To celebrate 10 years of Warm Visions / Combo Breaker Kid, I’ve compiled my 200 favorite albums of the 2010s. Not only that, but I’ve concocted “Warm Visions” descriptions and wrote blurbs about each record. I’m sure you can infer from that that this is a long post, so get your popcorn, get your cookie dough bites, get a cuppa tea in a nice insulated mug – you’re gonna be scrolling quite a bit.
This is a ranked list of 200 albums that’s chock full of personal gems, obvious premium indie biggos, landmark generational achievements and dark horses that most have forgotten about. I initially had a list of 100, but thought why not expand to 200? It’s my own damn blog and I have a lot of records I want to write about. Collectively all the preparation and execution adds up to nearly a year’s worth of work. Yes, that’s far too much time to be working on a Best Albums of the Decade post. I know this. But I had a lot of fun doing it, so that’s what matters.
The ranking is pretty fluid and shouldn’t mean much to you until you get to the Top 20 or so. Those are the true lifetime favorites. I was moving records around position-wise the day before this was released, so clearly the numbers don’t mean a whole lot. It’s just a snapshot of where I’m at right now. Who knows what my AOTD will be in five years. You should just listen everything I’ve listed here, regardless of ranking. I tried including streaming links for each record, but it turns out having 200 embedded YouTube videos in one post slows it down a bit. Instead, you can sample most of these in my massive Best Songs of 2010-2019 Spotify playlist! Sorry to those who don’t have Spotify, I’ll try and branch out this decade!
Thanks for reading and following along with this goofy blog for 10 years. Hope you enjoy.
200. CHASTITY BELT – Time To Go Home 
Nothing serious, everything’s a joke.
This is an album that defined my final semester of college. Jammy, jangly indie rock that has a great sense of humor. Sounds like the comedown after a drunk night out with friends, but still holding the memories of the times y’all spent together near and dear to your heart.
199. OWEN PALLETT – Heartland 
A ballet with intense, coordinated dance routines in a snowstorm.
Owen Pallett made a smart, dramatic chamber pop masterpiece on Heartland. Haven’t really heard this style of music be replicated this decade. “Lewis Took Off His Shirt” is eternal. Where the heck is a new Owen Pallett album is what I want to know!
198. DEERHUNTER – Monomania 
Doing a sick motorcycle jump over a pit of alligators while shedding a single tear.
Kind of the start of the current phase of Deerhunter. It also exists in a universe of its own, one of blown out distortion, Bradford Cox’s ultimate flamboyance and incorporating more country elements into their rock layout. “Sleepwalking” is the hit! Hearing “Monomania” live was killer, they blow the roof off the venue with noise.
197. KRILL – A Distant Fist Unclenching 
Waking up with every surface of your house covered in mouse traps.
Taking cues from obvious alternative rock bands of the late 80s/early 90s like Pixies while also doing weirdo stuff no one else has did then or since, Krill made one of the best Exploding In Sound releases of the decade. It seems like their debut is more widely regarded as the classic, but this one is near and dear to my heart. This one has “Tiger”, which has one of the best buildup/payoffs ever recorded: over a minute of cathartic guitar pounding. It’s worth it.
196. DIRTY BEACHES – Badlands 
The most glamorous car crash in the west.
Came onto this one late, but I’m glad I did. Noir rockabilly vibe with a knack for noise. There are some truly beautiful, top-decade moments on this LP, like the shrieking guitar solos on “A Hundred Highways” (totally the most glamorous car crash song since “In The Kingdom #19” by Sonic Youth) and of course “Lord Knows Best”, one of the best songs ever. Dude is obsessed with Twin Peaks and it shows. Wish he made more records like this but I respect his artistry and what he’s doing now.
195. ROYAL HEADACHE – Royal Headache 
Drinking a ton of caffeine and trying to see all of your friends in one day.
High energy garage rock with one hell of a singer. One of the great rock records of this decade. I think my Warm Vision description above does this record justice in providing what you need to know about the sound. It’s jittery, infectiously positive and blows by in a second. The obvious star of the show is singer Tim “Shogun” Wall, whose soulful wailing puts an extra earnest layer on top of the hyped up garage rock instrumentals.
194. GRAVE BABIES – Crusher 
The sound of a metal baseball bat making impact with a human skull.
Man this is a gross record. Some of the grimiest coldwave/post punk ever recorded. It seems like the audio was recorded, abandoned, then the tape grew mold and the engineers just said “yeah this is fine.” Everything is totally blown out and distorted but still… sounds good? It’s confusing. Either way, if you’re looking for a goth-as-hell ride to Heck with some GREAT hooks and inventive production, look no further than this overlooked gem.
193. WHITE DENIM – Last Day of Summer 
Having a leisurely day grilling outdoors unravels once you realize your dog has knowingly locked you out of your own house, causing you to get help from your neighbors to try get back into your abode before the sun sets.
This record holds an incredibly special place in my heart. It was a major soundtrack to my final summer spent living in Michigan and has remained in heavy summer rotation since then. Maybe the quintessential summer rock album for me? It’s lightweight, breezy, soulful, groovy, but most of all it’s FUN. It sounds like the band had a blast making this record and it translates perfectly to the listener. Seems like a precursor to bands like Whitney even. Don’t you dare miss this one and add it to your summer playlist ASAP.
192. WAXAHATCHEE – Cerulean Salt 
Going fishing as healing after a traumatic incident.
This record has grown on me SO much since it first came out. Katie Crutchfield has some wild way of crafting a song that packs in so much room for wistfulness, about family, about relationships, in such small packages. I have more to say about her songwriting later, but her first step into real indie rock icon status is a marvelous one.
191. JULIA HOLTER – Ekstasis 
Making a boat out of a cloud and sailing to an undiscovered continent.
Whereas Holter’s following two albums are like being plunged within a dream, this is more sketches of dreams with a touch of rigidity to its formula. Still, this album easily envelops the listener in baroque dream pop, a gateway between her early heavily experimental work and her more accessible albums that followed this one.
190. FEAR OF MEN – Early Fragments 
Encountering a vision in a secluded sea cave of a sailor that was lost at sea.
There is just something so special about this band. With lyrics that touch on mysticism that intertwines with the singer’s own personal troubles, all set with a punchy jangle pop background. Any fans of indie rock or jangle pop owe themselves to listen to this record and their follow-up Loom.
189. PERFUME GENIUS – No Shape 
Throwing 100 bouquets of roses into a stream and floating among them downriver.
Both bold and vulnerable in the same breath. This is the most complete Perfume Genius album, with luscious instrumentation featuring strings, epic flourishes in the choruses and tender keys. The pure variation of sound among these tracks is also astonishing. Just so awesome to see this project grow so much over the past 10 years.
188. TY SEGALL BAND – Slaughterhouse 
A homemade roller coaster made with a riding lawn mower goes dangerously off the rails.
Maybe the only garage rock record from this decade that you need to listen to? Ok, I’m definitely biased against the genre after overdosing on it sometime in 2015, but damn the Ty Segall Band experience from 2012 still hits. It’s fun and destructive, clearly pulling inspiration from Ty Segall’s background in hardcore (or maybe his proximity to it in CA) and blending it with blues, sludge metal, noise rock and more.
187. BILL CALLAHAN – Apocalypse 
Riding a horse to a motel in Montana and booking one room for the horse and one for yourself because the horse doesn’t like that you watch political commentary late at night.
I’m not the most familiar with Bill Callahan’s massive catalog, but man is this a satisfying album to listen to. Serious somber simmering on some tracks and a lightweight jesterness on others. One of America’s great modern folk songwriters. Definitely one that I’m going to be revisiting more as I get more time to digest it.
186. THE BETHS – Future Me Hates Me 
The satisfying feeling of watching your close friends and family react negatively and shamefully after you say something really self-deprecating but actually very funny.
Scientifically engineered all-star indie rock BANGER CENTRAL right here. The melodies, the hooks, the performances, the arrangements – it’s all there and it’s all top-notch. Any Alvvays fans… or really just indie rock fans in general need to be anticipating The Beths’ sophomore album, hopefully coming early in the 20s.
185. MACINTOSH PLUS – Floral Shoppe 
An entire city of people that look incredibly cool in an 80s way, but hold music comes out of their mouths when they try to speak.
At first listen, I hated this record. I feel like that’s the most common reaction when presented this record. I kept listening. Why, I thought. Why does this collection of wacky, slowed down hold music jams + Whitney Houston keep pulling me back in? Well, it’s pretty infectious and unlike anything (most things) out at the time. It certainly spearheaded a whole new internet renaissance if you can call it that. Just go in with a good sense of humor and you’ll have a good time.
184. FRANK OCEAN – Channel Orange 
A long weekend of partying and engaging in the most basic pleasures at home while your parents are away.
Come for “Pyramids”, stay for “Pyramids”. Nah I mean, this is a modern classic! The early baby steps that soon turned out to be baby rocket shoes shooting Frank Ocean into being a modern R&B and pop culture titan. Kinda nerdy, very romantic, a bit elusive, extra sweet, jazzy and groovy in the right spots, and with peak guest features for 2012 (Earl, John Mayer and Andre 3000, what a combo). This has faded on me a bit, but its influence has continued to make ripples in the current music environment.
183. FLOATING POINTS – Crush 
Completing complex equations on a giant chalk board opens a gate to a secret dimension.
I recently wrote a bit about this in my Best Albums of 2019 post, but the main gist is that the swirling, gorgeous sounds on this LP are intoxicating. How something can be so invigorating while also being so pleasing to the mind is a wonderful thing. Just brilliant electronic music.
182. TOPS – Picture You Staring 
Rosy smiles and loose laughter fill a room more than the furniture in it does.
Another record that defined my senior year of college and all the parties, hangouts and friendly times that came along with it. To perfectly cap off my final year as a TOPS-centric one, I got to book the band a show at my college and partied with them and my good friends afterwards. This record will always bring back fond memories for me. I assume that it will do the same with anyone else who goes back to listen to it. It’s just such a lovely companion to have. Blissful, romantic and dreamy pop music. Put a few of these cuts on at your next party.
181. HOLLY HERNDON – Platform 
The price to pay if you forget all your account passwords all at once.
This record totally broke my brain when I first heard it. Not only was it my introduction to ASMR (weird!) but it also provided me a song that literally gives me an anxiety episode whenever I listen (maybe more when it first came out), which is “An Exit” featuring Amnesia Scanner. Meshes of voice and brutal computerized sounds twisted and contorted around rippling bass and cacophonous crashes of malfunctioning electronics. This album continues to be an inspiration to me, despite some of its obtuse edges.
180. KRALLICE – Years Past Matter 
Lightning strikes the earth so intensely that magma begins to surge out of the strike zone, along with molten hordes of undead agents of hell.
What a trip! I’m really not well-versed when it comes to metal terminology but man does this thing rip. I’m feeling like there are elements of black metal, heavy metal, death metal, doom metal and more. In short, it’s HEAVY. Everything pops from the mix and nothing is lost in the frenzy. I would be listening to this in headphones and just feel myself vibrating from the excitement. There are long songs, but they buckle you in for the ride: there’s no getting out now. If you’re interested in dipping into metal or haven’t checked this out, I cannot recommend this enough.
179. ELITE GYMNASTICS – RUIN 
An intense sugar rush from an experimental candy yields to an emotional, delirium-inducing crash.
Of course it’s natural for artists to move on and do new things over time as they change on their own, but damn I’m bummed that Elite Gymnastics isn’t around anymore, because RUIN is magic. RUIN is a combo of two EPs: the first contains rave-inspired, lo-fi pop that’s a total blast, and the second comprises of “chopped & screwed” versions of those original songs that are some of the most melancholy and numbing of the decade. The two “HERE, IN HEAVEN” tracks are some of my absolute favorites. Try and find this on Soundcloud(!) or YouTube, since it’s not on streaming services. Please bring it back!
178. TAKAO – Stealth 
Taking a seat on a deserted beach on a bright, breezy day, the smells and sounds of the Earth and sea take control of your subconscious and guide you through your troubles.
Maybe the most under the radar record on this list. According to last.fm, I’m this artist’s top listener. Brilliant new age / neoclassical debut album from Tokyo. Accompanied many-a-snooze + commute + stressful moment throughout 2019 (where it was far and away my most listened-to album). To say this sounds and feels like the cover, a bright and shining island scene, would be a disservice to its versatility, but its minimal tones and soothing, smooth textures really do transport the listener to a peaceful place.
177. SAM AMIDON – The Following Mountain 
A bluegrass fever dream where everything transforms into sweaty free jazz.
I’ve loved Sam Amidon’s music for a long time now, but this is his best album in my eyes. Taking heady Arthur Russell-like experimentation and bringing it into a more bluegrass zone is just amazing. Not to mention, jazz also flies into this record with help from new and old masters like Sam Gendel, Shahzad Ismaily and Milford Graves. No boundaries are safe.
176. GORILLAZ – Plastic Beach 
A planet-wide treasure hunt spanning from harsh deserts, to frozen depths, to impregnable jungles, all while being chased by a shadowy government operative.
What can I say about Plastic Beach? This was my most-anticipated album going into this decade and for the most part it’s held up beautifully, especially when compared to Gorillaz’ last two records of the . This record balances solid guest performances (that seem legit / fit into the sound of the album) with a good amount of Damon Albarn to glue it all together. I’m a Gorillaz fan through and through – there’s no way I’ll abandon this album.
175. DAVID BOWIE – Blackstar 
A wizard calls a meteorite to Earth just to harvest its rare minerals to use in a powerful, dimension-opening spell.
The final transmission from David Bowie. We lost him far too soon, but it was so kind of him to leave us with such an enigmatic, multi-layered and intense final record. It’s got plenty of doom and gloom, but you can tell Bowie was having fun experimenting on this one. I didn’t find myself listening to it super often since its release, but I appreciate it mightily nonetheless.
174. KLLO – Backwater 
Warm lights bob and pulsate around and against two stainless steel sculptures of lovers.
This record is so damn underrated! I don’t know what you’d call it: downtempo vocal house? Electronica? Regardless, there are some bangers on this record that I’ve returned to time and time again since 2017. It definitely takes cues from the late 90s / early 00s but keeps its sound in the present for the most part. The singles are obviously hits, but even deeper cuts like the mostly instrumental “By Your Side” is hypnotic and totally a zoner.
173. ARIEL PINK – pom pom 
A children’s cartoon program hit with alien distortion rays becomes NOT a children’s program very fast, mentally scarring families across the nation in real time.
You’re a strange one, Mr. Pink. There are a few stinkers on here, but the songs that hit are some of Ariel Pink’s all-time best. It sounds like jingles from 80s and 90s television commercials that have been distorted to hell and back, spliced with odd ballads found on black spine VHS tapes found in a Salvation Army. A bizarre hodgepodge home video with ambiguous, terrifying homemade commercial breaks.
172. 2814 – 新しい日の誕生 / Birth of a New Day 
Taking solitary evening strolls through a post-apocalyptic metropolis, where the city lights still beam with energy but the streets are disturbingly empty.
This is a special record for me. When I was commuting between Connecticut and New York once a week in 2015, I would listen to this album on every return trip back to CT. It’s a perfect late-night train companion. It may be a bit bloated near the end (also I’d be fully asleep by then) but the first few tracks are absolute ambient / vaporwave bliss. An instant teleportation device to an emotional timeline set in a bustling, futuristic metropolis.
171. SZA – CTRL 
Eating a delicious fruit plate and sliding around on wood floors while burning the possessions of an annoying ex.
There are moments on this record where I’m like holy smokes, this record is my favorite of 2017. Some of the choruses are so next level (“Drew Barrymore” is far and away my favorite), SZA’s voice is athletic, bounding all over her register, and the amount of different sounds synergizing here is an inspiration for future pop/R&B of the 20s. We’re already seeing examples right now, but I’m anticipating even more fantastic, experimental yet successful records like it coming soon.
170. HUNDRED WATERS – Hundred Waters 
Glowing cave moss provides light for a small troupe of bioluminescent forest nymphs putting on a micro symphony for travelers.
Another madly underrated record. Doesn’t really sound like much else. Kind of pigeonholed into the “folktronica” label and yes, they fuse organic and synthetic instrumentation, but the way they weave together their own wondrous world with this diverse array of sounds and timbres is so gorgeous. It’d be a crime if I didn’t mention the lofty, totally unique voice of singer Nicole Miglis, who’s able to string together this blinking, mossy forest tale together. They’ve moved past this sound on their most recent album, but I’m happy they gave us this to begin their career.
169. TR/ST – Joyland 
A high-speed, gravity-defying plummet down a blinking, strobing, throbbing chasm.
Want the feeling of going to a dark, smoky club with alien-like dance music but don’t actually want to go out? Look no further than the sophomore record from TR/ST, who plunges the listener into a vibe unlike any other. It’s sinister and joyous. It’s dramatic and throbbing. It will hit you with a total fetish dance banger (“Capitol”, “Peer Pressure”) and then turn on the emotions (#emotionalinthecub) with a slow burner cooldown (“Are We Arc?”). Like I said, I don’t think any other record on this list captures the vibe that this one lays out. Go embrace your hedonistic side and blast this record in your room.
168. THE BOOKS – The Way Out 
A self-help seminar that ends up alienating and endangering most of its attendees due to an accidental demon summoning.
The Books: a singular entity that was gone too soon! Would love to have seen what they would have made together in the late 10s. They’re kind of like the Everything Is Terrible of music-makers, taking samples from old television and radio broadcasts and connecting them with electronic and folky instrumentation. Their records never fail to make me smile and this one is no different, with plenty of fun little snippets that will make you question what the actual context was behind it. Tons of fun, outrageous fun.
167. FATHER JOHN MISTY – I Love You, Honeybear 
Reading the advice column newspaper and then jumping in a fountain without removing anything from your pockets.
Haven’t gone back to I Love You, Honeybear with as much vigor as I did when it was first released (cause I listened to the SHIT outta this in 2015), but some of the songs still hit super hard with me. Really great, satisfying songwriting, hilarious and tragic lyrics, and the endless personality dolloped onto these tracks from FJM makes for something resembling classic in my eyes.
166. JULIANNA BARWICK – Nepenthe 
Sitting in an outdoor hot tub one peaceful winter night and watching the steam drift through the bare tree limbs, mingling with the clouds.
Totally gorgeous new age / ambient music based on echoed loops of Julianna Barwick’s voice, usually accompanied by piano and strings. “Pyrrhic” is my favorite on here and features guest vocals from Jonsi of Sigur Ros. If you’ve never listened to Barwick’s music before, I’d say the prettier, slower moments from Sigur Ros records are a good comparison. We’ll see more of her later though – I have much more to say.
165. FORD & LOPATIN – Channel Pressure 
Being afflicted with a dangerous case synth poisoning after too much noodling.
Joel Ford and Daniel Lopatin (Oneohtrix Point Never) expanded their extremely-online GAMES project for a full-length album with wonderful results. This is a severely overlooked record that has a ton of gems on it. 80s synth nerd soaked pop jams. There are two songs with Autre Ne Veut singing. There are crunchy guitars. There’s plenty of wacky drum programming. All the technologic synths you could ask for. Sometimes it sounds like a nightmare. Other times it sounds like you’re flying through the air on a hoverboard as you high-five an anti-drug PSA penguin mascot. This record does hold a lot of sentimental value, so that’s probably another reason why it’s on here, but it’s still a worthwhile listen. Especially for those wanting to capture all of Oneohtrix’s work.
164. WHITNEY – Light Upon The Lake 
An honest, supportive get-together with old friends helps heal internal and emotional injuries sustained in the time since their last meeting.
In 2016, I was absolutely head over heels with this record. I had graduated college the year before and the songs here reminded me of vital hangs with my sweet friends. A few years have passed by since then. These songs no longer carry that spark, rather play like faraway memories. I no longer hang out with friends. I no longer have the same lightness in social situations. I have become reclusive and have the feeling that all my friends feel the similarly. This no longer makes me feel like I’m together with them, but instead like those days have passed, a glossy picture framed on a wall in a room I don’t go into often.
163. MAC DEMARCO – 2 
A big graphic tee from high school that brings you comfort in casual moments like getting a slushee from the gas station.
Hey take a chill pill bro! Remember 2012 when Mac DeMarco was a bright-eyed upstart making music for the kids? Yeah that was a good time. That was a simpler time. I could listen to “Ode To Viceroy” and “My Kind of Woman” without thinking of a meme of a teen with comically rolled jeans and 10 cigarettes stuffed in their nose. Man that sounds pretty cool. Listen now it still definitely feels like sitting in an old car with carpet-lined seats and just cruising around town. Glad it hasn’t been completely ruined by irony.
