225. Julia Holter – Aviary (2018)

Aviary is still as confounding a listen as it is enchanting. Julia Holter achieved major accolades with 2015’s Have You in My Wilderness, which featured her most popular songs to-date (“Feel You,” “Sea Calls Me Home”), and for people wanting an extension of that, Aviary was destined to be a disappointment. Sure, “Whether” and “I Shall Love 2” fits in the style of her peppiest work, but what this album is mostly concerned with is absolutely encasing you in a swirl of transcendental mindfuckery. Are songs like “Chaitius” and “Everyday Is an Emergency” enthralling or obnoxious? She dangerously teeters this album on the edge in a way few artists would dare attempt, and it absolutely pays off in reclaiming her avant-garde credibility. After all, this was still the same artist that followed her breakthrough with an album inspired by one scene in a musical. — Andrew Cox


224. Grizzly Bear – Shields (2012)

The mid-2010s featured most of the great indie bands from the previous decade releasing middling albums and being tossed aside in favor of what was hip. The Hold Steady? TV on the Radio? Battles? Their value seemed to dropped overnight. The same would happen to Grizzly Bear, but they managed to fit in another great album before their critical good will was spent. Shields features two of their best songs — “Sleeping Ute” and “Yet Again,” which display some of the most dynamic and rich guitar work of any songs this decade. A big part of their drop-off in further albums would be the over-production in trying to force something out of music without any strong melodies. Here, the balance is right on other highlights like “A Simple Answer” and “gun-shy.” — Andrew Cox


223. The Walkmen – Lisbon (2010)

I’ll argue Hamilton Leithauser has the best voice in indie rock, and it makes every album from The Walkmen an essential listen. Songs as simple as “Blue as Your Blood” rely heavily on his delivery of lines like “The sky above” to provide that necessary grandiosity. Their next-to-last album Lisbon might be on par with You & Me and Bows + Arrows as their best album. Unlike those two self-produced albums, Lisbon features John Congleton as a producer, who has lent his Grammy-winning hands to a staggering amount of albums on this list. You can hear that extra polish on standouts like “Victory” and “Stranded.” A mention of “The Rat” is not too far from any mention of The Walkmen, and “Angela Surf City” comes pretty close to matching that song’s passion. — Andrew Cox


222. Forest Swords – Dagger Paths (2010)

On Dagger Paths, English producer Matthew Barnes pioneered a heavy brand of electronic music that featured prominent guitar work and a lumbering atmosphere that would be suffocating if it weren’t so rich with texture. Despite the repetition, a song like “Hoylake Misst” grows considerably across its nearly-eight minutes; a guitar line and ceremonial-like drums keep trading the spotlight, while undercurrents of synth fuzz and inaudible murmuring and chanting keeps you guessing. The definitive version of this album is the 8-track reissue featuring “Rattling Cage” and “Hjurt” which weren’t on the original EP. These two tracks make up the best of his work with the echo-filled guitar line on “Rattling Cage” still as captivating as ever. — Andrew Cox


221. The Field – Looping State of Mind (2011)

The Field knows his aesthetic. Across six albums, Axel Willner has used the same album design and font to reflect that he has no intention of changing his production style — serene slow-burners to soundtrack any trance-like escapade. If you’ve heard one of his albums, you’ve heard them all; the initial beat will loop for a while as percussion and samples start to flesh out. He’s known to subtly use popular artists that are hinted at in the song titles. Here, “Burned Out” samples Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” by, I presume, reversing it and making the lyrics inaudible. The Field doesn’t get much love nowadays beyond a few retrospective pieces on From Here We Go Sublime, but he’s still as reliably great as they come. — Andrew Cox


220. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial (2016)

If the thought of going to therapy is too overwhelming, listening to Will Toledo’s advice on Teens of Denial is a pretty good second choice. On “Not What I Needed,” Toledo welcomes all the confused, anxious, and stressed listeners with “Hello my friend, we’ve been waiting for you for a long time / We have reason to believe that your soul is just like ours / Did you ever get the feeling you were just a little different?” Each track acts as a companion for a different mood, some upbeat to fight the sadness, some mellowed out to remember what the sadness can create. Right in the middle, Toledo presents us with his finest, “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” — an experience more than a song, showing us just how purely unpredictable and beautiful his work can be. — Virginia Croft


