THE TOP 40 ALBUMS OF THE 2010'S
Making this list was wild. What originally began as 30 became 40 when it was all said and done. The 2010’s in terms of music was when rock finally got dethroned by hip hop, electronica and pop music in a tangible way. This list also is the first I’ve done that largely ignores the rock that was so prevalent in the 90’s and early 2000’s. You won’t find any Pearl Jam, Nin, Tool, and various others on here, but what you will find is a thoughtful list, made over the course of the past months, after having listened to hundreds of albums in order to pick the best 40. The list features tons of classic albums, some ones that even surprised me, not to mention multiple genres stretching in various directions. I hope you enjoy the list, as well as the playlist that accompanies this. Enjoy!
40. APHEX TWIN: SYRO (2014)
Richard D. James, as he’s sometimes called, is never one to shy away from the type of music that pushes boundaries, and with his first album in 13 years under the Aphex Twin moniker , he proved he hadn’t lost a step. The album screeteches with synthesizers and weird time loops, but it's nothing he hadn;t shown us before. It’s a dense record with weird, often unpronounceable song titles, yet it's always been his style. It’s not too often a record this long in the making ends up actually being worth it, but in the world of Electronic music, Aphex Twin continues to be a elite artist, able to disappear for years and still have a crowd of people scrambling to see his rare performances, while also producing complex albums that leave much of the rest of the genre in the dust.
39. LADY GAGA: JOANNE (2016)
For all intents and purposes, my main complaint from Gaga up until this point was that she seemingly relied on theatrics and parlor tricks rather than her proven voice. That all changed however with “Joanne,” her sixth record. The record is bare of most of her usual elements, but that’s what makes it such a profoundly good record. Her voice soars throughout the album, and songs like “Perfect Illusion” bring the good from the past into a new more mature light. It’s a rocking song that can pass as a radio hit while still staying true to what she’s trying to accomplish. Backed by Kevin Parker in the producer chair along with Mark Ronson, the album also features great guests like Florence Welch and Joshua Homme from Queens of the Stone Age. It’s a remarkably good record that everyone can get into it, even if you haven’t been hugely in love with her up until this point. I’m sold on this, and you might be too.
38. DEAFHEAVEN: SUNBATHER (2013)
If you look at the album before listening for the first time, you’d have no idea it would end up being one of the defining metal albums of the decade. With it’s bright pink cover, it seems at first like a normal indie band, but beneath its case the album revealed itself, and in the process made the band much more known. “Sunbather” is a classic black metal album, while also being able to integrate elements from dream pop, shoegaze and combine those into an album as personal as it is genre bending. Sure it's nearly an hour long and is filled mostly with the type of intense metal that scare parents, but there’s a lot of meat and vulnerability trickling through the record that make this an album worth revisiting.
37. RUN THE JEWELS 3 (2016)
Well it’s another home run for the supergroup featuring Killer Mike and El-P, and they spare no expense to give us another near perfect record. It tackles quite a few tough lingering issues, including corruption of the highest order, the propensity of white police officers killing black people of various shapes and sizes, and the loss of friends and complacency in this hazardous world and country we’re currently living in. After all that though, this is still a record that allows you to have fun some of the time and dance your conflicted brain away. “Talk to Me,” is a siren for awareness, while “Panther like a Panther” is a filthy song with dirty, highly sexual lyrics (after all it’s still hip hop). It’s a perfect record all around, and as the album closes with the one two punch of guests like Kamasi Washington Zack de la Rocha, it’s hard to brush this collection aside. All hail RTJ, they are the future storm of the rap world. My prediction: we haven’t seen anything yet.
