Well, my friends, here we are! I started out this year determined to catch up on newer music after a very busy and distracting stretch of years. I was very well versed in the music of the 50s-90s, and had a decent handle on the 00s, but for 2010 forward I was largely flying blind.
So I started three musical blog series. You can check out the final edition of my overview of the critic’s choices for the 20 best albums of 2020, and my latest monthly review of 2021’s new releases as I search for the 21 best albums of 2021. And then there’s this series, where I set out to find the best albums of the 2010s.
To that end, I took “best of decade” lists from the AV Club, Billboard, Jim DeRogatis, Greg Kot, the New Yorker, New Music Express, Paste, Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, and Vice. For any album that appeared at least once in these lists, I tallied up votes between them. As it turned out, there were 52 albums getting 4 votes and up. This was close enough to a top 50 that I decided to go with that as a cutoff, and split the reviews into ten parts, which you can find here:
( Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 )
Having now completely reviewed the critic’s choices, what conclusions have I come to?
Inevitably, there were some (8 out of 52, in fact) albums where I just couldn’t agree with the critics:
- A Moon Shaped Pool (Radiohead, 2016)– I don’t particularly care for Radiohead. I’m aware that this puts me at odds with every music critic ever, as well as many actual humans I know. They’re not, by any means, bad. I like moody atmospheric music. Sometimes. I like elliptical lyrics. Sometimes. I like lackadaisical low-key anguished vocals. Sometimes. But 50 minutes solid of that is just not a mood I’m often in, and I was not in that mood listening to this album.
- Body Talk (Robyn, 2010)– This is dance music that would have sounded pretty at home somewhere in the borderline between the 80s and the early 90s. It’s well performed and well produced, and there are some songs here that are clever, unusual, and fun, which I certainly would want in my collection as singles. But overall I have trouble feeling like it adds up to a “Best of the Decade” album.
- Bon Iver (Bon Iver, 2011, 5 votes)– The great danger of indie folk is that it has a tendency to sound the same from track to track. Which is not to say it, by any means, sounds bad. But a solid album’s worth of no changes in musical or vocal tone, well, that doesn’t always make for a great listen. This album is fine, just not a kind of fine I particularly groove on, and it never feels like it gets to great.
- Currents (Tame Impala, 2015, 4 votes)– This is a little trippy, which is their jam. More on the dance/electronic side of trippy, with some new wave influence. It reminds me, perhaps, of something the Flaming Lips might put out, except from them I’d expect even more weirdness, and also more overarching album structure. The tracks here tend a lot toward sameness. Not bad, but not, and this is the point of a “decade’s best” list, great.
- DS2 (Future, 2015, 4 votes)– Early on I thought this was a little more on the autotuned side of hip-hop than I like, but the lyrical content was interesting, and there’s a pleasing air of menace in the music. However, there ended up being a lot more “bitch” and “pussy” here than I like.
- Lost In The Dream (The War on Drugs, 2014, 4 votes)– Vocally and musically billowy and golden, but with maybe too smooth a production. It reminded” me of the 80s, and not in a good way, but in a “victory of airtight musical package over authenticity/vitality” kind of way. It’s technically very good, there were some flourishes I enjoyed, but I didn’t really feel anything the whole way through.
- Sunbather (Deafhaven, 2013, 4 votes)– I mean, the first track is a pretty weird combo- the unintelligible screamo school of metal vocals, and a kind of orchestral swell of indie rock sound which is really rather pleasant. I think I would rather have the reverse. Then there’s a mellow instrumental. Then back to the scream orchestra. Then a “Revolution #9”-style abstract wank-off. And so forth. I really don’t get where the critics were coming from on this at all.
- Whack World (Tierra Whack, 2018, 4 votes)– I like the spare, almost synth accompaniment of this hip-hop, the straightforward rhymes and whimsy, and the quality of her voice. The series of 1 minute tracks is also refreshing in a genre where songs can sometimes can get a little…long. The heavily autotuned nature of a lot of it? Not so much. Definitely some great singles here, and a talent worth keeping an eye on.
There was another block of albums (10 of 52) where I could certainly hear what caught the critics ear, but which I didn’t feel totally added up:
- Anti (Rihanna, 2016)– There’s musical and lyrical sophistication here, and songs that are sometimes quite personal and confessional. It’s very well produced, and it is, par excellence, what a big chunk of the decade sounded like. But I’m not sure it holds up to the best of other soul/R&B/dance albums from the same time period.
