Another year, another slew of fresh beats, slick jams, and bangin’ anthems. Music is ever evolving, just like its audience. It ages with us for better or worse and as our tastes change, new artists fall in and out of our lives. 2014 was no different but there was perhaps an even greater shift in my personal taste buds as I bought easily the years most diverse offering in “Black Star Elephant” by Nico & Vinz. Neither a true raggae, R&B, hip hop, or pop album, “Black Star Elephant” transcended genres and opened my mind to a whole new world of sounds and experiences. And I’ll be damned if it wasn’t refreshing to hear an album about life rather than love and money.
Anyway, fellow Scene contributor and music buff Shayla and I have compiled what we think were the best albums of 2014 to make sure you haven’t missed anything while you were sleeping. Read on!
Coldplay – “Ghost Stories”
It felt like a lifetime waiting for “Ghost Stories” to come out, especially since 2011’s “Mylo Xyloto” was such an incredibly inspirational work of art. But it finally came and boy did I take a seat and pay attention. With all the tabloid nonsense surrounding singer Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow’s split, I was surprised that “Ghost Stories” was essentially a 40 minute love story. There was the discovery phase, where everything is new, exciting, fresh, and magic. Then there was the rocky phase; darkness swelled and depression sets in. But in the end, the light at the end of the tunnel shines bright and hope of a new day gleams. Listening to the album as a single piece is a transcending experience, like the emotional roller coaster that is love. Ironic considering the circumstances surrounding its release.
Fave Track: Midnight
There is nothing I can say about this song that it doesn’t say itself. It is the soul of the album, as if all the emotion of each track were poured into it. Simply, it is a thing of beauty.
Yellowcard – “Lift A Sail”
Laugh if you will, but the Yellowcard of 2014 isn’t the bubblegum Ocean Avenue Cali kids of 2003. A decade has made a huge difference in the quality of music the punk rockers pop out every few years. While I thought 2012’s “Southern Air” was their most grown up offering to date, “Lift A Sail” blows it out of the water in terms of maturity. Singer Ryan Key wrote much of the album under the stress of his wife’s paralyzing snowboard injury and it bleeds through beautifully. With just the right mix of aggressive power anthems and love songs to his recovering wife, “Life A Sail” is by far the best Yellowcard album in the last decade.
Fave Track: The Deepest Well
Featuring Matty Mullins from Memphis May Fire in a shall we say… less shitty and aggressive manner, this song slays your ears, especially where its placed on the album, which is after a slew of heart-string tuggers.
Nico & Vinz – “Black Star Elephant”
You could be forgiven for thinking “Black Star Elephant” is the debut for Nico & Vinz, but the Norwegian-based duo has performed under the name Envy since 2009. They released their smash hit Am I WrongÂ in 2013 which translated to a major label deal and the name change. “Black Star Elephant” hit shelves in October and having had well over a year to gush overÂ Am I Wrong, which seemed to play every 4th song on pop radio, the anticipation had been killing me. “Black Star Elephant” did not disappoint. Filled with tales of hope, wonder, life, and love, its as unique as they come. You never feel like either singer is fighting for time on the track, but rather they blend seamlessly together like one voice, much like the eclectic diversity of instruments used throughout. The album became my go-to inspirational soundtrack, like a musical personification of The Lion King. Words can’t possibly describe how important this album is, so just grab a copy and see for yourself.
Fave Track: When the Day Comes
Every week I have a new favourite track from this album and this week, itsÂ When the Day Comes. These guys just seem like they have an absolute blast making music.
Big Wreck – “Ghosts”
This album hit me like a ton of bricks. The thing I like the most about it is the more you listen to it, the more vocal and instrumental influences you hear. A guitar riff might remind you of something Zeppelin, or a vocal run might remind you of Chris Cornell of Soundgarden, but Big Wreck make it all their own. My favourite track on the album is calledÂ Hey Mama.Â It’s got a country-inspired sound, and a really cool groove. You gotta listen to this album.
Fave Track: Hey Mama[youtube id=”zM0XDSkFLYg” width=”620″ height=”360″]
The Pretty Reckless – “Going To Hell”
I’m impressed with how this band is constantly improving. There’s a much more mature sound on this album, compared to their earlier releases (not that I don’t love those too). “Going to Hell” is rawer, darker and a lot more stripped down.
Fave Track: Blame Me[youtube id=”0XynEtJh2lM” width=”620″ height=”360″]
Neon Trees – “Pop Psychology”
This album was all I listened to for about a month straight after I discovered it. Upbeat, happy-go-lucky songs about teenage love and heartbreak. What could be better? Nothing I tells ya. I can’t get tired of these songs.
Fave Track:Â Foolish Behaviour[youtube id=”mbQF9O27O0w” width=”620″ height=”360″]
Professor Green – “Growing Up In Public”
I’m usually not one for rap, but Professor Green just does it for me. “Growing Up In Public” tells tales of the not-so-great time he’s had lately. So much so that it’s almost an autobiography. He raps about marriage, beefs with other pop stars, run-ins with the law, and even getting hit by a car. It’s refreshing to hear songs that don’t rhyme “models” with “bottles”.
Fave Track: Little Secrets[youtube id=”PG4V45VlToA” width=”620″ height=”360″]
Sam Smith – “In The Lonely Hour”
I’m pretty sure he could sing the phone book and I’d listen to it. This is a super soulful and enjoyable album. Except Money on my Mind, I really don’t like that one. But that’s just me.
Fave Track: I’m Not The Only One[youtube id=”nCkpzqqog4k” width=”620″ height=”360″]
Lights – “Little Machines”
This offering from Lights shows a lot of growth and is much more mature. I enjoy that she’s constantly trying out new sounds with her music, but always keeping it distinctively Lights.
Fave Track: Oil And Water[youtube id=”qFWMiJeVA6U” width=”620″ height=”360″]