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Music, Year in Review 2014

Year in Review: The Best Albums of 2014

Best Albums of 2014

For the third year in a row, we are proud to share our year-end list for the best albums of 2014. 

We invited our team of contributors to share a few sentences about their selections: many identify with their top picks on a personal level where the music is a soundtrack to their year; for some, their list represents a culmination of 2014’s hard work; and others select clear stand-outs amidst the transforming process of discovering new music.

Every one of these lists is vital to what we do, and represents the various ways in which our contributors interact with the global music scene on behalf of Aesthetic Magazine. Our contributors come from wide backgrounds, but our passion for music brings us together to inform, engage, grow, learn from each other, and to share our experiences with our readers everyday through reviews, interviews, and photography.

Thank you for reading Aesthetic Magazine, and see you all in 2015!

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Album: Ghosts
Artist: Big Wreck
Label: Anthem Records, Warner Music Canada
Released: June 10

Big Wreck - GhostsSince making their return in 2012 after a decade long hiatus, Big Wreck have been on a tear. Their newest album, Ghosts, is as powerful and pungent as their 1997 debut. They sound as youthful now in their 40s as they did in their 20s. They have this ability to transform from hard-hitting riffs to sweetly melodic choruses with grungy, Soundgarden like vocals from front man Ian Thornley. Ghosts is enjoyable from cover to cover, with standout tracks like: “Ghosts,” “Hey Mama,” “Still Here,” and “Come What May.”

– Adam Harrison

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Album: Into the Wide
Artist: Delta Spirit
Label: Dualtone Records
Released: September 9

Delta Spirit - Into the Wide

Delta Spirit is another band that have yet to hit the commercial success they deserve. Like a fine wine, they seem to grow with age, with each of their albums besting the last. Their fourth and newest album, Into the Wide, continues that trend with a collection of charismatic songs that are fresh with an old school twist. Front man Jon Jameson’s vocals have that smoky characteristic that makes each track superbly memorable. Be sure to listen to: “From Now On,” “Live On,” “Hold My End Up,” and “For My Enemy.”

– Adam Harrison

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Album: Sonic Highways
Artist: Foo Fighters
Label: Roswell Records, RCA Records
Released: November 10

Foo Fighters - Sonic Highway

If you can count on one band to make this list every year they release an album it’s without a doubt Foo Fighters. The genius of Dave Grohl strikes again on their eighth studio album, Sonic Highways. The expectations were at an all-time high after their last album, Wasting Light, which is one of, if not the best Foo album to date and in my opinion one of the best albums of the last decade. I wouldn’t say Sonic Highways tops it, but it definitely doesn’t disappoint. It’s got maturity to it, but with the same hard rockin’, Foo Fighting punch we’ve come to expect from Grohl and the boys. The album is surprisingly short with only eight tracks, but each one comes with it’s own type of flavour that has Grohl tenderly serenading you one minute and yelling in your ear drum the next. Songs you can’t miss on this one include: “Something from Nothing,” “What Did I Do?/God As My Witness,” “Outside,” and “I Am a River.”

– Adam Harrison

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Album: Turn Blue
Artist: The Black Keys
Label: Nonesuch Records
Released: May 12

The Black Keys - Turn Blue

The Black Keys, who put blues back on the map, released their eighth album (they’re third since skyrocketing to stardom), and remind us exactly why blues is back. Turn Blue is a retro throwback that we’ve come to expect from the duo. Each track takes you on a journey, some are slow and steady, while others are upbeat; some are melodramatic, while others are fun and charming; some make you want to kick back, while others make you want to leap off your seat. It’s this variety that makes this album so memorable. Key tracks include: “Fever,” “10 Lovers,” and “Gotta Get Away.”

– Adam Harrison

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Album: Himalayan
Artist: Band of Skulls
Label: Electric Blues Records
Released: March 31

Band of Skulls - Himalayan

Band of Skulls is Britain’s best-kept secret. Their third and latest album, Himalayan, does anything but disappoint, in fact, it takes the top spot for 2014. It’s got an almost oxymoronic simplistic intricacy. It’s fun, it’s catchy and it rocks hard from beginning to end. Especially be sure to check out the tracks: “Asleep at the Wheel,” “Hoochie Coochie,” “Nightmares,” and “Brothers and Sisters.”

