75. Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time (2013)
It’s no secret that Sky Ferreira’s debut album was long suspended in the dismal corporate limbo where delayed albums go to inevitably die. After Ferreira’s commercially non-viable brush with glossy pop fame at the top of the 2010s, her label decided to shelve the artist’s full-length project, forcing the singer-songwriter to take matters into her own hands (she famously funded the record out of pocket). The result of her determination was 2013’s razor-sharp Night Time, My Time, which remains one of the decade’s most enigmatic releases from an equally enigmatic star. Chronicling Ferreira’s raw experiences with heartbreak, failure, love, anxiety and loss of control over an unexpected soundbed of gritty new-wave and grungy indie-rock, Night Time, My Time was the reintroduction Ferreira desperately needed — and deserved. — Erica Russell
74. Caribou – Our Love (2014)
Our Love exists in the perfect meeting place between lighthearted revelry and technical virtuosity. You hear the textural depths alongside the basic 4/4 nightclub thump on songs like “Silver,” and neither aspect detracts from the other. It may take someone with a Ph.D. in mathematics (like Dan Snaith does) to have the mindset for the meticulous craftsmanship displayed throughout Our Love, but what of the euphoria and catharsis within melodies and themes that are necessary to actually connect with people? That’s just innate, and Snaith lets his intuition fly across every vocal tic and sample drop. From “Can’t Do Without You” to “Your Love Will Set You Free,” Our Love is his masterpiece. We’re still waiting for a follow-up. — Andrew Cox
73. Vampire Weekend – Contra (2010)
On their second album, Contra, indie rock band Vampire Weekend dive deeper into the experimental pop rock and afropop elements that influenced their debut.
In addition, the group incorporates touches of ska on tracks like “Holiday” and “Cousins” as well as synth pop on “Giving Up The Gun” and “White Sky,” with the latter song featuring crazy lines of vocal runs by frontman Ezra Koening.
Producer and band member Rostam Batmanglij employs pulsing drumbeats with abrupt stops to feature secluded string sections, making the album abrasive and unpredictable in the best way possible. The chaotic energy contained in Contra can be best seen in wild tracks like “California English” and “Diplomat’s Son,” which constantly switches up the tempo and rhythms at every turn.
The biggest standout on the record is “Run,” a song inspired by Bruce Springsteen’s “Born To Run,” which is full of bleeps an blips and features a beautifully triumphant brass part in the chorus. — Drew Pearce
72. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time (2014)
Where the hell has Todd Terje been for five years? From what I can tell, he hasn’t released any original solo work since this album; he’s even had Four Tet remix a track that hasn’t been officially released yet. If he’s just taking a break, it’s a well-deserved one considering his murderer’s row of a discography in the first half of the decade: “Snooze 4 Love,” “Inspector Norse,” “Ragysh,” “Strandbar,” and then his one album — It’s Album Time. Some of his previous work is compiled and edited to fully cement their legacy, and then new tracks like “Delorean Dynamite” and “Johnny and Mary” complement everything else by being the best damn nu-disco joints this side of Daft Punk’s Discovery. — Andrew Cox
71. EMA – Past Life Martyred Saints (2011)
Almost right in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean between South America and Africa is an island called Tristan da Cunha, which has a diameter of 6.8 miles and is only reachable through a week-long boat trip. If the musical landscape of the 2010s is like a map, Tristan da Cunha is Past Life Martyred Saints, EMA’s classic inscrutable debut. It’s a raw indie album that is almost rock? The instrumental approach on “California” is unlike anything I’ve heard before; that bellowing three-note reverb hook sounds like a discordant Loveless outtake. Unlike MBV though, every lyric is supposed to be heard as themes of alienation, physical abuse, and self-harm can be found throughout. It’s an album that is perfect in execution for all its unsightly beauty. — Andrew Cox
70. Death Grips – The Money Store (2012)
On their breakthrough debut album, Death Grips, a Sacramento-based trio comprised of MC Ride, Zach Hill, and Andy Morin, proves they are a force to be reckoned with. The Money Store is an intense, other-worldly album from start to finish, full of amazing tracks like “Lost Boys,” “I’ve Seen Footage,” “F**k That,” and “Hacker.” Facing critical acclaim upon the album’s release, The Money Store lived on to become one of Death Grips’ finest and most widely known works. It’s loud, aggressive, and pulsating – the Death Grips way. — Happy Haugen
69. Robyn – Body Talk (2010)
Body Talk has become the definitive Robyn collection; that tends to happen when an album features that artist’s two best songs — “Dancing on My Own” and “Call Your Girlfriend.” It also helps when those two songs are routinely considered the best pop songs of the entire decade by being smart-yet-bubbly anthems for independence and getting what you want. When you can unite the poptimists and indieheads with a simple dance on a lit-up dance floor with some big-ass pink sneakers, that’s pretty legendary. Body Talk is also considered a classic for having underrated gems like “Indestructible,” “Hang With Me” and “U Should Know Better” — the latter featuring the line “Even the Vatican knows not to fuck with me.” Not every song on Body Talk does it for me, and that’s why it’s not top ten of the decade like other sites have it listed as, but if the lyrics are any indicator, her validation doesn’t come from anyone but herself. — Andrew Cox
68. Kamasi Washington – The Epic (2015)
Aptly Named Album: The Epic
Brainfeeder’s king saxophonist, Kamasi Washington released The Epic back in May of 2015. The album is a 172-minute glorious ode to jazz music, drama and energy. Washington, a veteran L.A. musician, is known for collaborating with the likes of Gerald Wilson, Flying Lotus, Thundercat and Kendrick Lamar. However, it’s his own debut studio album, The Epic, that cemented him into jazz’s legacy.
