In a move that surprised everyone, neo-soul avatar D’Angelo finally unleashed the album many fans had waited 14 years to hear. With help from his ace crew the Soulquarians—now rechristened the Vanguard—D’Angelo’s third album explodes with soul, passion, and a sense of urgency. Crucial to the mix are drummer Questlove and of course, Pino Palladino. While it’s hard to upstage the natural talents of D’Angelo, who played some of the bass parts himself, Palladino’s iconic flatwound tone jumps off the record, grooving ferociously alongside Questlove’s trademark thunder. Whether it’s by infusing dirty fills into the spaces of “Sugah Daddy,” immaculately replicating the feel of upright bass on “Really Love,” or bringing down the house with his funky lines on “Betray My Heart,” Palladino one-upped the hype surrounding this album. In the world of bass, Black Messiah stepped up to the plate late in the 9th inning of December and hit the walk-off homerun to win 2014.