Top 10 Albums of 2014

I don't claim to be a music expert. Honestly, the older I get, the more I get out of touch with what's cool. As a personal exercise, I try to make an iTunes playlist of my 10 favorite albums of the year, primarily for archival purposes. It's fun (or embarrassing) to go back and look at what I was listening to 4 years ago and see what I thought was cool then.

I'm not an album reviewer, so I'll keep my thoughts short.

So, without further ado, here's the music I really liked in 2014, from my 10th favorite album to my 1st, along with Spotify links to listen to the albums.

#10: Coldplay, "Ghost Stories"

This album sounds completely different than the last Coldplay album, which sounded pretty different from the one before it. I like the electronic sound Coldplay went for here, but at times it's like they forgot they had a drummer. 

In general though, it's a simpler, more electronic Coldplay album that doesn't lose sight of what Coldplay does best: write massive, super catchy choruses that you can't get out of your head.



#9: Anberlin, "Lowborn"

Anberlin has been one of my favorite bands since middle school, and Lowborn is their last album as a band. It was a fitting send off, channeling all the things I love about the band into an album that is one of my favorites they've ever put out. 

Anberlin has always been a band with a foot in a lot of camps, and Lowborn embodies that identity. Heavy, but not too heavy. Electronic, but never overpowering. Their lead singer Stephen Christian is one of my favorite vocalists out there, and he sounds great as always on this album. Wonderful album from one favorite bands.

RIP Anberlin.


#8: Brooke fraser, "brutal Romantic"

Brooke Fraser has come a long way since she was writing worship songs with Hillsong. This album was a pretty big jump from her past solo albums too. She's following in the trend of Christian people making music that they find creatively interesting instead of worship songs. 

Because of that, some of the songs are a little out there, but I appreciate the overall tone of the album. Though I might not like every song, I can at least appreciate that every one is interesting and engaging. Brooke Fraser has an incredible voice, and I'd probably enjoy listening to her sing just about anything. Her vocals are the best part of the album and conquer any weirdness certain songs might bring.

Plus, Kings and Queens is one of the catchiest songs I've heard all year long.

FAVORITE song: "Kings and queens"

#7: Taylor swift, "1989


Liking Taylor Swift is kind of a funny game these days. For awhile, it was cool to hate her. Then, she gradually just won everybody over and continued to put out great music, so liking Taylor Swift became like liking Coldplay. It's just sort of what every body does.

So, I'm like everybody. I love this album. I appreciate the fact that Taylor doesn't pander to the growing trend of releasing two or three great songs and then filling the rest of the album with terrible songs and living off the singles. I really like 80% of this album, and only really hate one song (Bad Blood). 

I haven't been able to get Shake It Off out of my head for months. That drum beat will live in my head for eternity.

Favorite song: "Shake it Off"

#6: Citizens and Saints "Join The Triumph"

(They only have one song on Spotify, but it's a good one. The album is worth buying)

This band used to be called "Citizens" and was a worship band at Mars Hill Church. Now sadly, neither of those things exist. But their first album under the new name Citizens & Saints is a creative, engaging album that pushes the boundaries of how people view worship music.

The 80's vibe in this album took some getting used to, but once I adjusted I fell in love with these songs. Every song is full of truth and praise of Jesus without sacrificing musical complexity. 



This album is the soundtrack to a (also great) surf/travel documentary Switchfoot made. I was disappointed by this album at first, but it really grew on me. It's a little softer and more pop based Switchfoot that is basically all about surfing. The songs are more straightforward and simple, but it is full of some of the best choruses Switchfoot has ever written.

These guys have been around forever, and I have no clue how they keep making great albums. Really though, go watch the Fading West documentary. It's on Netflix.


#4: Colony house, "WHEN I WAS YOUNGER"

These guys came out of nowhere to be one of my favorite bands this year. 2 of the guys in the band are famous Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman's sons, but they sound nothing like him. This is one of my favorite straightforward rock albums I've ever heard. It's musically very tight, super catchy, and the band was incredible live when I saw them earlier this year.

Rarely do I listen to bands that write music like this also write lyrics like this. Every song is well written lyrically, and there isn't a song on the album I don't like. 2:20 is also a jam.


#3: John mark mcmillan, "Borderland"

This album was released towards the beginning of the year, but it's stuck with me all year. John Mark McMillan has written some of my favorite worship songs ever, but on this one he is writing great songs with lyrics about Jesus/spirituality, not worship songs. The album feels like something new in the Christian world, and it was so refreshing to hear. 

John Mark McMillan does a lot of interesting stuff with different instruments here, with prominent time given to saxophone, roto tom fills, synths, and banjos. That list sounds like it would create an album full of discord, but it all comes together around his voice to make a beautiful album.

I got to see him live this year too. Great show.



#2: From indian LAKes, "absent sounds"

I'm not really sure how to describe this album. It's a funny combination between darker, heavier sounding music and light, atmospheric (U2 style) guitars. I've listened to this album countless times start to finish and haven't gotten tired of it yet. Every song has the tendency to change in unpredictable ways that never take away from the structure of the song. You just keep getting hit in the face with creative choruses and interesting bridges and slightly odd rhythmic decisions that make sense but are unexpected.

The last 45 seconds of the song Fog has the best guitar riff I've heard in years, and it isn't even my favorite song of the 10. Great, great, album.

FAVORite song: "Ghost"

#1: Kings Kaleidoscope, "Becoming who we are"

This album is rare from start to finish. I've never listened to an album with this much music and variety in sounds and styles that still felt cohesive. It has 17 songs on it!  Only 3 of those are instrumentals. In a world of 10 song albums that all sound the same, Kings Kaleidoscope stands out. These guys have 11 members, two drummers, a horn section, and one of my favorite vocalists out there, Chad Gardner.

I'm not normally a person who gets very emotionally attached to songs and albums. I love music, and I love playing music, but I stay distant from the songs. This album is different. These songs are important to me. I resonate emotionally with what they are singing about. I find pictures of how I see the world in the lyrics.

These are the best songs about Jesus I've ever heard. I've followed and loved Kings Kaleidoscope since they were a band at Mars Hill, and I always loved what they did with hymns. They made hymns approachable and interesting. They've done just that with spiritual truths throughout the album in writing their own songs. They've taken the words of the Bible and made them come alive to the score of horns and synths and drums and guitar. 

I look at this album and see what all Christian music should look like. Not that all Christian music should sound like Kings Kaleidoscope, but that Christians should be making the best, most creative music out there because they are inspired by a God who created the world. 

It's for sure my favorite album of this year, and probably my favorite album of the past few years.

favorite songs: "139","Light After darkness", "i know", "seek your kingdom", "Fix My eyes"

Thanks for reading! Hopefully you found some new music.


Cory ThomasonComment