162. THE BABIES – Our House On The Hill 
Doing a dance around a sunflower in the middle of your apartment to help it grow.
Does anyone remember The Babies? I sure do. Kevin Morby and Cassie Ramone coming together for jangly power pop tunes that make you feel like dancing. After listening to a few solo Morby records from this decade, you can tell he had a big hand in the guitar sound on this record. We already saw a Vivian Girls reunion last decade, who’s to say we won’t see a Babies reunion in the 20s? I really don’t know if there are any other politics surrounding this band not being around anymore, so don’t get mad at me if there are. Just a great, overlooked indie rock supergroup that you should listen to if you haven’t.
161. GRIMES – Visions 
– Looking into a mirrored marble reveals the hidden extraterrestrial beings that feed on your excess brain heat.
– Finding liberation in a cybernetic sacrifice circle.
Some decade-defining synth pop right here. “Genesis” and “Oblivion” are obviously the GOATs, but songs like “Be A Body”, “Vowels” and “Nightmusic” still bang too. I’ve fallen out with this album a bit, but listening to it again now really does bring me back to 2012. It seemed like everything was gonna get really weird and really fun back then. Things definitely did get weird but way too fast and then it burned out. Now things are all twisted upside down and inside out. But listening to this makes me feel better again. This album is so iconic I somehow wandered onto the McGill football field when I was in Montreal and took a picture because it’s the setting for some of the shots in the “Oblivion” music video.
160. JESSICA PRATT – Quiet Signs 
Sitting in the corner booth of a 24-hour diner at 2am, watching waitresses and clientele, steam rising out of the kitchen window, woman smoking on the curb outside, your own contorted face in a soup spoon.
What else can I say about the album that you can’t already gleam from the Warm Visions description? It’s a cool, collected night alone, walking through a city. Delicate acoustic guitar, faraway warbling piano, flourishes of flute, and a rogue tambourine all provide Jessica Pratt’s cloud-like voice a place to stay. It’s gorgeous night music, plain and simple.
159. REAL ESTATE – Days 
The feeling of a refreshing summer breeze that beckons the call of incoming autumn.
Although I haven’t found myself listening to Real Estate that much lately, this record still has jam after jam. Whereas Jessica Pratt’s Quiet Signs (listed above) is a night music record, this is perfect for mornings and lazy afternoons. Everything here is presented lackadaisically, but with intent. Nothing is taken for granted, even though it may be low energy: a gentle frisbee toss, a friendly pat on the back, a slow ceiling fan. It’s all there to support you, but it’s just taking it easy right now.
158. JENNY HVAL – Apocalypse, girl 
Ascending to heaven and after finding out there’s just as much misogyny and rampant ignorance up there, you will yourself back to life to try accessing a different afterlife.
Experimental dream pop with a dose of feminist poetry? Does that work? Jenny Hval embraces harmonies and sounds that are so gloriously beautiful and emotive (“That Battles Is Over”, “Heaven”) but also so unsettling (“Holy Land”, White Underground”) that this album is an entire journey between a sort of heaven and hell, with sexual tension and freedom being at the center.
157. SAMPHA – Process 
An extremely likable protagonist is on a journey to recover his lost memories.
Like I wrote in the Warm Visions description, there’s something about Sampha that makes him so likable. His voice carries a distinct earnestness that gives the music so much more weight. You really believe that he feels strongly about what he’s singing about. The result is an album that may have been forgotten to time if Sampha doesn’t follow it up with some heat. But with songs like “Under”, “Kora Sings”, “(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano” and “Blood Knows” I know I’ll be listening to this for a while, so it better not get lost to time.
156. JANELLE MONAE – Dirty Computer 
A deliciously funky sexual revolution to get all this bogus business balanced.
Ultra-funky and accessible pop/R&B hybrid album whose very existence makes me very happy. A bit heavy-handed with mission statements, but the fact that a sex-positive, queer-friendly album that’s also this liquid and groovy was incredibly successful is awesome. Janelle Monae is so hard to dislike, so when she starts having fun on this record, it’s hard not to get wrapped up in it too.
155. ANGEL OLSEN – MY WOMAN 
An eternal blush from a love-stricken patron warms an entire late night diner.
Retro-touched diner ballads + pump up love songs. Maybe all I can think of is the roller rink from the “Shut Up Kiss Me” video, but I can see this working really well in some roller rink scene in an old movie. At times MY WOMAN taps into the raw emotions of Olsen’s debut Strange Cacti, but in a much more polished and down to earth way. Come for “Shut Up Kiss Me”, stay for the sequence of “Sister” + “Those Were The Days” + “Woman”.
154. BIG THIEF – Two Hands 
Doing karate in the woods by yourself and a courier brings you a fruit basket.
Rollicking and confident indie rock that has one of the decade’s best songs (“Not”) on it. I say confident, but only in the scope of Big Thief’s previous work, which has prided itself of ramping up and paying off with anxiety-laden rock tracks. These songs are still vulnerable, but they’re relatively straightforward and sounds almost celebratory at times. The trio of “Those Girls” + “Shoulders” + “Not” is a three-course meal of big feelings.
153. CHARLI XCX – Charli 
Going so fast in a car that realities begin to separate, splitting your consciousness between an ultra-futuristic, utopic society and one built out of your neuroses and paranoia.
Charli XCX established herself as the bastion pop hero of the 10s by releasing radically experimental and infectious projects. Her first proper LP in this new era of Charli is fantastic and follows up on the high expectations set by Pop 2. If this album had a few less tracks, it would be near-perfect, probably on Pop 2 level. The songs I like less on the record bring it down a few pegs (which is saying something, considering the songs I do like are mind blowingly good), but overall it’s got some truly remarkable pop songs here. The first six songs are near-untouchable levels of good.
152. SMERZ – Have fun EP 
Across a foggy, strobe-lit club, a dancer stares at you intimidatingly.
Brutally cool. Smerz create an atmosphere like no other on their releases but especially so on Have fun, where the duo pair shattering, blown out bass with vocals that almost sound bored. They’re just barely there; lyrics slowly being uttered by the two singers like they couldn’t care less if you were listening or not. That’s so damn cool. Meanwhile, the instrumentals feel like an aggressive bouncer most times, making their presence felt with girthy thumps of bass and head-rattling metallic sound effects. The chaos from the instrumentals paired with this unaffected delivery makes for a fantastic foil, like filing your nails in a collapsing elevator shaft.
151. MY BLOODY VALENTINE – mbv 
Smearing a human soul on a slide and observing it under a microscope.
Sometimes I think that I don’t like this record anymore. Then all the other times I’m like hell yeah, My Bloody Valentine put out another record and it’s got some straight up bangers on it. What would you call a shoegaze banger? A question for another day that needs a team of at least 10 scientists and likely a specific French Canadian shoegaze master. MBV delivers another classic album where the guitars sound like nothing else. Also, it’s widely agreed upon that they sampled an jet engine for “wonder 2”, right? If not, that’s impressive. I’m definitely a fan of the first half over the second, but the legends themselves were able to put out a solid record this decade. Props to them.
150. FRANK OCEAN – Blonde 
Getting emotional thinking about life while sitting in a hot tub overlooking the city.
I’m not the biggest fan of Blonde, but it certainly has its deserved place in the scope of the 10s. The endless clamoring for a new Frank album really did yield something that Gen Z’ers will consider a timeless classic. I’m gonna stop acting high and mighty now, cause that’s corny as hell. It’s a solid album, that’s for sure. “Nights” is the obvious jam for me, “Close to You” is killer, “Nikes” of course. Chances are you’ve listened to this already. Granted the day it came out I was the sickest I had been all decade, so it still reminds me of that gross period. I’m sure once I listen to this even more it’ll connect. I’m sure.
149. FUTURE ISLANDS – In Evening Air 
Running through nine cinder block walls at full speed and emerging unscathed.
Kind of funny to look back at reviews of this album and see how mixed critics were about it. Little did they know Future Islands would be one of the more talked-about bands of the mid-decade. Yes some of the songs feel samey-samey, but I feel like vocalist Sam Herring is at his most untamed here, making for more dynamic and engaging tracks. He’s just letting it all go on tracks like “Vireo’s Eye” and “Long Flight”. It may not have the instant hit-ness of Singles but man it’s got slow burn classics that I’ve returned to more than Singles over the course of the decade.
148. DJ KOZE – Knock Knock 
Laying in the bed of a pickup truck, you watch the skies change hue, listen to different sounds coming out of passing cars, and feel the terrain changing around you as you make your way across the country to visit an old friend.
Man this album is FUN. This was a go-to summer album in 2018 and 2019, bringing a casual bounce and breeze to all of my commutes. The specific set of sounds that Koze pulls from on this album tends to make a few of the tracks blur together, but the ones that really strike a chord are inescapable, “Pick Up” being the main favorite. “Illumination” feat. Róisín Murphy is my favorite – again, great bounce! Put this on once the weather starts to improve and watch your commute become an enjoyable jaunt down city streets.
147. CROSS RECORD – Wabi Sabi 
A small, candle-lit hot air balloon carrying an ancient inscription lofts over an angry sea and into a dark, storm-threatening sky.
Almost mythical sounding music. Bass drums boom far in the distance (“The Depths”). Smoky choirs of disembodied voices shriek forebodingly (“Basket”). Guitar melodies arc and twirl in the sky like lightning, with booming, thunder-like percussion following quickly after over a turbulent sea. Drowsy synth loops rumble beneath (“Lemon”). Wabi-Sabi carries all these cinematic and mysterious qualities, elevating it over so many potentially similar sounding indie rock / whatever-you-wanna-box-this-into-genre-music and making it into a special, memorable experience. If I ever wanna lay my angst down on record, I wanna do it like this. Like invoking the raw power of an old god from the great beyond.
146. KELELA – CUT 4 ME 
A chance encounter on the interplanetary space station yields one night of interspecies romance in the glow of distant star systems.
The best thing to come out of the Fade to Mind / Night Slugs explosion of 2011 – 2015. Stellar “futuristic” R&B record with booming bass, dark/non-traditional textures and a bit of “deconstructed club” atmosphere morphed into great vehicles for Kelela’s voice. The whole project is great, but “Bank Head” is the one to stay for. One of the best songs of the decade.
145. JENNY HVAL – The Practice of Love 
Being engulfed by the folds of a Georgia O’Keeffe painting.
While I would love for this album to be a bit longer, the songs that Jenny Hval did offer us here border on a body-freeing quality of sublimity that I haven’t found in much other modern music, aside from Hval’s 2016 record Blood Bitch, funnily enough. Something about the combination of smoky, mystifying synths and the pillowy voice of Hval’s makes for a totally intoxicating experience, even when she’s plunging into topics such as birth, the role of reproduction in society and abortion.
144. WEDNESDAY CAMPANELLA – Superman 
The ecstatic energy of a prideful parade, unironic and shining, as droves of dancers armed with confetti cannons strut their way down the avenue.
If you’re a fan of modern, hyperactive pop music, you owe it to yourself to listen to this. Yes, the lyrics are in Japanese. That part doesn’t matter thanks to the vivacity of lead singer KOM_I, who traipses around these futuristic fanfares like they’re bouncy furniture. Nearly every song is a direct plunge of pleasure into the brain. If you’re like me, you’ll find yourself smiling multiple times through your first listen. I only started listening to this a few months ago, so I anticipate I’m only going to keep liking it more and more. But like I said – any and all pop music fans need this in their lives.
143. CHRISTINE & THE QUEENS – Chris 
Ultimate naked lip-syncing post-shower in a foggy mirror moment compilation.
Hoo-wee. Thanks to Chris’ background being a dancer, her music is almost optimized for movement. It rolls, bounces and strikes poses, granting confidence to any listener. It’s hard not to get a little pep in your step while listening, or even just singing along once you know the words. It calls back to killer, dance-friendly pop of the 80s and early 90s a la Janet Jackson and Madonna, but definitely feels like it was made for this decade and beyond.
142. GROUPER – Grid of Points 
After a hard, summer rain, steam rises from a clearing that’s been ravaged by wildfires.
Grouper at her most minimal. Almost entirely just voice and piano, Grid of Points still sounds like Grouper, as it’s drenched in fog and allows Liz Harris’ voice to mesh into the echoing piano so everything arrives in a calming wave. Not to say everything is homogenous, but rather it’s intoxicating to be immersed in this cloud of sound.
141. SUN ARAW – On Patrol 
Having an out of body experience while stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on the hottest day of the year.
Have you ever listened to an album and thought “man this sounds sweaty”. A lot of Sun Araw’s early work carries that enviable(?) and unique quality: the ability to bring humidity purely in the aural sense. These are some gorgeous, long-form psych jams. The dark, murky universe that Sun Araw creates on this record is unlike anything I’ve heard this decade. Sticky, bubbling, broken air conditioner music. Sweat soaked through shirts. Closing out all other senses just to survive in the heat. Zoning in on the prize only. I used to write all my papers to this during my senior year of college, especially the nearly 17-minute closer “Holodeck Blues”, featuring furious hand percussion, melting guitars and a barn-burning finale for the ages.
140. PANDA BEAR – Tomboy 
Watching wave after wave of colorful, hypnotizing marine life pass in front of your eyes in large, cylindrical fish tank.
The string of singles that this record produced are near perfect. The rest of the album is just alright, but damn – “Alsatian Darn”, “Tomboy”, “You Can Count On Me”, “Surfer’s Hymn”… these are all fantastic tunes. I think the more I’ve gotten into Person Pitch and the more Panda Bear’s more recent material has faded in affinity for me, the more Tomboy has gone up in my eyes. It’s a gorgeous, swirling psychedelic record that’s really the only Animal Collective-related thing that came out this decade that I can reliably listen to.
139. SWEARIN’ – Swearin’ 
Throwing a couch off a rooftop into a swimming pool, then comically laying on it underwater.
If there’s an upbeat song on this record, chances are high that there’s an unreal hook or riff or melody in it. The hits just don’t stop coming on this record. The string from “1” to “Shrinking Violet” is just hit after hit. Nothing wrong with “Divine Mimosa” but all the other songs are just power pop perfection. Then “Hundreds and Thousands” to “Kill em With Kindness”? Mwah. Perfection. Amazing. This record is stupid good. Power pop classic. Love this band to death. Don’t really listen to much like it though. People – recommend me similar records to this. I bet they’re not as good as this one 😉
138. DANNY BROWN – Atrocity Exhibition 
Being thrown down a well that’s lined with fuzzy CRT television sets all showing surveillance footage of you trapped in said well.
Dark and dusty, damp and moldy, breakneck and decrepit. These adjectives come together on a hip hop record that nearly made Danny Brown broke via clearing samples. I know it’s a cliche to say “take a look into my twisted mind”, but this is really feels like one of those moments. Intense krautrock and psych samples mixed with signature Detroit grittiness Brown is known for. Sounds like years of partying has caught up to him and the paranoia has set in. No way paranoia has sounded this fun to dance along to. Also, the man sampled Indonesian gamelan music. He’s in the clear for life in my opinion.
137. BEACH HOUSE – Depression Cherry 
The feeling of descending the longest, most beautiful, jewel-encrusted, red carpet-lined staircase ever created in front of your adoring partner.
I think Depression Cherry is a misleading album title for this record. I don’t really associate it with being depressed at all, but more an overwhelming romantic sensation; one that rockets your conscious up into the stratosphere to float freely among space debris. Beach House continue to be up to their old tricks on this record and make some of the best songs of their career on it (see “Levitation”, “Sparks” and “Days of Candy”). If anything, I think the last song there would have fit best as an album name. It conjures up images of an alternate dimension perhaps, one of vast sweetness. Or perhaps visions of days that contained that honeyed feeling gone by. Either way, it’s another entry into Beach House’s near-perfect discography of syrupy love jams.
136. BRAIDS – Deep in the Iris 
Passing sunlight through assorted crystals and sketching floral arrangements in the casted colorful prisms of light on the ground.
One of the best synth pop records of the decade without a question! Although they elevate past the pure “synth pop” tag with lovely piano arrangements and effective percussion on every song, Braids pack powerful statements in songs that appear small but are really large in scope. Does that make sense? I mean that most of these songs are comprised of short, choppy instrumentation, but really blow the doors open when vocalist Raphaelle Standell-Preston lets her soaring voice loose. “Sore Eyes” is my favorite jam on this!
135. DNTEL – Human Voice 
Creating complex sequences with a synthesizer that’s plugged into a human brain watching roller coaster POV videos.
Purely instrumental electronic bliss with a sly dip into LA beat scene. Highly computerized sounding but human in approach. Sounds blip and bop in arranged routines but the little variations bring it all down to human level. The song “Connections” has a deep and personal connection to me – I listen to it all the time. The two songs that follow it are also fantastic. Also for those that don’t know – Dntel is the non-Ben Gibbard half of The Postal Service. So if you dig the micro-beats on that project, you might like this!
134. (SANDY) ALEX G – House of Sugar 
You return to the secluded wooded spot that you retreated to as a child to play with imaginary friends to find that it’s been clear-cut for a new suburb.
It has its odd bruises like any old piece of fruit, but it also has its crisp, sweet taste and bountiful juices that run down your chin. House of Sugar contains both (Sandy) Alex G’s strangest and most accessible material. “Gretel” is a banger for the ages. “Bad Man” is divisive to say the least. In the end though, it’s undeniably Alex G, one of the most vital songwriters of this decade.
133. THE WEEKND – House of Balloons 
Being brought to a dark basement club where the floor is made of some outrageously soft, stretchy substance, making you feel like you’re sinking into the floor with every step.
I remember thinking this was the coolest thing of all time when it first came out. A mysterious R&B singer from Canada dropped an album for free with songs about drug use, sex and dark consequences all paired with downtempo, sultry instrumentals that just ooze cool. Not to mention the samples on this thing: Beach House (twice!), Siouxsie and the Banshees, Aaliyah and Cocteau Twins. For someone that wasn’t well-versed in R&B (and guess what, I’m still not), this blew my mind. It was clearly an outlier in what I listened to at the time, but it definitely opened the door to my taste now. This will always be the GOAT in The Weeknd’s catalog, for my money.
132. WAXAHATCHEE – American Weekend 
Seeing friends you haven’t seen for a very long time and it didn’t bring the happiness that you thought it’d bring.
A homespun collection of hushed acoustic tunes, the world’s first taste of one of the decade’s finest songwriters, Waxahatchee. She went on to embrace a full rock band sound with her following record, but the stripped back and lo-fi quality of this release makes the confessional and emotionally ravaging songs that much more personal. “Noccalula” still hits me right in the heart. Also fun fact for those who don’t know, Waxahatchee (Katie Crutchfield) is the twin sister of Swearin’s Allison Crutchfield. Likely the only twin siblings on this list. Shout out to the Crutchfields, for real. They ruled this dang decade.
131. JAMES BLAKE – James Blake 
The power going out in an elevator with facing mirrors leads you to having conversations with your infinitely-repeating reflections in the dark.
This is another record that blew my mind in high school. Soulful crooning over spacious piano and spare electronics. Felt like I was entering into some mirrored world where time stopped. It also helped change my mind about autotune. I feel like this was around the time that I hated hearing autotune on the radio and this helped me recognize its potential as a tool to shape the human voice into alien formations, removing its natural humanity. This release alone has spawned so many copycats, but nothing even comes close to this crowning achievement.
130. DEAN BLUNT – Black Metal 
A country star is caught in a drug deal gone wrong, leaving them stranded in the darkest corners of a sprawling metropolis to fend for themselves.
I’m not as well-versed in Dean Blunt lore as much as other people I know, but I do know that this album is really, really great. Blunt jumps from genre to genre but keeps the whole thing sounding cohesive. I feel like that sentence makes sense on paper for any artist, but you gotta hear how many sounds and ideas are present on this record. How the hell do you get to a minimal grime instrumental from a lush acoustic ballad? Like my little description above, you get roped into this descent from a glitzy, polished album into a dark experimental corner of broken electronics and ominous vocals & rapping. It’s a chameleon act that gets better after every listen.
129. LITTLE SIMZ – GREY Area 
An in-depth profile of a local clique boss that’s beloved in their community, showing off their harsh edges but also their tender sides hidden behind closed doors.
