As someone with their ear buds in all the time, I listen to more than a hundred albums a year. This is the music that I love and want to share why each of these records help define the past decade to me personally. It’s a countdown of my favorite albums leading to the best one. There are many more albums that could have made the list but these are the ones that were most strong to me.
50: “Awaken, My Love!” (2016) – Childish Gambino – Neo-Soul/Synth Funk
This album is a very psychedelic and moving experience.
49: Modern Vampires of the City (2013) – Vampire Weekend – Indie Pop/Indie Rock/Gothic Rock
Thankful that the gothic tone pays off. It’s dark production along with the band’s masterful aesthetic.
48: Be the Cowboy (2018) – Mitski – Art Pop/Indie Pop/Indie Rock
Top tier songwriting that is sweet, depressing, and hopeful, which outdoes Mitski’s previous work.
47: Come In (2019) – Weatherday – Lo-Fi Rock
Lo-Fi to its max “Come In” is a difficult listen at first but the Car Seat Headrest influence is done in their own way and it has constant brilliant song structure.
46: American Dream (2017) – LCD Soundsystem – Dance/Post Punk
This comeback album is supposed to be the band’s last. It’s consistently lyrical and filled with today’s social and political issues. It has the elements of the classic sound the band is known for.
45: LiveLoveA$AP (2011) – A$AP Rocky – Cloud Rap/East Coast Hip/Hop
A stupendous album full of trippy and Lo-Fi hip hop music with a spacey atmosphere. A$AP Rocky outshined himself here and continued to do so on the East Coast.
44: Pure Comedy (2017) – Father John Misty – Singer/Songwriter/Chamber Pop
A moving album with songs about life, death, and the problems we face for our future. It’s a subtly sad listen, yet beautiful with solid soft rock tunes and piano ballads.
43: Lemonade (2016)– Beyoncé – Pop/Alternative R&B
The most empowering and personal album that Beyoncé has ever released.
42: Pure Heroine (2013) – Lorde – Pop/Art Pop
A simple, catchy album that captures early teen years perfectly with Lorde’s relatable, attachable lyrics.
41: Channel ORANGE (2012) – Frank Ocean – Pop/Alternative R&B
A concept on Frank’s ups and downs, with songwriting that speaks to the humanity in people.
40: Teen Dream (2010) – Beach House – Dream Pop/Indie Pop
A sweet listen that isn’t just background music but has warmer tones than the last two albums. This album defined the genre in every way and their future efforts.
39: You Won’t Get What You Want (2018) – Daughters – Noise Rock
A soul crushing “a hope is lost” album that is extremely dark in its sound but the chaotic density of these layers of sounds is definitely something to write home about.
38: Floss (2017) – Injury Reserve – Experimental Hip/Hop
One of the most enjoyable hip hop albums of the decade, with catchy hooks and refreshing production from the amazing Parker Corey.
37: Oil of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides (2017) – SOPHIE – Post Pop/Post Industrial
SOPHIE’s production style is mind bendingly insane and she is creating a one of a kind future for pop music in general. SOPHIE is a genius in every right for her unique style.
36: Oxnard (2018) – Anderson .Paak – R&B/Soul/Funk/West Coast Hip Hop
A little messy in the flow of the track list, but that’s forgivable because the songs are superb. After his 2016 hit “Malibu”, and collaboration with Knxwledge, he’s proven himself to be one of California’s most exciting musical figures of the decade.
35: Big Fish Theory (2017) – Vince Staples – Pop Rap/Experimental Hip/Hop
Vince Staples has shown himself to be an artist that is not afraid to take risks and to take west coast hip hop and make it sound like it came out of 2050. I saw this album performed live and never regretted it. This is a must listen if you want to experience a unique underwater world.
34: Visions (2012) – Grimes – Art Pop/Synth Pop/Electronic
Grimes is one of the most promising artists in the art pop world. Her one of a kind style of voice and production has not only influenced other artists but has been a part of the creation of post pop which is dark and ambient, but quite catchy. This album is no exception to those descriptions.
