The 2010s are almost over. It’s been a wild 10 years. Lady Gaga wore that meat dress. We all thought the planet was going to explode in 2012. Streaming platforms destroyed physical media. It’s been a strange decade on a strange planet.
So, amidst a decade of commotion and a 2019 full of uncertainty, I’d like to deal in absolutes. These are some of my favorite albums of the 2010s.
“Contra” by Vampire Weekend, 2010
“Contra” is Vampire Weekend’s best album. Itis a swirling mass of different genres and influences. It’s peak prep. “Horchata” pairs referential lyrics with Afro-pop sensibilities. Lead singer Ezra Koenig rhymes “horchata” with “balaclava” while a marimba is played softly in the background. “California English” employs distorted vocals with breakneck synths. The album ends with the beautiful ballad “I Think Ur a Contra.” Koenig sings in falsetto for the entirety of the track. It’s raw, emotional and – like the rest of the album – a joy to listen to.
“High Violet” by The National, 2011
If “Contra” is my “feel-good record of the decade” then the National’s fifth album “High Violet” is my“feel-bad record of the decade." Album opener “Terrible Love” trudges through grimy guitar until lead singer Matt Berninger pleads loudly as the percussion erupts like a flurry of gunshots. On “Lemonworld” Berninger begs for an escape, an exciting, sexy world free of monotony and depression. “High Violet” is proof that gray can be just as beautiful as a canvas full of color.
“Melodrama” by Lorde, 2017
I didn’t forget Lorde this time. “Melodrama” has so many bright spots: the bouncing bassline and haunting guitar outro of “The Louvre,” the powerful, stadium pop chorus of “Green Light” and the nostalgic lyrics of “Supercut.” “Melodrama” is a dark, exciting pop record balancing the weight of larger-than-life choruses and introspective verses.
“Hard Feelings” by Future Teens, 2017
The Boston quartet describes their music as “bummer pop” which is quite apt. “Hard Feelings” is a guitar pop record full of negative feelings and emotional outbursts. “What’s My Sign Again?” is a catchy take on astrology and how it can cause the downfall of a relationship. “In Love or Whatever” is primed with strong harmonies and fun, fuzzy riffs. “Learned Behavior” is a stop-and-start effort, bombastic breakdowns worm their way in and out of the three minute track. “Hard Feelings” is a strong first effort for a band primed to take over emo in the 20s.
“Because the Internet” by Childish Gambino, 2013
“Because the Internet” is the seminal album for people who want to call Donald Glover a rapper. “Awaken, My Love!” took a lot of Gambino fans by surprise in 2016 as it moved away from rapping into soul and funk. “Because the Internet” is really the last time Glover rapped. His powerful wordplay is on display throughout the record. Iconic songs “Sweatpants” and “3005” take center stage, hanging out in the middle of the 19 track album. “Because the Internet” is a magnetic record full of Glover’s endless energy.
“Golden Hour” by Kacey Musgraves, 2018
“Golden Hour” is the closest I’ll ever come to a country album. Musgraves does a wonderful job of crafting a cross between pop and country that captures the crossover crowd. “Butterflies” is one of my favorite songs of all time. The vocals are pristine, the subtle bassline operates perfectly beneath the acoustic guitar. “Space Cowboy” has a magnificent weightlessness to it. The entire album floats like a bright balloon against a deep blue sky.
“The Perfect Cast" - EP by Modern Baseball, 2015
This one isn’t technically an album, but it means too much to me to leave it off the list. “The Perfect Cast” is Modern Baseball’s finest work. “The Waterboy Returns” is a chill-inducing look at mental health and the effect it has on those around you. “Alpha Kappa Fall of Troy the Movie Part Duex (2 Disc Director’s Cut)” is my favorite song. The crashing cymbals, the buoyant baseline, the chugging guitars all come together perfectly, creating the ultimate mosh pit moment of the 2010s. “The Perfect Cast” is a perfect encapsulation of a band that disappeared at the height of their powers.
The 2010s was a great decade for music. Let’s hope the 2020s can be just as good.
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