Music

Sarah Rodman’s 2014 best albums picks

1. LORI MCKENNA

“Numbered Doors” Among this Stoughton singer-songwriter’s many gifts is her unpredictability as a storyteller. But even when you don’t know where she’s going, McKenna — with deft assistance from Mark Erelli — always takes you to the heart of the matter. It’s a thrill to be along for the ride as she gives voice — and melody and nimble instrumentation — to the joys and frustrations of everyday life for everyday people.

Lori McKenna, "Numbered Doors." -- 07FallAlbumsPicks -- 07FallAlbumsPicks

2. MIRANDA LAMBERT

“Platinum” The reliable country spitfire raised her game to new levels, toggling between tough and tender on an album that stretches from vintage throwbacks to contemporary swagger — all tied together with heart, attitude, and a voice that oozes authenticity.

This CD cover image released by RCA Nashville shows "Platinum," by Miranda Lambert. (AP Photo/RCA Nashville)

AP

3. ERIC CHURCH

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“The Outsiders” Church reached a high-water mark with 2011’s “Chief,” but here ascends to even greater heights as he corrals his disparate tastes in songs that could provide the soundtrack for anything from an arena singalong to a backporch hootenanny or a dark night of the soul.

ERIC CHURCH, "THE OUTSIDERS" cd cover. -- 14bestalbumsrodman

4. DAN WILSON

“Love Without Fear” A pop craftsman of the highest order, the former Semisonic frontman and in-demand songwriter offers up tales from the heart. And with a tenor of such remarkable elasticity and warmth, it’s like having an incredibly gifted friend in your corner, giving you advice every time you play his songs.

DAN WILSON, "LOVE WITHOUT FEAR" cd cover. -- 14bestalbumsrodman

5. NIKKI LANE

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“All or Nothin’ ” On her dynamite second album, this straight-shooting, tough-talking, and hell-raising singer-songwriter combines the classic country grit of predecessors like Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette with ’60s girl-group charm, for a winningly retro sound topped by a thoroughly modern attitude.

Nikki Lane, CD album cover "All or Nothin'"

6. SPOON

“They Want My Soul” The Texas rockers get the job done in a zippy 38 minutes. But the tunes here are so urgent and striking that they make you want to double the album’s running time — by playing them again, to revel in their skewed beauty.

Spoon: They Want My Soul 04cdreviews

7. INGRID MICHAELSON

“Lights Out” On her sixth release, Michaelson pushes her skills — both as a songwriter and a vocalist — to new depths of expression. She trafficks in fun, pillowy pop, but also excavates darker corners with a heartening vigor.

�Ingrid Michaelson, "Lights Out" cover. -- 14cdreviews

8. THE AFGHAN WHIGS

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“Do to the Beast” Reunion albums can be dicey affairs, especially when key members aren’t involved. But these ’90s alt-rock pioneers roared back to life in the studio, effortlessly picking up where they left off, erupting with a collection of tracks as jittery, pitch-black, melodic, and soulful as ever.

�Afghan Whigs, "Do to the Beast" cover. -- 14cdreviews

9. TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS

“Hypnotic Eye” This rock-solid album offers everything the deservedly revered classic rockers are capable of — it stomps, slinks, snarls, and soars, earning a rightful place among Petty’s best and offering proof that we should never count out our veterans.

TOM PETTY AND THE HEARTBREAKERS, "HYPNOTIC EYE" cd cover. -- 14bestalbumsrodman

10. JOE HENRY

“Invisible Hour” His greatest acclaim may come as a sought-after, Grammy-winning producer, but that’s likely because so many artists revere Henry’s meticulous craftsmanship on his solo albums. His impeccable taste strikes here again, as he combines both the literary and conversational over a beguiling palette of rock, folk, Americana, jazz, and soul music.

JOE HENRY, "INVISIBLE HOUR" cd cover. -- 14bestalbumsrodman

BIGGEST SURPRISE

SIA

“1000 Forms of Fear” The Aussie singer-songwriter often lends her talents to others, including David Guetta and Rihanna. But her own stories are equally captivating as she brews up the most enjoyable concoction: radio-ready electro-pop with lyrics that are emotionally substantive, and at times painfully honest.

SIA, "1,000 FORMS OF FEAR" cd cover. -- 14bestalbumsrodman

More coverage:

- The best tracks of 2014

Sarah Rodman can be reached at srodman@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @GlobeRodman
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