Hey! So here’s how we put this together: We prepped a small editorial team made up of outgoing music directors (Alec & I) as well as our incoming music directors (Brett, Trevor, Jonny). We, along with 32 other WUOG staffers submitted ranked lists of what we considered to be the best albums of 2014. The editors then paired our (weighted) album rankings with the rankings of our staffers and created a definitive Top 50 list that we feel best represents the opinion of WUOG as a whole. We’ve disregarded WUOG’s on-air philosophy here, so Billboard success wont exclude any deserving artists from the list or effect their ranking. After the jump are our top ten choices accompanied by write-ups from various members of our editorial team (I made everyone write a little something about our #1 pick, whether they liked it or not). You can see the full Top 50 list, ranked in order of how many “votes” each album received, at the bottom of the post. Also, side-note, this is the last thing I’m ever going to write for WUOG. Bye everybody, it’s been fun hanging with y’all for the last 3 years :’). – Nathan Kerce, outgoing music director, former blog editor, nice enough guy. 


10. Frankie Cosmos – Zentropy

Zentropy is an album that’s pretty diverse in its application. Warm background music for a small gathering of friends, a bright soundtrack to a short drive across town, a comforting companion on a lonely night – the first proper release from singer-songwriter Frankie Cosmos, or Greta Kline, can fulfill any of these roles when the moment calls for it. Zentropy’s cutesy compositions and deceptively intimate lyricism mesh into a mere 17 minutes of tender music that could only be written by someone as delicately young as 19 year old Kline. She presents herself as an artist who wants someone to take her on a date, longs for her late dog, loathes the idea of studying art and simply wants to dance somewhere where she’ll be seen. Is that really so much to ask? – Jonny Williams


9. Ricky Eat Acid – Three Love Songs

Ricky Eat Acid’s music strikes the senses. Like looking at a photograph of happier times – the thought of the picture’s contents lead to both a soft grin and an inescapable feeling of emptiness. It’s the double-edged sword of nostalgia, the type of yearning that surrounds Sam Lowe’s latest ambient release, Three Love Songs. The album acts as an exploration of environments you feel like you could almost touch, all conjured by Lowe’s atmospheric collages. Beautifully paced, Three Love Songs builds up momentum from its ethereal first half until the album peaks with energetic tracks that resemble a slightly less danceable incarnation of IDM. Just as it’s finally picking up intensity, Ricky Eat Acid’s first release on Orchid Tapes floats away with bubble-like synth runs. Much like the memories that this album can conjure, Three Love Songs emotional effect grows to a boiling point until all of its pain and hurt is relieved with a long, soothing exhale. – Jonny Williams


8. Swans – To Be Kind

How do you even write about To Be Kind? This album is a behemoth in more ways than one. Spanning just over 2 hours (and 2 discs) in length, the latest effort from Swans is a challenging but rewarding listen. The first disc is mostly what fans of The Seer are already familiar with: long droning tracks that build slowly with Michael Gira cackling cryptic lyrics and performing with a harsh repetition that seemingly punishes the listener. The second disc, however, is a different story. Gira sounds absolutely evil on some of these tracks and the percussion blows me away on every listen. I can’t help but dance like I’m primitive whenever I hear “Oxygen” and “Kirsten Supine” is the most hauntingly beautiful track the group has produced since 1996’s “Animus”. Simultaneously beautiful, harsh, hypnotizing and unforgiving; Swans have stayed true to their name more than 30 years after their foundation. – Trevor Adams


7. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!

With an ambitious album trailer and art campaign led by the prestigious Shintaro Kago, You’re Dead! had the most hype of any Flying Lotus release to date. However, any Flying Lotus fan knows you should throw out any pre-set expectations you have of his albums before listening to them. Steven Ellison opens You’re Dead! with a looming, droning intro before breaking into a frenzied jazz fusion/hip-hop trip with the help of Kendrick Lamar, Snoop Dogg, Herbie Hancock, and his right-hand man Thundercat. For an album clocking in at only slightly above 38 minutes (yet containing 19 tracks!), You’re Dead! takes the listener through an absolute hurricane of genres and styles. So what happened to the sample-heavy FlyLo that we all used to know and love? He’s still kicking around, as demonstrated by the shimmering Ennio Morricone sample in “Turtles” and his trademark shakers that close out “The Protest”. With rumors of an upcoming Captain Murphy release and collaborations with Kendrick Lamar in the works, it’s anyone’s guess on where Flying Lotus will take us next. – Trevor Adams


6. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Piñata

No one can say that it wasn’t a long time coming. Beginning with the release of their first collaborative Thuggin EP in 2011, fans of both Freddie Gibbs and Madlib had been waiting for 3 years for this unlikely collaboration to finally produce an album. Now we have Piñata, and it’s glorious. A producer from the West Coast and a rapper from Gary, Indiana have some how made the best East Coast hip-hop album of the year. Madlib is at the top of his game here; the beats are immaculate. The mixing itself is also impressive, especially on “Shame” where BJ the Chicago Kid’s hook sounds like a sample rather than an original recording. Freddie Gibbs himself also has the best performance of his career. When combined with a full roster of great-featured artists, including a Danny Brown verse where it sounds like he’s yelling through a wall, this is a hip-hop lover’s dream package. – Trevor Adams


5. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2

Run the Jewels 2 came out at exactly the right time. On their first release, the unrepentant rage and bravado of this unlikely duo (NY producer/rapper El-P and Atlanta rapper Killer Mike) seemed fun and ultimately designed to help listeners have a good time. However their sophomore release comes on the heels of a year filled several high profile cases of unjust police brutality and a heavy push-back from U.S. citizens against oppressive and unfair authority figures. Killer Mike has been a vocal proponent for police reform and justice for underprivileged citizens for his entire career, but now that that the Run the Jewels moniker has expanded his (as well as El-P’s) fan base way beyond its initial reach, the game has completely changed. Run the Jewels 2 has served as an impromptu soundtrack to nationwide protests and whether the duo intended this or not, it puts their music in an entirely new light. The album, much like its predecessor, is undeniably frontloaded and has a few R&B features that completely fall flat but it’s still hard to deny that the product has improved on a technical level. The beats, rhymes and production all have taken a remarkable step up from their debut and notable rap features from Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack De La Rocha as well as Gangsta Boo are a welcome change of pace. As American society stands in a state of uncertainty and fear, Run the Jewels is a much needed boost of confidence to a population that is fed up with the system. Bring on Run the Jewels 3; let’s keep this freight train rolling. – Nathan Kerce


4. Aphex Twin – Syro

Richard D. James (aka Aphex Twin) does not need to prove himself. He’s one of the most important, influential figures in electronic music and it’s because of his influence that any attempts to compare Syro to other modern electronic albums falls flat. He’s like the Bob Hope of electronic music, but instead of getting all weird and supporting the Vietnam war, he released a killer album. Important artists garner attention no matter how they release their albums, but for the release of Syro, Aphex Twin’s unusual pageantry was part of the fun. The packaging itself was a minimalist list of song titles and then expenses of making and promoting the album, which folded out until it reached the floor, like a receipt. Even the track titles themselves were unique, with names that sounded like direct exported files like “4 Bit 9d Api+E+6 [126.26].” My favorite two tracks are at the very beginning, featuring everything from warm drum machine sounds a la Boards of Canada to garbled vocals reminiscent of Amnesiac-era Radiohead. The album veers more into conventional electronic after that, but it’s that intangible Aphex Twin-ness that makes this project more memorable and different from all the adoring copy cats that populate the scene. – Brett Bennett


3. Mac Demarco – Salad Days

A lot of the love for Salad Days came from the perfect timing of its release. It came out on April 1st (typical) right as we were emerging from winter. When you were walking around listening to this, it was like you were trapped in one of those Disney shorts were the flowers are smiling at you. And Mac, with his sleepy eyes and gap-toothed grin, probably totally feels you on that. The album just makes you feel good. It’s lazy, carefree, languid, and cheeky. All words you’d probably use to describe Mac Demarco himself. But when you actually start to pay attention the lyrics, instead of getting caught in the sonic haze, you find that Mac is finally singing about something. For example, the track “Let My Baby Stay” is about how he doesn’t want his girlfriend to be deported. The tracks “Treat Her Better” and “Let Her Go” provide seemingly legitmate, helpful relationship advice though their sunny melodies somewhat betray Mac’s serious message. It’s not that Mac has matured or anything on this album (god forbid), he just finally has something to say has found the proper way to say it. – Brett Bennett


2. Sun Kil Moon – Benji

On Benji, the sixth record produced under his Sun Kil Moon moniker, singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek tells a fascinating series of interconnected stories, united under themes of grief and acceptance. Kozelek uses raw, matter-of-fact storytelling combined with a signature biting wit to weave what at first glance seems like a portrait of a man who has been living a life full of tragedy, surrounded by a cast of miserable characters (the “cast” mostly being Kozelek’s family members and friends, with an occasional celebrity cameo here and there). Freak accidents, failed suicide attempts, the Newtown shooting, awkward sexual experiences and missed backstage high fives; all of these incidents make up a bigger picture that ultimately presents a strong end-message of positivity. Despite the often dark and “depressing” nature of Benji’s subject matter, Kozelek manages to remain hopeful (or at the very least not negative) about his future and thankful for all the memories he’s gotten to share with these people, no matter how painful they might have been. – Nathan Kerce


