It’s Consequence’s 15th anniversary, and all September long we’ll be publishing a series of retrospective pieces encompassing our publication’s own history — and the entertainment landscape in general. Today, we’re ranking our 75 favorite albums of the last 15 years.
A first listen to a new album can have the bubbly energy of a first date. But that feeling might fizzle as you try to maintain a relationship. Our early impressions aren’t necessarily wrong, but they are more likely to change. That’s one reason our list of the 100 Greatest Albums of All Time is slightly tilted towards older classics; time offers certainty.
But tomorrow’s older classics are already part of today’s conversation. In fact, we found consensus to name 11 albums from the last 15 years as some of the 100 Greatest of All Time. (For the sake of continuity and not repeating ourselves, once you scroll to Album No. 11 on this list, you’ll see a quick preview of each album’s writeup from the GOATs ranking.)
As for the rest of these records, they were all released into a shifting music landscape, because the business has been in constant flux since Napster shattered the old paradigm in 1999. From lawsuits to Limewire, Spotify to TikTok, the relentless pace of technology has forced artists to become so much more than just songwriters and producers. Brian Wilson didn’t have to worry about Instagram, and Kurt Cobain (thankfully?) never had Twitter. This generation has contended with more obstacles — and more stressors — than ever before.
The shattering of the old monoculture bodes poorly for today’s artists hoping to become the next big thing. Our media is so fractured that basic facts have come into doubt, and good luck getting everyone to agree on music. There will never again come a time when a band can be as universally well known as The Beatles. Even as acts like BTS outstrip some of the Fab Four’s sales records, it’s possible they won’t become household names in the same way McCartney, Lennon, Harrison, and Starr did.
Still, rising living standards and falling costs of studio equipment have lowered the barrier to entry. There’s never been an easier time to get into music, and here the fans are the clear winners. This is a golden age of music. There’s more of it, of a higher quality, than at any time in history.
So as you peruse these albums from the last 15 years, consider their list placement temporary. More people will discover them, new fans will weigh in, and while some records may drop out of these discussions forever, others will become immortal.
— Wren Graves