20 Best R&B Albums of 2014

The year in tough lovers, elusive chanteuses, purple royalty and more

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Daniel Caesar, 'Praise Break' EP
20
19/20

19. Daniel Caesar, 'Praise Break' EP

An omnivorous 19-year-old with a lusciously soulful voice, Daniel Caesar is the latest Toronto R&B sensation; and like Drake, the Weeknd and PartyNextDoor, he immerses you in an atmospheric pool of turbid emotion. Caesar, however, is more earnestly searching, meditating on an unrequited first love and leaving his parents' very religious home (his dad is a gospel singer). Praise Break's seven songs proceed deliberately with dramatic pauses and piano interludes, as Caesar quavers, croons and grabs samples (Jeff Buckley, Pink Floyd, Casablanca dialogue), to evoke the coming-of-age clouding his head. On "Pseudo," he even murmurs, "Welcome to my funeral," amid wailing guitar. But the delicate care taken with Praise Break's vivid ambience, as well as Caesar's languidly powerful vocals (recorded mostly in the living room of co-producer Jordan Evans), argues that we're witnessing the dawn of an abiding talent. C.A.

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