36. THE NATIONAL: HIGH VIOLET (2010)
With every passing record the Ohio stalwarts the National reimagine what they can accomplish as a band. “High Violet” the band’s fifth record shows just how much the band had learned in their formative years. The instrumentation by the brothers Dessner and rhythm section courtesy of the Devendorf siblings all help to create a musical world suitable for downtrodden, often depressing lyrics by the smoky voiced Matt Berninger. The songs are personal, heart wrenching and powerful, but it's not until the mastery of tracks like “Sorrow,” “Terrible Love” and the finale “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” has soaked through your brain that it becomes obvious just how great of a record this is.
35. ST. VINCENT: STRANGE MERCY (2011)
For the record, I still haven’t found an album that proves Annie Clark isn’t perfect and amazing, but with Strange Mercy she came into her own, and was able to blend alt rock, indie and tinges of perfectly layered pop production into a moving, hard to ignore record. The guitar scorches like never before, with tracks like “Cheerleader” and “Champagne Year” demonstrating the difficulties of culture and where to fit in. Clark doesn’t really fit into any genre easily, but it's that type of forward thinking production that makes it easier for fans from all genres to find something to hold onto. She’s able to be ferocious and vulnerable open, but it's in this process that she becomes one of the captivating musicians in modern music, and her elevation over the years wouldn’t have been as fun to watch without the inclusion of “Strange Mercy.”
34. PUP: MORBID STUFF (2019)
The title track, which opens the record is full tilt darkness from the moment you hear Stefan Babcock wax poetic about fist fights, wanting things you gave away, and the reluctance of thinking macabre thoughts. “Kids” is a great example; it speaks to love so deep you could burn the world down, but the music is classic pop punk. Everything from the drum beat and the cheerful guitar chorus works opposite the intensity and openness of the record. There are moments of perilous agony, increased anxiety during segments like the opening of “Free At Last,” which turns up its nose at all the people who think “just ‘cause you’re sad again” that everything has to revolve around themselves, which isn’t how the world works. This has gone way too long, but hopefully you’re enjoying it and will continue on this with me. When I listen to “Morbid Stuff” I’m 23 again, trying to figure out what to say, how to say it, and how I want to be viewed in the world.
33. GORILLAZ: PLASTIC BEACH (2010)
By their third album, no one expected this to be anything more or less than what the first two albums delivered. For many it wasn’t the perfect records they’d gotten before, but it's still vastly better than most of the albums that came out that year. Clocking in at right around an hour, “Plastic Beach” is full of stellar guests, among them Snoop Dogg, Mos Def, Little Dragon, and Lou Reed. All of the guests here mix well with the groundwork out forth by the traditional band, but it never feels tired or too long. It’s an easy to listen to album, one where you don’t have to think about the importance of lyrics, and are just able to sit down and enjoy the ride for what it is: a no nonsense record mixed with multiple genres, who’s sounds and instrumental work continue to go where the band hadn’t yet been.
32. ROBYN: BODY TALK (2010)
It's one of those records whose worth and greatness I wasn’t able to see initially, but without a doubt Robyn’s “Body Talk” deserves to be on this list. It's the kind of fierce pop record only Robyn can do, with her tenacity and tenderness flowing through in equal shades. Songs like the classic broken-hearted “Dancing on My Own” make you remember the pain of love, while other tracks “Indestructible” are exactly that, unwilling to budge or step aside. It's a powerful record, and Robyn’s voice is absolutely sweltering during the record, gradually proving her worth in the upper echelons of modern pop music, one high energy song after the other. If you’re a fan of thoughtfully dancing your demons away, “Body Talk” is what you’ve been looking for.
31. CHVRCHES: THE BONES OF WHAT WE BELIEVE (2013)While their most recent records haven’t hit with quite the same punch as their first, excellent record, you could argue the strength of “The Bones of What You Believe” has enabled them to sort of coast on the initial success. Those records aren’t bad by any means, but “Bones” was such a great unknown record that it’s hard to argue with. “The Mother We Share” is an electronic anthem, while other tracks like “Gun” and “Science/Visions” paint a dark, science fiction type of picture that is utterly captivating from start to finish. It is still one of the best records I’ve heard in that genre, and it was so well done that the band has been able to create a solid fan base for this type of experimental synth pop, or whatever else you’d like to call it.
