The Tens: Top Hundred Albums of the Decade

As Gang Gang Dance stated all the way back in 2011: "it's everything time." Time itself became unmoored in the past couple of decades and got caught in a permanent feedback loop. Because of the content of this website, I can only relate this progress to my relationship with and consumption of music. When I look back to my youth in the 90’s and think about waiting by the radio to hear a new song, or going to the stores on Tuesdays to pick up new CD releases, it is so different that it baffles the mind. A lot of it can be chalked up to general aging: everything they said about time speeding up as you get older is true, especially once your kid gains some autonomy. Coupled with the advent of and light-speed consolidation of the social media complex dictating your every waking moment, the effect is truly vertiginous: the past decade has been a blur of scrolling through walls of clickbait and toxic commentary and increasingly destabilized news, both real and fictitious. Tripled with the general nostalgia cottage industry, the permanent recycling of our youth in all entertainment media – whether through live-action remakes or pop-culture references – you sometimes have to stop and ask "what the hell year is it anyway?"

I predicted the death of the album for 2016, and in some respects the album as we know it is completely different (coincidentally, that year saw a bumper crop of interesting non-physical releases). As of writing, we are living in a streaming world, institutionally accepted, widely practiced and Billboard mandated. Hell, if you scroll down far enough, you will notice I have finally updated my presentation of song choices from the listed albums: instead of a YouTube link, I have made a Spotify playlist for the albums, and a bonus for songs. New decade, new presentation! As someone who grew up making tape dubs and mix CDs, it is a gloriously quick way to make a mix, and much less considered when you do not have to worry about the physical format you are going to use the one time (I was never much for re-using cassettes or rewritable CDs). Convenient, but the soul is missing.

However, albums keep coming. The album format is still the most common way for an artist to make a statement, and we are inundated with a steady stream of fantastic albums that deserve ultimate acclaim: grand personal statements; missives from our current world; simply a collection of killer songs. A conservative estimate for albums released on a yearly basis, from home recordings on a personal website to the glitziest A&R monstrosities, is about 10,000. PER YEAR. It is an insane quantity to sort through – just imagine how many potential favorites slip by without your slightest awareness of their existence. I started with a list of 652 albums, and I'm just a hobbyist doing this for fun. I even managed to keep a near-absolute "one album per act" policy on this list, while lamenting an untold number of artists who did not make it.

Making a decade list for the Tens was a true logistical nightmare. It has been an arbitrary chunk of time bursting at the seams with works too important to rank and too good to forget. There was such a vast selection of music released that every year had a top 100 list of its own to choose from, and as soon as I settled on a choice, I recalled four others from a few years prior that needed a second look. So, to give myself a challenge, I said I would keep the entire decade to just 50 of the very best albums. It nearly broke my brain – scrolling through the past years' lists, realizing that "oh, I forgot this one" and "oh no, I can't leave off this one" and "OOPS, definitely need this one" was an agonizing and refreshingly cold-blooded approach that I believe managed to boil down this disparate decade to the absolute essentials. Then, I rounded up to 100 anyways.

I even managed to get it fairly balanced on the first attempt, though the final tally leans slightly to the front end: 54 albums from 2010-2014 and 46 from 2015-2019. Some years were better than others: 2019 is of course way too recent to be purely objective and only has six representatives that I think will hold up; years like 2013 and 2016 were instantly vintage and have a dozen each (as does, surprisingly, 2011). In one year, five, ten years, the list could be rewritten anew and look completely different. However, this is the list I have set in stone at this time: I am proud of it, and I will stand by all of these albums, defending them and their merits. Until I change my mind.

100. Wild Beasts, Smother [Domino, 2011]
Gentlemen to the very end, Wild Beasts enjoyed a tidy ten-year arc of existence between debut and final albums before calling it a career in 2018. They were one of hundreds of those borderline bands that cause excitement with each new release and were high-profile enough for maybe the third or fourth line on the Coachella poster, but it felt like they were never as big as they deserved to be. Their dreamy third album is a masterwork of achingly lovely music masking a smothered desire, the emotions bubbling on a low simmer. Long live Wild Beasts.
99. Sleep, The Sciences [Third Man, 2018]
Southern Lord's 2012 re-release of Sleep's lost classic Jerusalem - retitled Dopesmoker and given a fresh Dune-esque cover - reintroduced Matt Pike's band to a new generation of stoner metalheads. How fortunate that the band managed to create a brand new album after 22 years away, and made it just as tasty and opulent as their past work. This is certainly more concise (anything less than a 63-minute song would be), with memorable songwriting and satisfying riffing. Metal in general had a very strong decade which I've under-appreciated (despite playing in a metal-adjacent band, I spend very little time listening to it), and this is a very populist choice to represent the entire disparate genre. Feel free to dig beneath the surface.
98. Syd Arthur, Apricity [Caroline, 2016]
A young English band equally indebted to Pink Floyd and forest raves, Syd Arthur's third album is full of hooks and anything but straightforward: their greatest skill is playing songs that are structurally simple and rhythmically complex. In a decade where guitar-based music in general was relegated to the margins of the mainstream, it was a relief that you could find songs like "No Peace" and "Into Eternity" and "Seraphim" to remain stuck in your head for years.
97. Julia Holter, Have You In My Wilderness [Domino, 2015]
In this decade, you could throw a dart at Holter's albums and come up with the right choice. Sandwiched between the Gigi-worship of Loud City Song and the modern cacophony of Aviary, Wilderness is a glorious art-rock triumph, her first work without an overarching concept. These lovingly rendered vignettes touch on characters appearing and disappearing almost at will, with truly fascinating drumming and melodies plucked from the ether. A pop artist with a composer's poise and skill, she will be an artist to watch in coming years.
96. Vampire Weekend, Contra [XL, 2010]
Modern Vampires is the Important third album that settled Vampire Weekend's legacy as an upper-echelon rock act. However, they never get to that point without a sophomore album that proves them as more than a one-trick pony, an irritatingly perfect band with a flukey debut - Contra was the album that proved Ezra's songwriting and Rostam's production was the real deal, a near-perfect collection of songs that burrowed under your skin and will never dislodge.
95. Call Super, Suzi Ecto [Houndstooth, 2014]
An unassuming album that creeps up on you in its understatement, JR Seaton's full-length as Call Super prefers a steady pulse to a persistent thud, a deconstruction of techno into the organic ambient realm, with acoustic instruments sprinkled throughout. The result is a supple and elegant album that takes its time to sneak up on you, but when it does, it does not let go.
94. A Tribe Called Quest, We Got it from here...Thank You 4 Your Service [Epic, 2016]
As time recedes, 2016 starts to look like some a hinge that swung this decade, as a three-headed Hydra of President Trump, Brexit and artist fatalities rearranged the world that we knew. Bowie, Cohen and Gord Downie played their own wakes as they expected death to come. Phife Dawg was secretly doing the same, and Tribe surprised us with an album that ranked with their best work, 18 years after unceremoniously dissolving. This was a heartrending and heartwarming look at the Black experience, with impeccable and lush production which lyrically looked back to the ancestors while striving towards the future. We should not have been so lucky to have received this.
93. Pusha T, DAYTONA [G.O.O.D. Music/Def Jam, 2018]
A mercilessly brief rinse from G.O.O.D. Music label prez Push and his producer extraordinaire Kanye West, this is 21 minutes of straight body shots, two elder rap statesmen bringing out the hardest in each other. As the opening salvo to Kanye's summer of madness in 2018, it was clear that his production skills at least were firing on all cylinders.
92. Moodymann, Moodymann [KDJ, 2014]
Kenny Dixon's love of Detroit is absolute: there are few artists who rep their hometown as completely and unabashedly as he does. His Moodymann persona stretches back to the early 90's, and he releases material sporadically, but this knowingly self-titled album is a goldmine: an everything-goes sample-fest that rivals the Dust Brothers in its weirdness, with Dixon himself mumbling and narrating tales. At its heart a strand of deep house tailor-made for the roller skating rink, but the steady stream of funk, soul, hip-hop, jazz and R&B come together in a socially conscious pastiche that never gets old.
91. Acronym, June [Northern Electronics, 2015]
The best dub techno transcends time - Basic Channel's debut could have just as easily have been recorded in 2015 as 1995. So it is with Acronym's debut for Northern Electronics; whoever this producer is, they are masters of their craft. June is a warm enveloping bath, with a dozen minutes of ambient warm-up for the inevitable, glorious beat drops, an almost cinematic experience of ebbs and flows that you immediately re-start from the beginning.
90. Gang Gang Dance, Eye Contact [4AD, 2011]
The Brooklyn band made a big splash with 2008's Saint Dymphna and they carried that momentum into the new decade with this unearthly mish-mash of tribal rhythms, synths and Lizzi Bougatsos' ethereal voice. The cosmic opener "Glass Jar", an 11-minute masterwork of building and releasing tension, nearly made the rest of the album redundant, but kudos to the band for keeping up the glorious experimentation over jams like "Mind Killa" and "Sacer". That they returned in 2018 with Kazuashita is nearly forgotten by now, for shame.
89. Beyoncé, Beyoncé [Parkwood, 2013]
December 13, 2013 is when the future of pop began. In the early hours, completely without a heads up, Beyoncé consolidated all her power and snatched the crown from the game with the stealth release of an entire new album, with accompanying works of visual art. The pink-on-black font is iconic now, the songs a part of the firmament on which we stand, the surprise album drop almost routine, and although some contend she improved herself with 2016's Lemonade (an album I have largely come around on, though I'd say that album's videos are stunning), this was the moment she became the unapproachable walking goddess among us: a business, woman.
88. Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Before Today [4AD, 2010]
Ten years later, we are now creating the present-day nostalgia for 2010's version of nostalgia for the AM radio of the late 70s/early 80s, pop music fading out of reach of our memories, as best heard on merry prankster Ariel Pink's collection of woozy kitsch. Thus will continue the death spiral of nostalgia into the foreseeable future.
87. Galcher Lustwerk, 100% Galcher [Blowing Up the Workshop, 2013]
Even in our disjointed world, word of mouth works: case in point, this deep house banger from the NYC-via-Ohio producer, who posted "[s]ome tracks and stems from 2012 compiled into a promomix" on the eclectic British BUTW blog, and saw it simmer into a massive "hit" (in some sense of the word). Here was an unknown entity coming through like lightning on a sunny day with a fresh and killer take on a beloved genre, a veritable diamond in the rough with an instantly iconic baritone and ad-lib - it was inevitable. An hour of bliss.

