2014′s Best Albums: Idolator Editors Pick Their Favorite 10
4. Tinashe, Aquarius Released: October 7
Tinashe is undoubtedly a star, and surely one of the most exciting things to happen in 2014. Riding high off the slow-burning success of her club-bumping debut single “2 On,” the talented songstress soon proved herself with blazing hot live performances on late night TV and award shows, whether she was breaking it down like a baby Britney on Jimmy Fallon or getting sexy with Nick Jonas on 106 & Park. But it’s the music that really solidifies her craft: Her debut LP, Aquarius, is a forward-thinking blend of late night R&B, electronica, trap and hip-hop, tantalizing Top 40 radio while remaining thoroughly left lane, from her collaboration with Dev Hynes (“Bet”), complicated feelings (“Pretend”) and dark dance floor alarm calls (“All Hands On Deck”).
Filled with interludes Janet Jackson-style, the record is a complete body of work as opposed to a lazy slew of singles and fillers, and it truly feels the beginning of the journey in a superstar-in-the-making’s lengthy career. — BRADLEY STERN
3. Leighton Meester, Heartstrings Released: October 28
How strange and wonderful for onetime Gossip Girl minx Leighton Meester to emerge from the shadows and, without warning, offer up twangy folk-pop debut album Heartstrings. The record is a short one, clocking in with a mere nine songs. The impression it leaves, however, is stunning.
Heartstrings plays like a hazy West Coast dream, conjuring images of midnight convertible drives down magnolia-lined avenues, up dusty hills and into the dry heat of the desert, and it’s best experienced as a whole. Part of the album’s charm — and perhaps what makes it stand apart from the rest of what 2014 had to offer — is that it sounds oddly out of its time; in fact, it feels like the best album Aimee Mann never recorded in the 1990s.
“I’m living in L.A., won’t you come sometime,” Leighton sings on knockout track “L.A.” It might as well be an invitation to visit Heartstrings…an offer you won’t regret taking up. — ROBBIE DAW
2. Jessie Ware, Tough Love Released: October 24
Jessie Ware’s debut LP Devotion was a stunning display of sophisticated pop music. Two years on, for her sophomore effort, the UK singer elevated her sound to an even more elegant level.
Titled Tough Love, this album showcases Ware’s strength as both a singer and songwriter. The project was an obvious reflection of her relationship with now-husband Sam Burrows, but not once does it veer toward becoming too trite or in-your-face with its blatant themes. The singer covers different levels of love that are relateable to many: “Give it to me now” seduction fuels “Kind of…Sometimes…Maybe,” while “You & I (Forever)” is filled with gooey newlywed mushiness and a heartbreaking nature surrounds the title track.
Tough Love is an altogether fresh take on jazzy soul, the kind made famous by one of Ware’s influences, Sade. — BIANCA GRACIE