Since I’ve already cataloged my favorite movies and games of the 2010’s, I should do the same for music, so that future generations of humans can rest in peace knowing that some random person on the internet completed the listing of his favorite 2010’s media. Just a few rules before I begin, I’m not including movie or video game soundtracks on this list, nor am I going to include viral songs or novelty albums like Kidz Bop on the worst list. Without further ado, here are my top 25 (and 10 worst) albums of the 2010’s.
25. Billie Ellish- When We Fall Asleep, Where do we Go? (2019)
I know that hating on Billie Ellish is popular because… She dresses weird and teenage girls like her, which means obviously no serious music connoisseur would ever consider enjoying her music *adjusts monocle* But honestly, I think this is one of the most interesting and well produced pop albums of the decade, and there are certainly a number of fantastic, experimental and sonically interesting tracks on this record. You can criticize her voice for being too “whispery” or whatever, but I think it adds an interesting quality to her music, and she definitely shows she has more range than that. I don’t care what anybody says, I will not be shamed for enjoying this album.
24. Kankyō Ongaku: Japanese Ambient, Environmental & New Age Music 1980-1990- Various Artists (2019)
I know what you’re thinking, the album title has years that aren’t in the 2010’s in them so ackshully, this doesn’t count and you’re a fraud. Ok, well this compilation of music is made up of songs from the 80’s, but, most of it either wasn’t officially released in America or it wasn’t officially released at all, so I’m adding it to the list. Also, sue me. What I’m saying is that this is a soothing and beautiful compilation of ambient music, which mixes sounds of standard instruments, nature and household objects being used as instruments to form some truly beautiful soundscapes. This is an album I have in constant rotation because it’s just so relaxing to listen to.
23. Judas Priest- Firepower (2018)
Judas Priest’s previous recent outings had been on par for what you’d expect from an aging metal act from the 80’s, so I didn’t think Firepower would be anything to write home about either. I was wrong. This album has no right being as good as it is. It’s not just a return to form for the legendary metal outfit, it can arguably stand side by side with some of their best works. Some of the band’s best guitar riffs, best lyrical content and Rob Halford has honestly not sounded better in 20 years. It’s so rare for a band that has been around as long as Judas Priest to drop an album this good seemingly out of nowhere. This was a great sendoff for legendary guitarist Glenn Tipton who sadly can no longer play with the band due to illness.
22. Andrew W.K.- You’re Not Alone (2018)
I appreciate Andrew W.K.’s dedication to just writing fun, upbeat, fist pumping party and arena rock songs. If ever there was an album that could be considered “feel good” music, it would be You’re Not Alone. While it does have some memorable and catchy bangers, musically it’s not the most interesting or diverse or experimental album on this list, but I enjoy the overall message of positivity and fun the band is trying to put out there into the world. It’s like Andrew W.K. saw you sulking in the corner at a party, handed you a beer and told you to chug it while he plays a life affirming anthem in the background.
21. Alvvays- Anti-Socialites (2017)
A beautiful, melancholy, but also not entirely bleak synth and dream pop album, Anti-Socialites definitely captures the feeling of ruing a romance lost while walking through town on a rainy day. While there are a ton of slower, more dreamy songs on the record, but they give contrast to the faster, more guitar driven, upbeat songs on there as well. This is an album that is something I can listen to any time I don’t feel like I have the vigor to listen to something more energetic, and it never stops being a pleasure to listen to. Hearing a band with great potential really grow into their sound on a sophomore album like this is something I appreciate regardless of the genre.
20. Kanye West- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)
Despite what you think of Kanye as a person, it’s undeniable that he has made some of the most influential and memorable hip-hop of the decade. His influences from electronic music, gospel and other genres really show through on MBDTF and I think collaborating with Kid Cudi really brings out the best in both Kanye and Cudi. There are so many memorable bars on this record, my favorite being “All my homies fallin’/for the love of ballin’/got caught with 30 Rocks the cop look like Alec Baldwin” Kanye has shown time and time again that he really is able to think outside the box when it comes to music, using interesting flows, samples and other production tools in unique and engaging ways.
