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Top 100 Albums of the 2010s

on November 04, 2019, 12:30pm
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Join us all month long as we celebrate the best music, film, and television of the decade. Today, we kick off the celebration with the 100 Best Albums of the 2010s.

A decade passes in an instant.

That’s something the last 10 years have taught me. Days come and go quickly, and rarely do you remember the moments you think you will. It’s like finding an old newspaper clipping or pebble in a drawer but not knowing why you saved it in the first place. Surely, at one point, it must have meant something, right?

That’s what poring over so many of these artists, albums, and songs has felt like over the last several weeks. In some cases, these lists capture the albums we’ve kept in our back pockets across the last decade. We’ve kept them close to us and know that the day we stop turning to them will be the same day we cease to be. However, in more cases, we turn up albums that we all but forgot about … records so vitally connected to a year or a summer or a relationship or a life-changing 10 seconds of the last decade that we can’t understand how we ever let them sit in that drawer next to the newspaper clippings and pebbles collecting dust.

Sounds and trends come and go, as well. The names of the artists change. I imagine Billie Eilish has about as much in common with Arcade Fire as that band did with their contemporaries when they first emerged on a scene still obsessed with nu metal. All that to say that as different as 2019 feels from 2009 in so many ways, I won’t even wager a guess as to what sounds and personas we’ll be championing in 2029. I’m eager to find out, though.

A decade passes in an instant, but life can change so much in an instant. All I can tell you is here are 100 records that matter or meant something to us across the last 10 years of our lives. Some take me back, some mean something else entirely now, and some make me scratch my head at a version of myself that has long since grown out of his piercings, hoodies, and soul patch. These albums make me remember, they make me cry, and, maybe as important as anything, they make me sing along or nod my head as I figure out what comes next. I love them all, and I hope you find a few here to love or love all over again.

See you in 10 years.

–Matt Melis
Editorial Director


100. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake (2011)

PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

Polly Jean Harvey’s work in the ‘10s, particularly on the masterful Let England Shake, played out like a photo negative of the marvelous run of albums that The Kinks were on in the late ‘60s. The concerns about a dying empire and how it had often failed its citizens were shared by both Harvey and Ray Davies, but where the latter couched it in jaunty, flint-edged pop, the former tore open the festering wounds via darkly rendered music informed by centuries’ old folk, seething post-punk, and lyrics that focused on the exposed roots and cracked pavement surrounding the village green. –Robert Ham


99. Savages – Silence Yourself (2013)

Savages - Silence Yourself

In 2011, the music of London’s Savages felt a little out of place, which is something I’m sure the four-piece would take as a compliment. Silence Yourself is a ferociously self-possessed rock record. The quartet’s debut is filled with the most tantalizing aspects of post-punk, and though they missed the revival by a whole decade, the record’s sonic reference point made it so that didn’t matter. It’s filled with a kinship between post-punk’s thematic darkness, contrasting political views and inherent human anxiety, and weaves all of it together with tumbling percussion, singer Jehnny Beth’s Siouxsie-inspired coos, and an emphasis on Ayse Hassan’s dripping bass lines. –Samantha Lopez


98. Destroyer – Kaputt (2011)

Destroyer - Kaputt

This decade, especially the early part, was filled with nostalgia for sounds from the ‘70s and ‘80s that may have been called cheesy — chillwave, Oneohtrix Point Never’s Replica, years of Ariel Pink headlines, remember Lewis — but perhaps no one captured schmaltz as purely and brilliantly as Dan Bejar on 2011’s Kaputt. Songs like the title track and “Song for America” took all the elements of yacht rock, ‘70s AM radio, and lounge music and made them both contemporary and timeless, with Bejar as the guiding sage. Kaputt didn’t sound like anything this decade, but Bejar’s masterpiece cast a long shadow over the state of indie rock across the next nine years. –David Sackllah


97. Ariana Grande – thank you, next (2019)

Ariana Grande - Thank U, Next

The ramp-up to Ariana Grande’s album, thank u, next, was overshadowed by a deadly attack on her Manchester show, a public break up with Mac Miller, and an even more public engagement (and breakup) to Pete Davidson. Branding her album with an expression of gratitude might seem off-kilter at first glance, but the resolve and reconciliation she somehow found within herself can be felt throughout each track. Bolstered by Grande’s behemoth of a voice, songs like “thank u, next”, “7 Rings”, and “Needy” sat at the center of millennial conversations on radical self-care and what it means to actually put yourself first. So, you didn’t just hear lyrics like, “You can go ahead and call me selfish/ But after all this damage, I can’t help it”, you felt them. –Erica Campbell


96. Bon Iver – 22, A Million (2016)

Bon Iver -- 22, A Million

Though Justin Vernon has consistently evolved Bon Iver between albums, the particular growth from Bon Iver, Bon Iver to 22, A Million was shocking at first. What was initially perceived as a radical abandonment of lush folk was actually a heightening of the technical explorations beneath those softer moments. Vernon here demonstrated a mastery of tension (“666 ʇ”), delicacy (“8 (circle)”), and even Auto-Tune (“715 – CRΣΣKS”), often on the same track (“29 #Strafford APTS”). Its packaging may have made it seem like a dense exercise of insular art, but the unapologetic audacity of it all forced listeners to pull down any walls their expectations had built. –Ben Kaye


95. Oneohtrix Point Never – Replica (2012)

Oneohtrix Point Never - Replica

Daniel Lopatin’s fifth album as Oneohtrix Point Never took on the qualities of the torture device in Kafka’s “In the Penal Colony”. Certain songs scratched themselves into the skin with glitchy, agitated, bite-sized samples from TV commercials, but those wounds were quickly soothed with the cool water of the album’s synth waves and glistening drones. Pain and pleasure. Irritant and salve. Replica, like much of Lopatin’s best work over this past decade, dared to serve both masters. –Robert Ham


94. Tom Waits – Bad as Me (2011)

Tom Waits - Bad As Me

Tom Waits, our favorite inebriated lounge act turned beatboxing junkman, rarely surfaced over the past decade. Save for a few oddball screen roles, a sea shanty alongside longtime friend Keith Richards, and his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2011, Waits largely opted to lay low. All the more impressive then was when the singer brushed (or applied?) the sawdust from his dilapidated vocal chords and boxed a baker’s dozen of new songs on Bad as Me, an album down on its luck and feeling its mortality while simultaneously full of hope and adamant about having the last laugh before time runs out. If Bad as Me is indeed Waits’ final record, it’s one badass way to blow this shack. –Matt Melis


93. BROCKHAMPTON – Iridescence (2018)

Brockhampton - Iridescence

Following the removal of member Ameer Vann, the “best boyband since One Direction” found themselves at a standstill. Subsequently scrapping the heavily anticipated Puppy and canceling a string of tour dates, the 14-person-plus rap collective went under the radar to, well, regroup. Thus, Iridescence brought a new era ironically titled “The Best Days of Our Lives”. Now reckoning with fame and introducing a greater range of melancholy than ever before, Iridescence features the various pitched-adjusted vocals, disparate tempos, and general raging energy that make BROCKHAMPTON truly BROCKHAMPTON, reassuring fans that the boyband is most certainly here to stay. –Samantha Small


92. Caribou – Our Love (2014)

caribou our love

After spending a decade exploring the same humid, psychedelic weirdness that animated bands from Animal Collective to the Olivia Tremor Control, Dan Snaith finally went pop. A reinvention that began on 2010’s revelatory Swim came into full blossom four years later with the release of Our Love. Anchored by the openhearted longing of opener “Can’t Do Without You”, Snaith delivers a collection of bittersweet love songs that fully integrate the moody house and spare R&B influences waiting at his work’s periphery. The result is a richer kind of kaleidoscope, one that focuses the woozy disorientation of his older work on the urges of human connection instead of the untranslatable fractals of interior life. –Tyler Clark


91. Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (2015)

Courtney Barnett Sometimes I Sit and Think Sometimes I Just Sit

There was a time when Aussie Courtney Barnett might have been in danger of being labeled the artist who writes those songs. It’s a label that almost tries to make a gimmick of Barnett’s penchant and talent for stream-of-consciousness musings and stuffing more syllables in a line than thought humanly possible over loud, distorted guitars. Now, thanks to albums like Sometimes I Sit and Think…, we just think of those as Courtney Barnett songs. And when Barnett rips into the roaring “Pedestrian at Best” or quietly contemplates the passage of time on the melancholy “Depreston”, we understand she’s so much more than a gimmick. She’s one of the young voices who will give names to the things we see, the places we visit, and the emotions we feel in the years to come. And that’s hardly pedestrian. –Matt Melis


90. Carly Rae Jepsen – E•MO•TION (2015)

Carly Rae Jepsen EMOTION album

There is no bad song on E•MO•TION. There is not even an “only pretty okay” song. It’s the pinnacle of pop, and yet somehow it pushed Jepsen out of the mainstream and into a niche of die-hard weirdos with big feelings and impeccable taste. It’s good, though, because we love her here and she loves us, and we all love synths and sax and neon backlighting and boys. Just when it seemed like the ’80s had been mined to death for inspiration, Jepsen (along with collaborators including Dev Hynes, Sia, and Rostam Batmanglij) pulled the best, funnest, and most melodramatic parts and remixed them into track after track of explosive contemporary hooks. –Kayleigh Hughes