100% Galcher

86. Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 2 [Mass Appeal, 2014]
Between Mike's status as Southern rap stalwart and El-P's guidance of the Def Jux label, it gave me no small amount of pleasure to see two rap heroes succeed after I'd enjoyed their works on the margins for years. It was an unexpected thrill to hear the two take flight on 2012's alchemical R.A.P. Music (credited to Killer Mike, entirely produced by El-P), and their inevitable formation of Run the Jewels was one of the decade's feel-good stories. The shit-talking glee of their debut gave rise to this Godfather Part II-level sequel, an urgent and politically aware work of sonic brutality. A pinnacle in both their esteemed careers.
85. Big Thief, U.F.O.F. [4AD, 2019]
The Brooklyn band had already earned their bona fides through works like Capacity and Masterpiece but really reached the stars with their third album. Adrienne Lenker's songwriting found equal partnership with her band as they weaved a cosmic folk tapestry for her tales of "making friends with the unknown" - quickly recorded, raw and urgent, this is a modern classic from a band to watch.
84. Vince Staples, Big Fish Theory [Def Jam, 2017]
Not content with delivering a great debut in double-album form, Staples cemented his iconoclasm with this hard left-turn into avant-garde electronic productions to support his blistering, political verses. Du jour producers like SOPHIE and Zack Sekoff provide a tangle of air raid sirens, tape hiss, knotty syncopation and delightful bass for Staples to run amok.
83. Objekt, Flatland [Pan, 2014]
As inscrutable and tactile as its cover, TJ Hertz's debut full-length as Objekt is an abstract techno workout that has a machine for a heart, but three legs to tear the floor up with. Unconcerned with any type of smooth flow, the album lurches from one unconventional structure and tempo to another, with nary an organic sound in its field. Yet for all its love of machinery (Hertz has a background in engineering) and brawny smarts, Flatland moves you like few other albums. Objekt would do an about-face on 2018's masterful follow-up Cocoon Crush and its humanist approach - one of the most exciting young producers in the game.
82. Weyes Blood, Titanic Rising [Sub Pop, 2019]
Operating in full capacity, Natalie Mering crafts a lush headphone project that hearkens back to the immersive production of the 70's (a natural fit given her Karen Carpenter-esque voice) while throwing lyrical barbs and anxieties that are very of the time. "Love is calling / it's time to give to you / something you can hold onto / I dare you to try."
81. PJ Harvey, Let England Shake [Island, 2011]
A stunning lyrical achievement that, nine years later, continues to take on additional weight as the UK slides into hard-line nationalism and Brexit. Harvey's upper register, a voice she had rarely used before, sings sweetly of English policies and atrocities wrought during the First World War (now well over a century in the past), proving the maxim that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.
80. Bjork, Vulnicura [One Little Indian, 2015]
A devastating breakup album from one of our greatest treasures, this is the diametric opposite of easier bops like Debut. The lyrics detail, painstakingly, the dissolution of her long-term relationship and its effect on their family. There was much anticipation for the production by notorious leftfielders Arca and Haxan Cloak, but this proved to be a red herring: the album soars on its complex orchestral arrangements, with skeletal beats. Her voice, ever expressive, is often an anguished wail. A brave, daunting work.
79. Lady Gaga, Born This Way [Universal, 2011]
There is a poptimist revision that argues for Artpop being a lost masterpiece, but that album's moment will come in the future. Likewise, The Fame Monster was out November 2009 and I decided to play hardball with release dates. Thus, we have Gaga's overblown stadium rock moment in the sun, replete with Madonna lifts, queer empowerment, Clarence sax solos, metal riffing, German non-sense, government hookers and Judas kisses. She did better before, and would soon settle into Oscar-winning respectability, but as far as grasps for the crown go, this was a big, messy triumph.
78. Kelela, Cut 4 Me [Fade To Mind, 2013]
The catalyst for a sea change in R&B, Kelela's debut mixtape enlisted electronic producers from the Night Slugs and Fade To Mind labels for a collection of cutting-edge electro'n'B (including the briefly lived "UK funky" micro-genre), a happy marriage between the underground and mainstream that was soon widely adopted and co-opted - by this writing, these tracks sound positively quaint in light of what has come. This makes for a great double-header with her 2017 Warp debut Take Me Apart.
77. Actress, R.I.P. [Honest Jon's, 2012]
Darren Cunningham's music as Actress took the familiar and made it strange. Yes, you could squint and identify something as dubstep or electro, but he always threw you off guard, treating his productions like a microscope of increasing strength. Starting with a broad purview of familiar genres, he zoomed in on the beats to the point where it was a single pixel - R.I.P is inscrutably close, leaving you adrift in space, connected to the music by the slightest gossamer strand.
76. Women, Public Strain [Flemish Eye, 2010]
One of Calgary's biggest exports of the past decade, Women (disclaimer: a band made up of men) lived up to their album's title with a spectacular on-stage brawl that led to their immediate dissolving. With the sudden death of guitarist Chris Reimer two years later, there was no chance we'd ever hear their post-punk workouts again. Members would go on to form another unfortunately named band in later years, but Public Strain remains a high-water mark for Canadian rock.
75. Frank Ocean, Blonde [Boys Don't Cry, 2016]
At the turn of the 10's, Ocean was a mere side attraction in the circus known as Odd Future - by decade's end, he had fashioned himself into a wolf-like creature: a gay icon, highly impressionistic producer and collaborator, an enigma. This album engenders divisive opinion; for every review calling it a masterwork, another cuts it down to size as boring and formless. Undoubtedly, Blonde is a mercurial body that seems to change every time you listen to it, and will remain one of the most important works of the decade in future years.
74. Charli XCX, Pop 2 [Asylum, 2017]
Charli fully embraced the margins and pulled the mainstream along with her with this sequel to pop music as we previously knew it. Alongside guest stars like Cupcakke, Carly Rae, Caroline Polachek and Tove Lo, Charli rides production from PC Music boss A.G. Cook and reset the parameters for what future pop will sound like. 2019's Charli was the first indication: the sky is the limit.
73. Babyfather, BBF Hosted by DJ Escrow [Hyperdub, 2016]
This makes me proud to be British. This makes me proud to be British. This makes me proud to be British. Unity. This makes me proud to be British. This makes me proud to be British. *SCREEEEEEEE* This makes me proud to be British. This makes me proud to be British. This makes me proud to be British. *cellphone blaring* This makes me proud to be British. This makes me proud to be British. This makes me proud to be British. Anger. This makes me proud to be British. This makes me proud to be British. Dean Blunt with another unidentifiable work of mad genius. This makes me proud to be British. This makes me proud to be British.
72. The War on Drugs, Lost in the Dream [Secretly Canadian, 2014]
