From easy listening acoustics to otherworldly sounds, Ellie Miles shares her top 10 albums of 2014. What were yours?
10) Sia- 1000 Forms of Fear (released 4th July 2014)
Sia’s sixth offering was propelled into the charts this summer after the success of its lead single, Chandelier. A mix of melancholic ballads and toe-tapping electropop, the album is carried by Sia’s unique vocal style, and her ability to belt out those high notes when necessary. Highlights include Straight for the Knife, a soulful ballad showcasing Sia’s darker side, and the upbeat Burn the Pages, an inspirational anthem that proves the versatility of Sia’s songwriting skills.
9) Coldplay- Ghost Stories (released 16th May 2014)
Ghost Stories was reportedly inspired by Chris Martin’s split from Gwyneth Paltrow, and in many of the tracks, it shows; Magic, True Love, and Another’s Arms lament his lost love. It’s not all doom and gloom though- the lighter melody of Ink and sweeping electronics of A Sky Full of Stars lend a respite from the more glum tracks. The mellow sound of this record gives it a peaceful tone; it’s the perfect soundtrack to a chilled out, lazy weekend.
8) Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga- Cheek to Cheek (released 19th September 2014)
It’s not every day that a veteran jazz legend collaborates with a meat dress-wearing dance-pop diva, but I’m sure glad that Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga did. This album of smooth classics is a delight from start to finish, with Gaga’s natural, non-autotuned voice being surprisingly soulful. Jazzy classics including I Can’t Give You Anything But Love and Anything Goes provide a bit of fun for those who need to escape the sound of mainstream pop.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, you’ve probably heard Riptide, the lead single of this album. A collection of soft, guitar-based tracks, the tone of Dream Your Life Away lives up to its name, with its lulling melodies giving the album a distinct daydreamy feel. It’s not one for fans of heavy beats and booming bass, but tracks like From Afar and Wasted Time will please those looking for some easy listening.
6) George Ezra- Wanted on Voyage (released 30th June 2014)
Ezra’s distinctive bassy boom has become a familiar sound to those who enjoyed his singles Budapest and Blame It On Me, and the rest of his debut album does not fail to disappoint. It’s a truly versatile record, ranging from the joyfully bouncy Cassy O to the moodier Spectacular Rival and the wistful warmth of Barcelona. In a music scene full of soulful male singers, Ezra is a definite standout artist.
5) Hozier- Hozier (released 19th September 2014)
A mix of indie and blues, this album was the soundtrack to my autumn; it’s one of the rare albums I can listen to without skipping a single track. It’s a musical emotional rollercoaster, with the cheery R&B of Jackie And Wilson and gentle soul of Someone New heavily contrasting with the low lull of Work Song. Of course, Take Me To Church will be the track you’ve all heard, but there really is so much more to this album.
4) Ed Sheeran- X (released 20th June 2014)
Ed Sheeran made us wait a whole three years for his second album, but it was certainly worth it. X covers a wide range of genres, with Don’t and Sing verging into R&B territory and Take It Back even featuring verses of rap. However, it’s with the swoon-inducing love songs that Sheeran excels once again, from the melodic guitar ballad Tenerife Sea to the hopelessly romantic, wedding-song-potential Thinking Out Loud.
While not one of the best-known artists of 2014, St Vincent received both critical acclaim and a Grammy nomination for her eponymous album. It has a distinct, almost otherworldly sound, with the stark, blaring horns of Digital Witness and the eerie choral harmonies of Prince Johnny starkly contrasting with the mainstream pop of 2014. St Vincent isn’t remotely trying to be mainstream; this is an album different to any other released this year, refreshingly unique and groovily moody.
2) Taylor Swift- 1989 (released 27th October 2014)
As a “Swiftie” since the age of 13, I was interested to see what Swift’s first fully pop album would be like. 1989 begins with the breezy optimism of Welcome To New York, a fitting anthem celebrating new beginnings, then continues as the emotional rollercoaster typical of a Taylor Swift album. There’s the heartbreak in All You Had To Do Was Stay, the anxiety of a fraught relationship in Out of the Woods, and, of course, the haters-gonna-hate mantra of Shake It Off. All in all, 1989 was a pleasant surprise, and a great first foray into pop music for Swift.
1) Sam Smith- In the Lonely Hour (released 26th May 2014)
Sam Smith has arguably been 2014’s biggest breakout artist, with his album debuting at number one and spawning four top-ten singles, including the number ones Money on My Mind and Stay With Me. Smith himself has acknowledged that the album is not a happy one, with most of the tracks stemming from his experiences of unrequited love. It gives the record a melancholy beauty; while songs like Not In That Way and Life Support are anything but upbeat, Smith’s soulful vocals make them a must-listen.
Images: Atlantic and Caroline International