89. Big Boi – Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty (2010)

Big Boi - Sir Lucious

After Outkast went out with a whimper in the wake of 2006’s Idlewild, Big Boi went right back to work. Released in 2010 after label disputes almost deep-sized the whole project, Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty puts a bass-thumping capstone on Southern hip-hop’s breakout decade. Amidst all those funky 808s, Big Boi delivers a masterclass, dropping veteran flexes that show up the new kids (see: “Daddy Fat Sax”) while simultaneously handing them a blueprint for how to write a party record without sacrificing social commentary or lyrical heft. Nearly 10 years later, that formula still sounds fresh; if tracks like “Shutterbugg” and “Shine Blockas” aren’t on your playlist right now, fix that fast. –Tyler Clark


88. Lady Lamb – After (2015)

ady Lamb the Beekeeper - After album

Never rush Maine native Aly Spaltro, better known as singer-songwriter Lady Lamb. After her studio debut, Ripley Pine, confirmed that the young phenom rumored to be writing songs in a video rental store and delivering home recordings to a local record shop was as talented as promised, After captures Spaltro transform from bedroom pop artist to a brilliant craftswoman. Here she turns songs both old and new on their heads, trying, as our own Nina Corcoran put it, to “untangle and organize the heart’s mess … and preserve the raw intimacies of the heart.” It’s an experiment, at times, but so rewarding to witness one of our great, young songwriters just scratching the surface of her potential. One where “Billions of Eyes” should be watching. –Matt Melis


87. Christine and the Queens – Chris (2018)

christine queens chris album cover Top 100 Albums of the 2010s

Chris is a pop musical exercise in exploring and transcending the boundaries of gender and sexuality in favor of fluid, evolving identities. The French artist behind the project, Hélöise Letissier, re-evaluates her own womanhood and the identity of her first performance persona, Christine, with another version of that persona, Chris. Chris is neither masculine nor feminine, nor can she simply be labeled as androgynous. She defies expectations of gender through her attitude, her voice, her forward lyrics, and her dress, all to redefine her relationship with gender within her performance and within pop music as we know it. –Natalia Barr


86. Spoon – Hot Thoughts (2017)

Spoon - Hot Thoughts

After rebounding from a major-label stall-out in the ’90s to ride the big indie-rock bubble in the ’00s, Spoon could’ve been forgiven for riding that goodwill all the way to the nostalgia circuit in the ’10s. Instead, on their ninth record, Hot Thoughts, the band reunite with producer Dave Fridmann for a nocturnal prowl that finds them adding tactical doses of cold-wave synths to their signature combo of strutting art-rock guitars and Jim Eno’s precision drumming. This new sound never dips into sabotaging self-seriousness; whether it’s Britt Daniel’s veteran frontman confidence on “Do I Have to Talk You into It” or the impressionistic sax of “Us”, the band find playfulness at the heart of the night, rising along with it like the steam coming off of a neon sign. –Tyler Clark


85. Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour (2018)

Kacey Musgraves - Golden Hour

Kacey Musgraves has a gift for majestic miniatures, for capturing the tiny moments that carry life’s biggest emotions. Whether it’s a kiss with someone you love (“Butterflies”), the sudden sadness of missing a parent (“Mother”), or the slowly unfolding grandeur of an LSD trip (“Slow Burn”) Musgraves’ songs are about more than the things they are about. She has an ear for catchy melodies with bite, eschewing the oily slickness that mars so much mainstream country music. With warmth, wit, and sharp observations, Golden Hour more than delivers on the promise of its title. –Wren Graves


84. Thundercat – The Golden Age of Apocalypse (2011)

Thundercat - The Golden Age of Apocalypse

After contributions to Erykah Badu’s New Amerykah Part One and Flying Lotus’ Cosmogramma, bassist and singer Thundercat illuminated on his 2011 debut. Anchored by “For Love (I Come Your Friend)” by George Duke, The Golden Age of Apocalypse is nostalgia-ridden with an opening sample from the 1980’s ThunderCats series, jazz intricacies, and nods to ’70s soul. When Thundercat isn’t showing off his intergalactic chords, his mellow retellings of love glide effortlessly. A master multi-instrumentalist with falsetto aptitude, Thundercat has the ability to not only reinvent soul, but launch it into futurism, transforming the “golden age” into an era of his own. –Jaelani Turner-Williams


83. Cardi B – Invasion of Privacy (2018)

Cardi B's Invasion of Privacy

Even with trailblazers like Queen Latifah and Lauryn Hill, hip-hop has only given aspiring women a tiny sliver of space. Case in point, when Cardi B made a splash in 2017 with “Bodak Yellow”, some speculated on the future state of Nicki Minaj’s career. Whatever luster such people find in Cardi’s womanhood pales in comparison to the other qualities showcased on her debut album, IInvasion of Privacy. This full-length teeters between moods that are inspirational, braggadocious, sexual, and vulnerable, but her authenticity and charisma are constants that reinforce her standing as one of the most formidable hip-hop artists of the decade. –Garrett Gravley


82. Japandroids – Celebration Rock (2012)

Japandroids - Celebration Rock

Celebration Rock is a body record, ecstatic punk rock that jolts you wholly out of your skin, and when you reorient, you realize you’re howling at the top of your lungs and your limbs are thrashing, and you’re either with a companion or wishing you were. Loyalty and camaraderie can take many forms, and Celebration Rock suits them all. Japandroids’ best album puts music to the feeling of piercing, all-consuming nostalgia for the moment you’re in. It’s the roaring in your ears as you realize: this matters, this is everything, this will be lore in our own small powerful histories, and somehow it already feels like a memory. –Kayleigh Hughes


81. Rihanna – Anti (2016)

Rihanna - Anti-

Although she’s remained away from the stage for what seems like the better part of this decade, Rihanna’s presence has nonetheless been very much felt — and that’s all thanks to what she isn’t doing. She launched makeup and lingerie lines that purposely don’t cater to the privileged and mainstream masses like every other Victoria Secret or lipstick company. And rather than follow up 2012’s Unapologetic with polished pop-R&B gems like everyone expected, she threw out an absolute curveball with Anti. The larger-than-life persona was stripped down to a singular voice, but one so powerful it could fill arenas 10 times over. The power was in the vocal range and delivery (“Higher”) and also in the courage it took to record a monster doo-wop ballad (“Love on the Brain”) and, hell, even a Tame Impala cover. With just one album, Rihanna shifted the conversations around her, as well as those about pop music superstars in general. –Lake Schatz


80. Foo Fighters – Wasting Light (2011)

Foo Fighters - Wasting Light

Dave Grohl’s well-meaning tirade against digital recording resulted in the Foo Fighters’ mammoth release Wasting Light. The album — recorded entirely to analog tape with a major assist from Nevermind producer Butch Vig — served as a return to form for the band, whose previous few releases were ambitious missteps, largely forgettable forays into melodic soft-rock that lacked the humor and bite of early Foos records. Wasting Light righted all those wrongs, leaning into Grohl’s penchant for melding shredding guitars and ear-shattering screams with hooky pop melodies. The album makes a real case for Foo Fighters as rock’s most consistent stadium mainstay, the kind of no-frills band you forever find comfort in returning to. –Ali Szubiak


79. Beyoncé – Beyoncé (2013)

beyonce albumcover1100x1100v1 Top 100 Albums of the 2010s

2013 was the year Beyoncé took the pop culture throne out of rotation, setting it by her bedside where she offered a court side view of her explorations of feminine sexuality and intimate relationships. The performances on her self-titled effort feel effortless, as though Bey woke up “Flawless” and merely “sneezed on the beat.” But Beyoncé and its stunning visual accompaniments were crafted with passionate intentionality, challenging the pop album status quo and shoving the bar to new heights. The production was dank, sexy, and shook the electro-pop environment of the early ‘10s to its core with booming R&B bass lines and rattling trap hi-hats, which would soon become the new norm. But it’s the positive feminism and personal scenes of jealousy, love, pain, and ecstasy Beyoncé paints here that continue to grip the hearts of listeners. Unannounced and un-marketed, Beyoncé demanded we bow down to greatness. And we did. –Christopher Thiessen


78. Noname – Room 25 (2018)

Noname - Room 25

Although she sports a moniker that suggests an elusive, ambivalent persona, Noname commands you to pay attention on Room 25. Backed by a neo-soul five-piece band, the Chicago-born slam poet and rapper speaks both delicately and purposefully. Aided by harmonies from frequent collaborators Phoelix and R&B powerhouse Rayvn Lenae, Noname constructed a record that not only peers into the interior state of the world with poignant political commentary on systemic racism, but also provides an opening into her own life. It’s infused with sexual ventures and a growing confidence that laughs incredulously in the face of skepticism: “Y’all really thought a bitch couldn’t rap?” In Room 25, Noname owns her triumphs and takes charge of her career, promising to never let go. –Samantha Small


77. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest (2010)

Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest

Fresh off of an unassailable run in the late ’00s, Deerhunter entered the ’10s with Halcyon Digest. From the anxiety-inducing thrills of “Helicopter” to the stadium-sized riffs of “Desire Lines”, the album is a masterclass in songwriting, but also marked a turning point in indie rock. Armed with restraint and an ear for off-kilter melodies, the likes of which would lay the blueprint for artists as far-ranging as Frank Ocean and Alex G, singer-songwriter Bradford Cox tapped into something special, laying the framework for what would be playing in college radio stations over the next 10 years. –David Sackllah


76. Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love (2015)

Sleater Kinney Sub Pop Reunion

If nothing else, credit Sleater-Kinney with creating a blueprint for reuniting as a band. At no moment during their reunion tour or on their return album, No Cities to Love, do you get the sense that they’re taking a victory lap, dusting anything off, or resting on their laurels. From the paranoia of opener “Price Tag” to the way Janet Weiss’ pummeling drums create a stage for the noodling guitar of Carrie Brownstein and the signature vocal dynamic she achieves with Corin Tucker on the title track, the band sound like they’ve hit their stride rather than having come off a decade-long hiatus. Most importantly, each track bleeds sincerity and urgency. Note to future bands considering reuniting: It helps if you have something to say. Something under your skin. –Matt Melis


75. HAIM – Days Are Gone (2013)

HAIM - Days Are Gone

Sisters Danielle, Alana, and Este Haim grew up playing in a band with their parents, so by the time they shared their debut album, they had years of classic rock know-how behind them. However, walking the line between R&B, pop, and rock isn’t the easiest thing to do, especially with guitars in tow, but somehow HAIM perfected it on their first attempt. Led by the wit of “The Wire” and the synths of “Falling”, Days Are Gone was delightful without being cheesy and approachable without being trite, all reinforced by the same thoughtful and catchy ethos of its ’70s rock forebears. –Erica Campbell


74. Drake – Take Care (2011)

take care Top 100 Albums of the 2010s

The masses have come to both laud and condemn Drake as disconsolate in equal measure. The sentiment has, like any good or mildly amusing modern anecdote, been meme-ified a thousand times over. So much so that the Internet has lost the plot. Before that sick millennial twist on deification exploded in cyberspace, it took root in Take Care, an album so honest and unashamed in its sorrow that few of us would dare spin tracks like “Marvin’s Room” outside the quiet confines of our bedrooms. With Take Care, Drake paints a self-portrait he may never escape — a masterpiece so morose you might as well call him Ennui Mattisse. –Irene Monokandilos


73. FKA twigs – LP1 (2014)

fkatwigs1 Top 100 Albums of the 2010s

Is it high-art eroticism or high-erotic art? Regardless, FKA twigs’ LP1 is one of the most under-appreciated, satiating albums in history to play in the bedroom (or shower or club bathroom or hotel suite or … you get the idea). If sweet lavender honey pooling slowly on sleek metal machinery had a sound, it would be LP1. With gasps, shrieks, moans, clanks, coos, and more, Twigs’ industrial futurist trip-hop locks you in a trance for 40 minutes, and you wish it was eternity. LP1 represents the apex of what fucking should be. –Kayleigh Hughes


72. My Bloody Valentine – m b v (2013)

mbv high res 1024x1024 Top 100 Albums of the 2010s

Kevin Shields would’ve been forgiven for delivering a letdown. Twenty-two years after the epochal release of Loveless, My Bloody Valentine’s third record had become the shoegaze equivalent of Chinese Democracy: oft-rumored, occasionally tinkered with, and unlikely to ever see the light of day. Unlike Guns N’ Roses’ long-gestating disappointment, m b v actually lived up to the hype. From the gutteral drone of “She Found Now” to the jet-engine take-off of “Wonder 2”, My Bloody Valentine staged a comeback that wowed true believers, introduced a new generation to an undiminished version of their signature sound, and heralded the ‘10s shoegaze revival with the best record that the also-excellent comebacks by bands like Slowdive, The Jesus & Mary Chain, and Ride would produce. –Tyler Clark


71. Run the Jewels – Run the Jewels 2 (2014)

rtj2lp Top 100 Albums of the 2010s

If the first Run the Jewels record was a surprise sleeper hit, Run the Jewels 2 was its higher-budget sequel. Killer Mike and EL-P’s partnership started on the Atlanta legend’s R.A.P. Music, but the utter ferocity of RTJ2 made them feel like true hip-hop brothers, with Mike and El constantly finding ways to fuse righteous indignation with flexing on wannabes. It also has one of the most successfully eclectic guest lists of any album this decade, finding space for Zach De La Rocha, Michael Winslow (of Police Academy fame), Gangsta Boo, Travis Barker, Boots, and Diane Coffee. Run the Jewels made a 39-minute, 12-song album that’s more epic than stream-hungry contemporaries could ever be. The empire had struck back. –Brody Kenny


70. Katy Perry – Teenage Dream (2010)

Katy Perry Teenage Dream Album Cover Top 100 Albums of the 2010s

Like 1989, Teenage Dream became a lifestyle album. It was everywhere then, it’s everywhere now, and Katy Perry has yet to truly follow it up. But really, how could she? The juggernaut blockbuster became the first album in history by a female artist to produce five No. 1 singles, the third album in history to produce eight top-five hits, it won the International Juno Award, it was repeatedly certified Platinum, it’s a colossal achievement. Today, people tend to forget that — particularly after her recent spate of singles (and albums, all things considered) — but all it takes is one listen to any of its handful of singles. This is anthemic pop, the stuff for the rafters, and these songs are never coming down. –Michael Roffman


69. Paramore – After Laughter (2017)

paramore after laughter download album stream mp3 Top 100 Albums of the 2010s

No longer bogged down by the baggage of creating alongside her caustic ex, Hayley Williams — Paramore’s powerhouse dynamo leader — steered her band onward and upward to the group’s most evolved collection yet. After Laughter lands on the complex side of ‘80s new wave — borrowing synths and syncopated beats from an era otherwise dripping in candy-coated sequences — and it acts as a thesis statement for Paramore’s staying power, too. Williams’ revelatory lyrical bleakness is subtle, emerging with a soft, blacklight glow amid her buoyant delivery. But there’s defiance there, too, a declaration that sometimes the only way to rise to the top is to fight through the muck beneath it, first. –Ali Szubiak


68. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (2016)

tribe we got it from here thank you 4 your service Top 100 Albums of the 2010s

Reunion records from seminal bands always look like a bad idea on paper, but leave it to A Tribe Called Quest to correct the narrative. We Got It from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service is a record so self-assured and in its element that it sounds as if the group (minus the services of DJ Ali Shaheed Muhammad) never left in the first place. Q-Tip and the late Phife Dawg seamlessly weaved their way back into the pop culture framework, a considerable achievement given how much the musical landscape had changed since they dropped their mics in 1998. Busting with jazzy boho cool, experimental effects, and effortlessly smart wordplay, these 16 tracks reaffirm what makes Tribe so special and timeless and offer a blueprint on how to return with grace after a long absence. –Ryan Bray


67. The National – Trouble Will Find Me (2013)

The National - Trouble Will Find Us

Out of all the big indie rock bands who defined the 2000s, The National were a unicorn in the next decade. They didn’t go on extended hiatus, have any lineup changes, or dramatic breakups/reunions, and they managed to grow in stature and acclaim with each release. 2013’s Trouble Will Find Me distilled all of their best qualities: The Dessner brothers’ ornate arrangements and pulse-pounding guitar riffs, Bryan Devendorf’s muscular drumming, and Matt Berninger’s nervy introspection spilling out in droves. Filled with collaborators also on this list, such as St. Vincent, Sharon Van Etten, and Sufjan Stevens, the album solidified The National as one of the most integral rock bands of the decade. –David Sackllah


66. Lady Gaga – Joanne (2016)

Lady Gaga - Joanne

Lady Gaga turned a new leaf with Joanne. Whereas her colleagues began attempting R&B to miserable results, The Fame Monster stripped off the gloss, put on a cowboy hat, and hit the rodeo with a caravan of sounds. But she went deep. Deeper than ever. She dug her heels into her family roots, stared straight into her future, and even grappled with her own mortality in the wake of a personal loss. It worked for her. Although sales dropped by 70% in its second week, something magical happened — she created a movement. While touring behind the album, Gaga leaned even harder for her support of the LGBTQ community, who in turn came to adopt the album’s songs and iconography as their own. Since then, Miley Cyrus, Kesha, and even Timberlake have tried to follow Joanne’s lead, but there can only be one. –Michael Roffman


65. Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory (2012)

Cloud Nothings - Attack on Memory

You could argue that Cloud Nothings have always been a Dylan Baldi solo project, and you’d be right. But Attack on Memory marks the point where the Cleveland noise-pop outfit became something more than simply the work of one man. No longer a project, Cloud Nothings expanded into a band on Attack on Memory, and a very good one at that. Merging the scorched-earth abrasiveness of hardcore with the heart-on-sleeve openness of emo, the record expertly splits the difference between heart and grit in a way few of their contemporaries have been able to match. –Ryan Bray


