SCM Music’s Top 100 Albums of the Decade
ABOUT a million years after every other publication has given their verdict on the best albums of the 2010s, here comes ours.
For myself, the last decade was a formative period. I left school, attended university, went travelling, moved to a new city, climbed the job ladder. Throughout all of this, music has been a constant soundtrack to the decisions I made, the places I saw, the people I met. It’s seen me through the best and worst of myself, and to reach 2020 feels like, well, the end of an era. As corny as it sounds.
There’s so many albums I couldn’t fit into this list that deserve mentioning. I contemplated doing a top 200, but after 100, ordering the music seemed pointless. But I salut such albums as Rosalía’s El Mal Querer, Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues, Weezer’s White Album, Angel Olsen’s All Mirrors, Deafheaven’s Sunbather, Grimes’ Art Angels, Sufjan Steven’s Age of Adz and Carrie & Lowell, Joanna Newsom’s Have One On Me, Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion and so many more.
So, without further ado, feel free to disagree with me.
Kanye’s sixth album is his most abrasive to date, pulling from Industrial, Punk and Experimental music.
Key Cut: ‘I Am a God’
Considered by many to be DeMarco’s opus, 2 helped write the Slacker Rock handbook so many bands now pull from.
Key Cut: ‘Ode to Viceroy’
Totally Gross National Product
Enchanting, emotionally raw songs, sung through a filter of autotune, accompanied by two drum kits, bass guitar and glitchy electronics.
Key Cut: ‘Fist, Teeth, Money’
Bey’s most sonically pleasing and lyrically in depth record yet made a splash, both in the music and celebrity gossip worlds.
Key Cut: ‘Formation’
A record that’s both dissonant and catchy simultaneously, it’s no wonder this record was a breakout for Tune-Yards.
Key Cut: ‘Gangsta’
The long awaited debut from the Scottish producer did not disappoint, featuring some of the best Electronic music this decade.
Key Cut: ‘Immaterial’
Glitchy, amped up, experimental Hip Hop with concise songs and humorous source material.
Key Cut: ‘I Cannot Fucking Wait Til Morrissey Dies’
The Akron duo hit a creative peak on their sixth studio album, presenting some of their tightest, catchiest songs.
Key Cut: ‘Everlasting Light’
Beautiful psychedelic Jazz from a musician who has collaborated with the likes of Radiohead and Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry.
Key Cut: ‘The Lost Pearl’
A return to form from the London Dance group, giving us an album of warm, colourful, catchy songs.
Key Cut: ‘Hungry Child’
Kool Girl Records
Surf Rock meets Post Punk from Swansea, worthy to feature in any Quentin Tarantino film.
Key Cut: ‘Drunken Grrrls’
Minimalist ambient music from the French musician, a late career highlight is an already great discography.
Key Cut: ‘Summer Night (Bat Song)’
Richard D. James’ comeback 13 years after releasing his last studio album does not disappoint – giving us some of his best work to date.
Key Cut: ‘minipops 67 (source field mix)’
The eye-opening and experimental debut from the Leeds quartet (now trio) rightfully saw them claim the prestigious Mercury Prize
Key Cut: ‘Breezeblocks’
Mixing classic rock with shoegaze and balladry, the third album from Adam Granducial and co threw the band into the mainstream.
Key Cut: ‘Under the Pressure’
The first and last album from Wales’ Estrons was a back-to-back bangers affair, with empowering lyrics and tight instrumentals.
Key Cut: ‘Make a Man’
After the melancholic Burn Your Fire…, My Woman is a near joyous affair, with Olsen releasing some of her most energetic songs.
Key Cut: ‘Shut Up Kiss Me’
What’s Your Rupture
The album that bought Parquet Courts into the splotlight is tight and precise, with many Garage Rock jams clocking in at under 2 minutes
Key Cut: ‘Stoned & Starving’
This over looked 2013 record from Merchandise is what the Smiths would sound like if they were from Florida and took mushrooms.
Key Cut: ‘Anxiety’s Door’
The emotionally raw debut from these Irish punks will both drive you to tears and into the mosh pit.
Key Cut: ‘Don’t Cling to Life’
Fleet Foxes’ return to music after six years is one of the greatest comeback of the last 10 years, producing an unmissable album.
Key Cut: ‘Fool’s Errand’
While Primary Colours might be their magnum opus, Skying is very close behind it, producing a vibe The Horrors have yet to recreate.
Key Cut: ‘Still Life’
The debut from former Trwbador singer presents stunning electronics with melancholic vocal performances bordering on the surreal
Key Cut: ‘Did You Count Your Eyes?’
