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40 Favorite Albums of the Decade Thus Far

18. Burst Apart by the Antlers

I imagine the first word thing Peter Silberman said to the rest of his bandmates when entering the studio to record Burst Apart were, “well… shit.” How do you follow an album like 2009's Hospice? Quite simply, you don’t. So there’s no attempt here. They didn’t even bother trying. Instead, they released an album of ten separate songs.

Opening with some dreamy reverb, and electronic percussion that adds punctuation to all of Silberman’s falsettoed lyrics, “I Don’t Want Love” sort of just erupts. It’s a slow, calculate eruption. You can see it coming from miles away, but it still gets you. And when the album rolls on through “Rolled Together” all the way until the picture perfect closer, “Putting the Dog to Sleep” it does so in a near impeccable fashion. Burst Apart has nothing on Hospice. But it never attempts to. Instead, the Antlers find themselves figuring out their sound.

“Well my trust in you is a dog with a broken leg
tendons too torn to beg for you to let me back in.”

40 Favorite Albums of the Decade Thus Far

11. Bon Iver, Bon Iver by Bon Iver

I really didn’t see this coming. I figured Justin Vernon would be one-and-done, and boy oh boy has he proved me wrong. Not only is Bon Iver, Bon Iver worthy of comparison to For Emma, Forever Ago, it might actually be a better album.

“open ears and open eyes
wake up to your starboard bride
who goes in and stays inside
oh the demons come but can subside”

40 Favorite Albums of the Decade Thus Far

37. The Wild Hunt by the Tallest Man on Earth

Kristian Matsson is a Swedish singer-songwriter that possesses what could only be considered an otherworldly knack for sounding exactly one hundred years old. In the words of Llewyn Davis, “because it was never new and it never gets old and it’s a folk song.” Matsson draws a lot of Dylan references, but that’s not giving him enough credit. He’s deeper than just influenced by one man, you get the feeling these songs are influenced by weather patterns, heartache, friendship, etc.

He’s not an impersonator, that’s for damn sure. He wears his emotions on his guitar, “here come the tears, but like always, I let them go.” Matsson never holds back. He makes exactly as much of a racket as the song requires. The lyrics are potent, and again, have that quality of feeling a hundred years old. [listen]

“and I’ll throw it in the current that I stand upon so still
love is all, from what I’ve heard, but my heart’s learned to kill”

40 Favorite Albums of the Decade Thus Far

19. The Age of Adz by Sufjan Stevens

“It’s been a long, long time since I’ve memorized your face,” is the haunting line that opens Sufjan Stevens' the Age of Adz, a beautifully orchestrated glitch-pop masterpiece. The whole album feels like an open letter from Sufjan to Sufjan, exploring his past, sharpening his sound, making the music he wants to make for the sole purpose of want. By the end of “Impossible Soul” (a triumph in its own right) Sufjan closes the letter, “boy, we made such a mess together.”

This is raw Sufjan. This album still sounds before its time, but anyone who appreciated production should really give it a [listen].

“apparitions gone awry - they surround me on all sides
but from within I see an unholy change
I’m not fucking around.”

40 Favorite Albums of the Decade Thus Far

16. James Blake by James Blake

How many 25 year old British white boys were approached by Kanye West to work on his next album? One. James Blake. In 2013, how many 24 year old British white boys were named by Kanye West as their favorite current working producer? One. James Blake. In 2011, how many 21 year old British white boys released a self-titled LP that both validated dubstep as a genre, and challenged the parameters of electronic music? One. James Blake.

James Blake's James Blake is a masterpiece in its own right. From the haunting staccato of “Unluck” to the creaking full-blown autotuned choir of “Measurements”, James Blake has mastered laptop & keyboard music. His vocals are that of blue-eyed soul, his range (with aid of his computers) is out of this world. But the emotion he draws forth rivals that of Mozart. I’m dead serious.

“only child, take good care
I wouldn’t like you playing, falling there.”

40 Favorite Albums of the Decade Thus Far

06. Yeezus by Kanye West

Bear with me as I take you on a brief journey/pseudo-explanation of Yeezus an album that scares me*, is far too intense*, and has a lot of weird noises*. On track three, “I Am a God” Kanye states: “I just talked to Jesus, he said, ‘what up, Yeezus?’” It’s odd to hear Kanye give himself names like he’s P. Diddy but who exactly is the illustrious Yeezus? Is it another self-proclamation of the second-coming? Is Kanye no longer mortal, but rather a deity? No. He answers the question towards the end of the album on “Send It Up”. “tight dress dancin’ close to him, Yeezus just rose again!”

