Top 5 Albums of 2014

Here are my personal top 5 full album projects from 2014. Sure there was plenty more and few honorable mentions are at the bottom but for one reason or another these albums from start to finish stood above the rest for me. There are a few albums I still want to check out but here goes my list of the top 5 for 2014.

(These 5 are in no particular hierarchical order)

Sia – 1000 Forms of Fear

Sia_-_1000_Forms_of_Fear_(Official_Album_Cover)Sia came out from behind the writing desk for Rihanna, David Guetta, Christina Aguilera and more  with this triumphant album in July. Sia’s first studio album in four years showcased her ability to sing over high production songs that she’s done for so many hits while also experimenting freely. She also prefers to perform without facing the audience letting her pint-sized dance phenom Maddie take center stage. In a world with millions of social media followers and instantaneous access to celebrities I appreciate Sia’s ability to stay true to herself and music while creating huge hits and this album.

Hit Song: Chandelier also one of the best videos of the year.
Hidden Gem: Straight for the Knife

 

Black Milk – If There’s a Hell Below

iftheresahellbeloBlack is consistently putting out amazing projects that pushes his musicality every album from Tronic to Album of the Year to last year’s No Poison No Paradise. Each one better than the last, and Tronic will forever be a Detroit classic, period. This is the latest edition Black joins in the revival of Detroit Booty by hip hop heads along with his classic boom bat production. His raps have grown immeasurably as well where you can hear the interplay between the beat production and his writing where he’s able to hold his own against a slew of ‘underground’ heavy hitters: Sean Price, Guilty Simpson, and an Underground King Bun-B. Black’s work ethic is on fine display in this album, can’t wait for the tour and the next album.

Hit Song: Gold Piece ft. Bun-B
Hidden Gem: Detroit’s New Dance Song
Side note: Black also dropped Glitches in the Break this year, which is an amazing album too, just not in my top 5.

 

Prince – ART OFFICIAL AGE

BreakfastCanWaitPrince also dropped two albums this year and I also like the 3RDEYEGIRL album but this one here, I will dance to these songs for years. Prince does what he does best, fusion of funk, hip hop, love songs, with an overreaching storyline of future life. He even poked fun at himself using the Prince character from the famous Chapelle show skits for the cover art of for the single, “Breakfast Can Wait.” Oh and it’s Prince’s 33rd studio album, who does that? Prince does.

Hit Song: Breakfast Can Wait
Hidden Gem: FUNKNROLL

 

D’Angelo and The Vanguard – Black Messiah

dangelo-black-messiahAlmost 12 years after his last studio album Black Messiah was released surprisingly quickly this year making it the late entry into the 2014 class, but possibly one of the best. Musicality at it’s finest D’Angelo’s interplay with his voice to The Vanguard’s instrumentation/production is something the world didn’t even realize it was missing until you heard this album. It is easily a Grammy album of the year contender.

Hit Song: Sugah Daddy
Hidden Gem: The Door, but you could really pick any song

 

The Black Opera – The Great Year

The-Great-Year TBO as a group has been tackling political hip hop for the better part of the past 5 years. I’ve been able to see this group transform from when they first formed to most recently touring with Jaded Incorporated. Consisting of a number of members TBO’s core members remained anonymous for their first two albums. It didn’t take long though for folks to realize who was behind this force articulating difficult concepts over production from the likes of 14KT, Waajeed, Astronote, and more. They bring political and societal critiques to the forefront of their message and it’s something sorely missing these days from the popular music scene. *Full disclosure I consider a number of the members of TBO friends but they are also my favorite MCs so deal.

Hit Song: Beginning of the End ft. Georgia Anne Muldrow
Hidden Gem: Talking Revolution/Up and Up

 

Honorable Mentions:
The following albums were incredible but didn’t crack my top 5 for one reason or another but will also be albums I can rock with for years to come. Again in no particular order.
Flying Lotus – You’re Dead
Jaded Incorporated – The Big Knock
Dej Loaf – Sell Sole
ScHoolboy Q – Oxymoron
Big K.R.I.T. – Cadillactica
*Late entry* J. Cole – 2014 Forest Hills Drive

Cleaning up the vinyl collection

vinyl collection in crates

vinyl collection in cratesThis past week has been all about reorganizing and de-cluttering my life. Namely getting the heavy items of my life, books and vinyls, into a more manageable quantity. One of my more obsessive habits is getting vinyl records whenever the opportunity presents itself. During Record Store Day on April 20 I spent money in East Lansing, Ann Arbor, and Detroit record stores getting nearly 30 records and thoroughly taxing my credit card. With that last purchase I eclipsed the 270 total for my record collection and filling my converted bookcase/DJ station, so it was time to organize. So with a single Sunday last week I set out to thoroughly catalog all of my records by artist, album, condition of case and vinyl, and genre. I created my own spreadsheet and quite literally worked my way through all the disorganization that had amassed over the past year. Rediscovering a few serious gems I had forgotten, alphabetizing each crate by genre and cleaning too many records to count I was finally able to get down to under 200 records I wanted to keep.

the records I'm getting rid of That did mean a total of 74 records are heading to the store and then reuse center. Most of them are in fair condition with some I hope to sell, “King Heroin” by DJ Jazzy Jeff might be the oddest find I’m parting with – something about Jazz doing a PSA record is just too weird. That being said if anyone is hoping to get some records I will part with these for little to nothing even if you’re needing them for art projects or the like. I’m happy to say that I cataloged ever record now and am about to undertake the even more daunting task of organizing my much larger digital collection. I’ve mindlessly backed up and lost so many songs and albums that I have trouble even remembering what albums I still need to find again and the ones I have multiple copies. Books and clothes are the next projects as I try to sell old speakers, a bookcase and finally my first CDJ mixer/turntable unit. I’m ready to push myself to get as minimal as possible in anticipation of the move to Detroit and I can’t wait to start the next chapter freshly organized.