19. Weightless- Animals as Leaders (2011)
A heavy and harmonious instrumental progressive album, Animals As Leaders have cemented themselves as one of the best Djent and modern metal acts in the world with their second studio effort Weightless. Guitarist Tosin Abasi proves he’s one of the great virtuosos of the instrument, as he dances around the neck with complex chord progressions and time signature changes, as well as advanced guitar techniques and polyrhythms, all without losing the melodic edge that makes this album so epic to listen to. This is a record that has stayed virtually permanently in my car since I first heard it.
18. Guerilla Toss- Twisted Crystal
An experimental walking tour of 80’s synth pop and rock, thrown into a psychedelic blender, Twisted Crystal is one of the most reminiscent and interesting albums on this list (and also aptly named.) Yes, it borrows heavily from acts like Devo, Animal Collective and Dan Deacon, but to call it anything but unique would be a disservice to how creative, catchy, nostalgic and fun this album really is. Exceptional and imaginative vocal harmonies, instrumentation, abstract lyrics and unconventional production make this album a very underrated gem in the current pop landscape.
17. Noctourniquet- The Mars Volta (2012)
The Mars Volta’s only album of the decade continues the band’s long-standing tradition of creating unique and quality progressive rock music. Equal parts beautiful, smooth, abrasive and disorienting, this is an album that didn’t fully click with me until I listened to it a fair few times. Lyrically, this may be one of the bands best efforts as it is more contemplative and self-reflective than their other works. So many amazing melodies and beautiful guitar tones mixed with harsh and perplexing time signature, dynamic and tempo changes make this one of the coolest and most sonically diverse rock albums of the 2010’s.
16. Weyes Blood- Titanic Rising
What a lovely chamber pop album this is. Buttery smooth production with out feeling at all overproduced and wonderful but simple instrumentation. Natalie Laura Mering’s powerful, yet comfortable and nostalgic Carpenter’s-esque vocals make you feel like you’re in a cozy coffee house listening to a surprisingly good act while reading lighthearted stories in a local newspaper as you sip your warm brew. The lyrics are strong and relevant to modern life, adding to the already fantastic atmosphere of the album. A very commanding and engaging record that puts a ton of modern pop music to shame.
15. Jack White- Boarding House Reach (2018)
Jack White other than being a huge inspiration for my own music has been a consistent and interesting voice in rock, a genre that is starting to become less and less culturally relevant. While his solo work is not as good as his work with the White Stripes, Boarding House Reach definitely scratches that experimental itch that he once did with the famous duo. So many of the songs on this album I’d struggle to even classify because they take inspiration and production techniques from so many different genres. A lot of the songs are pretty out there in terms of sonic diversity and production, but they’re not so abrasive that they’d alienate people not used to more experimental music. If rock is ever going to see mainstream relevance again, we need more albums like Boarding House Reach.
14. Tyler the Creator- Igor (2019)
I’m not sure how I can feel nostalgic for an album that came out a little over a year ago, but Tyler the Creator managed to make me feel nostalgic for Igor. It’s such a laid back, easy album to listen to, but it’s not without the edge this kind of music needs to stay interesting. I love the production on this thing, and while Tyler himself can be polarizing, I think this album just has a certain bittersweet, end of summerish vibe to it that will connect with people more than his other works. Yes, Igor is more pop than his other records, but I feel like this small reinvention for him works in his favor, especially when he’s weaving in elements of pop, R&B, soul and gospel into it.
13. Brockhampton- Saturation Trilogy (2017)
This is technically 3 albums that were released in the same year, but I think they really deserve to be consumed as one long album. Each one is so unique and interesting, and each member of the group brings their own creative flavor and personality to each song they appear in. In terms of lyrical, musical and production quality, Brockhampton have delivered 3 really great albums loaded to the brim with interesting sounds, diverse production and great verses. If I had to choose one to be my favorite, it’d probably be Saturation III, but I know that may be an unpopular opinion as most people will probably say that I and II are better overall.
12. Xiu Xiu- Girl with Basket of Fruit (2019)
Yeah, this is one that most of you will go “What the fuck is wrong with this guy, you know, besides the Russian Instagram thot obsession?” This album is something I can only describe as the musical equivalent of a snuff film. A rough, abrasive, haunting, guttural, and honestly, shocking pop record, I’m not entirely sure I can explain why it is that I like this album so much. Most of the tracks sound like a hostage got held at gunpoint and told to “sing as well as they can.” I guess I just crave something really experimental every once in a while. Or maybe I need stronger medication.