Often dismissed as "Bud Lite rock", Adam Granduciel's band perfected a modern take on classic American heartland rock polished to a 10's sheen. The songs often stretch out luxuriously in a motorik chug with twinkling synths and smooth guitars, Granduciel's Dylan-esque drawl spinning Springsteenian tales of down-and-outs, striving for success and dealing with anxieties. A fantastic collection of songs.
71. Arca, Arca [Mute, 2017]
From production on Yeezus and FKA twigs and Bjork's albums to her own inimitable collection of EPs and two LPs, it was hard to choose just which of Arca's albums to include - all so different, all so essential. Her most recent is probably the easier to get into (though that's a slippery qualifier with an artist so idiosyncratic), a pained work of art with her Spanish singing so close in your ear it's painful, vocals beyond the human. Whether Arca chooses to stay in the music realm or fly somewhere else, she had an enormous impact on this decade's music.
70. James Ferraro, Far Side Virtual [Hippos in Tanks, 2011]
Initially conceived as a collection of ringtones, Ferraro's subversive album of proto-deepfake music was the embodiment of the so-real-it's-fake ethos of the decade, an utterly un-real barrage of saccharine kitsch that was alternately inviting and nauseating, a musically accomplished caricature that we are still blindly living in.
69. Grimes, Art Angels [4AD, 2015]
A hyperkinetic pop masterwork from a rabble-rousing iconoclast who has marched to her own drum the entire decade, it was a tough choice between Grimes' 4AD debut Visions and this follow-up: both of them are total world-building works, oozing charisma and left-field ideas, shiny and unsettling hybrids. Ultimately, the three-eyed alien crying tears of blood won out: this was futuristic then, and is even more alien now that Grimes has aligned herself with our AI overlords. She is only a man, she does what she can.
68. Rosalía, El mal querer [Sony Music, 2018]
An unexplored channel of sound so blindingly simple, it's a wonder it hasn't been done: the dramatic vocals of flamenco set to cutting-edge electronic/trap beats and reggaeton inflections. Rosalía's debut album was revealed to be her bachelor's degree project in flamenco studies, but is anything but a stuffy bit of academia - this is a full-blooded experimental pop masterpiece that deservedly broke her into something approaching international stardom. Her vocals are spine-tingling throughout; the use of space and silence masterful; the beats present but unintrusive. Her singles since the album have been more straightforward Latin pop, but she will be a major player in the upcoming decade.
67. Andy Stott, Luxury Problems [Modern Love, 2012]
After a suffocating pair of EPs catapulted Stott into something like mainstream recognition, he quickly followed them up with this stunning album. Intriguingly, he enlisted his childhood piano teacher (also a classically trained opera singer) to provide vocals, which he chopped into snippets of sound to complement his usual dead-eyed drone. The collaboration is the definition of copacetic: Luxury is paradoxically airy and oppressive, and like the best of his past work, utterly immerses you in its haunting world.
66. Janelle Monae, Dirty Computer [Wondaland, 2018]
The Cindy Mayweather saga can wait for another day, as Monae lets her hair down on this pop/R&B workout in praise of sexuality, queer pride and black identity. I initially dismissed this album as catchy but empty compared to her past (admittedly overstuffed) Metropolis concept albums - screw it, sometimes you just have to take a byte and enjoy that crazy classic sound. Taking up the mantle from the dearly departed Prince, this album is a party tonic, immediate but with enough social politics to have you thinking about it long afterwards.
65. Deerhunter, Halcyon Digest [4AD, 2010]
Why hasn't everything already disappeared, asked Bradford Cox in 2019. Travelling so far back to this great work of theirs does act like time travel through the detritus of nearly ten years - the final song is dedicated to the late Jay Reatard, to give you an idea of how long ago these Halcyon days were, when we were wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, staring down a promising chunk of time. Instead, the years have curdled our brains and we seek comfort in the indie rock of 2010, Bradford welcoming us with open arms and helicopter blades.
64. Lonelady, Hinterland [Warp, 2015]
Julie Campbell's 2010 debut Nerve Up was a frigid blast of wiry Manchester post-punk, but Hinterland is an altogether greater beast, trading in shards of guitar for Remain In Light-era grooves, a relentless synth-pop assault equal parts Chic and Factory Records, and a wall-to-wall dance floor delight.
63. DJ Python, Dulce Compañia [Incienso, 2017]
DJ Python has labeled his sound "deep reggaeton" and his debut showcases a perfect example of the vibrantly human style of reggaeton melding with the patient synth space of dub techno. The skittering rhythm tracks are blended under drifting psychedelic melodies, creating an unsettling but gorgeous contrast for your mind to ponder as your feet move. It somehow missed my yearly list in 2017, but this album keeps coming back and gets better each time.
62. Nicolas Jaar, Space Is Only Noise [Circus Company, 2011]
I called Jaar's debut the most important debut in the electronic realm since Ricardo Villalobos, and I stand by that statement. If his output since then has been relatively sparse, it has been great: his one-off Darkside collaboration with Dave Harrington; the unsanctioned soundtrack to cult film The Color of Pomegranates; his stridently political follow-up Sirens; the collection of Against All Logic dance tracks. This elegant and strange album is still his gold standard, unconcerned with trends and thus standing outside of time.
61. Special Request, Soul Music [Houndstooth, 2013]
Though it fell from the mainstream like most sub-genres of dance music eventually do, drum'n'bass never died - the formula is too solid and simple to be abandoned. The Fabric label, stemming from the London nightclub of the same name, spent the better part of two decades releasing monthly mix CD's (if you care to stroll through my yearly lists, you will see them popping up sporadically) and putting on enormous weekend events before launching a side-label to build and promote artists: one of their flagship producers was Paul Woolford, and his debut album as Special Request was a smorgasbord of d'n'b delights. This double album was an attempt to relive his youth of listening to pirate radio stations playing this futuristic 'ardcore: it is too clean to fit that description, but as a compendium of the style, it is an essential release.
60. Tirzah, Devotion [Domino, 2018]
An exercise in quiet power, a collection of moody shape-shifting bedroom R&B that envelop you in their world totally. Tirzah and (Oscar-nominated) producer Mica Levi knew how much embellishment was needed: the songs are sparse, the vocals unaltered, the performances assured. If it seems underwhelming at first, it will keep you captivated long past the twentieth listen.
59. Rich Gang, The Tour, Vol. 1 [Cash Money, 2014]
Young Thug is probably one of the three most important rappers of the past decade in terms of his influence and quality of output, and this enormous compilation, which never got a second volume, was the first time most of us became aware of him. Is there a reason why Thugger succeeded while Rich Homie Quan did not? Who could say - both of them rap with conviction and explore their vocal timbres, while the production and "rich gang" ab-libs never lag over 20 essential tracks. I haven't kept up with much of rap this decade, but I recognize craft.