64. Angel Olsen – All Mirrors (2019)

angel olsen all mirrors album artwork Top 100 Albums of the 2010s

Angel Olsen’s All Mirrors is just that: an introspective reflection of the artist’s life, haunting often to the point of discomfort. For her fourth studio outing, the indie folk singer-songwriter enlists orchestral strings and cinematic arrangements, coupling them with the cutting lyrical expertise for which she’s known. Whereas opener “Lark” slowly draws you in, “Summer” shoves you out, an indication of the lush pull-push that’s laced throughout the effort. It’s a pristine next step of an artist in her prime, and as such, a testament not only to the evolution of her career, but music in general over the last decade. –Erica Campbell


63. Spiritualized – Sweet Heart, Sweet Light (2012)

Sweet Heart Sweet Light Top 100 Albums of the 2010s

Jason Pierce had been through the hell of heroin addiction and came very close to meeting his reward in the years before writing and recording Sweet Heart, Sweet Light. And when he was making the seventh Spiritualized album, he was fucked up on prescription meds to treat his liver disease. That translated to a touch of gallows humor in songs like “Life Is a Problem” and “Headin’ for the Top Now”, a bit of cheek in wanting to call the album Huh? as a reflection of his foggy mindset, and one of the sunniest records in this band’s near-spotless discography. –Robert Ham


62. SABA – Care for Me (2018)

Saba - Care for Me

SABA has been poking his head out of the Chicago hip-hop scene since 2012, usually as part of one collaboration or another with Chance the Rapper or other scene members. But it’s his sophomore album, Care for Me, largely inspired by the tragic death of his cousin, Walter, that truly marks the rising rapper coming into his own, mixing his versatile poetic flow and unique musical textures with a deep delve into processing such life-altering pain. It’s a window into how the grieving mind works, and one can’t help but listen and begin to think about his or her own Walter. Each track offers that type of powerful glimpse, and SABA makes it nearly impossible to turn away. –Matt Melis


61. Joanna Newsom – Have One on Me (2010)

Have One on Me Top 100 Albums of the 2010s

A lot of ink has been spilled comparing Joanna Newsom’s Have One on Me to the musical majesty of Joni Mitchell. Newsom herself considers the work an “early ’70s California singer-songwriter album” with a nod in particular to album standouts “In California” and “Good Intentions Paving Co.”. It’s the implications of that sentiment that earn her third studio album a spot on this list. Here, Newsom steps away from the dogged orchestration of 2006’s Ys for a simpler, more direct, almost quaint return to her ragtime-y roots. It’s the mysticism in the soft reminder that moving forward sometimes means going back that keeps Newsom running with the best of them. –Irene Monokandilos


60. Chromatics – Kill for Love (2012)

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After a revamped lineup and a more minimalistic approach, Chromatics really found a niche for themselves upon signing with Johnny Jewel’s own Italians Do It Better label. Removed from their no wave roots, the Portland-based outfit headed towards a slower, dreamy, ephemeral existential ache. Kill for Love is the second record to emerge from that direction, and in addition to synth-heavy modulation and dubby reverb, the band added brittle guitars, lushly atmospheric melodies, and vintage-style arpeggios to construct some of the most gorgeous synth-pop tracks of the decade. –Samantha Lopez


59. Titus Andronicus – The Most Lamentable Tragedy (2015)

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Despite being named after a Shakesperian play, The Most Lamentable Tragedy arguably bears more parallels to a Homeric epic. However, unlike The Iliad or The Odyssey, which sees its protagonists battling fantastical creatures in far-off places, The Most Lamentable Tragedy lays its battlegrounds within the human mind. Titus Andronicus’ behemoth fourth LP — a 29-track rock opera that delves into the caverns of mental health and self-understanding — follows a central protagonist as they navigate the personal peaks and valleys (including the euphoria of love and the murkiness of existentialism) that unfold over the album’s five acts. The Most Lamentable Tragedy’s candidness and narrative structure, coupled with its sonic variety that ranges from traditional rock to choral singing, makes it one hell of an unforgettable record. –Lindsay Teske


58. Blood Orange – Negro Swan (2018)

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In all ways possible, Blood Orange, the alias of Dev Hynes, fully embodies the idea of fluidity. As a musician, Hynes’ combination of dreamy synths, gospel melodies, moody raps, and indie-rock riffs restrict him from remaining bound to one genre. In addition, Hynes also identifies as “neither straight nor gay.” But this very idea of being inexplicable, or having an untraditional identity, is the very source of anxiety in Negro Swan. Underneath alt-pop beats and baroque R&B, Hynes details “black depression” and the current restlessness that permeates the queer/ black community. Yet, in all of this, there is a glimmer of optimism: “the smoke will clear,” and soon both Hynes himself and those surrounding him will realize that being “odd one out” is truly something to revel in. –Samantha Small


57. St. Vincent – Masseduction (2017)

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Never knowing what to expect from a St. Vincent album has become the expectation of a St. Vincent album. Having found every way possible to shred a guitar, Annie Clark leaned into electropop absurdism with the help of producer Jack Antonoff for MASSEDUCTION. She wielded the sound like a phosphorescent blade against afflictions from all sides. On “Los Ageless” and “Pills”, she slashed into culture’s addictive obsessions, while on “Savior” she repelled expectations with fierce sensuality. Yet, it was perhaps most affecting when used to make delicate cuts into loss like “New York” and “Slow Disco”. That sort of dexterity of sound and meaning distinguishes rock musicians from rock artists, and few have demonstrated a finer mastery than St. Vincent. –Ben Kaye


56. Frank Ocean – Blonde (2016)

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After fours years, Frank Ocean fans were simply happy to just watch paint dry. Well, to watch Ocean livestream paint drying. Prior to the release of Blonde, Ocean completely disappeared from the public eye, despite a few cryptic tumblr posts. So when Endless, a 45-minute black-and-white video-album of Ocean building a staircase was released featuring a barrage of ambient club-pop songs, fans anticipated an album of similar sound. However, Blonde is modest. Comprised of numerous stripped-down, drifting guitar tracks, backed over heavy synths, Ocean flounders in minimalist nostalgia. Confused by the complications of both profound love and fruitless sex, Internet statuses and precautionary warnings of drug use, Blonde is essentially a diary of ordinary life, which, like building staircase, can be quite placid at times. And similar to Ocean’s obsession with the past, Blonde’s intimate vignettes are something fans can’t quite shake, as it remains one of the most intriguing records released this century. –Samantha Small


55. Lucy Dacus – Historian (2018)

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Equipped with unabashed vulnerability, her trademark fire engine red lipstick, and 22 years of focused study, Lucy Dacus’ Historian was not only a primer on the love and loss in her own life, but a beckoning for us to examine ours as well. The opening track, “Night Shift”, plunges into such an acute retelling of moving on from an unhealthy obsessive relationship while still being tethered to it. It’s nearly unbearable as Dacus asks, “Am I a masochist?/ Resisting urges to punch you in the teeth?” The whole album follows this trajectory, giving listeners unprecedented access to love without a motive, music without pretense, and pain without the cover of bandages. –Erica Campbell


54. Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked at Me (2017)

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Anyone familiar with Mount Eerie likely knows that songwriter Phil Elverum’s wife, Geneviève Gosselin, died of pancreatic cancer a few summers ago and that A Crow Looked at Me documents the ongoing aftermath of that loss. It’s enough to break your heart before you even drop the needle, and that’s kind of the point. After that type of sudden, life-shattering blow, what good could listening to records, jotting down thoughts, or figuring out chords really do? Through painstaking reflection and unfathomable honesty, Elverum has crafted indie’s answer to Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. It’s not beautiful because he shares his pain; it’s beautiful because he shares the hope he finds through his pain. –Matt Melis


53. D’Angelo and the Vanguard – Black Messiah (2015)

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The homecoming of D’Angelo at the 2012 BET Awards was met with gleaming smiles from Beyoncé and Solange Knowles. Though his performance of “Sugah Daddy” was met with earnest praise, his third album, Black Messiah, was just two years away. Unlike his 2000 predecessor, Voodoo, the album isn’t highlighted by D’Angelo being involuntarily pushed into the spotlight as a sex symbol. Instead, he tackles political unrest through the lens of protestors in Ferguson and spills over into gospel roots and Funkadelic-inspired murmurings. Though 14 years had passed since he faded into obscurity, on Black Messiah, D’Angelo returned like he hadn’t left. –Jaelani Turner-Williams


52. Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time (2013)

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Back in 2013, I literally wrote in our year-end write-up for Night Time, My Time: “In a year’s time, I’ll probably mutter something like, ‘You know, we really should have put Sky Ferreira’s album higher.'” To quote Jeff Goldblum, “God, do I hate being right all the time.” For that list, we ranked it at No. 49, which was a pandering way to suggest it was important without doing any due diligence to truly support it. Seven years later, it’s never left our rotation, Ferreira’s brand of alternative pop sounding better and better as ’90s nostalgia takes over our 20-year obsession with the ’80s. A Rubik’s cube of influences, ranging from Suicide to Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees to Blondie, Ferreira’s debut remains a gateway to the fringe and an introduction to an enigma. So, if you haven’t caught up, better late than never. –Michael Roffman


