Top 10 lists reveal harmony among Times pop music critics

A sample of the Times music critics' top 10 albums of 2014? From left, "Angelo, "Black Messiah" (RCA), Pharrell, "Girl" (Interscope), Aphex Twin, "Syro" (Warp) and Azealia Banks, "Broke With Expensive Taste" (Prospect Park).

At a time when practically every sound in pop music is available to stream or own at a moment’s notice, maybe it’s no surprise that consensus is hard to come by when you gather eight people in a room and ask for their favorite records of the year.

Randall Roberts’ full list ran this past Sunday, and once our remaining ballots were tallied there were a few common threads among The Times’ pop music team. The first? Our later deadline for our lists allows for the occasional late-blooming surprise, like D’Angelo’s long-delayed album “Black Messiah,” which appeared on six lists. Other consensus favorites included socially conscious hip-hop duo Run the Jewels, Aphex Twin and the dark, electro-R&B seductions of FKA Twigs.

As for the rest? Enjoy our impressions of another year full of a wide range of possibilities.

Lorraine Ali


1. D’Angelo, “Black Messiah” (RCA)

2. Azealia Banks, “Broke With Expensive Taste” (Prospect Park)

3. Courtney Barnett, “The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas” (Mom & Pop Music)

4. Pharrell, “Girl” (Interscope)


5. Isaiah Rashad, “Cilvia Demo” (Top Dawg Entertainment)

6. Temples, “Sun Structures” (Fat Possum Records)

7. Real Estate, “Atlas” (Domino)

8. Run the Jewels, “Run the Jewels 2" (Mass Appeal)


9. Ty Segall, “Manipulator” (Drag City)

10. Ed Sheeran, “X” (Atlantic)

What we said: “Rife with the kind of sublimely loose grooves achievable only through instrumental precision, ‘Black Messiah’ is as vital as it is sublime.” — Randall Roberts, Dec. 16

Chris Barton


1. Spoon, “They Want My Soul” (Loma Vista)

2. D’Angelo, “Black Messiah” (RCA)

3. Ought, “More Than Any Other Day” (Constellation)

4. Neneh Cherry, “Blank Project” (Smalltown Supersound)


5. Aphex Twin, “Syro” (Warp)

6. War on Drugs, “Lost in the Dream” (Secretly Canadian)

7. Cold Specks, “Neuroplasticity” (Mute)

8. Sharon Van Etten, “Are We There” (Jagjaguwar)


9. Flying Lotus, “You’re Dead!” (Warp)

10. Sturgill Simpson, “Metamodern Sounds in Country” (High Top Mountain Records)

What we said: “With its juicy melodies, enigmatic lyrics and imaginative arrangements, “They Want My Soul” is Spoon’s strongest album yet, something rarely (if ever) said about a band’s eighth record.” — Mikael Wood, Aug. 7

August Brown


1. FKA Twigs, “LP1" (Young Turks/XL)

2. D’Angelo, “Black Messiah” (RCA)

3. Against Me!, “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” (Total Treble)

4. Partynextdoor, “Two” (OVO Sound /Warner)


5. Tinashe, “Aquarius” (RCA)

6. White Lung, “Deep Fantasy” (Domino)

7. Taylor Swift, “1989" (Big Machine)

8. Arca, “Xen” (Warp)


9. Aphex Twin, “Syro” (Warp)

10. Perfume Genius, “Too Bright” (Matador)

What we said: “The world [FKA Twigs] offers in her art is so much more sensual and bewitching than the one most of us live in. Even at her most raw, like her hot-blooded pursuit of a coupled-off partner on ‘Two Weeks,’ she wasn’t asking permission as much as giving a command.” — August Brown, Aug. 13

Gerrick Kennedy


1. D’Angelo, “Black Messiah” (RCA).

2. Tinashe, “Aquarius” (RCA).

3. J. Cole, “2014 Forest Hills Drive” (Roc Nation/Columbia).

4. Azealia Banks, “Broke With Expensive Taste” (Azealia Banks/ Prospect Park).


5. Sam Smith, “In the Lonely Hour” (Capitol/Method).

6. Mary J. Blige, “The London Sessions” (Capitol/Matriarch).

7. Prince “Art Official Age” (NPG/Warner Bros.).

8. Jhene Aiko, “Souled Out” (Artium/Def Jam)


9. Lecrae, “Anomaly” (Reach)

10. Jessie Ware, “Tough Love” (Cherrytree/Interscope)

What we said: "[Tinashe’s] ‘Aquarius’ heralds an essential new voice, one that coheres 100 current ideas about women, sex, sadness and musical restlessness in one excellent album.” — August Brown, Oct. 6

Randy Lewis


1. Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters, “Lullaby and … the Ceaseless Roar” (Nonesuch)

2. Leonard Cohen, “Popular Problems” (Columbia)

3. John Fullbright “Songs” (Blue Dirt/Thirty Tigers)

4. Taylor Swift “1989" (Big Machine)


5. Dave Alvin & Phil Alvin “Play and Sing the Songs of Big Bill Broonzy” (Yep Roc)

6. Bahamas “Bahamas Is Afie” (Brushfire)

7. Rosanne Cash “The River and the Road” (Blue Note)

8. Over the Rhine, “Blood Oranges in the Snow” (Great Speckled Dog)


9. Joe Henry “Invisible Hour” (Worksong)

10. Jesse Winchester “A Reasonable Amount of Trouble” (Appleseed)

What we said: “The singer and his Space Shifters succeeded in fusing an untouchable legacy with a passion for experimentation.” — Lorraine Ali, Oct. 8

Todd Martens


1. Run the Jewels, “Run the Jewels 2" (Mass Appeal)

2. Le Butcherettes, “Cry Is for the Flies” (Ipecac Recordings)

3. Lucinda Williams, “Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone” (Highway 20)

4. FKA Twigs, “Lp1" (XL Recordings)


5. Warpaint, “Warpaint.” (Rough Trade)

6. D’Angelo, “Black Messiah” (RCA)

7. Lydia Loveless, “Somewhere Else” (Bloodshot)

8. Ex Hex, “Rips” (Merge)


9. Sharon Van Etten, “Are We There” (Jagjaguwar)

10. Caribou, “Our Love.” (Merge)

What we said: “As smart as it is sonically imaginative and unpredictable, ‘Run the Jewels 2' proves the team’s debut was less a fluke than a portent ... tracks on this sequel hum and groove, laced with texture and hidden sonic accents.” — Randall Roberts, Oct. 27

Mikael Wood


1. Jenny Lewis, “The Voyager” (Warner Bros.).

2. One Direction, “Four” (Syco/Columbia).

3. Jon Pardi, “Write You a Song” (Capitol Nashville).

4. Mary J. Blige, “The London Sessions” (Capitol).


5. Miranda Lambert, “Platinum” (RCA Nashville).

6. D’Angelo, “Black Messiah” (RCA).

7. Toni Braxton & Babyface, “Love Marriage & Divorce” (Motown).

8. Sam Hunt, “Montevallo” (MCA Nashville).


9. Trey Songz, “Trigga” (Songbook/Atlantic).

10. Ariana Grande, “My Everything” (Republic).

What we said: “Though the material can be heavy, the music [on ‘The Voyager’] shimmers with weightless melodies and grooves that recall classic California pop by the Eagles and Fleetwood Mac.” — Mikael Wood, July 31