30. ADELE: 21 (2011)
By this point we know the drill. Fall in love, break up, write an album based on the relationship, then lastly, profit. Her albums are still enormous deals when released, but they haven't been met critically with the same type of fervor and hype that accompanied “21.” With the album Adele became a huge star, found fame, got skinny and began gradually reinventing herself. None of that happens if this album doesn’t land big, but with moments from freeing, boisterous numbers like “Rumor Has It,” or the mega hit “Rolling in the Deep,” she captivated the world, made everyone remember the pains of love and heartbreak, and made one of the most emotionally charged albums of the decade. At number thirty, welcome Adele’s “21” to the countdown.
29. RADIOHEAD: A MOON SHAPED POOL (2016)
After five years, the enigmatic kings of alternative rock finally returned in 2016. Plenty of people didn’t fall in love with the previous “King of Limbs,” but “A Moon Shaped Pool,” brings it back to the layered, thoughtful, solemn sound that made the band so interesting in the last decade or so. Song after song finds it grove in ways only Yorke, the Greenwoods and company can. Many of these songs are familiar to hardcore RH fans, but it’s the new ways the band can change styles among the same song that make it sound so fresh. “True Love Waits,” the longtime fan favorite b- side finally shows up on a proper record, but it’s not what we were used to hearing. It’s wonderful all the same, but it’s in those ways that the band is able to spread their experimental tendencies and produce something that sounds way ahead of the curve in areas that would see other bands fall to the ground in defeat.
28. PJ HARVEY: LET ENGLAND SHAKE (2011)
Polly Jean has always been a tough act to classify, with her background clasing often with tools and approaches typically not seen in the male dominated world of rock music, but it hasn’t stopped her from doing what she wants, often with great results. “Let England Shake” builds on her history. From the opening moments of the title track” the record has this biting, antagonistic approach that enables Polly to shy away from self introspective while offering up dark lyrics, surrounded by visions and tales of the impact of our world's various wars. It’s political in a way she hadn’t been before, and it proved to be another great eye opening record from the hard to pin down PJ Harvey.
27. FRANK OCEAN: CHANNEL. ORANGE (2012)
Before he became the closest thing this era will know to Marvin Gaye, Ocean was quietly building his brand in the background. Coming from the dust of Odd Future, his R&B approach put him in a different class all together. It also happens to be a great record, with the type of personal details flowing mysteriously that leave you wanting to learn everything about the subject at hand. A nine minute song like “Pyramids” shouldn’t work in a world where the average mainstream song rarely passes five minutes, yet it takes you on a ride full of spirit, longing, and bitterness. With “Channel Orange,” Frank Ocean delivered an album everyone can relate to, and it lifted him up and enabled him to eventually become one of the most interesting music stories of the decade.
26. LANA DEL REY: BORN TO DIE (2012)
When you first hear the opening moments of “Born to Die” it’s quickly apparent how different LDR is compared to her modern pop comrades. The album is full of old Hollywood imagery that goes perfectly with her sultry thick voice. The orchestral sections harkon back to a simpler time, but her vocals are dangerous and risque, which helps to push the envelope. She’s been called fake, phony and a product throughout the years, but she's consistently made thoughtful, vintage infused music with a twist. The odds are in her favor that her popularity will continue to grow, but it's hard to say where she would have been had the record not been as good as it was. Also having “Summertime Sadness” as part of the record couldn’t have hurt.
25. M83: HURRY UP WE’RE DREAMING (2011)
Before “Hurry Up” the band was mostly known in smaller indie circles, but with this release Anthony Gonzales shot up the ranks and made one of the best alternative electronic albums of the decade. It swells and explodes with vibrant sounds, with songs like the unmistakable “Midnight City” able to grow on their own while also fitting perfectly with every other track. It’s a longer record, but well worth your attention. They even mix it up with less obvious tracks like “Raconte-Moi Une Histoire” which lovingly tells the story of a magical frog, as told by a little child. It's a remarkable album that finds its place in the country opening the top 25 of the best albums of the 2010’s.
