10. The Heist - Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
'Who?' you ask yourself.
While the words "white" and "rapper" next to each other are a huge turn-off for a lot of people, one by the name of Washington-born Macklemore (born Ben Haggerty) partnered up with producer Ryan Lewis to build a fun and original rap album. What makes this album great is the fact that Macklemore doesn't try to be anyone else; not Jay-Z, not Eminem but purely himself. No imitations or stupid accents. Just good rap music.
Key Tracks: Thrift Shop, Jimmy Iovine
9. Reign of Terror - Sleigh Bells
American duo Sleigh Bells also released their second album this year, which featured thumping synths, electric guitars and even a contemporary power ballad. Together Alexis and Derek show a rare example of how bigger can sometimes actually be better.
Key Tracks: End of the Line, Demons
8. Brandy - Two Eleven
'Ohhhhhh (never-er) heyyyyyy'
Brandy brings back the late 90s and early 00s without making her newest LP dated or irrelevant. Not even a Chris Brown assisted track can bring this album down. Two Eleven is Brandy's first release since 'Human' in 2008, an album she herself didn't even like. But Brandy is back once again on top form, deciding to forgo the blaring Pop/Dance trend to make a coherent and strong offering. Well done Brandy.
Key Tracks: Wildest Dreams, Slower, Put It Down
7. Armor On - Dawn Richard
One of the year’s best albums is actually an EP…with as many tracks as an album has. Ex-Diddy -Dirty Money and Danity Kane singer Dawn Richard independently released the piece 'Armor On', as an opener to a proposed trilogy of albums kicking off with GoldenHeart in January. Richard is an innovator, who marries her distinctively incredible voice with the sounds of producer Druski. Every track coincides with one another, working perfectly as a strange and out-there concept piece. (Full review here)
6. Melanie Fiona - The MF Life
Melanie Fiona brought R&B back earlier this year, with an array of guests on her latest, 'The MF Life'. J. Cole, Nas, B.O.B and John Legend all assist Fiona as she put love and relationships at the forefront of the album, detailing the good, the bad, and the ugly throughout. Full review here
5. Channel Orange - Frank Ocean
I'm not gonna pretend that I've always liked and known Frank Ocean, because I haven't. In fact, I pretty much ignored most of his work, thinking he was just another over-hyped, here today/gone tomorrow internet fad. What a fool I was, as Ocean can siiiiing. 'Channel Orange' is a strong album, with Frank getting to work straight away in his falsetto on 'Thinking About You' and keeping our attention in a chokehold for the duration of the album.
Key Tracks: Lost, Pink Matter
4. Perfectly Imperfect - Elle Varner
I don't think I've ever heard Country strings and an 808 sound so good togethe..if it all, ever. Varner, who co-wrote every song on the album, worked with an intimate group of producers including Oak & Pop to produce 11 track wonderment. One of the best debuts of the last few years for definite.
Key Tracks: Refill, I Don't Care, Not Tonight
3. Born to Die - Lana Del Rey
Technically released twice this year, Lana Del Rey’s first huge release saw the starlet attract a huge amount of controversy on account of her alleged manufactured past. Nevertheless the disc released in January was undeniably great. (You can read reviews for both editions of the album here and here).
2. Music 4 TNGRS - Chester French
Ex-Harvard attendees Max Drummey and D.A Wallach released one of the freshest, multi-genre albums this year, that went disturbingly under the radar. Wallach’s voice is beautifully throaty, while the lyrical content and production infused big band style brass instruments, soothing strings and banging synths. You can read a full review of the album here.
1. Kaleidoscope Dream - Miguel
Miguel, still largely unknown in the UK, seemed to burst out of nowhere for his second LP 'Kaleidoscope Dream'. Similarly to Dawn Richard, Miguel's voice sits strongly over the distorted R&B sounds of the album, which takes prevalence over the production. The album opens with one of it's strongest tracks 'Adorn', a 'Sexual Feeling' for the 21st Century. To be honest, it's all continuously up from there, as KD fails to display a weak spot in its 54 minute runtime.
Key Tracks: Adorn, Don't Look Back, Arch & Point