Imma Ride

58. Christine and the Queens, Chris [Because, 2018]
After extensive stints of touring physically transformed Héloïse Letissier, she discovered her freedom and crafted a pop masterpiece (in English and French, twice over!). Leering on the cover like a slick 50's greaser, her deconstruction of machismo could be deeply analyzed in the light of her coming out as a politically informed pansexual, or simply enjoyed as a Prince-level collection of 80's throwback synth-pop, with all the trimmings. A generous and repeatable thrill.
57. SW., The Album [Apollo, 2017]
More essential dub techno from the back half of the decade, this collection of untitled tracks from an unnamed producer was all pleasure, all the time: 53 seamless minutes of exquisitely mixed tracks that put you in a total trance, a sweet caress until it gently guided you to the Repeat button.

Untitled A2

56. Boards of Canada, Tomorrow's Harvest [Warp, 2013]
After seven years of silence, the masters of analog nostalgia started a complex rollout (complete with a sunset debut of the album in an abandoned California water park) and dropped one of their more unsettling releases to date, a collection of heavy drones and spooky vibes chronicling a world slowly disintegrating. After six years, it feels near prophetic.
55. Todd Terje, It's Album Time [Olsen, 2014]
Enormously silly, fun and heartfelt electro-pop from the Norwegian producer who was a major player in last decade's space disco revival. Tracks like "Inspector Norse" and "Strandbar" are gleeful slices of melodic genius, while a cover of Robert Palmer's "Johnny and Mary" brings Bryan Ferry's inimitable vibrato for a bit of levity in the proceedings. A breezy summertime classic.
54. Deepchord Presents Echospace, Liumin [Modern Love, 2010]
Catapulting itself into the upper echelon of dub techno albums was Rod Modell and Stephen Hitchell's follow-up to 2007's Basic Channel homage The Coldest Season, Liumin was a masterful excursion into a rain-soaked, neon-drenched urban landscape, aquatic bass and a steady thump intercut with field recordings from Tokyo. Physical media fans were treated to a second disc of the tracks "reduced": all in all, the best bang for your buck.
53. Dean Blunt & Inga Copeland, Black is Beautiful [Hyperdub, 2012]
Previously known as Hype Williams, the pairing of Blunt and Copeland knocked out another detuned classic on the Hyperdub label - found sounds from adjacent rooms, woozy female vocals, rough edits, rudely interrupting radio transmissions, whispered nothings and endless motorik loops. Head-fuckery at its best.
52. Wolf People, Ruins [Jagjaguwar, 2016]
Carrying on the esteemed tradition of British psychedelic folk, Wolf People came to their sound in a roundabout way: Jack Sharp and Tom Watt were crate-digging for beats for a potential hip-hop project when they discovered obscure psych, blues and proto-metal records. Struck by inspiration, they decided to recreate those sounds with a highly literate approach. Their third and best album is a heavy slab of post-human psychedelia with deliciously grungy production, with dueling guitars, synths and unique drumming, a sound akin to getting lost in the night forest.
51. Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues [Sub Pop, 2011]
Robin Pecknold's group appears to have fallen from critical favor in the decade since their debut album, perhaps the symptom of a protracted wait between their sophomore album and 2017's equally great Crack-Up. Feeling the weight of a sophomore slump, the band recorded quickly and crafted perhaps the most accurate portrait of Millennial anxiety, adrift in an uncaring world, of being "a functioning cog in some great machinery" while held aloft in their heavenly harmonies.
50. Chuck Person, Chuck Person's Eccojams Vol. 1 [The Curatorial Club, 2010]
2009 was the "summer of chillwave", a languid microgenre focused on nostalgia for the pop of the 80's. Very soon after it flamed out, Chuck Person took the method to its extreme and uploaded "Nobody Here" to YouTube - a gauzy 2-minute loop of Chris de Burgh repeating those words, as sampled from his critically-reviled hit "Lady in Red". Instantly, vaporwave was born and came to dominate the early decade while asking the question: what is art? If you sample bits of cheesy AM hits from past decades, looping them endlessly at a different pitch, does it wear down the listener into submission? Can the detritus of the past be repurposed for a new age? Can New Age be salvaged? Does the garish cover art reflect the a e s t h e t i c? Can we pair these melancholy sounds with sad Simpsons clips for ultimate longing? An entire album of eccojams was crafted, and the vaporwave genre mushroomed into saturation before itself flaming out, leaving us nostalgic for its nostalgia. A uniquely 10's phenomenon.

