Normally I am not a fan of year-end lists, but for some reason I’m feeling the year-end spirit this year. Maybe it’s because this was the year of my 20th reunion from high school, so I’m just naturally nostalgic anyway. Or perhaps it’s because this year two people in my life shockingly passed on. Or it might simply be the number of candles that will be on my birthday cake in less than a month. Regardless of the reasons, I’m feeling all verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves. The topic: Music released in the year 2014 that didn’t suck. Go.
- Casting Crowns – Thrive. This is contemporary Christian music at its best, even though they continue to use the same exact formula that they’ve always used. I liken them to Bon Jovi in the secular world. You always know what you’re going to get, but that’s okay because you liked it the first time you heard it and it hasn’t gotten old. Yet.
- Toni Braxton & Babyface – Love, Marriage & Divorce. Sure, it was 22 years of waiting for these two to follow up on the promise of “Give You My Heart,” and “Love Shoulda Brought You Home Last Night,” but it was well worth the wait as we got entire album of a relationship gone right, then wrong, then right again. The album traces the pattern of a couple who have major issues, like most couples, and we hear about it through song. Perfect picture.
- Pharrell Williams – G I R L. I didn’t know whether to separate the letters like that or to put period between them, but it doesn’t really matter. The album is “sick.” Seriously, Pharrell knows just what beats to marry and which ones to eschew in favor of others. He’s the consummate professional, and once I get past “Happy” I can truly enjoy this masterpiece of an album.
- Jason Derulo – Talk Dirty. I tried not to like Jason Derulo because he sounds so much like Ne-Yo and Usher (a conundrum in and of itself), but I just can’t help myself with this record. There’s just something about his music that makes me want to move my feet to the rhythm, and this collection of songs is no different. Slick production and sexual undertones help to drive this album and keep it playing on my iPod.
- Sarah McLachlan – Shine On. You know I’m a huge Sarah McLachlan fan but I honestly didn’t know what to expect from this one. It seems like her best songwriting comes out of heartbreak (like so many others), and it was universally panned by critics, but I enjoyed the atmosphere of a record that was a hopeful look forward instead of a depressing look inward and backward. Shine on indeed.