33: Meliora (2015) – Ghost – Heavy Metal/ Hard Rock
This decade had some pretty good metal to offer but one of the ones that stood out the most was this Ghost album. There is truly something special behind the epic ballads, talented guitar solos, and dark but surreal lyrics/vocals.
32: Run the Jewels 2 (2014) – Run the Jewels – Hardcore Hip/Hop
El-P and Killer Mike are hands down one of the best duos of the decade. Individually they had an eventful decade in the 2000s and in the 2010s they formed Run the Jewels to make three albums. The best one is “Run the Jewels 2”. I love the catchy unforgettable instrumentals and politically charged lyrics that El-P and Killer Mike both bring. These two always prove themselves as an exciting voice to the genre.
31: This is Happening (2010) – LCD Soundsystem – Dance/Electronic/Post Punk
Since LCD Soundsystem is one of my favorite bands with their almost flawless discography, this album was supposedly their last even though they released one 7 years later. This album experience is crying while you are dancing. It is filled and detailed to every song to the point where you find yourself listening to it over and over again.
30: Antisocialites (2017) – Alvvays – Dream Pop
Alvvays sophomore effort exceeded the expectations that their last album made. Songs like Dream Tonite and Not My Baby will go down as the best songs of the decade. It’s sweet production makes a great mixture with it’s occasional somber, dreary lyrics.
29: Currents (2015) – Tame Impala – Psych Pop/Synth Pop/New Wave
Tame Impala has had a lot of success with three strong critically acclaimed albums and tours. Currents is a change of pace that is a risky but textured synth pop album. Their other releases had a lot of rock influences, but “Currents” perfectly captures a new wave sound in an up-to -date style. This reminds me of “Loveless” by My Bloody Valentine and “Kid A” by Radiohead.
28: Forever (2017) – Code Orange – Metalcore/Alt-Metal
There has been a lot of creative metal over the last ten years, but “Forever” is what weaves and sums up all of what I love about the genre to begin with. Metal-core is a style that turns off some listeners; however, this is an in-your-face and bone-crushing listen that all metal fans need to hear. The densely layered guitar work is immaculate and the synths are icy and crisp. This album is not for everyone, but printed a stamp in exceptional metal over the decade.
27: The Powers that B (2015) – Death Grips – Industrial/Experimental Hip/Hop
This double album by experimental hip hop trio Death Grips put a staple on hardcore and industrial music for a lifetime. At almost 90 minutes, this project is filled with song after song of nightmarish tracks that are shoved in your face, but in the best way possible.
26: The Life of Pablo (2016) – Kanye West – Pop Rap/Experimental Hip/Hop
A lot was going on for Kanye at the time of this release, what with his remixing the original, cancelling his tour due for mental health reasons, and not releasing on CD or vinyl. “The Life of Pablo” is a project that doesn’t flow very well, yet it has some of the most hard-hitting, personal, and introspective songs in Kanye’s discography.
25: All My Heroes Are Corn Balls (2019) – JPEGMAFIA – Experimental Hip/Hop
This album doesn’t slap you in the face as much as “Veteran” does, but Peggy introduces his R&B and singing influences that are backed up with the trippy, experimental, and odd production that he’s mostly known for. He still sounds like the sweet side of darker parts of the Internet.
24: Some Rap Songs (2018) – Earl Sweatshirt – Experimental Hip/Hop
Not only one of the saddest and most depressing hip hop albums in the history of the genre, “Some Rap Songs” has a hauntingly dark, muddy, and messy production style but that makes it one of a kind. The lyrics are as complex as they are short with songs being one to two minutes. It’s a psychological dive into Earl’s mind and even though I care so much about his mental health, I say this is one of the best experimental hip hop albums of all time.
23: Good Kid Maad.City (2013) – Kendrick Lamar – West Coast Hip/Hop/Pop Rap
As one of the best concept story albums ever made, “Good Kid Maad. City” has catchy hooks, strong instrumentals, and lyrics that give perspective to Kendrick’s childhood and growing up. This LP has inspired many artists and Kendrick will go down as one of the most influential.