Eccojams Vol. 1

49. Lorde, Melodrama [Republic/Lava, 2017]
It could easily have gone wrong for Lorde after the enormous success of "Royals" in 2013, but her resilience and innate talents mean she will be a force to reckon with in the '20s. Case in point, Melodrama is one of the decade's most articulate break-up albums, written by a preternaturally gifted teenager from New Zealand, armed with impeccable pop production courtesy of Jack Antonoff at his minimal finest. A song cycle for the romantically hopeless as good as any paean to teenage sadness from days past.
48. Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool [XL, 2016]
With their roster of increasingly busy solo musicians and composers, Radiohead might have bowed out of the game after 2011's The King of Limbs, which would have become one of the more underwhelming swan songs of a band of their stature. Thankfully, they managed to save that album's reputation with this stunning collection of long-gestating tracks and new favorites, a late-career triumph that easily slots into the upper echelon of their discography. A fantastic album we did not expect, and a blessing in troubled times.
47. Kanye West, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy [Def Jam/Roc-A-Fella, 2010]
In all its grandiosity, tortured creation, endless guest stars bent to his vision, dark confessionals, prog-rock samples, assholery, Vocoder jams and iconic art, Kanye's final imperial act landed a body blow that shook the 10's and charted its course. We never lost Kanye because we never had him.
46. Yves Tumor, Safe in the Hands of Love [Warp, 2018]
Tumor had been creating some hazy atmospheres for a couple of years before signing to Warp for their major-label debut, but the startling newness of the work astounded. The album was moody and explosive, lush and discordant; throwing bits of Aphex, Bjork, Siouxie, and Eno into a blender, and hitting liquefy. So soon after we lost David, another iconoclastic Bowie came into their own as a star.
45. Earl Sweatshirt, I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside [Tan Cressida, 2015]
Already a legend at 16, Earl famously spent time in an African boarding school at the height of Odd Future's fame and became a cause celebre of the crew without contributing any music. He would go onto re-write rap's paradigm and adopt a startling new cadence on 2018's Some Rap Songs and burn his style down to an absolute kernel on 2019's Feet of Clay, but this sophomore album is his finest, dropping the shock tactics while keeping his enviable penmanship; an ice-cold, mercifully brief blast of misery, introspection and introversion. Nihilistically satisfying.
44. Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More than Ropes Will Ever Do [Epic, 2012]
Apple's first album in seven years - and first without producer Jon Brion - was a stripped-down affair, produced and almost entirely performed by Apple and touring drummer Charley Drayton on a host of unusual instruments. Her pop smarts still shone, her poetry was outstanding and emotional as always, and her smoky voice better than ever.
43. LCD Soundsystem, This Is Happening [DFA, 2010]
It was happening, and then it un-happened. They could have gone out nearly on top (2007's Sound of Silver is their masterpiece) with this blast of record-collector rock, but James Murphy and company decided that they had some more in them (2017's excellent American Dream) and undermined this album's carefully orchestrated farewells. It's okay: you can still go home humming these anthems.
42. Danny Brown, Atrocity Exhibition [Warp, 2016]
Danny Brown had proudly worn his non-rap influences on his sleeve from the start, and his third album in a decade of triumphant rap elder statesman status was a wildly unorthodox, nauseatingly crazy journey into the darkness. Any semblance of his previous drug-fueled good times was replaced with dead-eyed resignation or abject paranoia, and the explosive music reflected this at every step.
41. The 1975, A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships [Interscope, 2018]
Iconic, generational talents get to the top of the game by swinging for the fences, leaving no holds barred and nothing left unsaid. This post-everything generation hardly deserves a better spokesman than Matt Healy and his band of pop-rock beasts: hyper-verbose and literate, extremely self-aware, armed with a catholic arsenal of hooks pillaged from whatever genre brings the goods. Does anything sum up recent years better than "Love It If We Made It"'s laundry list of social ills? This will probably age terribly when we clean up our act.
40. Rush, Clockwork Angels [Anthem, 2012]
How many long-time bands ever really go out on top of their game, with a well-crafted final statement to their loyal fans? Geddy, Alex and Neal had been going strong since the early 70's, but in 2012 they finally turned their hands to a full-blown concept album knowing it would be their last (recall, they had tons of high concept songs like "2112" and "Cygnus X-1 Book II: Hemispheres" but never an entire concept album) that came complete with a graphic novel and a farewell-before-the-farewell tour. These songs were their finest in years, heavy and graceful and melodic, a swan song of perfect proportions.
39. Aphex Twin, Syro [Warp, 2014]
Heroes never die. Richard D. James had been fairly dormant since 2001's Drukqs, but in 2014 he gave us a meaty new Aphex LP, a throwback album that didn't seek to break new ground because he knew it didn't have to. This is classic pleasure zone techno from an old master, warm pads and rich drums, instantly recognizable and welcome. The young generation is doing fine pushing electronic music in brave new directions: RDJ is content to please and collect his residuals.
38. Skee Mask, Compro [Illian Tape, 2018]
Skee Mask absolutely slays the lush sound, finding the perfect balance between driving breakbeats and floating ambiance. It is his ability to synthesize the best of ambient, electro, jazzy jungle and stark dub, and create a distinct sound all of his own, that made this an exceptional album in 2018, and will likely become a richly deserved future classic. A warm bath in the middle of a snowstorm.
37. Jamie xx, In Colour [Young Turks, 2015]
The introvert's club album. The xx's shadowy production whiz stepped into the limelight with this multi-hued debut album that sought to hit all the pleasurable nostalgia buttons of a raver childhood and nailed them all. With assists from his bandmates, Popcaan and Young Thug, this is a generational classic.
36. FKA twigs, MAGDALENE [Young Turks, 2019]
LP1 (2014) remains of the decade's finest debut albums, crystallizing the promise of a bright and talented artist after a couple of early EPs. However, MAGDALENE has proven to be a work of such overpowering magnitude and emotional turbulence that its impact will ripple for years through Tahliah Barnett's future works and pop music in general. What do you do when your body and romances betray you? You wrestle your demons and record an album of this magnitude.
35. Joanna Newsom, Have One On Me [Drag City, 2010]
A toss-up between this and 2015's gorgeous Divers, I decided on this sizable epic for the breadth of material and as demonstration that sometimes more is more. For its daunting length, this album never flags: 18 tracks of greatness, perfectly produced and performed, broken into three easily digestible discs. Newsom takes her time between releases, but who can complain when they are this great?