Bursting with confidence but not cowardly enough to confront their nightmares, Little Simz made one of the most essential hip hop records of this decade with GREY Area. Not only is the record bold in lyrical content but it spreads itself out among a variety of great instrumentals and guest features. Each song has its own character and they all shine. It’s a beautiful, irony-free statement that makes me feel grateful it exists after every listen.
128. ANGEL OLSEN – Strange Cacti 
The dizzy feeling of counting stars for an entire night, feeling small and insignificant but also at peace with the universe.
Imagine being so filled with lofty romantic ideas or fantasies that you being floating away into the sky? Or becoming so drunk with feelings that you can’t help but stumbling down into a bush, but you don’t even notice? Angel Olsen is SO emotive in her vocal delivery on this project, it’s like her feelings are just spilling over from her brain. Pair that with the lo-fi quality of the recording, you’ve got a ghostly call from another world pouring out the remainder of their soul to a chosen audience member. The first transmission from Olsen is one that has matured well over time – I highly recommend revisiting this if you haven’t in a while.
127. ANDY SHAUF – The Party 
Picking up the coat that smells of the vintage velvet couch it rested on all night. Blown-out candles linger in the air, the glossy feeling of playing cards slip from fingers, you’re standing alone in the kitchen finishing your drink while groups of laughter and goodbyes burst from the foyer.
The Party somehow able to synthesize palpable feelings that stem from common interactions at any party you could ever attend. It shouldn’t be surprising; the album is literally called The Party. What else did you expect? Andy Shauf is able to do this thanks to his impeccable narrative songwriting, keeping us entertained with main characters that pop up throughout the length of the record, all exhibiting familiar feelings and actions that we can connect with. The music itself is also masterfully arranged and performed. I can attest that I have never seen people go as hard to soft rock as I did when I saw Andy Shauf and his band live a few years back. It’s subtle grooves that get it going. The pocket is there, but it’s easy to forget about that while you listen to the storytelling.
126. KAITLYN AURELIA SMITH – EARS 
Thickets of beautiful coral grow in the inner folds of your brain’s hemispheres.
Packed full of peculiar sounds and inquisitive synth explorations, EARS charmed the hell out of me in 2016. One of the few bright spots from that year on this list. With fusions of bubbling modular synthesis and organic elements like voice, winds and wooden percussion, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith created an aural landscape that’s easy to get lost in. Every song feels like it unfurls naturally, like there’s no other way this chord progression or melodic shift could have happened except for the way it did.
125. COLIN STETSON & SARAH NEUFELD – Never Were The Way She Was 
The brutal, yet calculated duel between snake and mongoose.
A balancing act between two forces of nature. This record is almost entirely saxophone and violin-based, constantly intertwining and disengaging like sand in the wind. With the thumping crush of Colin Stetson’s dynamic sax playing and Sarah Neufeld’s ethereal, long strokes of violin, the two paint a pained, eternally feuding portrait that is impossible to turn away from. They complement each other, but also stand out and fight for the spotlight in knotting passages of pure, bubbling anxiety. Two stars racing against time.
124. TODD TERJE – It’s Album Time 
An autonomous silk suit encrusted in mirror shards boogies and slides its way through tropical parties to find its chosen owner.
Condensed party in a jar. Although its glitziness has faded a bit for me and three of the tracks were featured on an earlier EP, there’s no denying some of these monster grooves on here makes this a classic album of the decade. “Inspector Norse” is the most obvious one. I will dance to that song til I die. “Johnny and Mary” had its moment for me when I was in college. “Strandbar” and “Delorean Dynamite” are white hot jammers. It’s not something I can listen to all the time, but when its time is right, it’s album time. Eyyyyy.
123. ONEOHTRIX POINT NEVER – Replica 
Lucid dreaming yourself flying into a vat of toxic waste runoff from old TVs.
My first real dive into Oneohtrix Point Never was a VHS-fueled nightmare scape. Actually though – the fact that this entire album was made from samples of old VHS tapes still blows me away. It sounds nothing like that. It sounds like a fuzzy sci-fi world where everyone’s too bloated on media consumption and a thick, Silent Hill-like fog gathers around eternally-on television screens. There are some pretty moments, but most feel like they’re trying to grasp onto something very temporary, continually fading away.
122. ROMAN À CLEF – Abandonware 
Speeding down the quaint roads of your hometown on a moped on the days leading up to your 20-year high school anniversary.
I think a total of like five people I know will be psyched about this record being so high up, or being on this list at all. What can I say? I’m a sucker for Prefab Sprout and these guys have executed the best faithful recreation. It’s wistful and romantic and has a great sense of humor about itself – they definitely know they’re channeling Sprout here. Yes it’s corny at times, but the hooks and catchiness is certainly there. It even reminds me of music featured in the first two Katamari Damacy games, which is one of the best compliments I can give.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fJjGZkPl9Tw It’s a fabulous throwback to luscious sophistipop, what is there not to like?
121. FEVER RAY – Plunge 
A human frozen alive for the past 80 years is thawed and experiences culture shock upon viewing the hedonistic behavior of today’s society, eventually succumbing to the overwhelming carnal pleasures.
You should have seen my face when I found out that Fever Ray was releasing a new album that year. You could have powered a small town in rural America with that beaming smile. The best part though is that I still love the record. It’s a bountiful celebration and revolution all rolled into one. Karin Dreijer sounds like she’s having the most fun of her life on here, with highly suggestive lyrics, obtuse sound effects and a liberal smattering of percussion. The last The Knife album unfortunately hasn’t stuck with me, but this has.
120. ANGEL OLSEN – Burn Your Fire For No Witness 
An old-time radio plays classics in a high school gymnasium, with one couple alone dancing and recounting stories of their love.
Seems like with this release Angel Olsen really stepped out and said “yep, this is my sound. You best be paying attention to me or else I’ll make you pay”. Bonafide killer rock tracks like “Forgiven/Forgotten” and “Hi-Five” flip to slow-burning torch songs like “White Fire” and “Dance Slow Decades”. And I couldn’t get away without mentioning the anthemic “Unfucktheworld”. Also feeling grateful for Angel Olsen this decade. Thank you Angel!
119. YO LA TENGO – Fade 
Going grocery shopping on a sunny Sunday morning to make a lovely dinner for friends coming over later in the week.
Maybe I’m just a hopeless fan, but I really do think that Yo La Tengo can do no wrong. How they were able to write so many classic-sounding songs this late into their career is amazing to me. “Ohm” is the massive standout for me, but songs like “Paddle Forward”, “Stupid Things”, “Before We Run”, “Well You Better” and “Cornelia and Jane” are on my must-hear-played-live list. No other band out there that makes me feel so at peace.
118. U.S. GIRLS – Half Free 
A widow whose partner died fighting overseas enacts a revenge plot on their negligent superiors.
Psychedelic nightmare pop. Bittersweet, ultra dramatic, noir/Chinatown-like vibes with a good dose of psychedelia thrown in. U.S. Girls bring the heat on nearly every track, combining a multitude of genres into swirling, vengeful storytelling courtesy of front person Meg Remy. Her lyrics and storytelling are incredibly vivid, and the way she sings just lights a fire and reminds me of the rage boiling in the heroines of exploitation movies from the 70s and 80s. Combustive guitars (check out “Navy & Cream” – the guitar solos on that are i n s a n e), paranoid sparking synths, cut-you-in-half shrillness. It’s a thrill ride.
117. TIM HECKER – Virgins 
From atop a dark tower, a hulking titan made of stone and steel robotically forges together ornate chandeliers of diamonds, pearls and other gemstones.
Tim Hecker once again created a world like no other on this album, this time making sounds that are akin to those in a glass-cutting factory or some similar industrial setting where small, sharp objects are being created. Like being thrust into a chute of metal shards and drifting in and out of consciousness. Brash horns blare at you at times, harsh, metallic piano corners you, thunderous blasts of distortion knock you off your feet. There are moments of peace, but it’s short-lived once the gears start turning again.
116. THE RADIO DEPT. – Clinging to a Scheme 
Growing a thriving palm tree in a place not usually hospitable for them, bringing you constant, coastal-tinged joy.
These folks from Sweden sure can make summery, shining music. I guess they have to harness all the sunlight they can before they go into almost complete darkness for part of the year. A go-to for me for almost every summer this decade. Songs on here just feel GOOD. Groovy, unironic slices of dream pop heaven.
115. SHARON VAN ETTEN – Are We There 
Sitting in a waiting room, regulating your breathing in anticipation of hearing a potentially life-changing verdict.
Sharon Van Etten knows how to put aching into song. Ache from emotional toil, ache from uncertainty, ache from lovesickness, ache from strained capabilities, ache from knowing something is over, ache from confusion. She conveys all these things so beautifully and so artistically, layered with harmonies and effective arrangements. It’s multiple darts straight to the heart, with each song punching you in a different way. I once had a friend ask me “so why do you even listen to sad music? Why make yourself sad like that?” Well, it’s beautiful to be sad sometimes.
114. CHRISTIAN SCOTT ATUNDE ADJUAH – Ancestral Recall 
Ancient alchemy brings to life a humanoid figure made of diamonds and jewels for an astral dance ceremony that happens once every 1000 years.
This record will make you love the trumpet. I almost 100% guarantee it. This record’s shrieking trumpet damn near made me cry on the subway. Such beautiful rhythms and sounds on this record. The sound of a vision being captured. Big shout out to Saul Williams for all his spoken word work on this as well.
113. MAJICAL CLOUDZ – Impersonator 
A future version of yourself travels back in time to tell yourself as a child they’ll always be alone.
A peek into a world that we wish lasted a bit longer. Majical Cloudz debut bottles a very distinct mood. It’s like you feel like you’re in a dark room alone, but you could be outside on a beautiful, sunny day. It’s an isolating album that’s lovesick as hell and has no cure. Its heartbroken nature will never cease. It’s like the character Florentino Ariza in Gabriel García-Márquez’s novel Love In The Time Of Cholera, who ravenously eats the flowers he wanted give his love interest if she didn’t reject him, only to get sick on the beach. For the true sad folks out there.
112. CLOUD NOTHINGS – Attack On Memory 
The sudden, crashing, aggravating realization that you will never amount to anything, no matter how hard you try or how much time you have.
Maybe my Warm Vision description above is a bit too harsh, but it really does feel like all the aggression powering this record is from a feeling of uselessness. It’s a theme on the record with song names like “Stay Useless”, “Wasted Days” and “No Future / No Past”. The kicking and thrashing and self-flagellating sarcasm that comes with years of complacency and laziness. Well, the hate that powers that machine can make one hell of a rock record. Also, putting a near 9-minute titan jammer as the second song of a record is also one hell of a statement.
111. DAUGHTERS – You Won’t Get What You Want 
Being trapped in a haunted house for 12 hours with intensely vengeful spirits, intent on constantly torturing you to the edge of consciousness until morning.
A pure hurricane of rage, confusion and hopelessness. Further pushing the finish line away during a mental breakdown. Raw intensity being shoved in the listener’s face for nearly 50 minutes. And when the record isn’t trying to tear your head off, it’s just making you nervous about the next time it will attempt to. It all culminates in one of the best album closers of all time, “Guest House”, which never fails at giving me goosebumps.
110. EMERALDS – Does It Look Like I’m Here? 
Uploading your brain into the cloud just for fun.
I remember this record blowing my mind in high school. I think the blog Drowned In Sound named it their top album of 2010, so during my independent study in the library I decided to try and listen to it. Immediately I knew I was in over my head. The most electronic music I had listened to up until that point was Burial. This was some heady, chugging, psychedelic computer music. It wasn’t until later I started noticing guitars in here. Then to just let go and let the music overtake you. A sublime instrumental trip into the ether. At times a perfect simulation of ideal weather scenarios, beamed in from a super computer that loves jam bands, space rock and Sun Ra.
109. VARIOUS ARTISTS – Mono No Aware 
A series of instrumental suites set to dreams of rooms.
The only compilation that made this list! While it does have tracks from established experimental mavens like Yves Tumor and M.E.S.H., it gave a chance to newer artists like Malibu, Kareem Lotfy, Oli XL, Sky H1 and more to kickstart their profiles. Some of the best ambient and experimental bites I’ve heard all decade. To zone out to this album is like nothing else. I had some pretty revelatory moments with this record in the year it came out, depressed out of my noggin on my slow-as-dirt morning J-train commute. It probably kept me going – another day is just another excuse to listen to this great record. PAN did something really special with this release and I am eternally thankful for it.
108. ALDOUS HARDING – Designer 
Having an existential crisis after meeting an ersatz version of yourself on vacation.
While not as electric as Harding’s sophomore record Party, Designer cements her as an absolutely essential and completely unique songwriter of the 10s. Her knack for making anxiety in woozy, uncertain moments sound beautiful is near-unparalleled. Basically the whole back half of the record sounds like it was being sung from the gallows by a court jester looking for a pardon but knows they won’t get one.
107. PREOCCUPATIONS – Viet Cong 
A bleak factory with no specific purpose where people pull pointless levers & press inactive buttons all day, but everyone goes home satisfied. Eventually they all die and are easily replaced.
Can a record still be good if the mental imagery that’s conjured is that of a towering cinderblock wall? An endless expanse of grey. It doesn’t help that the cover is greyscale. It also doesn’t help that the music is bleak as hell. But man, does it slap. Post punk for the ages right here, with plenty of personality (or lack of it? Post punk politics are weird, man). Throws a bunch of curveballs in songs (much appreciated in a post punk record, for real! The politics again my gaahh!) like “March of Progress”, “Silhouettes” and “Newspaper Spoons”. And who could forget the hits “Continental Shelf” and the hulking “Death”? My affection for post punk my have waned as the decade progressed but this record can still bring a tear out of my brutalist-free heart.
106. SKEE MASK – Compro 
Like being strapped inside a metal box that has one small window to look out of and being pushed down a large, snowy mountain.
I’ve said it in every blurb I’ve written about this album: the SOUNDS. To this day the volleys of bass in “Rev8617” get me amped. The breakbeats in “Kozmic Flush” or “Soundboy Ext.”, the washes of synth in “Via Sub Mids” or “Flyby VFR” just push all the right buttons in my pleasure centers. I’ve binged the hell out of this record so many times since its release and I have yet to get tired of it. I can only assume it will grow in favor as time passes and all new electronic records have to compare to this. Sorry, other records!
105. ERIKA DE CASIER – Essentials 
Taking an aromatic bubble bath after a night at the club and sending texts to your exes that you’re having fun without them.
Lush Y2K-era R&B instrumentals thrust into 2019? Usually I’d say “hmmm nope” but this is so damn satisfying to listen to. The songs are expertly arranged with all the best detailed flourishes, whether it be a water sound effect here, a camera lens sound effect there, weepy synthetic strings in the background, LCD screen bass, or Timbaland-like keys. It’s all there and it’s all beautiful.
104. DEMEN – Nektyr 
Underneath the old clock tower lies a pitch-black portal to another dimension. A dark, dripping hand slowly extends from the gaping opening after you recite the incantation.
The enigmatic Demen only has this record to their name. It’s a damn good one. It’s ultra-dark, shapeless dream pop similar to Cocteau Twins on tranquilizers or This Mortal Coil. It feels like it was summoned from an ancient cauldron. One interesting thing about this darkness is that it doesn’t weigh you down like some goth records do. It acts more like a thick smoke, enveloping you in a hazy space where the senses are marred. Only acceptance until the storm passes will suffice.
103. CHROMATICS – Kill For Love 
In the hours before dawn, you follow a trail of notes and clues left by a thought-to-be-deceased lover, leading you to the house of mirrors where the partner had been supposedly murdered.
Starting off a record with a Neil Young cover: bold. Making an album over 90 minutes: bolder. Making a 90-minute album that’s so engaging that the listener usually wants to finish the whole thing: man you’re so super bold right now. Chromatics essentially made a cult classic film in album form with Kill For Love, further entrenching a ravenous fanbase outfitted in too-cool-for-school merch. And I get it, clearly. I own a Chromatics sweatshirt. This is like the movie Drive with extended scenes. A romantic trawl trapped in an hourglass. The first half is obviously stacked with the hits, but the second half packs in cinematic cuts that the band is known for. Name another band that captures Chromatics’ sound that’s not directly associated with the band. No one.
102. GROUPER – The Man Who Died In His Boat 
The sound of wind and snow banging against wooden shutters on a solemn, solitary night.
A nice middle ground between Grouper’s ambient and folky material. Some songs are more like her breakout Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill, where some are purely instrumental bliss drifts like in her A|A series. At times it sounds like a harsh winter storm ravaging the boards of an old house, other times it sounds like a peaceful current on a placid beach. That’s the beauty of Grouper, always versatile with solitary situations.
101. OVLOV – Am 
The joy and exhaustion that comes from sledding down a giant hill for an entire night.
One of the best rock records of the decade, it’s a shame more people don’t know about it. Connecticut’s great Ovlov really hit it home on their debut, stocked full of ultra-crunchy guitars, blown out drums and a mastery of building tension like on song “Where’s My Dini?”. An obvious comparison would be Dinosaur Jr so if you dig them, don’t wait! This album will blow your socks off.
100. KELLY LEE OWENS – Kelly Lee Owens 
Flying down a tunnel in a high-speed rail, the blinking lights in the darkened passageway craft a symphony of color and rhythm.
A deeper electronic record than at first glance. Each song houses a litany of polyrhythmic beats and sounds that are played off so cool that you barely notice them. But if you listen hard, you’ll start to lock in to the overlaying synth passages, the rising and falling textures, and the minimal electronic beats. Like being lulled into a trance by pulsating lights.
99. CHINO AMOBI – PARADISO 
In the year 2017, the entire history of humanity and its culture is rebuilt and destroyed in a cataclysmic flash. The process is documented via a team of artists and antagonized by cannibalistic radio hosts.
Radical in its approach. Even now when I listen to PARADISO I say damn, this is hard. The mix of spoken word, poetry, fiery rhetoric and incomprehensible babbling with slabs of chaotic noise, booming horns, signs of the apocalypse and more flying overhead make for a record unlike any other on this list. I could listen to this on a bright and shiny day and think it was raining hellfire outside. The title track continues to be one of my all-time favorites. Keep this in your rotation as world turns to hell in 2020.
98. DEAFHEAVEN – Sunbather 
While skydiving, the Earth moves further away from you, infinitely elongating your exhilarating descent.
My intro to actually liking metal and I’m assuming the same for so many others. Pummeling black metal that pivots between feelings of triumph, melancholia, frustration and anger, mixed with elements of shoegaze, post-rock and other styles of hard rock. It’s an overwhelming listen that’s buffered by three interlude tracks, offering a respite in the deluge. I honestly don’t care about the politics behind black metal or whatever, I just love this album because it gets me pumped the hell up, a bit emotional (the shrieked vocals are so effective) and it’s just so satisfyingly well-made.
97. NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS – Push The Sky Away 
Taking a steamboat ride up a river and listening to the mad tales of woe regaled to you from the eccentric sailors along the coastlines.
Another iconic album from Australia’s dark poet. Pretty minimal and bluesy for the most part, with most instrumentation coming in the form of flinty bass lines, wispy strings (courtesy of the unmistakable Warren Ellis) and fragments of rock-formed guitars. We all know the true star is Nick Cave, though, and oh does he shine. His narratives are as sharp as ever and the arrangements are top-notch. When he wants to get cool, he gets cool. When he wants to open up, it’s all open. I came onto Cave’s music late. I’d say this is a pretty decent starting point if this does sound interesting to you. Minimal goth blues from one of the all-time great lyricists.
96. (SANDY) ALEX G – DSU 
A child has to be wound with a crank like a motorized toy to execute everyday tasks.
Rock that exists in its own universe. Every instrument sounds like it’s just a bit out of tune. The vocals are just a touch off key at times. Some part came in a little late, there’s a few aural scraps here and there that litter up the mix. Despite the superficial issues, you likely can’t stop listening. That was my experience listening to Alex G and DSU for the first time. “Am I hearing this right? What is happening?” I hope I’m not making it sound bad, because it’s just unique. The songs are genuine, honest and emotional. The riffs have a swing to them that most groups don’t have. This is a terrifically unique album that helped breed a new generation of music-makers doing their thing on their own. That’s pretty damn cool.
95. UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA – Multi-Love 
A deliriously funky individual has the ability to morph their physical matter into liquid and gas.
Totally sun-baked funk with grooves for days. The production on this album almost makes it feels like it really is totally dried out, but something about that just helps get the listener all warmed up and ready to head bob or tap into the pocket that UMO occupies on these songs. It’s glitzy and glammy without being a tribute act.
