ILLUSTRATION BY LYDIA CONKLIN
Now that you’ve read through our top songs and records of the year, it’s time to take a look at the rest; the pop music, hip-hop, metal and punk that helped make such a great year. These records aren’t exactly orphans, most of them have gotten plenty of acclaim and even more sales, but still, they deserve their due. These are the ‘Outliers’ Records of the year, everything but our typical taste of indie and a whole lot of interesting.
What exactly is ‘Outliers’? Click here to learn more. Also, in case you couldn’t tell, that is Taylor Swift in the illustration!
10. Cloud Nothings - Attack on Memory
If we’re being honest with ourselves, then Cloud Nothings should not be on this list — it is actually indie rock. But, it’s indie rock that is so infused with the punk ethos and the grimy glory of Steve Albini’s production that we had to make room for it anyway.
9. fun. - Some Nights
There were no pop albums that dominated as thoroughly this year as fun.’s epic Some Nights. With their mix of Queen-esq largeness and simple pop melodies it’s no small wonder that fun. dominated the year’s charts, with two mega hits. It’s one of the rare instances when a mega seller, is also mega awesome.
8. Miguel - Kaleidoscope Dream
Miguel’s pop radio ready R&B is, in many ways starkly different than the other one that made the list, but it’s smoothness is absolutely undeniable. With a golden voice and baby-making ready songs that recall the silken sexy of the crooners before him, Kaleidoscope Dream is responsible just as many babies.
7. Baroness - Yellow and Green
Sludge metal masters Baroness have more than a decade under their belt and with their latest record they prove why their music has endured so long. Yellow and Green shows Baroness’ true strength is their relentless chase of new soundscapes and growth.
6. Taylor Swift - Red
Maybe it’s the move away from the pop country that defined her early career, or the loss of the princess innocence that colored her early songwriting — but Taylor Swift moved securely into the “love it” category with her newest release. The solid pop of Red is absolutely undeniable and coupled with the incredibly self-assured songwriting that defines the record it announces Miss Swift as a presence that is sure to dominate the charts for a long time to come.
5. El-P - Cancer 4 Cure
El-P has always been synonymous with genre melding and boundary pushing hip-hop and with Cancer 4 Cure El-P created yet another master work. With it’s blending of textures and beats and the rhymes moving closer to poetry than hip hop has for a long while, Cancer 4 Cure is one of the many reasons that this year could be remember best for the amazing shifts in the genre.
4. Metz - Metz
When it comes to just plain loud, no record this year hit quite as hard as Metz debut. The Toronto trio is loud, to be sure, but they also offer more than just ear-exploding punk rock. It’s an angular, layered and dark album that explores all the ugliness that it can while still remaining astonishingly listenable.
3. Killer Mike - R.A.P. Music
Politics and hip hop go together better cigarettes and coffee and no record this year married the two better than R.A.P. Music. Thanks to the production of fellow best-of listee El-P, Killer Mike’s rhymes an even harder punch.
2. Frank Ocean - channel Orange
Channel Orange has topped just about every list and has been a critics favorite since its release — and there is little wonder why. Frank Ocean is absolutely peerless when it comes to creating stunning works of emotional and musical complexity. His stunning voice can go from strong and self-assured to absolutely heart-wrenching in the space of a single track and the songs themselves often shift and move with every listen. It’s a spectacular major label debut from an artist who has hopefully a whole lot more to offer.
1. Kendrick Lamar - Good Kid, m.a.a.d city
With Good Kid, m.a.a.d City, Kendrick Lamar created a truly singular work — a record that will come to define the year it was released and is destined to take hip hop in new directions. Combining a narrative that chronicles the street life of a kid in Compton with a beat and blast large enough for Compton itself, Lamar’s record is one of true brilliance.