Let’s face it, pop fanatics — decent albums have been few and far between this year. And now that we’re halfway through 2014, we at Idolator found ourselves hard-pressed to scrounge up 10 LPs released between January and June, as we’ve done in years past, to shine the spotlight on.
So instead we decided to open the field up a bit and include singles and EP releases, as well as albums, and throw them all together in one ranked list of the best of the best in pop from this year, to-date — all compiled by Idolator’s editors and a couple of the site’s contributors.
It’s now a three-day holiday weekend, so head below and take some time to absorb and perhaps discover some of new music. And, who knows — you might even work out a decent playlist to whip together from our picks.
20. SINGLE: Raury, “God’s Whisper”
Raury, who turned 18 last month, has just three songs to his name. Just one of those, the booming folk-rock anthem “God’s Whisper,” earned him an opening slot at one of OutKast’s three homecoming shows in Atlanta. He wrote the song while pissed off, at both school (he hated it) and his mother (who found out he smoked pot and wasn’t pleased — ugh). Raury initially mutters here, as if trying to convince himself that, yes, he can stand his ground. But when he erupts, roaring “I am your savior!” to drown out the march behind him, “God’s Whisper” becomes a rallying cry for the future and demanding to be treated as such. — CHRISTINA LEE
19. SINGLE: Miguel, “Simplethings”
Ever since his extremely successful 2012 sophomore record Kaleidoscope Dream, R&B soulster Miguel has kept pretty quiet about releasing any new music. However, when Girls creator, writer and star Lena Dunham summons you to contribute to the acclaimed TV show’s soundtrack, it seems like an offer that even someone like Miguel cannot refuse. This fortunate sequence of events leads us to where we are today: listening to Miguel’s track “Simplethings” on repeat since it’s official release in February.
Featured on Girls Volume 2: All Adventurous Women Do…, “Simplethings“ creates a perfect balance of hazy guitar riffs and Miguel’s languid vocals. It’s melody is aptly minimalist, but that’s why it works. Wistful and ethereal, the song let’s Miguel’s glorious pipes shine through, which not only shows a possible change in a more rock-influenced direction for the singer, but also makes for one of the most poignant tracks of the year. — RACHEL SONIS
18. SINGLE: Future Islands, “Seasons (Waiting On You)”
Sometimes all it takes is one exceptional performance to take your career to the next level. Future Islands made the leap from indie darlings to festival headliners after performing career-best single “Seasons (Waiting On You)” on David Letterman. Frontman Samuel T. Herring’s unique dance moves, emotion-filled delivery and unsettling death metal growls made an instant impression and exposed a whole new audience to the band’s brilliant brand of melancholy synth-pop. — MIKE WASS
17. EP: Austin Mahone, The Secret
There ain’t no shame in having fallen hard for 18-year-old Austin Mahone’s latest extended play. At eight tracks long, the short but sweet set plays like a collection of long ago shelved *NSYNC and Backstreet Boys cuts produced by Max Martin and the Cheiron crew…except that The Secret was released just this past April, and RedOne was at the helm. (Do not miss “Can’t Fight This Love,” in particular.) Damn, Lady Gaga — you should have recorded these trakcs, instead, for ARTPOP. — ROBBIE DAW
16. SINGLE: Tinashe, “2 On” (feat. Schoolboy Q)
The moment was nearly five years in the making — longer, even! — when Tinashe at long last dropped her major label debut single, “2 On” at the start of 2014. And indeed, all the waiting, anticipating and mixtape-making finally paid off: The moody DJ Mustard-crafted club thumper became a slow-burner hit, and the song has only continued to grow at radio and in clubs over the past several months. It only continued to blow up after she provided us with a super slick visual, complete with fierce fashion and unbelievably ferocious choreography that brought it back to the days of tightly crafted routines from Janet and Britney. The song still knocks to this day, AND we even have a new catch phrase to replace “turnt up” to use on the daily. Anticipation for her upcoming record, Aquarius, remains at an all-time high. — BRADLEY STERN