94. KELLY MORAN – Ultraviolet 
An ice castle is constantly destroying and rebuilding itself into different prismatic formations of varying complexity.
Absolutely gorgeous compositions of prepared piano and some computerized synthesis. Prepared piano is a technique where the performer places objects on top of the strings within the piano to directly change the timbre of the instrument. The result is metallic, harmonium-like tone that sound amazing when bounding across a shifting landscape of colorful electronics. This is an album I’ve been listening to more and more of, each time I find a passage that strikes me differently. Each piece could have its special moment (first it was “Helix”, now it’s “Water Music”, I’m kinda feeling “Halogen” next). Kelly Moran is a fantastic talent that I cannot wait to see grow and flourish in this ever-changing musical landscape.
93. HOP ALONG – Bark Your Head Off, Dog 
Getting so deeply invested in your family’s old, nostalgic stories that you begin to interact with corporeal visions of times long past.
Tip your hats to one of the great voices of the decade, that of Hop Along lead singer Frances Quinlan. I’ve known people that bristle against it, but her energetic rasp carries so much emotional weight it basically powers the entire album from front to back. Bark Your Head Off features Hop Along’s most ambitious arrangements, instrumentation and songwriting in their catalog. I think they’re at their best when they get straight to the point since they meld so great together in moments when they’re going the hardest, but any time I can get with Quinlan’s powerhouse is worthy of all the gold in the world.
92. FKA TWIGS – LP1 
A human being made of pure smoke, collecting and dispersing in a mirrored room.
A dark ballet of seductive electronics and alluring layers of voice. A pop album almost completely in a league of its own. FKA twigs’ debut LP is an exciting collection of R&B/pop tracks that benefit from brilliant production, twigs’ swift, commanding voice. That voice is full of personality, too – there’s no doubt when you’re listening to a twigs song. The way she’s able to emote in these dark songs is something to marvel at for sure.
91. DIRTY PROJECTORS – Swing Lo Magellan 
Making a silly face at someone across the room at an opportune moment.
What the heck is up with the melodies on this record? Dave Longstreth is a a wacky crazy goofy guy when it comes to melodies (we know this). Voices sliding all over the place, randomly locking into oblong harmonies, making themselves at home among instrumentals made from rattling objects you’d find in the pockets of seasonal coats. Compared to the balanced coolness of preceding album Bitte Orca, Swing Lo Magellan sounds like the moment when you let your guard down around a friend you’re becoming closer with. It’s VERY casual, but maybe that’s why I like it so much. Even after the massive indie success that Orca brought them, the band wanted to make a FUN record.
90. FEAR OF MEN – Loom 
Dangling upside down from a bridge; the sensations from the intense, powerful current of the river below brings a peerless euphoria.
I’d like to say that Fear of Men are the masters of the “modern jangle”. Sure there’s been jangle pop being made for eons now, but Fear of Men do it in such a way that’s so engaging and thrust into the present. Every song brings a current of unease, a layer of noise to drift below the bright guitars. The drums are intense with a huge emphasis on the cymbals. And finally lead vocals are smooth, yet intense. They command your attention with a cool hand. This and Early Fragments are two great jangle/indie records you need to try this decade.
89. WOMEN – Public Strain 
Making a snowman out of sawdust that you’ve sanded from your own face.
Sour post punk beamed in from another dimension. Everything is warped, bent, broken, shaking, wilted, barely held together. The vocals sound like they’re coming from an ominous stranger down a hallway. The guitars are prickly and volatile, at times engaged in a machine-like sequence of harsh tones, then suddenly breaking out into a frenzy. The whole thing is blanketed in a sense of unease, culminating in fantastic closer “Eyesore”, probably the most straightforward and feel-good song here.
88. BIG THIEF – Capacity 
Sitting up in bed after being horizontal for a long amount of time, you punch a pillow over and over until it becomes misshapen and somehow the perfect shape for hugging. You lay back down and hug the pillow.
The start of a dynasty? Big Thief’s debut Masterpiece was one hell of an introduction, but this really came out with the haymakers: “Shark Smile”, “Capacity”, “Watering”, “Great White Shark” (my personal fav), “Mythological Beauty”, “Haley” and I mean, “Mary”! A decade-defining rock record, I’d say. Along with that, I’d say that these songs also established the band as one of the best live bands to catch this decade, especially when they weren’t regularly going out 30 minutes past their set time. But aside from that – damn. What a band.
87. JULIANNA BARWICK – The Magic Place 
Wrapping yourself in a giant comforter in a massive concert hall.
Have you ever wanted to be caressed by countless layers of pillowy voice and sequestered in some peaceful realm? Look no further than The Magic Place, the specific album I told my partner to put on after I got my wisdom teeth taken out. Julianna Barwick’s specialty is building a plush fortress of pleasure with seemingly endless plumes of voice and gentle synths. An incredibly comforting and warm album that belongs in everyone’s library.
86. ALVVAYS – Antisocialites 
A group of teenage friends live out the last weeks of their final suburban summer break in flawlessly attractive fashion. All of them have incredibly complicated relationships with each other, ones that are like, completely believable and real, but we just can’t get into that detail right now, okay?
Alvvays may be simple songwriters, but man can they write a satisfying pop song. These are tunes that instantly become lodged in my brainstem after an inkling of a thought related to the album crosses my mind. Nearly every song on this album has a hook on it that blows my mind every time I listen. I feel obligated to sing along. “Not My Baby”, “Dreams Tonite”, “In Undertow”, “Plimsoll Punks”, “Saved By A Waif”… these are killers!
85. VINCE STAPLES – Big Fish Theory 
In 2079, a man is having the time of his life in a crumbling Los Angeles, despite the consuming knowledge of the many evils surrounding him.
The closest something can get to hip house without being hip house. Vince Staples embraces the harsh electronic textures of say, a PC Music camp (shout out to the SOPHIE production on “Yeah Right”) and turns those hard-hitting bursts of bright textures into bouncing West Coast hip hop instrumentals. Although probably not as iconic as Summertime 06, I found myself continually returning to this album with earworms like “Big Fish” and “Bagbak”.
84. SASSY 009 – Do you mind EP 
Holding conflict resolution with facsimiles of friends in an erupting/collapsing volcano.
My favorite EP of 2017 and one of my largest obsessions since that year. Brutal, unflinching electronic with calm voices that almost mock the listener over top. Very similar to Smerz, who I mentioned earlier in this list, but these instrumentals and arrangements here hit me in a different way. “Pretty baby” has a continued thumping, “Feel me” has an insanely distorted breakdown that destroys me every time. Hopefully this wasn’t just a lightning in a bottle situation – can’t wait for more SASSY music in the future.
83. TIM HECKER – Ravedeath, 1972 
In a post-apocalyptic setting, an engineer plays massive, haunting dirges with abandoned city blocks he’s modified into wind tunnels that emit organ-like frequencies.
Maybe my introduction to ambient music. Airy and ambiguous piano recordings thrown into a vacuum to grow and duplicate on their own. Sometimes it sounds like the recording has somehow broken into a single note played on the piano and is examining it on an atomic level, the hidden dynamics and quarks that make up the energy that is used and comes from striking a chord on the piano. Blown out noise rippling against a steel sheet. Alternating between slow passages and intense buildups. Just sounds massive overall, like the world’s largest organ billowing bellyfuls of gusts through an abandoned metropolis.
82. HUNDRED WATERS – The Moon Rang Like A Bell 
Maneuvering through an abandoned space station in zero gravity and piecing together the final transmissions of its crew.
Hundred Waters have this special ability of making both massive and microscopic songs able to exist in the same space. The way they arrange and produce the electronics makes the album feel like it exists on a such a titanic stage on some moments, like on the incomparable “Murmurs”, the feathered wings of “Cavity”, the floating space of “Innocent”. But then songs like “No Sound” or “Broken Blue” are microcosms of sound, gently murmuring with singer Nicole Miglis’ pure voice. THEN we see tracks that blossom from molecules and particles into full-blown symphonies like on “Seven White Horses”. It’s a mastery of space, dynamics, arrangements and pacing. All this combined with their unique basin of sounds they pull from makes this album a winner. The Moon Rang Like A Bell was my favorite album of 2014 and although it has waned a bit in being my top favorite, it’s still an iconic album for me and deserves everyone’s listening attention.
81. TAME IMPALA – Lonerism 
A carnival attraction where you have to navigate through a nonsensical funhouse of casual acquaintances while wearing lava lamp-like psychedelic shades, distorting the shapes and faces of those that try and strike up a conversation with you.
Tame Impala excel at producing super sweet psychedelia. No tang of bitterness, no bumps of sour, no hint of spice, no bite of salt (maybe a bit on “Elephant”). It’s a straight-up sugar rush that will make you feel like the coolest cat on the pavement. A honey-scented ascent into cotton candy clouds. Multi-layered, multi-colored, ever-expanding psychedelic pop rock gum drops. Front person Kevin Parker has to have a secret key to our dopamine centers, because this album is almost unfair in that way it makes us feel so good.
80. BEACH FOSSILS – Clash The Truth 
Hiding inside a snowman on a mountain, watching skiers zip around you at high speeds.
Beach Fossils set the highest watermark for all lo-fi jangle pop for this decade with this album right here, so if you’re looking for any more of their contemporaries further down on this list, I’m afraid the train stops here (please keep reading though). This is no shade on any of those bands either – Beach Fossils just did it the best here. Clash The Truth has the satisfying riffs and melodies that the band had been known for up to that point, but they also bring in new ideas and sounds and dynamics that hadn’t been present in the genre. For instance, the band’s biggest song “Sleep Apnea” tones down the fuzz for gentle acoustic guitar but still keeps the listener engaged with a slow, singable melody. For the most part though BF keep up their fast, layered jangle pop they’re known for and supply some iconic tracks in the genre, like “Shallow” and “Birthday”. Like I said earlier – if you want to get to know the brilliant era of indie rock from 2010 – 2013 (I think it’s brilliant!) start with this and go outward to their contemporaries. It’s a really fun time that I’ll look back on so fondly.
79. SUFJAN STEVENS – Carrie & Lowell 
Plunging a sword deep within your own heart and letting light glint off the blood that spills from the wound and coats the silvery blade.
Touching beyond words, but I’ll try and will some in here. Sufjan Stevens called upon the grief and confusion he felt from the passing of his distant mother on Carrie & Lowell, named after his mom and stepdad. What resulted is a gorgeous tapestry of sparkling folk jewels that just happen to have a crushing backstory. Instrumentally, vocally and lyrically Stevens is on his A-game. It’s a huge load to carry, but the beauty of Stevens’ reflections makes the journey worth it.
78. HAND HABITS – Wildly Idle (Humble Before The Void) 
It’s 1pm on any given Sunday. Light pours in through a well-thought out window. A good friend is in one room of the house and you’re in another, but you can see them if you look up from the book you’re reading. They’re cutting fruit that you will both enjoy together. You love them. You lay on the floor next to each other. You love them.
As you can probably tell from the Warm Visions description, I associate this record with some seriously romantic thoughts. Not just a ultra lovey-dovey, hands-on love, but a really casual, mutually-beneficial partnership. Guitars alternately shimmer like sunlight shining bright off a reflective surface and mosey around like wool socks on a well-tread rug. It’s a record that’s got songs for self-reflection, songs for slow dancing, songs for gazing, songs for tea steam, songs for chores, songs for driving, songs for writing. It’s over-flowingly lovely and charming.
77. D’ANGELO – Black Messiah 
An angel with a choir of ten thousand behind it asks for peace.
The man came back and somehow did not miss a beat. D’Angelo’s first album in over ten years is a knotty funk masterpiece that taps into the liquid grooves that he’s been known for and applies that to the current social climate. It’s a touching album that has all the simmering slow jams (the church bell on “Prayer” just melts me) and upbeat jams (“The Charade”) that you’d want. I just feel lucky we got another D’Angelo record, seriously.
76. JAMIE XX – In Colour 
Lucid dreaming through various psychedelic party scenarios without any sense of linear time.
Man is it easy to listen this record to over and over and over again. According to last.fm I’ve listened to the songs on this album a collective 728 times. It’s a staple summer record for me. Once the weather starts getting a touch nicer, BOOM – it’s on my phone and I’m listening to it on my evening commute home. The sun is setting, the freedom of the night is setting in, the misty vibes on this record come rolling out and coil around me. Essences of solitary jubilation bleed from this record. A brilliant record to blast in your headphones or on your car speakers to remove any worry accumulated from the workday and ease yourself back into your original form.
75. WHITE LUNG – Deep Fantasy 
Landing approximately one thousand spin kicks upon your mortal enemy’s face.
This record kicks ass. The songs here have such a burning intensity they could strip your flesh from bone in a millisecond. Just an absolute assault of sound on this record. There is no inch of empty space in the mix on these songs. It’s loaded with spiked guitars, wartime percussion and Mish Way’s total rock n roll croon. Even after six years of listening to this record it gets me hyped all the way up.
74. ZOLA JESUS – Okovi 
An immortal, emotionally-tortured vampire tries & fails to resurrect a lost friend in a series of dark magic rituals.
Zola Jesus really nailed it with this LP. She’s been making dark, epic music for over 10 years with her powerful voice being the centerpiece. That’s worked out great on other records, but this time her cauldron’s recipe was altered a bit. I may be wrong, but it seems like the dialed-up intensity on the instrumentals to match her own vocal vivacity has never worked better than here. Not only do they go hard as hell (like on personal highlight “Remains” and single “Exhumed”), they also enhance the emotional impact of gutting songs like “Siphon” and “Witness”. A jet-black, industrial symphony of anguish that burns fiercely to stave away cold and hunger another night.
73. DISCLOSURE – Settle 
Being cursed with an overflow of electricity that won’t expel unless you dance endlessly.
Pure magic in house + dance music form. Smartly described as “pop-house” by a close ally of the blog, Disclosure don’t quite go full pop or full house on this album, so there we go. Straddling the boundary between the two, the English duo expertly make tracks that allow their all-star crew of vocal guests (for 2013) space to not only flex their prowess as singers, but also to blend into the song and become one, cohesive unit. There’s not many moments on this record where it feels like “oh this is just a guest, whatever” – everything feels proper and a real good time. Like I said – it’s pure magic.
72. ONEOHTRIX POINT NEVER – R Plus Seven 
A severe internet addiction grants you the power to open people’s thoughts like opening tabs in a browser.
One of those albums that kind of shifts your brain’s stacks around into new organizational systems. New age-inspired electronics that constantly morph into new shapes, making the listener guess where it heads next. Almost seems like the sounds here were pulled from MIDI clips played from early internet web browsers. They seem like they could have practical sound effect usage elsewhere, but are employed here in such inhuman ways (yet also strangely human? This is what I’m getting at when I say it reorganizes your brain, you’re never quite concretely sure of what’s happening). A heartfelt string symphony, clearly programmed via computer, but carrying the emotion of one recorded live.
I remember ranking this apart from my Best Albums of 2013 list and making a whole different “Weirdo” list because I had no idea what to make of it. One of those records that alters the reality around you if you’re listening, intently or otherwise. It’s almost like this record cuts into filters of existence, each song allowing the listener to observe one slice of humanity at a time, apart from all the others, in a vacuum. Moments of true beauty and pure anguish reside behind its many doors and you have to open all of them to escape.
71. EARL SWEATSHIRT – Some Rap Songs 
A HAM radio enthusiast plays multiple distorted frequencies at once at high volumes while reclining in an old oversized recliner.
Earl Sweatshirt channeled the rising experimental, underground hip hop scene of NYC and LA that’s obsessed with deep sample digging, jazz, gospel, micro-loops, woozy production, quickness (but slowness when it matters), etc… and essentially made a best-of compilation of the style. Not quite riding a beat but more like pasting words overtop it, just applying his intricate wordplay over retro, blown out patchworks wherever it can fit. It’s a feeling.
70. DUSK – Dusk 
Seeing some of the same old, charming items (fridge magnets, plastic cups, fake plants, vinyl tablecloth) from your grandparents’ house in a thrift store, miles & miles away.
A country rock record made by punks, for punks. If you like homespun southern classic rock songs that you can blast out of your car with the windows down, chock full of soulful steel pedal guitar, dual lead guitars, vintage organ, rollicking acoustic guitar, tender string arrangements, relatable lyrics, and a healthy dose of the best retro radio vibes, you’ll like this to the moon and back. I can confidently say that there isn’t a bad song on here. The emotions on here feel so real and unpolished – prime for singing along to. This band is CRIMINALLY underrated. Please start paying attention to them! Or… I dunno, maybe they can be our little secret 🙂
69. KAYTRANADA – 99.9% 
Following the life of a dancer for 24 hours as they travel to rehearsals in their island community, improvising routines with the overflowing fauna and running into an endless amount of friends along the way to a night of partying.
A masterclass in utilizing guest features. Even though Kaytra never sings or speaks on the record, it squarely feels like something HE made. His signature, blocky bounce he puts on all the songs is more than enough of a force to establish a presence. While he’s laying down the groundwork, he’s allowing the guest vocalists to shine their own personalities and make the song their own too. But unlike how many producer records go, there’s never a question of whose record this is and no disconnect between songs with different guests. It flows smoothly, with singers changing on nearly every track, vibes changing on each track, things not feeling homogenous, and it’s still all cohesive. Going through this whole thing is a piece of cake and it’s a great time at that. Just an odyssey at twilight, gliding through a sparkling city.
68. KENDRICK LAMAR – Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City 
Tales from a town afflicted by a delirious illness rooted in the scent of money.
I love that this album is so easily accessible but breaches topics like gang violence, poverty, politics, drug abuse and relationships. A concept album strung together by quick audio recordings to establish a narrative shows Kendrick is a compelling storyteller. For every banger there’s a song that sits you down and lets Lamar do his thing. There’s a Beach House sample, too. Come on y’all, you know this album is great and a landmark in the decade.
67. VAMPIRE WEEKEND – Contra 
Becoming the head of 15 to 20 different clubs and societies so you can be featured in the school yearbook the most out of anyone else.
Contra is the better version of Vampire Weekend’s debut. They’re essentially the same album of prim and proper indie pop, but Contra is the start of the band really fermenting, developing flavor, deepening the sweetness of their melodies, adding instrumentation, etc. From the opening clatter of “Horchata” to the warm-hued shimmer of “I Think Ur A Contra”, Vampire Weekend pushes the boundary on their summery, relatively carefree music while still keeping it close to the debut. A proper sophomore record indeed. Also you can hi-five me if you think “Diplomat’s Son” is the best song.
66. KAMASI WASHINGTON – The Epic 
The gods play chess with lost souls of departed legendary heroes.
The massive one. I didn’t know much about jazz when this first came out and hell I still don’t know much about it now. Does that make me unfit to like this album? Hell no, get your pretentious ass outta here. Am I allowed to enjoy a three-disc, near three-hour collection of highly produced, expertly performed, absolutely epic (heh, get it? It’s called The Epic. Is this like when they say the title of the movie in the movie?), psychedelic funk-dipped, incredibly satisfying and cinematic jazz? Hell yes I am. I haven’t found myself listening to this entire monster in one sitting in a while, but certain songs like “Miss Understanding”, “Re Run Home”, “The Magnificent 7” and “The Rhythm Changes” still get me in the zone. The attention this record has brought back to jazz by the mainstream listening audience is admirable – just think about all the hip hop/Flying Lotus youth taking an interest in this album and trying to hone their craft so they can make THEIR Epic? Ok, now that is epic.
65. MOUNT EERIE – A Crow Looked At Me 
Seeing the donated clothes of a deceased loved one worn by people of the town you live in.
If you’ve lost a loved one recently, please tread with caution. Phil Elverum (Mount Eerie) made an album that consolidates all the loneliness and dizzying agony that comes with losing a partner into an album. One of the record’s main points is that life keeps going after a tragedy, although it seems like life has stopped through our perspective. Things are ordinary and plain to most people around you, and that really sucks. Elverum captures this overlooked consequence of death the best, and that may be why this album cuts so deep. Yes it’s beautifully poetic and eulogizes his partner, but the way he describes how witnessing the terrifying, painful march to death and the endless confusion and despair that follows fits into your new, daily routine, interactions with friends and family is devastating. Shockingly candid. It’s not a fantasy. It’s real life.
64. SHABAZZ PALACES – Black Up 
A series of intricate handshakes recorded with a fisheye lens.
