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CHIRP DJ writesCHIRP Radio’s Top 20 Albums of 2014!

CHIRP Radio Best of 2014

The votes are in and the calculations are complete...here are CHIRP Radio's top albums of 2014! Our volunteers cited over 220 albums as their favorites for this year, and these are the 20 records mentioned most often.

From all of us at the station, Happy New Year and all the best for 2015!

#1Run the Jewels 2 by Run the Jewels (Mass Appeal)
Run the Jewels Run the Jewels 2BUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

The 3rd album from Killer Mike and El-P is their 2nd as RTJ; El-P produced Killer Mike's R.A.P. Music before they officially became a duo. Killer Mike is from Atlanta, known in part as a featured artist on OutKast cuts, while El-P is a Brooklyn rapper and producer who has remained primarily in the non-mainstream, indie hip-hop universe. Together they deliver an unrelenting attack of aggressive MCing, with chaotic beats + noize that evokes the influence of Public Enemy's best material. There's no vapid R&B singers emoting a chorus on constant repeat, no pitched- down vocal gimmickry, no posing as wealthy drug-dealing gangsta murderers, no bloated predictability. These dudes are relatable because they wear their middle-class status without shame, and blow my mind repeatedly by simply being really, really good at rhyming over fascinating production, and then move on to the next cut. Believe the hype. --Matt Garman

#2St. Vincent by St. Vincent (Loma Vista/Republic)
St. Vincent St. VincentBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

Anne Clark’s art-pop just got a little bit funkier and a little bit more accessible, and the result is a smart, danceable, fun record. There are plenty of hooks, elusive but intriguing lyrics, layers of cool electronics, Clark’s quirky-but-not-too-quirky vocals and her amazing guitar playing. While I didn’t think her collaboration with David Byrne took off, this album shows that it had an impact, as it plays with rhythms and textures in a Talking Heads-y manner, without ever sounding imitative. --Mike Bennett

#3Lost in the Dream by The War On Drugs (Secretly Canadian)
The War On Drugs Lost in the DreamBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

It was the first AOTY contender this year, and we all knew it. And, sure enough, it's hung around (maybe thanks to goofiness of Mark Kozelek). Tom Petty, Dire Straits, Bob Dylan, and all the comparative obviousness is part of the reason this album takes so well, but its real strength is how it finds space to breathe. It's one we can enjoy on the porch with a beer and a dog. It's not asking too much of us, but we sure as hell don't want to skip a single song or turn it off. --Dylan Peterson

#4Broke With Expensive Taste by Azealia Banks (Prospect Park)
Azealia Banks Broke With Expensive TasteBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

Back in 2012, I put Azealia Banks' debut EP '1991' in the second position on my Top Ten list. In my review, I warned Nicki Minaj to watch her back because there was a new sheriff in town. This record has absolutely borne that opinion out. It took a while for this record to be released, but it was absolutely worth the wait. She sings and raps masterfully in both English and Spanish; each song is done in a slightly different style (some are straight up club bangers, others are '60s girl group throwbacks, you'll hear slow jams and '80s-style R&B, etc.). Ms. Banks showcases her not insignificant talents in almost every way possible. This record is just incredible. Number One with a bullet. For realz. --Nicole Oppenheim

#5Burn Your Fire for No Witness by Angel Olsen (Jagjaguwar)
Angel Olsen Burn Your Fire for No WitnessBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

This is cheating a little bit since Angel left Ukrainian Village for the scenic granola crunch of Asheville at some point late last summer, but let's call her our own for one more record before we give a Neko Case kiss-off into the national spotlight/abyss of wider fame. Though I have no regrets about not being in the same psychological space as this record for years now, Olsen's clarity of vision and attention to lyrical detail ("Unfucktheworld" opens the album with, "I quit my dreaming the minute that I found you / I started dancing just to be around you") made it impossible not to sympathize with. And as far as closers go, you'd be hard pressed to find a better one this year than "Windows." Months later, the chills remain. --Patrick Masterson

#6Under the Color of Official Right by Protomartyr (Hardly Art)
Protomartyr Under the Color of Official RightBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

Angular, caustic, and droll postpunk from the Motor City that would make Iggy proud. --Al Gabor

#7You're Dead! by Flying Lotus (Warp)
Flying Lotus You're Dead!BUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

Flying Lotus takes us on a rapid-fire trip through a galaxy of digital beats heavily influenced by the sounds coming out of Chicago's Drill scene and soulfully mixed with Jazz and Rap. A fantastic achievement from a gifted musician. --Clarence Ewing

#8Singles by Future Islands (4AD)
Future Islands SinglesBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

Breakthrough dance moves of 2014. Every track truly could be a single, but "Seasons" is probably the single of the year. And Sam is the Man Of The Year. The man who gave us the "Reverse 80's" dance move should be rewarded. He is an inspiration and so is the album. --Mauricio Reyes (The Triple Truth)

#9LP1 by FKA Twigs (Young Turks)
FKA Twigs LP1BUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

It's subtle, it's sexy, and it's fresh. Amazing post-r&b, post-glitch-electric album with an ethereal voice to kill. I can't stop playing this at parties to get everyone in the mood. --Amelia Hruby

#10To Be Kind by Swans (Young God)
Swans To Be KindBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

My first Swans record. I've since listened to their whole discography, but TBK is still one of my favorites. --Luke C