- Black Messiah (D’Angelo & the Vanguard, 2014)– In a previous iteration of this kind of exercise a few years back, I had been confidently informed by critics that D’Angelo’s album Voodoo was one of the best albums of the 00s. It was good stuff, but I couldn’t see what I was getting from it that I wouldn’t, for example, get from Prince (who it felt heavily derivative of). I’m having exactly the same reaction here. To be fair, though, I suppose this could be considered praising by faint damnation, since that’s a pretty darn elevated reference point.
- Days Are Gone (Haim, 2013)– For my 2020 list I’d listened to their album Women in Music, and quite liked it. This album feels like it leans in an even more poppy direction, but retains what I really liked about that album- a nearly perfect pop sensibility with some power and substance behind it. This does register as lighter than their later album, though. Is this Days Are Gone‘s fault? No, and yet it must reverse-chronologically suffer for my knowledge!
- Emotion (Carly Rae Jepsen, 2015)– The whole thing is very poppy and fun. It reminds me of Taylor Swift, though perhaps a little slicker and less substantive than her work from a comparable time. Really pretty good as dance-oriented pop music goes, and it does sound emblematic of the decade. So in that sense, maybe a signal album, but I’m not quite sure about “best”.
- Golden Hour (Kacey Musgraves, 2018)– A textured country album, often leaning on the obvious/pop side lyrically, but the vocals are earnest enough to sell it. Musically, it’s lush, grounded in pop country, but drawing on dance music, electronic, and indie rock. It’s all very good, and the best moments are great, but I don’t know about it adding up to a “decade’s best”- the best country albums are better than this as a whole, and the best pop albums are too. What she’s done in bringing together both sides of that equation is still worthy of notice though!
- Have One On Me (Joanna Newsom)– The instrumentation and production is so clever, bringing in layers that remind one of the late Beatles. Her voice weaves in and out, soars and dips, sometimes sing-song, sometimes wispy, sometimes powerful. Between all these factors, there’s enough variability in a single song to be almost exhausting. And lyrically it creates a surreal idiosyncratic world of its own in the manner, say, of Kate Bush or Tori Amos. That’s the upside, and it’s significant. On the downside, it’s hard to keep up over the length of a triple album (runtime comes in at about two hours), and it gets more conventional, and often lower energy, as it goes on. It’s hard to ignore the merits, but I’m not sure it totally succeeds as an album.
- Night Time, My Time (Sky Ferreira, 2013)– The debut album from one of the original MySpace musical sensations. It’s a solid pop album, with a darker rock edge to its vocal and musical texture. And darn catchy too! The whole thing is a little inconsistent, but the inconsistency is between merely solidly good and freaking great. All in all, an excellent reminder that pop may not always be profound, but it doesn’t have to be dreck.
- Random Access Memories (Daft Punk, 2013)– Daft Punk is my favorite French electronic music duo. Okay, no, but really, I’m sure there is more than one. And their 2001 album Discovery really was one of the best of that decade. They are as good as always here, and their mining herein of 70s and 80s dance music really suits their strengths. But I don’t know if the album as a whole is as good as their best. The pacing often felt weird to me- fast and slow lurches and mood shifts that didn’t seem to build on each other in any apparent way.
- Teen Dream (Beach House, 2010)– This album has the shimmery, golden, sunburn hot turning to goosebump cool feeling of the end of a late summer day at the beach. There are hints of synth, psychedelia, even some honest to goodness surf music. It unfortunately seems to have a weird problem with volume randomly shooting up and down between tracks. Other than that, the dream pop here is in very good shape, but I’m not sure it’s in “decade’s best” territory.
- Visions (Grimes, 2012)– Spare beats, light synth effects, ethereal vocals that are disorienting in their relation to the bite behind what she’s singing. While there are flashes of brilliance all over, I will say that as a whole it’s not quite as together, engaging, or substantive as later Grimes. This, of course, is partially my problem for having that as a reference point. It certainly must have been a breath of fresh air at the time. So, I don’t know about best of the decade, but one of the most interesting and promising debuts of the decade? Probably yes!
Which leaves 34 of 52 albums that the critics and I agree are among the best of the decade:
1989 (Taylor Swift, 2014)– It is obviously disingenuous in some wise to say I missed this, because it’s Taylor Swift, and if you didn’t hear “Shake It Off” and some of the other singles from this album in the last decade, you probably weren’t in the last decade. Importantly for an album, the non-hit singles here are as compelling and well-done as the hits. Look, I’m a rock guy, I’m a genre classics and alternative guy, I’m a history/deep cuts guy. But there’s nothing wrong with good pop music, and this is pop music at its finest.