24. BON IVER: BON IVER (2011)
After the remarkable vulnerability cascading through his first album, Justin Vernon changed it up for the second official Bon Iver record. With more of a band feeling and less personal, the self titled still has much emotional weight behind it. I recently got the vinyl for this, and it even opens up notes and arrangements I'm hearing for the first time. Songwriting takes still and practice, yet the band never seems to be stuck. This is especially true for stand outs like “Holocene” and definitely “Calgary” with its soaring vocal arrangement and musical exposition towards the end of the track. If you want something easy to digest but hard to pin down musically, Bon Iver has something for everyone, especially on this record.
23. FKA TWIGS: LP1 (2014)
To call Tahliah Debrett Barnett a straight R&B sensation would be doing her art a huge disservice, yet she fits well in that world, still branching out to create thought provoking music mostly clear of typically genre taglines. More futuristic than her contemporaries, LP1 is full of the type of ahead of the curve brilliance that rarely breaks through, and with help from producers like Arca, Blood Orange and others she made her mark on her debut, opening the door for even more experimentation and growth. It's the type of record that's great for parties but also quiet introspection, but in its 40 minute duration FKA Twigs says everything she needs to say, continually leaving her audience wanting more.
22. QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE: ...LIKE CLOCKWORK (2013)
Best rock band in the world, bar none. It’s not often a band comes back from the brink of literal death and gives us an album that surpasses anything they’ve made before. They replace the balls to the wall attitude of the earlier records with a more subdued, sexier, but equally dense album full of nothing but awesome songs. Lastly, how can an album featuring Elton John, Dave Grohl, Trent Reznor, Joshua Homme, Mark Lanegan, James Lavelle, and Troy Van Leeuwen not be a vital album for this list? Made after Homme’s near death following surgery and then drug addiction, this is Queens at their most resilient, able to bounce back with rocking tracks that also make you think about your own mortality. One of the best rock albums of recent memories, it takes the number 22 spot.
21.CHILDISH GAMBINO: AWAKEN! MY LOVE (2016)
Donald Glover has gradually been veering away from his indie sampled beats since his early records, but what he does on “Awaken! My Love” is truly remarkable. Glover as Gambino manages to make a record that keeps the spirit of Prince and Outkast in the forefront while still being an album that very much sounds like a Gambino record. Glover sings and croons with the best of them, while injecting this soulful record with the attitude and gloss of a powerful avant garde funk record from the heydays of funk jams. Song after song on “Awaken!” makes me miss the old days where it was just Gambino and his beats, but that’s not the whole story. Sure the old shit is great, but on this record he breaks out in big ways and conquers everything he touches. It’s joyous, uplifting and a drastic about face that makes me excited for what he may have in store for us in the years and albums to come.
20. BEACH HOUSE: TEEN DREAM, (2010)
Victoria and Alex had spent the precious two years touring, so by the time a new record began to take shape, the band had more than enough material to draw from and be inspired by. The album itself, while more expensive to produce, eventually became worth it when the success of the album was apparent. It's a slow, dreamy indie record, with Legrande’s patented voice mixing darkness with Scally’s voluminous instrumentation to get the product we now have. Perfect for a sunny day at the park while also being a great lowkey evening album, “Teen Dream” cemented the band's place as one of the best known and best overall bands in the burgeoning indie scene of the time. Beach House still hasn’t made a bad record, but “Teen Dream” is undoubtedly their best.
