Best Albums of 2014: Staff & Readers Picks

We've already seen the eclectic and excellent choices by our friends in the industry, where future R&B songstress FKA Twigs remained the dominant pick by a lot of them. Now, check out the albums we've been blasting in our office and our homes. We even roped in some of our readers to chip in too. From intimate folk to balls-out metal, we've definitely got quite a range here that some of you may agree or disagree with. Feel free to battle it out in the comments section below.

Clarence Chan (Founder)

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Odesza | In Return

Super feel good, makes you feel like a million bucks. Love how they play around with vocals, mix in edgy synth lines, and beats that make my head bang so much I sometimes lose track of how fast I'm driving. Note: I'm still a safe driver. 

Tycho | Awake

Favourite work partner of mine. Have my team to thank for one of my favourite Tycho moments this year. Happened while they were all out on a break, and I had just finished a long and intense phone call. All that was alive in the office was my half-fried brain and the vinyl player, with who else but Tycho. Did a little dance before they came back, and hopped back in to continue on work. 

Snarky Puppy | We Like it Here

A super band of super musicians. Musicianship that makes me marvel at just how far one can go with an instrument, and still sound current at the same time.  

Delfina Utomo (Lead Editor)

Sharon Van Etten | Are We There

Sharon Van Etten knows how to write a damn good love song. When I first a rough version of ‘Tarifa’, I had already fallen in love, the blinding sort of binding love that I knew this was going to be on my ‘Best Of’ list for the year… and life. There’s this part in ‘Your Love Is Killing Me’ where she goes “you liked itttt” that makes you feel like when you take that much-needed piss (the feeling of giant relief), and the line in ‘Tarifa’ - “chew me out when I’m stupid” that makes you wanna weep along with her, and when she sings for you to be ‘Afraid Of Nothing’ that make you hopeful - this album is a like a mash up of an episode of Game Of Thrones and Grey’s Anatomy. I have so much say about this album and my lady Sharon, truly. All of and every word she has written for Are We There is a fine cry (and good for a fine cry), no start, no finish, just circles and circles of sorrow. RT if u liek to cry.

This is Sharon talking to me for reals:

Caribou | Our Love

Bold, bright, complex, and melancholic, this album betrays its very simple namesake: Our Love. The sort of album I’d put on at party, and also before I sleep. Or when I need to focus on work, and also on the bus ride home. I read somewhere that it was Dan Snaith’s documentation of love itself - to pay tribute to its complicated glory. Another one for the feels. 

American Football | s/t

Technically not a 2014 album, but when news broke out that Mike Kinsella and co. were re-releasing a deluxe version with demo versions and extra goodies, I was well excited. Several pre-orders later, it was sold out. I bought a ticket to catch them in Chicago but a few moneys later, I could not buy a ticket to Midwest mecca. Even if it was never meant (lol), the opening chords of the song still makes me get 4500 heartbeats in a minute, in 6/4 (haha). American Football is the force present in my adolescent years and beyond, second to my mother, but they’ve done a good job with my emotional welfare development. Cheers Mike.

Daniel Peters (Editor)

Flying Lotus | You’re Dead!

There have been albums this year that touched on the subject of death, a topic weighed heavily in my mind all year, but no one did it as singularly powerful as Flying Lotus (sorry, Sun Kil Moon). Embracing both the morbid topic and aggressive jazz-fusion in one 38-minute record, it’s both so devastatingly beautiful and thrilling with every listen. Everyone also needs to watch the music video for the explosive Kendrick Lamar-featured track ‘Never Catch Me’. No lie, it makes me want to cry. FlyLo described the album as “Miles Davis imagining what jazz sounds like today”. I’d say Miles Davis would be pretty fucking proud of him.

