An Album a Day — 2014’s Top 35 Albums

Young Fathers

The last three albums we list will be our three best of 2014. Until then, the list is in no particular order. Ranking something #32 and #29 strikes us as a completely arbitrary decision.

Jan 9 – Best Better S&M Than 50 Shades of Grey
Trust by 18+

Jan 8 – Best Throwing Caution to the Wind
The Golden Echo by Kimbra

Jan 7 – Best More is More
Sleepwalking Sailors by Helms Alee

Jan 6 – Best Less is More
Bluebird by Dawn Landes

Jan 5 – Best Gothic Chamberpop
Loom by Fear of Men

Jan 4 – Best Thing From Iceland
In the Silence by Asgeir

Jan 3 – Best West Coast Rap
CLPPNG by clipping.

Jan 2 – Best K-Pop Quadratic Function
Red Light by f(x)

Jan 1 – Best 14th Great Album in a Row
Unrepentant Geraldines by Tori Amos

Best Mystery Duo
Best Triumphant Reggae
Best Job Pissing Off Iggy Azalea
Best Poetic Rap
Best Australians
Best Thing From Scandinavia #3
Best Crazy Dance Groove
Best Hip Hop Collective
Best Smiling Every Time I Hear It
Best First LP
Best Living Up to Genetics
Best Thing From Scandinavia #2
Best Psychedelectronica
Best Who Released What?!?
Best Haunting Our Souls
Best Impression of St. Vincent
Best Chilean Powerhouse
Best Left Field Hip Hop
Best Thing From Scandinavia #1
Best Exceeding Considerable Expectations
Best No One Expected This From Her
Best Narco Swing
Best Avant Garde Throat Singing-based Electronica
Best Cyberpunk Epic to Summon Cthulhu By
Best Ripping My Heart Out
Best Mood Music
Best Possibilities in My Head

The seven critics who composed this list are Maria Felicia, S.L. Fevre, Cleopatra Parnell, Amanda Smith, Olivia Smith, Vanessa Tottle, & Gabriel Valdez.

Our Process
by Cleopatra Parnell

We’ve been working on something special for you. Yes, you! Instead of sticking up a list that names a billion of 2014’s best albums that you’ll look at once and forget, we’re going to give each album its complete consideration.

We also won’t be stupid about music. This may sound like an obvious promise that shouldn’t have to be made, but look around. Iggy Azalea’s The New Classic is considered in some circles (hi Grammys) to be one of the best rap albums of the year. She’s fun to listen to, but ranking her above this year’s groundbreaking achievements in rap feels like rewarding her for an achievement in celebrity as opposed to music.

Other publications devote their space to searching for whoever sounds like Bob Dylan did 40 years ago. Thanks, but I’ve already had my ears pierced. Dylan was awesome, but we can’t choose the best music by who karaoked him this year.

Too many lists also focus overwhelmingly on Caucasian artists. Rap and hip hop artists are sprinkled across, but they feel like a cover-your-ass change-of-pace. Where are the Hispanic artists? The Asian ones? The indigenous ones?

Our Top 35 list will take place over 35 days, devoting a full article to each album. These will link back here so you can view our choices in their entirety as they are revealed.

Our approach is inspired by the best film of the year articles Roger Ebert posted later in his career, where he refused to rank his choices. What’s the difference between the #35 and the #33 album of the year? What about #10 and #9? Let’s celebrate what albums achieve on their own, and not which side of the bed I woke up on that morning.

We are using the framework of the most reasonable approach to year-end criticism, Rock Paper Shotgun’s advent calendar used for games criticism. The philosophy is this: we dumped our choices for top albums of 2014 into a hat. We listened to each others’ choices. Our opinions expanded. Then we made our own rankings. We threw those into a hat. We argued. We stomped our feet. We burned the hat. We each made passionate entreaties for why our choices should get more consideration than that stupid thing someone else made us listen to. We got angry at the democratic process. Finally, we reached our top 35 albums of the year. We don’t all agree on every entry. Neither will you. That’s a good thing. We created a more diverse list this way.

Only then did we assign categories, based on what we’d chosen. That means the categories will change from one year to the next. There is no countdown order to the articles, except for the last three, which will indicate our top 3 albums of 2014.

Why wait until January to do this, instead of putting it up right after Thanksgiving like most sites do? Well, music does get released in December. Also, it allows us the chance to use the holiday break as an opportunity to research deeper into music that other sites may have missed. We aren’t rushing. Criticism should be about quality and consideration, not pre-emptive speed.

You’ll see some familiar names on this list. Some will be bands you expect and know. Some will be bands you haven’t heard of. We hope we’ll introduce you to some new artists who will help make the cold hours of January and February more exciting. Above is the full list of awards. Click on each album title to read our full article. We will fill these in, one a day, as they are revealed, and the last three will be our top albums of the year.

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