scratching and confusion the first time around. But after two or three listens, it’s really, really likeable. FKA twigs’s wispy voice compliments her experimental sound, making for an oddly beautiful and unique piece of work. – Tessa Roy


The Menzingers – Rented World

One does not simply follow up a masterpiece album like 2012’s On the Impossible Past, but The Menzingers’ newest release proves that sometimes the best way to beat such high expectations is to ignore them completely. Rented World turns its attention from the folktales of dismal nostalgia the band are known for in favor of harsh laments on an imperfect present and an uncertain future, and the music in turn gains a stronger sense of urgency but never in a way that’s too poppy or sacrifices the band’s endearing snarl. It’s definitely not a sequel to OTIP, but still presents The Menzingers’ gritty emo/punk aesthetic and songwriting at their absolute strongest, clearly a triumph in its own right. – Phillip Morgan


St. Vincent – St. Vincent

It’s electronic. It’s rock. It’s social commentary. It’s St. Vincent. The singer known offstage as Annie Clark received both listener and critical acclaim for her self-titled album, and we won’t hesitate to continue singing these praises. It manages to simultaneously pull off lyrical and musical intelligence, exhibiting St. Vincent’s incredible capabilities. Prepare to have this one on repeat. – Tessa Roy


Modern Baseball – You’re Gonna Miss It All

Emo is not a genre known for its sense of humor, but Modern Baseball’s dry wit feels right at home on their sophomore LP. With lyrics filled with voice-acted lampoons and deadpan sarcasm, this album thrives upon mocking the flawed social interaction and self-absorption of today’s young adults, and not even the band members themselves are safe. The obvious alt-country influence in the music enhances the overall quirky vibe, lending itself to the offbeat lyricism in a series of musical punchlines. Despite the fun exterior, Modern Baseball have a lot to say on social anxiety and how people interact, and You’re Gonna Miss It All is one of the most enjoyable and truly original emo albums in a long time. – Phillip Morgan


Sam Smith – In the Lonely Hour

This album was probably on every single “best albums” list this year, and rightfully so. Smith’s voice is nothing short of angelic, floating between octaves over soulful melodies. He’s poured his heart out through his lyrics which, six Grammy nominations later, certainly paid off. – Tessa Roy


Tigers Jaw – Charmer

After losing three of the five original members in 2013 and veering on the edge of dissolving completely, vocalist/guitarist Ben Walsh and keyboardist Brianna Collins got the gang back together to record one last album, and the swan song of Tigers Jaw’s original lineup is by far their strongest material yet. Self-described as “equal parts Brand New and Fleetwood Mac,” this record sees the emo quintet at their most cynical lyrically and darkest musically, and the end result is nothing short of breathtaking. This may be the end of Tigers Jaw’s original roster, but on Charmer Walsh and Collins sound more than capable of taking over the reigns, and we can’t wait to see where they take the band next. – Phillip Morgan


Walk The Moon – Talking is Hard

2014 seemed to be the year of experimentation and Walk the Moon took full advantage of that trend. Keeping their signature high octane alt-pop feeling, Talking is Hard takes that foundation and raises its bar. Songs like “Sidekick” and “Spend Your $$$” contain that party energy with diverse vocal styling to keep listeners on their toes. “Avalanche” and “We Are the Kids” are those hidden gem tracks that may never be heard by the masses, but are a true gift to Walk the Moon fans. The lead vocals on these tracks specifically scream passionate writing and confidence in their power. Overall, Talking is Hard seems to be that sleeper hit that won’t stay quiet and will hopefully gain more momentum. – Evan Slead


Manchester Orchestra – Cope

After their ambitious but overly theatrical 2011 LP Simple Math, the bare-bones indie rock approach outlined by frontman Andy Hull is a welcome return to form for the band. Chocked full of deceptively simple buzzed-up tunes, Cope has all of Hull’s lyrical wit minus the excesses of the album past, and the strict adherence to the “fuzzy and loud” tone results in some of Manchester’s most energized songs in years. Longtime fans will be glad to know the softer, more melodic side of Manchester’s sound is blended into the fold rather than completely ignored, and newcomers will hopefully be enthralled by Hull & co.’s unabashed attempt to rock out like never before. – Phillip Morgan


Betty Who – Take Me When You Go

If you’re looking for a mashup of fun, young, 80s prom style and contemporary bubblegum pop tracks, this is it. Whether you’re 14 or 42, Betty Who’s debut will put you in a carefree, teenage mindset. Lyrically, Take Me When You Go is pretty simple and occasionally cheesy. But that only works to the album’s advantage since it’s that much easier to sing along. And why not dance along, too? Don’t be afraid to bust out those Footloose era moves. We won’t judge. – Tessa Roy


Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else

Transitioning from two guitars to one between albums could very well have spelt disaster for Cloud Nothings. Instead, Dylan Baldi and the gang took the opportunity to experiment with a rawer, dirtier approach on their third album, and the end product is their rowdiest and most intriguing work to date. Foregoing pure melody and in favor of buzzsaw guitar riffs, off-kilter song structure, and an even punkier rhythm section. With hooks built into rather than adjacent to the fray, Here and Nowhere Else is Cloud Nothings baring their fangs and daring you to reach in too close as they thrash through eight new tracks with reckless abandon. In the case of Baldi and co., less truly is so much more. – Phillip Morgan


Taylor Swift – 1989

Breaking away from the typical music she’s been known for, Taylor Swift moved more into the pop genre and owned the year in general. Instead of having the album reflect one single relationship, she decided to make the album for herself and it was a refreshing change. She owned the broken hearted, crazy ex-girlfriend stereotype with a song like “Blank Space,” and fired back at the critics with her first single, “Shake it Off.” This album showed true growth and maturity for the artist and rightfully earned her Grammy nominations. Each track on the album reflects these changes and flow perfectly from beginning to end.  – Adam Reynoso


Let us know what you think of our picks! Also be sure to also check out our list of best indie rock debut albums of 2014.


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