Good Intentions Paving Company

34. Blood Orange, Freetown Sound [Domino, 2016]
Dev Hynes had a singular presence this decade, from popstar productions (Carly Rae, Sky Ferreira) to his own work as Blood Orange. Women's voices dominated Blood Orange's third album, a dense concept album he made for those who were told they were "not black enough, too black, too queer, not queer the right way". The result was an album whose power was revealed through repetition, where a single listen is hardly enough to even see the entire surface, let alone scratch it. Much the same way that 2013's Cupid Deluxe was a shiny pop album on the surface until you unfurled the depths, Freetown's blend of baroque pop, poetry and philosophy will be pored over for years to come.
33. The Knife, Shaking the Habitual [Rabid/Mute, 2013]
The Dreijer siblings made a huge splash in the Aughts with Silent Shout, but they saved their best surprises for this decade. First, there was a full-blown collaborative opera about Darwin, and then this hard left turn into anti-capitalist agit-pop with shrieking synths, dead-eyed vocals, soul-stripping lyrics and inscrutable sound design, topped by an eye-bleeding green-on-pink color scheme. It had a 19-minute drone dead center! It was 98 minutes long and made people uncomfortable! Their tour featured a full-blown protest aerobics class! In the biggest surprise, they broke up almost immediately afterwards in true anarchist style, and left the world with an ominous foreshadow of the shitstorm about to crescendo.
32. Future, DS2 [Epic, 2015]
Capping off an imperial run of mixtapes that established him as the biggest rapper since Lil Wayne, Future dropped this sleepy instant classic of Atlanta trap and codeine raps that completed his ascendancy from pop star to rap monster. His misogyny was rampant but forgiven, his drug use prolific and celebrated, his lifestyle lauded - what else could it be when these Metro Boomin and Soundwave productions were rattling the trunk? The ubiquitous trap sound got played out very quickly in the mainstream (though as of writing it is on the wane, thankfully), but this snarling set of songs is probably the high point of the genre.
31. Lana Del Rey, Norman Fucking Rockwell! [Polydor/Interscope, 2019]
I challenge anyone who watched Lana's shaky SNL performance in 2011 to have anticipated her to continue for long in the music business, let alone make one of the decade's definitive statements. But alas, her gangsta Sinatra persona had the miles, and her vivid lyricism flourished behind some of Jack Antonoff's most verdant arrangements – this is the richly detailed and very American album she'd been making in little pieces for so long. No tacky guest appearances, just Lana and her thoughts. We had a hell of a time.
30. My Bloody Valentine, m b v [m b v, 2013]
The champion of "long-delayed follow-ups to masterpieces", nobody had really expected Kevin Shields to send us another MBV album, but behold: on a cold February Saturday night 22 years Loveless redefined a genre, we were graced with a new work, and best of all, it was actually good. In fact, it was great - recognizably MBV but with plenty of unusual elements (mostly the skittering jungle beats), not a retread of past triumphs, but also not a crazy left turn or a lazy cash-in. The album was clearly worked on; maybe not for two decades, but it was considered. In an era where genres never really died, and shoegaze continued to have a sizeable footprint, the masters showed everyone how to continue the craft.
29. Jlin, Black Origami [Planet Mu, 2017]
Seeing that Rashad had made the ultimate footwork album, Jlin took the genre into a more abrasive field and released this sophomore album which took her already great debut and made it look childish. Rarely has percussion been so abrasive - imagine a thousand marching band drummers in a circle around you, pounding out polyrhythms; haunted vocal specters floating above you, beckoning you into the void. The only legitimate way to dance to this is to fold yourself into a piece of origami.
28. Laurel Halo, Quarantine [Hyperdub, 2012]
Halo very quickly established herself as an artist to watch, with a plush spot on the Hyperdub label to explore various spectrums of sound. Her discography was sterling throughout the years, but her debut album was the clearest statement of intent. Reconstructing the meaning of a vocal-based pop album, this work dips and weaves through some of the queasiest vocal manipulations in memory, ugly timbres atop soothing melodies. After a quick turn-around with the monochrome thud of 2013's Chance of Rain, we knew that Halo would be a talent to follow closely.
27. Autechre, elseq 1-5 [Warp, 2016]
Nearly thirty years into a sterling career, it might be worthwhile to ponder whether Autechre have fully automated by this point. They are notorious for programming machines to create this music – can it be that Rob Brown and Sean Booth have already merged their corporeal bodies with the binary code? Consider their decade – 17+ hours of new music spread across a single (Oversteps), a double (Exai)-, this quintuple- and an octuple-album (NTS Sessions 1-4) set; 28 hours (so far) of live recordings, plus a small handful of EPs, a formidable output for fans to digest. Any one of their releases would deserve this placement, but I've gone with the only one they haven't released physically, this five-part beast of complex rhythms, soothing drones and general brilliance.
26. St. Vincent, Strange Mercy [4AD, 2011]
The decade's foremost guitar slinger would turn out to be a former scenester in the Polyphonic Spree, the unlikely Annie Clark. With a chameleonic persona and three stellar releases (2014's fantastic self-titled album and 2017's hard-pop MASSEDUCTION) over the decade, I chose the earliest one for its raw power, unabashed gender politics and stunning songwriting chops. Any album that opens with "Chloe in the Afternoon", "Cruel", "Cheerleader" and "Surgeon" all in a row is a knockout.
25. Carly Rae Jepsen, E•MO•TION [Interscope, 2015]
Your favorite music blogger's favorite pop star, CRJ seemed destined for the dustbin of history after one of the biggest hits of the decade in 2012. Solution? Album-oriented pop, every track given equal consideration rather than frontloading it with potential hits. The result was a beloved collection of towering pop songs, each one better than the last. The album never really crossed over into hit territory, but the reviews were stellar, the collection of outtakes and B-sides were equally fantastic, and her army of stans have kept her in good stead ever since.
24. D'Angelo & the Vanguard, Black Messiah [RCA, 2014]
I will leave it to someone else to explicate on the decade's social movements in the U.S. Namely, D'Angelo. Yes, the man behind 2000's Voodoo was one of the great recluses of our time, burned by his time in the spotlight, the acclaim for his considerable craft lost behind the thirst for his marble-chiseled abs. He technically could have rested on the laurels from his two great albums, but he had Black Messiah in him, and he graced us with a deeply sensitive, fiery and articulate meditation on the spate of police shootings and Black Lives Matter and love.
23. Fever Ray, Plunge [Rabid/Mute, 2017]
After a dissolved marriage and sexual discovery, Karin Dreijer wanted her Fever Ray project to howl at the imbalances and injustices inherent in a patriarchal society, and wanted the politics to move your body - the result was Plunge, the polar opposite of her self-titled debut of 2009. This is music as visceral as the blood-drenched cover, her weapons-grade assault on gender roles and queer politics sorely needed in a year where the patriarchy took such massive blows through #MeToo and #TimesUp.
22. Oneohtrix Point Never, R Plus Seven [Warp, 2013]
Flipping the script on the sample-based pastiche of Replica and foregoing his beloved Roland Juno-60 synth, Daniel Lopatin embraced the synthetic sounds of MIDI presets in an attempt to explore sound design, figuring out "a way of giving inanimate objects a kind of secret life" or something wild like that. All you need to do is press play and get lost in the refractory funhouse, grasp onto any discernible motifs before you are washed away in a dimensional wormhole. Is it art? Is it commentary on art? Is it modern life?
21. KING, We Are KING [King Creative, 2016]
The plushest of the plush – these Prince protégés (twins Paris and Amber Strother, and Anita Bias) single-handedly produced and performed on this LP of silky grooves, poppy counter-melodies and otherworldly harmonies. Downbeat indie R&B that envelops you like a warm bath, this is a true unsung classic.
20. Four Tet, There Is Love In You [Domino, 2010]
Constantly flirting with the edges of the mainstream, Four Tet started the decade off right with this collection of simple vocal-based jazzy jewels, a bit of beauty and longing that you could return to during a long ten years. He would go on to make some terrific albums after this (especially 2015's Morning/Evening and 2017's New Energy), but as this was the album I played while getting ready to wed my beautiful wife, it gets the most love.
19. Billie Eilish, WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? [Darkroom/Interscope, 2019]
The final great pop breakthrough of this decade, Eilish might be one of the high hopes going forward. Almost entirely self-crafted with her brother Finneas, her debut (coming after years of online hype and high hopes) stuck the landing as a complex and deep work – indeed, my first listen was so underwhelming that I nearly abandoned it altogether. It takes time to reveal itself, always foregoing immediacy in favour of a slow boil, with as many moments of silence and quiet introspection as there are bad guys. As the first artist born this century to land a #1 single on the charts, there is nowhere to go but up from here.
18. Flying Lotus, Cosmogramma [Warp, 2010]
Steven Ellison had big expectations to meet after his incredible sophomore album Los Angeles and it turned out that he could go beyond anything anyone thought possible. Cosmogramma begins in the stars and throws conventions out the window as it goes: the instrumental Dilla-esque hip-hop is still identifiable, but Ellison prefers to use it as a blueprint for his free-jazz, post-electronic liquidity. This is less a collection of tracks than a single, endlessly morphing suite that reminds you of his Coltrane ancestry: live instruments, guest vocals from Laura Darlington and Thom Yorke, harp, guitars and horns. Ellison was a busy man through the decade, and his first volley set the scene for greatness to come.
17. Rustie, Glass Swords [Warp, 2011]
