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Stephen Thompson's Top 10 Albums Of 2014

Beyonce unleashed the year's grandest and most enduring pop juggernaut (even if it technically came out in 2013).
Courtesy of the artist
Beyonce unleashed the year's grandest and most enduring pop juggernaut (even if it technically came out in 2013).

It's hard to process 2014's music without acknowledging the shadow cast by the previous year: Until Taylor Swift's album rolled out in its waning months, 2014's least escapable chart hits (Pharrell's "Happy," John Legend's "All Of Me," Idina Menzel's take on "Let It Go" from Frozen) were carried over from 2013. Even the year's grandest and most enduring pop juggernaut — see No. 2, below — was sneaked out online in mid-December, much to the chagrin of certain year-end list makers with early deadlines.

Still, 2014 spawned many winners of its own. As reiterated year in and year out, this is nothing but a list of personal favorites — chosen capriciously as a snapshot of what one guy loved the most as of early December. It's by no means definitive, we're all unique and special snowflakes, and so on.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)