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April 23, 2024

The best albums of the first quarter of 2014

By ALEX HUROWITZ | April 17, 2014

The first quarter of the year came with a slew of album releases, but these four undoubtedly stood out from the pack:

1. Salad Days by Mac Demarco

The Canadian musician, who mostly plays jazz-influenced jangle pop, followed up 2012’s excellent album, 2, and extended play, Rock and Roll Night Club, with the equally excellent, Salad Days, released at the beginning of this month. While honing in on his sound and songwriting ability (featuring a more psychedelic feel), this album shows a more melancholic side of Mac, as he deals with his newfound fame following the success of his two releases back in 2012. While the album lacks singles that really grab one’s attention, like with “Ode To Viceroy” from 2, there is still a refreshing sense of nostalgia, and yet something new, when listening to this album. This is definitely one of his most cohesive releases to date.

2. Piñata by Freddie Gibbs and Madlib

Put simply, this is probably the best rap album to come out so far this year. Even though Madlib, a producer with a repertoire as prodigious as J Dilla’s, has already made what is considered to be one of the greatest collaborative hip hop albums to be released in the past decade (2004’s Madvillainy by Madvillain along with MF Doom; it got a 93 on Metacritic), this effort with Freddie Gibbs still makes an impact on its own. Naturally, Madlib doesn’t disappoint with the beats, featuring an old style, sample-based hip-hop sound with a modern feel. Freddie Gibbs shows off his technical skill, rapping with such versatility to the complex rhythms provided by Madlib.

3. It’s Album Time by Todd Terje

The Norway-based disco producer and lover of the analog synthesizer finally compiled all of the singles released over the past few years, along with some new unreleased material, with his debut LP, It’s Album Time. This release captures one of the best disco revival sounds around. While the old singles (especially “Inspector Norse”) are always great to listen to again, the new material still features a diverse collection of tracks, going from chill lounge music to high intensity progressive jams. While there aren’t any stand-out tracks like “Get Lucky,” there really doesn’t need to be, as this album really stands up well, as a whole.

4. Singles by Future Islands

The Baltimore-based synth-pop trio returns after 2011’s On the Water, with Singles, Future Islands’ fourth album. This LP features some of the group’s best songwriting to date, and a maturation of sound that has gotten better and better with each release. Frontman Samuel T. Herring is as emotional as ever, singing, belting, and crooning with such intense emotional energy (and physicality, especially evident when seeing them perform live). If you want to hear what 2014 has to offer in terms of new wave/post punk inspired material, then definitely check out this album.

Honorable Mentions: Present Tense by Wild Beasts, Benji by Sun Kil Moon, and Divine Ecstasy by Supreme Cuts.

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