Stepping away from the Alt-Rock of Strange Mercy, this S/T release features more electronic elements, as well as brilliant use of brass.
Key Cut: ‘Digital Witness’
Brown’s fourth studio album pulls from the likes of Joy Division and Talking Heads to create a dystopian and haunting record.
Key Cut: ‘When It Rain’
Bridgers’ debut is an emotionally tender record, an ode to youth and the pains of it, but guaranteed to move you to tears regardless of age.
Key Cut: ‘Motion Sickness’
G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam
The first instalment of Kanye’s Wyoming Sessions, King Push’s third studio album is very much an all-killer, no filler affair.
Key Cut: ‘If You Know You Know’
The record that put Claire Boucher on the map and saw her step away from her ambient roots still sounds as fresh as it was in 2012
Key Cut: ‘Oblivion’
Two girls from Norwich with a quirky sense of humour and child-like voices produced the best (only?) sludge pop album to date.
Key Cut: ‘Eat Shiitake Mushrooms’
Easily the best Foals record this decade (still doesn’t top Antidotes), Total Life Forever is full of classic Indie bangers.
Key Cut: ‘Alabaster’
Washington’s three hour long Jazz epic saw the saxophonist help a resurgence in the genre, with colossal anthems such as ‘Cherokee’.
Key Cut: ‘Malcolm’s Theme’
The long awaited sophomore record from the New Zealand star gave us some of the best Pop songs of the decade.
Key Cut: ‘Supercut’
On Pale Green Ghosts, John Grant proved that he is one of the only people who can make the word ‘motherfucker’ sound majestic.
Key Cut: ‘Black Belt’
A Boy is a Gun/Columbia
You’d never have guessed in 2010 that by the end of the decade Tyler would have written one of the greatest break up albums ever.
Key Cut: ‘Earfquake’
Def Jam/Roc Nation/Roc-a-Fella
Once in a lifetime pairing of Jay and Ye saw the creation of a record soaked in decadence, wealth and damn fine beats.
Key Cut: ‘N***** In Paris’
Currents saw Kevin Parker moving away from his Indie roots and to doing what he always wanted; writing Pop music.
Key Cut: ‘The Less I Know The Better’
Molly Rankin truly flexed her songwriting muscle on the second Alvvays album, creating a mood akin to Kim Wilde.
Key Cut: ‘Saved By a Waif’
A Seat at the Table saw Solange really come into her own, artistically, politically, socially and lyrically. Truly an album for our times.
Key Cut: ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’
P.W. Elverum & Sun
Easily one of the hardest records to listen to, A Crow Looked at Me was written in the midst of grief, with the raw wound still weeping.
Key Cut: ‘Real Death’
The final album before the bands ‘break up’, This is Happening contains some of James Murphy’s best songs to date.
Key Cut: ‘I Can Change’
Often overlooked for her third record, Loud City Song is a beautiful, blue-eyed record, like a modern day In The Wee Small Hours.
Key Cut: ‘Horns Surrounding Me’
Kendrick extended his philosophy to new depths on Damn, but still managed to fit in a banger or two.
Key Cut: ‘Humble’
A return to form for Josh Homme and co. on this, their sixth album. Featuring cameos from Elton John, Trent Reznor and more.
Key Cut: ‘My God is The Sun’
BBNG’s second album upped their game from their debut, with sharper, cleaner, more unique covers and a distinct sound.
Key Cut: ‘Bastard/Lemonade’
The tragic last outing of Christopher Reimer and Women brought us songs about Dada artists through a psychedelic haze.
Key Cut: ‘Narrow With the Hall’
Emily Haines’ second solo outing is a surprisingly beautiful yet simplistic record that did not get the love it deserved.
Key Cut: ‘Statuette’
Ought’s second album saw them step up their songwriting abilities to produce eight concise, brilliant songs.
Key Cut: ‘Beautiful Blue Sky’
The apocalyptic Double Negative is a total new direction for Low, who wallow in sadness during the height of the Trump era.
Key Cut: ‘Dancing & Fire’
Temporary Residence Limited
Not since The Avalanches has plunderphonics sounded so good. The Way Out couples folk and electronics with perfect balance.
Key Cut: ‘I Didn’t Know That’
The most human and organic record by Damon Albarn’s project features notable contributions from Lou Reed and Snoop Dogg
Key Cut: ‘Stylo’
Boys Don’t Cry
In stark contrast to the Neo-Soul of Channel Orange, Blonde saw Ocean repurposing his sound with minimalist composition, spoken word interludes and avant garde influences. Blonde effortlessly blends sonic influences from Elliott Smith, to Beatles, to Bowie, all while featuring some cameos from André 3000, Beyoncé and Yung Lean.