– Adam Harrison

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Album: Atlas
Artist: Real Estate
Label: Domino Record Co.
Released: March 4

Real Estate - Atlas

Real Estate gets gloomy and feels the pain of growing older and leaving the past behind; the songs on Atlas still soar, but they carry a heavier burden.

– Maria Sokulsky-Dolnycky

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Album: Burn Your Fire For No Witness
Artist: Angel Olsen
Label: Jagjaguwar
Released: February 18

Angel Olsen - Burn Your Fire For No WitnessBurn Your Fire For No Witness is Angel Olsen at her grittiest, but she still manages to hold on to the raw vulnerability and softness that made her so great in the first place.

– Maria Sokulsky-Dolnycky

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Album: Bahamas Is Afie
Artist: Bahamas
Label: Brushfire Records
Released: August 19

Bahamas - Bahamas Is Afie

Bahamas Is Afie is Afie Jurvanen baring his soul; the songs on this record are poignant, sensitive, and beautiful.

– Maria Sokulsky-Dolnycky

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Album: Shrink Dust
Artist: Chad VanGaalen
Label: Flemish Eye
Released: April 29

Chad VanGaalen - Shrink Dust Chad VanGaalen shows us that he is still the wizard of weird; He fills Shrink Dust with poignant, quirky, and downright good songs.

– Maria Sokulsky-Dolnycky

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Album: Supermodel
Artist: Foster the People
Label: Columbia
Released: March 14

Foster The People - Supermodel

It is safe to say Foster the People are slowly becoming the next “it” band. The release of their second studio album Supermodel is a testimony of what is now and what is next to come and that is great music. Being a hybrid band that mixes neo-psychedelic, alternative rock and indie pop allows suspense with any song because you never know where it will take you.

Some lyrics in this album act as prophets by asking deep questions that really encourages you to view your current life, ponder thoughts and has you self-assessing your current state. Listen to “Are You What You Want To Be?“, “The Truth” and “Ask Yourself”.

– Olivia Goheen

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Album: Sonic Highways
Artist: Foo Fighters
Label: RCA Records
Released: November 10

Foo Fighters - Sonic Highway

Foo Fighters takes listeners on a journey with their eighth studio album Sonic Highways. This unique album consists of eight tracks, each produced in a different city around the United States. Every song has a bit of character that reflects where the band recorded the song. Listen to the first single “Something From Nothing” and get a feel for the Chicago music scene.

– Olivia Goheen

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Album: Commonwealth
Artist: Sloan
Label: Yep Roc Records
Released: September 9

Sloan - Commonwealth

Much of Sloan’s newest album Commonwealth carries a great deal of influences from the ‘60s and ’70s. The retro feel soundtrack gives each band member time to shine by allowing each of them to produce solo work to showcase the diversity of the group. There is at least one song from each artist you can enjoy! Listen to “Three Sisters”(Ferguson), “You Don’t Need Excuses to Be Good” (Murphy), “Take It Easy” (Pentland) and “Forty-Eight Portraits” (Scott).

– Olivia Goheen

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Album: High Noon
Artist: Arkells
Label: Arkells Music Inc./Universal Music Canada
Released: August 5

Arkells - High Noon

Being the proud Canadian I am, I always like to support Canadian talent and the Arkells get my support easily with their bright and carefree sound. The release of their third full-length studio album High Noon brings listeners rock ‘n’ roll with lots of vitality. Almost every song on this album can liven a person up and bring out the best. If you’re interested in feeling some good vibe music listen to “Come to the Light”.

– Olivia Goheen

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Album: Crush Songs
Artist: Karen O
Label: Cult Records
Released: September 9

Karen O - Crush Songs

Honesty is the best policy, and that is exactly what you get from Karen O’s latest album Crush Songs. She speaks so truthfully about love and the pain she has felt from it. Most people keep these feelings in, but she puts her past on the table and shares it to the world. Some songs may bring out the hopeless romantic in you or make you think of past relationships, but in the end love is something every human being desires. Listen to her convey the raw truth about romance in “Rapt”. In addition, if you’re a fan of The Doors you will appreciate her delicate cover of “Indian Summer”.

