Wednesday, December 24, 2014


What a year, right. I know that every song or album we listen to affects us in different ways, so here are the albums this year  that made me laugh, cry, find my joy, express my pain or simply sit and contemplate. The purpose of music, in my opinion, is to move one emotionally, whether to elevate a current mood or to facilitate healing. These artists and their music have put a smile on my face, brought a tear to my eye and a couple of them even turned out to be pretty good sex music. See, music can do anything. So can you. Enjoy all of these albums, have a happy holiday season and a wonderful new year. Bring it, 2015.

10. AM Static - fDeluxe. The old group is back again. The follow up to their stellar 2011 comeback album Gaslight, fDeluxe dips into the past for this excellent cover album of funk and rock from the 70s. The former Family keep consistent with their sound while updating all these classics from Eric Carmen's All By Myself to Come Together, the Beatles classic. This is a cohesive, excellent album by a group steeped in Minneapolis funk.

9. It's The Girls - Bette Midler. The Divine Ms. M doesn't miss a step with her covers the girl group goodies that made an impact on not only her, but American music as a whole. Taking on The Supremes, the Andrews Sisters and, yes, TLC, Bette hits all the right notes with her signature take on classic songs. The real standout here is her melancholy cover of TLC's Waterfalls. Bring a tissue, cuz you are gonna jizz cry for sure.

8. I'm Not Bossy, I'm The Boss - Sinead O'Connor. After years of uneven releases, Sinead comes back with her most honest, hard hitting and pop-friendly record since her 90s heyday. I'm Not Bossy, I'm The Boss drips with confessional freedom from one of the most troubled, forthright artists of the modern pop generation. Take Me To Church is perhaps her poppiest song ever and 8 Good Reasons belongs in the pantheon of her greatest songs like Black Boys on Mopeds and Mandinka. A true return to form from the queen of brutal honesty.

7. Sheezus - Lily Allen. Never one to hold back, Lily Allen made the bold move to mock Kanye by calling her album Sheezus. Lily still kept her same sarcastic bite on songs like Hard Out Here and the excellent Insincerely Yours, but also expressed her softer side singing about love on As Long As I Got You and loss on Take My Place. Luckily deciding to record again after a self-imposed break, Lily's sound continues to evolve and I'm glad we have her back.

6. Nostalgia - Annie Lennox. The third and final cover album on my list, Ms. Lennox washes her luscious alto over every song she chose from the Great American Songbook to create a truly stunning work with Nostalgia. Her take on classics like I Put A Spell On You and Summertime will leave you with chills and her rendition of Strange Fruit is drenched in heartbreak for what is unfortunately a still-timely song. Every single track is made better by one of the truly great artists of our time.

5. ART OFFICIAL AGE/PLECTRUMELECTRUM - Prince/Prince and 3rd EYE GIRL. Prince never went away, as far as I'm concerned. Sure, he stopped writing radio hits, but he is still a genius of the highest degree. This year he had so much new music, including new jams with his band 3rd EYE GIRL, that he put out two albums at once. One, ART OFFICIAL AGE, a throwback to his 80s pop domination, and two PLECTRUMELECTRUM, a full-on rocker worthy of Purple Rain. I decided to count them as one because it's just not fair to everyone else to have to compete.

4. Morning Phase - Beck. To say that Beck's Morning Phase is a dreamy masterpiece would be a huge understatement. Every chord on this album drips with a melancholy California dewdrop. Waking Light is one of the most stunning works of the year and Morning will make you weep tears of joy. The songs evoke the psychedelic 70s with strings, guitars and Beck's subtle delivery lending itself to beautiful effect.

3. 1989 - Taylor Swift. Girl, you got me again. Songs so catchy and so poppy, how could you not love them? 1989 opens with Welcome to New York, Swift's ode to her new hometown, and from there on it delivers beat after infectious beat. Not so much a replica of the year Taylor was born as a reference point, songs like Style, Blank Space, All You Had To Do Was Stay and This Love prove you are not listening to your mom's older sister's Taylor Swift. Her sound is more full, sophisticated and her experience is broader. I'm loving the new Taylor and 1989 is a perfect aural demonstration of person growing up in front of us.

2. Food - Kelis. Sexy, funky and full of spicy lyrics. Kelis has always combined these things in her work, from the R&B of Tasty  to the EDM/club bangers on her last album Flesh Tone, but arguably it has never come together in such a fully satisfying way as it does on the retro-groove of Food. Influenced by her Harlem upbringing and her love of food, Food is soulful and introspective on tracks like Rumble and Breakfast, soft and sexy on Dreamer and funky as hell on Jerk Ribs. You'll listen from beginning to end and go back for seconds for Food.

1. Ultraviolence - Lana Del Rey. Nothing really came close to Lana's Ultraviolence this year. Lana's debut album and its extension Born to Die: The Paradise Edition, was moody, pouty and offbeat and Ultraviolence keeps most of that and adds some truly amazing production and lyrics that draw you into her story and build on it with each song on the record. Lana's voice coos over first single, the 70s inspired West Coast and longingly hurts over the fantastic title track. As a whole, the album is a cornucopia of dreamy emotion. It's consistent, beautiful, naughty, dichotomous and beyond the scope of all other albums I enjoyed this year. My #1 album of 2014.

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