Key Cut: ‘Nikes’
AMF/Virgin EMI/Sub Pop
Marika Hackman turns the template of a break up album on it’s head. Tight, well written Pop songs referencing topics one might not usually expect (i.e. masturbation). There’s so much to love about Any Human Friend. From the acoustic lo-fi opener of ‘Wanterlust’ to the emotional closing title track, via such hit as ‘Conventional Ride’ and ‘All Night’. An underrated but fantastic album.
Key Cut: ‘I’m Not Where You Are’
The final studio album from legends a Tribe Called Quest was released following the death of founding member Phife Dawg. With that in mind, it’s fitting that such a great album is about looking forward; Tribe passing the torch to a new generation of rappers, while also reflecting on the legacy they leave behind. And even with this running theme, Tribe manage to dish out some superb songs along the way.
Key Cut: ‘We the People…’
The beautifully downbeat frequents The National’s fifth studio album. High Violet is definitely a high point for the band, easily their finest record to date. Matt Beringer’s morose yet Dadaist lyrics colour the grand soundscapes. The National create incredibly emotional through gargantuan anthems such as ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’, ‘Afraid of Everyone’ and ‘Sorrow’.
Key Cut: ‘Afraid of Everyone’
New Zealand via Portland’s Unknown Mortal Orchestra had been leading up to this release with their debut and 2013’s II. But Multi-Love is a completely different beast. Sharp, funky, catchy songs like the title track or ‘Stage or Screen’ populate this album, UMO managing to combine their 2010s sensibilities with a filter of warm, old school production. All this makes for a wonderful listen.
Key Cut: ‘Can’t Keep Checking My Phone’
The second studio album from Bristol’s Idles showed no signs of letting up after their crushing debut. On Joy, the group tackle topics such as Brexit (‘Great’), masculinity (‘Samaritans’), and immigration (‘Danny Nedelko’). For the most part, the instrumentals are Idles’ trademark, brilliant Post-Punk ruckus, but the also use this album to show a quieter side, as well as featuring a surprising Solomon Burke cover.
Key Cut: ‘Great’
While every Julia Holter album is beautiful, it’s Aviary that transcends genre and song structure and works as a complete work of art. After setting herself up as a formidable voice in Baroque Pop with Have You in My Wilderness, Julia was able to throw out the rule book with Aviary. This album is best listened to as a whole, as the tracks seamlessly glide into one another, creating an avant garde masterpiece.
Key Cut: ‘I Shall Love 2’
There’s no formula to making good Ambient music, a genre which, in my opinion, can be relatively hit or miss. With Will however, Julianna Barwick creates a beautiful patchwork of serene, astounding, chilled ambient music. There’s enough going on in these songs to keep them fresh, but minimal enough to let them breathe. This album will appeal to all people, Ambient fans, or not.
Key Cut: ‘Nebula’
Cate Le Bon’s third album is her magnum opus. Whilst teasing to a more experimental sound that she would work with on albums like Reward and Crab Day, Cate also creates some of her most accessible songs to date. ‘Duke’ is a wonderful, twinkly piece of Psychedelic Pop, ‘I Think I Knew’ is a sweet duet with Perfume Genius and ‘Wild’ is a raucous Indie Rock tune.
Key Cut: ‘Duke’
Death Grips never sounded more villainous than on their 2010 album The Money Store. From the rumbling bass vocals and electronic spasms of ‘Get Got’ to the pulsating earworm that is ‘Hacker’. This is the album where Death Grips really laid out their sonic mantra, along with some of their best songs. The group have never really topped this release, and from listening, it’s not hard to see why.
Key Cut: ‘Hacker’
The debut from Cardiff’s Boy Azooga is a homage to Beach Boys, William Onyeabor, Beastie Boys, Iggy Pop and so much more. A plateau of sounds and influences that come together in a collage of youth and influence. ‘Face Behind Her Cigarette’ and ‘Loner Boogie’ are the two most uplifting songs of the decade, and Dave Newington’s optimism and love for music shines through every pore.
Key Cut: ‘Face Behind Her Cigarette’
Sandwiched between a passable 1 and 3, Run the Jewels 2 is the highlight of the RTJ trilogy. Tracks such as ‘Love Again’, ‘Early’ and ‘Crown’ show Killer Mike and El-P at the absolute heigh of their game. Their trademark combo of comedy and killer bars makes the duos formula one of a kind, especially when it comes to lines such as “you can all run naked backwards through a field of dicks”.