That’s right ladies and germs, Yeezus the album is written from Kanye’s alter-ego, Yeezus, aka Kanye’s dick. His more-than-likely medium-sized Chicago-native dick. It’s all his most masochistic, misogynistic, male-dominated confessions. But it’s Kanye, so you know the beats is dope (co-produced by Daft Punk… well most of 'em anyway), and he can definitely still turn a phrase. Yeezus is a step back from MBDTF but a step forward for Kanye has an artist. [listen]

“after all these long-ass verses
I’m tired, you tired, Jesus wept.”

* - all of these are quotes from co-workers

40 Favorite Albums of the Decade Thus Far

38. This Is Happening by LCD Soundsystem

James Murphy is a weird guy. If you put him in a room full of other weird white guys, he would slowly prevail as the weird savant. This Is Happening is an unsettling experience. It’s like being on the receiving end of a surprise party you’ve planned for someone else. The album opens with "Dance Yrself Clean", a nine-minute coops-de-grace. Then it jump-cuts to “Drunk Girls” the annoyingly catchy single. And then it takes a step back.

And it starts for real. It’s almost as if This Is Happening starts at track three, after you’ve heard a single and a b-side. It’s confusing. Unnerving. Yet - catchy as all get out. Each song is a success in its own right, from the jarringly infectious “Pow Pow” to the poignant “You Wanted a Hit”, Murphy really went out on top with this, LCD Soundsystem’s strongest effort. [listen]

“I miss the way the night comes
with friends who always make you feel good
this basement has a cold glow
but it’s better than a bunch of others.”

40 Favorite Albums of the Decade Thus Far

05. good kid, m.A.A.d. city by Kendrick Lamar

Give a perfect score to the beats, the lyrics, the flows, the diversity, the range, the overall story, the samples, the skits, the features, to the whole damn thing. good kid, m.A.A.d. city came seemingly out of nowheresville. Section .80 was a decent effort from a young emcee with some brilliant flashes but overall it was difficult to get through the whole album in a single go. good kid is different, it’s commands your attention from beginning to end, and any combination of bonus tracks that may have come with the album (it’s supposed to end with “Compton” and clock in around 68 minutes) should be treated as a cool down from the raw experience Kendrick takes you through.

I have nothing but terrific things to say, and, as a critic I’ve come with up with this motto: if you don’t have anything negative to say just recommend it. [listen]

“when the lights shut off and it’s my turn to settle down
my main concern - promise that you will sing about me”

40 Favorite Albums of the Decade Thus Far

10. Romance is Boring by Los Campesinos!

Los Campesinos! are not for everyone. Their twee pop stylings mixed with Gareth David’s abrasive speech-singing simply rubs some people the wrong way. What draws me in is the juxtapositions this New Jersey/UK band is willing to make. With overly-charged and emotionally-triumphant horns punching over the top of noodling guitars and a couple females chanting, they’ll contradict it with David’s introspective and seemingly stream-of-consciousness lyrics that delve into political issues and misery the way Morrissey once used to. [listen]

“If you were given the option of dying painlessly in peace at forty-five, with a lover at your side, after a full and happy life
is that something that would interest you?
would this interest you at all?

40 Favorite Albums of the Decade Thus Far

17. Mines by Menomena

Menomena practically broke up after the release of this album. The Portland trio had had it. They split for the lame umbrella of an excuse called “artistic differences.” Thankfully, before that, Brent, Danny and Justin gave us Mines. While it doesn’t achieve the overall sound of I Am the Fun Blame Monster! nor does it have the singularly great achievement of songs such as “Wet and Rusting” off 2007's Friend and FoeMines does have the best 1-2-3 punch.

With each member of Menomena (yes, they are named after the song from Sesame St.) at the top of their game, it’s no wonder Mines is so infectious. “Queen Black Acid” is a perfect opening. Harris’ bassline shines through until Seim’s smooth studio-perfected percussion clangs on top, and Knopf’s keys round out the rest of their sound. It’s a thing of beauty, they’re an indie rock band that move around scales like a jazz fusion trio.

