1. DJ Mustard - 10 Summers
In a way, YG's My Krazy Life is so decisively the definitive DJ Mustard album, and maybe the best rap album of the year of Mustard, that it kind of automatically dimmed my excitement for a proper Mustard album. But even as overexposed as he is on the radio, he somehow manages to put together these albums that sound like the hits but are just different enough from the songs on the radio, and when they're all lined up you hear the subtle differences from track to track and how deep his bag of tricks is getting. So I like how the album kinda sticks to a gangsta rap thing and doesn't lean on superstars that much, the only track I really dislike is the Rick Ross/Wiz Khalifa one at the end. All the albums from this year on Spotify that I've been listening to are in this 2014 albums playlist btw.
2. FKA twigs - LP1
I tend to regard these kinds of weird tumblr beat music millenial trip hop records that get a lot of blog hype with a healthy dose of skepticism. But I'm glad I gave this one a chance, it's got some really striking sounds and songs that actually make use of all the blank space and twitchy sonics and give them a sense of purpose that I rarely get out of records with this kind of aesthetic. The 1-2 of "Hours" and "Pendulum" is the part of the album that hits me hardest, but the whole thing hangs together well, this woman is talented.
3. Guy Gerber and Puff Daddy - 11 11
Last Train To Paris is still my album of the decade so far, and I'm happy to hear anything from Sean Combs that continues to explore the universe he created on that album, which I didn't think was really gonna happen after he disbanded Diddy-Dirty Money and started releasing stuff like "Big Homie." So this album (which you can hear here) was a pleasant surprise, some new Emotional Diddy Music over actual EDM beats. There's actually a couple reworkings of Last Train To Paris songs on here, because apparently 11 11 has been in the works for years and years, but for the most part this is a different trip, not as satisfying but still pretty enjoyable. My favorite track is "Floating Messiah," and not just because it's called fucking "Floating Messiah."
4. Kix - Rock Your Face Off
I already said most of what I have to say about this album in my review, but really it is nice to hear a band who did their best work in the '80s come back and sound like they've barely missed a beat. They were one of the biggest bands to come out of Baltimore, but are so disconnected to anything happening in the city in recent years that it's hard to even explain to anyone around here how awesome they were, but I totally rate those early albums with peak Aerosmith and AC/DC, and while this album isn't the best album to start with or anything, I'm glad they made it. I hope their fanbase is cool with hearing new songs like "Rollin' In Honey" and "Love Me With Your Top Down" at the shows. "Inside Outside Inn" is great because they manage to make a power ballad that retains the band's personality and sense of humor, which was what was always missing from "Don't Close Your Eyes" in my opinion.
5. The Gaslight Anthem - Get Hurt
The Gaslight Anthem's last album was their major label debut and it sold OK and had a radio hit but didn't really take them significantly beyond where they got on an indie label, And now this one is the lead singer's divorce album and they kinda switch up their sound a little and the single isn't doing anything and the sales are a little less than before. So Get Hurt just feels like it has a black cloud hanging over it and nobody wants to say anything good about it. After a really rough opening track, though, I would say, it ends up picking up steam, and the back half is about as good as any Gaslight Anthem record. I like the "Anywhere I Lay My Head" cover in the bonus tracks.
6. Ariana Grande - My Everything
Yours Truly and "The Way" were one of 2013's truly refreshing surprises, Ariana Grande pretty much arrived on the pop scene with a fully formed aesthetic and singing style that was undeniably derivative and retro-flavored but still had talent and a certain individual sensibility that felt very of the moment. Unfortunately, followup singles like "Baby I" that best demonstrated what she was going for didn't get any radio play. And it feels like Grande has decided to leave behind Babyface and a lot of the R&B sounds from her first album to leverage her initial success for a pop radio takeover with guys like Max Martin and Zedd who really don't fit her singing style. Obviously, this has worked out really well for her and people who love the new singles have new complaints, but I'm speaking as a fan of the first album (I already ranted about how awful "Break Free" is here). But I'm happy to say that if you removed the singles from the running order, this actually feels like a pretty good follow-up to Yours Truly that doesn't stray too far from that album's charms or the kind of tracks that suit Grande's voice and persona best. Even Childish Gambino rapping in a Biggie flow isn't really that out of place after Mac Miller quoting Big Pun on the first album. I fear for album #3, though.
7. J Mascis - Tied To A Star
I was pretty into J Mascis's live album Martin + Me where he did solo acoustic versions of Dinosaur Jr. songs, and the J Mascis + The Fog albums that were basically Dinosaur albums under a different name. These last two albums he's done under his name, though, are proper solo acoustic studio albums of new material, and I have more mixed feelings about them. I like the parts with drums on them, though, Mascis is such a brilliant, underrated drummer.
8. Jeremih - N.O.M.A. (Not On My Album) EP
In July, Jeremih dropped the EP with Schohmo, in August he dropped this EP of 7 great album outtakes, and in September he's dropping the album. Very happy that "Don't Tell 'Em" seems to have kicked his career back in gear and we're getting all this new music. Some of these tracks are almost too dope to be left off the album, especially "4 The Freaks" and "Can't Go No Mo." Listen to it here.
9. frnkiero andthe cellabration - Stomachaches
My Chemical Romance has been broken up for over a year now, and we're starting to hit the solo album/side project offshoot era -- it seems like pretty much all 4 of the permanent members of the band have something either just out or coming out in the next few months. Gerard Way's solo album is obviously the only one that's going to be on a major label or get much attention, but this one is really solid, impressed by what Frank Iero can do on his own. It's not too close to the MCR aesthetic but you can hear what parts of the band were him, and his voice isn't bad, album feels very lived in and personal.
10. Twista - The Dark Horse
Twista never seems to make music quite on the level of his talent, and much less now than before when he used to regularly make some pretty classic shit. But this ain't bad, mostly bearing down on some dark midwest goth rap like the EP he did last year instead of still chasing the R&B crossover dollar.
Worst Album of the Month: Travi$ Scott - Days Before Rodeo
The amount of hype this tape has gotten is a depressing sign of the state of rap in 2014, people are really starved for the some arty G.O.O.D. Music b-team shit that they'll forget about whenever Kanye drops. The worst part is how hard he leans on cameos from guys like Young Thug and Migos and Rich Homie Quan for the most enjoyable parts of the tape but they're still not really as good as the other songs those guys have been doing this year. And the rest of the time he's just constantly saying "straight up" in the exact same way Future did on "Straight Up." Guy just has no personality of his own and his aesthetic is some played out Tumblr shit.