Internet social media changed conversations about everyday life, trends came and went as always, new sounds have stuck for better and for worse, and the music scene has shattered the stereotype that you need to suck up to any label anymore to get people to like you. The 2010’s has been one incredible decade for music, like it or not. The past 5 years have blessed us with glorious genre defining classics and fuckery to last us a lifetime. I initially wanted to only put 20 but these records are so great that I had to expand the list to include them all! Strap yourselves in for the biggest list that I’ve EVER done on this site.
30. Passion Pit — Gossamer
Warm, exhilarating, and much more refined than their previous effort, Michael Angelakos’ vocals soar and float over well with the bright production on songs like “Take a Walk” and the songwriting feels more humane and developed than ever before. Angelakos could make a song about alcoholism and abuse sound like the most inviting and twisted thing in the world in their universe (“Constant Conversations”) and the soulful feel of the album brings consistency that carries it through from start to finish.
29. Blu & Exile — Give Me My Flowers While I Can Still Smell Them
It’s clear that MC Blu shines best with producer Exile, and many didn’t think their stellar debut could be topped, much less even followed up. After the ATROCIOUS sounding unmixed version of the album hit the internet, the properly mixed and mastered version of the record showed a more mature sound to their chemistry that had never been shown before. While “Below the Heavens” will be this duos opus, with songs like “Maybe One Day”, “Good Morning Neighbor”, “Seasons”, and “Ease Your Mind” show this album can stand on its own without question.
28. Bon Iver — Bon Iver, Bon Iver
While some will criticize this album for bringing so many different sounds to the point of the group being unrecognizable from their debut, the added flavor of strings and horns bring this group to life like never before. From the moment you hear the tender “Holocene” you feel the rebirth of indie rock in a modern era and “Towers” shows they’ve transformed into a quiet monster that the world is STILL highly anticipating a followup release from ever since.
27. Daft Punk — Random Access Memories
I think it’s more appropriated to call this legendary duo Frankenstein the way they’ve revived disco with RAM. Rich, authentic, groovy, and in a class of its own, “Get Lucky”, “Lose Yourself to Dance”, and “Give Life Back to Music”, will have you dance the night away for decades to come. Daft Punk are the most timeless electronic musicians ever alongside Giorgio Moroder (whom is paid homage to with “Giorgio by Moroder), and them being able to bring back a sound that has long been forgotten without sacrificing to any trend is a remarkable feat in itself. Oh and that whole Album of the Year Grammy they got for this album was cool too.
26. D’Angelo – Black Messiah
Biased fanboy I am, but I’ll be damned if the impact of this album isn’t felt already. After personal complications and false starts for nearly 15 years, D’Angelo returns out of nowhere with an album that every bit as soulful, profound and exhilarating asVoodoo and Brown Sugar.Blending more genres than ever before, D'Angelo brings his neo-soul vibes (“Sugah Daddy”), gospel (“Prayer”), blues (“Another Life”) funk (“Ain’t That Easy”) to express his thoughts on religion, politics (“1000 Deaths), morality, love, sexuality, and even his own life (“Back to the Future I & II”) through the course of the 12 track masterpiece. An album that can speak to many, D'Angelo sure took his sweet ass time to show he can bring something fresh to the ears of the listen without having to conform to anyone.
25. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib – Piñata
A collaboration that NO ONE saw coming ends up being one of the most exciting rap has seen in years. The Beat Konducta brings some of his best beats to Freddie Gibbs on top of his game. Recorded for over 3 years, tracks like “Thuggin”, “Shame”, and “Real” feel like the blaxploitation era on wax, and only made stronger now by how diverse a rapper Gibbs is. Madlib’s beat have as much character as Gibbs’ rapping, from the elegant “Robes” to the painful “Broken”, the knocking diss track “Real” and posse cut “Pinata”, these two never cease to impress track for track on this album. One can only hope that these two come together again or let their legacy be untouched like Madvillainy.
24. Lorde — Pure Heroine
Who would’ve guessed that a then 17 year old from New Zealand would be the most exciting pop act of the past 5 years? Blending her eclectic choices of production with her razor sharp observational songwriting, Lorde gives a realistic take on the mind of a teenager (“Royals”) with her reflecting on her explosion that feels solemn, dark and ultimately human (“Tennis Court”). Much more than a collection of radio smashes slapped together to move units, this deconstructed pop album feels unique and gloomy to the core and Lorde hooks you in with every word she breathlessly sings.
