As a new decade emerges, another fades into darkness. To celebrate the terrible teen years, here are what I consider to be the 20 best albums released from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2019 (2013 was quite the year). Because I am incapable of being decisive, ten additional albums are included in the honorable mention category. As I have no business compiling these into a ranked list, I have arranged albums by release date, taking you on a musical nostalgic train ride. Below each entry is a track from the album that I particularly enjoyed, so naturally you should enjoy it too. A playlist with all these tracks compiled can be found at the end. Enjoy!
February 17, 2010
Tourist History – Two Door Cinema Club
Highlight track: Undercover Martyn
May 18, 2010
Brothers – Black Keys
Highlight track: Never Gonna Give You Up
November 22, 2010
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West
Highlight Track: Runaway
May 23, 2011
Torches – Foster the People
Highlight Track: I Would Do Anything For You
May 25, 2012
An Awesome Wave – alt-J
Highlight Track: Tessellate
November 9, 2012
Flume – Flume
Highlight Track: Sleepless
January 15, 2013
Anything in Return – Toro y Moi
Highlight Track: So Many Details
February 19, 2013
Miracle Mile – STRFKR
Highlight Track: Kahlil Gibran
April 30, 2013
Acid Rap – Chance the Rapper
Highlight Track: Lost
May 14, 2013
Modern Vampires of the City – Vampire Weekend
Highlight Track: Hannah Hunt
May 31, 2013
Settle – Disclosure
Highlight Track: Together
October 8, 2013
Melophobia – Cage the Elephant
Highlight Track: Come a Little Closer
March 24, 2014
Singles – Future Islands
Highlight Track: Like the Moon
July 17, 2015
Currents – Tame Impala
Highlight Track: Let It Happen
October 16, 2015
VEGA INTL. Night School– Neon Indian
Highlight Track: Dear Skorpio Magazine
January 15, 2016
Malibu – Anderson .Paak
Highlight Track: The Season | Carry Me
September 2, 2016
The Sun’s Tirade – Isaiah Rashad
Highlight Track: Rope // rosegold
December 2, 2016
“Awaken, My Love!”– Childish Gambino
Highlight Track: Stand Tall
January 13, 2017
I See You – The xx
Highlight Track: Replica
July 21, 2017
Flower Boy – Tyler, The Creator
Highlight Track: Garden Shed
This is Happening – LCD Soundsystem Highlight Track: Dance Yrself Clean
Broken Bells – Broken Bells Highlight Track: October
Random Access Memories – Daft Punk Highlight Track: Doin’ it Right
Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes Highlight Track: Bedouin Dress
Some Rap Songs – Earl Sweatshirt Highlight Track: Ontheway!
Barchords – Bahamas Highlight Track: Caught Me Thinkin
AM – Arctic Monkeys Highlight Track: No. 1 Party Anthem
Landmark – Hippo Campus Highlight Track: Western Kids
Down To Earth – Flight Facilities Highlight Track: Crave You
Light Upon The Lake – Whitney Highlight Track: No Woman
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.
Even though we are well into summer, Garrett and I (Ryan) wanted to share the songs that will soundtrack our summer. I made a playlist of 25 songs that sound their best out of the car window on sunny drives with your most tolerable friends.
In honor of Ryan and Garrett’s first blog post on our first blog, it is only appropriate to include the firsts of creative, influential artists just like us. Like these musicians took these mighty first steps in their craft, we too will begin our illustrious careers of hobbyist blog writing. Simon and Garfunkel, Hall and Oates, Sam and Dave, and even Wham! all had to start somewhere. So here’s to the next great male duo. Below is my list of the undisputed, objective, not-for-debate, best first tracks of debut albums. The firsts of firsts.
Purple Haze – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Since this is a list of firsts, we’ll start with number one. Jimi Hendrix opens his debut album with a song epitomizing what has made him idiosyncratic long past his life. A track of deft musicianship and bluesy, soulful vocals, no one else since has made an impact like this from the start.
2. Take Me To Church – Hozier
Hozier introduced himself to the world in emphatic fashion starting his self-titled debut with this track. Certified 5-time platinum, this song catapulted Hozier into a household name, and its no wonder why. With his reverberating baritone, the song is a seamless blend of rock, gospel, soul and blues. It’s bare lyricism and sultry religious metaphor make it both powerful and intimate.
3. Loser – Beck
Some of you Beck super fans may say “Hey, he had albums before Mellow Gold!” Well, this was his major label debut and it’s included because I make the rules because it’s my (and Garrett’s) blog. A true original, Loser is a song that blends hip-hop, rock, folk and blues. Its absurdist, self-deprecatingly comic lyricism offers wry smiles each listen (of which there are many).
4. Time To Pretend – MGMT
This escapist anthem was indie for the masses. A song that undoubtedly inspired many mid-life crises for those with office jobs and long commutes, this song does psychedelic electronica with pop sensibility to get any party bouncing.
5. I’m Torn Up – St. Paul and the Broken Bones
Less a household name than the aforementioned, this is very much a personal pick. It took enormous restraint for me not to make it number one. The first track to my all-time favorite album (Half the City), Paul Janaway’s scorching vocals lead the soul band to an impassioned debut. A nostalgic R&B group that brings to mind the like of Otis Redding with Stax-esque horns, the retro soul group’s “I’m Torn Up” crescendos into a emotional fervor that stays with the listener quite awhile after.