22: Igor (2019) – Tyler, the Creator – Neo Soul/Synth Pop/ Experimental Hip Hop
This is the most recent album from the West coast’s most interesting rapper/producer. His mixes of soul, jazz, and synth pop are creative and risky but all payoff. His pitched vocals created a split audience, but it’s genius since it’s a part of his persona and the stories he’s telling. It’s twelve songs and forty minutes of a pure, yet sad, experience.
21: Saturation III (2017) – BROCKHAMPTON – Pop Rap/West Coast Hip/Hop
The boy band had a crazy last couple of years with the “Saturation” trilogy release. However, “Saturation III” is the most versatile and diverse of the trilogy. It is melodic but also features verses from all the members, which makes it all the more memorable.
20: Kids See Ghosts (2018) – Kids See Ghosts – Neo Psych/Soul/Hip/Hop
A brilliant but short set of tracks by Kid Cudi and Kanye West. It’s psychedelic in the brightest ways along with the darkest. It’s filled with hope that is poetic but scary and terrifying to listen to at times. Reborn is one of the best songs of the decade; however, it’s just one out of seven phenomenal tracks out of this oddball odyssey.
19: Atrocity Exibition (2016) – Danny Brown – Hardcore/Experimental Hip/Hop
This tortured album is wonderfully produced. At first listen it’s a head scratcher, but then you start to understand its genius. The Detroit rapper brilliantly goes into uncharted territory in the genre of hip hop and delivers a depressing, yet brilliantly written album with plenty of great features and verses.
18: Teens of Denial (2016) – Car Seat Headrest – Indie Rock
“Teens of Style” was amazing, but this is Will Toledo’s first real attempt at a fully mixed album. He steps away from the super lo fi recordings. It moves away from the heavy reverb vocals and takes us to a world of personal being. I love the previous albums, but this one is dense and detailed indie rock with relatable lyrics about the struggles of teenage and college years.
17: Contra (2010) – Vampire Weekend – Art Pop/Indie Pop
This sophomore album release has been on repeat since 2010. It has a lot to offer with its afro-pop mix of indie/synth pop and a risky reggae influence. Recorded in the studio, the production is detailed, yet it has a natural sound. Sweet melodies and fascinating hooks pay homage to all indie artists.
16: Plastic Beach (2010) – Gorillaz – Synth Pop/Pop Rap/Indie
“Plastic Beach” is a beautifully textured album that sounds sweet and it has a lot to offer, which it delivers perfectly. It has socially and politically charged lyrics mostly about trash in the ocean and global warming. It’s filled with catchy hip hop, but also chill and beautiful songs that feel like being lifted up from the ground.
15: Ta1300 (2018) – Denzel Curry – Hardcore Hip/Hop/ Conscious Hip/Hop
This three part concept album proves that Denzel is a real deal artist with tons of talent up his sleeves. It’s as energetic as it is atmospheric. Dark lyrics carry the album along with its unique style of flows and hooks. “Ta1300” is one of the best albums that presents dark ideas that are fleshed out to its musical core.
14: Rodeo (2015) – Travis Scott – Trap Rap/Pop Rap
This banger filled project not only goes in as one of the best trap rap albums ever made, but Travis Scott has influenced so many artists. He doesn’t drown in his influences because this album is unique with its dark and drug-like production and each song stands on its own from start to finish.
13: Yeezus (2013) – Kanye West – Pop Rap/ Experimental Hip/Hop
My personal favorite Kanye album, “Yeezus”, introduced experimental electronic hip hop to the mainstream and split the fanbase after the huge success of “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”. He sweeps your expectations from the floor and gives you a loud, noisy, and insane detour into his egotistical mind. He took a risk and nailed it perfectly.
12: Bottomless Pit (2016) – Death Grips – Experimental Hip/Hop Noise/Industrial
Death Grips has surprised me and changed their sound album after album, so I can’t argue if people say this is their best. I see this as a sequel to their groundbreaking acclaimed album “The Money Store”, but I think all of the trio’s talents are doubled on this project. It is indescribably off the wall with cryptic, almost devilish lyrics from MC Ryde and production that is irresistibly catchy but terrifying.
