Top Albums of 2014

Top Albums of 2014

So we at Circulation HQ got together to pick our favourite albums from last year. Both our writers and editors had fun creating this list and we hope you find it eclectic, and maybe it will put you onto your new favourite album of 2014 too! And so without further delay (which there might have been a little too much of) here goes:


=20. MØ – No Mythologies To Follow

MØ has blown us away in the past year with her girl power, killer collaborations and her brilliant debut album No Mythologies To Follow. This Scandinavian 1990’s babe deserves our love and respect, for her fearless attitude, gorgeous voice and mixture of surprising musical elements. She is the queen of scrunchies and a crop tops with creativity, talent and a mint debut album to prove that she is here to stay. Kasimiira Kontio


=20. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time

Comedic. Exotic. Melancholy. Meta? It’s Album Time is Todd Terje’s first full-length album, including some of his greatest and latest tracks; it proves that at the end of the day dance album’s (like Todd’s) just want to have fun. His romance-tinged version of Robert Palmer’s ‘Johnny and Mary’ highlights the lack of boundaries in his nu-disco world. A solid debut. Charlotte Morrin

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=20. SOHN – Tremors

Dark and mysteriously soulful, Tremors is a finely crafted experiment built upon layered vocal tracks, synthesized instrumentation and disturbed beats. It draws heavily on R&B influence but transforms this sound into something much more delicate, and where R&B has warmth, Tremors broods on a sense of alienation and icy frigidity. ‘I died a week ago, there’s nothing left’ SOHN, aka Christopher Taylor sings on second track The Wheel, setting the album’s melancholy tone. His lyrics are simple, yet poetic and mournful, complementing his not-so-simple rhythms, which are unpredictable and at times explosive. ‘Bloodflows’, one of the album’s strongest tracks, builds to an overwhelming, relentless climax . The highlight of this fantastic debut however is Christopher Taylor (aka SOHN)’s outstanding, haunting voice, which holds the power to tear on heartstrings. Thomas Rosser

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17. Aphex Twin – Syro

Syro may be his first album in 13 years, but Richard D James has shown once again why Aphex Twin is one of Britain’s most important electronic artists. His style feels as contemporary and idiosyncratic as ever, and it is his knack for remaining outside the current artistic zeitgeist which has meant his music remains influential so for many. From the classically destructured opponent track ‘minipops 67’, Syro is a journey trough sonic chaos, incorporating elements of jungle, acid house, techno and break beat into a disturbingly coherent pièce, closing with the chilling piano melody ‘Aisatsana’. Alongside the surprise release of James’ lost Caustic Window EP earlier this year, Syro shows us that Aphex Twin remains not only relevant, but still able to make batshit crazy music that defies any genre or conventions about how to make music. The prodigal son has returned- is he here to stay? Dan Wynn

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16. Keaton Henson – Romantic Works

Eerie, heartbreaking and breathtakingly beautiful are only a tiny fraction of the words that could be used to describe Keaton Henson’s purely non-vocal, classical album Romantic Works. Undoubtedly one of the most beautiful pieces of music in 2014, in Romantic Works Henson has lost his poetic voice. But here it isn’t his soft words that make us cry but the netted melodies of love, loss and everything in between. With this album, he proves to be a poet with no words and the best friend we never knew but always loved. Kasimiira Kontio

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15. The Antlers – Familiars

Familiars is arguably one of the most accomplished and moving albums released this year. Opener ‘Palace’  is the album’s mission statement, demonstrating the accomplished manner in which the Antlers utilise horns to punctuate the chilling almost ethereal vocals of singer/songwriter and guitarist Peter Silberman. This is a combination that allows the band to very deliberately dictate the mood of the album. To me, this album is a full tour through the emotions; heartbreak, agony, melancholy, acceptance, optimism and joy. A real treasure in the musical landscape of 2014. Dan Wynn

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14. Future Islands – Singles

After creating a big splash in the music world with their performance on Letterman, thanks to Samuel Herring’s dancing, Future Islands created a sense of intrigue that left me wanting more. So with the infectious tune of ‘Seasons’ stuck in my head for days, I got round to listening to the rest of their album, ‘Singles’, and by no means did it disappoint. From beginning to end, this is a masterpiece of emotion from a band that demands your attention, both on-stage and on-record. Elliott Ball

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=13. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Piñata

