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The last decade of music brought about some unforgettable highlights: The Beatles made it to iTunes, Kendrick Lamar won a Pulitzer, and Lady Gaga wore a meat dress while accepting her 2010 Video of the Year award. A lot happened. Our team decided to narrow down these memorable moments to focus solely on our favorite albums from 2010 to 2019. Keep scrolling for everyone’s top 5 and check out Mr. Smith’s Spotify playlist featuring the best song from each album.
In putting together this list, my goal wasn’t to judge an album by being “technically perfect” or what I would consider to be “the best.” Looking back on the last 10 years of music I’ve consumed, I just see things a little differently than I did prior to 2010. I see obsessions over particular songs. I see the shows that I attended in support of these bands. Most of all, I see a ton of great memories with my family and friends.
I figured out that in this past decade, I started streaming music instead of buying whole albums. I’m super guilty of having a million self-made playlists where I could pick and choose my favorite songs. There were only two albums on my list that I actually bought. The rest resulted from liking one or two songs then listening to the whole album on the speakers at work.
As an enthusiastic, but not deeply passionate consumer of music, I generally have my attention captured more by individual songs and less by complete albums. So although this is ostensibly a list of my favorite albums of the decade, it’s probably more accurately read as a list of songs that made my heart go boom, boom, boom. When I sing, “My name is Alexander Hamilton. My name is Alexxxxandddderrr Hammmilllltooonnnn,” I feel like I’m actually singing my own name. There are a million things I haven’t done, and seriously, just you wait. The song “I Need My Girl” on Trouble Will Find Me still reminds me how much I do, in fact, need my girl. I once got pretty drunk on daiquiris and turned a bar into a dance party and Katy Perry’s “Firework” was heavily involved. I was young and careless and on fire and in love. When the beat drops in “Dance Yrself Clean,” my heart soars – few better feelings in the world. And then one day, there was nothing. And the next there was Mr. Smith. Sitting in our Larkinville clubhouse, hustling hard on evenings and weekends, listening to “I Wanna Get Better” by Beachers. It made me feel like anything was possible. Still does.
On the Impossible Past has no overproduction. No effects. No tuned vocals. Just 4 dudes playing rock and roll. Every single song on Good For Me is somehow a sing along. “The Best I Ever Had” is also the best song I’ve ever heard. Listening to Low Teens is equivalent to drinking 45 cups of coffee. basking in the glow is only a few months old, but the choruses have found a permanent home in my head. Ridiculously catchy and well written songs. And I saw Manchester Orchestra play a handful of these songs live last summer and I still can’t believe how good they were. Their singer is from another planet.
There are so many songs that make me want to dance, smile, or cry. Devendra Banhart’s music achieves all of this, but more importantly, reminds me to be grateful, peaceful, truthful, and loving. I love his vulnerable, warm lyricism. Overall, I appreciate art that helps me better understand the artist and leaves me wanting to learn more. I got into To Pimp A Butterfly after hearing Kendrick on one of Flying Lotus’ albums and from there, I would blast his music in the computer labs at school when I was working late. As a teenager, I spent a lot of time listening to Comogramma while drawing. I started to gain an understanding for the sort of synesthetic influence Flying Lotus’ music had over the art I liked to create. I’ll always hear something new while listening to Joanna Newsom’s Have One On Me. This album helped me get over a lot of humps throughout college. When M.I.A.’s AIM was first released, I would play this album on repeat as loud as possible in my car. I’m drawn to her non-compliant attitude in her music. This album possesses the crazy, experimental, and collage-like sound that I’ve always loved about her work.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is one of the top 5 hip hop albums of all time – the Holy Grail for Kanye. Drake is the king of the decade and Nothing Was the Same cemented that. The slick rick ish storytelling on good kid, m.A.A.d. City made me feel like I’m from LA. Awaken, My Love! blends the most beautiful sounds of Funk and R&B that is even more impactful when you hear them live. This album is an experience. And after seeing Gary Clark Jr. perform twice, he’ll go down as one of the greatest artists of all time.
Music can bring out three different versions of me: the chill soul, the hopeless romantic, and the girl who just wants to party. My favorite 5 albums expose them all. ANTI has everything I’ve ever needed in an album: soulful R&B, dancehall, and crackly vocals full of emotion. And after seeing Rihanna perform this album live during her 2016 tour, it’ll always be my fave. Kaleidoscope Dream made me feel like I knew what love was at 17. For All We Know and El Mal Querer are pure peace and both Rosalia and Nao have the most unique and sensual voices. And as for the epic album 4, all I think about is high school house parties with my girlfriends singing almost every song at the top of our lungs while dancing on a tabletop.
Every Kingdom was recommended by my good friend and colleague, Ryan Delmar, and it was on repeat for the better part of a year, which happens to be the same year I met my wife. That was a good year. So, Drake is my dude and I fly my stan flag proudly and Nothing Was the Same is undoubtedly my favorite. I spent many summer nights in the lawn at Dave Matthews Band shows with a close group of friends – many of whom are no longer with us. When I listen today, I think of them fondly. When My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy album came out, I was driving a ‘96 Acura. Though the outside was crisp, the inside was not. The CD player only accepted three discs – and thank God this was one of them. Nip Hussle the Great: Vol. 1 introduced me to Nipsey Hussle. And because of this and the many records that followed, I was introduced to several phenomenal artists.
It’s been almost 5 years since To Pimp a Butterfly was released and every time I listen through this record, I hear and feel things I hadn’t heard before. I’ve always liked Kanye, but My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy felt different: bigger, darker, vulnerable in the best ways possible. M83, and Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming in particular, was a catalyst for my love of synthesizers and synth pop music. Kevin Parker infusing ’80s synth tones and ’90s R&B into his psych rock palette Currents, ushered one of my most-listened-to albums of the past 10 years. And Trouble Will Find Me by The National is my most-listened-to album of the past decade that turned me into a super fan.
Tame Impala’s psych-rock sounds are unlike any other band in their genre. Currents is a great refinement of the previous two albums’ lo-fi grunge. 2013 was a turning point in my life personally and music has the power to freeze you in time. I listened to Evil Friends non-stop before going to see PTM at Town Ballroom with my closest friends – One of my favorite shows/days ever. The R&B vibes in Because the Internet were something unexpected from Childish at the time and the mixed media releases around the album were very different. Every song on DAMN. is incredible. Watch the Throne made it on my list because it’s just two rap icons making music having fun as fuck.