Key Cut: ‘Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)’
Taking a sharp left-turn from his previous material, Tyler’s fifth studio album switched up his style, to include elements of Neo Soul, Jazz Rap and Pop. Tyler produces some of his warmest, soul-bearing music on Flower Boy, with a little help from such collaborators as Frank Ocean, Rex Orange County and Jaden Smith (?). This is a wonderful album, that really saw Tyler become the artist he was destined to be.
Key Cut: ‘911/Mr. Lonely’
Modern Vampires of the City reshaped Vampire Weekend’s sonic palette for final of their trilogy. It’s a much more mature record than Contra or their debut, creating far more intriguing and layered songs, such as ‘Hannah Hunt’, ‘Step’ and ‘Ya Hey’. Modern Vampires… is an album that really showed what Vampire Weekend could create something unique.
Key Cut: ‘Hannah Hunt’
A re-recording of Will Toledo’s bedroom Indie rock love story, Twin Fantasy (Face to Face) is a better Rock Opera than most self-proclaimed Rock Operas out there. From expansive, massive tracks ‘Beach Life-in-Death’ and ‘Famous Prophets (Stars)’ to concise Indie hits like ‘Bodys’ and ‘Cute Thing’, there’s so much to love on this album.
Key Cut: ‘Bodys’
With Titanic Rising, Weyes Blood really came into her own, producing a monumental album for the end of the decade. Touching on the themes of love, environmental issues and the singer’s love of the movies. Weyes Blood gives us hit after hit on this record. From the Beatles’ inspired ‘Everyday’ to the incredibly poignant and heartbreaking ‘Picture Me Better’.
Key Cut: ‘Movies’
Moshi Moshi Records
This three-piece from London’s debut record is drenched in a C86 aesthetic, producing some incredibly well written and fun pieces of Indie Pop music. Tracks like ‘Stupid Things’ and ‘Don’t Go Back at 10’ show how much fun this record can be. Not only that, but Earl Grey is an incredibly coherent record that works as a set of songs, with Girl Ray proving they aren’t afraid to take risks, notably with the title track.
Key Cut: ‘Stupid Things’
Released just days before his passing, Bowie’s Blackstar is an example of how he was an innovator until the end. Pulling inspiration from Kendrick Lamar and Death Grips, Blackstar shows shades of Progressive Rock, Jazz and Art Rock. Bowie doesn’t hold back, especially on tracks such as the 10-minute long ‘Blackstar’ and the haunting ‘Girl Loves Me’.
Key Cut: ‘Blackstar’
The result of several EPs and singles, Body Talk as a completed piece is a stunning collection of 2010 Pop music. On this record, Robyn dabbles in spoken word (‘Don’t Fucking Tell Me What To Do’), Dark Electronica (‘None of Dem’), and, of course, heartbreaking Power Pop (‘Dancing On My Own’). There’s anthem after anthem on this album, making it one of the finest Pop albums of the decade.
Key Cut: ‘Dancing On My Own’
From ghostwriting, to the Odd Future collective, to renowned solo artist, Frank Ocean debut full length release was rightfully hailed as a masterpiece on it’s release in 2012. The slick production, beautiful songwriting and youthful, West Coast, drug-fueled youth are all what make this album so cinematic and spectacular. This is without even touching on Ocean’s spectacular lyricism.
Key Cut: ‘Bad Religion’
Arguably the last truly great Arcade Fire album, The Suburbs is a brilliant concept album, focussing on the Butler brothers early lives in Texas. The melodramatic lyrics of ‘Suburban War’ and ‘Mountains Beyond Mountains’ pair nicely with the classic Indie Rock aesthetic and frequent use of 80’s synthesisers. The band would take a left-turn with their music after this, which still leaves fans arguing.
Key Cut: ‘Ready to Start’
The debut solo outing from Chicago’s Jessica Risker is a charming blend of twee Pop and Folk music. Made up of eight perfectly formed tracks, I See You Among the Stars creates an idealised version of life. With deep, heart wrenching love songs, Psychedelic synths and Risker’s own, unique vocals, you’ll have a hard time picking out anything wrong with this album.
Key Cut: ‘Anyway When I Look In Your Eyes’
The second instalment of Swan legendary 2010s trilogy, To Be Kind is a monstrous double release. When this thing goes hard, it’s one of the most terrifying releases of the last 10 years. When the silence approaches, the listener is left with a desolate musical wasteland of horror movie like guitars and Michael Gira’s dark, creeping vocal performance.