19. DEERHUNTER: HALCYON DIGEST (2010)
Bradford Cox is a weird bird, as anyone following his Deerhunter career should be well aware of, yet he’s also one of the most interesting and enduring personalities in the world of indie rock. With “Halcyon Digest” the band eschewed much of the weird unbelly of sound flowing through their first records in favor of more heartfelt, weighty lyrics. Tracks like “Desire Lines” glow with shimmering uncertainty of the future, while closer “He Would Have Laughed” is a novel send-off to Cox’s good friend Jay Retard who passed before the album would be completed. Indie rock has mostly been pushed out of the spotlight in recent years, but Deerhunter and Cox solidified their position as indie rock purveyors of lush soundscapes with the mesmerizing, real world emotions of “Halcyon Digest.”
18. LORDE: MELODRAMA (2017)
It’s rare for a major breakout star to have two albums as authentic and awesome as Lorde’s first two records have been. From the dimly light but gradually brightening opening of “Green Light,” you accept that not only has she grown as person, but her art has turned a corner to an intersection of brave honesty and smarts, and someone with a good enough x-factor that she’s somehow as big in circles ranging from indie to electronic fans as she is to teenie boppers. A song like “Writer in the Dark” has all the brutal honesty to tackle a subject that we’ve all struggled with. It’s a song about life’s challenges and the difficulty of family. But it’s in that song that her true potential is burning to come out even more. Dave Grohl is right I think, when he mentioned Lorde as the future of alternative music. “Melodrama” has everything you’ll love, and more you'll grow to love with repeated listens.
17. BEYONCE: LEMONADE, (2016)
With her second “visual” album, Beyonce once again proved why she's on another level when it comes to entertainers. With her team of writers, producers, and handlers all working together, she exemplified what it is to a major pop star in the year 2016. And to think, if Jay hadnt cheated we maybe wouldn't have gotten to see the venomous, angry side of Mrs. Carter. It’s sassy, satisfying and ultimately Bey’ comes out victorious. It's more dangerous than we were used to seeing her, which made her more relatable and human to the masses. An album about an illicit affair could have gone a lot of different ways, but the message is clear throughout that this is her record for herself, and if you didn’t like it, then “Boy bye.” Lastly, be grateful for this album coining the term “ Call Becky with the good hair,” whcih further helped to concrete the idea of not fucking with Beyonce.
16. MITSKI: BE THE COWBOY (2018)
The first thing you hear sung in the mesmerizing “Be the Cowboy” is the line “You’re my number one,” and while Mitski is talking about a romantic entanglement, that statement is true also in regards to her placement on this list. A track like opener “Geyser” has an ominous background instrumentation that works well while Mitski and her silky, seductively open voice reign you in for a ride that’s as enjoyable as it is mature and direct about emotional states. Many of the songs here simply work, like “Washing Machine Heart,” and “Remember My Name” with its pure vocals and walloping drum section, but as the minutes close on the sadly beautiful ending track “Two Slow Dancers,” you’re left with a void. As she says in it’s gorgeous, somber conclusion, “To think that we could stay the same” is a beautiful, yet heartbreaking sentiment, but it’s fleeting all the same. Still, Mitski tries to stay in that perfect place, and the album is better for it.
15. ST. VINCENT: MASSSEDUCTION (2017)
From the early moments of this record, you get the distinct impression that Annie Clark is defying space and time. it’s seductive in a “I won’t be ignored” way, but it’s provocative in its delivery, which only helps to put even more ideas and music and concept in the brain of the listener. It’s a difficult listen at first, mostly due to how different it is compared to previous albums, but on listen after lister it installs itself as a powerful, evocative listen. Once you get to “Masseduction” the song, you’re already well aware of how different and energizing this neo-pop renaissance is. It’s a dangerous record for a world that needs to have different experiences shoved in its face, but it never worries you that it might go off the rails. She periodically changes her persona and adds another shimmering example of what a challenging artist pushing different views of morality, secuality, power, and the hunger to succeed.