“I’d like to stumble to bed and lay beside you
until we’re even or romantically bored
whichever comes first.”

40 Favorite Albums of the Decade Thus Far

40. White Lighter by Typhoon

Typhoon's White Lighter is a showy, expansive, straight-forward rock effort. Consisting of eleven members but sounding like just one with friends, the band’s sound hinges on frontman Kyle Morton. The songs aren’t astounding on first go around, but coming back you start to process the string and horn arrangements, the necessity of the whole of the thing becomes increasingly important.

Morton struggled with Lyme disease, and he named the album White Lighter, which, as most smokers know, is a bad omen. These two things coupled with the generally happy-go-lucky vibes on the album hint at the depth achieved in songs like “Artificial Light”, “Young Fathers” and “Hunger & Thirst”. [listen]

and it wasn’t all we hoped for
but we’d shake it off and we’d say
here’s your yellow ribbon
I am your consolation

40 Favorite Albums of the Decade Thus Far

27. The Social Network by Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross

Reznor is a musical genius in his own right. Ross is an accomplished british producer. The two of them had already made terrific things before, but I’d take the Social Network OST over anything by NIN.

The moods, the motifs, the instrumentation, the electric current running through the pads and synths. If films are like oceans, most scores are like fish. They only survive a little while when you remove them from the images and themes of the film - but not true of the work here. This score acts as an ambient anointment of acoustics, slowly sweeping over you like a deep tissue massage. It just works. [listen]

“You know, you really don’t need a forensics team to get to the bottom of this. If you guys were the inventors of Facebook you would have invented Facebook.”

40 Favorite Albums of the Decade Thus Far

32. Take Care by Drake

Aubrey Drake Graham gets more flack than any other rapper. Or, at least, this is true of the 2010s. His debut record came after a slew of critically acclaimed mixtapes that got no love on the streets because, “Hey, isn’t that that guy in the wheelchair from Degrassi?” Between that and being ushered in by Lil’ Wayne - one of the most polarizing artists in the game - there were a lot of red flags surrounding the Canadian rapper. But Thank Me Later caught enough traction to warrant repeat listens, and Take Care, Drake’s sophomore effort, is leaps and bounds better.

Take Care, the title, comes from a Gil-Scot Heron poem, and the meaning seems to run through each song. All of the features are more subdued, and Drake puts the weight of the 80:18 playing time almost solely on his own shoulders. I’m constantly being told by others how bad of a rapper Drake is - but there’s clearly a talent when you can release a rap album that’s almost an hour-and-a-half long and have it sell millions of copies worldwide. The beauty of Drake’s music is that every song sounds like Drake featuring Drake, so listen to “Marvin’s Room” and “Look What You’ve Done” and then, if you’re still not satisfied, ignore him for a while. Because if you don’t like Drake - that’s on you, not on him. He’s proven himself again and again. [listen]

“I never really had no one like you man this all new shit
Made the world I know bigger, changed the way that I viewed it
Had all this fighting going on at the crib you would calm me down when I would lose it
I told you I’m done with the acting, I’m more in touch with the music”

40 Favorite Albums of the Decade Thus Far

12. Wildlife by La Dispute

I have this theory that I’ve adopted from Seinfeld, more specifically from the conversation between Elaine and Jerry in “The Wink” where they decide that 95% of the population is undateable. This can be said of pretty much everything - 95% is crap. But its worth sifting through genres that you like in order to find that 5%. Let me divulge, with film, I’m a fan of noir, animation and crime thrillers. I’ll watch anything, but those three genres particularly tickle my fancy. So, by my theory, if I watch 500 animated films, only 25 may be truly remarkable, but isn’t that worth it?

When it comes to music this is all too true. So many people are quick to write off genres like country, or hip hop, or screamo. Well, let me tell you, when it comes to screamo (or post-hardcore, or emo, or whiny white boys) La Dispute are part of the 5%. The genre may not be your thing, but just let the Wildlife take you.