11. Ghost- Meliora (2015)
Ghost is one of the most original, interesting, and frankly impressive rock and metal acts of the decade. Beneath the tongue in cheek faux-satanic aesthetic they put on, there is an incredibly talented group of musicians there. Their mix of 80’s pop, doom metal and general rock pathos has created something utterly unique. The people that say that Ghost isn’t “Metal” enough are missing the point entirely. The overall atmosphere and catchiness of their entire act is something that so many rock outfits these days lack that it really puts into perspective why rock has lost a lot of cultural impact. Meliora is packed full of songs that span from the hauntingly beautiful “Circe” to the poppy and unbelievably catchy “Square Hammer” and the band never really dwells on one sound or one idea too long. Ghost is a band that almost instantly became one of my favorites in the 2010’s.
10. Black Star- David Bowie
It’s almost surreal listening to this album after Bowie’s death. Black Star is such a beautiful and powerful rumination of the twilight years of a legendary rock star’s career, it almost feels as if Bowie somehow wrote it from beyond the grave. An introspective album about how Bowie’s own life will be viewed after his inevitable death, Black Star is a mature look at fame and legacy. Everything great about Bowie’s previous works is evident here, and some of the instrumentation, words and melodies stuck with me for years after I first heard this album. I usually don’t feel much for the death of celebrities, but Bowie’s passing definitely hit me a little harder than usual. Rest in Peace.
9. The Comet is Coming- Trust in the Lifeforce of Deep Mystery (2019)
My favorite album of 2019 comes in at number nine. The Comet is Coming has created a beautiful fusion of jazz, psychedelic rock, funk and even electronica. The one constant throughout the sonic soup that is this record is the brilliant saxophone of Shabaka Hutchings, who also released another fantastic jazz album Sons of Kemet- Your Queen is a Reptile, and seems poised to carry the mantle of the virtuosic jazz musician into the new generation. This album is like going on a psychedelic desert spirit quest. I can’t even really do it justice honestly talking about it, you just have to listen to it yourself to understand how diverse and musically one of a kind this album is.
8. Gorillaz- Plastic Beach (2010)
Plastic Beach is one of the most well produced, forward thinking and musically intriguing hip-hop albums of the decade. This album not only mixes elements of electronic music, rock, jazz and other genres together, but it also brings together a fantastic smattering of features to really put it over the edge into greatness. Producer/songwriter//Vocalist/overall mastermind Damon Albarn shows that he is one of the most ahead of the curve producers in rap. This album was one of the first ones that really got me into hip-hop besides the obvious classics, so it definitely holds a special place in my heart. This decade is lucky to have such a great album representing it.
7. Kendrick Lamar- To Pimp a Butterfly (2015)
I don’t think this album needs any introduction. One of the seminal hip-hop albums of the era, and maybe of all time, Kendrick Lamar has undoubtedly dropped a record that will be talked about and listened to in hip-hop circles for generations; something that will become a right of passage like the classics of yesteryear for the next generation of rap fans. While the expansive and creative sound palates on display here are phenomenal, I think what really sold the album for me was the message that permeates through the entire work. To Pimp a Butterfly is not just a title, it’s the central thought at the core of the album. The idea that society tries to change and destroy beautiful things, in this case, the music industry with Kendrick, is a very relevant one. It’s also one that can be applied to almost everyone and every situation, which is where the real power of this album and its lyrical message lies.
6. Queens of the Stone age- Like Clockwork (2013)
The iconic Desert rockers returned this decade with their most mature and complete album maybe ever, or at the very least since Songs for the Deaf. This band’s infectious mix of driving riffs and smooth vocals from front man Josh Homme is more balanced and catchier than ever. The main reason I love this album though is the lyrical content and the overall instrumental and production refinement that was maybe missing from some of their other records. Yes, it is the dreariest album in their catalog, but that doesn’t stop it from being a fantastically entertaining alt-rock album that reminds me more of something you’d hear from Bowie than what you’d come to expect from QOTSA, and I respect this maturation and change in style without losing what makes them interesting and unique.
