First, my ten favorites from 2014, listed alphabetically by artist (My two favorites are probably 7 and 8):
1. Beck: Morning - Beck's newest album "Morning Phase" is justifiably compared to his 2003 break-up album "Sea Change," which is still the best album I've heard from the last decade. The new one isn't as good, not having any five-star songs to compare with "Lost Cause" or "The Golden Age," but it's solid throughout, and this might be the best one.
2. Bleachers: Like a River Runs - Bleachers' bombastic pop album is one of those where I like every song but no one of them stands out. This is as good as any of 'em.
3. Leonard Cohen: Samson in New Orleans - I've loved some of Cohen's work, like "Famous Blue Raincoat," "Chelsea Hotel No. 2," and "Everybody Knows," but gotten frustrated when a quality song was clouded by a bad arrangement. The man wrote a great song in "Hallelujah," but his version can't hold a candle to Jeff Buckley's, for example. I was pleasantly surprised by his new album, which included a nice piece about New Orleans & Hurricane Katrina.
4. Imogen Heap: The Listening Chair - I knew nothing about Heap before about a month ago other than her memorable name. My impression now is she's a smart, eccentric singer-songwriter, which suits me pretty well. A fun, single-shot video to go with it doesn't hurt.
5. OK Go: The Writing's on the Wall - As a kid who grew up in the golden age of the music video and watched a lot of them, OK Go has created the best ones ever made, by a mile. I could argue they have made half of the top 10, with "Needing/Getting," "This Too Shall Pass," "White Knuckles," and this year's how-did-they-do-that "I Won't Let You Down" as great examples. Let You Down's video was better, but this one's a better song.
6. Sinead O'Connor: Dense Water, Deeper Down - I've never been a big fan (or critic), but she's still making albums, and this one is pretty good.
7. The Preatures: It Gets Better - Doesn't this sound like what ABBA might be doing today if they were just starting out? One of my favorites from the year, along with the next song.
8. Temples: Shelter Song - A top-flight modern take on late '60s psychadelia. Tough to decide between this and "Keep in the Dark," which really should be on the list too.
9. Jack White: Alone in My Room - Every album of White's that I've heard has been excellent, including this one. This one (seemingly) about cutting oneself off from other people is a good example:
10. "Weird Al" Yankovic: Word Crimes - Is it one of the best songs of the year? No, but it has a great video (really!), it parodies a very good pop song, and I wholly sympathize with the subject matter. And how cool is it that he came out with his most popular album something like 34 years after his first one? Like a bad movie villain, he can't be killed off. In a good way.