“I will sing and sweetly hope that the notes change
but I do not need it to happen. I’m not resigned to it
and if they ever do I’ll sing your name in every line
just like I did throughout this, just like I’ve always done
in every gun, the empty church, and every tortured son
in all those giving up, in all those giving in
until I die I will sing our names in unison
until I die I will sing our names in unison

40 Favorite Albums of the Decade Thus Far

13. Strange Mercy by St. Vincent

Annie Clark is a beautiful human.

With each album under the moniker St. Vincent, Clark seems to improve her sound, her range, her technical abilities and her emotional output. Although her fourth album, the self-titled St. Vincent, didn’t come out in time for this list, there’s no reason to think it won’t also be an improvement and another step forward. Watch out, Ms. Clark might just continue to put out terrific albums for decades, she’s like the new PJ Harvey, but less of a chameleon and more of a perfectionist.

if I ever meet the dirty policeman who roughed you up
I, I don’t know what.”

40 Favorite Albums of the Decade Thus Far

14. Trouble Will Find Me by the National

This is big of me, and I need you to know that. The National are my favorite current band… and its not even close. Their music is brooding and simply complicated in a way that demands repeated listens. Berninger’s chocolaty-smooth voice pales in comparison to the depths he dives in with his lyrical wit. Trouble Will Find Me is no different, it’s got little pieces of AlligatorBoxer and High Violet in it.

“Sea of Love” is an anthem and stands out amongst the bands impressive catalogue, but Trouble Will Find Me is the first time in a decade the National have taken a step back. They seem safe within their sound, which is certainly not a bad thing, but Trouble offers no new insights into the band’s sound of Berninger’s twisted mind. Still… it’s terrific.

“remember when you lost your shit
and drove your car into the garden?
you got out and said, "I’m sorry,”
to the vines and no one saw you

40 Favorite Albums of the Decade Thus Far

25. The Drums by the Drums

“If reverb didn’t exist, we wouldn’t have bothered trying to start a band.” A more apt quote from Jacob Graham of the Drums will never be found. The portamento slide on every snare, kick, bass note, etc. It all hails back to Joy Division and New Order and the Smiths. Like the band’s name, everything about the Drums is calculated. It’s simple. There’s a hundred other band that make the same music they do - but there’s no one who sounds like the Drums.

Every song is a hipster dance party on the beach. [listen]

“Oh, I took a walk yesterday all around New York City
and I saw something written on a car
it said, "the less you own the more freedom you have.”
I thought, the less you own the more freedom you have
So I went home, and I threw it all away.“

40 Favorite Albums of the Decade Thus Far

26. Our Bodies by Dog & Panther

Michigan based indie pop band Dog & Panther will never be able to avoid the Death Cab for Cutie comparison. But that’s all it is - a comparison, a similarity - not a copy. It’s clear thirty seconds into “the Lake” that vocalist Ben Vrazo is making the kind of music he’s supposed to be making. But if you can’t get over the Death Cab similarity, know this: Our Bodies would be one of the best albums by Death Cab ever.

With carefully orchestrated production, the album gives you that lovely complete feeling. It starts where its supposed to start and comes to a full conclusion with “Home” - the best song on the album. This is a beautiful album that adds just enough melancholic depth to their straightforward indie pop vibe, making it not only stand out amongst a slew of other unknown bands, but making it stand out amongst a slew of well-known bands as well. [listen]

“When we were young white was a color
A Christian sense of guilt, we earned our love
We faced ourselves, we faced the world
Circles ‘round our feet, black thread and pearls”

40 Favorite Albums of the Decade Thus Far

08. In Evening Air by Future Islands

The first time I heard this album I knew I was hooked onto something brilliant. With new age guitar and production that rivals New Order, and Samuel T. Herring’s over-the-top, introspective Waits-esque vocals. The pounding rhythms, the four-to-the-floor beats, the maniacal delivery… it just melds together to make Future Islands sound like a thousand other post-punk bands and also sound like no one else.

In Evening Air is one of those albums that nestles its way into heavy rotation, and you never feel right removing it. The album is circular. It’s visceral. It’s wholly unique and comforting. In Evening Air is a triumph, and the band themselves have given it a new label, a new genre if you will (…and you will), they call it: post-wave. Much like when Neutral Milk Hotel described themselves as Fuzz Folk, you feel Future Islands have successfully invented a new sound and subsequently mastered it. [listen]

“I can’t touch you anymore
I can’t tell you how I feel, as I fall
You would walk.”