A Seat at the Table (Solange, 2016)– Solange, reportedly, is not fond of being compared to older sister Beyonce. If you’ve found yourself on either side of that sibling comparison game, this is probably understandable to you. As it happens, she’s earned independent review, because, at least based on what I hear here, she’s a force in her own right. This album is soulful, weary, and wise from the first note. It mixes the personal and the social, and there’s genuine vulnerability throughout. And, while keeping a general smooth low-tempo R&B vibe, it takes musical and vocal chances that are lovely. If you want to play a comparison game, this honestly reminds me of Prince in its complexity and quality.
Acid Rap (Chance the Rapper, 2013)– Rich, fun, and dynamic from the get-go with “Good Ass Intro” (which is), and it doesn’t let up from there. Musically, it makes excellent use of an amalgam of Soul, Funk, R&B, and Jazz backgrounds. The lyrics are also so well done, simultaneously clever, informed by pop culture references, and meaningful. The vocals meanwhile cycle through multiple modes- staccato rapid flow, straight-up singing, spoken word. Altogether, it’s a kaleidoscope of moods and modes that sounds like its title. It’s easy to see why this ended up on so many lists!
AM (Arctic Monkeys, 2013)– This starts off with a solid beat and vaguely sinister guitar, which is a good way to get me on board. Then come the vocals and lyrics, which also have a dark and slightly sleazy feeling. The songs display an excellent feel for the interplay between music and vocals, how each should move around the other for maximum impact. Even in the second half, when it sometimes slips into softer croonier and more “high concept” tracks, every song fires on all cylinders. This is sophisticated dirty rock the way sophisticated dirty rock is supposed to be done!
Art Angels (Grimes, 2015)– The ethereal disembodied first track almost sent me away, but then the variability and verve of the subsequent efforts brought me back. Quirky music, quirky vocals, very upbeat. She knows pop music, and then keeps ‘effin with it with dissonant choices. If this was the average level pop music was landing at, it would be a grand thing!
Beyonce (Beyonce, 2013)– From the first track, which wrestles with body image and social pressure, this is a pop album in service of a higher purpose. Whether tackling social issues, personal biography, or emotional confession, track after track aims for import. In lesser hands, this could be an unwieldy exercise. But given skill and vision, it can be pulled off, and is amazing when it works (cf. Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation). Beyonce’s hands are not lesser- between mastery of the musical idioms of soul and R&B, by turns soaring and subtle vocals, rich production, and incisive lyrics, she delivers.
Blackstar (David Bowie, 2016)– As a David Bowie fan, I had been curious about his final album. The opening/title song is mesmerizing and self-valedictory, in the course of 10 minutes, it tries out styles from throughout his long career. Subsequent tracks stick more to a unified musical theme, with healthy portions of dissonant art rock and electronic beats. Vocally and musically the tracks are unsettling in the way many a Bowie song can be unsettling, and then on top of that there is an obvious concern with history, legacy, and mortality throughout. It’s a powerful thing to do with a record and makes for a fitting swan song.
Blonde (Frank Ocean, 2016)– The first track sound like an autotuned chipmunk ,but real vocals kicked in midway. With that, and the many unusual and interesting choices it makes for R&B, it grew on me. The arrangement and production was really, really good. Except for the occasional dip back into autotuned chipmunk. But this is a fun and unusual sounding album. I can see why it ended up on so many lists!
Brothers (The Black Keys, 2010)– Remember Rock? Remember when you first heard it? Really heard it? The further one gets into this century, the harder it is to remember what that felt like. The Black Keys, like the White Stripes (lots of bad blood there, don’t tell them I compared them), remember. This album, like their music in general, taps into that threshold where blues crosses over and becomes rock. And in the process takes me back to why I loved rock in the first place.
Burn Your Fire For No Witness (Angel Olsen, 2014)– I liked the intro with its richly textured acoustic guitar, and her beautifully dolorous voice. Then the second track kicked into a 90s rocker girl mode, and uh, I was done for. Her vocals are very interesting, with smart and nervy lyrics, and the music knows its way around rock history. It keeps changing musical modes, but is tied together by her undeniable presence. By track three I was officially ensorcelled, and remained so until the end.
