How we made the listTo pull together the Best of 2014 list, we did a sweep of sources including the BBC, NME, The Guardian, Pitchfork, Q, Rock Sound, The Observer, The Independent, Resident Advisor, The Telegraph and Drowned in Sound.
After scouring ratings and reviews for hundreds of releases we came out of a small room with this list - our top 100 picks of the most acclaimed albums of the year.
Best of 2013Best of 2013 feature.
Best of 2012Best of 2012 feature.
Best of 2011Best of 2011 feature.
Our top 100 of the most acclaimed albums of 2014 , as published on November 21, 2014.
|1. Morning Phase Beck|
|Released in February 2014, Beck’s twelfth album immediately drew comparisons to his critically acclaimed and commercially successful 2002 LP Sea Change (Rolling Stone’s album of that year) encouraged by Beck who described Morning Phase as a sequel. Indeed many of the musicians Beck worked with on Sea Change returned to appear on Morning Phase, including his father, composer David Campbell, who contributed orchestral arrangements. The Independent on Sunday describes the album as "an often gorgeous sequel to Sea Change, but it’s also more than that: it’s cheering proof that Beck isn’t ready to start repeating himself just yet" while Drowned in Sound highlights Beck’s journey from despair in Sea Change to reflection in Morning Phase, "It might share some sonic similarities [to Sea Change], but it's an altogether brighter beast".|
|• "The result is a set that feels like an instant folk-rock classic." Rolling Stone, "Morning Phase never sounds anything less than opulent." Pretty Much Amazing|
|• CD ( £7.98) | Vinyl ( £19.77) | MP3 ( £4.49) | More from Beck|
|2. Lost In The Dream War on Drugs|
|Far from being a “difficult” third album, The War on Drugs’ Lost in the Dream has far exceeded its own lofty expectations following the critical acclaim for its predecessor, 2011’s Slave Ambient. As Pitchfork describe, it is bandleader Adam Granduciel’s “most lustrous, intricately detailed and beautifully rendered record to date”, influenced by various touch points from 70s and 80s rock, from Tom Petty to Fleetwood Mac, but still sounding timeless, drenched in its own ethereal haze.|
|• “With Lost In The Dream Adam Granduciel seems to be heading for things far bigger than anyone could ever have expected” 9/10 NME, “An immaculately assembled portrait of a man falling apart” 8.8 Pitchfork|
|• CD ( £7.98) | Vinyl ( £21.26) | MP3 ( £7.49) | More from The War on Drugs|
|3. Everyday Robots Damon Albarn|
|Damon Albarn is clearly not a man to sit still. From Blur to Africa Express, Gorillaz to The Good, The Bad and The Queen, it’s a wonder it’s taken him over 20 years to release his first “proper” solo record. Thankfully, and perhaps unsurprisingly, Everyday Robots was worth the wait, finding Albarn at his most reflective, poignant best. Despite the man’s energy for music, much of the album’s charm comes from its pervasive fragility, as seen on the title track, “If You’re Lonely, Press Play” and several other tracks that are framed simply by piano and glitchy trip-hop-esque beats. Critics have variously compared the album to Low-era Bowie, Bon Iver and more, but whatever the comparison, Everyday Robots is Albarn’s most personal contribution to date, and no matter how sad it sounds, it’s one with which he should be very happy.|
|• “Beautiful, but subtle, cloudy and elusive… Whoever Damon Albarn is, he's extremely good at what he does” 4/5 Guardian, “An intimate, introspective album that takes tentative steps to reveal the soul behind the star” 4/5 The Independent|
|• CD ( £7.98) | Vinyl ( £18.79) | MP3 ( £8.99) | More from Damon Albarn|
|4. Love Letters Metronomy|
|After the electro pop success of their third album The English Riviera, Metronomy seek out more of a soul rock sound for Love Letters. Featuring catchy singles including the title track – named Zane Lowe’s “Hottest Record in the World" - and “I’m Aquarius” the album hit the UK album chart top ten in March. Metronomy founder and frontman Joseph Mount has become known for his love of experimentation having fronted two previous diverse groups and remixed or produced for a whole host of musicians as well as his numerous EPs, albums and tracks with Metronomy. As All Music highlights “Given the critical and commercial success of The English Riviera, Metronomy could have easily spent another album or two expanding on its polished, erudite pop. However, they're too mercurial a band to do the obvious thing.” We can’t wait to see what they bring us next!|
|• “It’s Metronomy’s best work to date." The Independent, “Mount's intoxicating amalgam of past and present is the real thing.” Q Magazine|
|• CD ( £11.21) | Vinyl ( £20.38) | MP3 ( £7.99) | More from Metronomy|
|5. Caustic Love Paolo Nutini|
|Coming from a distinctly more mature footing than 2009’s Sunny Side Up, Caustic Love is a testament to Paolo Nutini’s songwriting ability. Debut single “Scream (Funk My Life Up)” bursts from the speakers with loud, upbeat horns to kick the album off and is accompanied by a number of feel-good summertime tunes but this is only one side to the album. Retaining the groove but slipping into a more heartfelt and tender moment are tracks such as “Diana” and the powerful “Iron Sky”. The album pays homage to the classic days of soul and Motown with its suggestive lyrics and regular nods to love and libido and shows the singer’s diversity. From his pop and ska infused debut These Streets via folk, indie, rock and funk the singer has come upon soul with the wisdom of man twice his age.|