Key Cut: ‘Screenshot’
After American Weekend and Cerulean Salt, Katie Crutchfield took the best things about both records and applied them to 2015’s Ivy Tripp. A criminally underrated record, Ivy Tripp shows that Crutchfield can write some of the finest Indie Folk music around, featuring elements of Lo-fi, Alt-Rock and even some minimalist electronics. Definitely not an album to be missed.
Key Cut: ‘Under a Rock’
Big Thief’s 2019 album (the first of two) is 12 tracks of haunting Indie Folk music that send shivers down your spine. From the unsettling instrumentation to Adrianne Lenker’s delicate yet passionate vocal performance. U.F.OF. is an album that stands out of Big Thief’s discography, not only due to the charming aesthetic, but the sheer excellence of the performances and songwriting.
Key Cut: ‘Orange’
The first and (so far) only full length album by Leeds based group Adult Jazz, Gist Is is a emotional, erratic and all around brilliant record. From the astounding opener ‘Hum’ to the quiet, yet powerful closer ‘Bonedigger’, everything here in moving in one way or another. Couple this with the band’s elusive attitude later on in the decade, and lack of represses, Gist Is has become a classic cult album.
Key Cut: ‘Hum’
Seemingly out of nowhere, Bristol non-punks Idles produced one of the finest debuts of the last 10 years. From the hook laden ‘Well Done’ and ‘Mother’ to the darkly humorous ‘Faith in the City’ and ‘White Privilege’. Their no-bullshit attitude to Punk and Indie shines through like a beacon of hope in an era of uncertainty. An absolute triumph.
Key Cut: ‘Well Done’
Perhaps its slightly unusual for a covers album to feature this high on a list like this. But this is no standard covers album. Xiu Xiu twist and turn Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch’s songs into something nearly unrecognisable. It’s a beautiful, but downright terrifying album, This is the sound of Twin Peaks if all humour and goodness had been drained from it.
Key Cut: ‘Falling’
Some might argue it’s a little predictable to put this particular Deerhunter album this high in this list. But when an album contains such gems as ‘Desire Lines’, ‘Earthquake’, ‘Basement Scene’ and ‘Sailing’, how could it not be on this list? Deerhunter once again saddle the border of the absurd and the Indie with their finest studio album to date.
Key Cut: ‘Desire Lines’
Bella Union/Sub Pop
After stints playing with Fleet Foxes and releases under his own name, Josh Tillman’s second album as Father John Misty is what really propelled him into the spotlight. Featuring scathing critiques of Modern U.S.A (‘Bored in the U.S.A.’) and incredibly detailed descriptions of his personal life (‘When You’re Smiling and Astride Me’), I Love You, Honey Bear comes straight from the heart.
Key Cut: ‘I Went to the Store One Day’
If the 2010s have proven anything, it’s that Mark Kozelek is an arsehole. A pretentious arsehole. It has also shown Benji to be one of the most beautiful records release. How did this happen? We’ll never know. But with the thick, luscious guitar tones of ‘Richard Ramirez Died…’ and ‘Dogs’ swimming into your ears, it’s easy to drown in this absolute masterful album. Kozelek’s dry whit, and drier vocals help craft an astounding collection of unparalleled modern folk songs
Key Cut: ‘Richard Ramirez Died Today of Natural Causes’
Victora Legrand and Alex Scally have had a patchy 2010s, with Teen Dream both lifting them up and keeping them down. No follow up release could match the sheer ecstasy that this album creates. It’s light guitar tones, group vocals and electronic percussion creates a heavenly aesthetic, that charmed everyone; from critics to Kendrick. ‘Norway’ is an instant anthem, while opener ‘Zebra’ drips with a youthful exuberance that is nostalgic of the start of the decade.
Key Cut: ‘Norway’
This Welsh Language Krautrock album that is named of a dystopian novel is exactly what we needed in the midst of the decade. Just because you can’t understand what is being said on this record doesn’t mean that the former-Pipette doesn’t pull you into her ethereal world. The call to arms of ‘Chwyldro’ and ‘Patriarchaeth’ are quickly followed by the ambient ‘Y Dydd Olaf’ and the hook-laden ‘Fratolish Hiang Perpeshki’. This album went on to win the Welsh Music Prize, and rightly so.
Key Cut: ‘Patriarchaeth’
Mom + Pop/N.E.E.T.
