Listen to this: the ten best albums of the decade (according to me)


Photo courtesy of Mat Diana

Mat Diana, Managing Editor

To mark an incredible decade for music, this is a special edition of “Listen to This” listing my ten favorite albums from the 2010’s. As a few disclaimers: this list is only in alphabetical order, is not definitive, and entirely based on my own opinion. To the last point, it is also entirely subjective, and mostly meaningless to anyone besides me.

2012-2017 –Against All Logic

            Releasing this album under his seldom-used pseudonym, Nicolas Jaar’s magna-opus of house music took the genre to its conceptual peak. He crafted an album perfect for passive or active listening, from the dreary driving beats of “Cityfade” to the blaring horns and smooth rhythm of “Now U Got Me Hooked.”                               

A Seat at the Table – Solange

            For a career defined by her willingness to speak openly about personal and social issues, Solange painted her most beautiful portrait of her lived experience with A Seat at the Table. Building off elements of soul and R&B, the album stands as one of the more beautiful interpersonal projects of the decade, benefiting greatly from Solange’s vocals and a painstaking, perfectionist production, with the standout single “Cranes in the Sky” taking eight years between its conception in 2008 and its release. 

Art Angels –Grimes

            Departing from the darker tones of Visions,Grimes fully embraced her pop-persona in Art Angels with a style that fits her spry vocals perfectly. On tracks like the “Venus Fly,” featuring Janelle Monáe, sporadic pacing and disjointed chorus, verse, and instrumental tracks make clear that while Grimes may embrace pop sonically, she does not fall back on formulaic tracks. 

Blonde – Frank Ocean

            Some albums are well worth the wait. With Blonde,Frank Ocean accomplished the impossible by improving on Channel ORANGE with an album so cohesive, it is a wonder he did not take longer to finish it. This album will top many other year-end lists, and for good reason; it may come to be the defining R&B album of this era. 

Bottomless Pit – Death Grips

            In 2016, the most exciting act of the 2010’s finally consolidated their sound. With the clean-cut sound of The Money Store, the raw energy of Government Plates, and a hint of the melodies they would explore further on Year of the Snitch, Death Grips embraced all their greatest attributes in a project that seems like a benchmark in the timeline of experimental hip-hop.  

Crumbling –Mid-Air Thief

            As a genre, Folktronica may seem too gimmicky to produce anything worthwhile. Mid-Air Thief navigates the middle ground perfectly, blending guitar driven verses with electronic beats and embellishments in a way that sounds anything but unnatural. The standout opening trio of songs “Why,” “These Chains,” and “Gameun Duet” set the tone for a record unafraid to push boundaries, while backup vocals from indie artist Summer Soul lead to beautiful harmonies throughout. 

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West

            Coming out of the then-low point in his public perception, Kanye West released his maximalist dream project, embracing all the best attributes of his wide-ranging repertoire. West’s production and composition made the platform for the greatest contributions from his collaborators to-date, bringing career highlights from Nikki Minaj on “Monster” and Rick Ross on “Devil in a New Dress.” For all the cloudiness in Kanye’s musical and public legacy, his accomplishment on this project will stand as his tour-de-force, and perhaps his paramount contribution to hip-hop.  

Nonagon Infinity – King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard

            In an album built on the novelty of a never-ending loop of tracks, King Gizzard pulled together some of their best songs in a fast-paced, low-fi rock epic. Choruses and guitar riffs reappear to methodically tie tracks together in an album that otherwise sounds like it may be entirely improvised. Seamless transitions make an album that demands to be listened to in its entirety; once, twice, or… infinitely.

 To Be Kind –Swans

            Swans’ newest incarnation has made it clear that rock music still has plenty of room to grown, while To Be Kind is where they came as close as possible to mastering all of its new potentials. Suspenseful, guitar-driven tracks make a listening experience ranging from uncertain to exhilarating to hypnotic. Swans’ dark masterpiece seamlessly blends fast-paced tracks like “Oxygen” with the droning “Kirsten Supine,” while never sacrificing its finely crafted emotional arc.

 To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar

            No other album on this list, or any in history that I know of, can claim responsibility for garnering the artist an invitation to the Obama White House. For one of the decades most talented artists, To Pimp a Butterfly is Kendrick Lamar at his most sincere, provocative, and unapologetically political. Like most of his catalogue, this project is a masterwork in lyricism, and its structure may be looked back on as a turning point for the hip-hop concept album. 

Honorable Mentions: A Moon Shaped Pool, Radiohead; Blackstar, David Bowie; channel ORANGE, Frank Ocean; Lush, Snail Mail; Some Rap Songs, Earl Sweatshirt; Twin Fantasy, Car Seat Headrest; Vulnicura, Björk.