This is a record that totally blew my mind when I first heard it. At the time of its release I still wasn’t into hip hop, but the oddness of the instrumentals and vocal delivery hooked me in. Since then, I don’t think anyone has made a hip hop record quite like this. Nothing as weird and confident and groovy as this. Something that pushes boundaries but still maintains sight of making a good, satisfying hip hop song. Also I’m 90% sure that “An echo from the hosts that profess infinitum” sampled Teen Girl Squad.
63. ONEOHTRIX POINT NEVER – Garden of Delete 
A middle schooler makes the most insane class film project on a corrupted digital camera and gets sent to the principal’s office.
Of course OPN’s mallgoth record would be his most accessible one in his discography. Well maybe not the most accessible, but definitely the one with the most instant gratification. The album may be loaded with complex melodic sequences and speaker-testing blasts of noise, but they honestly feel more like actual structured songs than any other project in his discography. Most tracks here have a clear emotional peak (you’ll know it! The peaks on this album are intense, overwhelming and euphoric) and that’s probably why I like it so much. Call me simple, but when sheets of wicked electronics start grinding together while an unintelligible robot voice squeals overhead, I can’t help but get wrapped up in a nice sheet of goosebumps and marvel at the scale of it all.
62. CARLY RAE JEPSEN – E•MO•TION 
Nervous butterflies burst from your chest and chauffeur you and your love interest directly into the sun (but like, in a good way).
Maaaannn… what else can I say here? I got snagged in this record and there was no chance to escape. I say that like it’s a bad thing. How could I, with such towering anthems tied up in such pretty packaging like these? Maybe it’s the lack of major celebrity that allows these songs to feel so genuine? Maybe CRJ as a person just is so organically bubbly that these songs come off as legit as they are? Honestly though, this needs no hypothesizing. CRJ made some monster-ass pop songs that have defined half the decade. “Gimmie Love” is one of my all time most listened-to songs ever. How can you not want to get wrapped up in effervescent songs about love that make you feel like you’re on vacation?
61. THE CARETAKER – An Empty Bliss Beyond This World 
An estranged, drifting socialite has trouble realizing that they died at the start of last century, slowly fading in and out of the cavernous, disintegrating memories of decadent balls past.
The Caretaker’s quest for bottling the confusion, nostalgia, peace, ambiguity and horrors of dementia into song form came to a conclusion in 2019 with the completion of his magnificent and gargantuan Everywhere at the end of time series, but this record from early in the saga is the seminal one. Based on the mind of a person that’s struggling with Alzheimer’s, trying and failing to remember their past, only for the music from their “glory days” to help reignite the spark behind their memories. To achieve this, The Caretaker flips old 78s of prewar ballroom jazz music into disintegrating, equally relaxing and terrifying pieces.
At surface level, one could argue he’s not doing anything but slapping his own name onto material that’s not his, but that’s not his intention. The way these songs are arranged is key: the rapid audio channel switching on “Bedded Deep…”, the unhinged loops of “Pared Back To the Minimal”, the repetitions of pieces throughout the album with different effects placed upon them and the degradation or murkiness of the audio quality on some pieces perfectly replicates (I’d assume) the brain fighting to remember your past. It’s a heartbreaking, hypnotizing and wholly unique album. No one has done it, or likely will do it ever like The Caretaker, channeling the expanse of the haunted ballroom. I even tried to name this blog after this album. Related – if anyone can snag me anemptybliss . net, I’d be forever grateful.
60. SAINTSENECA – Dark Arc 
An veteran captain and young first mate on a crumbling clipper ship full of wooden replicas of past shipmates embark on one last voyage.
I’ve held a special affinity for Saintseneca ever since 2013, when I saw them in a small record store in northeastern Connecticut. What started as a warehouse show (busted by irate landlord), then a house show (not enough space), then eventually to the record store (that wasn’t open that day), a full house of audience members followed them around. I was unfamiliar with them at the time, but the dedication among the people in attendance was evident and it kept me around throughout the journey. Stompy folk music had been a genre I’d avoided at the start of the decade as corny bands seemed to flood radio waves with it, but Saintseneca changed my whole outlook on the genre. Or rather, they established themselves as the only ones to do it this well.
The seamlessness of the four voices coming together in harmony (but especially the fusion of lead singers Zac and Maryn) is marvelous. The tight arrangements of folky instrumentation can be like legions of fireworks, with the array of stringed instruments swiftly darting through quick melodies amongst booming percussion; or tender like feathers, delicately strumming alongside poignant ruminations on mortality. If you’re ever looking for a record that imbues so much organic soulfulness into its fibers, this is the one you want. I’ve seen Saintseneca six times since that summer afternoon in 2013 and I don’t plan on stopping any time soon.
59. KACEY MUSGRAVES – Golden Hour 
Plush sun & silky breezes caress your entire body, making you feel weightless.
It’s a great feeling when a major pop album is of such high quality that each song has a legitimate shot at being anyone’s favorite song on the album. Sure there are the lead singles like any album has that most people generally love, but all of the songs on Golden Hour are all so goddamn catchy and striking that it’s easy to believe someone if they said a non-single cut would be their favorite. The songwriting & hooks are simple and effective, Musgraves’ voice gets the job done and the production is gorgeous. No streaming filler bullshit, whatever. Just a lean, mean, hit machine. For me, the string from “Love Is A Wild Thing” to “High Horse” is just sublime. If any of those songs come on in public you know I’m going “hoo-wee”.
58. GROUPER – A|A 
Pt. 1: Laying face down in the dirt, fireflies gradually gather upon you, gently illuminating your surroundings and providing an alien warmth.
Pt. 2: Insects eventually consume your decomposing body, spreading your consciousness across the forest floor that you laid to rest upon.
Am I cheating by listing two records in one spot? Who cares? Are you the fun police? Are you the Grouper police? A|A is a two-album experience, I’ll have you know. The first part Alien Observer is a combination of Grouper’s early experimental drone work with the slow-paced ambient folk of her previous record. This gorgeous balance of hazy textures and clean vocals, along with a high-fidelity approach overall leads to some of Grouper’s best songs like the title track and “Vapor Trails”. Dream Loss is distorted and ambiguous, as dark tones slowly combust as they pass through the audio channel, like the feeling of a sharp wind whipping at your ear canals. It’s nearly a spiritual experience, one that I treasure deeply.
57. JOHN MAUS – We Must Become The Pitiless Censors of Ourselves 
Stumbling through the dark recesses of a city, lost in a mind full of romantic and noble nonexistent narratives and reaching personal bliss in the glow of the streetlights.
Quick shots of pure, smeared pop bliss. I say smeared since nearly every element on this record is blurred, always flowing into the parallel sound. The bass is murky, the synths approach nefarious lows and piercing highs and John Maus’ signature weirdo croon echoes over the whole thing he’s some kind of high watchman. “Keep Pushing On” would be a good mantra for the whole album: every song (save for “Hey Moon”, a cover) pushes along at a steady pace thanks to the basslines and swirling synths. It’s a cult classic in my opinion. I wish I had that dang shirt.
56. JENNY HVAL – Blood Bitch 
Reaching freedom from internal shackles through psychedelic-augmented echolocation.
I’m sure that this isn’t what Jenny intended when people listen, but I finally found enlightenment in this album one cold, fall evening. I stopped for a slice of pizza in Manhattan and stood outside eating it while listening to this album, burning the roof of my mouth with hot cheese and watching others do the same, steam bellowing out of their mouths in pained, pizza-fueled euphoria. That was a moment. Also when I was on a megabus at 7:00am listening to this album, I saw an advertisement for something insane along the highway. Somehow, someway, the blissful, dreamy instrumentals fused with my conscience at that moment and coalesced into some major affinity. Vague, yes. Just listen to the music and you’ll see how it instantly imprints on you.
I listened to this album to DEATH in the last half of 2016. The overwhelmingly pleasurable songs like “Female Vampire”, “Conceptual Romance” and “Secret Touch” were the anchors and everything in between were buoys along this otherworldly journey. Put this on during a late-night walk and you’re sure to be transported into another dimension. Perfect for when the days start getting shorter and layers start coming out. A delightful descent into swirling experimental synth pop.
55. TIRZAH – Devotion 
Drifting between lucid dream states and bleary, active consciousness while riding out snooze alarms in the early morning.
Devotion carries a special, casual pleasure to it. It’s almost voyeuristic the way that the instrumentals wobble and space themselves around Tirzah’s relaxed cadence, almost like she’s just saying these lyrics alone to herself in her house or to her partner on the phone. Little self affirmations, verbal commitments, airing of grievances, conditional questions. It’s dreamy in that way; almost entering a life that’s not yours so easily and quietly like through a backdoor, blending in with the furniture. Okay, maybe not that creepy sounding, but you get my drift. It feels deeply personal and it gets immense power from that. Her earlier EPs were club-focused dance pop with a tilted swing (“Inside Out” is an amazing track!!). This LP is like the slow days after clubbing: woozy R&B that’s soft-spoken (unless you need to put a foot down), breeds tenderness, and still loves to listen to dance along with their partner when the moment is right.
54. BEACH HOUSE – Bloom 
Sailing to a remote island to pick up where your grandparents left off building a collection of worldly oddities.
Whereas a good amount of people think Bloom is a listless retread of Beach House’s breakout Teen Dream, I think they sound nothing alike. Yes it’s Beach House and the formula is there, but the moods are completely different. Where Teen Dream is more focused inward and on relationships between yourself and a partner, Bloom sees the band finally looking outside, making songs that stretch skyward and establishing the epic hugeness in their sound the band has been known for over the past few records. Everything here is bigger: Victoria Legrand’s vocal melodies, Alex Scally’s minimal, shimmering guitar passages, the angelic keys that sound beamed in from a heaven-type dimension, and the thundering, mix-filling percussion (you can measure the intensity of a Beach House song by how much cymbal is used). It’s an album that establishes a type of wanderlust in the listener, a want to explore galaxies.
53. FLEET FOXES – Helplessness Blues 
Rolling a special bale of hay through plains, mountains and forests to get to an oceanside farm to feed its livestock.
One thing (among many) to admire about this record is its versatility with the seasons. I’ve talked to multiple people who identify this as a fall/winter record, whereas myself and a few others think of this as a spring/summer record. The winterfolk describe this record like a retreat from the harsh elements and time to reflect on personal growth to be made in this temporary hibernation. Summer-wise, it helps that this record was released in the spring of 2011, imprinting itself on the memories I made that summer. It harnesses the unbound feelings of adventure that comes as a child in the summer – freedom from the shackles of routine and having to fill your time with exploring the wilderness and embracing nature. However, it touches on themes of instability in the summer: where am I going to be in the fall? Should I begin to make something of myself now? Or, going over all of this conversation, you might think this is purely a beautiful, lush folk rock record that makes you feel good. That is valid and you are correct. But the openness of its folds is what keeps me and so many like me coming back.
52. MERCHANDISE – Children of Desire 
After a night of trying to fall asleep in your car during a thunderstorm, you awaken to your windshield plastered with wet, yellow leaves and sun shining through the cracks.
Sometimes you just can’t beat a good hook, or a great melody. For Children of Desire, it has three of the best rock songs of the decade and it’s only six songs long. I’m liking the ratio that’s happening here. Merchandise make the best of the 80s post punk + shoegaze formula that so many bands have done, but like I said, they do it the best. I said it! It’s the truth! The indelible croon of front person Carson Cox and the fiery guitar of David Vassalotti make a vicious combo, with the best songs almost acting like lead duets between Cox and Vassalotti. Of course there’s the ultra-solid bass and classic drum machine, but C&V are the stars. The star of the show, the 10+ minute “Become What You Are”, is as good of an album centerpiece as you can get. Just a brilliant rock buildup and deconstruction. And to top it off, closer “Roser Park” is a callback to the groove on there, as if you may have forgotten in the two in-between tracks. Like I wrote – one of the best rock records of the decade!
51. BJÖRK – Utopia 
Like eating a really, really spicy pepper and experiencing a euphoric spectrum of overwhelming stimuli and blistering heat.
Björk continued her run of futuristic, emotionally-wracking ballads this decade thanks to more standout co-production from her partner in crime Arca. This album is stocked full of flutes and bird songs, making the listener feel like they’re in some kind of utopic nature sanctuary while the world outside crumbles. There’s drama, there’s intensity, there’s romance, there’s pain. Björk sounds more free and happy on this record compared to the dour Vulnicura, but the sting from that album is still very much present. I only recently started listening to this album with nice headphones and altered EQ settings and it’s shocking to hear the depth put into the sound on here. The clarity of the bird sounds, the clicking of the insect-like percussion, the squelching of a deconstructed drum break. It’s an overwhelming album of sounds and of Björk once again baring all her complicated feelings and emotions from a dissolved marriage for us.
50. WEYES BLOOD – Titanic Rising 
Actors on soap operas being forced to act minutes before the sun explodes rewrite their lines as messages to their loved ones.
Truthfully I wasn’t completely sold on this album when it first came out. I kept comparing it to Front Row Seat To Earth, a very special album to me. But once I saw the Titanic Rising songs performed live, it finally clicked. These songs are just SO huge and cinematic that they need to be heard on the big stage. Gorgeous fusions of sweeping strings, balladic piano, sweet guitars, plush synthesizer, and of course Natalie Mering’s calm yet dramatic vocals. It’s like saccharine 60s pop ripped from the past and thrust into the present, outfitted with the brilliant technology we have today for ultimate satisfaction.
49. FKA TWIGS – EP2 
Growing a mysterious plant in a dark, black-lit room that eventually grows a face and begins to seduce you.
Twigs fans may get upset with me for having this higher than LP1, but haha uhhh I like this more. This EP is potentially the most convincing brain meld between singer and producer featured on this list. Twigs and Arca team up like they’re in the same skin, moving in tandem in a dimly lit glass tank trading sultry, seductive touches in the form of breathy, falsetto vocals and throbbing instrumentals. This was also most of our first major taste from both of these voices, establishing them as the heralds of the true sound of the 10s. It was so exciting at the time and even listening to these songs again now, it’s still thrilling. No one has quite achieved the smoky, formless balladry like this did, let alone in only four songs.
48. EMPRESS OF – Me 
As bright lights shine on well-oiled skin, a model holds a pose into the camera lens with a strikingly confident intensity.
I feel mistakenly alone when it comes to my continued adoration of this album. Every track is a certified pop banger! Empress Of’s voice is a pristine being that shines in lows and highs, confident in the slower, intimate tempos and in the propulsive electronic-fueled ones. The instrumentals on here range from bright, immediate and vibrant to lush and hazy. The punchiness of some songs really comes across strong, and Empress Of sounds like a total badass. The high quality songcraft heard in the string of songs “Water Water”, “Standard”, “How Do You Do It”, “To Get By” and “Kitty Kat” is borderline insane.
47. AMEN DUNES – Freedom 
Dramatic shots of various, large birds soaring over and diving into the Grand Canyon.
Along with having my favorite song of the year (“Believe”), Freedom is just a plain old great album. Lots of sweet little details, like the partially obscured guitar line on “Miki Dora”, the harmonica solo in “Skipping School” the lovely jangles on “Freedom”, and plenty more. Just really easy to listen to and get introspective to. Had a friend experience this album on a long night drive through the midwest and said the album really hit a euphoric center. Gonna have to try that someday. Perfect for a wandering spirit.
46. MITSKI – Be The Cowboy 
Taking the moments that hit you with hot, embarrassing nostalgia when laying in bed at night and recreating them as high-budget feature films with you playing every role.
ALL KILLER, NO FILLER. Be The Cowboy establishes that Mitski can wholly and cleanly rip someone’s heart and brain out of their body with 14 different procedures, ranging from 1:30 to 4 mins. An unbelievable range of power sprung from highly relatable lyrics, kick-you-in-the-face hooks, great variation among tracks: the full package. When you’ve got fans screaming “YAS HYDRATE QUEEN” at live shows across the country (I can confirm this is a thing), you’ve got something going right. Obviously. Also always have to give a shout out to my friend Mary who was nominated for a GRAMMY for her Be The Cowboy album design!
45. ARCADE FIRE – The Suburbs 
Hanging out the passenger-side window of your friend’s Ford Focus, doing donuts in an uninhabited cul-de-sac while listening to Bruce Springsteen.
The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve leaned into The Suburbs as being the best Arcade Fire album. It’s like all the best moments of Funeral and Neon Bible without the youthful, poorly-aged naiveté, plus lush instrumental backdrops. A beautiful balancing act between rebellious power ballads and stripped-back meditations on youth or the progression of time. Part of its head is in the clouds and the other half has to go to work every day. It’s hard working and human, swollen with emotions and repressed familial angst. After this album won the GRAMMY for Album of the Year in 2011, I wore my Arcade Fire shirt to school. No one said anything to me. Remember when they had people doing bike stunts on stage with them at that GRAMMYS while they performed songs off this record? I think it was right after they won AOTY as well and the performance got cut off because they went over into some late-night program. Either way – although I haven’t been thrilled with the band’s last two records, I still have a Suburbs poster hanging in my room as of writing this, and I hang it with pride.
44. JAI PAUL – Jai Paul / Leak 04-13 (Bait Ones) 
A fast-paced, ultra-saturated chase sequence between two pop culture-obsessed spies down major highways and narrow alleyways of a futuristic London.
After Jai Paul set my brain on fire with two mysterious singles “BTSTU” and “Jasmine” early in the decade, all I wanted was a larger piece of work. SOMETHING to sink my teeth into. We ended up getting what we wanted, but it was at the expense of the creator, as his work was leaked by an unknown hacker masquerading as Paul himself. After that, the album was taken down and accordingly passed around on zip drives and WeTransfer exchanges, not quite embracing a mythological status but something close. Occasionally I would play a song or two on my radio show, feeling like an incredibly cool individual flexing my elite access to some forbidden fruit. The music was wildly radical; pop music that could change on a dime. Great slabs of synths emerging from the earth and crumbling at the slightest gust. Elements of a futuristic Bollywood and early flavors of UK grime spill forward. Unvarnished samples of Harry Potter, Tomb Raider and Gossip Girl appear out of nowhere.
For years, it was one of the most exciting “what ifs” in music: “was Jai Paul ever going to release solo music again?” All signs pointed too… shrug? Then, out of nowhere in 2019 Paul resurfaces to share his heartbreaking story behind the tragic leak (also revealing that the record was pieced-together demos), putting an official damper on the enjoyment of the original leak. Ever the showman, he released a re-worked version of the project, removed the uncleared samples and prettied up the mix a bit, finally to exist in freedom and not contraband. He also released two fantastic new songs, but that’s not what I’m talking about now. Even in 2019, six years after the original incident, the songs sounded fresh and exciting, like I would still feel like an incredibly cool individual playing them on my radio show if I had one today. Still like nothing else out there.
43. KALI UCHIS – Isolation 
Sitting at an above-ground pool in a plush robe while the suburban neighborhood burns around you.
This is one of those albums that’s approaching all-time classic status for me. When intro and interlude tracks feel like legitimate songs and not filler, especially on a major pop release, that’s when you know it’s for real. All of the songs on here would be songs I would be super psyched to hear out in public and would gladly sing and move along with. Thrusting jazzy pop of Amy Winehouse, lofty samba of Astrud Gilberto and classic pop of the 60s and 70s into the future (with help from threads of massively popular reggaeton, production from Tame Impala, BBNG and Steve Lacy), Kali Uchis has not only made a massive step forward in the realm of bilingual Latinx pop, but in pop as a whole.
42. BIG THIEF – U.F.O.F. 
Climbing a tall tree outside your childhood home and watching the new family living inside create their own new memories.
Pretty much everything I said about Two Hands applies here, but I feel like on U.F.O.F. Big Thief employ the ole build-anxiety-and-pay-it-off-with-catharsis trick better. My favorite song on their 2017 album Capacity is “Great White Shark”, which is jammy and is hypnotizing with its off-kilter sway, almost devoid of a steady beat. The structure of that song reminds me of a lot of U.F.O.F., whether it’s most of the opener “Contact” (talk about catharsis on that song!), the polyrhythms of the guitar, soft hand claps and rambling chorus on “From” and the slow stomp of “Jenni”. Otherwise, the record is just plain gorgeous, with plenty of little instrumental details filling the empty space on the metaphorical sonic bookshelf.
41. NICK CAVE & THE BAD SEEDS – Skeleton Tree 
Clawing so desperately for something in the sky that clouds and satellites are drawn down and wrap around you in consolation.
Despite most of these songs being written before Nick Cave’s son tragically passed away, the album carries the intense weight of personal grieving, tapping into themes of death and familial loss. Like Push The Sky Away, the Bad Seeds push further into the realm of minimalism, relying mostly on ambiance and light electronics to keep the sail full on Cave’s journey of grief. It’s achingly beautiful, grand and ethereal. Not the easiest record to listen to by any means, but an achievement regardless.