51. Jamila Woods – Legacy! Legacy! (2019)

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After a decade cutting her teeth in Chicago and lending a feature to just about every notable Windy City hip-hop and R&B artist, Jamila Woods took a well-earned step into the national spotlight with Legacy! Legacy! Woods proudly proclaims, “I am not your typical girl,” and this is not your typical R&B record. The album’s smooth atmosphere and Woods’ airy, ethereal vocal passages simmer at the top of an album viciously indicting black cultural erasure through pieces titled after her heroes. The gorgeous melodies can almost lull listeners into neglecting just how pissed off Woods is on this biting record. –TJ Kliebhan


50. Kanye and Jay-Z – Watch the Throne (2011)

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There’s nothing more exciting than watching an artist perform at their highest potential, full of confidence, and willing to teach any challengers a lesson. Okay, I lied. Watching two such artists trade bars is better. On Watch the Throne, Jay-Z and Kanye West are braggadocious and egotistic, but damn do they earn it. This is royalty music. It’s the sound of winning a championship. It’s “Jackson, Tyson, Jordan, game six.” But for all the ego within, Watch the Throne is a surprisingly poignant record where Ye and Jay discuss religion (“No Church in the Wild”), gang violence (“Murder to Excellence”), and offer freedom through entrepreneurship (“Made in America”). This album is the most straightforward hip-hop record Ye released this decade, and that is its greatest strength. –Christopher Thiessen


49. Sharon Van Etten – Remind Me Tomorrow (2019)

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Sharon Van Etten was always going to be a part of this conversation. The indie singer-songwriter already had two remarkable albums under her belt this decade. However, had it not been for a new release as daring and transformative as Remind Me Tomorrow, that conversation would’ve been tinged with a longing for Van Etten to return with a sound that no longer fits. She needed a change, she explains, and at a time in her career where most artists stick to the formula and play the hits, Van Etten delivered an album unafraid to delve into synths, trip-hop, and new wave to create 10 dizzying vignettes full of life, loss, and stumbling through its changes. As we listen to lifelines like “Seventeen” pulse through our bodies, the conversation has now turned to perhaps album and song of the year. –Matt Melis


48. Flying Lotus – Cosmogramma (2010)

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Steven Ellison, aka Flying Lotus, elevated the electronic genre with his 2010 release, Cosmogramma. Three albums in, FlyLo began to further explore the meditative capabilities of his work. Through the abundance of instrumentation and styles taking place, Cosmogramma exudes a brilliant duality that is both eccentric and serene. From IDM to hip-hop, soul to jazz, the record delivers a plethora of emotions that blend to create a spiritual wonder. Cosmogramma not only defies straightforward labeling, it’s a testament to forward-thinking electronic music. –Michael Pementel


47. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (2013)

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Random Access Memories wasn’t exactly the follow-up Daft Punk fans had hoped for in 2013. After dazzling the world with their Alive tour in 2007, the French duo had begun to build a cultural cache for themselves that suggested they might rebound and takeover the then-prominent EDM scene. Instead, they time traveled back to the ’70s, grooving alongside legends like Giorgio Moroder and Nile Rodgers, and refused to tour. It was a statement, and one they delivered with zero subtext: Give life back to music. This is the group at their most organic, and rather than speak to the times, they returned to them. It was ballsy then, and it’s ballsy now, and the songs have aged as well as the Moog. –Michael Roffman


46. Anderson .Paak – Malibu (2016)

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In trying times, despondent/angry albums can feel like a weight, bringing us further down, and über-positive ones can feel disturbingly out-of-touch. Anderson .Paak’s second album, Malibu, leans more towards the latter, but it’d be better described as one of the best examples of “optimistic” music this decade. With a voice that has the smoky-sweetness of barbecue ribs and relatable lyrics that make him feel like the friend you always needed, .Paak is a breakout star that could never be manufactured. He shares the stage with various MCs, including ScHoolboy Q and Talib Kweli, but .Paak holds down the entire proceedings of Malibu as a true master of ceremonies. –Brody Kenny


45. Father John Misty – I Love You, Honeybear (2015)

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The best art puts a mirror not only up to the artists, but listeners as well. Josh Tillman, aka Father John Misty, did just that with his sophomore full-length, I Love You, Honeybear. Through the astute observations of “Born in The USA”, comical cynicism of “Nothing Good Ever Happens at the Goddamn Thirsty Crow”, and dark-bellied love songs like “Chateau Lobby #4”, we’re forced to ask ourselves if the joke’s on us, or if we’re in on it. Seeing how any truths are securely hidden under veiled threats, deranged storytelling, and sardonic wit, we’ll never really know. –Erica Campbell


44. Disclosure – Settle (2013)

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UK-born brothers, Guy and Howard Lawrence, put Disclosure on the map with records like “Flow” and “Tenderly” in 2012 within the realm of fellow DJ-producers and dance music fans alike. However, it wasn’t until the following year with the release of their debut album, Settle, that the duo received worldwide acclaim. Not acknowledging the significance of Settle to the electronic music space is akin to not crediting strong winds to a hurricane. Featuring top-tier artists such as Jessie Ware, Sam Smith, AlunaGeorge, and Eliza Doolittle, the album nodded at throwback house grooves and approached production in an exhilarating, future-leaning manner. –Gabrielle


43. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell (2015)

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Carrie & Lowell is the ever-so-elegant unraveling of a web spun from silken melancholy. A hushed reckoning with the death of Sufjan Stevens’ mother, Carrie, his past, and his present, Stevens lays each thread out to dry, only to weave them together again. This time organized and methodical. The songs on Carrie & Lowell are sparse in instrumentation, a welcomed return to the naked folk of Seven Swans — only this time flexing muscle finely chiseled from years of experience. It’s a special brew that makes even the most intimate personal moment feel parabolic. –Irene Monokandilos


42. Björk – Vulnicura (2015)

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Leave it to Björk to create exquisite art out of something as commonplace as a “breakup album.” In the wake of a devastating split, the Icelandic virtuoso used ninth album Vulnicura (which means “cure for wounds”) to show us her most intimate and human side, a volcano of tortured beauty. The record marked the first time she’d collaborated with producers Arca and The Haxan Cloak, and their urgent loops and pulses coupled with melancholy strings made for a surreal and yet surreally perfect backdrop for a fractured Björk and what might be one of her most affecting vocal performances to date. Vulnicura centerpiece “Black Lake” alone could shatter the sturdiest of hearts. –Lake Schatz


41. James Blake – James Blake (2011)

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While James Blake may have had some roots in the techno and dubstep scenes, his self-titled debut altered the music landscape as a whole. Specifically, the British artist changed the way space was utilized in songs. Standouts like “The Wilhelm Scream” and Feist cover “Limit to Your Love” breathed and rattled so distinctly and memorably because of his meticulous production (as inspiration, he cited The xx’s own 2009 debut, another record that knew how to brilliantly hold a moment). Additionally, although Blake has always been a traditional singer-songwriter at his core, even now, it was his first-ever record that saw him exquisitely meld the earthy and electronic better than anyone else. –Lake Schatz


40. Deafheaven – Sunbather (2013)

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Deafheaven isn’t the first band to fuse black metal and shoegaze, but no one has done it better. Sunbather wears its influences on its sleeve while delivering an unforgettably gripping emotional and sonic experience. If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then Deafheaven have been complimented in droves by the album’s countless rip-offs. Not a single one of the mimics captured the raw power, masterful dynamic range, and emotional wreckage Deafheaven provides. Sunbather is the indisputable metal crossover hit of the decade, and it deserves to be. “Always and forever.” –TJ Kliebhan


39. Beach House – Teen Dream (2010)

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While their first two albums are certainly worthy of acclaim, it wasn’t until Teen Dream that Beach House truly came into their own and formed a more realized sound and identity. Anybody can compose a melody and baptize it in reverb, but making your sound so incredibly layered and modified while evoking such a direct sense of intimacy is a feat few artists are capable of. Between the warmth and inflection of keyboardist Victoria Legrand’s voice and the band’s dreamy, ethereal instrumentation, Teen Dream is one of dream pop’s few benchmark releases. –Garrett Gravley


38. Chance the Rapper – Acid Rap (2013)

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If you wanted to trace the great Chicago hip-hop revival back to a single moment, you would inevitably arrive at the release of Acid Rap. Chance the Rapper’s star-making mixtape tackles social commentary and personal introspection with an indomitable sense of joy. His throat-clearing ad-libs were instantly iconic, and his colorful taste in beats created a template for the modern Chicago sound. Acid Rap’s featured artists were mostly unknown at the time, including a pre-breakthrough Childish Gambino, SABA, Noname, Vic Mensa, and BJ the Chicago Kid. Today, that would make one hell of a festival lineup. Acid Rap elevated a generation of artists and put the city of Chicago back on the map. –Wren Graves


37. Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence (2014)

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Desire, sadness, love, and loss, these are the tools Lana Del Rey list in her arsenal, and when coupled with producer Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, she put them to their best use. With Ultraviolence, we were introduced to a new and improved Del Rey: She was still slipping into cinematic cooing with “Shades of Cool”, and making fun of herself (or us) with witty lyrics (“My boyfriend’s pretty cool/ But he’s not as cool as me”) of “Brooklyn Baby”, but then she was also coaxing listeners into uncharted blues and funk territory by taking us to the “West Coast”. Del Rey’s romantic recounts had rarely been healthy and her sentiments on the American dream were vastly unrealistic, but Ultraviolence was the first time we were all able to admit those were issues we all had in common. –Erica Campbell


36. Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth (2018)

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How do you follow up a massively popular, massively acclaimed breakout record literally called The Epic? If you’re LA jazz maximalist Kamasi Washington, you devise an album inspired by reality itself, and then you make it a double. The resulting, Heaven & Earth, explores a cosmic array of Washington’s inner and outer experiences living as a black man in an ambiently hostile America. The highs here come in all shapes, sizes, and stakes; from anthemic calls to power and reclamation (“Fists of Fury” ,”Will You Sing”) to celebrations of a particularly satisfying bout of Ryu vs. Ken (“Street Fighter Mas”), Washington finds catharsis one expressive sax peal at a time. –Tyler Clark


35. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach (2010)

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Gorillaz have never been anything less than cinematic. With Plastic Beach, they went full Lucasfilm, returning with not just an album, but an entirely new world for themselves. That world, however, created a brand for the outfit that seemingly recalibrated their entire aesthetic for the 2010s. Originally dubbed Carousel, Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett meticulously worked over the album for three years, traveling the globe and amassing a guest list that reads like a Hollywood casting call. And yet, it feels like a blockbuster, a concept album through and through that spares and wastes no expense. It’s a perfect distillation of imagination and execution personified, and arguably the water mark for Albarn’s animated outfit. We’ve heard of the Wilhelm scream, but the Womack wail? –Michael Roffman


34. Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory (2017)

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Easing his fans into off-kilter production on 2016 EP Prima Donna, Vince Staples’ now-signature progressive sound reached full throttle on Big Fish Theory. Though the album is based on the central idea of artists being placed under microscopic view for public torment and even toxic fandom, Staples doesn’t stray too far from the violent realism of Ramona Park. In the interim, he’s assisted by breathy vocals of experimental darling Kilo Kish, R&B crooner Ty Dolla Sign, and boppy hooks by ASAP Rocky and Juicy J. With Detroit techno and dystopian elements in tote, Vince Staples shatters the glass bowl entirely. –Jaelani Turner-Williams


33. Grimes – Art Angels (2015)

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Grimes doesn’t like “Realiti”. She’s described it as a “bit of a mess.” It doesn’t even appear on vinyl pressings of Art Angels. And yet, it’s arguably her greatest track, an excursion into surrealism, the likes of which only Claire Boucher could articulate. That she doesn’t like the track, and even withheld it from vinyl collectors, says everything about her as an artist — and yet also Art Angels. The album’s a collage of intricacies, an assembly of world pop, curated with the precision of a perfectionist. Yet all too often perfectionists fail to realize their own perfection, and her hesitations on “Realiti” speak to that truth. Here’s the thing: truth dwells in the details, and Art Angels is in full supply of those. In fact, if it weren’t so nuanced, so complex, and so thorough, we’d probably be upset about the lack of a follow-up. We’re not. –Michael Roffman


32. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – The Skeleton Tree (2016)

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We ask art to do a lot of heavy emotional lifting for us. But it felt like Nick Cave almost pushed those limits to the point of breaking on Skeleton Tree. After the tragic death of his son, Arthur, Cave amended the nearly completed album to address the decimating loss felt in tragedy’s wake. “Nothing really matters when the one you love is gone,” meditates Cave on “I Need You”. It’s the type of pain that’s too devastating to be relatable (thank heavens) but too forthcoming to turn away from as we watch the cargo of Cave’s hull shift forever. –Matt Melis


31. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening (2010)

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From 2005 until 2011, LCD Soundsystem might’ve been the best band in the world, but even the best band has to end some time. While “Losing My Edge” was powered by the urgency of aging and “All My Friends” mined depth in the yearning that comes with separation, the classic songs on the band’s third (and best) record, This Is Happening, found James Murphy using weary disillusion as the fuel for dance-punk grooves that fully transcended the limits of that description. Whether he was shaking off the hell of other people (“Dance Yrself Clean”), defending the art of self-sabotage (“You Wanted a Hit”), or offering impossible transformation in exchange for love, Murphy filled his band’s first swan song with music that reminds you that you should never walk away when you can dance away instead. –Tyler Clark


30. Bon Iver – Bon Iver, Bon Iver (2011)

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A sign of Justin Vernon projects to come, Bon Iver, Bon Iver piled on several new instrumental elements to Bon Iver’s previously sparse solo output. It’s done thoughtfully and delicately, and it’s perhaps Bon Iver’s best fusion of technicality and raw emotion. Vernon’s trembling falsetto weaves through grand waves of sound to illustrate a lonely broken heart making its way through a series of chilly landscapes. “I knew I was not magnificent,” Vernon sings on album standout “Holocene”. Bon Iver, Bon Iver is perhaps the last time Vernon truly dug into litotes, and funny enough, he does it magnificently. –Kayleigh Hughes


29. Solange – A Seat at the Table (2016)

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How many albums can you say are the focus of a course syllabus? On A Seat at the Table, the narrative revolving around Black America, rage, and self-care is nurtured by Solange’s delicate, airy vocals and prominent anecdotes by Master P. With a Grammy for Best R&B Performance for “Cranes in the Sky” and an accompanying art book, Solange intentionally crafted the album with Black consciousness in mind, specifically, Black women. Immersed in the spirit of funk ancestors (“Junie”) and instrumental grandiose (“Don’t Touch My Hair”), A Seat at the Table isn’t just a dazzling R&B album, but a meditative triumph. –Jaelani Turner-Williams


28. M83 – Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (2011)

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In a double album touting a whopping 22 tracks, M83 mastermind Anthony Gonzalez did what many artists fail to do: pull us out of our busy minds and force us to use our imaginations for 74-minutes straight. A tome of synthpop gems, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming has an assembly of standouts, one more nuanced than the other, but it all starts with the blockbuster electronica of “Midnight City”. It’s here Gonzalez ultimately wins you over, beckoning listeners to look towards a milky skyline before handing us over to our dreams. –Erica Campbell


27. Arctic Monkeys – AM (2013)

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It was sleazy, sexy, and staggered rhythmically into Hip Hop and R&B territory, or as Arctic Monkeys’ frontman Alex Turner put it, “it sounds like a Dr. Dre beat, but we’ve given it an Ike Turner bowl-cut and sent it galloping across the desert on a Stratocaster.” With their days of getting kicked out of Sheffield pubs behind them, the band enlisted heartbreak, lust, and stoned serenades to tell the story within AM. The band’s fifth studio album confidently walked the English indie rock darlings back to critical acclaim, giving them the space to embrace their rock and roll propensities while also bravely navigating new territory, AM was the sonic equivalent of a comfortably worn in leather motorcycle jacket. –Erica Campbell


26. Jamie xx – In Colour (2015)

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From the start, The xx were masters of minimalism and restraint, their emotional details tucked into the tiniest, most subtle corners of sound. So when the UK outfit’s lead producer, Jamie xx, struck out on his own with the wide-open, literally vibrant burst that is In Colour, listeners were left with their jaws on the floor. Jamie Smith’s proper solo debut didn’t necessarily transform the electronic music world, per se, but it did what so few albums in general rarely do: It made you actually see life In Colour. From the firecracker glow of opener “Gosh” to the smoky, xx-like intimacy of “Stranger in a Room” to the sweeping rainbow of “Loud Places”, Jamie xx’s palette helped us revel in all the shades and hues of the here and now. –Lake Schatz


25. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN. (2017)

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DAMN. was nothing like its tour de force predecessor, To Pimp a Butterfly, nor did it need to be in order achieve its own greatness. Rather than focusing on jazz fusion arrangements and institutionalized racism, Kendrick Lamar cast a wide net on his fourth full-length, and in nearly every conceivable way. The Compton rapper brought in collaborators in U2, Rihanna, James Blake, and The Internet’s Steve Lacy, as well as dished out some of the biggest radio hits of his career (“HUMBLE.”). Kung Fu Kenny also took a more microscopic look at the everyday human experience — the love, the lust, the fear, and perhaps most importantly, mortality itself. –Lake Schatz


24. Taylor Swift – 1989 (2014)

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Not to get precious or anything, but 1989 is the Thriller of the 2010s. Oops, did I go too far? Sorry, but not sorry. Reason being, even if you can’t stand Taylor Swift, odds are you probably lived swaths of your life to the songs off this album. “Shake It Off”, “Blank Space”, “Out of the Woods”, “Bad Blood”, you’ve heard all of these tracks, even if you didn’t try. They became part of our American life the same way “Beat It”, “Billie Jean”, and “Wanna Be Startin’ Something” became American FM traditions. Snark aside, Swift was on fire coming into 1989 and smoldering coming out of it. It’s the true-blue pop album that doesn’t die, storming through one month after another, until you sit back and go, “Jesus Christ, that came out two years ago?” Still feels like yesterday. –Michael Roffman


23. Angel Olsen – My Woman (2016)

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By the time Angel Olsen unlatched the sonic floodgates to My Woman, folk-rock’s own Hercules had already stunned listeners with Half Way Home and Burn Your Fire for No Witness. Now, her histrionic affectation washed over fans in deceptively sparkly song-length ripples keen to catch you in its relentlessly heart-wrenching undertow. None of us were safe; none of us really wanted to be. My Woman is a sickly sweet decry that Olsen was Here To Stay, in an electricifying lane all her own. –Irene Monokandilos


22. Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues (2014)

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Imagine getting to make art as your true, authentic self for the very first time, jettisoning all of the norms and restrictions that have been straitjacketing you for as long as you can remember. On Transgender Dysphoria Blues, Laura Jane Grace rips monster riffs and brutally honest lyrics straight from a lifetime of gender dysphoria, imbuing each note of the 10-track album with a wild, infectious joy. While the national conversation around trans rights has grown in intensity and scope in the last five years, it was nascent in 2014, and Grace must have known that even if she had no desire to be a role model, she was speaking for many more people than just herself. It’s nearly impossible to leave the album without a deep sense of empathy for Grace’s experience. –Katherine Flynn


21. The National – High Violet (2010)

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The National always knew they were the Serious Person’s indie rock band, especially given Matt Berninger’s penchant for somber realism and that deep vocal delivery. On High Violet, they found a way to inflate that critically acclaimed gravitas to fill stadiums. With driving standouts like “Bloodbuzz Ohio” and booming sing-alongs like “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks”, the band discovered a new size to all aspects of their sound. This is the album that saw twin multi-instrumentalists/producers Aaron and Bryce Dessner achieve the maximization of their potential, raising the stakes for the band alongside their stature. –Ben Kaye


20. SZA – Ctrl (2017)

SZA_Album Artwork_CTRL album EXPLICIT

SZA wasn’t the first artist to put pussy on a pedestal or delight in revenge sex, but she was one of the rare few to do it in such a way that changed R&B this decade. Thanks to deep introspection and a willingness to be vulnerable — things the First Lady of Top Dawg Entertainment alluded to in our 2013 profile — SZA didn’t simply mourn the breakups and flaws of modern romance on Ctrl. The New Jersey native also probed into the gray spaces surrounding them to wrestle with larger concepts of identity and worth. Through her 2017 debut album, SZA challenged us to rethink both the “sound” of R&B — Is it soulful or spacey? All croons or a little chillwave? — and nuanced subject matter. –Lake Schatz


19. Adele – 21 (2011)

adele 21

Songs about love and its subsequent demise are hardly a thing of rarity, but nonetheless Adele’s sophomore album, 21, breathed new life into the category. 21 is a sobering, yet crucial, reminder that it’s normal for the grieving process of a lost love to last before, during, and after the official severing of ties. Throughout each of the album’s 11 tracks, Adele (then at the tender age of the album’s title) reassures us all that it’s okay to feel messy, mournful, wrathful, and downright blue when things don’t go the way we hoped with a certain someone. Through her lyrical rawness, Adele has created a catharsis that has stood the test of time. –Lindsay Teske


18. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (2010)

arcadefire thesuburbs Top 100 Albums of the 2010s

On 2010’s The Suburbs, Arcade Fire sound like they know their recording an artifact even while they’re doing it. This is what indie music looked like, all 13,000 band members are saying with their xylophones and mandolins and horns and hurdy-gurdys. This is what young people in the suburbs looked like. Though, really, it’s all a titch more grandiose, more elevated, more whimsical than the moment itself ever was. And maybe that’s why it’s so perfect. Arcade Fire’s gift for the magical distortion of everyday life inspired scores of kids wandering through enormous housing developments, giving them a fantastical lens to see their surroundings rise up like mountains. –Kayleigh Hughes


17. David Bowie – ★ (2016)

david bowie blackstar

It’s no exaggeration to say that 2016 rose and set with David Bowie. The year began, in a sense, with both a birth and a death — the jubilation of welcoming a new album soon blanketed by a sense of profound cosmic loss. The year expired in another heap of accolades and reflections with a burgeoning constellation of blackstars ready to shoulder the galaxy. In between, the gifts he left us helped us negotiate a year that for all it gave seemed to take a lot more. With on the turntable, we sought out meanings and narratives far more numinous and transcendent than #2016Sucks. We examined the relationships between art, artist, and mortality not in terms of ashes to ashes, dust to dust but “Ashes to Ashes”, Stardust to stardust. A final, urgent gift from our eternal starman. –Matt Melis


16. The War on Drugs – Lost in the Dream (2014)

The War on Drugs - Lost in the Dream

The War on Drugs had been working toward an album like Lost in the Dream. Their first two records flirted with all kinds of moods and feelings, but they just couldn’t get them to coalesce the same way they do on their third album. Then again, very rare is a record this assured, this fully realized, this hard-hitting. Lost in the Dream is a diamond. It’s a clean 10 tracks of startling adult rock, shaggy in its themes and beautiful for its tones. It’s lighting in a bottle, really, with Adam Granduciel taking every one of his influences, be it Springsteen, the Dire Straits, or Rod Stewart’s “Young Turks”, and pouring it all into something that doesn’t exactly feel new, per se, but achingly ghostly familiar. You know, like reconnecting with an estranged friend. Who doesn’t want that in their life? –Michael Roffman


15. Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (2019)

when we all fall asleep where do we go album art

Despite being frequently labeled an “industry plant,” Billie Eilish brought pop music outside its comfort zone in ways industry bigwigs could not possibly have predicted. During her beginnings, Eilish achieved an intersectionality with the burgeoning trap scene. Her music embodies a similar ethos, too; compared to other pop contemporaries, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? is lo-fi, gritty, and angsty. Still, even with a deadpan vocal delivery does Eilish convey personality, and even with a sound that goes against the gloss and ephemera does she create an accessible sound. Industry plant or not, this artist and album are game-changers. –Garrett Gravley


14. Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer (2018)

Janelle Monáe Dirty Computer

Janelle Monáe wants you to party like it’s 2099. When we first met her at the beginning of the decade, Monáe fancied herself an android sent from the future with a message of freedom and love, and that message has never been louder or clearer than on Dirty Computer. Like the finest works from Prince, Monáe‘s late mentor, Dirty Computer is a kaleidoscopic fusion of Black popular music — soul, funk, hip-hop — that bridges the personal and the political: look no further than the album’s liner notes, which puts “wack ass fuckboys everywhere (from the traphouse to the White House)” on blast. It’s one part sign of the times, one part hopeful vision of a better tomorrow. –Jacob Nierenberg


13. Tame Impala – Currents (2015)

Tame-Impala-Currents-Details-Release-Date-Tracklist

Australian music project Tame Impala had always been great at dragging direct rock lyrics over new ambient territories. Currents upped the ante, though, giving leader Kevin Parker the space to share how polished and profound his talent and expertise were not only as a producer, but as a songwriter and vocalist, as well. Hearkening back to ’80s sentimentality and ’60s psychedelic rock, each of the 13 songs sound like standalone experiments. Yet the entire sentiment of Currents can be captured in the opening lyrics of lead single “Let it Happen”, as Parker evenly recants, “It’s always around me, all this noise/ But not nearly as loud as the voice saying/ Let it happen, let it happen.” We’re glad he did. –Erica Campbell


12. Kanye West – Yeezus (2013)

Kanye West - Yeezus

There’s never been anything easy or straightforward about Kanye West, but it’s exactly that complexity that makes his best records so damn great. Yeezus, released in 2013, is the work of an artist who knows how to keep fans and critics on their toes better than anyone in popular music. A polar contrast to the over-the-top bombast of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Yeezus is a sparse but surprisingly intense effort that digs its claws into everything from pop and hip-hop to acid house, trap, and drill. Featuring a sprawling cast of contributors ranging from Skrillex, Travis Scott, and Frank Ocean to outside the hip-hop box gets like Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, it’s a powerful, erratic, and sometimes difficult listen, but it’s also one of the shining moments in an indisputably legendary career. –Ryan Bray


11. Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel…  (2012)

Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel

It’s easy to forget how revolutionary Fiona Apple’s fourth album felt in 2012. While the ironic detachment of extremely online people was at an all-time high, Apple had the boldness to proclaim, “I want to feel everything” in a way that was so honest and refreshing. Both open yet assured, equal parts literary and playful, The Idler Wheel… was the culmination of a brilliant career in a record that sparkled with every note. Filled with sharp arrangements and blissfully complex melodies, the album lived in both the extreme and the subdued, from the infectious glee of “Hot Knife” to the coy charm of “Daredevil.” Whether it was the shouted self-realization of “Left Alone” or the biting screed of “Periphery”, Fiona always sounded impossibly cool and confident, even when examining her neuroses and insecurities. The Idler Wheel… was brimming with life lessons that never felt like homework, but an older friend imparting wisdom because they’ve been through some shit, teaching that there’s nothing wrong when a song ends in a minor key. –David Sackllah


10. Mitski – Be the Cowboy (2018)

Mitski Be the Cowboy Cover Album Artwork Makeup

Dubbed Consequence of Sound’s 2018 Album of the Year, Be the Cowboy sees Mitski ask us to unbend our arm to receive her hypodermic needle of expansive sound and meticulously chosen words of wanting. A lyrical leviathan armed with her best overall work to date, Mitski gravely looks her listener in the eye while pushing further, filling every artery with acute self-awareness that comes from painstakingly excavating the messy pantheon of our most human desires. It’s a straight-to-the-vein shot of impassioned, other-worldly indie rock delivered by one of the best songwriters of our time. Born out from under a society that seems to be all but burning, Mitski’s latest decrees proudly that to Be the Cowboy isn’t all spit-shined spurs and high-horse saddles; to Be the Cowboy is to be big, sure, but it is also to be small in equal measure and in constant flux. –Irene Monokandilos