6. Hold On – Alabama Shakes
Keeping with the genre, Alabama Shakes is another compelling soul band with a dynamic vocalist, Brittney Howard. Supported with a jaunty baseline and guitar riff, the song bounces along as the theme song for resilience through struggle.
7. I Saw Her Standing There – The Beatles
This song is just 7, if you know what I mean. This track began the band which irreversibly changed the world of music since. It’s got all the elements of an early Beatles hit, with harmonized vocals, romantic idealism and a melody that makes you want to dance jive in a diner with your hair slicked back.
8. Rhymin’ and Stealin – Beastie Boy
Few acts are as idiosyncratic as the Beastie Boys. Fusing Punk and Rap parodically, these phenom frat stars bring the angst. That’s not to say they aren’t having fun, relishing in the rebellion they create party anthems for menaces to society.
9. Do What You Gotta Do – Clarence Carter
Affectionately dubbed (by me) “The Third Blind Mouse of Soul,” Clarence Carter missed out on the acclaim Stevie and Ray got. The song is a cover of a song sung by both Al Wilson and Nina Simone, but he sings it like it’s his own heartbreak. His deep baritone makes you feel the pang of star-crossed love.
10. Is This It – The Strokes
While the title track isn’t necessarily emblematic of the rest of The Strokes’ iconic garage-rock/post-punk debut, it’s subdued sound introduces Julian Casablancas’ refreshing lyricism as the honest anti-hero of romance.
11. Blue Suede Shoes – Elvis Presley
Another cover song, Elvis emphatically introduced himself as the King-to-be with his rockabilly rendition of Carl Perkin’s successful track. Also recorded by Buddy Holly, “Blue Suede Shoes” showcased the jovial charisma that propelled his fame.
12. Jenny Was a Friend of Mine – The Killers
Mr. Brightside was the second track on Hot Fuss! So close! In any case, this song introduces these icons of the 00’s with the kind of gritty, hook-laden arena rock that still draws massive crowds. Mashing sounds of previous rockers like The Who, The Cars, The Strokes and Duran Duran, the end product are sing-a-long anthems fit for stadium crowds like this.
13. My Name is Jonas – Weezer
Starting off the “Blue Album,” Rivers Cuomo enthusiastically yells his way through this infectious garage nerd-rock track that seamlessly switches between mellow lulls and rambunctious highs. I had an absolute blast clicking these riffs on Rockband for the Wii.
14. Take It Easy – The Eagles
Introducing the Eagles’ eponymous album, this breezy, Californian country-rock jam makes me nostalgic for that one time I didn’t cruise down the Pacific Coast Highway in not my Shelby Convertible.
15. Steady as She Goes – The Raconteurs
“Do side projects or supergroups count!?” Of course they do, imaginary reader! Jack White teams up with Brendan Benson and the Greenhornes to create the elusive, modern, straight-up rock track. While certainly not original, few have rocked out quite this well.
16. The High Road – Broken Bells
Did someone say supergroups? While we’re here let’s bring out “The High Road,” the introductory track of The Shin’s James Mercer and producer Danger Mouse is just well-crafted indie pop. Synth melodies and the soaring choir chorus make it an infectious classic.
17. Animal – Miike Snow
Miike Snow opens their account with a song that pairs somber, introspective lyricism with lively synth beats to make this staple of indie pop.
18. New Life – Depeche Mode
While we may have come to know Depeche Mode for their moodier, darker pieces later on, I’d like us to always remember their innovative synthesized dance pop that the group brought us with their debut album Speak & Spell.
19. Next To You – The Police
Distinct from the new wave hits we associate with The Police, this punk number one track still captures Sting’s romanticism and knack for a great hook.
20. Suzanne – Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen wrote this song as a poem before he recorded it as a song, and exactly zero people are surprised. A bare track about his own platonic relationship with a real Suzanne, there’s a lot to unpack. The transparent, poignant lyricism complimented with the angelic choir make for a compelling listen.
21. Return to the Moon (Political Song For Didi Bloome to Sing, With Crescendo) – EL VY
My last side project inclusion, this is The National’s Matt Beringer with Brent Knopf. This song finds Beringer in a considerably better mood he usually is with his main act, as this alternative rock borders on disco at times. Beringer’s deep, barrel-aged voice compliments it like a fine wine pairing.
22. Your Song – Elton John
“But Ryan, this is his second album!!” Well, I sit typing this in America, and his self-titled album was actually the first album released in the US although he had already released one in the UK. So there. Anyways, this song is vintage Elton, with heartfelt piano melodies and a swelling string section. I can’t believe he wrote it for me.
23. 40 Day Dream – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
A good old-fashioned stomp and clap, jaunty hippie folk song that makes you long for summer and ditching your responsibilities to buy a Volkswagen Bus and join a commune… just me?
24. Good Times Roll – The Cars
Joining the new wave of new wave, The Cars add synth to their rock n’ roll debut with a feel-good track.
25. Blame it On Me – George Ezra
Ezra’s smooth baritone is brought out for the first time in
this catchy, romantic pop track.