Carrie & Lowell (Sufjan Stevens, 2015)– To say this isn’t quite the tour de force that his album Illinoise was, well, that’s like saying “not quite Brothers Karamazov, but still good Dostoyevsky”. The emotional and musical texturing of the songs is rich, and the lyrics, as always, searingly earnest and personal. If there’s anything more I might ask for, it’s more moments, vocally and musically, that break out of the relatively narrow emotional palette of the album. Then again, it’s an album about sorting out the emotional aftermath of his mother’s death, so you can’t exactly fault it for that.
Celebration Rock (Japandroids, 2012)– Hey, that’s some good rock! It’s got the guitar. It’s got the backbeat. It’s got surging passionate vocals. It’s got the feedback fade after. They totally know how rock song structure works as well, and there are affecting lyrics. Without sounding absolutely the same track after track, there isn’t a track that stops rocking. God bless Canadians, I sometimes think they’re the only ones who still get it.
Channel ORANGE (Frank Ocean, 2012)– This is the second of two albums of his that made the list, and the chronologically earlier of the two (the other one being Blonde from 2016). Well done Frank! Like that album, the autotuned nature of some of the vocals here gives me pause. Also, like that album, the lyrical wit, interesting sampling and production, and varied musical approaches utterly overcomes those reservations. I can see how this got listed, especially since it came out first!
Control (SZA, 2017)– Musically sophisticated, emotionally honest, and lyrically complex R&B. Some tracks are harrowing, some sweetly vulnerable, some sarcastic, and some downright hilarious, like “Doves in The Wind” in which she (SZA is the stage name of Solána Imani Rowe) uses samples from Westerns and Kung-fu movies and a guest appearance by Kendrick Lamar to explore the obsession with pussy. On the downside, it’s got more than a bit of the “autotuned” sound that’s the bane of the decade and maybe falls a little short in overall coherence. Part of the issue may be that, as the 19th album from the list I listened to, I was by then comparing it to the very best-structured albums from the list. That’s pretty minor sour grapes considering how high quality this is, and how powerful she is.
DAMN. (Kendrick Lamar, 2017)– From the first, this made musical and lyrical choices that show something special is going on here. The dense weaving of storytelling, the unusual vocal mixing choices, the strategic deployment of music samples to set a mood, it all works. His 2012 album Good Kid, M.A.A.D City was a heck of a thing to have to live up to. Darned if this doesn’t do it!
Daytona (Pusha T, 2018)– It’s got energy and swagger, all right, and the wordplay is top notch. The music mix and sampling is crisp and sharp. The lyrics have some weight and meaning too. A little derivative (you’ll hear lots of influence of Jay-Z and Kanye West- who produced it- here) but all in all, this is a very worthy effort.
Dirty Computer (Janelle Monae, 2018)– If you make a sexy, smooth R&B/dance album, I’m on your side. If you make an album with political/social import that doesn’t get polemical, I’m on your side. If you make an album full of smart, unusual lyrical, vocal, and musical choices, I’m on your side. If you make an album with sci-fi/tech themes, I’m on your side. If you do all of these together, you are Janelle Monae, and I’m over the moon.
Good Kid, M.A.A.D City (Kendrick Lamar, 2012)– This is the album that put Kendrick Lamar on the critical map, and deservedly so. Musically and vocally, it’s full of choices that put it above the crowd of hip-hop albums. If it stopped there, that would be notable enough, but on top of it there’s actually a structured storyline running throughout, and lyrics that feel searingly honest. It’s an album that observes the toughness of what he grew up in, and shines with a desire to rise above it even as it describes the fear of it dragging him back down.
In Colour (Jamie xx, 2015)– British Dj Jamie xx delivers the kind of electronic dance music album that was maybe more common in the 90s and early 00s- strong beats, cleverly deployed samples, vocal snippets, but somehow structured in a way that makes it still work as a song along somewhat recognizable pop/rock lines. As you know if you’ve been following my three series this year, electronica is not generally my bag, but this variety of it, and how skillfully it’s done, absolutely is!
Invasion of Privacy (Cardi B, 2018)– Strong bold vocal flow? Check. Self-empowered swagger? Check. Spare, clean, sampling and production full of interesting choices? Check. Tracks that get your head bobbing, and strike a variety of moods? Check. Songs that are about something and show moments of reflection and vulnerability among the swagger? Check. Sometimes the guest stars get a little distracting, but otherwise this is pure gold.
