No Trivia's Year in Music: The top 50 singles and 50 albums of 2014
By By Brandon Soderberg
Dec 19, 2014 | 5:23 PM
News flash everybody: Lists are fucking awesome. They get a bad rep these days, because they're cranked out willy-nilly with no thought or energy put into them, but blame that on the lazy wet sandwiches generating content for the internet, not on lists themselves. The secret, of course, is that lists have always been the bread and butter of publishing and they're fucking fun, so just relax. Did you read City Paper's Top 10 issue? You should, it's great.
Anyways, here's another list: the best singles and albums of 2014, which really just means my favorite which is all "best" ever means anyway. I could seriously blather on about everything on these lists if you gave me enough Adderall and paid me enough money, but let's try and go big picture instead.
The records that grabbed me this year were ones that did their thing expertly and firmly all the way through, whether it was the 2000s-baby-doing-'90s-babymakin' R&B of Tink, the serial-killer-soundtrack drone of Terence Hannum, or the blunted sadness of Isaiah Rashad, just to name a few in my top 10. And plenty of the other ones below were cohesive and successful on their own terms and on those terms only, really. This isn't easy stuff to enter from outside, not because they're "difficult" but because they're concentrated bursts of whatever it is that each of these artist does, you know? I imagine there is something here you'll like or at least discover. I also should add that my favorite record to come out this year is a queer country record from 1973, Lavender Country's self-titled album, reissued thanks to Paradise of Bachelors. It does not make my list because it is not from 2014, so consider it at like No. 0 or something. As for singles: just songs that are fun in a way that doesn't make me feel dirty, or makes me feel dirty in the right way (no such thing as "guilty pleasures" around here, folks), or just sent a chill down my spine when I listen to them.
Finally, the big thing that's got to be addressed is D'Angelo and the Vanguard's mind-blowing-from-the-moment-I/we-all-heard-it "Black Messiah." It's a record that feels timeless but also feels like it couldn't have been released any other time than this week, right now. For those who haven't been listening to rap music close enough, especially street stuff and don't think that stuff counts as protest music, well, here is your big obvious protest record, though it's also a total masterpiece and it's also a record you should have sex to, so hey, that's all something. It's Duke Ellington's ethos explored through Eddie Hazel's "Game, Dame, and Guitar Thangs," Ornette Coleman's "Skies of America," and Talk Talk's "Laughing Stock," with the dejected rage of Sly and the Family Stone's "There's a Riot Goin' On."
Beyoncé dropped an exciting album on our heads late last year and established this dick-swinging side-step-the-year-end lists thing. It's wise. It is a way to own the conversation that isn't about the end of the year, and Nicki Minaj sort of did the same thing as Beyonce this week with "The Pinkprint," and both of those records are good and fun and occasionally excellent (and both are also political protest albums by nature of what they have to say and being big, bumping statements from black women who contain multitudes and all). But D'Angelo's sudden arrival feels earned and weighty in a different way. It's almost like he's giving us a gift. It's an album separate from all lists and it's only on mine because not including it would be strange. It is all I've listened to since it dropped. Who knows if it'll rank higher on my list later on and who cares. Certainly not me, because I don't look back at lists like this once I toss them into the world. That ain't the point. "Black Messiah" feels like the most cohesive and all-encompassing "shit done changed from here on out" record since Kanye West's "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy."