The best albums of 2014

We recommend ten unmissable albums from 2014

Owen Pallett – ‘In Conflict’ Violin virtuoso and adored indie songwriter Owen Pallett opened up here like never before. Flipping between stripped-back numbers (featuring only Pallett’s fragile falsetto and violin riffing) and grandiose electronic rock odysseys, ‘In Conflict’ was a heady, beautiful and captivating album that demands and deserves your full attention. Tristan Parker
Ibibio Sound Machine – ‘Ibibio Sound Machine’ It’s hard to imagine the eight diverse members of this group coalescing anywhere but London, and they drew on lead singer Eno Williams’s south-east Nigeria heritage for this outstanding debut, sung mostly in the regional dialect of Ibibio. All combined with the brassy flair of Afrofunk, the sass of Grace Jones and the machine groove of deep house. Oliver Keens
The War On Drugs – ‘Lost in the Dream’ Recently heartbroken? Looking to take a tear-streaked road trip across some wide open spaces? Here’s your soundtrack. Tempering rock ’n’ roll fervour with hazy atmospherics and electronic flourishes, ‘Lost in the Dream’ tapped into the emotional energy of the classics (Springsteen, Dylan, Young) without sounding anything but fresh and new. James Manning
Little Dragon – ‘Nabuma Rubberband’ A serious contender for the title of 2014’s sexiest album, ‘Nabuma Rubberband’ pulled trip hop, ’90s-style downbeat electronica and R&B into an unquestionable career high for Gothenburg four-piece Little Dragon. They’d been working towards a record this good for almost two decades, and this year it finally paid off. James Manning
Todd Terje – ‘It’s Album Time’ On his long-awaited debut, the Norwegian producer took disco and techno-funk to their natural domain: space. While countless acts have churned out nostalgic disco and aped Daft Punk and Chic, Todd Terje channels the pioneering spirit of disco’s heyday and catapults it into cosmic overdrive. Tristan Parker
Metronomy – ‘Love Letters’ The fourth album from Joe Mount’s electronic pop project finally signals Metronomy’s entrance into the big time. Why? Because its kooky melodies, killer pop hooks and Mount’s everyman musings on lost love give you a huge musical hug that you just can’t turn down. The result is a quietly beautiful left-field pop record that somehow makes heartbreak sound appealing, and has confirmed Metronomy as a huge asset to the British music scene. Tristan Parker
Future Islands - ‘Singles’ You’ve seen that Letterman clip on YouTube, haven’t you? In just four minutes Future Islands gained more recognition than they’ve managed in the past eight years, thanks almost entirely to the kickass dance moves of their stout frontman Samuel T Herring. But there’s more to this khaki-clad Baltimore band than a pair of jaunty hips. Their foot-stomping fourth album ‘Singles’ is laced with oozing synths, chiselled basslines and enough clap-along choruses to satisfy a pack of seals. It’s Herring’s infectious vocals that make the album truly stand out, however. Synthpop just gained a new superstar. Alex Plim
East India Youth - ‘Total Strife Forever’ If you decide to name your solo project after a DLR station and mention the Docklands on your first single, then you’d better have the songs to back up the ostentatious east London-ness of it all. Luckily, William Doyle’s debut LP – half romantic synthpop, half electronic soundscapes – beautifully captures the ache of a solitary life in that huge, rainy city, as well as those moments of joy when the sun hits the concrete and glass. It’s the most quintessentially London record in ages, and all the better for it. James Manning
Mica Levi - ‘Under the Skin’ OST ‘If your life force is being distilled by an alien, it’s not necessarily going to sound very nice.’ You can’t deny Mica Levi’s logic – ‘nice’ is not the obvious word to describe the 27 year old’s deeply sinister orchestral score for Jonathan Glazer’s acclaimed alien thriller ‘Under the Skin’. So let’s try ‘beguiling’, ‘otherworldly’ and ‘hugely impressive’ instead. The dense and distressed strings that form the backbone of the score sometimes suggest Hitchcock collaborator Bernard Herrmann or music theorist Iannis Xenakis, even murky underground hip hop at points. But they’re tenuous comparisons – this really is a soundtrack that defies categorisation, and one that has rightly earned a cult following already as an LP in its own right. Oliver Keens
Damon Albarn – ‘Everyday Robots’ Many expected deep revelations from Damon Albarn’s first solo record, but what we got instead were melodies: big beautiful, elegant and affecting melodies that seared the cerebellum after a few listens, and gently reminded us of the Blur man’s status as one of Britain’s great songwriters. Oliver Keens