Mid-Year Recap: The Best Albums of 2014 So Far

With the fireworks of July 4th behind us, it’s time to look back at the first half of the year and narrow down our top album picks.  Here at The Shotgun Seat, all our writers have their own distinct tastes – so we decided to give you an insight to our favorite albums of the year so far. Check out our thoughts below on the music that’s been dominating our iTunes this year.

Adam’s Pick: Miranda Lambert’s Platinum
She’s done it again. Solidifying her position as one of the most consistent artists in country music today, Lambert delivered – for the fifth time – on her newest studio album. Platinum showcases Lambert’s eclecticism – from radio collaborations like “Smokin’ and Drinkin’ (feat. Little Big Town)” and “Somethin’ Bad (feat. Carrie Underwood)” to old school country cuts like “All That’s Left” and “Hard Staying Sober.” The album is cohesive and pretty flawless – perfectly showcasing Lambert as a married, but indepedent woman on the brink of her 30s. And with strong female-empowering tracks like “Girls” and the title track, Platinum might as well be the country solution to Beyoncé‘s latest self-titled album.

Listen: Spotify/iTunes

Annie’s Pick: David Nail’s I’m a Fire
David Nail’s March release “I’m A Fire” is definitely one of my favorite albums this year. The lead single, “Whatever She’s Got,” hit #1 on US Country Airplay, and is fun and catchy without drawing from Nail’s strong vocals or the song’s composition. The whole album walks this line well: it’s evident in every track how strong the writing is and how well Nail (who co-wrote four of the tracks) handles the vocals. Tracks you have to hear include “When They’re Gone (Lyle County),” featuring the incredible harmonies of Little Big Town and co-written by Brett Eldredge, and “Easy Love,” which is blessed by the vocal prowess of Sarah Buxton.

Listen: Spotify/iTunes

Francesca’s Pick: Dan + Shay’s Where It All Began
In my opinion, ACM-nominated duo Dan + Shay undoubtedly offers this year’s best release.  If you thought their debut single, “19 You + Me” was the pinnacle of their album, think again.  Every song on this polished album could easily be a hit single, something you would expect from a country veteran, such as Rascal Flatts.  Although the duo makes it impossible to pick a favorite, the top summertime-windows-down-sing-a-long songs include the duo’s recently released second single, “Show You Off,” “Stop, Drop & Roll,” “Can’t Say No,” “Parking Brake,” “I Heard Goodbye,” and “Nothing Like You.”  The pair’s seamless harmonies, model looks, songwriting talent (they co-wrote almost the entire album), insane vocal riffs, and the possibility that every song on this release could be a summer anthem, make Dan and Shay leading the pack to define the new generation of country music.

Listen: Spotify/iTunes

Markus’ Pick: Dierks Bentley’s Riser
Sure my expectations were high, but I was blown away by what I experienced listening through ‘Riser’. It’s an emotional roller coaster that showcases the highs and lows of life. It touches on the lighter side of life with fun tunes like the well executed “Sounds of Summer” or the motivational “Riser”, and it also touches on the sadder side with songs like “Drunk on a Plane” and “Damn These Dreams”. ‘Riser’ displays not only the best of Dierks Bentley, but the best of music.

Listen: Spotify/iTunes

Allison’s Pick: Martina McBride’s Everlasting
While it may not have your new summertime road trip jams, Martina McBride’s latest album Everlasting is definitely worth a listen.  Different than anything she has released before, she brings her timeless voice and personal twists to a selection of R&B hits from greats including Elvis, Aretha Franklin, and Sam Cooke.  After being in the industry for over two decades, it is great to see her branching out and trying something fresh.  Along the way she incorporated vocals from current pop performers such as Kelly Clarkson and Gavin DeGraw.  The singer plans to go out on tour this summer to promote the album, but still showcase some of her most popular hits.  Be sure to check out the deluxe and iTunes editions for bonus tracks not offered on the standard version.  The songs that make up the collection are exactly what the album title promises, everlasting.

Listen: Spotify/iTunes

  • Riley

    I usually disagree with lists like this, but all of the albums featured above are worthy. I agree most with “Everlasting” and “Riser,” though the others are excellent as well.