219. Slowdive – Slowdive (2017)

In the history of shoegaze, My Bloody Valentine are the biggest, but they’re not exactly the most representative. Loveless is many things (dream pop, rave, noise) while Souvlaki, Slowdive’s greatest album, is more quintessentially shoegaze; the emo pop of the Cure and Siouxsie and the Banshees gets run through of the filter of progressive art rock and krautrock of the ’70s. On Slowdive’s return, the same holds true — the mood in guitar tones outshines and literally drowns out the lyrics. Slowdive was widely praised for how well they had fleshed out their sound and made music with the same intent as over 20 years ago sound brand new. There’s no shame in this being your favorite Slowdive album; it’s that good. — Andrew Cox


218. Ex Hex – Rips (2014)

On Rips, Ex Hex’s riffs and melodies are earnest and uncomplicated. It’s the end result of Mary Timony’s path through bands like Helium, Autoclave, and Wild Flag across 25 years. Despite the lack of distortion, the edge still remains in short bursts. In this way, it recalls The Clash’s debut where the pop punk is distilled but not defanged. And even if you’d argue it is the latter, then the melodies are still gummy enough to stick to your teeth. There are “ah’s” and “woah’s” littered throughout songs like “Radio On” and “How You Got That Girl,” which is effortless, yes, but more importantly, infectious. — Andrew Cox


217. Cloud Nothings – Attack on Memory (2012)

The first note on Attack on Memory is a pensive piano note, hesitating and reaching before settling into an uneasy melody. As the melody builds, what you actually hear is the sound of Cloud Nothings’ Dylan Baldi tearing up the indie rock rulebook. Formerly a ramshackle lo-fi tunesmith, Baldi went hi-fi by recruiting a band and recording with Steve Albini, a guy who knows a thing or two about recording a scream well done.

Scrub away the tape hiss on Attack on Memory and what you were left with was a lot of pain. Cloud Nothings did not want to play nice, tearing down everything around them with a newfound sense of aggression. Cloud Nothings’ shift from indie-pop to post-hardcore wasn’t entirely a radical one; Baldi’s instincts for a killer hook could be found in songs like “Stay Useless” and “Cut You.” But it was a shift that felt seismic in no part thanks to the band’s utter conviction to the pivot,  enough to make songs like “Wasted Days” – likely the band’s single greatest achievement – feel like catharsis. Likewise, Cloud Nothings avoided being designated as a throwback band by making an album that lived in its immediacy. Make no mistake, Attack on Memory is about living in the now by destroying the past. — Jibril Yassin


216. Jenny Hval – Blood Bitch (2016)

On the single “Period Piece,” Jenny Hval sings “All I feel is connected.” It’s a good summary of the complex self she has consistently displayed across her great discography. The weaving of feminism, anti-capitalism, false political narratives, technological anxiety, spectral beings, and sex is a mark of her post-postmodern literary prowess (a field she has officially proven her place in). None of this even discusses her musical prowess, which remains quite uncategorizable. The flow of non-music factors (skits, interview samples, panting) calls to mind The Dark Side of the Moon, and her most accessible songs (“Female Vampire,” “Conceptual Romance”) make up the most electrifying, smartest pop music this decade. — Andrew Cox


215. Deerhunter – Monomania (2013)

Monomania was and still remains a justifiable disappointment forever in the shadow of Microcastle and Halcyon Digest, but it remains one of the best straightforward indie rock albums this decade. The songs are shorter and not too cohesive, but intense melodies and guitar work still come down like acid rain. It makes for some discordant sequencing, especially with “Leather Jacket II” and “The Missing,” each from different songwriters. You go from fuzzed-out punk to pleasant indie pop that resembled Lockett Pundt’s own band Lotus Plaza. This was Deerhunter simply making a collection of songs for the first time, tempering their own legacy while also just absolutely showing off. — Andrew Cox

Jordan Blum’s Honorable Mentions

  • Linkin Park – A Thousand Suns (2010)

Perhaps the group’s most polarizing project (outside of their last, One More Light), 2010’s A Thousand Suns is a flawed masterpiece. Filled with inventive segues, poetic lyricism, and gripping melodies—hell, “The Catalyst” may be the best rap/rock song of this generation—it’s a sobering apocalyptic journey that you won’t soon forget.

