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15 Great Albums You Didn’t Hear in 2014

A power-pop supergroup, a Nigerian rap star, a prog Hall of Famer, gamelan rock, noise-dance and more you may have missed

15 Great Albums You Didn't Hear in 2014

These albums may not have burned through your playlists in 2014, but at least one Rolling Stone editor or contributor thinks it should've. 

Kindred

Kindred the Family Soul, ‘A Couple Friends’

Fatin Dantzler and Aja Graydon, West Philadelphia protégés of the Roots and Jill Scott, friends and a couple married 16 years with six children, spend their fifth album struggling through hard times but celebrating being in it for the long haul. They do it with R&B grooves as warm and alive as any this year, unfashionably tapping Philly International disco, Barry White, Run-D.M.C., quiet storm, pop gospel and their spiritual antecedents Ashford and Simpson (whose Valerie Simpson contributes harmonies to the title cut) without ever suggesting retro is the point. There's even a minute-long chant from their kids about keeping up with household chores. And over a Marvin Gaye rhythm bed in lush centerpiece "Everybody's Hustling," Fatin and Aja weather the war on the poor — low credit scores, no health insurance, two jobs not paying enough. But they stay grounded and refuse despair, knowing sex and God will help them through. By Chuck Eddy

Krill

Krill, ‘Steve Hears Pile in Malden and Bursts Into Tears’ 10-inch

A five-song suite from locally beloved Boston threepiece Krill, Steve Hears Pile in Malden and Bursts Into Tears is ostensibly a concept record about a maybe-fictional twentysomething who asks the very-real Boston band Pile to jam with him before getting politely rebuffed. "If I could have made something good, I would have by now," sings frontman Jonah Furman, embodying the spirit of a laidback dude pretending he wasn't just totally crushed. The rest of the tracks are less conceptual, but all contain Furman's slightly unhinged lyrical self-deprecation — including a lengthy metaphor about viewing oneself as literal shit on "Turd" — and the band's darkly pretty grunge rock. By Cady Drell

Leikeli47

Leikeli47, ‘Lk-47 Pt. II’

"Nigga, ya drums too clean," barks masked Brooklyn rapper Leikeli47 to kick off this storming, never-not-intriguing mixtape, and that's just the first of many spitfire threats and challenges. In "C&C," over an even more rambunctious drum track, she requests that you fall back, since her friends have a razor and a taser waiting; later, she mentions that the devil's crashing at her place until he gets paid and she's not above slapping the dude upside his head. Lk-47 Pt. II is a scattershot blast, but it promises plenty. No surprise, then, that Leikeli recently dropped her finest volley yet: "Two Times a Charm," a spare, fingersnapping smackdown with a bizarre R&B interlude and a captivating video. By Charles Aaron

Cliff Martinez

Cliff Martinez, ‘The Knick: Original Television Soundtrack’

In the context of The Knick, director Steven Soderbergh's blood-drenched, cocaine-fueled hospital period piece, mood-master Cliff Martinez's flickering, whooshing electronic score makes the visuals all the more unsettling. As a standalone work, the soundtrack has a similar effect on everyday life. Over the past three decades, the composer has perfected mesmerizing atmospheres on the scores to Drive, Spring Breakers and Only God Forgives. The Knick ventures into uncharted realms: With a track list that could nauseate the most hard-nosed homicide detective ("Abscess," "Placental Repair," "New Standard Hernia Procedure"), the record's undulating synths, sparse acoustic guitar and wraithlike cristal baschet create an ominous, urgent, hypnotic feeling like shivers up your spine. By Kory Grow

OOIOO

OOIOO, ‘Gamel’

Boredoms drummer Yoshimi P-We's chiming, screeching, banging, monkey-chanting seventh solo album both assaults and assuages listeners with a sneakily challenging blend of Indonesian gamelan and Japanese noise-pop. This 21st-century Remain in Light's vibe is psychedelic, its mode neo-primitive, and its overall effect stroboscopically ecstatic. Augmented by a pair of Javanese gamelan musicians on tuned metallophonic percussion, Yoshimi and her all-woman ensemble make thrilling music that embellishes a minimalist template with funky bass, blorting guitars, wordless sing-along chants, heady synths and powerful drumming. The resulting hour-long suite is a listener-friendly Frankenstein's monster of invigorating post-exotica. By Richard Gehr

Joan Shelley

Joan Shelley, ‘Electric Ursa’

A Kentucky singer with Sandy Denny timbre and a clarity of tone like Miles Davis' horn circa Kind of Blue. This captivating mini-album, with elegant guitar from folklorist Nathan Salsburg, is kinda folk, sorta slowcore and vaguely country, projecting a huge, resplendently pained serenity. By Will Hermes

Ben Watt

Ben Watt, ‘Hendra’

Ben Watt has been making intimate, sophisticated pop music for three decades, most prominently with his wife Tracy Thorne in Everything But the Girl. Though he's primarily been a dance music DJ since EBTG ended in 2000, his first solo album since 1983 is all about subtle guitar elegance and detailed lyrical explorations. Watt collaborated with guitarist Bernard Butler of Suede and even got an unlikely hand from Pink Floyd's David Gilmour to create richly detailed songs that deal with muted revelation and shaky unburdenings. In "Young Man's Game" a 49-year-old comes to terms with feeling to old to go clubbing, and in "The Levels" a man converses with a wife who's no longer with him. The music can evoke anything from Stereolab to country to mellow Seventies rock and the lyrics can touch on subjects from gun control to Romantic poetry, always with a subtlety that matches the music's slanted beauty. By Jon Dolan

Wizkid

Wizkid, ‘Ayo’

After releasing his breakthrough Superstar LP in 2011, Nigerian rapper Wizkid prepped its follow-up with three years of irresistible features and unstoppable club bangers. Arriving in September, Ayo placed the biggest of the latter alongside new tracks that grab slang from Jamaica and salute women with a "bum bum bigger than Bombay." Throughout, the 24-year-old uses deft, nimble flows to glide over complex beats and he writes hooks that will keep you humming for weeks. As British-Ghanaian rapper Fuse ODG says in the title of his debut LP, another excellent 2014 release, T.I.N.A: This is new Africa.

Youth Code

Youth Code, ‘A Place to Stand’ EP

What happens when a former hardcore singer meets a heavy metal roadie? They form an industrial band, of course —but one with a punk-rock heart. Black Flag-inspired bass lines slither through mechanized Wax Trax! clatter; a pissed, pogoing riot grrrl spits boiling blood on chilly synths. Youth Code's 2013 debut full-length was a promising, if primitive, introduction; A Place to Stand, the coed duo's eight-track follow-up (four original songs, four remixes of older ones) sees the L.A. band beginning to harness its potential, reeling out both its most hardcore-infused tantrum (the floor-punching "To Burn Your World") and its most melodic cut yet (the glitchy, Crystal Castles-esque "For I Am Cursed"). "A Litany (A Place to Stand)," meanwhile, is Youth Code's manifesto, a spoken-word diatribe against discrimination, animal cruelty, hate and apathy set to a piston-pumping noisescape. The crash of collapsing new buildings rarely sounds so constructive. By Brandon Geist

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