40. PURPLE MOUNTAINS – Purple Mountains 
The solemn, self-indulgent, humorous, yet accommodating final transmission from an unparalleled lyrical mind.
“A comeback and a farewell” as written by Aquarium Drunkard, Purple Mountains was by and far my favorite record of the year. It’s humorous, morbid, insightful, touching, charming, existential, simple, normal, special, modern, nostalgic, depressing, foreboding, and more. Adjectives aside, it’s obviously tough to listen to a lot of this record now, but holy hell, we’re so lucky to have it in our lives. Berman was truly going through it, but he was able to concentrate what he was feeling, with the help of a cast of incredible players, into a singular work of art that seamlessly fits in with what he’s been doing his entire career. How can a man keep writing so many iconic lyrics this late into his career? So many one-liners. Synthesizing existential sadness, interpersonal regret and weightlessness amongst this planet’s inevitable emotional debris into 10 timeless songs. Again, we’re so lucky to have this in our lives. Thank you David, rest in peace and in power.
39. THE AVALANCHES – Wildflower 
After trespassing in a derelict subway station, you get on a suspiciously operational train that takes you to New York City in 1979. Upon coming above ground, you get swept up in a psychedelic, technicolor odyssey involving two quarrelling lovers (you must get them back together), a group of precocious children set on protecting their block (you must help them defeat hostile white supremacists), and find evidence to clear the name of your disgraced and wrongfully-shamed aunt and uncle before the clock strikes dawn.
I mean, don’t I pretty much explain it fully above? The long-awaited sophomore album from The Avalanches meets expectations and provides a fantastical escape just like their first record. This time the vibe seems to be the city streets of the late 70s, with samples pulling from disco, hip hop and psychedelia. The guest features are well done and although I would have removed the second and third to last tracks to make the full album sequence perfect, it start and end works as a cohesive piece. This record was massively important to me as it was released just as I moved to NYC. Roaming the hot summer streets and listening to this record was a fantastic pairing. I’m sure it’ll continue to be for a long time.
38. YVES TUMOR – Safe in the Hands of Love 
Reading a specific passage of a cursed book found in a damp alleyway causes auditory & visual hallucinations and an intense desire to build monuments to an unknown deity.
So here’s a weird thing: this album reminds me of what I thought NYC was like when I was a kid. Right from the start, “Faith In Nothing Except In Salvation” transports me to an art gallery space in a Soho loft in the early 90s that I feel like I saw in a video in elementary school, or something on the news in suburban Michigan. “All The Love That We Have Now” reminds me of SNL-like shots of characters amongst the hustle and bustle of taxis. “Noid” brings up thoughts of the police in the East Village. It’s a record that I’ve walked around to in the city and felt like I’m blending in with the pavement and traffic. It feels paranoid about big cities, both thriving and withdrawing from them. Sound bouncing off concrete, acoustic guitar dripping down sewer grates, the violent screeching of subway brakes, the rewarding & gentle silence of a quiet block. After this huge jump from what Tumor was doing before this album, I cannot wait to see where he goes from here.
37. JESSY LANZA – Pull My Hair Back 
All self consciousness fades away as you dance-walk down a city sidewalk, articulately bending and twisting your limbs & joints to the tempo of the music in your headphones.
Jessy Lanza is a master of a minimal groove. So many songs on this record lack a steady, four on the floor beat, or camouflage it in rippling sequences of electronics, but it’s still nearly impossible to not bob or dance along on every beat in time. There’s so much space between the beats to establish the groove. In the hang time, quick hits of snare, strobing hi-hat, twinkling synths, dustings of keys pop up ornamentally. Doing the most with the least, I like to say. The best part is that these songs are as groovy as they come.
36. MAJICAL CLOUDZ – Are You Alone? 
Slowly drifting to the bottom of a warm tidal pool to be patiently devoured by sea snails.
A gorgeous record giving sadboys an eternal calling card. A record that does its best to keep a normal facade while decomposing on the inside. The synergy of Devon Welsh’s striking tenor and Matthew Otto’s uncanny, melancholic instrumentals fosters the ideal environment for romantic isolation. Perfect for those folks who think the world would be better off with them as a faceless individual, but still interested in viewing the world as it moves. “Heavy” was my go-to song for when I wanted to recede from the world for a long time. I’d say it still is, but “Silver Car Crash” is way up there as of right now.
35. BJÖRK – Vulnicura 
Being forced down a serpent’s throat, watching its contracting muscles and black scales move like liquid from the inside out.
We find Björk at her lowest on this album. Fighting, struggling, straining amongst the meltdown of a marriage and of a family. Brought to life by string ensemble Alarm Will Sound and guest production by Arca and The Haxan Cloak, Björk weaves together her tale of woe and grief in a gorgeous tapestry that features some of her best vocal performances, which is still so emotive so many records in. The first half is much more passive, with songs drifting about like ghosts. The second is much more macabre and dramatic, with anxious strings swelling against pulsating beats and Björk’s tremulous voice rising above the din to air her frustrations.
The centerpiece on this album for me is “Family”, which makes shocking beauty out of a terrible tragedy. The dissolution of the holy triangle of father, mother and child is mourned by Björk amongst turbulent strings and cannon blasts of synthetic bass. Around the middle, Björk duets with a cello to break the song open into its blissful, semi-conscious state. In the second half of the track, disembodied clouds of voice move like murmurations of birds, constantly contracting and expanding around Björk’s calm voice. I would listen to this song over and over again and get goosebumps every time. Even now, listening to this song in 2020, alone in my room, I’m getting goosebumps at this part. The fact that Björk put much care for design and craft into an album about such a heart-wrenching affair shows its worth alone. It’s a hard listen, but she made it so it’s beautiful on the way down.
34. MITSKI – Bury Me At Makeout Creek 
Senior year of college, first semester. You lay in your bed recounting memories of the three years past via the collected trinkets, posters and photos taped to the wall, preparing for the fact that these will all be distant memories soon enough as a house party rumbles underneath.
So, I mean, yeah. I kinda summed it all up (again) in the WVD. This album came at the perfect intersection of time – the beginning of the end as they say. Too early to start thinking about actual plans for the future, but just right to start reminiscing about the last three-ish years and how the hell you’ll be able to function in “society” after still feeling like a baby in college. Still feeling excited from the prospect of new relationships, when the futility of awkwardness at parties was the biggest of your worries. When a rallying cry from friends resulted in a second wind to the night. Finding confidence in personality. Letting your inhibitions and your partial breakage from them define you. Look – I dunno. This is a fantastic record still, to this day. Tender, personal, and lovesick. Perfect for a young twenty-something.
33. KANYE WEST – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy 
Red carpet with golden accents constantly sprouts beneath the feet of a fabled chosen one, causing paparazzi to brainlessly gather around them like moths on a porch light.
It’s the big one. The crown jewel of the decade, according to most of the music freaks out there. The glamour around My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy has faded a bit after Kanye’s culturally harmful antics, but a dusty golden statue is still a golden statue. It’s still immaculately produced with moments of pure emotional euphoria and confident badassery. It has some A+ guest contributions (and some truly awful ones). It has iconic instrumentals, iconic sample flips, iconic choruses, iconic hooks, iconic one-liners. It feels like one singular vision from start to finish that still connects today, although more like a portrait of what once was. For me, it very much feels like it’s from another time. We’ve moved out of the era of MBDTF and onto something new, but for that time this approached some profound level that couldn’t be matched.
32. VAMPIRE WEEKEND – Modern Vampires of the City 
How it feels to talk to someone who is very adamant that NYC is the greatest city on the planet.
Eyyy New York baby! That’s my favorite city on the cover there. Ey you want a bagel? Ey you want some pizza? Best pizza in the world babayy!! Yankees? Mets? Knicks? Nets? Giants? Jets? Islanders? Rangers? Eyyyy babayyyyyy! New York babayy! I’m walkin’ here! Chinese food! Italian food! Polish food! If ya move to California, you’re a schmuck! Yeerrrrr! Check it out you can see tha Brookllln Bridge from my ma’s window! Wait a sec….. Vampire Weekend? Modern Vampires of the City?! Ey ma! I can see grandma’s house and her favorite deli on this album cover! Get over here quick! Ey you know what movie I love? Frances Ha. This album reminds me a lot of that – black and white. Ha! But seriously though, it’s a rumination on the oddness of youth in your late 20s and early 30s. What is that stage yo? What if you’re single, unhappy with your job, trying your best? It’s too late to restart, right?! Can’t run out and get a new cannoli now! It’s all fun and glittering and showy in other places, but it reality Modern Vampires is the darkest album in their discography. The austere strings and chamber pop sound is like a metaphor for the predisposed adultness that we place upon ourselves when we reach a certain age and maintain responsibilities. Like managing my pa’s hardware store with aisles half a human could fit through. Ayyyyyyyyyyyyyyy NEWYORKBABYYY!!
31. ARIEL PINK’S HAUNTED GRAFFITI – Before Today 
A raunchy Halloween party turns murderous as the host turns out to be a pervert vampire that stalks a gang of co-workers as they slowly progress further into the morphing, architecturally nonsensical mansion.
Man Ariel Pink is such a dang weirdo! But holy hell can he write a killer pop song. Pink finally brings some fidelity to his decade-long career of crafting bizarro pop rock gems for undoubtedly his best album. Every song has a little moment (sometimes an entire song is the moment) that gets stuck in your head. Even the weird Ethiopian jazz-resembling instrumental track “Reminiscences” has a memorable groove. The whole thing just sounds sticky, not just in the memorable sense. Maybe it’s the retro (as in 80s/90s) aesthetics and song structures that they’re not quite ripping off but doing an incredible impression of creates the illusion that this is like a weird broadcast on some public access program aired at 4am, towing the line of reality and fantasy. One guy lip-syncing along to songs that sound like they’re from another time but he actually made them in his basement.
30. JULIA HOLTER – Loud City Song 
While wandering the empty, cobbled streets of a city only seen in children’s picture books, you hear someone whistle a tune from your past behind a thick veil of mist.
“All the heavens of the world”, Julia Holter opens with on track “World”, a kind of overture for the rest of Loud City Song, an album that attempts to find personal heavens for its listener by allowing themselves to be lost in their own personal worlds, These worlds could be found in a velvet-lined party where social situations come unnaturally, in a city where the nearest tree is so far away, or within a relationship that you might find either constricting or not what you want it to be with a close friend. With impressionistic lyrics and bold swaths of strings + misty synths, Holter conjures up these heavenly worlds with ease. It’s quite the transportive album, handing you the invitation on the album opener and leading you through these heavens as it unfolds from there. On the closer, the illusion is either broken or becomes too cumbersome to keep afloat, so the gorgeous harmonies and ambience begins to crumble. You’re naturally lowered back down to the surface, almost dared to jump right back into your personal heavens once more after such a momentous comedown.
29. KELELA – Take Me Apart 
A break-up leads our protagonist to a full-bodied metamorphosis into a truly superior, elegant and groove-based individual that effortlessly glides through analyzing and accepting trauma and kindles a new love within themselves.
It’s been played out in internet memes over the past year, but I can say with full certainty that you’re just gonna be vibin’ while listening to Take Me Apart. Aside from the highly tilted ratio of “great” to “just ok” songs on here (more great songs, hell yes!) the sequencing is perfection. The first four songs employ huge grooves and flex Kelela’s aerobic range over booming, Fade To Mind-esque beats. Then it slows it down with “Jupiter” and one half of “Better”. The second half ramps up into a confident interrogation of a partner, a perfect segue into the next few tracks, featuring lead single “LMK”. It constantly balances the upbeat, bass-laden tracks with slower ballads, both showcasing Kelela’s pristine voice. It’s a vibe! The whole damn thing. Respect Kelela right now.
28. ALVVAYS – Alvvays 
Taking a summer road trip up the coast before college lets the emotions of four childhood friends blossom, and sometimes boil over, as they prepare to part ways for four years.
It’s no secret that every. song. on. this. album. is. a. BANGER!! Their follow up Antisocialites is a valiant one that brings the heat in different ways, but Alvvays really made a modern jangle pop masterpiece with their debut record. Absolutely massive choruses, memorable guitar lines, clear vocals, a light dusting of psychedelia, and hooks for dayyys. Maybe the two slower tracks “Dives” and “Red Planet” slow the album down a bit, but holy hell, you cannot say that you don’t find tracks like “Atop A Cake” (“What’s it gotta do with you? what’s it gotta do with me??”), “The Agency Group” (“When you whisper you don’t think of me that wayyy”), “Party Police” (“We can find comfort in debauchery”), and I mean, the mega-hit “Archie, Marry Me” (“HEEYYY HEYYYY”). Just classics here, folks. If you’re not sold, see the band live. Hearing everyone sing along is a lovely, blissful experience.
27. U.S. GIRLS – In A Poem Unlimited 
A world-class spy is a sucker for karaoke.
U.S. Girls were the hardest working band of 2018. Traveling with a 7-9 piece band, the Meg Remy-led squadron of boogie saints lit up stages across the world all year, both with headlining and opening gigs. I think they’ve been touring legit all year. I had the pleasure of catching them twice, once at a small club at 1am (their third show of the night) and once at Brooklyn’s biggest club (opening for Amen Dunes). Both times the band performed with blistering hot intensity, all nine players flexing in perfect unison translating the dense, dramatic psychedelic pop on In A Poem Unlimited seamlessly into the live setting, adding flourishes and elongating jams to make the crowd go wild. I realize I’m talking a lot about just the live show here, but seeing these songs live is an otherworldly experience. The careening guitar coalescing with red-hot sax, the chemistry between the hand drummer and the kit drummer, the showmanship of the trio of singers, the bond between the whole band. It’s a whole production. Not to mention the lyrics, which sees Remy continue her masterful dissection of family, domestic abuse, destroying the patriarchy, female empowerment and revenge. Putting in the most work for potentially the least reward? This band is a treasure and we need to thank Meg Remy and company for that.
26. WEYES BLOOD – Front Row Seat To Earth 
Finding a working laptop with AIM open washed up on a remote beach. You respond to the most recent, frantic conversation thread: “asl?”
Windswept, melancholic and melodramatic 60s ballads. Like finding a hidden oasis on an arduous journey. A kaleidoscopic 70s tunnel of love. A lava lamp of emotion. It melts me. So syrupy and slow. At times the songs are a bit too low-key, but then I get wrapped up in a certain passage that’s especially beautiful and I let it all go. “Away Above” is an underrated gem! The time I saw Weyes Blood perform in a church a few days after the 2016 election will go down as one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen.
25. FLYING LOTUS – Cosmogramma 
An astral playground where time and space can be controlled by your will.
Amorphous LA beat electronic wizardry. Been seeing this record snubbed on so many Best of the Decade lists over the past few months. Kind of shocking, honestly. This record had a major hand in kickstarting the major revolution of jazz, hip hop and electronics that LA is seeing right now. Not to mention it was a critical darling in the year it was released. It still holds up today as sounding forward-thinking, genre-bending and engaging. A cinematic, continuously flowing psychedelic electronic experience that still stands as the highest watermark in Flying Lotus’ discography.
24. ST. VINCENT – Strange Mercy 
A shapeshifting alien assumes your likeness and begins to win over your friends and family through feats of strength and will, rendering you useless.
This record is a clear turning point in Clark’s career, establishing her as an extremely gutsy and amazingly talented musician that finds ways to fit bizarre, alien sounds into porcelain-contained indie rock songs. Strange Mercy is the perfect balance of working these experimental sounds and grooves to further push the sonic boundary while still maintaining a singular, St. Vincent voice throughout. There’s plenty of variation on this record, from the throbbing “Chloe In The Afternoon”, the practiced-yet-breaking cool of the title track, and the triumphant “Year Of The Tiger.” For me, it’s one of the best examples of a songwriter doubling down on weirdness but not sacrificing accessibility. Rather, making weirdness as accessible as it can be without making it unpalatable.
23. DEERHUNTER – Halcyon Digest 
Looking back at old paintings you made as a child depicting your interpretations of tall tales your grandparents told you from their youth.
Deerhunter let the indie rock waters run a bit clearer on this album, not to be clouded with the usual haze of distorted psychedelia. A streamlined record, undoubtedly their most accessible, but still imbued with flecks of dreaminess like a foggy memory. While this record doesn’t really function like a collective unit, it finds great strength in its individual songs, like a compilation of short stories bound together. The obvious highlight is “Helicopter”, a song that I would listen to without end in late high school and still get chills hearing it live. “Revival” shows off a folky splendor not found on Deerhunter’s previous works – darker and more ambiguous than before as well. Finally, Jay Reatard tribute “He Would Have Laughed” is as genuine as they come in Deerhunter’s catalog, and without fanfare (much like the rest of the record), it cuts out. The last story has ended.
22. ALDOUS HARDING – Party 
A shape-shifting lounge singer recounts harrowing tales from their long, eternal life to the enraptured crowd.
The great shapeshifter, Aldous Harding. I’m convinced she’s like the person I wrote about in the little description – an eternal being that has decided to reveal herself now to show off her songwriting and performing skills. Those skills include making alienating yet beautiful songs that sound like no others ever recorded. PJ Harvey comparisons have been brought up, but no one can make a song like “I’m So Sorry” or “Swell Does The Skull”: pained, swollen and hobbling songs of ache and regret. Faster songs like “Living The Classics” touches on the pitfalls of living life as a musician. “Horizon” is the epic hit with enigmatic consequences. It takes a lot of chutzpah to reveal yourself, or maybe a version of yourself, like this to a listener and Harding was doing this almost from the start. She’s one of the most admirable creators of this decade and I can’t wait to keep treasuring her music as it’s released.
21. KENDRICK LAMAR – To Pimp A Butterfly 
An observation of a conflicted city block nestled within a lava lamp.
The conceptual rap classic. SO loaded full of ideas that at times it feels like the most ambitious album ever made. Stocked full of narrative interludes, jazz breaks, funk, electronic and of course a generation’s worth of hip hop knowledge, it’s remarkable that this thing is able to stay together and not bust at the seams. But Kendrick stays the course, pilots the machine and flexes his conductor muscles to make this album not only a powerful statement on race politics today, but a fun one at that. Songs of fun and release, songs of rebellion, songs of murky funk. For a while I was conflicted on which Kendrick album was my favorite, but I found it’s just so easy to marvel at what this accomplishes both looking at it from afar and going through it song by song. Tremendous.
20. BURIAL – Tunes 2011-2019 
– Running through an endless maze of back alleys to evade a brutal police force.
– A collective of bikers strap multicolored LED strips to themselves and perform an illuminated routine underneath a highway.
Is this cheating? Before this was released in early 2019, I had Burial’s Kindred and Street Halo EPs at different positions on this list. I even wrote Warm Visions descriptions for them. For the sake of convenience, list space, and also a quick shout out to Burial’s post-2015 material, I’m keeping it here. Tunes 2011-2019 is precisely what it states: a gathering of Burial’s rogue singles and EPs he released throughout the decade, sequenced by Burial himself. If you’re unfamiliar with Burial, he’s been an enigmatic force in the world of modern electronic music for over a decade. His work is usually minimal, very moody UK dubstep with signature vinyl crackle + drizzle sound effects. It may sound simple, but you gotta know I eat it up. Even though I haven’t been as into the material he’s released in the back half of this decade, I still am so excited to listen. New Burial is always a cause for celebration.
The first half of Tunes features his recent ambient releases that don’t quite start the record off with a bang, but more rather helps build the murky, ambiguous alternate dimension that all Burial’s songs exist in. A kind of cyberpunk metropolis, constantly engulfed in a steady downpour. Things take a turn into the dancey and dramatic in the second half, specifically at discography highlight “Come Down To Us”, a song about “stepping into the unknown” and embracing a new identity (sampling conversations with trans men talking about their experiences with finding their identity) and going to “Claustro”, Burial’s most straightforward club track in his catalog. From then on, the compilation goes through my three favorite collections of tracks, the aforementioned Kindred and Street Halo EPs, plus the Truant / Rough Sleeper EP. The gloomy mood and melancholic melodies on these tracks have the ability to convey narratives and mental images without the use of lyrics. They’re some of Burial’s most potent in his discography and they deserve to be celebrated.
19. GROUPER – Ruins 
Being alone in your house and watching the way a sunset casts long shadows and formless pieces of light into less lived-in corners and hallways.