  • Anathema – Weather Systems (2012)

Building upon the style of its predecessor, 2012’s Weather Systems is Anathema at their most gorgeously effective, earnest, and symphonic. Bursting with lovely vocals, luscious music, and heartfelt sentiments, it’s probably the most beautifully-relatable depiction of lost love, self-doubt, and the like that you’ll ever hear.

  • Between the Buried and Me – The Parallax II: Future Sequence (2012)

For over a decade, BTBAM has been the best at their particular subgenre of progressive metal, and 2012’s The Parallax II: Future Sequence remains their finest outing. It basically perfects everything that made its bleak, landmark predecessor, Colors, so outstanding, delivering a seventy-two minute sci-fi suite (broken into pieces) whose conceptual continuity, dynamic changes, soaring melodies, and ingeniously intricate and quirky—yet hypnotic—arrangements result in a profound experience every time.

  • Devin Townsend – Empath (2019)

As one of today’s most diverse, fearless, and thoughtful artists, Devin Townsend is truly in a class all his own, and his 2019 opus, Empath, may be the best culmination of his genius to date. In a way, it provides a compressed survey of his entire career, packing in as many of his styles as possible— folk, ambient, pop, jazz, EDM, progressive metal, classical, and more—to yield an incredibly sundry, illuminating, and rewarding sequence.

  • The Dear Hunter – Act V (2016)

For my money, multi-genre outfit The Dear Hunter is the single most underappreciated band of today, and 2016’s Act V: Hymns with the Devil in Confessional is a brilliant example of why. Aside from the usual reprisals of past motifs—all of which still give me goosebumps—the new content is easily among their most dense and impactful yet, with an absolutely spellbinding full circle punch in the form of bookends “The Moon / Awake” and “A Beginning.”


214. DJ Koze – Amygdala (2013)

On the album cover of his breakout success, DJ Koze is riding a caribou while the opening track features Caribou. Coincidence? Maybe, but with the comical tendencies of possibly our greatest working DJ, you never know. He started as just another name in the legendary collection of artists under the Kompakt label in the ’00s, but he’s managed to outlast names such as Superpitcher, Gui Boratto, and Matias Aguayo with a few epic albums under his belt. Like Knock Knock would also accomplish, Amygdala displays his variety of styles and willingness to share the spotlight with names maybe a little bigger than himself. Songs like “La Duquesa” and “Marilyn Whirlwind” had the Kompakt stamp all over it, but then songs like “My Plans” and “Das Wort” would feature mainstream samples of Carole King and Marvin Gaye. The man’s got an ear for intellectual fun. — Andrew Cox


213. Hot Chip – In Our Heads (2012)

In Our Heads has no “Boy from School” or “Over and Over,” but I might lean towards it being their most enjoyable album front-to-back. Their fifth studio album features 11 full-fledged synth-pop jams that range from the stunning balladry of “Look At Where We Are” and the goofy 7-minute epic of “Flutes.” The change in style and the reliability of each track makes for a album that never grows tiresome. They’re capable of pulling off a Basement Jaxx vibe on “Night and Day” or a Todd Rundgren vibe two tracks later on “Now There Is Nothing.” Hot Chip are a duo of polymaths still reflecting their talents and influences on a recent release like A Bath Full of Ecstasy, but In Our Heads remains their best version. — Andrew Cox