When we look back on the early part of the 10's in the future, we may lament the rise of bro-step and EDM, corporate festival techno in search of the "drop", aggressively white masculine forms of music that by definition squeezed the color and queerness out of dance music. However, we may also remember Scottish producer Rustie's works that subverted the EDM sound before it blew up, using the template of dancefloor fillers but made with ridiculous sound effects. These tracks are humongous and often hilarious, the subversive touch the rest of the decade sorely needed.
16. Jam City, Classical Curves [Night Slugs, 2012]
You could read into the south London producer's album being a commentary on encroaching gentrification, the sleek metallic textures and jackhammering beats replacing the specific with the monolithic, corporate guard dogs (literally dogs) chasing you away - the city becoming an endless expanse of brushed steel and Starbucks. Or you could just put the album on and dance to it, marveling at the intricate sound design and sonic acrobatics.
15. Solange, A Seat at the Table [Saint/Columbia, 2016]
One of the decade's great success stories was this nuanced and complex work about self-respect and self-empowerment from a pop-adjacent artist seemingly destined to live in her older sister's galactic shadow. Solange had released some interesting work throughout the 10's but struck artistic gold here, marrying easy-going, melancholy R&B and funk to firm lyrics that seek to carve out a space for black people and black women specifically, in a culture that places little value on their experience other than how it can be exploited. A true Trojan horse of a work that does what it can to make the world a little more understanding.
14. SOPHIE, OIL OF EVERY PEARL's UN-INSIDES [Transgressive, 2018]
Pure pop thrills wrapped in a transgressive transgender package, SOPHIE's debut album finally showed the artist most people were speculating on – was it a boy or girl? What kind of appropriation is this person practicing? How would the spurts of brilliance hold together on an LP? The answers were immediate: this is a post-gender, post-genre, nearly post-human exercise of optimism and fluidity, a blinding sheen that welcomes everyone within its fluid world. For bonus dancefloor kicks, seek out the extended NON-STOP REMIX album.
13. Kendrick Lamar, good kid, m.A.A.d. city [TDE/Interscope, 2012]
I had briefly experimented with implementing a strict one-album-per-artist policy for this list, and immediately realized the biggest victim would be King Kendrick, and having a 10's list with only one Lamar album would be absolute anathema. At this point, the only debate around good kid is how high on a list of classic rap debuts it belongs (no offense to Section 80); this is a deeply human statement of love for Lamar's hometown of Compton, with all its faults and glories, an often angry but ultimately hopeful trip through his haunts. By portraying himself as an ordinary person from an extraordinary place, he codified his future triumphs. Plus, the album bangs.
12. Destroyer, Kaputt [Merge, 2011]
Kaputt was immediately understood to be a rare beast: a wild, po-faced swerve into 80's soft rock that set the tone for some of 2011's other 80's-indebted works (Drive, "Midnight City", et al.). However, over the years, Kaputt did not go away, and as other artists glommed unto Bejar's triumph and made their own masterpieces (case A: The War on Drugs), this album has come to be viewed as a cornerstone of the decade. It is a perfect storm of incredible songs slathered in the soft-focus cheese that would dominate a corner of rock music. Bejar did it first, and best.
11. Macintosh Plus, Floral Shoppe [Beer on the Rug, 2011]
Imagine the nostalgia rush we will get in 2031 when we look back on this album's 20th anniversary and its own 30-year-plus old samples, which by that point will be 50+ years old. Vaporwave was the decade's slipperiest genre, plunging the frictionless depths of 80's muzak and easy listening and filtering it through skipping cassettes, glitching 96kb mp3s and a wall of digital haze. This album became the de facto monument of the genre, alternately disorienting and endlessly melodic, the Sade and Diana Ross samples keeping you grounded from floating off into the ether. You could cry about your lost childhood, or cry about crying about your lost childhood - this album will touch you.
10. Death Grips, The Money Store [Epic, 2012]
Come @ me – these guys had one of the best bodies of work of any artist operating in the 10's. People complain about their albums sounding the same – think of it like the same piece of beautiful shrapnel slamming into you at different angles. The most unlikely group to briefly be major-label artists, then again the most unlikely to be career artists, they have released seven different albums since 2011 that could easily be slotted into this position. I have gone with the populist choice, the studio debut that clocked heads, stirred shit up, and made you grin in glee that a major label was funding the entire twisted enterprise. Everything else since has been icing on a turd cake.
9. Kanye West, Yeezus [Def Jam, 2013]
If we are looking objectively, it took about six years for pop music (namely, Billie Eilish's 2019 #1 hit "bad guy") to catch up to Yeezus, the true beautiful dark twisted fantasy of Kanye's tumultuous decade. The ugly, clanging, brazen electronic keen of Kanye's best vision would also be the final great work from the man before descending into a pro-MAGA chaos and half-baked album ideas. A dark horse like 808's, this could be the future of pop in the '20s. Uh-huh, honey.
8. Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp A Butterfly [TDE/Interscope, 2015]
Advance word had set up Kendrick's new album to be a masterwork, an all-encompassing tapestry of musical styles and black experience, a soundtrack to a failing America, and an instant contender for top of the decade. They were right. Butterfly catapulted itself into the upper echelon of albums released in this young century with rapturous praise and decent commercial success, but did not go out of its way to influence artists and inspire knock-offs. Try to imagine the cover art of a blacked-out White House lawn in Trump's America. In fact, if you squint hard enough, the meteoric rise of mumble rap beginning in 2016 could hypothetically be viewed as a wide-scale rejection of this album's sheer scale and thorny attempts to make sense of a world designed to keep you from advancing. No matter – this powerful work will continue to be a major signpost of early 21st century popular music.
7. Sky Ferreira, Night Time, My Time [Capitol, 2013]
A strong contender for most underrated of the decade. Instead of pop histrionics (which would be justified by the softcore cover art), Ferreira and producer-extraordinaire Ariel Rechtshaid went for slaughterhouse efficiency, with not a hook out of place. This is a rare album where every song plays like a hit, a "holy crap I need to hear that again" moment, with a bonus EP containing her very best song nonchalantly thrown in for good measure. Robyn may have gotten to the pop masterpiece first with Body Talk, and Carly arguably equaled it with E•MO•TION, but Sky flew under the radar and topped them both with this grunge-indebted work. We are still waiting with bated breath for a follow-up.
6. Oneohtrix Point Never, Replica [Mexican Summer, 2011]
Daniel Lopatin ended the decade as a critically acclaimed movie composer. The transition makes sense when you view his OPN work as a soundtrack for stuttering, grainy VHS recordings of cable network commercials from your childhood. This album was famously built off indistinguishable snippets of said commercials, tiny fragments of tones blown up to cathedrals of nostalgia.
5. DJ Rashad, Double Cup [Hyperdub, 2013]
The sole LP that Rashad released in his lifetime, Double Cup was the epitome of soulful footwork, a collaborative masterwork that laid the foundation for future generations of producers to tread in his massive footprints. The joy and soul wrought on tracks bearing silly titles like "I'm Too Hi" and "Roll It Up" is awe-inspiring. I don't recall if it sounded elegiac immediately, but to listen to this and think of his death barely 6 months later, at what might have come from his talented hands, is too much to bear.
4. Dean Blunt, BLACK METAL [Rough Trade, 2014]
An album as hazy and uncertain as the era that birthed it, this could only have come from the eternal shapeshifter Blunt, who has defied expectations and confounded his fans (let alone detractors) this decade. Black Metal is an ominous and often beautiful work, unable to pin down but the closest to capturing on wax the defining image of the 10's: a baggy-eyed human alone in a dark room, face lit up in a dead blue light, endlessly scrolling through digital garbage.
3. Robyn, Body Talk [Konichiwa, 2010]
The Swedish pop-goddess kicked off the decade in such a huge way that it was easy to forget that eight years passed between this and the equally great Honey – this is her greatest hits collection, a songwriter working at peak capacity and creating masterpieces that still resonate a decade later. While it's true that she could have maxed out the CD format and included "Cry When You Get Older", "Criminal Intent" and "Include Me Out", it's also true that this album is a ruthless beast. This is the modern equivalent of ABBA's Gold and set the decade's gold standard of pop album that many tried and failed to clear. Don't tell her what to do.
2. David Bowie, Blackstar [ISO, 2016]
Some albums are written with eternity in their eyes, transcending the trappings of their time, knowing testaments to a final metamorphosis nobody escapes. Bowie knew of his terminal illness and faced it with the poise of an art chameleon who had spent so long shaping himself and events around him, giving us one last feint before joining Major Tom in the firmament. His passing was a seismic shock in light of how vibrant and creatively fertile he seemed, and Blackstar is a parting gift of the highest order, the sounds of his past and the visions of the future attempting to make sense of the last journey you don't return from. Some albums are timeless; this is one of them.
1. Burial, Tunes 2011-2019 [Hyperdub, 2019]
Anyone who has followed my yearly write-ups will recognize my love of Burial and scoff at this choice - a compilation released in the final month of the final year is the best of the decade?? First, a caveat: my original list had an amalgamation of the Kindred and Rival Dealer EP's as the top of the decade. Thankfully, Will Bevan did me a solid by packaging his decade's work on Hyperdub and making it easy to not only honor him, but also look like an idiot with major recency bias. No worries. This music is nearly sacred and reminds us that while we were impatiently awaiting Untrue 2, he had been dropping compact classics on the sly, remaining true to and influencing only himself.