23. A$AP Rocky – Long.Live.A$AP
I already know I’m getting some SERIOUS flack for choosing this over the excellent mixtape “Live.Love.A$AP” from you guys. Thing is to me, while there were certainly great (if not greater at times) highlights of that mixtape, the worst moments of that tape are much more apparent and certain features drag down entire songs as a whole. Flacko’s debut album has strong highlights one after another, with better production (Hit-Boy, ASAP Ty Beats, Clams Casino, Danger Mouse, Noah “40” Shebib, T-Minus, Skrillex, and better features (Schoolboy Q, Santigold, Kendrick Lamar, 2 Chainz, Drake, Big K.R.I.T., Danny Brown, Joey Bada$$, A$AP Ferg and Florence Welch) that support the record as a whole. While that certainly seems like a LOT of features, know that most songs are strictly Rocky, and that he is more than capable of carrying the best moments all on his own as well; “Long.Live.A$AP”, “Goldie”, “LVL” and “Wild for the Night” show that he can make a great song without other vocalists stealing the thunder. And even then, they never overshadow him completely except for a few (“Fuckin’ Problems” getting dismantled by Drake, 1 Train getting eating by Krizzle). New and returning faces from his mixtape come through to bring one hell of a highlight reel of guests that bring one of the most entertaining albums in hip hop as of late.
22. Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
The shortest record to date by one of the most acclaimed musicians of the past decade comes with all the strengths of previous releases like “Cosmogramma” and “Los Angeles” into a cohesive package about one of the most mysterious aspects of life: its end. Enlisting Kendrick Lamar for the mindblowing “Never Catch Me”, along with Tesla”, “Cold Dead”, and “Turkey Dog Coma” come and go in the blink of an eye, but hold the albums statement on the reflection on death, and the uncertainty of when it will be your time. But rest assured, Flylo did his best to make something so depressing at the roots something beautiful to hear.
21. James Blake - Overgrown
I may be in the minority, but I truly love the more accessible, bearing, more quaint approach in Overgrown than I did with Blake’s debut. Blake became a more fully realized vocal performer with tracks like “Life Round Here” and “Retrograde” than he did previously, and fit the production to compliment his vocal styles perfectly. Every synth, every note, every harmony clicked for him while also retaining his signature sound. As his profile raises, so too does his ability to leave you struck in awe.
20. M83 — Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
An ethereal experience from beginning to end, this is not only the strongest M83 album to date, but one of electronic music’s best in quite some years as well. Synthpop, dream pop, new wave, shoegazing, indie rock are all blended into one incredible experience front to back, and while “Wait” and “Reunion” are monsters in their own right, it’s “Midnight City” that is a colossal monster in which the likes the world has never heard before or since. Though it’s known this album was made more commercially friendly than previous releases from the group, sometimes running for success doesn’t need to mean you sacrifice what makes you great.
19. Queens of the Stone Age — Like Clockwork
In what is perhaps theirs strongest album since “Songs for the Deaf”, Queens of the Stone Age bring their most mellow, bleak, restrained music yet. Bringing along a hit list of contributors (Alex Turner, Elton John, Dave Grohl) as typical QOTSA albums do, Josh Homme and company do their first number one album justice with excellent songs like “I Sat By the Ocean”, “My God is the Sun”, Fairweather Friends” and bring a focused sound that the group has never had before.
18. Pusha T — My Name is My Name
Considered a companion piece to the abrasive “Yeezus”, MNIMN is the debut 3 years in the making of the former Clipse member that delivers in spades. Primarily produced by Kanye West, Pusha brings forth some the sharpest, unapologetic lyricism on grace a mainstream hip hop album with some aggressive and unorthodox production to match. (“King Push”, “Numbers on the Boards)” Ranging from Ye, to regular collaborator Pharrell (the Clipse throwback “Suicide”), Hudson Mohawke, and Swizz Beatz (“Sweet Serenade) with an all star cast like Rick Ross (“Hold On”) Kendrick Lamar (“Nosetalgia”), The-Dream (“40 Acres”) and more. King Push makes an album not for the faint of heart, or noses and holds absolutely no punches.