– Olivia Goheen

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Album: Lost in the Dream
Artist: The War on Drugs
Label: Secretly Canadian
Released: March 18

The War On Drugs - Lost In The DreamLost in the Dream was recorded over an intense two year period as Adam Granduciel, the creative mastermind behind The War on Drugs, was struggling through deep depression. He sat at home in his big house in Philadelphia alone, ruminating over the songs, nearly driving himself crazy. He rewrote and rewrote. And it shows. Lost in the Dream is clouded in sadness, and it’s a perfect ’80s classic rock sadness that Don Henley himself probably couldn’t even channel. There’s something about an album appearing at a certain time in your life, and it just connects, it’s something you just need to hear. That’s Lost in the Dream for me. It’s beautiful and hazy and terribly melancholic, and by far one of my favourite albums of 2014.

– Laura Beaulne-Stuebing

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Album: Ephemeral
Artist: Rich Aucoin
Label: Bonsound
Released: September 9

Rich Aucoin - EphemeralEphemeral is a 29-minute-long continual punch in the gut of high after high. It’s a crazy electro-dance-pop album to be thankful for, and one that very clearly represents Aucoin’s perpetual optimism and drive to embrace every moment while we’re still here to embrace them. Dance with your friends to Ephemeral, work out to Ephemeral, or stroll down the street to Ephemeral. Whatever. Just listen to Ephemeral and then hug someone you love.

– Laura Beaulne-Stuebing

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Album: Singles
Artist: Future Islands
Label: 4AD
Released: March 24

Future Islands - SinglesIt took me a while to clue into the near genius of Future Islands, but after their David Letterman performance and a few spins of Singles, I got it. Frontman Samuel T. Herring’s earnest theatrics, how ‘Seasons Change (Waiting on You)’ sways, the overwrought, over the top melodramatic and poetic lyrics are magical. Out of context, words like “she looks the moon, so close and yet so far,” are just a little too silly to be taken seriously. It may all seem like too much, but Herring makes it real and makes it work. His dancing and the way his eyes search for something he can’t quite find, is melodramatic, but sincere.

– Laura Beaulne-Stuebing

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Album: Second Sight
Artist: Hey Rosetta!
Label: Sonic Records/Warner Music Canada
Released: October 21

Hey Rosetta - Second Sight Hey Rosetta! fans had been waiting a long time for this album. We waited, and the band – after a three year gap since their last LP Seeds and after adding a seventh member – gave us something big and very beautiful. Second Sight is filled with slow builds and big releases, string arrangements and genuine, interesting and meaningful lyrics. It was so, so worth the wait.

– Laura Beaulne-Stuebing

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Album: What’s Your 20? Essential Tracks 1994-2014
Artist: Wilco
Label: Nonesuch Records
Released: November 17

Wilco - What’s Your 20? Essential Tracks 1994-2014Right, I know. An essential tracks compilation shouldn’t really count as a best of in any given year. But this is Wilco, to mark 20 years of their existence, so in my eyes that doesn’t matter one bit. Their music will never get old, and every time I jump into one of their albums again I see, hear or experience it in a new way. I don’t totally agree with every choice on this album – I would’ve especially liked to see “Wishful Thinking”, which I think is one of their best and most overlooked songs, and I have a serious fondness for ‘One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)’ – but What’s Your 20? serves as a good overview of Wilco’s extensive and impressive catalogue, and a look at how their sound has evolved in the years since 1994.

– Laura Beaulne-Stuebing

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Album: RTJ2
Artist: Run the Jewels
Label: Mass Appeal
Released: October 24

Run The Jewels

No album got more playtime in my car this year as RTJ2. Conversely, no album managed to so honestly touch on some of the year’s most explosive and caustic social issues. It’s an incredible balancing act to walk, but Run the Jewels do it better than anyone. After experiencing their magnificent (albeit short) set at NXNE, their second album couldn’t come fast enough. Flaunting a tour that’s sold out almost every North American venue it visited, press coverage from everyone with a keyboard and a website, Run the Jewels’ success in 2014 is one of music’s great feel-good stories: two BFFs, vets of the industry who are solidifying their legacy together – entirely on their own terms.

