JFM's 20 Favorite Albums of 2014

For those of us with eclectic musical tastes, 2014 was a fine year. I was especially happy to see so many brilliant releases from a slew of female musicians. Enjoy...

1. Amy Stroup, Tunnel. An album about life's transitions: a little pop, a little singer-songwriter, a lot of life lessons on this cohesive, nearly perfect album. Video: http://youtu.be/jB85DY77CSM

2. Damien Rice, My Favourite Faded Fantasy. On his first album in eight years, Rice gracefully maneuvers past his sadness of yesteryear toward bold acceptance with some of the finest songwriting of his career. Video: http://youtu.be/FnzHOsiaJns

3. Lewis Watson, The Morning. Winsome songs about love. Video: http://youtu.be/wLkX37nwugY

4. Daughter, If You Leave. Hatred and pain have never been this beautiful. Video: http://youtu.be/s-OoG1aGYO0

5. CHVRCHES, Bones of What You Believe. Who knew electronic-pop music could convey such raw emotion? Video: http://youtu.be/haunJARHPm4

6. Ras Kass & Apollo Brown, Blasphemy. The best of 90s hip-hop resurrected for the modern era. Video: http://youtu.be/2gVAeMCu4Xg

7. Coldplay, Ghost Stories. With Coldplay's sound dismantled to its essence, this album's bones are its beauty. Video: http://youtu.be/Qtb11P1FWnc

8. Young Summer, Siren. Romantic, graceful pop ballads that manage to avoid melodrama by mixing big emotion with even bigger arrangements. Video: http://youtu.be/nXRtx-unYdc

9. Matt Duke, Singer/Songwriter. Simple tales of uncertainty, searching for meaning. Video: http://youtu.be/JAg5dE4xumw

10. Tove Lo, Queen of the Clouds. No-bullshit pop music that is allergic to watered-down sentimentality. Video: http://youtu.be/oh2LWWORoiM

11. David Gray, Mutineers. The David Gray of White Ladder meets a more seasoned man in the mirror on a delightful album that looks both backward and forward simultaneously. Video: http://youtu.be/mBS6UgiYTr4

12. Augustana, Life Imitating Life. Augustana curates hope on their most mature effort to date. Video: http://youtu.be/tgnfuxWaEuE

13. Jay William Henderson, Hymns to Amnesia. A soundscape to help us remember how to get lost. Video: http://youtu.be/9Fwcc9isOWM

14. Noah Gundersen, Ledges. Raspy and soulful, we're able to feel Gundersen's pain over his sparse, heartrending melodies. Video: http://youtu.be/5YA-vSo74ho

15. Graham Colton, Lonely Ones. Colton proves that sometimes more is more as his sound grows from acoustic singer-songwriter to full-on rock 'n' roll. Video: http://youtu.be/APYMVvGsCqI

16. Kevin Gates, Luca Brasi 2. Erudite reality rap. Video: http://youtu.be/b-QZzVytupY

17. You+Me, Rose Ave.. Impressive elegance from this titanic songwriting duo (Dallas Green and Pink). Video: http://youtu.be/a3LH-fMNOAA

18. J. Cole, 2014 Forest Hill Drive. Wordsmith J. Cole is inspired by his North Carolinian roots on this new album. Video: http://youtu.be/eRaFMlZ1YHA

19. Ben Howard, I Forget Where We Were. Ethereal meets everyday life on Howard's alluring sophomore release. Video: http://youtu.be/TpeK3zvmx2c

20. Peter Doran, Outlines. Doran's most stripped-down effort is mesmerizing, arresting, lovely. Video: http://youtu.be/CuGAUXdwC30

Leave a comment: what was your favorite album this year?

(Pictured:+Peter Doran playing at The Minimalists' London event; photo by Andy J. Ryan. N.B. #4 & #5 were technically released in 2013 but made this list because I didn’t discover them until early this year.)
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