Friday, December 19, 2014

Top 30 Best Albums of 2014: PART III (#1--10)...

A new year-end winner is crowned...

1.Beyonce Beyonce: Beyoncé pushes boundaries not because it sells sex at every turn, but because it treats a power-balanced marriage as a place where sexuality thrives. At a time when when young people are gripped by an ideological fear of monogamy’s advertised doldrums, Beyoncé boldly proposes the idea that a woman’s prime—personal, professional, and especially sexual—can occur within a stable romantic partnership. Monogamy has never sounded more seductive or less retrograde as when dictated on Beyoncé's terms. What’s more is that the erotic themes don’t feel out-of-step with the album’s more decorous moments, like the stadium-filling XO or Blue, its requisite treatise on motherhood. In Beyoncé’s world, there are illicit doors to be unlocked in the halls of tradition and vice versa. (Pitchfork)

2. Ariel Pink Pom Pom: You can interpret this as another surreal metaphor in his search for enchanted love or chalk it up to a teenaged fixation with the Doors. Maybe a little of both. He can be the frog prince, Shotgun Billy, or ride shotgun in a pink corvette. He can be a rock'n'roller named Ariel from Beverly Hills, complete with his own billboards. And in a place where delusion, self-reinvention, and wish fulfillment have long been the principal cash crop, who are we to tell him otherwise? (Pitchfork)

3. St. Vincent St. Vincent: it’s hard to ask too much more from an album that boasts melodies as lovely as Prince Johnny and Severed Crossed Fingers. That last one is the best closing song on a St. Vincent album yet—a self-deprecating, slow-motion parade of a ballad. It’s a moment of vulnerability and bleak hope rounding out Clark’s hardest, tightest, and most confident record to date—a vaguely ominous promise of better days ahead. "We’ll be heroes on every bar stool," she vows, sounding so sure of herself that you’re liable to follow her to whatever planet she’s headed. (Pitchfork)

4. Schoolboy Q Oxymoron: Oxymoron is a victory in that Q’s sound has made the jump to the majors fully intact in an era where major label debuts often take a chop shop approach to assembly. Interscope’s trust in TDE saves the album from the awkward test tube collaborations that bog down many of its peers, but Oxymoron’s doubling down on a reliable formula makes for a relatively risk-averse listen. Q shines the most when he’s able to reconcile his hustler past with his rap star present rather than mining each separately. (Pitchfork)

5. Tune-Yards Nikki Nack: Garbus is an artist who lives with weird but flirts with normal. Gone is the chipper ukulele of w h o k i l l and BiRd-BrAiNs; Nikki Nack signifies maturity while still allowing room for Garbus to do zany things like scat-sing "One two three o'clock/ Four o'clock, walk and walk and talk and talk and walk and talk and then/ Five, six, seven—seven—seven—heaven—heaven—take me again" for 90 seconds straight on full tilt. In moments when Garbus does calm down, she does it with the grace and certainty of an archer drawing back her bow—less a concession than a show of power. (Pitchfork)

6. Run The Jewels Run The Jewels 2: these two test each other’s hip-hop fluency often. It’s almost as if they’re competing to see who can rap faster, better and more articulately. But there’s a darker undertone to this record than the first time around; they’re happy, but they’re also pissed. Run The Jewels borrows from a range of hip-hop techniques, but they always deliver. You can feel the effort with every syllable, that this music is coming from their very core. It’s a comprehensive essay on the style and vernacular of hip hop. (Paste)

7. Ty Segall Manipulator: Manipulator sounds like a 70s record in that every element is always audible; there's no mastering everything louder than everything else. Every instrument has its place, and every instrument does its job: there's nothing sloppy about Manipulator; it's precise. From its title track onwards – a delicious descending organ riff, joined by a perfectly constructed guitar line that doubles up on itself – Manipulator feels like a statement album, as if Segall has had enough of being hailed as a god by three dozen people in tiny clubs with extensive record collections drawn entirely from labels like In the Red and Sympathy for the Record Industry. (The Guardian)

8. Black Milk Glitches In The Break: For a project amassed in a few short months, Glitches In The Break has the workings of an even greater full-length LP had more time, elaborations and work been put in to the album. Regardless of that, this EP stands as another solid piece of work from one of Detroit's finest and tracks like Dirt Bells, Ruffin and Cold Day will have you revisiting this album many times this year and citing those as the best songs off of this one. (Hiphop Speak Easy)

9. The Men Tomorrow’s Hits: Regardless of the slight upgrade in fidelity, Tomorrow’s Hits is much like what preceded it, with “the Men” serving as a fantasy camp construct for the record collectors making this record collector rock. Chiericozzi literally gets out of bed only to chase the songwriting muse (on several other songs, they sleep in or don’t sleep at all). Even if the songs aren’t necessarily about them, the Men like to play up the transformative power of rock'n'roll, as Dark Waltz kicks off Tomorrow’s Hits with a litany of classic archetypes: a drummer with a badass, weed-dealing brother and mom buying your first guitar. (Pitchfork)

10. Kate Tempest Everybody Down: Not everyone who saw this 27-year-old's spoken-word theatre show Brand New Ancients(for which she became the youngest-ever winner of the Ted Hughes prize) will be excited by the poet's venture into hip-hop. Likewise, there are hip-hop fans already dismissing the idea of a former Brit-schooler trying her hand at MCing, no matter that Tempest spent her teenage years on the battle-rap circuit. Forget genre, though, and this unique album has much going for it. Everybody Down tells the story of three characters battling loneliness in the big city, with each song representing a new chapter. Tempest shines, though, through her use of language, which illuminates the subject matter – from boardroom drug deals to vacuous parties where "everybody … has got a hyphenated second name" – to dazzling effect. (The Guardian)