17. Arctic Monkeys — AM
Sounding like a love letter to psychedelic rock and West Coast hip hop, the British band manages to craft their most engrossing album yet with a collection of songs that holds your attention and never falters. “Do I Wanna Know” might be one of the strongest rock songs of the past 5 years, and “Arabella” feels like a Dr. Dre song getting flipped with an indie twist the way Alex Turner floats over the instrumental. Songs like “Snap Out of It”, “Why Do You Only Call Me When You’re High?” and “R U Mine” highlight their influences without being too indulgent and pretentious and show that a complete makeover isn’t always a bad thing. This might be the first album to declare being a lone riding space ranger without you immediately bursting into laughter.
16. Drake – Nothing Was the Same
It’s easy to want to put “Take Care” in place of this album. Believe me, I’ll probably wish that I did by the time I finish this, and I’d think the same of me putting Take Care in place of NWTS had I done so. But as it stands right now, this is the strongest release from the biggest new rap artist of the decade at the moment. Very much so a victory lap in feel (“Tuscan Leather” sets that stage perfectly with no singing at all”) it’s also the album that shows Drake truly becoming whole within the hip hop spectrum as one of its biggest voices. As if that weren’t enough, he brings together aspects of his life that were relatively untouched in beautiful songs like “From Time” or “Too Much” rather than sing about an ex he drunk dials. Though he can easily provide the solemn feels he’s known for (“Connect”, “Own It”, “Come Thru”), he sounds more ready to attack the world with his status as it currently stands than ever (“The Language”, “Worst Behavior”) and bring together an album that showcases the best of Drake the artist but also reveal Aubrey Graham, the human being.
15. Run the Jewels — Run The Jewels 2
The first 5 seconds of this record is Killer Mike saying “I’M FINNA BANG THIS BITCH THE FUCK OUT!”. The 38 minutes that follow is him fulfilling that promise. While their first album together was an excellent piece, the two coming together more fully have given us one of the deadliest pairings in rap in recent years. More structured, deeper chemistry, more layered production and strong features make this record a danger to anyone who thought they were being abrasive on an album before, showcasing police brutality (“Early”), critiquing those in power to the harshest extend and teabagging pirhannas (“Close Your Eyes and Count to Fuck”, “Lie Cheat Steal”), declaring fuckboy jihads (“Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”), and finding hope in a former drug addict (“Crown”). El-P and Killer Mike effectively raised the bar on hip hop joint albums and didn’t even charge you a dime for it. Don’t cry now.
14. Big Boi — Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty
Probably the most underrated hip hop artist of all time, it’s easy to be overlooked when your partner is Andre 3000. But to not be acknowledged by your own peers has to be worse, especially when you make music that is just as great as him, and provide a solo debut album that is as strong as this. Recorded for over 3 years before finally being dropped on Def Jam, Big Boi brings forth the best guests, production and his own effort to the table and doesn’t cease to disappoint. Ignoring every trend in that time period, he brings out the best of every artist with him, such as Gucci Mane on “Shine Blockas”, Yelawolf on the bonkers Andre 3000 produced “You Ain’t No DJ”, Jamie Foxx on the sensually Lil Jon produced “Hustle Blood”, and packs enough punch in songs like “General Patton”, Shutterbugg”, and “Daddy Fat Sax” to prove that he is doing more than fine with 3 Stacks in the picture. In fact, he shows that if THIS is the kind of output Big Boi is releasing, it’s showing that Andre’s own proper solo debut has quite a lot to live up to.
13. The Weeknd — Trilogy
It’s impossible to pick one of Abel Tesfaye’s mixtapes as his definitive work, so I’ll let the remastered compilation make it easier on you all. Unique and breathtaking from the moment go, The Weeknd’s sex crazed drug frenzy of a trilogy of mixtapes (“House of Ballons”, “Thursday”, Echoes of Silence”) is hypnotic, vulgar, sensual, and beautifully well crafted. Whether it’s the sex you need (“What You Need”), the feelings you crave (“The Zone”, featuring mentor Drake), the wild life he lives (“The Party & The After Party”), the love letter to his fans that he won’t change in the spotlight (“Rolling Stone”), what it takes to be in the crew (“Initiation”) or a badass Michael Jackson cover, (“D.D.”), Abel has you covered.
12. Janelle Monaè — The ArchAndroid
One of the most impressive, eclectic, powerful and ingenious of our time, her debut studio album is one of the most brilliant concept records in recent memory that ties together R&B, soul, funk, progressive rock, and hip hop in ways never attempted, usually in the same song, and beautifully orchestrates them with little effort. The two incredible lead singles “Cold War” transitioning into “Tightrope” has to be one of the most magical musical moments of the past half decade and the energy of the album is as tight as its ideas of the future it presents itself in. Big Boi has discovered the bravest new voice of the Dungeon Family, and it seems she may surpass most any recording artist alive today if given the chance.
