The 2014 Album of the Year

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FKA Twigs, LP1 (Young Turks)

I had one runaway leader for my 2014 Album of the Year for much of 2014, but one album worked its charms on me in much more subtle fashion, starting this summer, percolating into fall, and by November I couldn’t deny it: for me, it is the obvious choice. When it comes to originality, creativity, ambition, and discipline, no young artist came close to what 26 year-old Tahliah Barnett has pulled off this year. Having facetiously given herself the “formerly known as” acronym after another artist named Twigs threatened litigation, FKA Twigs follows the young auteur example of Grimes, but in a far less flighty way, instead opting for something darker and a lot more mature, meshing sultry, dusky pop hooks with intensely erotic lyrics and best of all, arrangements that strip the music away of all flash and flesh, leaving a bare-bones accompaniment of electronic beats and throbs that pulsate with the emotional power of the words and music.

After a fair groundswell of hype in the wake of two fairly good EPs, Barnett exceeded all expectations with the rarest of debut albums, one whose vision was clear and ambitious, yet phenomenally disciplined. Featuring a host of producers, including Kanye West collaborator Arca, Emile Hayne, Devonté Hynes, Clams Casino, and Twigs herself, it’s absolutely remarkable that LP1 is as consistent and economical as it is, but over the course of 40 spellbinding minutes she and her collaborators create a musical environment unlike anything in 2014: minimalist, but at the same time sounding rich and luxurious, making for an intoxicating blend of the murky and the seductive. Dipping its toes in electronic, trip hop, R&B, dream pop, and even dark ambient, LP1 is careful to never fully commit to one style, instead creating a quietly intense musical backdrop against which Twigs sings her confessional, often explicit lyrics. Some have complained that the album sounds like too much of the same thing from start to finish, but she shows extraordinary restraint, displaying a distinct artistic vision for this piece of work, pulling it off with the maturity of someone twice her age. Raw yet warm, nocturnal yet vivid, this is a wildly inventive statement, and as soon as the album ends, you can’t wait to hear what she does next. LP1 is so sharp, immediately creating a distinct, one of a kind mood the way Tricky and Portishead did 20 years ago – I’d even call say this is in the same league as Kate Bush’s The Kick Inside – that you would be hard pressed to find another artist from the past year who even comes close to what Barnett has pulled off. It’s a record that will be talked about for years.

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The complete top 20:

  1. FKA Twigs, LP1 (Young Turks)
  2. Katy B, Little Red (Columbia)
  3. Scott Walker & Sunn O))), Soused (4AD)
  4. Lykke Li, I Never Learn (LL Recordings)
  5. Triptykon, Melana Chasmata (Century Media)
  6. Swans, To Be Kind (Mute/Young God)
  7. Judas Priest, Redeemer of Souls (Epic)
  8. Opeth, Pale Communion (Roadrunner)
  9. Esben and the Witch, A New Nature (Nostromo)
  10. Alvvays, Alvvays (Polyvinyl)
  11. Midnight, No Mercy For Mayhem (Hells Headbangers)
  12. Tove Lo, Queen of the Clouds (Universal)
  13. AC/DC, Rock or Bust (Columbia)
  14. Budos Band, Burnt Offering (Daptone)
  15. St. Vincent, St. Vincent (Republic)
  16. Fucked Up, Glass Boys (Matador)
  17. Drive-By Truckers, English Oceans (ATO)
  18. Goat, Commune (Sub Pop)
  19. Jessie Ware, Tough Love (Universal/Island)
  20. Tanya Tagaq, Animism (Six Shooter)
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