The top 14 albums of 2014

WASHINGTON — As the year draws to a close, it’s time for best-of lists across all aspects of our culture. Last week, we showed you the top-selling albums of 2014. But most popular does not always equal best.

When I compiled this list, I did my best to reach out to as many sources as I could for recommendations to consider on top of the working list I already had. I honestly wasn’t sure whether any of my titles would match those on the Billboard list (spoiler alert: they don’t).

As with any personal “best-of” list, this is not comprehensive. I don’t attempt to follow Rolling Stone’s lead and include just enough from every genre to keep the villagers happy. I also don’t go the Pitchfork route of 10-point scale rankings to determine my pecking order. These are just 14 (well, 15) great albums from the past year that stood out to me above the rest.

If you recognize my name from our sports page, you might be asking yourself what I’m doing writing in this space. Well, much like most (all?) of you, I’ve got plenty of interests beyond my primary job responsibilities. And I also spun records for three years, first for KJEE in Santa Barbara, then for Live 105 in San Francisco (those cities’ respective versions of DC 101) in the previous decade. I’ve been doing a top-albums compilation on my own for a while now — see my 2013 picks here and 2012 here — and with Jason Fraley out this week, we thought a nice post-holiday, year-end listening list would let you know about some great albums you may have missed to listen to as we head into 2015.

Before I get to the list itself (in the related gallery to the right), I want to recognize a few albums that didn’t make the cut, for one reason or another.

Future Islands – Singles

It is solid and steady throughout, but almost too much so. If the title refers to the songs’ all seeming like they could attain radio play, then it is probably accurate. But it also results in a collection of tracks that, while satisfying, seem too homogeneous to distinguish themselves.

FKA Twigs – LP1

“Two Weeks” is a terrific track, but the rest of the album doesn’t do as much for me as many others who had this album among their best.

Sharon Van Etten – You Know Me Well

The title track is a perfectly crafted pop song with a hook that stays with you (especially for fans of the show “Revenge”). The rest of the album is a good listen, but not quite as dynamic.

Tweedy – Sukierae

Taking time away from your band for a side project with your son is a noble effort, but not one I ever expected to be as good as this. The Wilco front man and his kin churn out one of the year’s more enjoyable upbeat indie records.

There are plenty of others (Grouper, Kassem Mosse, S. Carey, Mr. Twin Sister, Matt Kivel and Clark, to name a few) I simply didn’t have room for, but that you should absolutely check out if you’re craving new tunes. In the meantime, check the gallery for the albums that made the grade, and please share your favorites that I may have missed in the comments.

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