Top 30 Albums of 2014 (So Far)

Treble staff
Best Albums of 2014 So Far

It’s become an annual tradition to take stock in late June of the music we’ve spent the last six months listening to and compile a halfway-point list of our favorites. Indeed, there are still six months to go until the year is over, so it’s not like this is the final say in the matter, but we at Treble took a survey and pretty easily put together a list of albums we’ve enjoyed more than any other in the year thus far. It’s a solid list, comprising electro-pop, R&B, indie folk, post-hardcore, industrial rap, post-punk, ambient, house, disco, and whatever it is you want to call Swans. So we’ll go ahead and get on with it so you can check out the albums. Here are the 30 best albums of 2014 so far.


Katy B Little RedKaty BLittle Red
(Rinse/Columbia)
Buy at Insound

When South London newcomer Katy B released her outstanding debut On a Mission in 2011, she created something of a minor sensation, her singles like “Katy on a Mission” and “Broken Record” giving bass music something close to an actual superstar. Little Red only adds more depth to her already invigorating sound, balancing big-beat bangers like “5 AM” with soaring ballads like “Still.” She may not quite have the starpower that, say, Sam Smith is currently enjoying stateside, but there’s arguably no pop singer making better music right now. Katy B is the diva that we deserve — and also the one that we need. – JT

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Beck Morning PhaseBeck – Morning Phase
(Capitol)

Morning Phase is an album of lushly produced folk rock that sounds like it’s been a classic for years. While it certainly doesn’t surpass 2002’s Sea Change in terms of pure, earnest emotion, it does in almost every other aspect. The individual songs are intensely catchy and beautifully harmonized, but it’s the sequencing — arranged like a concert setlist with a three-song encore — that allows the album to build momentum for an intensely satisfying payoff. – SP

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Beyonce - BeyonceBeyoncéBeyoncé
(Columbia)

Nobody has benefitted more from the new “Oh, incidentally, I’ve been making an album in secret for the last year, and here it is!” business model than Beyoncé Knowles, whose fifth solo album just showed up in mid-December along with a complete set of music videos. Freed from any knowing observation whatsoever, Beyoncé went for broke in every conceivable manner: thematically, erotically and experimentally. The good part is that most of the dropping jaws from hearing “Pretty Hurts,” “Drunk in Love,” “Partition” and “XO” aren’t in shock over what Bey gets away with, but how astonishing the album sounds while she grinds a heel in diva complacency. – PP

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1_14_Big UpsBig UpsEighteen Hours of Static
(Dead Labour/Tough Love)

If punk really died back when everyone said it apparently died, then how did one of the year’s most incredible punk records arrive so early and with such vigor in 2014? New York’s Big Ups have spoken openly about the influence of bands like Fugazi, The Descendents and Moss Icon, but on Eighteen Hours of Static, they use them as raw materials to form something new and exciting. This is gut-punching, throat-shredding, nervous-system provoking post-hardcore of the highest order. Sounds like punk’s doing OK! – JT

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clipping. CLPPNGclipping.CLPPNG
(Sub Pop)

We were so impressed with clipping’s self-released debut, midcity, that we listed the noise-rap newcomers on last year’s hip-hop top ten. But we couldn’t have anticipated how much their Sub Pop debut would blow that first set out of the water. These alienating beats draw more inspiration from music technology experiments than Dr. Dre, while Daveed Diggs offers a harsh, satirical take on typical gangsta rap content. It’s harsh, but your ear drums will be singing thanks as they bleed. Bonus points for being a more art-damaged alternative to last year’s Yeezus. – ATB

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Cloud Nothings Here and Nowhere ElseCloud NothingsHere and Nowhere Else
(Carpark/Mom+Pop)

2012’s Attack on Memory was an album of transition, taking Cloud Nothings from a one-man lo-fi project to a full-fledged post-hardcore band. The record, recorded with Steve Albini, featured earnest energy and honest songwriting so delicious that it made our list of top 20 albums that year. Unsurprisingly, the four-piece has grown even tighter over the last couple years, bringing forth an even more satisfying collection of heartfelt punk anthems. On Here and Nowhere Else, Cloud Nothings are a little more grown up, and pack an even stronger one-two punch of raw emotion and catchy songwriting. – ATB

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Death Grips niggas on the moonDeath Gripsniggas on the moon
(Third Worlds)

Death Grips have made a career out of senseless chaos, but with Niggas on the Moon, the absurdity feels scaled back, restrained. What’s left is a fascinating, Bjork-sampling half-hour of music that feels less like a collection of individual songs than one wild-eyed monolith. It’s not a logical one, but it’s still a fascinating next step for a band that adamantly refuses to be pinned down. – SP

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Mac DeMarco Salad DaysMac DeMarcoSalad Days
(Captured Tracks)

Canadian singer/songwriter Mac DeMarco has become something of a twenty-something stoner heartthrob (seriously, this album is by far the most repinned item on our Pinterest page), and listening to Salad Days, it’s easy to hear the dreaminess. And that dreaminess is actually quite literal, his easy-going jangle just this side of surreal and his chill vibes evoking a daydreaming-in-the-grass carefree feeling. But sounding effortless doesn’t mean just anyone can write songs this good; it takes a charming weirdo like DeMarco to deliver a song as perfect as “Brother.” – JT

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Dum Dum Girls - Too TrueDum Dum GirlsToo True
(Sub Pop)

Dee Dee Penny’s state of grief loomed large over Dum Dum Girls’ last album Only in Dreams, and follow-up EP End of Daze. But she’s bounced back, invigorated with new album Too True, a record mostly crafted with a much richer aesthetic, filled with layered guitars, dreamy synths and gorgeous vocals. An homage to ’80s post punk and hasn’t sounded this fucking great for a long time. – GM

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4_8_ema-futures-void-470x470EMAThe Future’s Void
(Matador)

EMA’s follow-up to Past Life Martyred Saints is a haunting, cathartic experience with lo-fi production and eerie industrial effects. Erika Anderson’s screams on “Smoulder” sound like her identity is trapped in some digital prison while her soft voice on “Dead Celebrity” ponders why celebrities’ lives are exploited in life creating a digital archive to revisit after their death. The Future’s Void is a dark and beautiful creation, almost feeling like a public service announcement to be weary of how one survives in the digital age. – DP

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