09. St. Vincent – Strange Mercy (2011)

St Vincent Strange Mercy

“How could they be casually cruel?” Oof, if there was ever a line to sum up the past year, the past decade, the past century even, very few come to mind. Alas, here we are, some eight years after St. Vincent’s Strange Mercy, and things have only gotten worse. Every institution is morally bankrupt. People are literally tearing each other apart. Despicable men are getting away with despicable atrocities. It’s a tragic scene, alright, but one that Annie Clark saw with 20/20 foresight way, way back in 2011. Put on “Champagne Year”, or “Cheerleader”, or “Surgeon”. It’s hard to imagine any of these tracks were written nearly a decade ago. After all, we’re still surrounded by “lost boys”, related to “honest thieves”, and told “it’s not the perfect plan, but it’s the one we got.” Because of this, Clark has certainly grown angrier over the years (see: 2017’s Masseduction), but she’s never been this perceptive. This is Clark as Fitzgerald, as Didion, as a true St. Vincent. –Michael Roffman


08. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d city (2012)

good kid, m.A.A.d city artwork good kid, m.A.A.d city artwork

On his breakout album, a 25-year-old Kendrick Lamar paints a granular picture of his tumultuous upbringing in Compton, and he does it with profound eloquence and wisdom. good kid, m.A.A.d. city provides a cohesive account of K. Dot — a young and impressionable Lamar whose involvement with the wrong crowd leads to a series of regrettable decisions — and his transformation into the introspective and sharply intelligent Kendrick Lamar we know today. In this nonlinear narrative, K. Dot gets jumped by two men, and as he and his friends attempt to carry out revenge, his friend Dave gets shot. There are more developments, but a thread of literal and figurative sobriety ties them all together. There’s also a veneer of hedonism over songs like “Backseat Freestyle”, and tracks such as “Swimming Pools (Drank)” are frequently played at parties. As such, good kid, m.A.A.d. city has the two-pronged quality of indulging those who search for meaning and entertaining those who don’t. –Garrett Gravley


07. Robyn – Body Talk (2010)

Robyn - Body Talk

Pop music has always made people move, but Body Talk saw Robyn officially bring the genre to the club. Whether heartbroken or simply operating with heart-on-the-sleeve candor, she made the dance floor a sanctuary and safe space. Under the strobe lights, the emotional outpouring was physical — in the sweat and in the tears, in the way our figures twist and dip. Beneath the glittering disco ball, we can ruminate in isolation, in the homes of our own bodies, and yet still feel part of a larger community of humans just looking to shimmy the night away. In a decade that’s been marked by an influx of both communication breakdowns and advances — we’re all hyper-connected through the Internet but still so damn lonely — Robyn taught us to listen to our hearts and find comfort in its rhythmic pulse. –Lake Schatz


06. Frank Ocean – Channel Orange (2012)

Frank Ocean - Channel Orange

When Frank Ocean dropped Blonde in 2016, scores of critics rushed to publish their takes as quickly as possible, to start a dialogue about what Ocean was doing and saying. But that event only happened because of 2012’s Channel Orange, Ocean’s monumental, gobsmacking debut LP, which introduced the world to his singular perspective and opened up a bigger space for the many brilliant queer artists in hip-hop and R&B. Every second of Channel Orange is sharply crafted and thoughtfully considered. Ocean’s series of soulful vignettes established him as a wry, erudite, heart-on-your-sleeve outsider, offering piercing observations of contrasts in wealth while revealing an equally devastating personal vulnerability. Smart and soft and tender and skeptical and curious and wise all at once, Ocean is a force on Channel Orange — and it all comes so naturally to him that all we can do is marvel. In 55 genius minutes, Ocean showed us the world through his eyes and left us eager for more. –Kayleigh Hughes


05. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City (2013)

 

Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City Artwork

It’s arguable that some culture critics never really wanted Vampire Weekend to be the defining indie band of the 2010s, what with the tired narrative of privileged over-intellectualism that still occasionally surrounds the band. But as each album they released improved upon their sophisticated formula, it was clear they owned the genre for the decade. Modern Vampires of the City is the apex of this progression, a refinement of songwriting via Ezra Koenig’s spectacularly referential lyrics and a warming of Rostam Batmanglij’s production, elevated by the addition of co-producer Ariel Rechtshaid. The songs explore growth in aging (“Diane Young”, “Step”), belief (“Ya Hey”, “Unbelievers”), and romance (“Hannah Hunt”, “Finger Back”) with a shrewd wit so lavish in composition and language that the themes penetrate through layers: art, humor, and pop appeal. It’s indie music firing on all possible cylinders, setting the pace for the genre’s modern iteration at large. –Ben Kaye


04. Lorde – Melodrama (2017)

Lorde - Melodrama

Perception is reality, and for Lorde, her world became everyone else’s following 2013’s Pure Heroine. “Royals” alone turned the New Zealand singer-songwriter into a worldwide phenomenon, a voice of a generation, and expectations were higher than ever going into her followup. Rather than rush, she spent four years toiling away at Melodrama, culling together all of that chaos, all of those stakes, and all of those expectations into some of the most earnest and affecting pop to ever scale the charts. Yet it’s in her own personal heaven and hell that she managed to mine even more anthems to rally around. Anthems that speak to the interchanging wins and woes of growing up, finding courage, and accepting tragedies within the triumphs or vice versa. Melodrama is Lorde at her strongest, her weakest, and everything in between, but that humanity is what we were starving for, and boy did she call it. –Michael Roffman


03. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
In 2010, Kanye West gathered a near-mythic council of A-list collaborators in Hawaii to witness him raise a glass in Faustian bargain — a baroque, Auto-Tuned toast to the assholes still reverberating around the world a decade later. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy deftly dissected wealth, celebrity, and hedonism with a maximalist touch so symphonically unprecedented and unrivaled, West’s deal with the devil had all but deified him. MBDTF was the sonic slash-and-burn of a near-vegetative rap industry. Its opulent ashes fertilized a lush landscape of blue-ribbon albums and artists. From Kendrick and Drake to Nicki and Pusha — hell, even Bon Iver and Beyonce — several names on this list would not be where they are today had it not been for West’s beautiful, dark, and twisted masterpiece. As for Ye, and for you and I, MBDTF will forever exist in a vacuum — a Stanley Kubrick-esque monolith of modern music. “Can we get much higher?” it asks. The answer, dear reader, is and will always be, “No.” –Irene Monokandilos


02. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly (2015)

kendrick lamar to pimp a butterfly vinyl release

If Kendrick Lamar’s 2012 debut, good kid, m.A.A.d. city, was his breakout, To Pimp a Butterfly was the breakthrough. Taking an alternate route from hip-hop’s traditional indulgence of self-gratification, TPAB is multilayered, as Lamar grapples with perseverance through racial tensions, depression, and avoiding the dangers of “Lucy” (a friendlier term for Lucifer). He also relies on a diverse-yet-seamless production team, including LA natives Thundercat, Terrace Martin, and Flying Lotus, whose jazzy flair intricately molds Lamar’s spoken-word prose. Perhaps Lamar’s vision of TPAB is best captured in 2015 short film God Is Gangsta in which he drunkenly slurs along to “u” in his personal rage room, later reaching baptismal waters during “For Sale?” Or maybe it was the album’s revolutionary core and unofficial Black Lives Matter anthem, “Alright”. Relentlessly striving to find a commonplace between faith and industry temptations, To Pimp a Butterfly expanded not only Kendrick Lamar’s perception of his environment but the nation’s plight. –Jaelani Turner-Williams


01. Beyoncé – Lemonade (2016)

Beyonce Lemonade

Soul bearing, politically unpalatable, and unapologetically black, Beyoncé’s sixth solo album Lemonade was surprised released on a Saturday night, following the premiere of its hour-long visual film counterpart. Where “Single Ladies” beckoned even the least acute pop patrons to the dancefloor, lead single “Formation” parted that floor with hashtags like #BoycottBeyonce or #IStandWithBeyonce. The conceptual short film sparked cultural conversation around Black Lives Matter, the complications of reconciliation post-infidelity, and was punctuated with poetry on the black female experience and keen observations from Malcom X. Tracks “Sorry”, and “Hold Up” and “Don’t Hurt Yourself” were eloquently positioned fuck yous, “Freedom” a call to arms, and moments like “Daddy Issues” laid bare a typically buttoned-up Beyoncé. Lemonade also reveled in its own arena of sound: Whereas her sonics before could be described as R&B with an inclination towards pop, here she enlisted country, funk, and New Orleans Jazz, as well as collaborators like the Dixie Chicks, Jack White, James Blake, and Kendrick Lamar, to create something that was distinctly her own. More importantly, Lemonade, through sound, lyrics, and visuals, set the bar for what an album should do: pull you in, call you out, make you question yourself, your society, and your own comfort, all while somehow leaving you entertained. –Erica Campbell

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