Swans | To Be Kind

Swans is one of those rare success stories where they’ve arguably made better records after reuniting than they did the first time (I still love The Great Annihilator and Filth to bits but who are we kidding here). With To Be Kind, they’ve never sounded so primal and violent since Holy Money. It’s fierce, hypnotic, tense, theatrical and unlike any other album I’ve heard this year. It's also a huge middle finger to any music fan who gleefully declares "Rock is dead!" every time he hears about how well FKA Twigs is doing. Can’t wait to see Gira & co. in Hong Kong next year.

Nothing | Guilty of Everything

This album made me fall back in love with shoegaze this year. Guilty of Everything is heavy; absolutely thunderous and unapologetic in its delivery of monolithic reverb alongside gorgeous melodies served with a punk-rock attitude. The lead singer's unfortunate backstory made me appreciate the record even more. I love it.

Special Mentions: Freddie Gibbs & Madlib's Pinata, Sun Kil Moon's Benji, Sharon van Etten's Are We There, Joyce Manor's Never Hungover Again, Run the Jewels' RTJ 2. 2014 was a great f*cking year for music.

Audrey Pereira (Events Manager)

Elbow | The Take Off and Landing of Everything

What may have been construed as an underwhelming follow up to their sonically tighter and moodier previous album, I view as maturity. This one’s all about letting go and getting on with life; beginnings and endings, take offs and landings with a certain calm.

Todd Terje | It’s Album Time

This is a prime example of a perfect balance of genius and humour, traversing genres and moods so effortlessly that it’s whimsical, yet complete.

Sharon van Etten | Are We There

Every nuance is unadulterated truth. This is the definition of purity. 

Juhardi Mohamed (Data Manager)

Sharon Van Etten | Are We There

The purity of her vocal tones and harmonies just grips your soul like a little baby holding onto their stuff toy.

きのこ帝国 [Kinoko Teikoku] | フェイクワールドワンダーランド

The ethereal sounds gives harsh blows, and her voice sucks you in like a whirlpool. It’s not their usual haunting sound but still a good album.

American Football | s/t

15 years after American Football album was released, they announced a deluxe reissue with the inclusion of B-sides and demos and they even reunited for a couple of shows. An emo band with a touch of post and math rock. It brings you back to your teenage years. Total feels.

This is me in front of THE house:

Brandon Tanoto (Writer)

La Dispute | Rooms Of The House 

Needless to say, this 42 minute masterpiece is nothing short of extraordinary. And being able to share the stage with them was certainly a dream come true - absolutely surreal and indubitably magical, just like how the record is!

Bombay Bicycle Club | So Long, See You Tomorrow 

Every Bombay Bicycle Club record ever released is always flawless and this one is no exception either. It's like that one record I could listen to over and over again and everytime, it just sinks deeper and deeper into my skin like damn, I can't even explain.

Pianos Become The Teeth | Keep You

Because I know I will be weeping away when I finally get to see them live.

Dawn Chua (Photographer)

Ariana Grande - My Everything

If you're not into her persona, lets all just acknowledge the fact that this girl has pipes. She can sing. You are deaf if you can't hear that. I'm still waiting for Zedd to remix 'Break Free' like he did with Kevin Drew for 'Stay the Night'.

Gentle Bones - s/t

This boy is the biggest breakout star in Singapore this 2014 and we all know it. 'Elusive' is my favourite. Also, it helps that all the cover photos were taken by a certain photographer...*ahem*.

Deftones - White Pony

I love Deftones as much as I love plain cheese pizza (which is like, my religion that I attend Sunday service at Dominos for), but I never really got into this album until recently. It's just the best album to put on in the background while hacking away at greater rifts on Diablo 3. 'Digital Bath' is a song so sexy it's so wrong.

Darren Ng (Writer)

St. Vincent | s/t

Annie Clarke thoroughly understands the pain of being human. Spinning embarrassing tales from her childhood into more confrontational, more in-your-face kind of music, she expresses deep seated thoughts with strong tugs on her guitar strings and carefully thought out words. These 3-minute servings of truth makes her contender for album of the decade.