1. FKA Twigs – LP1

While her first two EPs served as an above-average introduction to her sound, FKA Twigs’ LP1 is a forceful and monumental debut from one of the most unique and exciting new artists in pop music. There was a lot of stupid and unwarranted worry that without the helping hand of producer Arca (who still plays a significant role on this album but much less so than on her previous work), Twigs would fall flat. If anything, the opposite was true. Twigs has never sounded better than she does on LP1 and its thanks mostly to her strong voice as well an expanded roster of talented producers (including herself) providing her with the hottest beats of the year. Her lyricism and song concepts have also taken a big step-up from her early EPs. First single “Two Weeks” is an aggressive and seductive ultimatum to a partner who can’t make up their mind that somehow manages to be catchy, sexy and kind of terrifying at the same time. Album centerpiece “Video Girl” is also a particular highlight as Twigs weighs her real-life experience as a backup dancer for artists like Kylie Minogue and Jessie J against her uneasy feelings about becoming a solo pop artist. With the strong aesthetic, breathless confidence and dominant sound of LP1, FKA Twigs easily cemented herself as the most important voice in music in 2014. – Nathan Kerce


When you look back at 2014, FKA Twigs is probably going to be one of the most memorable artists of the year. There is something gorgeous and bizarre about her sound, minimal R&B mixed with an oddity Grimes would love and politics Janelle Monae could get behind. Just as her album’s packaging has her face skewed in various ways, her music takes traditions of female R&B singers and twists it, disarming the listener. Her voice is strong but dips into breathless desperation, making the whole album captivating and emotional. Whether it grows on you or you are hooked from the first sound of her voice, there’s capacity for everyone to find some appreciation for FKA Twigs on LP1. – Brett Bennett


Am I missing something here? I can appreciate the alternative take on R&B that LP1 tries to convey, but I’m just not interested in an album that feels forced as this one does. Sure, it has its moments of freely roaming just outside the boundaries of pop music’s limitations and at its peak FKA Twigs’ debut record is at fascinating. However, as it progresses through the tracklist, LP1 becomes exhaustingly straining in how hard it tries to be clever. This is one of those albums where I understand the appeal, but I’m just not interested. I only ever listened to it because Danny Brown wouldn’t stop tweeting about it anyways. – Jonny Williams


Following EP1 and EP2, LP1 feels like a natural progression from Barnett’s earlier work. With contributions from many big-name producers, but most importantly Arca. It’s hard to pinpoint a genre when it comes to FKA Twigs, other than through various misnomers like “Art Pop” or “Alternative R&B” which both fail to accurately describe her sound for different reasons. However, fans of the electronic scene in London should feel at home on LP1. This is the sexiest album of the year, hands down. – Trevor Adams


WUOG’s Top 50 Albums of 2014

50. Cibo Matto – Hotel Valentine 
49. Ashley Paul- Heat Source 
48. Mick Jenkins – The Water[s]
47. Kishi Bashi – Lighght 
46. Circulatory System- Mosaics within Mosaics 
45. Bing and Ruth- Tomorrow Was the Golden Age 
44. Perfume Genius – Too Bright 
43. Future – Honest 
42. Family and Friends – Love You Mean It 
41. The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream 
40. Scott Walker and Sunn 0)))- Soused
39. D’Angelo & The Vanguard – Black Messiah
38. Real Estate – Atlas
37. Ought – More Than Any Other Day
36. Ratking – So it Goes
35. Vince Staples – Hell Can Wait 
34. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There 
33. Merchandise – After The End
32. Iceage – Plowing into the Field of Love
31. Karen O – Crush Songs 
30. Nothing – Guilty of Everything
29. Joyce Manor – Never Hungover Again 
28. New Madrid – Sunswimmer
27. Grouper – Ruins
26. Taylor Swift – 1989
25. CEO – Wonderland 
24. Pure X – Angel 
23. Isaiah Rashad – Cilvia Demo
22. A Sunny Day in Glasgow – Sea When Absent 
21. Yung Lean – Unknown Memory 
20. Banks – Goddess 
19. St. Vincent – St. Vincent 
18. Fear of Men – Loom 
17. Cloud Nothings – Here and Nowhere Else
16. Empire! Empire! I Was a Lonely Estate – You Will Eventually Be Forgotten 
15. Parquet Courts – Sunbathing Animal
14. Alvvays – Alvvays 
13. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness 
12. Rich Gang – Tha Tour, Part 1
11. Future Islands – Singles 
10. Frankie Cosmos – Zentropy
9. Ricky Eat Acid – Three Love Songs
8. Swans – To Be Kind 
7. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
6. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Piñata
5. Run The Jewels – Run the Jewels 2
4. Aphex Twin – Syro 
3. Mac Demarco – Salad Days 
2. Sun Kill Moon – Benji 
1. FKA Twigs – LP1