Earlier this year marked this site’s fifth anniversary of being a thing. At the time, I had wanted to do something to commemorate the instance, but time got the best of me. Fast forward to a couple of weeks back and Pitchfork put together their list of best albums/songs of the first half of the decade. Though not in tight agreement with them, I was still inspired to do the same, considering the dates line up with the creation of PMW. The big difference here is that I’m not trying to create a definitive list of “the best”, as that’s arbitrary - instead I will be highlighting my favorite ten albums of the past five years (which will probably change by the time I post this), and then an additional 40 that are all stunning works that just missed the mark on perfection. These titles will not be ranked, but rather presented alphabetically with links for streaming, should you be so inclined to seek them out.
So, without wasting any more of your time, let’s get to the list. Links will take you to Spotify when available, YouTube when not.
TOP TEN FAVORITES // 2010 - 2014
“This is Happening” by LCD Soundsystem // It’s the final pulse of one of my favorite bands. At the time of the release, I didn’t think that it could possibly best their previous album, but sure enough - it did. What sticks with me most is James Murphy’s often heartbreaking, often funny, always real lyrical content that felt like it was mirroring events of my adulthood, as Sound of Silver had done in my young adulthood. It was the soundtrack to a massive turning point in my life and I’m thankful for it’s existence.
“My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” by Kanye West // It’s one of the albums that I’ve came back to the most over the past five years. For all of Kanye's brilliance, it was this album that delivered on all promises and boasts. Absolutely top of the mountain production and delivery. It also doesn’t hurt that it contains one of the flat out best verses on any hip hop album of the decade with Nicki Minaj’s “Monster” verse.
“Oshin” by Diiv // A stunning collection of songs that prove you can still make powerful, beautiful music with guitars. Every song is magnificent, and each one feels like an integral piece to the whole. It’s one of those rock records that never sounds played out, and always gets my attention for it’s duration. Perfect.
“MBV” by My Bloody Valentine // Waiting for twenty odd years for a proper follow up to one of the best albums of all time has a tendency to elevate expectations, but Kevin Shields somehow met them head on while subverting them completely. It sounds like only My Bloody Valentine can, and after hearing two decades of pale imitators, it was incredible to feel the power of My Bloody Valentine once again.
“The Wilderness” by Cemeteries // A criminally overlooked and hauntingly beautiful album drenched in atmosphere that is both inviting and ominous. Like Beach House scoring a David Lynch project. Genuinely great in a way that so few albums ever achieve.
“High Violet” by The National // A heartbreaking collection of orchestral chamber pop from (possibly) America’s greatest band. Matt Berninger’s writing never fails to connect. Often aching, often triumphant.
“Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming” by M83 // On this album, M83 aimed for the cheap seats and ended up on the moon. Massive synth pop anthems that feel like mini movies on their own. A truly beautiful collection of songs that make you feel like you can change the world with the right kind of love.
“Nocturne of Exploding Crystal Chandelier” by Sun Airway // Wildly overlooked as well. Sun Airway’s debut is stunningly beautiful and loaded with killer hooks for days. It’s one of those albums that feels like it’s some massive hit in an alternate universe, but sadly it’s an often overlooked gem waiting for a second or fortieth listen.
“Total Loss” by How to Dress Well // Tom Krell’s second album as HTDW felt like a revelation following the distorted, yet gorgeous world of Love Remains. Hearing his vocals pulled closer into the mix and unleashed on heartbursting beauties that call to mind slow jams of the early 90s and all sorts of assorted other things. It’s completely fresh and exciting as all hell.
“The King of Limbs” by Radiohead // My favorite band dropped a quiet, disarming LP that took a while to get settled into, but eventually unraveled into dozens of magical directions. TKOL found the band playing a loose and experimental style that lacked some of that early mastery, but still stood heads above almost everything else.
There you have it. A collection of brilliant music that has helped shape the last five years of my life (and certainly this blog). Of course, even looking back over this last now, I see plenty of places where I’ve missed things or placed unnecessary emphasis on others. It’s the price of falling in love with things, sounds, too easily. Then again there are much worse issues to have.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed the list and that maybe something stands out that maybe you missed on the first trip through. Go back and reconnect and discover something if you have the time. Lucky for you, once music is out there - it’s always there. Waiting for you to hit play.