St. Vincent | s/t

Can again anot ah? She's really quite good.

Glass Animals | Zaba

There's a moment of bewilderment when bands slip genres through a wringer. On Glass Animals' Zaba, what's on the other end is a surprisingly tasteful combination of jazz and pop, done through finger-snapping beats, smokey vocals and an element of mystery.

Jensen Ching (Photographer)

I'll limit myself to local releases, though, since a) the local scene showed a tremendous amount of talent this year (the list does not even begin to cover the breadth and depth of releases this year, DIY or major), and b) most of the gigs I went to this year featured local bands.

Caracal | Welcome the Ironists

This just dropped a few days ago, and it's an excellent album that can be summed up by the words "sound and fury". It's Caracal at their most visceral, and is a must-listen. My personal favourites would be the title track, "Given Breath", and "God Damn Tree" (especially after hearing these performed live!).

Pleasantry | Synapses

I have a soft spot for Pleasantry since they were one of the first local bands I got the chance to catch. This new full-length release has that signature sound that they're known for (and that I really dig), and every time I hear 'Swan Song' I still get chills down my spine.

Ellipsis | Permanent Distractions

This is just an EP release, but I had to include this because of the track 'Iridescent Tunes', which is one of those nefarious songs that gets stuck in your head and plays on infinite loop for a period of time. The song is a guilty pleasure I still indulge in from time to time.

Maria Clare Khoo (Photographer)

East India Youth | Total Strife Forever

Dude prompted The Quietus to set up their own label to release his debut EP, Hostel. His maiden release, Total Strife Forever, is an eclectic mix of intense piano layered sounds to deep techno beats.

The Wytches | Annabel Dream Reader

Brighton-based trio recently signed to Heavenly Recordings ahead of debut LP release Annabel Dream Reader. Heavily inspired by doom metal, they play a fusion of aggressive 'doom surf punk’. Also a really great live band.

Corners | Maxed Out on Distractions

Dark post-punk/surf rock from California. Love the instrumental majority of their music which kinda would sound like a goth version of The Ventures. check out their weird ass amazin' music videos too.

Teo Chee Keong (Reader)

Badbadnotgood | III 

III offers three of my favourite music genres (Jazz, Hip-hop and Electronica) all blended into one beautifully crafted record! What's even more wonderful is that III plays beautifully in both 33rpm and 45rpm. There are just too many reasons to make this my number 1 album of 2014! 

Sun Kill Moon | Benji 

To me, listening to Benji is like a journey to discover life, I mean death. Every new spin of this album got me something new to think about. I am totally in love with the raw emotions that Benji offers! 

Raspberry Bulbs | Privacy 

I got briefly introduced to this band over a casual dinner. Still munching my food, I did a quick search on YouTube and sample one of their songs. For a short 10-secs of sampling, I was already in love with their sound and purchased their vinyl straight away. Like in football, I probably not only scored the "fastest goal" but also a magnificent one!

Marcus Teo (Reader)

Anberlin | Lowborn

A last hurrah by a band I love and cherish deeply. Didn’t strike me as much on first listen, but proved to be a real grower, with most tracks offering a rich blend of newfound depth and potency, mixed with just enough of the band’s distinctive kick, and served up on a bed of spiritually thought-provoking lyrics – all executed, somehow, without sounding overdone, in a way that only Anberlin could achieve.

Ben Howard | I Forget Where We Were

A dense foray into the darker recesses of an incredibly gifted singer-songwriter, with just enough of his usual richness of composition to satisfy. Ben Howard’s distraught words and dulcet languid guitar tones offers his listeners a full-body experience in melancholy, in the most beautiful way imaginable.

Coldplay | Ghost Stories

Chris Martin and co. provides an honest take on love, heartbreak and loss, visiting the facets of exuberance, frustration, depression and, finally, acceptance - each with a surprising amount of delicacy and tastefulness. Ghost Stories, filled with immaculately crafted and well-arranged gems, never overstays its welcome, yet hits you right where it’s supposed to.

