In the press, 2013 was looked at as the year of minimalism in the music world. It was a common trend that more and more artists were taking a less is more approach to their song writing to deliver effecting work. If last year was the year of minimalism, 2014 was certainly the year of ambition. 2014 saw a wide range of artists from seasoned veterans to young, up-and-comers giving it their all, and putting out what is sure to be looked at as some of the best material of their careers. Records that have displayed artists making some of their most personal and confident works to date, records that have shown bands taking bold stylistic leaps, records that have shown artists coming into their own as songwriters perfecting their craft…

All of these factors are what making a fan of the art form of music so great, and interesting. The ability of keeping listeners on their toes is an all-too-important thing that is sometimes forgotten in the world of music, but it wasn’t in 2014. Let’s take a look at the ten records that have exemplified this more than any others and make up what has arguably been one of the most impressive years of music in the 2010’s so far.

10. Run The Jewels 2 by Run The Jewels

It’s been very interesting watching the evolution of Run The Jewels over the past year. What started as the “fun side project” for veteran mc’s El-P and Killer Mike has become one of their most lauded projects, and rightfully so. The first Run The Jewels record was an amazing, with both artists bringing their collective A-game lyrically and musically. This time around with Run The Jewels 2 the duo has struck gold yet again except this time they’ve brought a record that not only rivals and triumphs over their last effort as a duo, but rivals some of their amazing solo work.

Basement Dwelling Rating: 86/100

9. Under Color Of Official Right by Protomartyr

The cover art for Protomartyr’s second record Under Color Of Official Right featuring a filtered image of snarling dog, is absolutely fitting for the music that it is representing. “Hello there you are my witnesses, to a type of confrontation, between me and these three men” sings frontman Joe Casey, and that statement, that feeling of confrontation is felt throughout this entire record. Official Right is a 14 tracked post-punk blitzkrieg that never let’s up with tight musicianship, or emotional tunes.

Basement Dwelling Rating: 90/100

8. LP1 by FKA Twigs

After generating a lot of music blog buzz following her first two Ep’s aptly named Ep 1 and Ep 2, comes FKA Twigs’s ( real name Tahliah Barnett) debut album LP 1. A record that more than lives up to the hype of Twigs’s first two Ep’s, LP 1 is one of the most orignal and alien sounding records to drop in recent memory. FKA’s style of mixing electronica, R&B, and dream pop is a mesmerizing affair and doesn’t quite sound like anything else.

Basement Dwelling Rating: 87/100

7. So It Goes by Ratking

20 years ago Nas was thinking crime when he was in a New York state of mind, 20 years later a new generation is thinking grime. Enter So It Goes, the debut album from New York Hip-hop trio Ratking; an aural odyssey of an album that blends elements of Grime, house and psychedelia into the incredibly produced beats by member Sporting Life. The sound that this album displays may sound like a psychotic mixed bag, but it remains undeniably rooted in classic hip-hop.

Basement Dwelling Rating: 88/100

6. Pom Pom by Ariel Pink

The Lo-pop wunderkind is back, and this time on his own. Without the help of his backing band Haunted Grafitti, this is Ariel’s first truly solo record, but as the handwritten message from the beginning of Pom Pom’s linear notes reads ” This is the least “Solo” record I have ever made.” which from how this record sounds is obvious, but not a bad thing. This is no hold’s barred Ariel doing whatever he wants musically throwing everything including the kitchen sink into the mix. Frank Zappa would be proud.

Basement Dwelling Rating: 95/100

5. St. Vincent by St. Vincent

The eponymous 4th record by Annie Clark’s St. Vincent project could very well have been titled The Rise and Fall of Zoey Stardust and The Spiders from Venus. While St. Vincent isn’t a concept record, it’s an album that moves to a new style and concept for the singer/songwriter not just in her live show presence but her aesthetic as an artist as a whole. This new evolution in St. Vincent’s career has provided a exciting turn in sound and the finest record Ms. Clark has ever written, which is saying quite a lot.

Basement Dwelling Rating: 95/100

4. Nikki Nack by Tune-Yards

This is the record everybody knew Tune-Yards would inevitably make. The hooks were always there, the poppy structures were always there, it’s just that would Merrill Garbus actually deliver a polished up, version of her sound? On Nikki Nack she has, and in doing so has made incredible strides artistically and still has kept the factors that makes her project as Tune-Yards so great in the first place. Instead of going for spastic artistic expression, like on the wonderful whokill the record that precedes this one; on Nikki Nack Tune-Yards is going for a feeling more in lieu of life affirming, by making the most joyous and life celebrating record of the year that’s also just as negative and self realized of the world around us.

Basement Dwelling Rating: 100/100

3. Black Messiah by D’Angello and the Vangaurd

R&B’s prodigal son returns when the world needs him most. The long awaited follow up to 2000’s Voodoo has finally been released and shows that D’Angello has not lost any steam creativly as a songwriter, if anything he sounds more inspired than ever. With help of powerhouse backing band The Vanguard which consists of Questlove on drums, bassist Brian Palladino and guitarist Jesse Johnson, Black Messiah is 12 tracks of fresh revitalized sounding R&B that is just as topical and inspired lyrically as it is musically. D’Angello has said that the album’s title is not ment to be seen as a title for himself or anyone in particular but is meant in regards to insure that peaceful changes can not happen through one voice, that it takes leagues of people to achieve a difference in the world. While D’Angello may not want to be praised as a messiah, we can thank him for inspiring us all; providing the perfect soundtrack to change, and a new peace filled world.

Basement Dwelling Rating: 100/100

2. Plowing Into The Field Of Love by Iceage

“Come here and marvel at this stunner.” These are the opening lyrics to Iceage’s third record and no other lyrics would be more apt for a record of Plowing’s nature. Gone in the rear view mirror are the days of of Iceage’s blistering post-punk/hardcore sound on their first two records in favor of a more melodic indie rock centric sound that this listener would never have expected them to go into, but am glad that they did. An evolution for the already amazing band, Plowing is a dramatic, rage fueled barn burner of a rock record by a band that is not afraid to wear it’s emotions or it’s influences on it’s sleeves and providing killer tunes because of. Taking influences from indie rock, art rock, post-punk and even some rockabilly influences, nearly all of the major bases of underground music are covered on this records short 43 minutes. Iceage have not only made the best record of their young career, but the best rock record of the 2010’s.

Basement Dwelling Rating: 100/100

1. Benji by Sun Kil Moon

A death in the family, knowing your own mother doesn’t have long to live, dwelling on past regrets, watching the lives of ones you grew up with start to fall apart, sports bar shit; these are the themes that make up the mid-life crisis put to record known as Benji by Sun Kil Moon. Mark Kozelek has penned an album so undeniably human, it’d be hard for anyone to not find relatability in the lyrics being presented, or to not be completely swept away by the sparse yet beautiful instrumentation this record possesses. From the beautiful mournful waltz of opener “Carissa” to the embittered stomps of tracks like “Dogs” and “Richard Ramirez Died Today Of Natural Causes” all being wound up tigthly by the coming to terms closer “Ben’s My Friend”; Kozelek has provided one of the most pleasant and engaging 70 minutes of music in recent memory. Benji In a lot of ways is a record that resembles life itself; brooding, cold, and full of despair but also one of the most pleasant, beautiful and enjoyable experiences one could wish to endure.

Basement Dwelling Rating: 100/100