2014′s Best Albums: Idolator Editors Pick Their Favorite 10

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It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… Okay, scratch that, because no one is ever going to declare that 2014 was a bang-up year as far as pop music is concerned.

Sure, there were some big releases over the past 12 months. But nothing, save for maybe Taylor Swift‘s 1989, felt like a real moment. Oh, by the way, sorry Swifties — didn’t mean to get your hopes up just now. 1989 didn’t make the cut for our own Best Albums roundup.

What you will find are 10 albums that Idolator’s editors selected from artists who make up both pop’s new crop of talent and well-seasoned veterans. Our tastes proved to be eclectic this year: R&B, house, pop, rock, electro and soul are all represented here, underscoring the fact that while Beyonce and Justin Timberlake and Katy Perry and Rihanna skipped 2014 as far as releasing new LPs goes, there were still some great sounds worth hearing.

So let’s get to them…

10. Tove Lo, Queen Of The Clouds
Released: September 30

Tove Lo Queen Of The Clouds cover artwork

Quality pop music was undoubtedly in short supply this year, but luckily, an up-and-coming pop starlet was here to save the day. Swedish songbird Tove Lo supplied the kind of soaring hooks, earworm melodies and high-quality production value that pop music is truly all about in 2014. Her long-awaited debut LP is broken into three parts (The Sex, The Pain and The Love), providing us with everything from the sex-starved cheekiness of “Like ‘Em Young” to the love-drunk giddiness of “Not On Drugs” to the utter devastation of the album’s runaway lead single, “Habits (Stay High).” Truth be told, it took a newcomer to show us how far the heavyweights have fallen. Luckily, Tove’s helping to lead the way. — BRADLEY STERN

9. Vance Joy, Dream Your Life Away
Released: September 9

Vance Joy Dream Your Life Away cover artwork

In a year defined by excess (publicity stunts, endless features and lazy samples), Vance Joy stood out by doing less. The Australian singer-songwriter landed a global smash with simple ukulele-pop anthem “Riptide” in 2013 and, almost inevitably, repeated that success stateside. His quasi-lullaby is still climbing iTunes and received the ultimate seal of approval when Taylor Swift deigned to cover it. (She was so smitten with the curly-haired hit-maker’s music that she invited him to open her 1989 Tour).

Composing one unforgettable song is hard enough, but backing it up with an equally impressive album is an altogether different task. Vance, it turns out, was up to the challenge. Dream Your Life Away is a winning collection of understated tunes about the minutiae of humanity. He sings about lost love (God Loves You When You’re Dancing EP highlight “From Afar”), personal fulfillment (“My Kind Of Man”) and acceptance (“Mess Is Mine”) with unwavering honesty. — MIKE WASS

8. Kiesza, Sound Of A Woman
Released: October 21

Kiesza Sound Of A Woman cover artwork

With worn-out EDM hopefully (finally?) coming to a halt, pop music has been begging for a new sound. Enter a wave of new international artists who rushed in at the top of the year to revive ’90s house, a tried-and-true sound that has never failed to get people on the dance floor.

Out of the musical troupe (which included the likes of Gorgon City, Clean Bandit and Duke Dumont) there was one artist who carved out her place just a little bit deeper. Kiesza, a Canadian-bred singer/dancer, refreshed the music scene with her debut LP Sound Of A Woman thanks to the LP’s ability to be nostalgic enough to rehash lovely ’90s memories while still maintaining a modern edge with glossy vocals, warm synths and a hip hop flair. The album has a variation of themes and sounds, from bouncy strobelight smash “Hideaway” to the chilled “So Deep,” that can be enjoyed by many generations, which is the true beauty of music. — BIANCA GRACIE