30. Diplo – Random White Dude Be Everywhere
Grammy-nominated producer Diplo has released so much music over the last eighteen months that it’s hard to keep up with him. Thankfully, he’s compiled an easy-to-find compilation of his best works and remixes since 2012’s ‘Express Yourself’ EP. There’s his most recognizable hit to date (“Express Yourself”), but there’s also new-ish songs like “6th Gear” and “Techno”. Nothing on ‘Random White Dude’ is 100% new, but it’s good to hear fresh takes on his EDM classics from up-and-coming remixers.
29. Jessie Ware – Tough Love
Jessie Ware’s second album isn’t nearly as iconic as her debut ‘Devotion’, but it’s still quite the respectable jump over the sophomore slump. ‘Tough Love’ features Miguel, Ed Sheeran, Emile Haynie (Lana Del Rey), and Dev Hynes on songwriting and production. With no features, you’d think that Ware’s second set would fall flat. However, her voice carries the melodies into new territory for the British female singer. She’s not widely recognized stateside, but her collaborations with Miguel should at least give her a few new fans.
28. Various Artists – The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part I (Soundtrack)
Lorde may have just recently turned eighteen, but that hasn’t stopped her from her biggest job to date – executive producing the ‘Hunger Games Mockingjay’ soundtrack. The soundtrack was preceded by her own “Yellow Flicker Beat”, a song that took quite some time to grown on me before becoming larger than life with its Kanye rework. But there’s also HAIM, Miguel, and even Grace Jones – all of which Lorde co-wrote with for the soundtrack. It only takes one listen to realize just how diverse (and talented) Lorde’s musical ears truly are.
27. Jennifer Nettles – That Girl
There are three current female country artists that I love – Carrie Underwood, Kacey Musgraves, and Jennifer Nettles. As the lead singer from Grammy-award winning band Sugarland, Nettles’ vocals are unmatched in terms of 2014 country albums. ‘That Girl’ features quite a bit of surprises, most notably Sara Bareilles (“This One’s For You”) and Katy Perry’s ‘One Of The Boys’ producer Butch Walker (“That Girl”). It’s also quite notable that Rick Rubin produced the entire album and if this greatness is only her debut solo album, there’s even better to come over the next few years.
26. Rebecca and Fiona – Beauty Is Pain
This Swedish duo could easily be compared to Icona Pop, but their style is more EDM-influenced for my liking. Their second album ‘Beauty Is Pain’ is a dancey pop affair that features both girls exploring their DJ-meets-musician hats. Songs like “Candy Love” and “Jamie” are all-out fun while singles “Holler” and “Clara” prove they can hold their own on Top 40 radio. The duo was signed to Universal Records in mid-2014, and their stateside visibility has rightfully increased tremendously.
25. SZA – Z
Despite being labeled as an extended play, I consider SZA’s third release as her debut album following mixtape ‘See.SZA.Run’ and the ‘S’ EP. The Top Dawg Entertainment artist continues her streak of soulfulness on the ten-track ‘Z’ gaining her a bunch of celebrity fans. Songs like “Babylon” and “Julia” showcase the precise factor that keeps me interested in her – the undeniable level of individuality. Unlike all other female R&B singers, SZA has created her own downtempo sound, paving her way to the top of urban songstresses.
24. Theophilus London – Vibes
The sophomore album from hip-hop/R&B artist Theophilus London might have been outshined by the surprise release of Azealia Banks’ ‘Broke With Expensive Taste’, but that doesn’t mean it’s not as good. Executive produced by Kanye West, Theo’s latest features a solid mix of singing and rapping over retro beats and arrangements. The great Leon Ware also makes numerous appearances on the album, adding a much needed touch of authentic soul to the rapper-turned-singer’s set.
23. Sia – 1000 Forms Of Fear
Originally intended to be a collaborative album with Diplo, Sia’s sixth album features another complete body of work by her longtime collaborator Greg Kurstin. Propelled by the massive “Chandelier” single, ‘Fear’ is Sia’s first album to debut at #1 on the Billboard 200 charts. As soon as the “Chandelier” video went viral, Sia’s career skyrocketed into new territories. But that isn’t even the best part – she did it all without even showing her face (literally). The clever marketing strategy in which she never showed her face for interviews and performances had the world wondering what’s the mystery behind the Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter.
22. Alt-J – This Is All Yours
Alt-J released their first album on my 25th birthday and I’ve gravitated towards all of their music ever since. Now they have an even bigger fan in Miley Cyrus, who the group sampled on their second album’s lead single “Hunger Of The Pine”. The ‘This Is All Yours’ album marks the departure of one of the band’s members, but I think that probably helped more than hindering them. Besides the Miley sample, there’s the third single “Every Other Freckle” and promo release “Left Hand Free” – both of which should place the band as strong Grammy contenders for the 2014-2015 period.
21. Toni Braxton + Babyface – Love, Marriage, and Divorce
Collaborative projects are always hit-and-miss, but it worked out beautifully for Grammy-award winners Toni Braxton and Babyface. With the likes of Trey Songz and K. Michelle running around pretending to be R&B artists, Braxton and Babyface (B&B) deliver a strong showing that’s equally authentic and meaningful. Most relationships go through love, and some make it to marriage. Some may make it to the divorce phase, while others remain intact. B&B’s album easily covers all three topics, giving both artists solo and duo time to shine on the album.