5. Kids See Ghosts- Kid Cudi/Kanye West (2018)
Another Kid Cuki/Kanye West collaboration, this album honestly sounds like what hip-hop will be like in the future. Some tracks have more of a rock and roll attitude than most rock acts these days. So much amazing production on this record and some of the samples and beats are so out of left field and weird that it’s honestly mind blowing. Kanye shows that once again he is a fantastic producer and him and Kid Cudi both create their best work when they’re pushing each other. From the psychedelic beats to the more laid back and even completely oddball tracks, this album remains diverse despite its short run time. That’s one of the best parts about this album though. It’s 40 minutes of fantastic music, there’s no bad songs and absolutely no filler. It doesn’t outstay its welcome.
4. Radiohead- A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)
Emotionally poignant, symphonic, moody and beautiful, Radiohead once again add to their nearly peerless catalog of fantastic alternative rock music. This album steps away from what a lot of people would attribute to Radiohead’s core sound with more violins, harps and other strings and less guitars, but it still is undeniably a Radiohead album. Front man Thom Yorke gives one of his most chilling and stunning vocal performances to date, and the soundscapes they create with this album are something so mesmerizingly melancholic and gorgeous that it’s hard not to get emotional listening to this record. Hands down the best alternative rock album of the decade.
3. Ghost- Prequelle (2018)
Another album from a band that has firmly attached themselves to my heartstrings, Ghost return to the list with yet another fantastically infectious and unique album. Borrowing more from 80’s hair metal, synth pop and Blue Oyster Cult than modern metal, this record can still hit pretty heavy at times while retaining the earworm like quality to all their songs. The only way I can accurately describe this band is if Scooby Doo music was metal. Front man Tobias Forge continues to prove that Ghost is not only unique in sound, but also in energy and creativity, as he takes on the character of a church cardinal who is also a dancer. Songs like Rats, Faith and A Dance Macabre run the gambit of this band’s diverse sound, and their one of a kind aesthetic is also pervasive throughout. The best rock album of the decade.
The Sword- Apocryphon (2012)
It’s no secret that I love classic rock, especially bands like Black Sabbath, and most of the rock music I listen to these days ends up being from bands that are heavily inspired by the rock acts of yesteryear that I love. That being said, comparing The Sword to the bands they’re inspired by, while easy, diminishes just how great of a band they are in their own right. Crushing and catchy stoner metal riffs seep through every single second of this album. Some of the riffs that are merely throwaways at the end of tracks are better than what most rock and metal bands create as main hooks on their songs. No, it’s not particularly sonically diverse or even all that original, but I like classic rock and The Sword captures the essence of these bands while carving out their own niche with their epic and fantastical lyrics and non-stop cascades of thunderous guitar riffs and tones.
1. Tame Impala- Lonerism (2012)
Lonerism is an album that has had a profound effect on not only me as a fan of rock music, but as a musician and multi-instrumentalist. I saw Tame Impala back in 2012 when this album had just dropped, and I knew immediately how much of an influence Kevin Parker and his music would have on me in the future. Lonerism is just one of those albums that immediately resonates with you as soon as you hear it. The beautiful vocal harmonies, the psychedelic, effects laden guitar work, the catchy bass, the washy synths, all of it comes together into a package that is so easy to listen to, and so inviting. Front to back, this album is full of wonderful tracks, my favorites being Elephants and Mind Mischief. Yes, the album harkens back and seeks to update the 60’s era of psychedelia music and Sargent Pepper’s era Beatles, but Kevin Parker has made something truly his own, and something remarkably special. An album I will be listening to for as long as my eardrums still function.
Top 10 Worst Albums of the Decade
10. Eminem- Revival (2017)
Look, Eminem is undeniably one of the GOATs of rap, but good lord is this album bad. His flow is so inexplicably awful on this record. The angry, staccato rhythm that Eminem insists on using on his recent records is just so painful to listen to, especially when he’s writing yet another song about how everyone hates him now. Revival has some of the absolute worst bars of Em’s career and the production is so lazy, cheap, and awful sounding. Does Eminem even care what kind of trash beats he raps over anymore? The features on this album are so legitimately terrible I don’t even know where to begin, especially the Ed Sheeran one. And it’s so. Goddamn. Long. As well.
