The album may still be under attack in 2014, with individual tracks being the order of the day and very few long-players selling in vast quantities. But there's still very much a place for that classic album track: the mid-record banger mysteriously overlooked as a single, or the late-record epic track that only reveals its beauty over the course of a few listens - no good for the instant gratification of the radio.
We've picked our favourite 12 hidden gems from albums released this year: take a listen to them all below, or on one handy Spotify playlist, and indulge in the alternative greatest album of the year.
Coldplay - Always In My Head
Chris Martin and the boys released their most personal, downbeat album so far, and there was no doubt what most of the lyrics were about - a certain Ms Paltrow. Essentially nine songs of a man who just sounded really sad, this album opener was a glorious treat, opening up like a Sigur Rós track before slowly unwinding into an elegaic, epic-yet-restrained classic.
Damien Rice - The Greatest Bastard
Aside from having the best song title of the year, this was a beautiful cut from Rice's first album for eight years, My Favourite Faded Fantasy. He doesn't rush things, but it's always worth waiting for; few artists are capable of opening a track with such delicateness before ending in such a glorious, swelling fashion.
The Juan MacLean - Running Back To You
Taken from the fantastic record In a Dream, released on the always reliable DFA, this is seven minutes of irresistible Grown Up House that’s so slinky and louche it’s practically wearing velvet slippers. Relax and drift along on an electro odyssey.
Future Islands - A Song For Our Grandfathers
We all fell in love with Future Islands after their mesmerising performance on Letterman and, while that song - Seasons (Waiting On You) - rightly took all the plaudits, the album, Singles, more than justified the hype. Full of taut indie-synth-pop blasts, this track wins our vote, seeing the band stretch out and show us another side of their armoury.
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band - The Ghost of Tom Joad
Springsteen’s original 1995 recording saw him at his most folky and restrained – so it’s exactly the type of song you’d bet on him re-recording with Rage Against The Machine’s guitarist Tom Morello, which he duly did on this year's High Hopes. The heavier version became a live favourite, and now it’s on record it’s difficult to work out which vintage is best. Listen and decide for yourself.
Deadmau5 - Terrors In My Head
Joel Zimmerman, aka Deadmau5, has always been a cut above his EDM contemporaries and he showed his class again on the sprawling double album While (1<2). This was our favourite cut from it, a trademark bassy groove and dirty hi-hat hook building and building before breaking down into a beautiful, haunting piano figure. This could have fitted seamlessly onto DJ Shadow's first two albums, and there's no higher praise than that.
The Twilight Sad - There's a Girl in the Corner
Taken from the critically-acclaimed album Nobody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave, this driving opening track was the moment that you realised you were listening to something very special indeed.
Run The Jewels - All My Life
A swaggering beast of a track taken from a swaggering beast of an album created by Killer Mike and El-P, aka Run The Jewels, who released what was largely considered the best hip hop record of 2014 in the form of Run The Jewels 2. Dark, dense, heavy and unrelenting.
Todd Terje - Preben Goes To Acapulco
It took Todd Terje 10 years to make his debut album, but it was well worth the wait. A host of great tracks, but this belter grooves away with electro energy to burn. Like Daft Punk's Random Access Memories, this was an album that was well-crafted, with the production values of yesteryear, which still managed to be cool. This could have fitted on that record seamlessly (not that it needed to be any longer - but you get the idea).
Jessie Ware - Champagne Kisses
Jessie Ware followed up on the promise of debut album Devotion with the excellent Tough Love, which pushed her in a poppier direction whilst still retaining the class and style of that first record. This track, a BenZel production (Two Inch Punch and Benny Blanco), was a great penultimate track; a carefree, fun, celebratory, pop song. Pop the corks and let's get going.
GoGo Penguin - Home
The Manchester trio enjoyed some well-earned praise when their second record, v2.0 received a nomination for the Mercury Prize in September. Sadly (or perhaps not, given the fates of some winners), it wasn't the year for a more obscure winner, but the record remains a fantastic one. This track showcases what they're all about: a skittering drum and bass groove with Chris Illingworth's melodic piano lines floating over the top.
Chromeo - Lost On The Way Home (featuring Solange)
We all knew that Chromeo could do good time party funk like no other band, but their White Women album saw them prove that they could do serious as well. While never exactly heading towards Leonard Cohen levels of that particular mindset, they managed to strike a perfect balance between fun and meaningful, with no track demonstrating that better than Lost On The Way Home, featuring a classy guest vocal from Solange.