Up for a good long listen? Check out the top albums of 2014.
1. “In the Lonely Hour,” Sam Smith: Smith’s album was an emotional roller coaster – a ride you couldn’t get off of even if you tried. The songs, anchored by his piercing voice, had the power to make you cry, smile, shiver and even dance. Tracks like the radio hit “Stay With Me” and “Leave Your Lover” are intense and emotional, making for an honest, beautiful album that soothes the soul. There can be only one reply when he sings, “Oh, won’t you stay with me?” That would be a resounding “Yes.”
2. “2014 Forest Hills Drive,” J. Cole: The insanely talented rapper captures so much on his third album, tackling various topics from losing his virginity to growing up in Fayetteville, N.C., to contemporary rappers, who should take note. His rhymes are smart, and he is a powerful storyteller that, at times, echoes rap king Nas.
3. “LP1,” FKA twigs: FKA twigs’ ethereal and eerie album is heavenly. The English singer’s soft vocals layered over weird beats make this 10-track set a must listen, thanks to addictive tracks like “Two Weeks,” “Numbers” and “Lights On.”
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4. “Sucker,” Charli XCX: Let’s boom clap for Charli XCX and her top-notch album “Sucker.” The mix of rock and pop songs are confident and catchy and prove that although Charli XCX was the side chick on songs like Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” and Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” she’s the real leading lady.
5. “Aquarius,” Tinashe: Tinashe, who is also part of the alternative R&B movement, delivered an album that moved the needle this year. Though she had a huge hit with the addictive “2 On,” the singer proves she’s much more than a one-hit wonder on “Aquarius.” Her whispery vocals glide over the songs’ beats so nicely you’ll constantly hit repeat. “Just Like Vegas” is only one of the many standouts.
6. “Evergreen,” Broods: The parents of brother and sister duo Broods should be proud. The New Zealand group’s album “Evergreen” is a winner, with instrumentalist Caleb Nott shining on the eclectic, alternative production, giving Georgia Nott a platform to showcase her calming vocals, especially on “Killing You” and “Mother & Father.”
7. “My Everything,” Ariana Grande: Grande has already launched four Top 10 hits from her second album, but there’s so much more that bangs beyond “Bang Bang” on “My Everything.” The powerful vocalist nails it with a cool blend of R&B and pop songs that’s almost as good as her revering 2013 debut.
8. “Montevallo,” Sam Hunt: Props to singer-songwriter Hunt for blending country music with elements of R&B, electronica and hip-hop. It might sound wild, but it works on his debut album, mainly thanks to Hunt’s swagger and sexy sing-talk vocal delivery. Sam Smith isn’t the only Sam stealing hearts.
9. “Do It Again,” Robyn and Royksopp: Swedish singer Robyn and Norwegian duo Royksopp’s five-song dance EP is oh so good, and a tease. Full album, please?
10. “1000 Forms of Fear,” Sia: From “Chandelier” to “Elastic Heart” to “Eye of the Needle,” Sia’s latest album is just another laudable effort in her rich catalog, which is worth exploring if you’ve just discovered the gem this year.