Top Albums of 2014

Another year, another threat from me for this to be the last one. It’d be a nice round five years, but… this was so much darn fun this year. We’ll see: our Narcs may yet be guilted into submitting lists for 2015. Thanks to all the contributors for their painstaking submissions.

No rambling pre-amble this year other than to say we had a decisive preference for our #1 album. Below find a quick run-through of our voter awards, and then our consensus top 20. But as always, if you’re a nerd, you can check out our ranking methodology. And if your nerd handicap comes in a geographic flavor, you can talk shit on each other cities here, where Noise Narcs’ most hated city, shut out of the geographic rankings for all 4 years previous, finally makes an appearance. Individual voter pages are here, and the entire top to bottom list is here. You could also check out last year’s list, or those from 2012, 2011, 2010, or 2009.

First, to the voter awards:

Most Influential/Biggest Sheep Award

Our stalwart editor, David Goldfarb, takes back this award after an algorithm shortcoming robbed him last year. He’s quite the taste-maker. Or: he listens to all of the nominated albums to juke the score. Or: he solicits the voters. Or: he cheats.

Iconoclast Award

Andrew B either has the best or worst taste among us. Either way, his [ED: err, maybe I should be a little more careful with pronouns when copying/pasting from the previous year] list was the least similar to the top ten. Fit punishment/reward for making our stalwart editor listen to that Sia album.

Most Albums Listened To/Cushiest Desk Job Award

It’s hard work, but some Narc has to listen to every one of the 56 nominated albums. David Goldfarb, who wins every year.

Biggest Philly Homer of the Year

Ha! Thought it would be our intrepid editor, David, didn’t you? Wrong, friend. MikeI put THREE Philly bands in his top ten. And he very well may be right about two out of the three.

Infuriating the Noise Narcs Editorial Staff By Voting for Albums by a DC Band Award

Half the fun in making this list was seeing our nation’s capital shut out. Thanks for ruining it, Phil M and Mel M.

Most Nepotistic/Kindest Award

First time awarded since 2011: Katherine H. She ranked friends of Noise Narcs’ Kenji Shinagawa for his (actually quite wonderful) Spectacles.

The Triennial Letting Me Know That Tori Amos Is Still Alive Award

Shryll W

20Real Estate: Atlas

Total Votes: 3; Highest Ranking: #3
19Azealia Banks: Broke With Expensive Taste

Total Votes: 3; Highest Ranking: #4
18Röyksopp and Robyn: Do It Again

Total Votes: 3; Highest Ranking: #5
17Taylor Swift: 1989

Total Votes: 4; Highest Ranking: #1
16Wild Beasts: Present Tense

Total Votes: 4; Highest Ranking: #4
15Jessie Ware: Tough Love

Total Votes: 5; Highest Ranking: #5
14Perfume Genius: Too Bright

Total Votes: 4; Highest Ranking: #3
13Caribou: Our Love

Total Votes: 3; Highest Ranking: #1
12First Aid Kit: Stay Gold

Total Votes: 3; Highest Ranking: #1
11Sun Kil Moon: Benji

Total Votes: 4; Highest Ranking: #4
10Woods: With Light and With Love

Total Votes: 5; Highest Ranking: #4

Choice comment: I could be overrating this based on their mesmerizing performance at Boot and Saddle, but the blend of psychedelia, folk and soul can smooth out my most crooked days.Matthew Simone

09D’Angelo and The Vanguard: Black Messiah

Total Votes: 5; Highest Ranking: #1

Choice comments: But, in its brief life, nothing’s made me FEEL so much as this D’Angelo record. This is so clearly the best one, it’s ridiculous. PhilM

It’s obviously tough to evaluate the long-term listening potential of an album still so fresh and infatuating, and a day may come that I regret rating such a latecomer to 2014 so highly, but that day will not be tomorrow.ChrisT

08Sharon van Etten: Are We There?

Total Votes: 7; Highest Ranking: #2

Choice comments: How can an album this good be a disappointment? Inevitably, I’ll look back on this album and wonder how I ranked it this low.David Goldfarb

Move over keytar, make room for the omnichord. Ryan M

07FKA Twigs: LP1

Total Votes: 7; Highest Ranking: #2

Choice comment: Baby-making music for introverts.Chris T

Editor’s note: the love this album got was most perplexing for our stalwart editor. He promises to re-listen to it as soon as he stops being sick of listening to 2014 music again.

06Beck: Morning Phase

Total Votes: 6; Highest Ranking: #1

Choice comment: It may be no Sea Change, but it is gorgeous and well-built, re-affirming Mr. Hansen’s surprising place in contemporary music: one of our very best songwriters. David Goldfarb

05Angel Olsen: Burn Your Fire for No Witness

Total Votes: 7; Highest Ranking: #3

Choice comments: Way better than anything her surnamesakes Mary-Kate and Ashley ever did. Incredible considering their greatest hits spills to three volumes.Ryan M

I wasn’t aware of the Angel Olsen record until the NoiseNarcs nominations, and then I fell for it quickly.Billy L

04St. Vincent: St. Vincent

Total Votes: 8; Highest Ranking: #1

Choice comments: All hail Annie Clark! The woman is a goddamn genius. Mel M

An artist that I always love, this one took a while to grow on me, before quietly becoming one of my favorites of the year. Trent W

ED: The album whose love perplexed me the second most. I was totally bummed out by it, but maybe I need to keep going back to the well like Trentifor. -1/5/2015 ED: Listened to it again last night: still bummed.

03Spoon: They Want My Soul

Total Votes: 9; Highest Ranking: #1

Choice comment: Forever a sucker for anything that is hook-filled, tight and toe-tappin’.Ryan M

02Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 2

Total Votes: 8; Highest Ranking: #1

Choice comments: This one is a no-brainer: funny, political, and profound. I’m not sure what else to say. Just press play and you’ll hear. Chris T

Vince Staples may have the titular song of the year of death at the hands of police, but this album, bleeding from Killer Mike’s father-heart, is its core. Thematically, lyrically, emotionally: this album is everything Kanye wanted Yeezus to be.David Goldfarb

01The War on Drugs: Lost in the Dream

Total Votes: 10; Highest Ranking: #1

Choice comments: Aside from War on Drugs as number 1, a lot of my top ten (and even a couple of the honorable mentions) are kind of interchangeable for me.Mike I

The clear winner of The War on Drugs/Sun Kil Moon “feud.” Ryan M

Beginning an album with a track eight minutes and 51 seconds long is a bad decision for most bands, but these guys make it work beautifully, setting up some of the big sonic themes of the record — propulsive drums, a colorful haze of guitars and synths, Granduciel’s Dylan-esque way of sliding off the ends of his phrases. And there’s some Petty and Springsteen mixed in too, but just the good Petty and Springsteen. Saxophone and harmonica sneak in and out of the mix. Highway driving. Walking in the rain. A great American rock’n’roll record.Billy L

But this album isn’t a Philly album. It’s an album of expanse and drive. Of throwing down the windows on a beatup rental on a cross-country trip. This is American rock, drained of everything but the longing. With a Philly soul. Which, yes, makes it better.David Goldfarb