In year's past, I have compiled these types of lists with the help of hardcore music lovers and a variety of music journalists. And usually those lists have been primed with variety, reflecting the type of unpredictability I admire when curating these types of year-in-review assignments. Many of the guest writers have gone to bigger and greener pastures: Ryan Burruss is now performing in one of the hottest young bands in the country; Matt Little, who came on board in 2013, is writing for a host of published magazines and publications; Brent Faulkner is busy over at StarPulse.

Meanwhile HiFi's tradition of keeping the lists diverse and powerfully broad, I feel, will continue. It is what made this little music mag brand so unique and so special, turning it into a go-to resource for music heads that are tired of hearing the noise of biased reporting or paid PR workers.

This year, I decided to take a stab at piecing together my hit list of the best albums of 2014. Anyone that knows how J Matt's musical world works will tell you that it encompasses practically any and every genre coming out of pop culture. I'm a pop head, if that's what you want to call me. But pop can be rock. It can be alt-rock. It can country or it can be suburban. It can showcase the sounds of the night life. It can be about the sounds of the inner-city, a little bit of soul, hip-hop or a conglomeration of any of those styles. And that's the beautiful thing about music. It evolves. And yes, even music critics evolve. Including this one.

This list contains a beautiful portrait of the best albums released in 2014. And there's plenty to celebrate. D'Angelo dropped a Beyoncé bomb on us, the Black Keys got darker and gritter and Charli XCX made us all a “sucker” using her bad-ass pop. From the enjoyable ‘80's rock of The War on Drugs to the dancey sounds of Todd Terje, these are the 33 (and 1) top albums of 2014 you should definitely check out.

Also check out HiFi's list of 45 best singles of 2014. And be sure to take advantage of the player next to each listing to get into the groove via Spotify.

Listen to our choices by using the embedded Spotify player.

At the bottom of each page, share your views and opinions with us. Tell us what you think.

Link up with your favorites by checking out their official websites and Facebook pages.

Purchase the music using the links to Amazon and/or iTunes.


Like a butterfly, the thinner, happier American Idol alum has come out of her cocoon. It wasn't easy a process, especially since the Chicago native with the heavy soulful pipes disappointed music heads with three miscalculated discs. JHUD is the miracle she needed, and it's stacked with retro-fitted disco and infectious R&B. And the sneaky surprises inside are just as memorable: Pharrell drops a decent slab of funk; Iggy stops by on “He Ain't Going Nowhere;" a hungry R Kelly shows up on a Roy Ayers-inspired "It's Your World." Hudson doesn't really need a cameo to sell a record though. After hearing her belt out sexy fire on "How I Feel" and the brilliant title cut, she is out to prove that there exists another queen of soul.

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The Endless River

Ninety-five percent of The Endless River – Pink Floyd's first studio album in twenty years and the first album completed since the death of founding member Richard Wright – is masked with a cloud of wordlessness (“Louder Than Words” being the only exception). That hasn't censored the David Gilmour-led prog rock band from producing a universe of seismic sound shifts. And like the musical movements that highlight Dark Side of the Moon, Wish You Were Here and The Wall, this record aims to popularize their brand of symphonic rock in a world already cluttered with words.

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Ghost Stories

Coldplay has this essential album thing down pat. Using glowing suspense and artsy sonics, Chris Martin and his team have created a beautiful canvas of dreamy Brit rock and electronica. Most of the arrangements on Ghost Stories are sparser than what's heard on 2011's Mylo Xyloto, giving off the impression that there's more to come. Even if the album feels like a prequel to the next stage of events, the wonder of “Ink,” the EDM magic on “A Sky Full of Stars” and the dreamy escapism of “Magic” sets off enough endorphins to pleasure us until the next round – slated to be the final one for Coldplay.

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Give the People What They Want

Last year, Sharon Jones announces she was facing the fight of her life. Now cancer-free and happy to return back to what she loves the most, Jones and her Daptone Records band drops the album of her career. It's the best uniformed, polished and thorough song collection to date. After opening with the horn-blasting warning shots of “Retreat,” a gust of Motown bangers (“Stranger to My Happiness”), Southern soul workouts (“We Get Along”) and properly-place slow jams (“Making Up Breaking Up”) end up taking over the slate. It's not like Dap-King leader and album producer Bosco Mann shunned away from the methods and formulas of their previous albums; they just did it better this time around.

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Top 33 1/3 Albums of 2012

LISTEN: 45 Best Singles of 2011
LISTEN: 45 Best Singles of 2010


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