9. Limp Bizkit- Gold Cobra (2011)
I’m not sure who was asking for a Limp Bizkit album in the year of our lord 2011, but they got it. It’s one thing to make horribly dated rap-rock from the mid 2000’s a decade after it has lost any mainstream appeal or relevance, it’s another thing for a middle-aged man with a gray beard to be bad white boy rapping while girls half their age jiggle their tits in the background. Yes, the instrumentals on this record are fine and some of the songs are a bit catchy, but it’s all so pathetic and sad, like seeing that kid from high school who never left your neighborhood still wearing his ill-fitting letterman jacket from high school while bragging about all the chicks he totally banged. No wonder Wes Borland always wears a mask.
8. Lou Reed and Metallica- Lulu (2011)
I really like Lou Reed and Metallica, but… Is this album a practical joke? I’m all for experimental sounds and especially artists branching out and trying new things with their sound, but this isn’t so much as experimenting with new sounds as it is creating a Lovecraftian abomination in audio form, and trust me, Lovecraft would be proud of how insane this album will drive you. In one song, Lou Reed recites spoken word poetry you’d hear at a bad open mic night off time while James Hetfield yells “I am the table!” in the background, and honestly, it’s so ridiculous it borders on being experimental art. I know people will likely call me pretentious for some of the picks I’ve made but thinking you can make something like this work is actual pretention.
7. Nostalgia Critic’s: The Wall- Doug Walker (2019)
Ok, I know Youtubers are low hanging fruit, but I’m not going to let this slide. Doug Walker, AKA the Nostalgia Critic is an archaic and increasingly irrelevant YouTube channel that used to make fun of when movies had bad acting and singing and is now nothing but him and his friends acting and singing badly. To coincide with his review of the film The Wall, he released an album parodying the music of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Now, I’m not going to sit here and clutch pearls and act offended that somebody is making fun of one of my personal favorite albums, but if you’re going to satirize a beloved classic, at least be funny. Or put some effort into it. When the baseline level of quality in your parody album is changing “Comfortably Numb” to “Comfortably Dumb” you know something is fucked up.
Yes, Rob Scallon does a decent job recreating the actual music on the album, but all of it feels cheap and underproduced, and it can’t save the fact that the vocals are just obnoxious and off key. I’m honestly wondering who is sitting there and listening to an entire album of a has-been youtuber wail and complain about how a song is “Oscar bait” when the album came out years before the film. Imagine being so horrendously off in your interpretation of a song’s meaning that you think being mentally abused and repressed by an oppressive school system and living in constant fear of post WW II destruction that you take it as Roger Waters whining about being bored in school. If only Doug Walker thought as highly of good working conditions for employees as he did of his own lack of musical talent.
6. Chance the Rapper- The Big Day (2019)
I simply don’t understand when artists who have every tool at their disposal to make great records drop some absolute hot garbage like The Big Day. Chance is a Kanye protégé, and has released several well received and respected albums, especially Acid Rap which is great. I’m not sure how an album like this manages to go through as many pairs of ears as a large studio album inevitably has to without somebody questioning it. The production is all over the place with some tracks sounding great and some sounding like complete shit. Chance has always had trouble consistently writing good lyrics, but this album is literally nothing but cornball lyric after cornball lyric. It’s so bland, trite, and toothless that most tracks sound like a cheesy rap you’d hear a Sunday school pastor sing in a viral video on YouTube. I get that marriage is a huge moment in one’s life that you should cherish, but Jesus Chance, you didn’t have to cherish it so fucking publicly.
5. Miley Cyrus and her Dead Petz- Miley Cyrus (2015)
Just look at the cover of this album and try not to have your skin crawl. I’m not going to go as far as to say that Miley Cyrus is completely untalented, but any talent she does have does not come off at all on this album. This record feels like she’s trying way too hard to shrug off the Disney Channel stardom from her younger days, but singing about how high you get does not do that in an effective way, and besides, we know how high you are, you made this album. Failing at even the basics of making a decent album is bad enough, but did you have to fail at making experimental music as well? The Flaming Lips produced this record too which… I hope you got clout, because I don’t know what you intended to benefit from having your names on this project.