The bombastic and blown out riffs of Sleigh Bells’ 2010 debut set the standard for their career. The childlike, hyper-manipulated vocals of Alexis Kraus mixed with Derek E. Miller’s off the wall production made for stellar, wondrousness Noise Rock. On Treats, the band gave us tracks such as ‘Infinity Guitars’ and ‘Crown on the Ground’, proving that they could create some of the heaviest riffs of the decade, while also paying homage to Funkadelic on ‘Rill Rill’.
Key Cut: ‘Rill Rill’
Rarely do albums perfectly encapsulate a mood or emotion than Colleen Green’s I Want to Grow Up. An album both in love with, and afraid of, youth, Green laments her wish to become an adult, whilst also singing about her love of TV, and how it’s her only friend. Perhaps the most poignant moments come in the track ‘Deeper Than Love’ a song where Green wrestles with her own fickle emotions and commitments to human relationships. A truly brilliant record.
Key Cut: ‘TV’
While no doubt an opinion that will have people up in arms, but I would argue than Jamie xx’s debut (and so far, only) solo record is better than anything The XX produced as a band. In Colour is a flash in the pan of a time where the country appeared to be united, all to a soundtrack of House, Indie, Dance and Hip Hop music. In Colour is a fitting title; if sound is as colour is, this record is a rainbow. The range of samples, sounds, voices, all over this album makes it a work of art.
Key Cut: ‘Loud Places’
Mac DeMarco’s second studio album sparked a rapidly spreading slacker-rock aesthetic that forced itself into every corner of the Western Hipster world. But behind this fashion trend, DeMarco gives us some of his finest written songs to date. From incredibly apt opening title track to the closing, instrumental ‘Jonny’s Odyssey’, there’s plenty to love on this album. DeMarco croons tenderly on ‘Let My Baby Stay’ and ‘Treat Her Better’, while laying down psychedelic folk vibes on ‘Chamber of Reflection’ and ‘Passing Out Pieces’.
Key Cut: ‘Chamber of Reflection’
Little Simz struck gold on her new album. From being a relatively small time London rapper, Simz gave us Grey Area became the finest album of 2019. There’s so much to unpack on this album; Simz goes hard emotionally on tracks ‘Selfish’ and ‘Therapy’, while laying down bragadocious lyrics on ‘Venom’ and ‘Boss’. Simz goes toe-to-toe with the best of them on this record, and does the UK, and London, proud on this album. This is an album that some people might have missed, but no one, least of all hip-hop heads should miss this.
Key Cut: ‘Venom’
Nicolas Jaar’s wonderfully ironic title fits his debut well. The silence in this album are truly it’s strengths. Jaar knows how to use it to his advantage; building a groove, adding an eerie vocal sample, or paving the way for a transitional moment. Space Is Only Noise is a meditative album, conjuring these sounds unheard across the last decade. The tracks flow effortlessly into each other, with Jaar throwing Soul music influences, ping-pong ball sounds and children crying together to create magical, beautiful soundscapes and beats.
Key Cut: ‘Space is Only Noise if You Can See’
G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam
Kids See Ghosts is an album that, by all rights, shouldn’t have happened. Kid Cudi was in the midst of releasing several not so great albums, while Kanye was endorsing Trump, claiming slavery was a choice and generally destroying his reputation. With Kids See Ghosts, the duo not only proved that they still had it in them to create a masterful record, but also that they brought the best out of each other. Kids See Ghosts is a bright, colourful ray of light that stands tall as one of the best Rap records of the decade.
Key Cut: ‘Feel the Love’
After the passable Uh Huh Her, and the decent, yet flawed, White Chalk, PJ Harvey returned with perhaps her finest record to date. At a time when the UK was still feeling the after effects of the War in Iraq, Let England Shake pulled from those feelings of uncertainly and discontent. Coupling this with stark imagery of the First World War through Harvey’s poetic lyrics, the reality of war feels real. Harvey’s new use of the autoharp lends itself to the songs, creating a sound not heard across any of her previous release. Add that with a generous helping of saxophone and moody acoustic guitar and you have a classic.
Key Cut: ‘The Words That Maketh Murder’
The first release under his Against All Logic moniker, Nicolas Jaar returned to the scene with a collection of fantastic house music tracks. Despite the degrading comments about his own work on the artwork, the songs here are incredible. Jaar knows how to craft a fantastic hook, cutting and pasting from old soul, funk and hip hop tracks to create these undeniably infectious songs. From the distorted opening and ghostly vocals of ‘This Old House is All I Have’ to the 10-minute opus of ‘Rave on U’ via the minimal grooves of ‘Now U Got Me Hooked’, 2012-2017 just does not let up on sheer quality. Most definitely the finest electronic and dance record of the past 10 years.