|• "Caustic Love may be the best UK R&B album since the 1970s…" The Independent, "Caustic Love is a truly excellent modern soul record." The Telegraph|
|• CD (from £6.00) | Vinyl ( £15.53) | MP3 ( £6.39) | More from Paolo Nutini|
|6. Shriek Wye Oak|
|Formed in 2006, Wye Oak from Balitmore in Maryland curate, in Shriek, an indie rock collection of tunes with an folk twist, and more than a little hint of R&B flavour. With multiple instruments each (Andy on drums, keyboards and backing vocals, and Jenn as vocalist, guitarist and bassist) the duo released Shriek, their fourth studio album, early in 2014 as a follow up to Civilian which with tracks featuring in TV title sequences saw a turning point for the pair. "Departures rarely sound this confident--it helps that Shriek builds off of the major songwriting strides made by Civilian" claims The A.V Club as Wye Oak hand over the guitar, move in the synths and let Jenn's vocals take centre stage.|
|• "Wye Oak just turned in one of the year's most satisfying and seductive records." Magnet, "Shriek is a sustained act of seduction, a deftly conjoined conjuring of song, rhythm and mood." Uncut|
|• CD ( £11.60) | Vinyl ( £13.86) | MP3 ( £7.99) | More from Wye Oak|
|7. Our Love Caribou|
|Drawing on R&B influences for his sixth album Our Love, Canadian mathematician Dan Snaith, otherwise known as Caribou, guides his experimental electronica onto the dancefloor following the success of 2010’s Swim. The Guardian describes it as “rich, strange, endlessly fascinating music: a subtle, beautiful triumph” while Pitchfork draws on the fact that Snaith has described this as his most honest album to date, marvelling at the way in which it depicts loving relationships: “one that’s remarkable for its intimacy, openheartedness and joy derived from human connection”.|
|• "spellbindingly ambiguous, endlessly fascinating electronica" 5/5 The Guardian, "Electronic DJ and producer Dan Snaith builds uncomplicatedly towards euphoria on his latest effort" 4/5 The Telegraph|
|• CD ( £9.99) | Vinyl ( £14.99) | MP3 ( £7.99) | More from Caribou|
|8. Lazaretto Jack White|
|Jack is back, and somewhat predictably, this enigmatic blues-rock powerhouse has done it yet again. Right from the off, White fuses his trademark riffs, dirty production and irrepressible groove into an R'n'B stomper (that's rhythm and blues in the truest sense) that drives forward and just barely hangs together. That controlled disorder and unruly tightness has always been his calling card, and is exactly what makes his records get the listener onto the edge of their seat, and Lazaretto is no different. But that doesn't mean Lazaretto is a one dimensional affair, which White amply demonstrates on the more countrified tracks like "Temporary Ground", fusing honky-tonk piano, western fiddle, pedal-steel and mournful vocal harmonies to really show off his musicianship and versatility, not to mention the deeply personal subject matter. Jack White is back, and at his dramatic, uncompromising best.|
|• "He has channelled his demons in Lazaretto to create one of the great break-up albums of recent years" The Telegraph, "While Lazaretto may sometimes appear to be a more nakedly emotional collection of songs than we've come to expect from its creator, the contents also rate among his wittiest and his wildest efforts to date" Uncut|
|• CD ( £9.00) | Vinyl ( £21.99) | MP3 ( £7.09) | More from Jack White|
|9. You're Dead! Flying Lotus|
|Ideas abound on this wildly creative fifth album from Steven Ellison, a record of experimental electronica heavily indebted to freeform jazz that simultaneously functions as a concept piece celebrating the limbo between death and afterlife. With his jazz credentials cemented further by a guest appearance from Herbie Hancock, You’re Dead! also sees the LA producer’s rapping alias Captain Murphy stand tall alongside hip hop megastars Kendrick Lamar and Snoop Dogg, and though the concept may seem morose, the sound is anything but. As FlyLo explains it, “It's a celebration of the next experience. It's the transition and the confusion. It's not 'hey, you're dead.' It's 'hey - you're dead!'"|
|• "A madly inventive record that takes hip-hop and jazz as starting points, beats them to death and brings them back to life in an almost unrecognisable form." NME, "A carnival of imagination." The Observer|
|• CD ( £9.59) | Vinyl ( £21.20) | MP3 ( £7.49) | More from Flying Lotus|
|10. Syro Aphex Twin|
|Electronic music has moved on in leaps and bounds in the 13 years since the last a record under his Aphex Twin alias, but on this evidence many are still playing catch up with Richard D. James. Though he’s been responsible for a steady stream of releases under different monikers since 2001’s Drukqs, the mere sight of a green blimp emblazoned with the Aphex Twin logo was enough to create a furore as it drifted around East London this summer, and the album it heralded – Syro – was certainly worth the wait. Though it features his infant children on vocals and - according to an interview he gave with Q Magazine - is “as poppy as it’s going to get” for Aphex Twin, his sixth record is still a highly complex and rewarding listen, a continuation and refinement of a sound he arguably invented.|
|• "Another remarkable achievement from this wonderful group" 9/10 The Quietus "such exquisite attention to detail, you can’t help but submit to their advances" 9/10 Uncut|
|• CD ( £9.99) | Vinyl ( £24.99) | MP3 ( £7.49) |More from Aphex Twin|
More of the Best of 2014
Check out the rest of the top 100 of the year: 11-100