11. Big K.R.I.T. — Return of 4Eva
Perhaps the best hip hop record from the South this decade so far, Big K.R.I.T. delivers an incredibly cohesive package at the cost of $free.99 that easily beats some of the hip hop records available at retail upon their release. Whether it’s love letters to your car (“Rotation”, “My Sub”), his dreams of being a rap star (“Dreamin’”, “American Rapstar”), bass knocking, breezy Southern trunk knockers (“Get Right”), the blues and troubles of growing up poor (“King’s Blues”, “Free My Soul”), or prayers to God (“The Vent”), Krizzle is without a doubt the most underappreciated artist of his time, and projects like these are testaments that the young Mississippi king will be remembered in due time.
10. DJ Koze – Amygdala
Having literally no knowledge of the music that would come out of this album, I was completely caught off guard with this one. Grossly hypnotic, immersive, and very melodic, this German DJ/producer is in a world of his own the moment you listen this album. “Nices Wolkchen”, “Magical Boy”, may “Das Wort” may take patience to show their beauty underneath, while tracks like “Homesick” and “La Duquesa” show their extravagance early on. Richly layered and beautifully orchestrated, this unconventional electronic release will most likely remain a diamond in the rough that the electronic world will be silently catching up to decades from now.
9. Beyoncé – Beyoncé
Who in the industry could really do what Beyonce did on the scale she did it on and have it work? And THEN have the music she just threw out of literally NOWHERE have it be incredible start to finish? Bey earns her crown here in aces with what is perhaps one of the most explicit, darkest, and most mature pop albums in history, much less the best of her career. Beyonce brought together an audio and visual feast and the world could only lap at her feet at her prideful feminism. Featured writers (Sia, Boots, Miguel, The-Dream) bring a clearer vision to her words, guests (Jay-Z, Frank Ocean, Nicki Minaj) pack a punch and bring traits that help the record vary itself, and producers (Boots, Timbaland, JT, 40, Pharrell) show that Bey is still ahead of the curve with choosing her desired sound. By showcasing her love for family and her impact on popular culture, this is the pop record that will be the template to judge others for years to come.
8. Tame Impala – Lonerism
Aussie psychedelic rock outfit returned with the follow to their stellar 2010 debut “Innerspeaker” with perhaps a psych-rock opus in “Lonerism”. Stronger lyricism and more layered production such as on tracks like “Mind Mischief” and “Why Won’t They Talk to Me” showcase the band’s nostalgic feel without being overblown and pretentious. Provocative and engaging throughout, the punchier feel to the album carries your attention from the wistful “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”, the spaced out “Endors Toi” to the slow burning “Apocalypse Dreams”, Kevin Parker and company have crafted a new age triumph.
7. Chance the Rapper — Acid Rap
Unique and crafty in every possible way, this Chicago youth has brought forth the most engaging Chicago hip hop debut since his idol released his a decade ago. This guy has had sets at major festivals around the world, and the closest thing he has to record sales are from illegal means from bootleggers. Though I admittedly couldn’t get into his voice for many songs, his great lyrics made me give it a shot and I’m glad I did. Hilarious (“NaNa”), emotional (“Everybody’s Something”, “Paranoia”, Acid Rain”), and all around fun as hell (“Juice”) with a fluid flow to match his insane technical ability (“Favorite Song”), I see nothing but promise from Chance in the near future.
6. Disclosure – Settle
Guy and Howard Lawrence might be soon responsible for ushering in the second British invasion, as this album may be the best electronic album in at least 10 years that showcases the talents of every guest singer to the best of their abilities. Though the mega smash “Latch” featuring breakout star Sam Smith is deceptively radio friendly, the rest of “Settle” only serves to highlight how weak that song is in comparison to the rest of the project. AlunaGeorge (“White Noise”), Jamie Woon (“January”), Eliza Doolittle (“You and Me”) and Jessie Ware (“Confess to Me”) all bring forth a brilliant formula and sound the likes of which no electronic album dares attempting.