212. Chief Keef – Finally Rich (2012)

We didn’t give Chief Keef enough credit. At the start of the decade, the Chicago wunderkind was cast as the rap antichrist and “I Don’t Like” the proof — its nihilistic energy raining down like a neutron bomb. The truth was somewhere in between. Keef wasn’t interested in romanticizing his life but as drill began to catch on beyond Chicago, he had a supernatural sense of what would sound great with his voice. The result is a major label debut that succeeds on all fronts: Finally Rich succeeded at translating drill to a larger audience without sanding down any of its corners. It does so by leaving Keef’s fundamental sound untouched; older songs like “I Don’t Like” and “Love Sosa” still crackle with menace thanks to Keef’s street-tested voice, capable of turning casual threats into hooks meant to be blared from loudspeakers. As Chief Keef spent the rest of the decade learning to produce and following his muse down every dark tunnel, Finally Rich feels less like the nihilist end-of-times document we heard horror stories about but instead a starting point for something entirely different. — Jibril Yassin


211. Earl Sweatshirt – Doris (2013)

Doris can never be the definitive Earl Sweatshirt release because possibly the greatest rapper of my lifetime filled his debut album with features on most of the songs. The features are all fantastic though, even the no-name Sk La Flare starting the album. Frank Ocean’s “verse” on “Sunday” was the introduction of the inscrutable, weird Frank we’d see on Blonde, and the late Mac Miller holds up with Earl on “Guild” before he had any sort of critical praise. When Earl takes the mic though, you wonder why he bothers with features. His two verses on “Hive” make up the best example of his alliterative wordplay, and “Chum” offered an insight into his childhood struggles that was not possible with his troll-y self on his mixtape, Earl. — Andrew Cox


210. Future Islands – Singles (2014)

Samuel T. Herring was the most inspiring frontman of this decade, and his electrifying performance on Letterman was the moment everyone seemed to realize it. Here’s a man with thinning hair and his shirt tucked in tight dancing and emoting like he’s alone in his bedroom; there goes my hero. “Seasons (Waiting on You)” would go on to be the most-praised song of 2014, but every song on Singles captures a bit of that same magic. Every song gets to the point — I mean, the album is called Singles — with a steady pulse of synths and bass getting you to sway your hips in the same way Herring does. With Singles, Future Islands curated your imaginary rockstar performance with a stacked setlist. — Andrew Cox


209. Gang Gang Dance – Eye Contact (2011)

Eye Contact‘s 11-minute opener “Glass Jar” is Gang Gang Dance’s greatest achievement. It’s a kaleidoscopic, bombastic trip through the collective mind of the defining experimental pop act of our time. It made for the perfect opening for their third classic album in a row, but it only makes up about a 1/4th of the album. What follows is some of their most straightforward bops in “Chinese High,” and “Romance Layers.” The latter sounds like a Dev Hynes work through a World of Echo filter. Hopefully, the diminished returns of last year’s Kazuashita isn’t a sign that Gang Gang Dance don’t have more to prove for the 2020s. — Andrew Cox


208. Tirzah – Devotion (2018)

Tirzah is the collaboration of UK singer/songwriter Tirzah Mastin and producer Mica Levi. Mica’s soundtrack work on Under the Skin is bound to be a defining approach to the sci-fi genre, and she keeps a bit of that lumbering extraterrestrial feel while running it through a pop/r&b filter. The airy, experimental production keeps Tirzah’s singing from being accused of drowsiness; instead, the result is tranquilizing. The repetitive nature of the production is borderline ambient, so you’re bound to be jolted by minor changes like the percussion in “Holding On” or simply another voice in Coby Sey for “Devotion.” Look for Tirzah to help craft the new direction for electronic r&b in the next decade. — Andrew Cox


207. Beach House – Depression Cherry (2015)

Beach House have kept making the same album throughout this decade, and we wouldn’t want it any other way. Depression Cherry was when some critics proclaimed that they had run their course with the dream pop sound; for the most part though, the first three songs here blew people away. “Levitation” may be their best pure album intro where you’re eased in rather than dealing with the best song on the album (“Zebra,” “Myth”). “Sparks” heads into shoegaze territory and could’ve found its way onto My Bloody Valentine’s return a couple years earlier. And “Space Song” — their deservedly most popular song and an anthem for heartbreak and setting yourself straight. This decade, Beach House just kept falling back into place. — Andrew Cox



