It’s that time again. With hundreds of releases and dozens of favorites, it’s a near-impossible task to narrow down my picks for the 10 best albums of the 2014. Still, these are the records that stuck with me the most, the ones I kept going back to over and over. If an album sticks in your head for several months after you first hear it, that artist is doing something right. These are the picks that stayed with me the most.

10. Elbow – The Take Off and Landing of Everything

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After the arena-ready anthems of Elbow’s last three albums, the five-piece goes intimate on The Take Off and Landing of Everything. Well, as intimate as such a worldly, ambitious band can go. While the title track is a seven-minute blast of ecstatic energy and celebration, Fly Boy Blue / Lunette is a drunken swagger jam, Charge simmers rather than boils, My Sad Captains is anchored by majestic horns and New York Morning finds the gentle moments in the bustling city. Elbow has enough chest-beating, boisterous epics. This year, the band moved forward and found new colors and vibes to explore. They are better off for it.

Highlights: Fly Boy Blue / Lunette, New York Morning, The Take Off and Landing of Everything

09. Brody Dalle – Diploid Love

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Every years, there’s an unexpected record that blows away expectations. For 2014, that honor goes to Diploid Love, which finds Brody Dalle in a much better place in her life. Now past the drug addiction and abusive relationships that colored her earlier work, Dalle makes a comeback with roaring guitars and shredded vocals. She successfully marries punk to experimentation in a way that few other artists have managed. Listen to the mariachi guitar on Underworld, the electronic beat of Carry On or the parade horns of Rat Race. Her lyrics and performance are as inspiring as they are vicious. This is the sound of Dalle beating down her demons, and what an exhilarating sound it is.

Highlights: Don’t Mess With Me, Dressed in Dreams, Blood in Gutters

08. Damon Albarn – Everyday Robots

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Damon Albarn has always been wary of technology, ever since he dismissed sitting around and playing computer games on Blur’s Jubilee. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that he would dedicate an album to this theme. While the title track and Lonely Press Play is full of heady questions on the digital age, Everyday Robots is also a look back at Albarn’s own life. Whether he’s singing about the elephant he met on Mr. Tembo or going over key years in his history on Hollow Ponds, Albarn brings a delicate balance of world-weariness and hope. The music is mostly understated, but beautifully layered. Not bad for his solo “debut.”

Highlights: Lonely Press Play, Mr. Tembo, Heavy Seas of Love

07. The New Pornographers – Brill Bruisers

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For the first time in a decade, The New Pornographers are throwing a party. The introspective mood and low-key songs of the last two records are gone, replaced by an electro-pop celebration. The whole crew is back and bringing their best vibes to Brill Bruisers. From the burst of synchronized singing on the title track to the sparkling harmonies of You Tell Me Where, this record will rouse anyone out of their seats and onto the dance floor. This is the New Pornographers: the electric version.

Highlights: Champions of Red Wine, Backstairs, Dancehall Domine

06. Beck – Morning Phase

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The idea of following up Sea Change more than a decade later seems questionable on paper at best. But we should have known better than to doubt Beck’s ability. This West Coast-soaked record is a mirrored reflection of that album’s brilliance. Rather than sounding despondent, Beck now looks forward to each day, welcoming the Waking Light of Morning. Copying the style of one of your most acclaimed albums is a challenge to say the least. The fact that Beck could create 13 more beautiful, magical songs that match up with the best of Sea Change is a testament to his abilities as a songwriter. If all mornings were like this, maybe I wouldn’t be such a night owl.

Highlights: Morning, Blue Moon, Waking Light