Wednesday, 24 December 2014

2014 in Review: Favorite Albums

The Chain Gang of 1974 - Daydream Forever

Indie rock meets electronic music once again in this record by the one man band, The Chain Gang of 1974. That one man in this case is none other than Kamtin Mohager, touring bassist for the duo known as 3OH!3. His song, Sleepwalking, received a significant boost in popularity after it was featured in the best-selling video game, Grand Theft Auto V. Other highlights include Witch, Mouth and Death Metal Punk.

Porter Robinson - Worlds

With his debut album Worlds, the American EDM artist, Porter Robinson, wanted to showcase his love of Japanese culture, and that love is readily apparent in tracks like Flicker and Fellow Feeling. But even more than that, he wanted to showcase a freedom to express himself through music that didn't feel shackled by genre conventions. And he succeeds beautifully, by creating a sonic soundscape that sometimes went from epic to glitched out within the span of a single track. Other highlights include Sad Machine, Hear the Bells and Lionhearted.

Various Artists - Guardians of the Galaxy: Awesome Mix, Vol. 1

Guardians of the Galaxy was a movie that was defined as much by its music as it was by its borderline-slapstick nature. And the associated soundtrack did indeed live up to its "Awesome Mix" moniker, containing one of the best compilation records of classics and oldies to be heard all year. Highlights include Hooked on a Feeling, Come and Get Your Love, Escape (The Pina Colada Song) and O-O-H Child.

Maroon 5 - V

For their fifth record since 2002's Songs About Jane, the Adam Levine-led band, Maroon 5, chose to continue its recent foray into adult-contemporary pop music, in favor of the more soulful jazz sound of their earlier records. Thankfully, this has led them to create even more earworm goodness to add to their portfolio of recent hits. Highlights include Maps, Animals and Feelings.

Coldplay - Ghost Stories

The recent breakup of Coldplay's lead vocalist Chris Martin from long-time partner Gwyneth Paltrow serves as inspiration on Ghost Stories. While not considered a concept album in the true sense of the word, the album does explore the full spectrum of emotions associated with breakups, as well as boasting contributions from producers like Paul Epworth, Timbaland and Tim Berling. Highlights include Magic, True Love, Another's Arms and A Sky Full of Stars.

Taylor Swift - 1989

Taylor Swift had been releasing songs that were increasingly pop-oriented in recent years, but it was in 2014 that she finally embraced the genre's mass appeal with 1989. The album serves as a tribute to the music of the 80s, the decade of her birth, a theme that has been done to death in recent years by artists like Gwen Stefani and Lady Gaga. But in terms of what the record set out to achieve, 1989 easily ranks amongst the best of the best. Highlights include Shake It Off, Blank Space, Style and Bad Blood

Chris Brown - X

Chris Brown's 2014 album X serves as a much welcomed return to form, following his critically-panned 2012 album, Fortune. On X, he once again explores a range of styles that has come to be associated with his brand of contemporary R&B. It also contains high-profile collaborations with the likes of Akon, Brandy, Kendrick Lamar, Jhene Aiko, R. Kelly and the late Aaliyah. Highlights include Loyal, New Flame, Add Me In, Autumn Leaves and Drunk Texting.

5 Seconds of Summer - 5 Seconds of Summer

5 Seconds of Summer have come a long way since their days of posting covers on YouTube. They've proven that they aren't just a bunch of fresh-faced teenagers, but living, breathing musicians with (dare I say it) actual talent. And the vehicle for that all-important distinction was the successful release of their self-titled debut album. Highlights include She Looks So Perfect, Heartbreak Girl, English Love Affair and Amnesia.

Take That - III

III marks the first album from British boy band, Take That, since the group recently became a threesome following the departure of Jason Orange. It taps into the stylistic trappings of the bands previous reunion album with Robbie Williams (Progress), and its follow-up EP (Progressed), while also retaining facets of the sound the band has come to be known for over the past decade or so. Highlights include Higher Than Higher, I Like It and Into The Wild.

Robbie Williams - Under the Radar Vol. 1

Not to be undone by his former boy band's moment in the sun, Robbie Williams "pulled a Beyonce" by announcing and subsequently self-releasing an album of previously recorded songs, with no prior promotional effort. And what better way to do that than on the very same day the Take That album was scheduled to launch. Highlights include Climb On, The Cure, The Pilot and National Treasure.

And the winner is...

Taylor Swift - 1989

Long before its highly-anticipated release, Taylor Swift's 1989 had been heavily promoted as her first full-on pop record. So it was no surprise when the album debuted with around 1.3 million copies sold in its first week alone. I mean, very few artists in the industry right now could command such figures, especially at a time when album sales in general have been low and continue to dwindle. But it was the fact that the album not only met expectations, but exceeded them in every conceivable way, that makes 1989 my favorite album for 2014.