Grouper’s most vulnerable record. Whereas before her material up until this album, especially her vocals, were drenched in reverb and distortion, Ruins is almost purely just Grouper’s voice alongside spare piano arrangements. And that’s only for half the songs on the record. The other four songs are purely instrumental cuts, including the spiritually connected opener “Made of Metal” and closer “Made of Air”. This record is so intimate, that the echoing piano can almost map out the shape of the room through echolocation alone. An infamous microwave comes back to life in the tender “Labyrinth”. Grouper communicates, or rather radiates her sadness and numbness from dealing with tragedy throughout these tracks. In a good ending (as far as I see), she’s able to exhale on the closer, an 11-minute ambient drone that acts as a release valve for all the accumulated air over the course of the album. As you’ve probably gathered, after four Grouper albums on this list (most of any artist), I treasure this album greatly. It’s gotten me through many a dark time and I still call upon its name to calm me down when I’m feeling crushed.
18. JESSICA PRATT – On Your Own Love Again 
The queen spider weaves a cosmic web around your head, granting you glorious psychedelic visions before she consumes your brain.
Tranquilizing, beautiful folk music that sounds like it was from an alternate dimension. Definitely pulled inspiration from the mysterious and ethereal folk talents of the 60s and 70s: Van Dyke Parks, Vashti Bunyan, Nick Drake, early Joni Mitchell and Judee Sill. Jessica Pratt’s otherworldly voice keeps the listener transfixed, as lush arrangements of acoustic guitar sway and shine underneath. Something about the guitar on this album is so special. It’s so filling and so pillowy, allowing a perfect landing pad for Pratt’s voice and the constant slight tape hiss to flow beneath. It feels homemade, which adds another layer of authenticity and comfort to the already plush, harmonious tunes. It’s a quick listen, just over 30 minutes, but it will go by faster than you think. The prettiest ones always do that.
17. MR TWIN SISTER – Mr Twin Sister 
A freeing, drunken few hours of partying escalates into a hallucinatory race against time in a seemingly never-ending night.
This is my night album. Any time I find myself wandering around the city afterhours I usually have this banging in my ears. It instantly places a filter upon the lights, streets, people, sounds, smells, and feelings of the city, elevating them. It’s a bubbling, sensual groovy odyssey. I don’t party, but it makes me feel like I’m partying. It wasn’t the main inspiration behind my playlist Essential Oil Dimension, but it provided a ton of meat for it. Observations of a night spent in and out of nightclubs, soaked with drinks, romantic moments with your partner, inebriated drama, and more.
The first half of the record is like a dream world. “Sensitive” and “Rude Boy” churn light foam into the twilight-soaked air, establishing the loose mood for the party’s attendees. “In the House of Yes” turns on the heat with a disco beat and masterful use of saxophone. A splendid slow jam “Blush” acts as a kind of dividing line between when the party was innocent and when it devolves into something deeper, something a bit more disassociative.
The second half of the record starts with “Out of the Dark” and “Twelve Angels”, which are similar to “House of Yes” but embrace a darker tone, one that feels a bit more experimental and not as chill, dude. The penultimate track “Medford” is a smoky interlude that keeps you on the edge of your seat after the anxiety-provoking “Twelve Angels” – what’s the outcome from this debaucherous night of terror? Well folks, the sun rises again. The day starts anew on finale “Crime Scene”, as MTS acknowledge the nightmarish realities that they encountered in the back half of the album, but progress onward into a new day, basically forgetting what had happened to them and likely proceeds to repeat it all again the following night.
16. JULIA HOLTER – Have You In My Wilderness 
– A constant, nostalgic yearning for the salted air of the sea and the gentle pull of the waves.
– Discovering a series of amorous 18th-century diary entries chronicling an affair with a captain of a cruise ship to stoke the author’s unending taste for adventure.
One of the best dream pop experiences of the decade. So expertly arranged and composed, each note feels purposeful. The instrumentals are primarily comprised of strings (violin and upright bass), a drum kit, piano and the occasional harpsichord. Pretty baroque in nature, but the album still feels refreshingly modern. Even with those spare elements, Holter is able to mold enveloping dream worlds through perfect sequencing of tracks and alternately providing aromatic baths of sound (“How Long?”, “Night Song”, “Lucette”) and feathery romps of rapture (“Sea Calls Me Home”, “Feel You”, “Everytime Boots”). I’m reminded of coming of age and adventure films, most notably Hayao Miyazaki’s Castle In The Sky. Have You In My Wilderness is a one way ticket to that deep blue sky and all the wonders that it contains.
15. LCD SOUNDSYSTEM – This Is Happening 
An idyllic paradise of post-grad existence wherein your friends live next door, you all have nice apartments (but not too nice, more quaint and quirky than elegant), and you all party together with no consequences in your bustling, urban neighborhood.
An absolute revelation for a high school senior. As a small town kid from Michigan, I thought this was what New York City and beyond sounded like. This was the parties, the post-grad/adult life romance, the heartbreak of getting older, the anxiety of crowds, the personality crises, the foundation of identity. Look at me now, ten years later, living in NYC. Although this record isn’t exactly how it is here, it’s fun to pretend. I feel like LCD perfectly captured the feeling of confusion within comfort or routine. While many songs bring sounds of the party, frontman James Murphy is trying to come down. Partying is cool, but not all the time. How are you supposed to be responsible about it? How can you be responsible about your ego while talking to someone at a party? How to become more self aware in some situations and less in others? These questions are wrapped in instrumentals that more than often burst at the seams, like the iconic explosion of synth on “Dance Yrself Clean”, the rattling percussion on “One Touch”, the strident guitars and keyboard solos on “All I Want”, the harmonious release of “Pow Pow”. I mourned when they called it quits. I groaned when they returned like an ex-partner after a bad breakup. Through all the emotions, this album will always be golden.
14. JESSY LANZA – Oh No 
A waterfall of shimmering, bright jewels cascades into a space cave, reflecting fluorescent light on the jagged walls. Below, an alien rave taking place with universal pop grooves bridge foreign barriers, ushering interstellar peace on the dance floor.
Like I wrote while describing Jessy Lanza’s debut Pull My Hair Back, Lanza is the master of a minimal groove. She continues to execute them here on Oh No, but this is much more of a pop record than before. Lanza is bolder in her delivery and more forward in the mix with her punchy vocal melodies. An immediate comparison could be like Madonna or Janet Jackson – divas existing in an exciting world of nerdy electronics bleeding into pop music.
Furthermore, citing inspirations like Yellow Magic Orchestra and touring (and remixed) by Chicago footwork producers, it’s clear to see why the sound here POPS. When a track is upbeat, every note is crisp. Every synthetic clap, every glistening pad hit, every arpeggio is tactfully produced to occupy the most efficient amount of space possible. Even when Lanza isn’t bringing the tempo, the slower songs give every sound is tuned to maximize their impact.
Funnily enough, this tight motif I talk about is flipped on its head on my personal highlight on the record, its title track. It’s the equivalent to a sonic hurricane, starting off with a stuttering beat and breathy, heavily reverbed vocals. At the halfway point, the vocals make way for a pure tribute to YMO synth nerdery. A ping pong match of punchy early computer sounds escalates into a ramped up, psychedelic freakout, with so many ecstatic polyrhythms going off at once it’s hard to keep track of what’s happening. It’s a euphoric, brain-busting moment that sounds just as good on record (very loud) as it does live. Eventually the track returns to earth, but that quick little solo is what seals this album as something so totally special, so totally different among other electronic pop records from this decade.
13. DEATH GRIPS – The Money Store 
A masked trickster glides through a city tearing holes in reality with an augmented box cutter, letting loose feedback-squealing static fuzz through the gashes.
This is like being so hopped up on adrenaline you cannot stop moving. An endless fire alarm in your senses. Your eyes rapidly dart around as if they’re trying to escape their sockets, your limbs have an endless motor trying to remove this excess energy, your brain is on fire and won’t be extinguished. Although I’ve fallen out a bit with Death Grips since about 2016, I can still find a ton of treasure with The Money Store. It still feels untainted to me, an artifact of time when a new band truly excited me (I really don’t mean to make that sound as jaded as it sounds – had you heard anything like Death Grips at the turn of the decade?). The record that nailed their aesthetic perfectly. A generation touched by insanity.
12. JOANNA NEWSOM – Divers 
A person with time travel powers warps between certain specific time periods, allowing them to cultivate and develop multiple different lives that all happen to connect over several centuries.
The most accessible and concise Joanna Newsom album. It’s as if she plucked the magic from her experiments in longform, from the spooling mythological epics of Ys and the lush, unending tapestry of narratives of Have One On Me, to make her own versions of pop songs. Instrumentally it’s just as precise and gorgeous as always, but also sleeker and more travel-ready. You’re not sitting down like for a movie on this one. Lyrically Joanna still has it, weaving together wave after wave of complex wordplay stuffed with literary, historical and science fiction references. Did I mention there’s a big time travel and time being cyclical motif on this record? She handles that easily, plus the usual themes of love, loss and death. No big deal. Divers might get flack from Joanna fans for not being another expansive epic, but y’all are foolish. Newsom just shows she’s still good at crushing quick hits of beauty and sparing her words to make a splash.
11. HOP ALONG – Get Disowned 
A pair of friends from a small midwestern town split: one staying in town and becoming entrenched in the routines of townies & yearning for variation, the other moving to the big city becoming swept up in the breakneck pace of urban living, yearning for quiet pleasures of home.
Hop Along is by and far my favorite rock band of the decade. I already wrote about the magic of Frances Quinlan’s raspy, powerful voice on my blurb about their most recent album Bark Your Head Off, Dog (turn to spot #93!), but hey, let’s chat about it again. On this record specifically, Quinlan lets LOOSE. Passionately delivering every line as if its her last. Better yet, her band backs her up and adds perfect accents to her roller coaster vocal lines. We also hear a lot more gang vocals on this record, more of a product of the time in the emo uprising of the early 10s. It gets perfectly executed here, especially on iconic lines that were made for shouting along to live, like “there are some, parents whose, children long for divorce” (“Diamond Mine”), “my love is average” (“Tibetan Pop Stars”), “I want truth in beauty, I wanna love something without it having to need me” (“Kids on the Boardwalk”), “young! and! happy!!” (“Young & Happy!”)… you get the picture. These are epic, singalong songs that will make you feel alive and energized in a cynical world.
10. FIONA APPLE – The Idler Wheel… 
Waking up surrounded by dishes in tall stacks, precariously positioned to fall over at any slight wrong motion.
MAN did this album slay me back in 2012, and even now when I’m re-listening to write this blurb. Apple’s voice is undoubtedly great and brings overflowing emotion into every single word, but the simplistic, cutting instrumentals (the chunky chords backing up the howling on “Regret”, for instance) and the small, subtle effects tucked away on this album is what pulls me over the edge. Little details like the children laughing and screaming on “Werewolf”, the and the strange mechanical sounds on “Jonathan”. The theatrics of her voice while singing about all this pain she’s going through is just something special. I definitely can’t do it justice. Just listen and feel what Fiona is feeling. Just get wrapped up in her rage, her tales of woe. A true mood. A mood before saying “mood” was a thing.
9. ARCA – &&&&& 
A descent down a curved mirror-lined slide with no end in sight, casting your body in alien, dysmorphic shapes as alarming strobes flash at random intervals. Despite the ordeal, you come out the other side comfortable with your body and its natural flaws.
My first taste of Arca, whom is likely my favorite producer of the decade, was a big one. I had heard nothing of her music at the time (joke’s on me at the time, as she had a hand in Yeezus) but decided to dive in to &&&&& solely based on the name and cover art. From there – just pure mind destruction. A true melting pot of hip hop, r&b, bass, pop, grime, dub, Destroyer (check track “Anesthetic”), classical, and surely much more threads of other sounds and genres beyond. She took all these different bases and started creating an architectural marvel with them; a mix that covers so much sonic ground out of varying pieces and parts and strung them together with her signature style. A blown-out macabre of hissing snare, detuned piano, massive synthetic choirs and breakneck volleys of bass. &&&&& is something completely different, something beyond. It is an amalgamation of parts built into an alien that operates on another level of consciousness. It has the collective knowledge to destroy us. And THAT my friends, was my first taste of Arca.
8. SOPHIE – Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides 
– Getting trapped in a bright, LCD-covered room and being forced to find the key to exit by popping hundreds of balloons filled with sticky, pink goo.
– A sentient Barbie’s quest to become a real human through the arcane magic of a shadowy cult culminates in the Barbie finding transcendence, their consciousness stretched across several planes of existence and eventually dissipating from reality altogether.
After getting a bunch of EPs and a collection of singles, I resigned myself to thinking that we’d never get a legit album from SOPHIE, or frankly any of the PC Music virtuosos. I was wrong! And holy hell, this album is so worth the wait. The one consistent voice throughout (courtesy of Mozart’s Sister) gives the album an anchor point, allowing the ballistic instrumentals to exist around the vocals as they progress, until everything is ground to dust and shot into another dimension on magnificent closer “Whole New World/Pretend World”. I feel like I could go LONG on this song alone, how it starts off so brash and dominating but slowly gets ground down by mechanical, methodical sound effects to reveal a gargantuan soundscape, vocals echoing into a silver abyss like some kind of futuristic void of cryogenically frozen human brains. The beauty and tragedy portrayed solely through sound in last few minutes nearly bring me to tears every time.
Moments like this and elsewhere on the album, like the bludgeoning bass and unrestricted fetish lyricism on “Ponyboy” or the metallic melodrama of “Faceshopping” or the infectious bounce of “Immaterial” show that SOPHIE has such a deft command of sound, it’s almost literally like play-doh in her hands. There are moments on this record that truly astonish me upon every listen; being witness to one of the finest sound architects of our generation. SOPHIE continually pushes the boundary of her sound in different ways throughout the course of the record, hinting that down the line there will be no limit to SOPHIE’s creativity and freedom.
7. KANYE WEST – Yeezus 
Modern retellings of various Greek myths, backlit with harsh LEDs and grimy black lights.
Oh baby. This record is just so stripped of any politeness, any empathy, any care for other human life except for the beholder. Talk about a head rush. Kanye drove deep down into our id and mined the core elements that drive our being: fear of god (or the devil), drugs, sex, popularity (attention as a whole), money, primal instincts, and sounds that sets the brain on fire. He doesn’t mince words here to tap into these topics, he guns straight for them. When I first heard this record I thought the lyrics were trash. Now when I listen I still think they’re trash, but so are we. We’re not above any of this. I’m not saying that we all should be running around and doing whatever we want, but it’s exciting to think about: the thought of overflowing excess and shucking responsibility with a simple shrug.
All this hedonism is happening around a breathtaking suite of impeccable production and insomniac sound design. A militia of producers juicing their creativity organs to satiate these monstrous sonic amoebas. Like a gaudy piece of pop art hanging on the wall of a ridiculous mansion. Garish, blinding, expensive and loud. Bold, brash, jealousy-inducing. Symbolic of nothing except an interest in status. Pure excess. The nightmares continue, but it feels good.
6. CHARLI XCX – Pop 2 
– A diamond-encrusted, digitally glitched SkyMall catalog.
– The feeling of being dangerously online.
I went long on this album in late 2018 when I was conflicted about either counting it as a 2018 record or revising its spot in 2017. I’ll cut up that essay and paste it here, but I encourage you to read it all: Although the adjective “brilliant” is used a bit too loosely in regards to musical output these days, I would lobby that Pop 2 is in fact pop brilliance; a previously untapped echelon of pop that has only been flirted with in the past, at best. Pop 2 utilizes a roster of perfectly-curated guest features (split with top-billing vocal guests and optimistic newcomers) with utmost precision & tact while also balancing them well with Charli’s pop persona, keeping the structure of power in thirds: one piece for Charli, one piece for the guests and one piece for the instrumentals. In most cases, both Charli and the guest sing the chorus or hook on their own verses, then team up at the end. It feels like XCX is really collaborating with these artists, instead of just having a guest verse tacked on in an empty moment in the song.
Instrumentally, each track brings something new and fresh to the table (thanks to the impressive and honestly groundbreaking work from PC Music boss A.G. Cook) that continually stretch the boundary between pop, EDM, trance, and all forms of weirdo electronic from the past few years without being too obtuse, inconsistent or navel-gazing. There are some truly freaky sounds used on here (the broken computer speak on “Track 10”, the metallic, nefarious bass on “I Got It”, Caroline Polachek’s scream on “Tears”, the underwater synth explosion at the end of “Backseat”, harsh gating in “Porsche”, the repetition of coin flip and disposable camera wheel click sound effects throughout), but there’s nothing that I can see people getting immediately turned off by like on other PC Music releases. Don’t get me wrong though, this definitely is not an across the board accessible album for any and all Top 40 pop fans.
Overall, all the signs point to Pop 2 being a bastion, a touch point for the pop of the future. It consistently pushes into new sonic ideas, pushing the bar of how ~weird~ mainstream pop can sound, how spreading the wealth and letting dynamic guest stars shine is a recipe for success, and that Charli XCX is a creative genius and has really blossomed into a sound of her own while accumulating/maintaining a rabid fanbase of weirdos and pop fanatics together.
5. DESTROYER – Kaputt 
Following an intoxicating perfume leads you all around a seaside city, ultimately pulling you to a remote jetty where waves crash around you romantically.
Smoothness incarnate. A look back at the dollar bin soft rock and jazz fusion records of the 70s and 80s. You know the ones. With more and more DJs and playlists these days (uhh follow me on Spotify), there have been more and more crate-digging discoveries from this time period and ergo more reissues to mine that neglected sound. It’s more prevalent than ever these days (Japanese city pop, hello?). A lush smoothness, a gentle breeze, a glint of sunshine off a sideview mirror, a circle of shade from an umbrella, a soft-focus saxophone, a humid trumpet, a starry-eyed synth, a distant clave, a velvet glove left in the backseat, a picnic basket with a wine bottle on the beach, a hazy recollection of the night previous. Kaputt harnesses all these prime qualities from this “lost era” to make damn fine songs.
Kaputt is essentially a best of compilation for every great sound I described above. The inimitable Dan Bejar leads us on this cruise through the twilight channel of love, calm and confident in his ability to show you a good time. Not to say that today’s current music landscape thriving on “vibes” and “moods” is a bad thing, but Kaputt kind of predicted it all. It precedes it all. People just want another world to step into. One from a time of endless pleasures, silk clothing and careless sunshine to purposefully spite the darkness in the world around us. It’s what inspired me to make the Essential Oil Dimension, a playlist that I’ve tried to embody in my everyday life ever since I made it. Formless grooves, sweet aromas, a gentle seriousness, a leisure cruise. Sweet relief.
4. BEACH HOUSE – Teen Dream 
Someone you care about gently squeezing your hand in theirs.
My heart starts to flutter whenever I hear any of the songs on here. Is that a medical problem or do I just love these songs that much? I sure hope it’s just the latter, because I definitely know that’s true. Beach House make dreamy, intimate songs that use the power of true romance to elevate themselves into the heavens. Maybe it’s nothing special compared to the truly dynamic performances laid down in most of the top 10, but damn. This record strikes a mood like no other. It inspires listeners to formulate their own dream scenarios they’d put these songs to. They’re shimmering and swaying, underhandedly bold and soaring, heartfelt and caring. Rays of bright sunlight catching the top of a lake. A stroll in a park after a fresh snowfall. A lazy day inside with a partner. Looking back at old photo books to see romantic pictures of your grandparents when they were young.
Maybe all that is a little naive, but hey, that’s what this album is all about: a teen dream. So young and impressionistic, pulling from romantic media that you’ve consumed, a head full of all kinds of ideas about a lovely future. It’s fun to think like that sometimes and experience a “simpler” love. That’s what this album means to me. The joyful moments in life that you’d like to sustain to the end.
3. HOP ALONG – Painted Shut 
A very nervous kid that gets picked on in school gains a cadre of protectors in their older siblings and their upperclassman friends.
If you could only listen to one indie rock record from the decade, I’d point you to this one. Get Disowned is a close second, but Painted Shut hones the wild gnashing energy of Disowned into razor-sharp rock songs with perfect just… everything. Disowned has such outrageous highs that highlight the shadows of its lows (granted – not very low!) where Painted Shut is so consistently fantastic on every single song. Every track but one has a huge, ultra-satisfying chorus with massive, energetic guitars to match lead singer Frances Quinlan’s wild voice. Quinlan remains an unstoppable emotional force on this album, although she applies a bit more restraint to her raucous melodies than on Disowned. The restraint makes the moments where she does go hard all the more impactful. You’re going to want to scream along with Frances on these monster choruses and refrains.