Key Cut: ‘Now U Got Me Hooked’
It’s safe to say that many people found themselves disappointed with Radiohead’s 2011 album The King of Limbs. Five years later, they produced one of the finest records. A Moon Shaped Pool is a heart-wrenching album. There’s so much sorrow, so many emotions, laced into the fabric of each track. Radiohead aren’t afraid to show their unusual side either; crafting mystical, haunting tracks such as ‘The Numbers’ and ‘Tinker Tailor…’. Then, of course, come the tearjerkers. The incredible minimal ‘Glass Eyes’, and the Lynchian ‘Daydreaming’ and the freshly reworked ‘True Love Waits’ will all leave you misty eyed. Especially considering the events that would come to light surrounding the recording of this album. A Moon Shaped Pool is a brilliant album, living up to the standards Radiohead set themselves.
Key Cut: ‘True Love Waits’
Feist has always been able to create these spectacular, heart-warming albums, and Pleasure is no exception. Feist’s lo-fi, old school aesthetic carries through into these ballads that cut right to your core. ‘Baby Be Simple’, ‘A Man His Not His Song’ and ‘I Wish I Didn’t Miss You’ show that Feist can still do the love song justice. Meanwhile cuts such as ‘Pleasure’ and ‘Century’ show an off-kilter side to her song writing which add a splash of colour to proceedings. Feist, of course, delivers stellar vocal performances, as we should expect. She sounds as fresh as she did on Let It Die, but with arguably more finesse. Cameos from Chilly Gonzales, Jarvis Cocker and Colin Stetson add a little sparkle to their respective songs, but they’re merely little additions on this masterful record. Feist doesn’t need to justify the gimmicks or little artistic decisions. Because at the end of the day, this album is a collection of really, really, well written Indie Folk songs.
Key Cut: ‘Baby Be Simple’
While Kevin Parker and company’s early material was decent, creating a friendly psychedelic rock vibe, it’s Lonerism where they really moved into their own. This, the band’s second album contains track after track, of glorious, fuzzed out Alt-Rock. Tracks such as ‘Be Above It’ and ‘Elephant’ show shades of development in their sound since Innerspeaker. The group clearly stick to their guns of creating these heavy, washed out Indie anthems. Elsewhere, ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’, ‘Mind Mischief’ and ‘Nothing So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control’ show flecks of the direction the group would go on their follow up releases. Kevin Parker has never shied away from his love of Pop music, and here we can see where he started to drift into it. When these songs hit their crescendo, they become glorious colourful, euphoric masterpieces that raise the listener to a higher plane. Many bands have tired to emulate what Tame Impala achieved on this record, but very few succeeded.
Key Cut: ‘Elephant’
At the start of the decade, Kanye’s notoriety was already defining his image. From autotuned singing to up-staging Taylor Swift at the VMAs and being called a ‘asshole’ by the President of the United States, it’s only fitting that he create a record encapsulating the excess and extravagance of celebrity. Recorded in self-imposed isolation in Hawaii, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a record of bombastic, blown out instrumentals, instantly iconic lyrics and a star-studded cast of rappers, singers and artists. Kanye brands himself the ‘abomination of Obama’s nation’ on the anthemic ‘Power’, while Jay-Z, Nicki Minaj and more throw down stellar verses on ‘Monster’. Kanye creates the simple yet beautiful ‘Runaway’ as the centrepiece of this album, utilising a semi-autotuned vocals with a million-dollar piano hook and in your face drums. To this day, Kanye has yet to top this masterpiece. And while there are shades of greatness of Ye and The Life of Pablo, the closest he has come to matching it since is 2013’s abrasive Yeezus. Still, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy stands as testament to the destructive yet incredible nature of Kanye’s genius.
Key Cut: ‘Runaway
Following West Coast giants like N.W.A, 2Pac and Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar’s second full length album is a thrilling coming-of-age record. Following the admirable Section 80, Good Kid follows the narrative of young Kendrick becoming embroiled in gang violence that plagues Compton, and trying to escape it’s madness. Kendrick has his cake and eats it on this record, producing several smash hit Hip Hop numbers, while also waxing lyrical throughout the entire record, even indulging himself with a 12 minute odyssey. The simple yet beautiful ‘Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe’ and anthemic ‘Swimming Pools (Drank)’ serve their purpose as entry points to the album, while also breaking up the heaviness of tracks such as ‘M.A.A.D. City’. Meanwhile the dark and sexy ‘Sherene A.K.A Master Splinters Daughter’ is the perfect opener; the beats minimal, the focus purely being on Kendrick smooth flow. We reach a climax with the track ‘Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst’, which literally features the narrator being gunned down, and the shooters seeking religion as a form of redemption. It’s an incredibly poignant, intense moment. It’s no wonder this album has been called the Hip Hop equivalent of James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artists as a Young Man.