4. Logic- Supermarket (2019)
Logic has put out some truly awful albums this decade, and while I believe he’s a very gifted technical rapper, he makes music for white girls who think having depression is a quirky personality trait. With Supermarket, he doesn’t even have the technical side of his rap to fall back on as he’s attempting to crossover into singer-songwriter type pop album territory based on the story of his own novel that he released alongside the album. Again, I’m all for artists pushing the boundaries of their sound and doing new things, but if you’re going to do this, you actually have to be talented at what you’re attempting, and Logic very much is not talented at this. The singing on this project is painful and sounds like bad Mac Demarco karaoke. The guitar on this album is low quality, the mix is fucking awful, the lyrics are corny as hell and Logic is just blatantly ripping off much, much better alternative rock artists and singer-songwriters. I mean, the dude really thought he was being clever naming a song “Bohemian Trapsody” do I even need to say more?
3. Lil’ Dicky- I’m Brain (2017)
If listening to a bad rap album is like being stuck in a sweatshop, then listening to a bad rap album that also utterly fails at being a comedy album is 20 days handcuffed to a sewing machine in Beijing. Again, Lil’ Dicky is a fairly talented technical rapper, but none of that shines through when he’s doing this stupid “brain” voice that makes the album unlistenable. Look, I’m not saying that novelty or parody acts can’t be fun; you’re talking to somebody who makes nothing but stupid novelty comedy songs. But here’s the thing, I can’t take the album seriously because it’s fucking stupid, and I can’t laugh at it because there are no jokes and I don’t find it funny. Corny, stupid lyrics, bad rap singing, mediocre production, everything about this album sucks. Again, I’m not sure who is sitting here unironically listening to songs about how he’s never tried cocaine and how he’s gonna “Fuck slow on some girls.” This whole album is wimpy college bro humor that doesn’t hit the mark.
2. Corey Feldman- Angelic 2 the Core (2016)
You know that episode of 30 Rock where Tracy Morgan tries to win a Grammy so he’s desperately mashing every popular music style together? That’s this album but unironically. This record is “The Room” of music. It’s so bad that it’s actually amazing. You kind of just have to listen to this album to believe it exists. The first track on it sounds like he took the default dubstep sound effect from Ableton and then proceeded to do a bad Michael Jackson impression over it. There are no coherent vocal melodies throughout the whole thing, and that’s if he’s even singing on beat. In between songs there are these cheesy and lame skits which rip off Charlie’s Angels that make absolutely no sense. The production is so bad it made me laugh out loud. It’s trying to be a dubstep album except dubstep already stopped being popular at least 4 years before this album came out. I mean, they didn’t even crop the image on the official album cover properly. I appreciate Corey Feldman for having the confidence to put himself out there despite his obvious lack of musical talent, but did nobody tell him that maybe this wasn’t a good idea? On an objective level, this album is by far the worst of the decade, but it’s so fucking funny that I can’t give it the top spot. Also, it’s a goddamn double album so… Do with that information that you will.
1. Lil’ Xan- Total Xanarchy (2018)
A prime example of the album sounding exactly like the cover art looks. Anybody who has the audacity to say that 2pac is boring better make some damn good music themselves, and Lil’ Xan makes music for people who don’t have a pulse. Just looking at Lil’ Xan as a person makes me lose brain cells, and you’d have to have very few to begin with to think this shit is good. I honestly want to meet somebody who thinks this boring, drab, unoriginal, poorly produced, barely intelligible drivel is their favorite album. I want to see somebody justify thinking that of all the music in the world, this is the top cut.
There is a lot of bad mumble rap nowadays, but I’d rather listen to Lil’ Yachty or Future over this shit. The lyrics are repetitive garbage, with one of the songs repeating the words “Tick tock” for literally 90% of its run time. I would struggle to find an album I would less like to listen to than this, because it’s not funny like Angelic 2 the Core is, and it has basically no redeeming aspects unless you have serious insomnia problems. I guess you could argue that I shouldn’t expect any better from a guy who looks like Finn Wolfhard developed a meth problem, but this album embraces everything that’s bad about both mainstream mumble rap and generic soundcloud sad boi emo rap.