Who would have thought that a collaboration between Madlib, the bookish savant of underground hip hop, and Freddie Gibbs, a self-professed “Thug-4-Life”, would produce one of the most endlessly rewarding records of the year? Piñata, their lurid ode to the City of Angels, is a perfect marriage of distinctly different styles. Each one of Gibbs’ guttural verses scrapes against the clean strings of Madlib’s soulful production. The result is an album that provides a sobering insight into life on the streets without sacrificing a shred of humour or style. A must-have for anyone invested in the future of hip hop. Oliver Mangham

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=13. St Vincent – St Vincent

St Vincent aka Annie Clark is an artist who knows exactly how she wants to sound. And her eponymous fourth album, in all its effervescent ferocity and debauchery, demonstrates just that. With her captivating, wild stage performances and totally distinctive, fun and scuzzy guitar riffs, she’s one of the most unique, fascinating and kooky characters in popular music. Yet, for all its manic, jagged instrumentation, there is something cleaner and more controlled about this record, and themes of narcissism, corruption and technological mind control are explored with dark humour. It seems St Vincent is on a rocket into space, and who knows which crazy planet she will land on next? I can’t wait to find out. Sophie Brear

Read our review of ‘St Vincent’ here

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11. SBTRKT – Wonder Where We Land

The much-anticipated follow up to his ground breaking eponymous first album, Wonder Where We’ll Land, sees SBTRKT collaborating with a whole host of artists, including Jessie Ware, A$AP Ferg and his already winning formula with Sampha. However SBTRKT has not fallen into the trap of a producer selling out to attract big names onto his record in order to boost sales. Many of these names have grown to prowess alongside SBTRKT, and each song retains a strong artistic identity whilst providing an individuality that aids the fragmented, yet progressive structure of this ethereal-sounding album. Again the man behind the mask lets other artists become the ‘faces’ of many of these songs, imprinting their vocals and personality onto the tracks. Yet SBTRKT’s own artistry is never lost, as his individuality is inherent in his solo tracks, manifesting itself through intricate subtleties- hints of tinny percussion and faultlessly smooth production that have become as synonymous with him as the tribal mask. Holly Hunt


10. Adult Jazz – Gist Is

There are too many words to describe the intricacies, complexities and odd beauty of the wonderfully idiosyncratic Gist Is. It is an intriguing and immersive first offering from the Leeds-based quartet, which may seem an initially challenging listen, though this is a response which Adult Jazz hoped to create: “When you come up with a part that’s pretty, you need some obstruction” singer Harry Burgess has said.  Preventing the album’s experimental alt-pop-rock sound from becoming discordant in its fragmentation however, are the alluring melodies which flow through the tracks, primarily created by Burgess’ utterly magnetic vocals. You’re inclined to listen again and again, not least by Gist Is’ peculiar lyrics, which are reminiscent of Gertrude Stein in their poetic nonsense. Delicately and thoughtfully woven together like a sonic patchwork quilt, the album constantly dances over a sometimes fluidly funky, at times spasmodic and at others ethereal musical landscape with self-assured revelry, and is always unpredictable. Sophie Brear

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9. The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream

The third album from The War On Drugs is the sound of a band having their ‘Eureka!’ moment. It is totally polished, immaculately produced and in its simple, effortless-sounding yet effective riffs, shows that less is more.  One of the most naturally enrapturing listens of the year, the album’s romantic piano melodies and delay-soaked guitars truly make the listener feel lost in the dream. It sounds like the soundtrack to the most beautiful summer of your life, full of warmth, soaring hope and tender emotions. For Americana perfection, look no further. Enough said. James Rudge

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8. Sun Kil Moon – Benji

I let out an audible laugh when I noticed that Benji had just managed to sneak one place ahead of Lost In The Dream on our list. Make no mistake, Mark Kozelek was in the wrong for his verbal tirade and I found the whole kerfuffle quite embarrassing for him. I think it stands as a testament to this collection of music though that they’ve transcended listener’s attachments to their artist. This rings even truer for Benji an album that at times acts as an autobiography for Kozelek, but when I hear these songs I hear my own life. Parts that have already occurred, little opinions I’ve held that seem inconsequential to the overall song, and I expect my fondness for the album to grow with all the moments of my life I’m yet to experience that the album foretells. Harry Rosehill

