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The 50 Best Albums of 2014 | 10 - 1

"It's time to get in pole position."

by THUMP Staff
Dec 17 2014, 12:00am

10. Huxley | Blurred [Aus]

In a year populated by myriad newfangled takes on garage, UK dance vet Huxley topped them all by going old-school and keeping it classy. Having already written the majority of an album before sessions for this one started, he canned most tracks and went back to the drawing board. What proceeded into the final take of Blurred is a near-flawless collection of varied house and garage. Every track is high quality and uniquely defined. To boot, you could put this record on in a nightclub and people would think you were a master DJ weaving together an epic set of tunes both classic and new.  -JK
 

9. Arca | Xen [Mute] 

Arca's darkly dissonant productions are loosely classified as "experimental hip-hop" but they sound like they're coming from another world entirely—a harsh alien planet populated by clanging metal and shards of glass, maybe. On his debut album (which arrived after performing some crucial work on FKA Twigs' LP1 and Kanye's Yeezus) the Venezuelan-born producer burrows even deeper into Xen, a fictional alter-ego developed with his longtime collaborator, the artist Jesse Kanda. Perhaps no one can capture what Arca is about better than his own mother, who described him thus in an old bio: "new forms tunes and notes transfers from the heart what is best even in the dissonance." Moms know us best, after all. -ML

8: SOHN | Tremors [4AD] 

SOHN's debut album, Tremors, came hot on the heels of a slew of singles, remixes, production credits, and a five-month BBC Radio 1 residency. To say that it was highly anticipated would an understatement. Still, the English-born, Vienna-based musician didn't crack under the pressure. Tremors finally puts all the pieces together and defines SOHN as an artist with a singular vision of music and himself. It's a bridge between worlds–a deep and emotional vocalist on one side, and an adept producer on the other. In 11 tracks, Tremors became an unfaltering companion for the world-weary, cementing itself in the annals of 2014.  -ZR
 

7: Joris Voorn | Nobody Knows [Green] 

After a seven year wait, the Dutch tech-house mastermind, Joris Voorn, finally unleashed Nobody Knows—one of his most enveloping, and interestingly enough, non dancefloor-oriented releases of his career. Released on Green, the Voorn's own label with Edwin Oosterwal since 2005, Nobody Knows finds Voorn in interesting new waters, offering an experience slightly augmented from his previous forays. Tracks like the opener "Monk" flow with ambient vibes; "Homeland," his collaboration with Matthew Dear, could almost be indie-electronica; "Sweet For Piano" breathes delicately with steel drums and slowly unfolding chords. Voorn's intention is clear on Nobody Knows: he wants us to listen, and listen deeply. -DG
 

6: The Glitch Mob | Love Death Immortality [Glass Air Records] 

In the part of the world where electronic music is neither ambient nor dancey lies The Glitch Mob. Their sophomore LP, Love Death Immortality, is a passionate and unflinching collection of bass-heavy electronica. Released on their own Glass Air label the album had a surprise debut at No. 13 on the Billboard 200, thanks largely to their fiercely loyal fanbase who, like the group's members once did, crave the pulse-pounding sounds pioneered by Tool and Nine Inch Nails. While vocal contributions from Nico Vega's Aja Volkman on "I Need My Memory" and "Our Demons" could easily soften the group's musical punches, the relentlessness of "Can't Kill Us" and "Skytoucher" wouldn't let that happen. Love Death Immortality lives up to its name, making for a vital collection that leaves nothing behind, especially the group's fans. -ZM

5. FKA Twigs | LP1 [Young Turks] 

The musicians we are most likely to fall in love with are the ones who emerge fully-formed, effortlessly claiming their places in the cultural zeitgeist. FKA Twigs is one such artist, and her debut LP1 was a study in intriguing contradictions: angelic melodies and stuttering, somber productions; vulnerability and strength; love and hate. (Twigs herself said that "I love another, and thus I hate myself," a line nicked from a Sir Thomas Wyatt poem, is the only theme to the album.) Proving that she can tap into lust and longing in standouts like "Two Weeks," "Video Girl," and "Lights On," as incisively as she can explore issues of racism and feminism in interviews, FKA Twigs has been called our generation's Sade (or Aaliyah). But really, she can be no one but herself. -ML
 

4. Gorgon City | Sirens [Black Butter Records/EMI]

This whole garage revival thing was always going to hit the mainstream, we're just lucky it happened in the form of Gorgon City. The London duo have managed to package current club sounds into a widely palatable visage without watering down the creative energy. "Ready For Your Love," featuring MNEK was a hit worldwide, "Imagination" is an endlessly listenable tune, and the fact that they got Jennifer Hudson to sing on the Kiesza co-penned "Go All Night," a garage-cum-Chicago-house track, is worthy of double and triple takes. It's club music that fits on pop radio and is written by two individuals with long underground careers. The cultural worth of Sirens is contingent upon that tightly wound balancing act and Gorgon City have pulled it off. -JK
 

3. Clean Bandit | New Eyes [Atlantic]

A bunch of posh British kids from Cambridge toting classical stringed instruments while referencing Mozart in songs and naming albums after their favorite French holidaying spots doesn't immediately scream international dance music phenomenon, but it happened, and the world is a better place for it. Tracks like "Rather Be" and "Extraordinary" are 2014's gateway into dance music for a whole generation.  - JK

2. Porter Robinson | Worlds [Astralwerks] 

Three years ago, Porter Robinson was a teenager dropping cheeky electro bangers about chundering. With his debut album Worlds on Astralwerks, Robinson announced himself as a deft and mature creative force with lofty ambitions. Worlds is populated with main stage dream pop, more M83-styled soundscapes than Skrillexian tear-outs, and tracks like "Divinity" and "Sad Machine" are triumphant, anthemic victories. The fact that you can reasonably namecheck My Bloody Valentine and Dada Life when discussing this record is a testament to its unique positionality. Robinson's growth has mirrored the maturation of this stateside generation's palate as it moves beyond "EDM"; that growth is what gives Worlds an elevated cultural importance. -JK
 

1. Aphex Twin | Syro [Warp]

The arrival of Aphex Twin's sixth studio album was heralded by one of the more intriguing marketing campaigns this side of Random Access Memories. Sidewalk spraypainted logos and deep web rumors heightened the intensity of Syro's eventual release but album opener, "minipops 67 [120.2]," was characteristically unassuming, lulling the longtime fans and new listeners (plenty of whom weren't even born at the time of Aphex Twin's 1992 debut) into an altered state of sound. Impressively, new Aphex Twin sounds a lot like old Aphex Twin, speaking to the foresight of producer Richard James' early work and the consummate future-ness of his instruments. What has always fascinated people about his music (especially other producers) is the mystifying ways in which his mind works. There is nothing logical, and nary anything predictable. As an album, Syro is hardly warm or comforting, yet there is reassurance in the institution of sonic markers throughout. Nobody else could have made Syro nor should anyone try. In a year when countless producers were trying to define themselves while still locked into boring imitation, Aphex Twin reminds the world how music without audible influences can still be relevant just as art without context can still be important. -ZM

Words by THUMP staff: Zel McCarthyJemayel KhawajaMichelle LhooqDavid GarberZiad Ramley and Joel Fowler.

The 50 Best Albums of 2014 | No. 50 - 41 | No. 40 - 31 | No. 30 - 21 | No. 20 - 11 | No. 10 - 1