Key Cut: ‘Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe’
Despite it being the year 2020, it’s still proving difficult for some festivals to actually put women on the bill, especially in the Rock world. It’s therefore incredible fitting that the best Rock/Punk record of the last decade comes from Savages. Silence Yourself is an incredibly concise, punchy record. It doesn’t hold back, with vocalist Jehnny Beth delivering an imposing vocal performance, akin to that of Siouxsie Sioux or Ian Curtis. Tracks such as ‘She Will’, ‘Husbands’ and ‘Shut Up’ are so high energy and powerful. There’s no way to describe the incredible force of nature that are this group. Jehnny’s lyrics are poetic without cliche (something that wouldn’t quite be the case on their follow up record), while guitarist Gemma Thompson creates these sonic soundscapes that create this near Ambient atmosphere, notably on the track ‘City’s Full’. While this album is nearly non-stop, there are still moments to breathe. The interlude track ‘Dead Nature’ creates a Horror Movie type vibe, while closer ‘Marshal Dear’ features a Jazz-inspired clarinet solo which closes the album perfectly with an melancholic, hopeless love song. To this day, I still believe Savages haven’t receive the props they are due. While their follow up, Adore Life wasn’t brilliant, it still shouldn’t mean this group should be overlooked. Silence Yourself is a wonderful, brilliant, underrated record that does it better than most bands out there.
Key Cut: ‘She Will’
I won’t lie, a great deal of my love for this album comes from nostalgia. I was just starting university in a seaside town not long after this record was released, and it immediately became a soundtrack to the following years. That doesn’t mean that the songs on this record aren’t fucking class. Some of the finest Indie Pop music can be found over the course of these 11 tracks, with Joseph Mount turning his bedroom Metronomy project into a full blown, joyous live act. The iconic keyboard hook of ‘The Look’, the weirdly sinister vocal mantra of ‘We Broke Free’. the electro-inspired synths and beats of ‘Love Underlined’. Everything about these songs drips with class, timelessness, and style. The production is crystal clean, with each bass note, organ sound and guitar like perfectly sparkling. And then we have ‘The Bay’. Man, this song. I could write an essay about this song. The greatest Pop song written this decade has all the key ingredients. Perfect bass line. Heavenly layered vocal performances. A wonky, yet charming keyboard introduction. A rip-roaring and not too indulgent guitar solo. It really is a wonderful thing. The English Riviera really is Metronomy at the height of their powers – crafting a timeless, effortless record that produces tune after tune, all killer, no filler. While Joseph Mount would go and explore different creative paths with this projects, The English Riviera sits as a moment of British Pop history and a love letter to the South West coast.
Key Cut: ‘The Bay’
What can be said about Kendrick Lamar’s magnum opus that hasn’t already been mentioned by every publication on the planet? Kendrick’s construction of this album is perfection. It was hard to imagine his storytelling getting any better after Good Kid, but here we are. He twists Free Jazz and Spoken Word together to tell the story of excess and expectation. If Kanye’s beautiful dark twisted fantasy was taking loads of drugs and sleeping with lots of women, Kendrick’s is being crushed by his new found fame, taking responsibility for his actions and being an African American in the spotlight. Where once his mother was leaving him voice messages, now Dr. Dre is telling him to remember where he comes from. Now he has children in his home neighbourhood recognising him. In the age of Black Lives Matter, Kendrick laments the gun violence that still plagues his streets while Trayvon Martin is being gunned down by white police officers. He even manages to twist his political and social messages into accessible songs. ‘King Kunta’, ‘Alright’ and ‘The Blacker the Berry’, all go hard, but still have recognisable and easy to listen to hooks. But this album delves even deeper, with Kendrick discussing his mental health under this pressure, notably on the track ‘u’, where the narrator can be heard literally drinking himself to death. It’s a brilliant, yet haunting next chapter in Kendrick’s story, and ends with the narrator seeming to come to terms with himself, through looking to the past and finding comfort with his mentors. It’s beautiful, poignant and mesmerising. This is the album of the decade.
Key Cut: ‘Alright’
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