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Best Albums of 2014

If there’s one common thread among the 20 albums to make my list this year, it’s eclecticism. The emergence of services like Spotify and even YouTube not only make finding a wider gamut of music possible, it also undoubtedly influences those who make the music. Not only do the artists represented here exemplify a wider spectrum of genre than I’ve ever had before, the albums themselves often integrate several styles within their own confines.   In a true testament to the quality of music I discovered this year, this was probably the most difficult year-end ranking I’ve ever had to form, and the gap from top to bottom is probably narrower than any I can remember. I can’t claim to have listened to all of the musics, but I have expanded my field from years past because there was just so much good music out there this year. For your enjoyment:   20) Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 2 – Well regarded as solo artists, the styles of Killer Mike and El-P complement each other nicely, and they creatively mix their roles by trading both verses and lines. El-P’s production is also solid, and he adds subtle unexpected twists more »

Best Albums of 2013

In many ways, 2013 proved to be a challenging and difficult year.  The economy continues to struggle, Congress doesn’t work, acts of extreme violence dominate the news, and the NSA is right behind you right now.  Music’s response?  Screw it; let’s dance.  The amount of quality music that also happened to be catchy as hell that came out in 2013 was staggering, and many bands reinvented their sounds in ways that blended old styles with something a bit more upbeat. As always, this list can hardly claim to be comprehensive, but these are 12 great albums that came out in 2013 that pushed the boundaries of what it means to make music with great curiosity and ambition: 12) Franz Ferdinand, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action – More unapologetically upbeat than their most recent work, Action follows 2013’s mantra of dancing your troubles away.  It also finds the band returning to the winning balance of hooks, substance, and pub-crawl wit that made their first two albums so great. Essential Listening: “Right Action”, “Goodbye Lovers and Friends” 11) Nine Inch Nails, Hesitation Marks – After an extended hiatus that saw its leader win a friggin’ Oscar, NIN returned in 2013 with more »