“21st century jazz as accessible as it is virtuosic — feel matters to Washington… Holistic in breadth and deep in vision, it provides a way into this music for many, and challenges the cultural conversation about jazz without compromising or pandering.”
The album is fantastic, literally. The opening track, “Change of The Guard” is so robust- right around the 7:50 timestamp, Washington’s horn starts booming. It’s the equivalent to a singer emotionally belting out their song. The arrangement and composition of each song, all Washginton, make for a surreal listening experience. Opera-like, stunning and seasoned are words I use to describe this jazz jewel. Devoid of many words, there exists mainly the textures in the sounds that Washington and company play out. With instruments like yarn, the musicians weave Washington’s stories to life vividly.
“The Epic actually makes good on its titular promise without bothering to make even a faint-hearted stab in the direction of fulfilling its pre-release hype.”
-Seth Colter Walls, Pitchfork (Best New Music)
The Epic has since topped many lists, been swooned over in many publications and touched many hearts live. I had the amazing pleasure of witnessing Askim live in Richmond at The National (still have my phone recording from that night too). Kamasi Washington’s energy onstage is so collected and his presence is commanding.
If you haven’t listened to The Epic, I suggest you do yourself a favor in the self-care department and sit down with it. — Chanell Noise
67. Snail Mail – Lush (2018)
As one of the bright new talents to emerge in a female-led wave of lo-fi Indie rock, Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan offers an emotionally intelligent glance at her life and 20-year-old angst on Lush. “Don’t you like me for me?” she calls out on “Pristine.” Jordan’s frankness is the record’s most compelling aspect, and it’s impossible not to be charmed by it. For anyone whose yearned for companionship, Lush will give words to your sorrows. — Mackenzie Cummings-Grady
66. Japandroids – Celebration Rock (2012)
There is a race at the wild heart of rock music. The finish line is somewhere –– at the end of the interstate, out of this town, somewhere just past the horizon. The race is driven by an adrenaline of escape, and it courses through Japandroids’ second and best record. It’s there from the fireworks and razorwire of “The Nights of Wine and Roses” through the dashboard-beating “House That Heaven Built” and blacktop glimmer of “Continuous Thunder”. It’s in the “oh’s” and “woah’s” and “yeah’s” they shout over hardscrabble power chords, expressions of the band’s undying belief that clichés are really exultations to the god of small places. — Justin Kamp
65. Mitski – Puberty 2 (2016)
The fourth album from indie queen Mitski, Puberty 2, is grungy, noisy, and often chaotic. But Mitski’s voice reigns above the static, ringing out clear. Take “Your Best American Girl,” for example: soft tension climbs until Mitski finally howls, “Your mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me.” Puberty 2 is full of moments like these — pressure that grinds upward until Mitski lets loose with her free-falling insight. Acute lines like “What do you do with a loving feeling/ If the loving feeling makes you all alone?” run throughout. On Puberty 2, themes of desire, paying rent, and death all find a home. — Cheyenne Bilderback
64. Future – Pluto (2012)
“Hip Hop has had its fair share of novelty acts, and Future appears to be the latest flavor to emerge into the public eye.” — Edwin Ortiz, HipHopDX (2 out of 5 review)
“Future lacks the basic depth and dynamism to make his rhymes convey what he means them to.” — Evan Rytlewski, The A.V. Club (C+ review)
Remember when people wrote about Future like this, and nobody batted an eye? He was just another Lil Wayne disciple that could dismissed as a fad. Fast-forward to the end of the decade, and he’s never been out of the rap zeitgeist. Seemingly all of rap’s tributaries have passed through the land of Future to get his seal of approval. That’s why revisiting where that unquestioned reverence still wasn’t the case on his debut Pluto can still be startling. However, he’s never made a better album. He was as confident in R&B as he was in rap, which created a great variety front-to-back that he wouldn’t try again until HNDRXX. His codeine-fueled magnetism on songs like “Same Damn Time” and “Tony Montana” proved he didn’t need to ride Drake’s coattails, or anybody’s for that matter. — Andrew Cox
Erica Russell’s Honorable Mentions
- St. Vincent – MASSEDUCTION (2017)
St. Vincent’s neon-tinged, sticky-sweet 2017 album lives up to its cheeky title, seducing listeners (and winning two Grammy Awards in the process) with a kinetic cornucopia of ambient rock, glossy future-pop, vinyl-slick new wave and sharp-edged glam rock. MASSEDUCTION is effortlessly catchy, sexy and smart, and very much one of a kind.
- Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer (2018)
Brilliantly political and genre-defying at every corner, 2018’s glossy Dirty Computer is pop at its most conceptual and confrontational. Brimming with artful and memorable anthems on gender, race, class and sexuality that span inspired new wave, hip-hop, funk, soul and electronic influences, Janelle Monáe’s critically acclaimed third studio album is undoubtedly cemented as one of the decade’s most elastic offerings.
- Michelle Branch – Hopeless Romantic (2017)
Equal parts scathing, blithe and sorrowful, Michelle Branch’s long-awaited fourth studio album, 2017’s Hopeless Romantic, found the dexterous singer-songwriter shift seamlessly into crisp indie rock territory with all the fury and finesse of a lover no longer scorned. (Literally: the album was sparked by Branch’s breakup with ex-husband Teddy Landau and her subsequent relationship with The Black Keys’ Patrick Carney.)
- Charli XCX – True Romance (2013)
Long before she was busy shaping the future of pop with club-shattering mixtapes, genre-busting collaborations, and high-gloss Auto-Tuned anthems, Charli XCX was a gothy pop princess in waiting. And on her dark, raw, hook-laden synth-pop/new wave debut, 2013’s True Romance, she proved that she was more than ready to rule the pop kingdom.
- Katy Perry – Teenage Dream (2010)
Few albums boast the standing of having helped define the sound of the decade during which they were released, but Katy Perry’s bright, buoyant sophomore album, 2010’s near-pristine pop opus Teenage Dream, is a horse of a different color. From the nostalgic, starry-eyed euphoria of its title track to the anthemic self-love messaging of explosive electro-pop hit “Firework,” Teenage Dream is stuffed with hit after hit.
63. My Bloody Valentine – m b v (2013)
Delivering almost 47 minutes of their signature shoegaze sound, My Bloody Valentine takes their craft one step further on their third album, m b v. While shoegaze can feel uneasy and difficult to navigate, there’s a warming, soothing quality to the album. It’s important to note that the band waited 22 years to release this after their second album, Loveless. The tracks on m b v symbolize the effects of time, and how its existence can impact art. Opener “She Found Now” listens like getting lost in a maze, the component of time nearly thrown out the window as layered guitars and whispered vocals take control. — Virginia Croft
62. Disclosure – Settle (2013)
Guy and Howard Lawrence’s breakthrough debut is the most memorable dance-pop crossover of the decade. It’s hard to think of another album as stacked with so many hits, it ended up launching the career of one of the biggest pop singers: Sam Smith.
While it’s easy to take features for granted in an era of strategic collabs, this tracklist is practically a time capsule of early-2010s rising talent. The brotherly duo knows the transformative power of a vocal edit, and they have a knack for pinpointing what exactly makes each vocalist distinct. When they couldn’t find a rapper, they decided to create one on “When a Fire Starts to Burn.”