5. Frank Ocean — Channel Orange
This could really be the only thing Frank Ocean ever releases in his career, and it’d be fine with me. Crafting an R&B right out of the gate wasn’t his intention, but “Pyramids” and “Thinkin’ Bout You” were Internet darlings even before the album’s release that were loved the world over. From “Sweet Life” to “Sierra Leone”, Frank shows his songwriting prowess and singing ability is of another world, and the guest that appear (Earl on “Super Rich Kids”, Andre 3000 on “Pink Matter”, Tyler on “Golden Girl”) all come into Frank’s world and make complete perfection along with him. The fact that a track like “Forrest Gump” is the way we find out one shocking secret about him that no one saw coming makes this album legendary beyond words.
4. Nas — Life is Good
20 years into the game, and my personal favorite rapper shows no signs of slowing down; in fact, he seems to be on top of his game more than most MC’s these days. Executive produced by No I.D., Nas showcases him at his lyrical best as reflects on his life and legacy, as well as give an actual engaging piece on a 40 year old in the rap game. Purists and new fans alike can find something to love about this album, from the dusty boom bap of “Loco-Motive”, the vicious “Accident Murderer”, the beautifully written “Daughter” about his shortcomings as a father, the ill-fated and incredibly well used feature of Amy Winehouse on “Cherry Wine”, the Queensbridge tribute “Back When” and the beautiful nostalgia of “Stay”, Nas may have finally proven that Illmatic is only part of the legacy of the man’s career, and that he still has more of a story to tell. And it’s reassuring to see an artist that didn’t have to sell 60 million records still revered still be relevant and loved by millions for simply being himself.
3. Vampire Weekend — Modern Vampires of the City
Still as quirky as ever, this ever evolving band released an album that is leaps and bounds ahead of anything they’ve released. From the Souls of Mischief referencing in “Step”, to the frantic “Diane Young” to the uneasy submission of religion in “Unbelievers” in their most straightforward, thought-provoking, and cohesive album to date. Evolved and mature in production and songwriting while still containing their obscure and well constructed lyrics, it seems as if hip hop head Erza Koenig and his band can do no wrong on this Grammy winning stunner of an indie rock album.
2. Kendrick Lamar — good kid, m.A.A.d city
Kendrick Lamar Duckworth has gone from underground darling to one of rap’s greatest voices in such a short time. Making songs that are accessible to mainstream ears with enough depth for hardcore fans to sink their teeth into, The Artist Formerly Known as K. Dot has found a way to strike a balance with authenticity and challenging music no one had heard in quite a long time . Dr. Dre’s latest protégé doing ridiculous boasting like “Backseat Freestyle” is not only a chance to flex his skill, but also blends beautifully into a story of loss, identity, loss, and hope within a corrupt society. Turning the tribulations of street violence (“m.a.a.d. City”) and desire (“Money Trees”) into platforms to express his desire to do better (“The Art of Peer Pressure”), Kendrick Lamar manages to stay grounded in reality and express conscious thoughts without becoming condescending to his audience. The story kicks into full gear the first few seconds into the album with “Sherane aka Master Splinter’s Daughter” and brings some of the biggest rappers and producers in rap at the moment (Hit-Boy, Pharrell, Drake, Jay Rock, Just Blaze) to create the Illmatic of the 2010’s.
1. Kanye West — My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
This might be the most predictable pick for the top of this list, I must admit. I could tell you about the man had basically been kicked to the curb by the media an entire year for every aspect of his public and private life and returned with a booming force of an album. I could tell you about the high acclaim this received across the world over. I could tell you about the amazing verses guests like Nicki Minaj and Rick Ross bring on fantastic tracks like “Monster” and “Devil in a New Dress” respectively. I could tell you about the outstanding production on songs like “So Appalled”,” POWER”, “Blame Game”, and “Runaway”. Covering themes of excess and celebrity, Kanye West makes an album larger than life while also making the man behind the ego come to life unlike any record he’s released. It doesn’t hurt he discusses consumerism, race, and the American Dream; almost typical of a Kanye album, but know that him mentioning the deeper thoughts of MLK and Malcolm will have an album with Fergie singing about snorting lines of cocaine and marrying a porn star (ayeeee!) so it’s earned it’s “twisted” in the name. The superstar list of contributions is endless (Jay-Z, Nicki, Pusha T, Raekwon, Bon Iver, No I.D., RZA, Kid Cudi, John Legend, Chris Rock, Mike Dean, etc.) and all comes together so fluidly to create the album that the decade will truly be known for ushering in during the beginning. As predictable a pick as this is for my top spot, it’s the only that will truly be right in the end.