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

    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)

     Top 100 Albums of the 2010s

    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)

     Top 100 Albums of the 2010s

    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)

     Top 100 Albums of the 2010s

    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

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