14. JAY-Z & KANYE WEST: WATCH THE THRONE (2011)
What happens when the two biggest hip hop stars of the last 20 years get together to make an album? Well, not surprisingly it ended up being brilliant but also massively popular. It's been nearly a decade and people still hope they come back, but we’ll see. The record is a tutorial on how to do mainstream hip hop correctly, with the beats by West doing as much damage as the rapping over the notes. “Otis” is a party jam come to life, while the irresistible and decadent “Niggas in Paris” blows everything else away. Seeing them on this tour play “Paris” something like 12 times in a row never got old, but while it might be a modern classic, no sections of the record are dull or feel forced, which makes this likely one time pairing even more important and special.
13. FIONA APPLE: THE IDLER WHEEL… (2012)
Anyone else remember Fiona Apple? I’ll be honest here, I was never a diehard fan and had not listened to this album in years, but when I finally did I got why it was still so highly revered. Recorded in private with Apple and produced by Charley Drayton, the album is full blown Fiona doing what she does best. It's weird, off the wall, emotional and utilizes so many different sounds and instruments it's hard to keep track of. At forty-five minutes it's not a long record, but the messages and emotions she emotes throughout stay with you long after your listening has ended. Fiona Apple is able to bounce around in a manner that only suits her, but it's her quirkiness and ambition that shine through when she releases an album. She’s been criticized for the amount of time between records, but when they're this good, why rush it?
12. TAME IMPALA: LONERISM (2012)
With “Innerspeaker” Kevin Parker carved out a niche in the world of indie music. With Parker's next release, “Lonerism” he perfected the craft with a dense, lush, psychedelically tinged album that changed the game and got everyone wondering what KP was capable of. Parker's voice at times seems buried and yearning to break free and take center stage, but the way the music contorts, distorts and ultimately captures everything in a beautiful array of colors and instruments. Songs like “Elephant” thump in a powerful momentum, yet it heartbreaking songs like “Feels Like We Only go Backwards” where the heart and soul come through. Parker is known these days for being a genius control freak when it comes to his music, but with “Lonerism” he proved he was already one of the most exciting musicians to break into the scene in a very long time.
11. KANYE WEST: YEEZUS (2013)
Rumors swirled for months that the production of the record was a mess, but after getting much needed guidance from the wise Rick Rubin and slimming the album down drastically to the ten songs that formed the album, it’s hard to say it wasn’t worth it. From the early moments of tracks like “Black Skinhead,” which finds West again working with Daft Punk and putting white people on notice for practices that we as a people might not even know is wrong. “Yeezus” also shows that he can carry an album with minimal guests as he circumvents his critiques of culture with unrelenting songs like “New Slaves” and the eye opening sincerity and pain behind “Blood on the Leaves.” It was one of the last moments of brilliance in the music of West, but as he continues down this illogical hole of the last few years, fans like myself are hoping someday he returns, more dangerous and groundbreaking than ever.
10. TAYLOR SWIFT: 1989 (2014)
Fresh off the heels of “Red,” Swift had risen to become one of the biggest country pop crossover artists, well, ever. She wasn’t done yet though. With “1989” she created a perfect, well constructed and layered purely pop record. You can tell when listening she learned much from her first foray into modern pop music, but with this she perfected it. It's not quite as classic as “Red” but it's still a phenomenal album full of bangers. I listened to this a lot during my divorce, and while I'm not too proud to say the album helped me through that rough time, I know i’m not alone. Tracks like “Blank Spaces” are landmarks of this era in pop music, while others like “Wildest Dream” draw from more theatrical elements that work perfectly in the world Swift is building for us. One of the rare pop albums able to transcend genres, Swifts “1989” opens up the top ten.
