These are the albums we loved the most this year. In what we've written about each one below, you can see what we felt should be rewarded, what shook us up and what sucked us in over the 12 months of 2013.
Not every one of the 22 different people with bylines here agree on which albums did any of that to them — we don't listen the same way, or for the same reasons — but you'll read the word "warm" more than once (as applied to an indie songwriter, a country singer and two electronic producers). We were seduced by darkness at least five times (electronic, rock, classical, metal) and loved sounds that we call "delicate" (three out of four made by men). "Wry" hit the spot twice (country singer again, and a pair of rappers). Those shared words could be the limitations of language, but they might illuminate what this cross-section of music lovers most needed to hear this year.
These 50 albums are strange bedfellows, but that's how we listen. We want music that soothes us and makes us stronger. We like some risk, stories that withstand a few hundred replays, skills that command respect. And we keep dancing. Get in there.
Advisory: Some of the songs on this page contain profanity.