– Daniel Gerichter

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Album: Royal Blood
Artist: Royal Blood
Label: Warner Brothers
Released: August 25

Royal Blood

It’s hard to deny this record its due, even though the Mercury committee chose to. Royal Blood is a quick death by riff, coming in at less than 40 minutes, but tearing shit up for every second of its 11 tracks. 2015 sees their first full-length record, plus an opening slot for Foo Fighters’ North American tour. For such a short album and appearances at almost every major summer festival, Royal Blood have amassed one hell of a following. All it takes is one listen to see why.

– Daniel Gerichter

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Album: Nikki Nack
Artist: Tune-Yards
Label: 4AD
Released: May 5

Tune-Yards - Nikki Nack2014 was a triumphant year for women in music. Across nearly every genre, the year’s best records, singles and tours came from women who were among the industry’s most fearless artists. Among 2014’s bravest and most exhilarating was Tune-Yards’ Nikki Nack. On this spectacular record, Merrill Garbus combines infectious drums, schoolyard chants, cheeky humour and just plain weird synths. It’s a sound nobody else in this industry can lay claim to, and a hallmark of a creative force we never knew we missed.

– Daniel Gerichter

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Album: Neuroplasticity
Artist: Cold Specks
Label: Arts & Crafts
Released: August 26

Cold Specks - NeuroplasticityAl Spx gave the world Cold Specks – a live performance juggernaut – in 2012. This year, she seamlessly brought that energy to the sublime Neuroplasticity, a feast of textures and sweeping arrangements. Spxelicits Joni Mitchell (who is a huge fan, as it turns out) as easily as she does Sade, on one of 2014’s most crucial listens.

– Daniel Gerichter

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Album: Morning Phase
Artist: Beck
Label: Capitol Records
Released: February 21

Beck- Morning PhaseIt would seem there are two kinds of Beck albums. Your “crazy with the cheesewiz” records, where he (and the rest of us) dust off our dancing shoes and groove along to his immortal slacker anthems. The other album is your melancholy, teary-eyed affair, where Beck sits us all down by some sort of campfire, and croons. We have no idea why we’re sad – we just are. Sea Change did it brilliantly, and now Morning Phase, admittedly more upbeat, gives us Beck the troubled troubadour. To be honest, we’re good either way.

– Daniel Gerichter

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Album: Built On Glass
Artist:Chet Faker
Label: Future Classic/Opulent
Released: April 11

Chet Faker - Built on GlassI tried to pick a song that I like most off this album, and it took me 18 days to decide. It was so hard because every song has such a unique vibe to it but it all flows so well together. Be warned, you will want to cry, laugh, dance, and body roll throughout different moments of this album.

– Julio de la Torre

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Album: 1989
Artist: Taylor Swift
Label: Big Machine Records
Released: October 27

Taylor Swift - 1989Have you ever had Pop Rocks in your mouth for 48 minutes and 41 seconds? In all seriousness, I never thought there would be a song by T-Swift that I would enjoy. And then I heard this album and now I can’t imagine ever not having alittle bit of T-swift in my life. She’s legendary for pulling off such a huge switch in genre. If anyone could have done it though, it would be her.

– Julio de la Torre

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Album: I Forget Where We Were
Artist: Ben Howard
Label: Republic Records
Released: October 20

Ben Howard - I Forget Where We Were

This album is so different from his last release. This album just takes you to a very comforting place. It’s so mellow and relaxing, while the lyrics are so deep and reflective, truly a poetic album. If an album could be a hot tub, this album is exactly that.

– Julio de la Torre

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Album: This is All Yours
Artist: Alt-J
Label: Infectious Records
Released: September 22

Alt-J  - This Is All YoursThis album has such a rough sound, yet it sounds so smooth when you listen to it all together. It flows so well together. It allows me to be reflective while at the same time taking me somewhere completely different.

– Julio de la Torre

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