9. LORDE: PURE HEROINE (2013)
Seven years ago, like a bomb, the world was exposed to New Zealander Lorde, with her excellent game changing debut “Pure Heroine.” It's rare for a musician who sounds like your standard pop star to break big in multiple music circles, but it's exactly what happened. It's refreshing to hear real world stories during songs like “Tennis Court,” or to throw shade at the big names bragging about their bling in “Royals,”with its tongue in cheek response to how famous people view the world. Lorde capitalized on that normal feeling in life in a way that people responded to, over and over examining her place in the world as millions do daily. It was eye opening in the best way possible, and it brought her to heights she never expected.
8. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM: THIS IS HAPPENING (2010)
Deemed their last album and tour by James Murphy, the stakes were huge. With two very well received, genre bending records before them, now wasn’t the time to phone it in. The album starts innocently enough, with soft little drums and Murphy softly singing. By three minutes in the album had broken through, with high energy synths rocking from Nancy and everyone else filling in to make a full, house party sound. The band is at this point what I’d consider the Tool of indie synth rock, with long winding songs that change pace frequently but also provide the lyrical depth you want in a band. The sound is so intact and high quality throughout its sixty five minutes, you forgot just how long these songs are, but you love it so listening is a joy and a pleasure.
7. BEYONCE: BEYONCE (2014)
By this point in her career, Beyonce Knowles Carter was untouchable from most of the normal criticisms flowing through the world of entertainment. As an artist though you still want to deliver a valuable project people can eat up, and with her surprise release of “Beyonce” on December 13 of 2013, the world exploded with excitement. Recorded in secret and unleashed unexpectedly, the album delivers on everything her fans want. The beats are great, her vocals soar like never before, and she began to show a more mature, less careful side of herself. That's probably the best feature of the whole record, how honest she is, and how vulnerable she is. But it's not all sad, in fact it's rarely sad but far more empowering in the face of disappointment. When you get songs like “Drunk in Love” featuring Jay, you feel the tension and seduction prevalent in Bey’s music, but the track itself is a revelation like we hadn’t seen before. It's in your face, unapologetic, and one of her best.
6. TAYLOR SWIFT: RED (2012)
Simply put, “Red” was the moment Swift set her sites on the biggest stages imaginable. She had for years dodged and ignored the criticisms of her tendency to write breakup songs, and instead turned her anger and frustration with her public perception to a victory. All the songs are powerful, with her expert musicianship and songwriting skills shining through in a way most “pop” music can’t. Up until recently I hadn't dug in on this record, but upon listening all the accolades the album received were well deserved. It's an album that's able to mix all these different styles of popular music into a tangible product everyone can get behind. Even the hits that you think you might be tired like “I Knew You Were Trouble” as well as “We Are Never Getting Back Together” pull you in and make you want to sing and smile and dance the day away. She's still one of the biggest musicians in the world, but a large reason for that is the brilliance she exuded during the “Red” years.
5. TAME IMPALA: CURRENTS (2015)
Able to grow and deepen with each subsequent release, Kevin Parker managed to get more and more awesome with each record. On his third record under the Tame Impala moniker, Parker arguably outdoes the limits he set with his first two releases and makes not only a record that is more focused and personal, but one that also manages to make an R&B record better than most rhythm and blues artists could manage to make. It’s a mover and a shaker of a breakup record(even if Parkers intentions weren’t to make a breakup album) and songs like “Yes I’m Changing” and “Eventually” pull at your heart chords, even more so if you were actually dealing with the fallout of a failed relationship as you digested the record. There’s so much good to this record it’s hard to only mention a few songs, but with standouts like the aforementioned tracks, not to mention the perfection displayed on “The Less I know the Better,” it had become official: Tame Impala has arrived.
4. FRANK OCEAN: BLONDE (2016)
Ocean has always been a hit or miss type of entertainer in regards to how often he shows up for scheduled dates, but when it comes to the art of album making it's not hard to give him a pass when his output (when he does release a new record) is this engaging and vulnerable. Blonde, coming out the same week as a different, visual record by Ocean, is a natural progression from his work on Orange, yet he’s able to pull in the same gauntlet of emotions pouring through his earlier works. Opening track “Nikes'' is a glimmering volcano of emotions, while “Solo” shows the crooner winding around and painting a brilliant picture of an artist not satisfied with his work or his outside the studio life. The whole album is well measured and thoughtful, and it stands as another easy high water mark for the modern day R&B phenomenon. It’s a slow, relaxing album musically, but the more you dig the more you feel like you know what makes Ocean tick.