Camille Castillo (Reader)

Real Estate | Atlas

Whenever I listen to this album, it reminds me of going down the tree lined suburbs where I live. It just evokes nostalgia of teenage summers and road trips to the beach. 

Ben Howard | I Forget Where We Were

Darker, brooding and way more intense than Every Kingdom. I always listen to the album from start to finish and I still can't pick a favourite. 

Bombay Bicycle Club | So Long, See You Tomorrow

I love each BBC album is different and seemingly random at times - possibly my favourite album of theirs. They finally made a record you can dance to.

Sabrina McDonnell (Reader)

Warpaint | s/t

Warpaint's The Fool, released in 2010, is one record I can never listen to without experiencing musical frisson. When Warpaint finally released Warpaint early this year, I had high expectations - and my favourite psych girls did not disappoint. They've also become so much more confident in their live performances. I'm so proud of how far they've come.

St. Vincent | s/t

Annie Clark is one artist I feel deserves more love, so I'm really glad that her involvement in Nirvana's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame performance has (for a lack of a better word) helped amplify the recognition the public has for her talents. My favourite St. Vincent record is still Strange Mercy, but I have definitely thoroughly enjoyed St. Vincent. I've waited so long to see her live (unfortunately, I didn't know of her music when she was in Singapore back in 2010) so I'm REALLY excited for Laneway!

The Brian Jonestown Massacre | Revelation

With some albums, you need a couple of listens before you really get into it. When I first heard Revelation, though, I was instantly impressed. The songs by themselves have different styles, but instead of sounding confused, they work surprisingly well together.

Png Eng Ngee (Reader)

Pallbearer | Foundations of Burden

Majestic. Emotional. Beautiful. Those are the 3 words that I would use to describe the Arkansas doom metal quartet sophomore album. Dark and immersive with nice guitar melodies, Foundations of Burden has one of the sickest guitar tones I have heard in the doom metal in a while.

Perturbator | Dangerous Days

Perturbator is the moniker of James Kent who is currently signed on to one of my favourite labels, Blood Music. This album features a dark, brooding, 80s synth led form of electronica. Drawing inspiration from horror soundtrack composers like John Carpenter, Dangerous Days is like a mixture of 80s action/sci fi noir and video game inspired soundtracks. Blending industrial with dark wave and synthwave, this underrated gem of 2014 is a must listen for electronic fans.

Ne Obliviscaris | Citadel

I have to admit, Ne Obliviscaris is one of my favourite band in recent years and my expectations for this album were sky high after the jaw dropping Portal of I. Fortunately, this album met all expectations. With a much shorter running time, the song writing this time round is much tighter and more precise while still managing to blow listeners’ mind with its expansive and explosive progressive sound. This gorgeous album is progressive metal at its very finest. 

Karen Gwee (Reader)

Owen Pallett | In Conflict

His second album created under his own name, In Conflict proves Owen Pallett merits recognition as a musician who grasps his art tightly and twists it to prove a point. True to its name, the album is full of jarring dissonance, harrowing strings and ominous chanting. But it never stops being beautiful for a second.

Azealia Banks | Broke With Expensive Taste

Azealia Banks captured our hearts in 2011 with the brazen, unabashedly sexual smash hit '212', but deflated her own hype by starting Twitter feuds with any and every musician on the planet. But with its eclectic beats and smooth wordplay, her debut album reminds us that if Banks does shoot her mouth off, it's with no less than incomparable flair and panache.

The Jezabels | The Brink

Australian indie outfit The Jezabels move away from the dark, grand orchestration of their debut album Prisoner, indulging their pop side in sophomore full-length The Brink. It's a smart move - frontwoman Hayley Mary truly blossoms, her ethereal pipes evoking rainbows in dusty sunshine.