Settle merged distant strains of dance music under the mold of familiar formulas. In the process, the English duo meticulously crafted pop perfection. — Caitlin Kelley
61. Oneohtrix Point Never – Garden of Delete (2015)
Even in Daniel Lopatin’s loaded discography, Garden of Delete is in a league of its own. Here, he envisions a grotesque and anxious sound after opening for Nine Inch Nails and Soundgarden in 2014. Through this experience, he relived his adolescent years steeped in industrial and grunge music and became fascinated with ideas of mutation and trauma. The finished result is not so easily categorizable. Disturbing and indecipherable voices lead you down into the muck of OPN’s purest, scatter-brained hellscapes. It’s constructed like a horror movie that is patient in its presentation and scene-building, but doesn’t lack in setting an uneasy dread in you. Few non-lyrical albums demand your apprehension and emotional investment so confidently. — Andrew Cox
60. Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs (2018)
While the album title implies nonchalance, Some Rap Songs is expertly produced, and was a groundbreaking feat for Earl Sweatshirt. He combines lo-fi hip-hop with avant-garde jazz, and the experiment, in turn, transforms Sweatshirt into a spoken word poet and pushes the limitations of Hip-Hop. “Don’t play with us, I revisit the past, port wine, and pages of pads,” Sweatshirt raps about his depression on “Ontheway!,” “Momma say don’t play with them scabs, it’s safe to say I see the reason I’m bleeding out.” Earl is fighting to stay sane amidst his newfound fame, but he can’t seem to regain control. — Mackenzie Cummings-Grady
59. Drake – Nothing Was the Same (2013)
Nothing Was the Same marked the beginning of Drake’s imperial phase and no one was more cognizant of this than Drake himself. It made sense then that if Take Care served as Drake’s Thriller, then what came next would be his Bad, taking everything that worked with the former to its maximalist zenith, straddling between toxic moodiness and braggadocio. Nothing Was the Same was dedicated to being a better album in every way – the production was richer, the hooks cast in teflon, the runtime was lean and the raps were tighter, with every line on the album potentially an Instagram quotable in the making. Even as Drake reveled in his pettiness, doxxing former flames and taunting everyone who doubted him, he would return to the source of his powers: bleary-eyed songwriting. Nothing Was the Same featured some of his best in that vein; “Too Much” burned with disillusion and resentment while “Hold On, We’re Going Home” is a gorgeous ‘80s ballad showcasing a vulnerable Drake ready to make a commitment.
Nothing Was the Same was a snapshot of the good times before the paranoia sinks in, before the comedown takes hold. Closing track “Pound Cake/Paris Morton Music 2” found Drake already looking back, recalling his first meetups with Lil Wayne even as he fantasized about putting his high school classmates through security at their ten-year reunion. He wasn’t ready to be defensive and paranoid (that would crystallize on If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late) but Drake was preparing for fame’s inevitable comedown. — Jibril Yassin
58. Grouper – Ruins (2014)
I’m currently listening to this album and getting frustrated with my dog’s excessive snoring beside me. With most albums, the surrounding ambient noise is not cumbersome, but Ruins is an album that is close relatives with silence. Liz Harris is playing piano in a room with you, but the room is as daunting and spacious as Charles Foster Kane’s estate of Xanadu. Without her wistful semi-doodling, you’d just be alone with your thoughts, maybe putting a puzzle together by the fireplace. Ruins is music that clarifies your everyday mood and gives it a melody. Meditative and therapeutic are common descriptions of Harris’ work, but I find Ruins particularly inspiring in that someone would provide close company when I just don’t want to get out of bed. — Andrew Cox
57. Big Thief – U.F.O.F. (2019)
Adrianne Lenker’s ascension was surprising only because of how quietly it happened. Big Thief had been producing beautiful geodes of indie-folk since mid-decade, but in the months after U.F.O.F., it felt like the music they made was everywhere — in dreams, in trees, in breaths between words. Lenker’s voice is the key, of course, but the entire band has an inimitable skill in crafting moments that make you suddenly aware that you are alive and inside their music. How Lenker sings on “Cattails” like a child hopping across stones in a stream, how Buck Meek’s harmonies wimple in the breeze of “Century”, how “Jenni” is the sound of velvet on fire — these are the mysteries of Big Thief and U.F.O.F. — Justin Kamp
56. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for My Halo (2011)
Like most great breakout singer-songwriter albums, Smoke Ring for My Halo had to slowly build its constituency. Vile’s slacker persona wasn’t exactly mumbling or rambling; there was a clarity to the nonchalance — “I know when I get older, I’m dying / But I got everything I need anyway.” Being the content slacker is a tough way to excite the masses, but it helps when you’re the best guitarist this decade. “Aw, hey, who cares? What’s a guitar?” he says in an attempt at downplaying his greatness. The canvas would open up for Vile on future releases with his inclusion of the electric guitar and The Violators, but he was at his most endearing on a couch keeping it folk. — Andrew Cox
55. Danny Brown – XXX (2011)
Bruiser Brigade Leader, Danny Brown
Before XXXTentacion, there was XXX, aka Triple X or simply ‘30’. Danny Brown dropped XXX in 2011 in the midst of a healthy rap landscape. Straight up independent, the album was released through Fool’s Gold, an indie label based in Brooklyn, NY.
