Leading contenders for Grammy’s Album of the Year

The eligibility period for the 2014 Grammy Awards is drawing near: to be considered for the most coveted award of all, album of the year, a record had to come out between Oct. 1, 2013 and Sept. 30, 2014.  A number of acts who would normally be considered leading contenders, including Foo Fighters and Taylor Swift, will miss this year”s cut-off.

Below is a list of albums we think will be under heavy consideration as the first-round ballots go out to Grammy voters over the next few weeks.

In no particular order:

“Beyonce,” Beyonce: I”d say this is a sure thing, but I thought a nod for Justin Timberlake”s “The 20/20 Experience” was a given last year and it got blanked. Even though it didn”t spawn many radio hits, “Beyonce” loomed large since its surprise December release, not only for the critical hosannahs it received, but for the overall arc of the project”s music, videos, and Beyonce and tour.

“Morning Phase,” Beck: An album of stunning beauty both lyrically and musically, “Morning Phase” is an immersive experience that is meant to be heard as a whole as each song unfolds and builds on what has come before it. It”s a sequel of sorts of 2002″s “Sea Change,” but Beck couldn”t have made this album before now

“Lightning Bolt,” Pearl Jam:Not a deep as some of Pearl Jam”s past albums, both in terms of lyrical content and in terms of deep bench, but “Lightning Bolt” still has some gems, including the title track and “Siren,” one of the best songs the band has ever done-and that”s saying a lot. Given its release nearly a year ago, it may be a forgotten gem when it comes Grammy time.

“Prism,” Katy Perry: She was nominated in this category before for “Teenage Dream.” While “Prism” hasn”t felt like it was the cultural milestone that “Teenage Dream” was, the album has held up well and is a solid pop effort.  

Reflektor,” Arcade Fire: The Canadian group”s last album, “The Suburbs,” stunned everyone by winning album of the year at the 2011 ceremony, so it doesn”t seem unreasonable that “Reflektor” would get shown some Grammy love, especially given its success and the growth the band has experienced since “The Suburbs.”

“The Marshall Mathers LP 2,” Eminem: Marshall Mathers has been up for this award three times before, including for 2000″s “The Marshall Mathers LP,” yet has never won. This won”t be his time either for the grand prize, but

“In The Lonely Hour,” Sam Smith: It”s a beautiful album and he”s sort of the male equivalent of Adele while we wait for her to return.

“Ghost Stories,” Coldplay: No, it”s not Coldplay”s greatest album, but it”s been reliably sturdy and has had a depth that not many of the nominated albums have this year. Plus, doesn”t everyone want to see Chris Martin bring Jennifer Lawrence as his date to the awards and thank her when Coldplay wins?

“Lazaretto,” Jack White: “Blunderbuss” got a best album nod a few years back, but “Lazaretto” seems to have burned out relatively quickly after a strong start. Having said that, the Grammy voters like what White stands for and appreciate his love of artists from an earlier era.

“Ultraviolence,” Lana Del Rey: It”s a fine album and one that showed that Del Rey has staying power and isn”t just a flavor of the month. Plus, Grammy voters like to think they”re hip and Del Rey has hipster cred.

“Hypnotic Eye,” Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers: It”s not the band”s best, but it”s a darn fine effort and it landed TP & the HB their first No. 1 album ever. Voters can feel good about nominating a band that is still churning out great music, unapologetically without relying on gimmicks, reality shows, contests or anything but solid grooves.

Other contenders:
“1000 Forms of Fear,” Sia
“High Hopes,” Bruce Springsteen
“Supernova,” Ray Lamontagne
“The River & The Thread,” Rosanne Cash
“My Krazy Life,” YG
“X,” Ed Sheeran
“G I R L,” Pharrell
“Turn Blue,” Black Keys
“Cheek to Cheek,” Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga
“Platinum,” Miranda Lambert
“The New Classic,” Iggy Azalea