Exclaim!'s Best of 2014: Top 10 Soul & R&B Albums

1. FKA twigs
(Young Turks)

The record with the most tenuous relationship to this genre is also one of the best. In a year when R&B's heavy hitters seemed to take the year off, it was up to someone else to define the genre's sound in 2014, and by working with some of today's most interesting names — Arca, Clams Casino and Sampha, among others — FKA twigs' debut album LP1 established a sonic palette so minimal and unshackled from traditional R&B that only her sweet, sultry vocals provided a real connection to the genre.

The result was a bold, forward-thinking album driven by unlikely online hit "Two Weeks" and twigs' beguiling live performances, which, like her songs, started unassumingly and grew to dazzling proportions as she contorted her body and voice with the sounds of her snapping, spacious music. Her lyrics — mostly about love and sex, and their relationship to gender and identity — told the story of a young artist with a clear vision confidently establishing her place in the musical landscape. In the process, twigs made one of the best albums of the year, in any genre. (Stephen Carlick)