Top 100 Albums of the 2010s

A decade passes in an instant, as do sounds and trends

The Top 100 Albums of the 2010s, artwork by Steven Fiche
The Top 100 Albums of the 2010s, artwork by Steven Fiche

    Join us 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

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