Danny Brown at this point had been rapping for a brick. His cadence on XXX is comfortable, borderline bored or angry, aggressive and manic. His range and versatility in flow is amazing. He needed very little features, having created diversity within his own raps.
XXX name dropped so many celebrities, politicians here; for example, one song is actually named “Pac Blood.” Brown made the album with the aim to come for necks. It was the artist’s first concept album and was re-released on iTunes in 2012 with an accompanying booklet. Brown describes the album as having two sides, an A and a B.
Brown says track 13, “DNA” is the start of side B. “The cover looked like a vinyl to me, so I was going with that whole vibe,” he said in an interview with Passion of Weiss. “The first side is all having fun,” he explained. The album’s content turns more serious from that point on.
Unlike many other albums on this list, XXX was not recognized by The Academy. However, this album was received well by the street, the internet, his fanbase and bloggers alike. Pitchfork placed the album at 19 on its Top Albums of 2011 list. Spin loftily gave XXX the Best Album of 2011. Complex also named XXX the eighth best Hip Hop album of the last five years and of course on this blog we listed this album on our 250 Best Albums of the 21st Century List! — Chanell Noise
54. Angel Olsen – MY WOMAN (2016)
One of the most dominating voices in modern music, Angel Olsen showcases an incredible vocal presence and an amazing songwriting ability on My Woman. “Shut Up Kiss Me” is a key track, one of her biggest songs to date, and “Sister,” a nearly eight-minute track, offers a chilling vocal performance over a raking guitar. My Woman is filled with tracks that will capture you and bring you into her world. The album also saw her straying from her older lo-fi Burn Your Fire For No Witness sound. My Woman is an album that shows change doesn’t have to be bad, and sometimes proper experimentation creates a new sense of identity. — Happy Haugen
53. Real Estate – Days (2011)
Throughout the sophomore album from Real Estate, there’s a perpetual question: can we truly enjoy the moment we’re in? The New Jersey band tackles the reality of life in the neat package of Days, examining the journey between their kick back with a beer styled self-titled debut. Growing up is hard to do, but Real Estate takes the ebbs and flows with a serene disposition, especially on penultimate track “Younger Than Yesterday.” While the track itself contains less than fifty words, the lack of vocabulary lends itself to a higher meaning — the band submerges themselves into the repetitive nature of powerful instrumentals and hones in on taking the moment to truly listen to what they are putting out into the world. Days is an experience of all four seasons, the band’s wistful, melancholic instrumentals carrying both a summer and fall breeze. — Virginia Croft
52. DJ Rashad – Double Cup (2013)
Out of any genre this decade, Footwork took the biggest leap into mainstream respect. It started as “Ghetto House” in early-’90s Chicago and was centered around fast-paced battles. Figures like RP Boo and DJ Rashad had been the leaders of this scene for over a decade when the Bang & Works compilation came out in 2010. With that full-length and the underground hit “Footcrab” by Addison Groove, Footwork attained critical acclaim and an audience outside of Chicago. By 2013, RP Boo and DJ Rashad both released debut albums; RP Boo’s Legacy came and went, but DJ Rashad’s Double Cup became the definitive classic of the sound. By summer ’14, DJ Rashad was no longer with us due to a drug overdose. The album was beloved before then, but now there was a final statement grandiosity to every track that’s just unavoidable. What was thought of as a breakout classic was now his only one. It’s cruel, and Double Cup remains to fill his void, ready to be blasted out front-to-back at any party or club with taste. — Andrew Cox
51. Waka Flocka Flame – Flockaveli (2010)
One time in a high school hallway with hundreds of kids packed together, I heard someone start yelling out Roscoe Dash’s verse on “No Hands” and then someone across the hallway finished the verse. It was not planned; this was just pure spontaneity because Flockaveli was on everybody’s mind around that time. Now, the public often obsesses over terrible music that’s annoyingly catchy and whatnot, but there was simply no hardcore rap album this decade as loaded with big, dumb anthems that’d pump any setting up. There are even hidden gems like “Homies” and “G Check” that should worm their way into your head after just a couple listens. Everything Waka Flocka says on Flockaveli is the work of a melodic genius in his prime. — Andrew Cox