Burial's work invites projection from the listener: you could hear it as raver nostalgia, or heartbroken laments, or even boring ambient drifts, depending on your mood. I have written about (or at least dwelt on) how difficult it is to engage with Kindred in particular, being that it was released during the week my mother was fighting her last in a hospice – I don't need to hear it on a regular basis to remember what an emotionally harrowing and fantastic work it is. Its transportive power is total, and it bears an unfair weight for what should be merely body-moving dance music. However, the tantalizing hints of his intent - the recorded speech from trans-activist Lana Wachowski; his public statement of making "anti-bullying music" - make it clear he intends to transcend genre trappings and create something special. In my mind, he has wholly succeeded. Burial's choice to present a revamped reverse-chronological sequencing on this collection re-contextualizes his vision, and gives a special weight to his ambient meanderings - by the time we get back to the ancient, comforting beats of "Street Halo", the nostalgia circuit is complete and we are left a sobbing mess. Perhaps not the music that best captures the sound of the Tens, but easily my top choice.

Songs from the Decade

I don't tend to single out songs too much, but a lengthy decade write-up deserves some sort of list, so here is a Spotify playlist with 50 songs. Parameters: five from each year, from albums that did not make my list, strictly in reverse chronological order lest you think "Old Town Road" is the best of the decade (but really, it probably is). For some years, it was a tough cull to get down to five; for some, I had to really reach. Can you notice any sort of flow or story as we go back to 2010?


In addition to music, I am also something of a cinephile. Movie-going took a hit this decade with the birth of our daughter: it is harder to get out to the theaters to see everything we want, but we can still emphasize quality over quantity, and this decade has seen some high quality cinema made. Here is my very male top 20 of the decade, presented alphabetically.

American Honey (Andrea Arnold, 2016)
Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, 2013)
Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Villeneuve, 2017)
Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015)
Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014)
Her (Spike Jonze, 2013)
Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)
Inside Out (Pete Docter, 2015)
Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)
Magic Mike (Steven Soderberg, 2012)
Moonlight (Barry Jenkins, 2016)
Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood (Quentin Tarantino, 2019)
Parasite (Bong Joon-Ho, 2019)
Phantom Thread (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2017)
A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)
Scott Pilgrim v. the World (Edgar Wright, 2010)
Shoplifters (Hirokazi Koreeda, 2018)
The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)
The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)

Best Concerts of the Decade

Naturally, I also enjoy seeing live music as often as possible, a pastime made somewhat easier by my wife not being a fan of concerts. I saw quite a number of shows over the past ten years and missed many more that passed through (R.I.P. Sleep!), but here are some of my favorites, chronologically.

U2, Commonwealth Stadium (June 1, 2011)
This show was originally scheduled for June 2010 but was delayed by Bono's back injury. It my first time seeing the band in a stadium setting, and their Claw show was impressive to behold even from quite a distance. Bonus: they played "Zooropa" and Bono was feeling himself on that lost classic.

Refused, Macewan Hall (August 24, 2012)
An absolute barn-burner, one of the best bits of sustained energy I've experienced in a live show. Screaming along to those Shape of Punk anthems was cathartic and wonderful.

Rush, Rexall Place (September 30, 2012)
A trek to the north to see Canada's finest on the tour for what would be their final album. They opened for themselves with an hour-long set heavily rooted in their highly underrated 80's work, then brought out an orchestral outfit for the main show. Great musicianship, wry stage presence - my one and only time to see these musical heroes.
[Note: barely two hours after writing this blurb, news broke that drummer Neil Peart had passed away on January 7. A terrible coincidence, and a legacy worth celebrating; safe travels Neil.]

Paul McCartney, Rexall Place (November 29, 2012)
Another trip to the north in brutally cold winter conditions with my brother and sister to see the legend. Notable for Rexall's terrible "SIT DOWN" policy, but what a show - three hours of bliss with a Beatle in the room? Cannot pass that up.

Swans, Dickens (June 19, 2013)
Outstanding. This was in the midst of the band's extended comeback and critical slobbering, booked into a small venue for a city-wide music festival. It was packed in there, and the band was utterly enthralling, with an audience command I still haven't encountered since. That night, torrential rains and snow melt caused the worst flood in a century - I am certain Swans played a role in that.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Jubilee Auditorium (June 27, 2014)
Okay, I spoke too soon: Nick Cave possesses a stage presence you rarely encounter. This was in support of 2013's excellent Push the Sky Away and although I had a balcony seat and did not get to experience Cave crowdsurfing 30 rows away from the stage, the energy filled the room.

Run the Jewels, Republik (August 13, 2014)
The kinetic rap duo of El-P and Killer Mike was mere months away from blowing up with their second album, and this small club show was a total blast. They previewed "Blockbuster Night" and then tore through their first album - gimmick-free until Mike lit a massive blunt and proceeded to pass it along to the front row where I was bopping. The joint was bogarted.

Hyperdub 10th Anniversary w/ Kode9 & DVA, Hi-Fi Club (September 10, 2014)
One of the very rare shows I've attended with my wife, this was a glorified club night to celebrate the London label's anniversary - a night of footwork and foreign sounds, and brilliant dancing.

U2, Rogers Arena (May 14-15, 2015)
The first time I've flown to see a band, this was definitely a ritzy little vacation with my brother, sister and sister-in-law to watch U2 kick off their Innocence + Experience tour (including the notorious Edge stage-fall, which I didn't see). Two wonderful shows: the first night I was in the lower bowl on stage left, about 10 rows away, the closest I'd been to the band and hence was totally burned out by the adrenaline rush. They are a band worth seeing at any opportunity.

Kraftwerk, Jubilee Auditorium (September 17, 2015)
High on the list of bands I never thought I'd see, Kraftwerk brought their 3D show to this beautiful auditorium. It was agonizing having to dance to their beloved music while sitting down, but a great experience nonetheless.

Paul McCartney, Rogers Arena (September 30, 2018)
Another trip to the north with my brother and sister, with a bonus: my daughter! If you are going to take your 5-year old to their first show, best to make it as grand as possible: floor seats to Paul McCartney. She loves a lot of Beatles songs and I think she greatly enjoyed this experience, only taking a brief shut-eye breather during "Helter Skelter" in the encore. For many months afterwards, during bath time she would insist I pretend to be Paul McCartney and act surprised that she somehow showed up at my house (in the bath) to be babysat. I can't explain it, but it was funny every time - thank you Paul for everything!


And thank YOU for reading if you've made it this far! I will attempt to keep Angelfire alive for another ten years!