The 6 Best Albums of 2014 (The Twelve Musics of Christmas Part II)

Here we are!  The year is drawing to a close, and it has been a good year for music lovers.  I had a very hard time writing this post because there were so many great albums, and I want to acknowledge them all.  Unfortunately, I am unable to do so, as that would take too much time and money.  So here are my six favorite albums that were released this year.


6. Supermodel by Foster the People

Thumbnail: Slightly psychedelic pop rock resembling Atlas Genius and Two Door Cinema Club.

super

Discourse: Mark Foster and crew have been characterized by their knack for creating musically peppy while lyrically heavy pop songs.  Some view this as a fault, but to me it is a breath of fresh air to hear an immensely popular band sing about more than acquiring earthly pleasure.  In fact, he immediately brings these ideas into question with the first two songs.  Mark is a deep thinker, and it shows in his writing.  However, the song “Goats in Trees” contains a lone mild profanity.*  This puts a mild damper on the album, but the overall experience is still worthwhile.  The ending is particularly powerful, when Mark sings directly to his city, yearning for it to turn from its emptiness.

Music: 8/10

Lyrics: 8/10

Accessibility: 6/10

Bonus credit for meaningful album art: 1

Total: 23/30

Given to Dylan H.

5. Believer by Kris Orlowski

Thumbnail: Americana folk-rock with some singer/songwriter sensibilities.  Should be appealing to followers of Ivan & Alyosha, The Head and the Heart, and The Lumineers.

believer

Discourse: This album really has improved with time.  It was released earlier in the year, and I have enjoyed it more and more as the days have gone by.  The music can sometimes seem repetitive, and the lyrics are a little more obscure than my preference.  However, the album is still a well-written reminder to endure when life is hard.  Kris and the band create very warm sound that is welcome in all seasons, and the acoustic version of “Carolina” – a song whose original version is already on the album – was a surprisingly fitting closing track.

Music: 7.5/10

Lyrics: 8.5/10

Accessibility: 8/10

Total: 24/30

Given to Jacob S.

4. Shadowlands by Matthew Parker

Thumbnail: Lyrically-driven dance music with a Christian bent.  For fans of Zedd, Skrillex, and Owl City.

shadow

Discourse: I had the privilege of interviewing Matthew on this blog earlier in the season.  His album, Shadowlands, proves that he is a forerunner in the CEDM movement while also demanding respect from the secular audience.  One major highlight is how the album isn’t a collection of singles that lyrically center on dancing and having a good time, unlike most albums in the genre.  The album recognizes that there are things bigger than itself, and it reaches for a higher goal than its contemporaries.  It often brought to mind the ambition of Nero’s Welcome Reality because of the uniqueness of the concept.  The album frequently contrasts our fallen world with the Savior who rescues us and reveals himself to us even amidst the brokenness.  There still is progress to be made in his production, but Matthew is still leaps and bounds ahead of his peers.

Music: 8/10

Lyrics: 9/10

Accessibility: 7.5/10

Total: 24.5/30

Given to Mitchell R.

3. Ghost Stories by Coldplay

Thumbnail: A restrained departure from a standard arena rock Coldplay album.  For fans of the Killers, U2, and Snow Patrol.

Ghost Stories

Discourse: I got chills listening to this album.  Chris Martin poignantly reflects on heartbreak while maintaining a healthy sense of optimism for the future.  I never was a huge Coldplay fan, but the intimacy of this record really drew me in.  The album has a seamless flow, even though the styles vary from experimental to full-blown EDM.  Album closer “O” is the masterpiece that brings the album full circle.  The quiet in between the first and second part of the track actually works for the album experience.  It can be interpreted as a moment of silence for a season gone by, and afterwards, ending with the same loop that began the album, reassuring us to never let go of hope.  Long-time Coldplay fans may see this as selling out, so the album won’t have as much of a widespread appeal.  But that is more of a shame on the part of the listeners.

Music: 8/10

Lyrics: 9/10

Accessibility: 8/10

Total: 25/30

 

2. When I Was Younger by Colony House

Thumbnail: Sunny indie rock similar to that of Cold War Kids, Young the Giant, and Kings of Leon.

young

Discourse: Given their musical heritage, it is not surprising that Colony House’s album When I Was Younger is nothing less than outstanding.  It is definitively the best debut I have ever heard, and I am constantly discovering new artists and listening to their musical beginnings.  The lyrics are hard-hitting and hopeful, and the instrumentals are on point.  The only weak point lies in structuring towards the middle of the album where the flow seems a little obstructed.  Nevertheless, every song here is a winner, and the interludes are used to their maximum effieciency.  Oh, and they put on a stellar live show.  Colony House has great things ahead.

Music: 9/10

Lyrics: 10/10

Accessibility: 9/10

Total: 28/30

 

1. Borderland by John Mark McMillan

Thumbnail: Soulful, poetic indie rock that would be pleasing to fans of Bruce Springsteen, The National, and Phil Collins.

Borderland

Discourse: Click HERE to read the full review I did of the album back when it was released in February.  This album has remained at the top of my list since the beginning of the year.  The honest lyrics, high praise, and honed musicianship make this, quite simply, one of the best albums I have ever heard.  It ranges in moods without breaking the flow of guttural beauty.

Music: 10/10

Lyrics: 10/10

Accessibility: 9/10

Total: 29/30


So there you have it!  To top all of this off, I will be giving away these albums all throughout this week.  I will be doing this primarily on Facebook, but I will extend the opportunity to those of my followers who are exclusively on WordPress.  No one is allowed to win more than one album, so choose carefully which one you would like to win.  Winners of the EP’s last week are eligible to win again.  enter to win, simply comment on this post or the corresponding post on Facebook with the album you’d like to win and one of your favorite releases from this year.  I will randomly select the winners the afternoon following the album’s Facebook post.  So the best way to win without worrying about running out of time is by commenting here.

I hope you have enjoyed this post, and I hope the winners enjoy these albums as much as I did.

Merry Christmas!

 

*Since I cannot with a good conscience promote listening to music with foul lyrics, even in a slight degree, I will send this album without this track.

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19 Comments

  1. Hey EJ! This is a brilliant list, some great albums here. Could you please throw my name in the hat for the Colony House album? This year has been so hard for me because there has been just too many amazing albums 😀 I’ll be writing my list the week before Christmas, and it’s probably going to be the hardest post I’ll ever write.

    One of my absolute favourites of this year would be Ixora by Copeland. If you haven’t heard it, I extremely recommend it. It’s just beautiful.
    God bless EJ, oh, and thanks for the Wild Wild EP!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your name is in the hat! That album was very close to being #1, but Borderland had it beat by structuring.
      I’ll look into that album. I’ve heard good things about it from other people too.
      You’re welcome for the EP plus the bonus songs. I hope you enjoy them all.

      Like

  2. Hey EJ, I’d like to submit my name for both the “Believer” and the “Borderland” albums. And as far as favorite 2014 albums go, “Shadowlands” by Matthew Parker still takes the cake. Awesome idea and thanks for putting all this together, keep it up.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your name is in the hat for both of those releases! Thank YOU for entering and for sharing your kind words. This really is all Holy Spirit’s doing, and He doesn’t show signs of stopping. So I guess I’ll bring some corn for popping and enjoy the ride.

      Like

  3. Hi EJ, I have read a lot of your stuff and have been learning about your wisdom and words from none other than Lucas M. I have really liked the sound of all the albums you have put up, and I was hoping that you could possibly throw my hat in for the Matthew Parker album, for the description you have presented has made the album appealing. God Bless and I will appreciate your best efforts.

    Liked by 1 person

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