I’m starting this post, and hopefully the rest of the V+V team will come in and add theirs. Come back and see if they do.
J Reed: Here are my three favorite albums of 2014. I could argue that they’re also the best records of 2014, but you know, that’s all subjective and shit. You’re free to argue; you’d just be wrong.
Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2
It was damned hard to believe that Killer Mike and El-P could release a better record than 2012’s R.A.P. Music. But they did, just a few months later, tied together as the group Run the Jewels. The outstanding thing is they released the record for free. But, how in the hell could they follow that up? With this ridiculous pièce de résistance named the same but appended with a “2,” which follows their just two-year-old tradition of throwing away the rules of hip-hop and starting over. It’s political, revolutionary and bombastic like their previous two records, but…amped up. It’s the musical equivalent of driving a car through the Common Ground and serving dinner the same day. Oh, and it’s free.
Diamond District – March on Washington
This isn’t just local love. The guys who make up Diamond District have been making the most underrated rap music out there for the better part of a decade, and this might be their best work in years. They’re incredibly verbose and clinical, and the three guys’ deliveries are as distinct and diverse as those of any of the greatest rap groups. They might not get much love outside the D.C. area, but here their work transcends the parochial with universal social commentary. On a halfway related note, here’s a profile of Jay Brown, the director of the music video below.
Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues
Laura Jane Grace has long been one the better songwriters in the game, capable of weaving the personal and social together delicately in a way few people not named Bob Dylan have been able to do. The record was originally going to be a rock opera about a fictional character coming to terms with being a woman, until Grace came out and announced that she was, in fact, a woman. The songs on the album are biting, often tragic but sometimes funny. The recording on the album was reportedly a nightmare, but it is one of the few records in history that scream with intense urgency “I am a record that must be made.” And thank god it did, although I’m pretty sure that god himself couldn’t stop it.