3. KENDRICK LAMAR: TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY (2015)
There was a moment for me where I wasn’t sure if I would ever “get” the message Lamar was trying to put forth. All of that was quickly forgotten the first time I heard “To Pimp a Butterfly” for the first time. From the early moments joined in collaboration with the likes of Geogre Clinton, Thundercat and others the album rises with tension and meaningful dialogues documenting social injustices and the need for togetherness in the fight for equality. Song after song is crafted with a level of detail that blows past most other hip hop around, and it leaves you wanting more from Lamar. “King Kunta” stands in defiance, while now the classic “Alright” brussels with the type of civil rights awareness and support Lamar has become known for. The record hit me so hard because it reminds me at least in spirit of the type of Hip Hop Outkast was making early on. It’s progressive in the best ways, blurs the lines between what hip hop is and what it can be, but is also socially conscious enough to have you shaking your ass and flexing your brain muscles at the same time.
2. ARCADE FIRE: THE SUBURBS (2010)
Few albums this decade touched a nerve in the world of indie rock quite like “The Suburbs'' did. By this point, the band had arrived with a huge Grammy win, multiple legendary sets at Coachella, and an album that in many ways rivaled the bands first. Some folks preferred “Funeral,” but there was no question “Suburbs'' staked out an essential place in the world of indie music. The narration of the albums pulls you back to when you were a kid, still figuring it out while trying to find our spot in the world. Tracks like “Rococo'' show the naivety in teenagers, who are perpetually more interested in themselves than something else that might not be “cool.” That period in one's life is depicted with perfection here. You feel freedom during the raucous “Month of May,” while also finding your safe space, like many other teenagers, in your room. “Empty Room” sung by Regine is a monument to all the precious moments we spend discovering ourselves and our quirks. “When I’m by myself I can be my safe'' rings true because it is true. The descriptions of travels as they “built the road then they built the town,” feel so familiar to so many people lost in the travel of life. By the time you get to “Sprawls II'' with its soaring vocals and incredible beat and energy, the album has moved you in a way rarely done.
1.KANYE WEST: MY BEAUTIFUL DARK TWISTED FANTASY (2010)
This album is so strong from start to finish that it's damn near impossible to truncate it into a post that’s not an in depth look at every song. Let’s start with the multitude of guests on this record. It’s staggering and the various voices force West not only to bring his A game, but it also sets the tone of unpredictably that finds the listener at every song. Guests like Jay-Z, Rihanna, Raekwon from the 36 Chambers respectfully shows up, as do Rick Ross, Kid Cudi, Nicki Minaj, John Legend, and dark horses like Chris Rock( who’s monologue at the end Blame Game is hilarious and dirty) and Bon Iver's Justin Vernon all show up and give their best in function of West’s vision. An early cut like “All of the Lights” is a triumph of hip hop history, and while I rarely like solo Rihanna, this is another example of how great she is as a guest star. But then you have a song like “Runaway,” which is a nine minute monolith of artistic growth that blows away anything he’s done before or since. The way the track uses the minimal beats early on and grows and builds from there is quite simply brilliant musicianship. I recommend listening to this record all the way to fully immerse yourself in the darkness West has composed for us, because it works best as one singular piece as opposed to different tracks for different days. It runs the gamut of musical imagination, and it’s for that reason this stands as the best work of Mr. West's career, so far at least.
Landon Murray is a music connooisseur who craves sounds of all shapes and textures. He's seen over 2000 bands and looks forward to welcoming you into his world of sound,
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