From Paolo Nutini to Leonard Cohen: the best albums of 2014

A special mention must also go to Robin Thicke as Turkey of the Year

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Caustic Love - Paolo Nutini

Caustic Love found Paolo Nutini locked into the spirit of Seventies blue-eyed soul, blending muscular funk innovations with deep-soul excavations. Drawing it all together was Nutini’s desire “to be a better man”, his deepest emotional reserves tapped on songs like the brooding “Iron Sky” and “One Day”.

Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone - Lucinda Williams

A compelling survey of love and life, desperation and compassion, Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone contains Lucinda Williams’ best work, with her blues-inflected country-soul sound subtly tempered to fit each song’s requirements, from dark Americana noir to swampy Southern soul. A magnificent, career-defining set, full of hard-won wisdom, assertive independence, and empathy in abundance.

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Lucinda Williams performs at City Winery on September 21, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Erika Goldring/Getty Images for Americana Music)

Benji - Sun Kil Moon

There’s an existentially gripping intensity to the autobiographical tales that make up Benji, with Mark Kozelek’s simple acoustic guitar-picking leaving unvarnished the emotional impact of these songs about clumsy sex, absurd death and random fate. Though steeped in melancholy, it’s strangely entertaining, intelligent and profoundly moving, an album of gripping, desolate beauty.

Popular Problems - Leonard Cohen

Released to coincide with Leonard Cohen’s 80th birthday, Popular Problems found his baritone growl applied as usual to romantic disappointment and political venality, the bitterness and horror spiked with wry, mordant humour – as in one litany of ghastliness, “there’s torture, and there’s killing, and there’s all my bad reviews”.

Turkey of the Year

Robin Thicke

There’s nothing to challenge the mind-boggling awfulness of Robin Thicke’s 2014 experience, which “climaxed” in the release of Paula, an album of excruciating grovelling, apparently aimed at securing his ex-wife’s forgiveness.

 

Because what woman could resist having her emotional travails paraded in public for her ex’s commercial gain? In one move, Thicke went from having the previous year’s most downloaded single to selling just a few hundred copies of his album in the UK.

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