As eras of music are invariably defined by the decades, it feels necessary to provide a retrospective of the past decade and investigate which albums the ‘10s have produced are our favorites. With the revivals of folk and soul, innovations in rock and r&b, and genre-defying novelties the ‘10s offered a lot of choices but these are my decided favorite, for now.
- Currents – Tame Impala (2015)
Kevin Parker’s psychedelic third album is a masterpiece that meshes r&b vocals, funk basslines, and disco drums under a electronic motif. Add in lyricism that’s introspective and emotionally afflicting, the album becomes somehow both delightful and melancholy. “The Less I Know the Better” is the star of the album, potentially the most dance-worthy song of the decade. However, the album truly shines with smoldering confessionals like “Yes I’m Changing” and “‘Cause I’m a Man.”
2. Malibu – Anderson.Paak (2016)
Paak’s second studio album, Malibu seamlessly transitions between raspy-voiced, melodic soul (“The Bird”), swaggered west-cost rap (“Come Down”), and infectious funk-injected R&B (“Put Me Thru”). A multi-instrumentalist but prominently a drummer, Paak’s crafted compositions, smooth singing, and infectious energy make Malibu the best summer album of the decade.
3. Hozier – Hozier (2014)
The Irishman’s debut album was a stratospheric commercial success because of the radio-ubiquitous hit “Take Me To Church”. However, the entire album commands attention as Andrew Hozier-Byrne’s mixture of stomping percussion, inspired, gospel-esque belting, and lyrical wordsmithing make for spiritual and dramatic commentaries on the heights and depths of romance.
4. AM – Arctic Monkeys (2013)
The English outfit’s fifth album, the directional shift sees the quartet make their best rock album to date. A darker and bass-ier album compared to their previous, the band shows range with the sultry, slow-burning “Do I Wanna Know?”, the up-tempo rock-out “R U Mine?”, as well as the vocal pop, nightclub ballad “No. 1 Party Anthem”. What makes every song of the album work is Alex Turner’s smooth croon and poignant wordplay, storytelling love life as only he can.
5. Half The City – St. Paul and The Broken Bones (2014)
The Alabamans’ debut, Half the City is an emphatic performance of true soul. Hitting the normal tropes of devastating heartbreak and ecstatic romance, frontman Paul Janaway’s impassioned singing will emotionally invest you. Soul music hasn’t been done this well since the 70’s.
6. And The War Came – Shakey Graves (2014)
One-man-band singer/Songwriter Alejandro Rose-Garcia’s second album is both fresh and familiar under his dust bowl, outlaw persona. Lo-fi folk reminiscent of Woody Guthrie, Shakey’s clever and charming storytelling ability like that of John Prine make the album’s nostalgic genre an individual standout.
7. Modern Vampires of the City – Vampire Weekend (2013)
With the indie pop band’s third effort, it feels like the group ascends from being a precocious college outfit into adults. Diversifying sound and mood, the album’s inclusion of harpsichords and organs make the album feel darker and more sophisticated. The more minimalist tracks showcase Ezra Koenig’s pertinent songwriting. The album still reassures that the band can make a summer indie hit as well as anyone, with radio-ready “Diane Young” and “Unbelievers”
8. An Awesome Wave – Alt-J
An unconventional and supremely original debut, Alt-J’s experimental alt-pop cinematically swells and softens over the course of 49 minutes. Songs like Breezeblocks and Fitzpleasure are dramatic, grand compositions accompanied by folky, understated and melodic reprieves such as Matilda and Interlude 2. Sung in falsetto harmonies, the cryptic lyrics and lack of annunciation make it even weirder… and more interesting.
9. Brothers – The Black Keys (2010)
In their sixth album, the blues rock duo exercise some restraint to good effect. While there is no debating it is a true rock album, the album exceeds its predecessors (and successors) by being measured. Carney’s kick drum is the backbone of each track, and Dan Auerbach ranges from a romantic falsetto to a yearning growl as this album embraces the blues as much as any of their albums.
10. Melophobia – Cage the Elephant (2013)
Cage the Elephant’s third, the band uses a range of influences to see how many ways they can make rock, well, rock. From the disco-inspired “Take it or Leave it,” the lo-fi garage rock of “Teeth,” or the introspective acoustic indie darling “Cigarette Daydreams,” the group hits the mark on each try for its most complete album to date.
11. Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit – Courtney Barnett (2015)
Indie rock driven by wry, irreverent lyricism that’s so personally specific, it resonates with everyone.
12. Changes – Charles Bradley (2016)
An inspired soul album brimming with raw emotion, made of experiences mined from a long and troubled life.
13. Boys and Girls – Alabama Shakes (2012)
Southern R&B that front-woman Brittney Howard wills into excellence with performances of passion and charm
14. Good Thing – Leon Bridges (2018)
Smart, charismatic R&B culling from jazzy 70’s Gaye, groovy disco Michael Jackson, and smooth and sensitive Sam Cooke.
15. New Lore – Sean Rowe (2017)
Singer/Songwriter Rowe pours his heart and wise old head out with a reverberating baritone and haunting lyricism.
16. Tearing at the Seams – Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats (2018)
Southern, blue-eyed soul that equal parts grooves and simmers with introspective themes and smooth serenading from charismatic Rateliff.
17. Beast Epic – Iron & Wine (2017)
Beautifully composed folk with vocals to match, Sam Beam makes every emotion whimsical and enchanting.
18. Torches – Foster the People (2011)
A buoyant, hit-laden album of contagious indie pop.
19. Channel ORANGE – Frank Ocean (2012)
An album of cinematic, groundbreaking R&B confessionals.
20. Trouble Will Find Me – The National (2013)
Introspective, moody rock with the resonating voice of Matt Berninger.