Read our review of ‘Benji’ here


7. Bombay Bicycle Club – So Long, See You Tomorrow

Identifying ‘stand out’ tracks from Bombay Bicycle Club’s progressive, engulfing and eclectic fourth album has proven deliciously tricky.  Jack Steadman and co. have gifted us an experimental delight with essences of psychedelic and prog rock, especially in opener “Overdone” the loop of which returns in “So Long, See You Tomorrow” and establishes the album’s cohesive nature. Despite taking their name from a chain of Indian restaurants, and Steadman’s first instrument being squeaky primary school favourite, the recorder, Bombay Bicycle Club have ventured far from their humble beginnings with So Long, See You Tomorrow.  It’s their most energising and exciting album to date. Katie Barclay

Read our full review of ‘So Long, See You Tomorrow’ here


6. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead

Flying Lotus takes hip-hop further than anyone ever has, into the mysterious realms of jazz. His enchanting and darkly sexual album is about life, death and everything in between, fluttering magically around in weird time signatures. With help from some unlikely (Herbie Hancock, Snoop Dogg) and some more predictable friends (Thundercat, Captain Murphy), this album is by far the best, most beautiful example of Flying Lotus’s genius production, showing that he knows no boundaries when it comes to re-inventing genres. Jack Cullimore

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5. Caribou – Our Love

Our Love is a striking collection of on-point, well-crafted and interesting tracks that grab the listener and sweep them away on a kaleidoscopic waterfall of electro-pop dance music. Snaith’s latest album addresses the deep joy of being in love, somehow mingling a sense of the innocence and tenderness of human intimacy with undeniable dancefloor beats. Maddy Crammond


4. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2

‘Last album voodoo, proved that we was fucking brutal’. This is one of many true statements uttered by Killer Mike during his second collaborative album with El-P as Run The Jewels in as many years. But this album reaches whole new heights of sorcery, they needed this album to come off to prove they weren’t a one-off lucky fluke. They have now established themselves as the number 1 hip-hop duo currently around, they’re miles ahead of the fuckboy competition, and with no plans on stopping any time soon, they could be at the top of the heap for a while. Harry Rosehill


3. Jungle – Jungle

One of the grooviest records of the year, Jungle’s debut album delivers a slick combination of ecstatic instrumentation, addictive vocal hooks and a good splash of disco revival. Its catchiness comes from its lyrically driven songwriting, funky bass and hits of psychedelic guitar. Its hypnotic simplicity and sampled sound effects are dance inducing and addictive, a real treat. Thomas Rosser


2. Alt-J – This Is All Yours

With This is All Yours, Alt-J have managed the near impossible task of matching, if not bettering, their first studio album. Where An Awesome Wave seemed to be a composite of individual shining singles, This Is All Yours is a more complete listening experience. The bizarre and often grotesque lyricism of tracks like ‘Every Other Freckle’ adds depth and humour to an album which continues to grow and develop with each listen. It seems an obvious sign of a well-written album, when it continues to bring a smile to your face even after heavy over-playing, as does This Is All Yours. Alice Miller


1. Mac DeMarco – Salad Days

In my opinion, what makes Salad Days the most popular album of the year is how consistently it addresses the self consciousness of modern youth. At 23, Mac has successfully captured the joy, romance, reluctance, nostalgia and guilt both he and his audience feel uncomfortable to already carry, and has created the opportunity for us to celebrate it instead.

In attempting to create a more meaningful record, he’s kept his signature surfer/slacker guitar-pop, but dropped the charming ambivalence which held back his previous releases. It’s a versatile album; you can sit back and let it wash over you or you can dance and sway the 34 minutes away.

His songwriting is soaked in obvious influence, the likes of Jonathan Richman, Cat Stevens and John Lennon seeping in. But Mac has a tendency not only to romanticise his lyrics, but his instrumentation. Dominated by its retro-feel, whilst addressing the hopes and fears of modern culture, the album has a rather timely sense about it, a feeling as though it simply couldn’t have existed at any other point. Ultimately, it is this sense of immanence which has put Salad Days at the top of our list. Sam Boullier

Read our review of ‘Salad Days’ here


Honourable Mentions in no particular order go out to: The Hotelier, Swans, The Birthday Massacre, Jessie Ware, Lil B, Ben Howard, Fred V and Grafix, Kindness, Moodyman, Glass Animals, Die Antwoord, Perfume Genius, FKA Twigs, Mogwai, The Acid and Alex G.

The Circulation Team