#11Piñata by Freddie Gibbs & Madlib (Madlib Invazion)
Freddie Gibbs & Madlib PiñataBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

When I saw this duo play live in Chicago, it was an epic psychedelic journey. After only a couple tracks, both of them lit up spliffs on stage and continued to chain smoke spliffs the entire time. Pretty soon there was a haze of weed smoke so thick that Freddie Gibbs hovered above us in a dream like state, a world where his crazy drunk uncle provides comedic interludes and his crowd work dips into casual not casual statements like "my friend just got shot by the police. F*ck the police!" The album is equally as meditative and showcases Madlib's knack for selecting the best parts of obscure jazzfunk to compliment raps. --DJ Bylamplight

#12Sea When Absent by A Sunny Day In Glasgow (Lefse)
A Sunny Day In Glasgow Sea When AbsentBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

My favorite record of 2014 was an endless source of joy, starting with the announcement that the Philly/Brooklyn/Sydney band were back after a four-year break between records. The subsequent release was nothing short of a monster. Movements leap from one to another like a child on a hopscotch court, with washes of guitar, vocal, and indeterminate noise flowing over the listener’s ears. ASDIG have always been dreamy, and Sea When Absent took their daydreamy shoegaze and made it into a gorgeous, vivid, summery collage. --Austin (The Liquid Diet)

#13Black Messiah by D'Angelo & The Vanguard (RCA)
D'Angelo & The Vanguard Black MessiahBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

The best part about procrastinating with one’s year-end list is that you have a chance to incorporate the year’s best sneak year-end release. D’Angelo emerges from his 14-year break between records with an album that sounds like he’s never been gone. The opener “Ain’t That Easy” sports the year’s best beat, a swung, slightly-off-kilter head-bobber complete with handclaps and the year’s best snare hit. Thumping basslines, complex-yet-funky beats, classic-Prince-esque swirling guitars and vocals; all these elements work in concert to deliver a work that is at once immediate and infinitely rewarding with multiple listens. Black Messiah is a testament to the value of letting great artists have the time needed to have great works incubate and flourish. A triumph. --Austin (The Liquid Diet)

#14Sun Structures by Temples (Fat Possum)
Temples Sun StructuresBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

They might have gotten flack for borrowing too much from their predecessors like Oasis or the Byrds, but it's not for any lack of talent. The English quintet provided the only music that got me get through this past year's atrocious winter, and for that, I'm eternally grateful. --Cher Vincent

#15They Want My Soul by Spoon (Loma Vista)
Spoon They Want My SoulBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

Spoon is my favorite, the best active working band out there, and they have been since I first heard Girls Can Tell in 2001. Every time they release an album it's my favorite of the year. They epitomize particular qualities that I am a flat-out sucker for: musically tight with catchy, economic songwriting; an emphasis on percussion, embodied by the unfuckwithable Jim Eno; topped by an enviable rasp, in this case that of frontman Britt Daniel.

Spoon have always sounded like a magnetic blend of their heroes: John Lennon, Can, Elvis Costello, Daryl Hall, et al. Working with outside producers for the first time on their eighth studio album, Spoon enlisted the straightforward Joe Chiccarelli to track half the songs; these recordings were then mixed with the spacier Dave Fridmann, who took over co-producing the remainder of the record. Perhaps most importantly, the band also added a fifth member, Alex Fischel (from Divine Fits, Daniel's 2012 side project); Fischel and Fridmann inject a blazing dose of chaos into Spoon's controlled environment, and the result is exhilarating. That is, it's all solid Spoon, pulsing and thumping perfectly, but it's the new Spoon 3.0, which is totally fantastic. --Matt Garman

#16Rips by Ex Hex (Merge)
Ex Hex RipsBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

OMG! Garage pop! The guitar parts on this record are all courtesy of Mary Timony absolutely shredding on a 1977 Les Paul Special--no wonder the album is reminiscent of The Runaways. When I listen to this record, a little roller derby team appears in my head and annihilates their opponents. There's definitely that 70s rock radio sound with a little pop twist, which is all you really need in a fun, garage-y record. As with the rest of my pics this year, this record is a party start to finish. The lyrics aren't deep or confusing. The riffs are fast and catchy. Play it while driving and you're likely to get a speeding ticket. --Nicole Oppenheim

#17Are We There by Sharon Van Etten (Jagjaguwar)
Sharon Van Etten Are We ThereBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

Her best yet--the same thing I’ve said about her last two albums. Although Van Etten hasn’t broadened the breadth of her subject matter, her songs continue to grow in nuance and power. --Al Gabor

#18Alvvays by Alvvays (Polyvinyl)
Alvvays AlvvaysBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

Nothing more or less than a perfectly executed, breezy summertime record full of fuzzy, guitar-driven pop songs with sweet female vocals. This one flies by, at which point you just turn over the record and start it again - repeatedly. --Shawn Campbell

#19Da Mind of Traxman Vol. 2 by Traxman (Planet Mu)
Traxman Da Mind of Traxman Vol. 2BUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

"Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." - Albert Einstein --DJ Dead Alive (Dave Toropov)

#20Morning Phase by Beck (Capital)
Beck Morning PhaseBUY: Reckless / Permanent / iTunes / Insound / Amazon

Beck revisits the sound of 2002’s Sea Change, working with many of the same musicians and delivering many of same sonic delights. --Al Gabor

 

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Categorized: Best Albums of the Year

Topics: best of 2014

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