11: Dirty Computer (2018) – Janelle Monáe – Art Pop/Contemporary R&B/Funk
“Dirty Computer” is a true gift to younger listeners, men, women, and non-binary people who want to express their true selves. A deep dive into Janelle’s mind on politics, social issues, and identity treats us with sweet and soft art pop with beautiful lyrics and singing.
10: Die Lit (2018) – Playboi Carti – Trap Rap
The up and coming rapper from Atlanta has mastered the idea of simplicity and that’s what makes “Die Lit” one of the best trap rap albums of all time. It’s catchy but simple production from Pi’erre Bourne is fantastic and Playboi Carti’s unforgettable hooks and fun personality keeps me from criticizing it. If you accept that’s not lyrically dense, then you’ll have a lot of fun with this album.
9: Veteran (2018) – JPEGMAFIA – Experimental Hip/Hop/Hardcore Hip Hop
If there is an album that sounds exactly how the Internet feels like sometimes, then Veteran perfectly reflects that idea in a gritty, unapologetic, and dark fashion. He presents crazy, off the wall ideas in a production straight from the odd side of the BandCamp catalogue.
8: Random Access Memories (2013) – Daft Punk – Dance/Funk/Electronic
In my opinion the best Daft Punk album is an experience that only the French house/dance duo can bring to us. It features an ensemble of their favorite musicians and creates something honest and confessional. It will have you break down lyric by lyric about the future but musically will take you back to the past with danceable songs and irresistible choruses.
7: Ctrl (2017) – SZA – Contemporary R&B/ Alternative R&B
Being her second album, SZA has already proved herself to be a legendary voice to R&B in the music world during this decade. It speaks to a lot of people’s hearts with sweet and personal lyrics about love and relationships with a crazy variety of production styles. “Ctrl” has genius metaphors and stories that will stick with me for the next decade and beyond.
6: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010) – Kanye West – Pop Rap
This album has been praised as the best album of the decade and is beloved by many people. In my opinion “Yeezus” and “Life of Pablo” are better; however, this album gets a top spot because it changed the genre forever. With memorable featured artists and the mesmerizing production and brilliant ego that only Kanye can bring, it makes the industry apologize for rejecting his previous album “808s and Heartbreak”. This album proved his genius and creative mind that continued to shine through the decade.
5: Little Dark Age (2018) – MGMT – Synth Pop/Gothic Psych Pop
In the footsteps of Tame Impala and Ariel Pink, MGMT brings a legendary, almost perfect gothic, haunting experience using synth pop and upbeat material. It sounds like it came out of the mid 80s with dark lyrics as a twist.
4: To Pimp a Butterfly (2015) – Kendrick Lamar – Jazz Rap/Conscious Hip/Hop
This album is extremely ambitious in its presentation and politically challenges your point of view. The sound of this album is as pure as it is musically interesting. There are no attempts at radio play and mainstream attention. It’s a highly personal project that will have Kendrick go down in history as one of the most influential artists.
3: Flower Boy (2017) – Tyler, the Creator – Jazz Rap/ West Coast Hip Hop
Tyler’s fifth album shows his lighter side on this wonderfully structured piece of art composed with jazz and synth pop influences. Relatable songs about isolation, identity, and a wide scope of production choices makes it one of the best hip hop albums ever written and made.
2: Twin Fantasy (2018) – Car Seat Headrest – Indie Rock/Singer Songwriter
Car Seat Headrest is one of my favorite bands and one of the best indie bands of all time. Their creativity and relatable songs have stuck with me for a long time. Title song Twin Fantasy and Beach Life n’ Death will go down as two of my favorite songs. The 2011 version and then the remake in 2018 are both masterpieces. The depressing, relatable, and introspective lyrics are one of a kind and stick in your head. “Twin Fantasy” is the best rock album of the decade and deserves to be.
1: Blonde (2016) – Frank Ocean – Art Pop/Alternative R&B
It’s hard to put into words why I love my favorite album so much. Frank’s lyrical and emotional input to this album is something special and something that makes it an automatic classic. Every song is structured differently, but the album flows perfectly at exactly one hour long. Frank’s songwriting and singing have matured and is impeccable. Blonde has a pure style and beautiful sound.
Peter Kannikal, Staff reporter