While I’m writing this I’m combing back through the album and I’m telling you: every song but one features a monumental, epic, emotional chorus. The one song I keep referencing? Still amazing. “Happy To See Me” is a stripped-back, chorus-free track with just Frances singing and playing acoustic guitar (with accents of harp from Mary Lattimore!). The outro repetition of “we all will remember things the same” will strike you down with an overflow of emotions. The album also features some of the best songwriting of Quinlan’s career, her semi-fictional narrative-driven lyrics are so engaging and believable with her powerful voice. Damn. It’s just so good. This is so good.
2. LAUREL HALO – Quarantine 
Being awoken from stasis aboard a space station with an AI that will stop at nothing until every crew member is dead. By the time the AI has been disabled, you’re the lone survivor floating untethered in space as stars, debris and distant planets drift by.
No album makes me feel like this one does. My Warm Visions description pretty much sums it all up. It sounds like it has been beamed in from another dimension. From Quarantine‘s opening, eerie ambiance is placed within the listeners headspace, like some kind of alien white noise and the churning of a foreign space craft, setting the stage for the rest of the album’s events. Odd electronic sounds show up and then disappear, never to be heard from again. Harsh grinding can slowly rise up in the mix without the listener noticing until you find your blood pressure has risen considerably. Strange bubbles churn in cryogenic freezing tanks. Hacked VR assistants endlessly loop in glitchy broken cycles. The songs just morph and twist and convulse into various shapes and sizes, always keeping the listener guessing.
Laurel Halo’s vocals are also at play here, a rare thing in her discography until her 2017 record Dust. They slice to the forefront of these tracks, almost purposefully clashing against the psychedelic, heavily electronic instrumentals. Nearly every vocal passage on this record sounds like a distress signal sent from another star system, begging you to figure out where it’s coming from. Even on a track like “Years”, a track that starts off placid enough, instantly becomes unsettling once Halo’s obtuse voice come in. Then the seemingly benign, hazy synths from the start take on a new, sinister growl, simply due to the addition of her vocals. The nauseating anti-gravity wash cycle of “Wow”, comprised of layers of computer-altered voice, feeds into “Carcass”, a red-alert rumble that features heavily manipulated, shrill deliveries from Halo. Terrifying and mind-destroying.
Science fiction films always come to mind while listening: Magnetic Rose, Alien, Event Horizon, The Thing, 2001: A Space Odyssey. There’s a creature loose and it’s masquerading as one of our own. The thing that’s supposed to be protecting has gone too far. A crippling sense of unease stemming from isolation. This is not to say that the album is outright frightening or like a horror movie, it just feeds on anxiety through uncanny vocal touches, dissonant synth passages, throbbing acid techno sequences and disorienting production techniques. Only the finale, “Light + Space” can offer some form of release. It immediately reminds me of the final act of any movie listed above: floating adrift in space, so relieved to be exorcised from the evil that has been plaguing you that the reality of starving or suffocating alone in space has not set in yet.
This has been a record that has stuck with me consistently since its release in 2012. Something keeps bringing me back to this decrepit space station. It truly sounds like nothing else. I’ve heard records that simulate something similar (Jacaszek’s KWIATY and Roly Porter’s Third Law come to mind) and they’re great, but nothing captures the drama that Laurel Halo does on Quarantine. It’s not an easy listen, but like any one of the movies listed above, it’s a thrilling ride that will leave your head spinning for days afterwards.
1. JOANNA NEWSOM – Have One On Me 
Every romance that looked to be sound at the end of a fairy tale is checked in on after the last page ends to find tumultuous, real life problems throwing the fantasy realm into muted chaos.
Joanna Newsom’s three-disc masterpiece Have One On Me, is my favorite album of the decade. It is a true modern epic. Yes it’s a load to get through, but the ratio of songs here that cut me to my core compared to the ones that don’t is very much swayed to the former. One could say this album approaches similarities to Kate Bush and Björk in terms of experimentation and disregard for a predictable melody. It’s also a breakup album of gargantuan proportions. Imagine being on the receiving end of this unending scroll? That has to sting. Upon first few listens, it’s very likely you’ll barely recognize it’s a breakup record, due to the overwhelming austere romance to it. Sounds like a fairy tale. It feels like it’s one of the most romantic records ever made. In a way it is, but instead with very unorthodox love songs.
The lyrics follow a dramatic, impulsive person (usually the narrator) as they deal with homesickness, alcoholism, “trouble in paradise”, and especially the blushing, hair-pulling frustrations of dealing with a routine-driven, emotionally hollow partner. Predominantly it features the tales of these two individuals, one trying to salvage a washed up relationship that seemed to be promising at the outset but is riddled with barnacles, docked in the harbor and rotting from the inside out. While going through this relationship, Newsom continues to flex her insane wordsmithing abilities, pulling antiquated speech out of thin air, referencing obscure literary works, painting vivid and cinematic settings through only a few descriptors, and making metaphors and similes out of things that you would have never thought of. Yes I’m looking at you, “I don’t wanna be alone, my heart’s as yellow as an ear of corn”. That line is so dope.
Instrumentally, I mean, it’s just jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Whereas songs on her previous album Ys seem to have an endless motor, constantly driving and morphing in real time, Have One On Me is content to let space appear between the sounds. Newsom can take her time moseying her way through this garden of delights, letting the notes appear as she sees fit. Harp and piano are Newsom’s two weapons of choice and they feature predominantly in the meat of every track, but the flourishes is where this album really shines. It’s truly like an orchestral piece. A percussionist could be resting for half the song and then all of the sudden come crashing in with a snare rim shot to perfectly emphasize a point Newsom makes lyrically, then stay quiet until the end of the song. There are a few songs of just Newsom’s voice and piano. There are moments where noise and chaos takes over any intricate arrangement in a tantrum of chaos. An upright bass will make its presence felt from around a corner. A litany of stringed instruments are deployed on this record, providing interesting timbres that I really haven’t heard anywhere else. It’s not quite chamber pop in those moments, it feels uniquely Joanna Newsom in that way.
I can definitely go even longer on this album but I’m not gonna do that here. Maybe I’ll find time to do it elsewhere once I organize my thoughts coherently. But I can say this much for certain: Have One On Me is a masterpiece. It shows that Joanna Newsom is one of the generation’s defining artists. An artist capable of sticking the landing on a triple album that negotiates the hazards of a traumatic breakup, making tantrums, breakdowns, self-flagellation, and much much more feel like breezy folk tunes. One of the highest watermarks of creativity from this decade. It’s even perfectly sequenced. I’ve heard many of these songs live and CRIED, so I’m clearly biased in favor of it, but damn. How could you get any better than this? I’m sure you have your own favorite album of the decade, especially after reviewing all the picks on this list, but you gotta hand it to Newsom at least partially for this massive achievement of a record.
Nice job reading or scrolling through this! You deserve a treat. Please treat yourself today. Feel free to argue with me viciously if you don’t agree with anything on this list.
Now for the cheesy stuff for my anniversary. I started this decade discovering Pitchfork and quickly embarked on a slippery slope of rapid new music consumption from there. I was then led to blogs like Stereogum, Gorilla Vs. Bear, Pretty Much Amazing, I Guess I’m Floating, We All Want Someone To Shout For, Music For Kids Who Can’t Read Good, Hipster Runoff, Stadiums And Shrines, We Listen For You, My Old Kentucky Blog, The Needle Drop, Largehearted Boy, Under The Radar (ok this is a magazine), Aquarium Drunkard, Altered Zones, YoursTruly, Hype Machine, Daytrotter…. the list goes on. I would obsessively scroll through pages and pages of these sites in search of free mp3 downloads, highly-rated albums, best of the year lists, anything to keep discovering new bands and be the coolest kid in my high school, even though I was still a hopeless nerd.
As we all know, not many of those outlets exist or regularly update anymore. Heck, when I joined the game the music blog empire was on its decline anyways. Regardless, they were a daily inspiration to me – a place that people showcase their favorite new music… for free. How novel! That was before I knew about publicists, premieres, all that nonsense. (Shout out to my publicist friends y’all are doing a great job). Making my own blog seemed like a natural choice. My first post was my favorite records of 2009. From then on, I would occasionally post new songs that caught my fancy (trying and failing to impersonate Pitchfork’s Best New Track/Album feature by calling an album/song ‘RADICAL!’) and capping off each year with Best Of lists. This remained the formula until about 2016, when I started to post with some regularity outside of the year end stuff.
After graduating college I resolved that I wanted to start posting with more regularity, so I started the Recommended Albums feature, something that I’ve somehow been able to keep going every month since then. In February 2018 I posted a song a day. I’ve started other features like User’s Manual, 10 Best Songs, and A Long Bow. It’s been a slow process with no real deadlines, but it’s all about trying to keep writing and not letting dust settle on my cranium. I’m still as voracious of a music listener as ever, constantly finding both new and old tunes that light up my life; I might as well be cataloging it for my own sake sharing what I find for everyone else’s sake.
I’ve never made it big like other blogs (what does indie blog big even mean these days anyways? Artists retweeting your posts? Massive amounts of followers?), instead opting to treat the site as a personal newsletter. It’s just been me consistently posting here for 10 years with my goofy writing style. All collected on this one little site. There were moments when I wanted to throw in the towel, but those thoughts passed rather quickly. This is purely a hobby and it’s not interfering in my personal or professional life at all. My livelihood isn’t dependent on it, so, why not keep doing it? I’d like to think that over the past decade I’ve brought a decent number of people joy through music discovery and likewise helped bands gain a few extra fans they might not have had otherwise. That makes me happy to think about.
I’ve also seen my taste expand exponentially over the course of 10 years. I’ve seen pretty much all my colleagues’ tastes do the same, as the 10s seemed to distort genre like a funhouse mirror – almost anything goes now. Being an omnivore is where it’s at. I went from only listening to the big, obvious indie records in 2010 to only listening to the big, obvious indie records (and a few other weirdo ones) in 2019/2020. From working as the music director and DJ at my college radio station to working as a promoter that sends music TO college radio station music directors and DJs. From trawling music forums and subreddits to being in a Discord server with true music freakos from all over the world… it’s been a journey. The 10s are over, but they’re going to be very much imprinted on how I process music for the rest of my life. It was incredibly formative and exciting and I’m very happy I made the decision to keep track of my own taste to look back upon as time goes by.
Thank you so much for reading. It means the world.
A FEW STATS:
# OF ALBUMS FROM EACH YEAR:
- 2010: 18
- 2011: 21
- 2012: 21
- 2013: 24
- 2014: 18
- 2015: 26
- 2016: 15
- 2017: 22
- 2018: 21
- 2019: 14
ARTISTS WITH MULTIPLE ALBUMS ON LIST:
* = indicates all artist’s major albums released during decade are represented on list.
- 4: Grouper (1)
- 3: Angel Olsen, Beach House, Big Thief, Hop Along*, Jenny Hval, Julia Holter, Oneohtrix Point Never (7)
- 2: Aldous Harding, Alvvays*, Ariel Pink, Björk, Charli XCX, Deerhunter, Fear of Men, FKA twigs, Frank Ocean, Hundred Waters, Jessica Pratt, Jessy Lanza*, Joanna Newsom*, Julianna Barwick, Kanye West, Kelela*, Kendrick Lamar, Majical Cloudz, Mitski, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, (Sandy) Alex G, Tim Hecker, U.S. Girls, Vampire Weekend, Waxahatchee, Weyes Blood (26 – I definitely have a particular taste)
AOTY BASED OFF POSITION ON THIS LIST:
- 2010: Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me
- 2011: Destroyer – Kaputt
- 2012: Laurel Halo – Quarantine
- 2013: Kanye West – Yeezus
- 2014: Mr Twin Sister – Mr Twin Sister
- 2015: Hop Along – Painted Shut
- 2016: Jessy Lanza – Oh No
- 2017: Charli XCX – Pop 2
- 2018: SOPHIE – Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides
- 2019: Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains – only one that matches with original #1
A MOMENT OF SILENCE FOR RECORDS BUMPED OFF 200 LIST:
These are records that at one time were on my Top 200 list, but were eventually bumped out by new additions. You will not be forgotten.
* = records that were on my Best of 2010 – 2014 so far list.
- Amen Dunes – Love
- Anamanaguchi – Endless Fantasy
- Andy Stott – Luxury Problems
- Arca – Mutant
- Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot… Son of Chico Dusty
- Bon Iver – Bon Iver
- Chairlift – Moth
- Charli XCX – Number 1 Angel
- Clams Casino – Instrumental Mixtape*
- Daft Punk – Random Access Memories*
- Danny Brown – XXX
- DIIV – Oshin
- DJ Koze – Amygdala
- Death Grips – Exmilitary
- Death Grips – No Love Deep Web
- El Guincho – Pop Negro
- Floating Points – Shadows
- Flying Lotus – Until the Quiet Comes
- Four Tet – There Is Love In You
- Fucked Up – David Comes To Life
- Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact
- Gil Scott Heron & Jamie xx – We’re New Here
- Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid*
- Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
- Kevin Morby – Singing Saw
- Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music*
- Mac DeMarco – Another One
- Mountain Man – Magic Ship
- Neon Indian – Era Extraña
- Omni – Deluxe
- Real Lies – Real Life
- Rico Nasty & Kenny Beats – Anger Management
- Sam Evian – Premium
- (Sandy) Alex G – Rocket
- Smith Westerns – Dye It Blonde
- St. Vincent – St. Vincent
- Sufjan Stevens – Age of Adz
- Sufjan Stevens – All Delighted People EP*
- Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
- Tame Impala – Innerspeaker
- Thee Oh Sees – Carrion Crawler / The Dream
- Tony Molina – Dissed & Dismissed
- Ty Segall – Manipulator
- Ty Segall – Melted
- Joanna Newsom – Have One On Me
- Laurel Halo – Quarantine
- Hop Along – Painted Shut
- Beach House – Teen Dream
- Destroyer – Kaputt
- Charli XCX – Pop 2
- Kanye West – Yeezus
- SOPHIE – Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides
- Arca – &&&&&
- Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…
- Hop Along – Get Disowned
- Joanna Newsom – Divers
- Death Grips – The Money Store
- Jessy Lanza – Oh No
- LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
- Julia Holter – Have You In My Wilderness
- Mr Twin Sister – Mr Twin Sister
- Jessica Pratt – On Your Own Love Again
- Grouper – Ruins
- Burial – Tunes 2011-2019
- Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
- Aldous Harding – Party
- Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest
- St. Vincent – Strange Mercy
- Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma
- Weyes Blood – Front Row Seat To Earth
- U.S. Girls – In A Poem Unlimited
- Alvvays – Alvvays
- Kelela – Take Me Apart
- Julia Holter – Loud City Song
- Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today
- Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires Of The City
- Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
- Mitski – Bury Me At Makeout Creek
- Björk – Vulnicura
- Majical Cloudz – Are You Alone?
- Jessy Lanza – Pull My Hair Back
- Yves Tumor – Safe In The Hands Of Love
- The Avalanches – Wildflower
- Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains
- Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
- Big Thief – U.F.O.F.
- Kali Uchis – Isolation
- Jai Paul – Jai Paul / Leak 04-13 (Bait Ones)
- Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
- Mitski – Be The Cowboy
- Amen Dunes – Freedom
- Empress Of – Me
- FKA Twigs – EP2
- Weyes Blood – Titanic Rising
- Björk – Utopia
- Merchandise – Children Of Desire
- Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
- Beach House – Bloom
- Tirzah – Devotion
- Jenny Hval – Blood Bitch
- John Maus – We Must Become The Pitiless Censors Of Ourselves
- Grouper – A|A
- Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
- Saintseneca – Dark Arc
- The Caretaker – An Empty Bliss Beyond This World
- Carly Rae Jepsen – E•MO•TION
- Oneohtrix Point Never – Garden Of Delete
- Shabazz Palaces – Black Up
- Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked At Me
- Kamasi Washington – The Epic
- Vampire Weekend – Contra
- Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid M.A.A.D. City
- Kaytranada – 99.9%
- Dusk – Dusk
- Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs
- Oneohtrix Point Never – R Plus Seven
- Disclosure – Settle
- Zola Jesus – Okovi
- White Lung – Deep Fantasy
- Jamie xx – In Colour
- D’Angelo – Black Messiah
- Hand Habits – Wildly Idle (Humble Before The Void)
- Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
- Beach Fossils – Clash The Truth
- Tame Impala – Lonerism
- Hundred Waters – The Moon Rang Like A Bell
- Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972
- SASSY 009 – Do you mind EP
- Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory
- Alvvays – Antisocialites
- Julianna Barwick – The Magic Place
- Big Thief – Capacity
- Women – Public Strain
- Fear Of Men – Loom
- Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan
- FKA twigs – LP1
- Hop Along – Bark Your Head Off, Dog
- Kelly Moran – Ultraviolet
- Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Multi-Love
- (Sandy) Alex G – DSU
- Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Push The Sky Away
- Deafheaven – Sunbather
- Chino Amobi – PARADISO
- Kelly Lee Owens – Kelly Lee Owens
- Ovlov – AM
- Grouper – The Man Who Died In His Boat
- Chromatics – Kill For Love
- Demen – Nektyr
- Erika de Casier – Essentials
- Skee Mask – Compro
- Preoccupations – Viet Cong
- Aldous Harding – Designer
- Various Artists – Mono No Aware
- Emeralds – Does It Look Like I’m Here?
- Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want
- Cloud Nothings – Attack On Memory
- Majical Cloudz – Impersonator
- Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah – Ancestral Recall
- Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
- The Radio Dept – Clinging To A Scheme
- Tim Hecker – Virgins
- U.S. Girls – Half Free
- Yo La Tengo – Fade
- Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness
- Fever Ray – Plunge
- Roman A Clef – Abandonware
- Oneohtrix Point Never – Replica
- Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
- Colin Stetson & Sarah Neufeld – Never Were The Way She Was
- Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith – EARS
- Andy Shauf – The Party
- Angel Olsen – Strange Cacti
- Little Simz – GREY Area
- Dean Blunt – Black Metal
- James Blake – James Blake
- Waxahatchee – American Weekend
- The Weeknd – House Of Balloons
- (Sandy) Alex G – House of Sugar
- Dntel – Human Voice
- Braids – Deep In The Iris
- Beach House – Depression Cherry
- Danny Brown – Atrocity Exhibition
- Swearin’ – Swearin’
- Panda Bear – Tomboy
- Sun Araw – On Patrol
- Grouper – Grid of Points
- Christine & The Queens – Chris
- Wednesday Campanella – Superman
- Jenny Hval – The Practice of Love
- Kelela – Cut 4 Me
- Cross Record – Wabi-Sabi
- DJ Koze – Knock Knock
- Future Islands – In Evening Air
- Frank Ocean – Blonde
- My Bloody Valentine – mbv
- Smerz – Have fun EP
- Charli XCX – Charli
- Big Thief – Two Hands
- Angel Olsen – MY WOMAN
- Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer
- Sampha – Process
- Jenny Hval – Apocalypse, Girl
- Real Estate – Days
- Jessica Pratt – Quiet Signs
- Grimes – Visions
- The Babies – Our House On The Hill
- Mac DeMarco – 2
- Whitney – Light Upon The Lake
- Ford & Lopatin – Channel Pressure
- Julianna Barwick – Nepenthe
- Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear
- The Books – The Way Out
- TR/ST – Joyland
- Hundred Waters – Hundred Waters
- SZA – CTRL
- 2814 – 新しい日の誕生 / Birth of a New Day
- Ariel Pink – pom pom
- Kllo – Backwater
- David Bowie – Blackstar
- Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
- Sam Amidon – The Following Mountain
- Takao – Stealth
- Elite Gymnastics – RUIN
- Krallice – Years Past Matter
- Holly Herndon – Platform
- TOPS – Picture You Staring
- Floating Points – Crush
- Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
- Macintosh Plus – Floral Shoppe
- The Beths – Future Me Hates Me
- Bill Callahan – Apocalypse
- Ty Segall Band – Slaughterhouse
- Perfume Genius – No Shape
- Fear Of Men – Early Fragments
- Julia Holter – Ekstasis
- Waxahatchee – Cerulean Salt
- White Denim – Last Day Of Summer
- Grave Babies – Crusher
- Royal Headache – Royal Headache
- Dirty Beaches – Badlands
- Krill – A Distant Fist Unclenching
- Deerhunter – Monomania
- Owen Pallett – Heartland
- Chastity Belt – Time To Go Home