SOPHIE first came to us as a heavenly body in the orbit of PC Music’s plastic-sheen nebulae of ad-damaged dance artists, dropping blippy dance tracks as early as 2013. Though she was never part of the label, she shared their vision of a dance music untethered from the dark historicity of male-dominated electronic music, free to bubble up from the ooze of the Internet and wink like a soap bubble. While PC Music has gone the way of the Dada, SOPHIE has taken their philosophy and expanded it. History, gender, material, the self — these are all playthings on SOPHIE’s debut album, and on songs like “Faceshopping” and “Immaterial” you can actually hear her contort them into whatever shape she wants. — Justin Kamp


205. Lil Peep – Hellboy (2016)

“I’ma die, I ain’t even 25” — Lil Peep sings this on the stunning “Drive-By.” It’s one of many gloomily-prophetic pleas for help from the cultishly-beloved emo-revival rapper on his definitive mixtape, Hellboy. Just a little over a year after its release, he was found dead from an overdose of fentanyl and Xanax at age 21. What we lost was a sincere rockstar with an ear for melodies and samples that none of his peers could touch. He takes a cue from Wu-Tang/Ghostface by starting with a Hellboy cartoon sample; from there, he raps/sings over Underoath, Aphex Twin, Avenged Sevenfold, Bright Eyes, and Modest Mouse. That you can sing along with every track here is the work of a melodic genius waiting to not be slept on. — Andrew Cox


204. Sharon Van Etten – Are We There (2014)

Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There lands in the middle of her impressive discography, showcasing the rock singer-songwriter’s broad range and haunting voice. “Burn my skin so I can’t feel you / Stab my eyes so I can’t see,” Van Etten roars on “Your Love is Killing Me.” Van Etten has explained that the album is written in response to the impossibility of balancing tour life with a relationship, making for songs that burn with both ferocity and melancholy. Are We There ends with the notable “Every Time the Sun Comes Up,” a beautiful dirge about mundane daily life. “Every time the sun comes up, I’m in trouble,” sings Van Etten. — Cheyenne Bilderback


203. Deerhunter – Fading Frontier (2015)

Following Halcyon Digest, Deerhunter set their sights lower in the 2010s, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t still one of the best bands kicking it. The three singles — “Snakeskin,” “Breaker,” and “Living My Life” — make up the best indie rock you’ll hear in the last 10 years. “Breaker” and “Living My Life” in particular displayed a melancholic pop bliss that was subtle new territory from a band that has never put their name on bad music. The second side of the album leans more toward Microcastle‘s saw-toothed explorations with the nearly-six minute “Leather and Wood” and the extended outro of “Snakeskin.” I hope this isn’t their last classic. — Andrew Cox


202. Oneohtrix Point Never – Returnal (2010)

Returnal is a leaf blower to the face for 42 minutes — chaotic and jarring at first and then settling into a pleasant and relieving state. It’s this juxtaposition OPN has juggled beautifully throughout the decade. Lopatin’s range as an experimentalist has fluctuated between conflicting levels of approachability but never towards the mainstream. More so than in his later releases, Returnal is firmly in the drone category; from there, it splinters into the brutal noise of opener “Nil Admirari” to the chilling ambience of “Describing Bodies” and “Stress Waves.” It’s music that gradually evolves so steadily, it seems static. It put OPN on the same playing field as Editions Mego labelmates Emeralds with their kosmische progressive electronica, but he would just keep upping the ante. — Andrew Cox


201. Nilüfer Yanya – Miss Universe (2019)

Released in a time of rising stress and declining hope for a better world, Yanya’s Miss Universe is a survival guide, an opportunity to rest and reflect. Opening track “WWAY HEALTH™” welcomes the listener to an easier universe, one in which health is actually king and worries seem to dissipate by the second. Although the opener offers a calming instrumental background, its follower “In Your Head” has enough gusto and punch to help anyone dance out their stress. Yanya’s brand of rock is overflowing with addictive licks and cheeky beats, providing a musical hideout from the world as we know it. — Virginia Croft