Lemonade (Beyonce, 2016)– Her voice, of course, is never less than amazing. But that’s almost the least of the things going on here. Multilayered production, clever and varied musical choices, deeply personal lyrics that tackle the political and the private (sometimes the very private matter of marital infidelity), with equal parts biting humor, anger, and raw vulnerability. It kind of puts every other pop record of the decade on notice for their lack of ambition.
Lonerism (Tame Impala, 2012)– Some years ago, I was driving through the wilds of western New York with my wife when we heard something on the radio so weird and wonderful that we immediately had to know what it was. It turned out to be Tame Impala’s song “Elephant” from this album. I’ve listed to two later Tame Impala albums in this blog series and my 2020 review, and expected them to be amazing based on that song, but was decidedly underwhelmed. It turns out this is the album I was looking for the whole time after all. It’s a (distorted) pitch-perfect neo-psychedelic masterpiece from start to finish.
LP1 (FKA Twigs, 2014)– I must confess, I’d heard the name, but I had no idea what kind of twig an FKA twig was. So this was all pleasant surprise- the theatrical vocals, air of vulnerability, music based in dance/pop but full of experimental edge and offbeat surprises. Tahliah Debrett Barnett (FKA Twigs is her musical stage name) is an English singer-songwriter, record producer, dancer, and actress, aka she’s overflowing with talent, and all of it is on display here. It never let go of my attention the whole way through.
Melodrama (Lorde, 2017)– Lorde’s second album starts with an emotional punch and dynamic multi-layered music, generous servings of her lyrical intelligence, and strong and honest vocal presence. And it doesn’t let up from there. Her combination of power, seriousness, and ability to produce something both interesting and pleasing to listen to is truly impressive.
Modern Vampires of the City (Vampire Weekend, 2013)– Long have I heard of this Weekend of Vampires, but little did I know of what they actually sounded like. Lots of people I know have recommended this album to me, and 7 out of 10 critic’s top of the decade lists seem to agree. It gets off to a Beatlesque and unusual start, which is a nice way to catch one’s attention. From there it’s high energy, catchy, and if a little formulaic, a good execution of a great formula- hooky indie rock, 60s pop, sweetly smooth vocals, lyrical cleverness, just enough noise to make one pay attention without stopping the pop. If not quite a transcendent album for the ages (like, I’m not sure what it’s doing in Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of…ever…, for example), I can at least see why so many folks liked it.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Kanye West, 2010)– Kanye West’s debut album was one of my favorites of the 00s (if not the whole damn century so far), and his next two albums also acquitted themselves admirably. Beyond that, I hadn’t really kept up with his further musical output, beyond knowing it was somewhat more uneven, so I’ve been looking forward to checking this out. It is well worth the checking out! His vocal flow, lyrical prowess, sampling intelligence, and production skill are all in top form here. And it is, as the name would imply, a darkly textured take on himself, his ego, and the fallout of fame. Along the way it goes through so many moods and musical modes, but retains the subject focus, tying the whole thing together. All in all, a powerful album!
Norman Fucking Rockwell! (Lana Del Ray, 2019)– Godamn, man child/ You fucked me so good that I almost said, “I love you” is quite a lyrical start! And so sweetly vocally and musically delivered. And that really, it seems to me, is the secret of what she does here. Smoky sultry music, rich warm vocals. She could be delivering the sweetest most torchy album ever. And she is, but with lyrics that dazzle with their intelligence and emotional complexity and bite with their edge. It’s a potent combination, and I am totally signed off on this being one of the best things that came out last decade.
Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Courtney Barnett, 2015)– Oh my gosh, such solid rock, chord changes, intelligent lyrics that work with the music. This reminds me of the early 80s era of smart, wordy folks who knew how to work a rock song- Elvis Costello, Nick Lowe, Robyn Hitchcock, etc. But with contemporary subject matter. Not a single song fails the whole way through. And extra points for her Australian accent shinning through!
Take Care (Drake, 2011)– I was skeptical going in of the run-length, but the first track did start off very well- rich music sampling, clear vocal delivery, wit and impact, with some honest wrestling with self and success thrown in. It gets a little auto-tuned in parts, but still catchy and substantive, with more than an occasional lyrical and musically surprise that bring one above and beyond what is otherwise a smooth pop ride. I wouldn’t say it’s up there with the best from Kanye or Jay-Z, but I can get behind the critical take on this album.
The Idler Wheel (Fiona Apple, 2012)– Let’s be precise, the full title is The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. That name alone is a tour de force, and so, here, is Fiona Apple. The soars and dips of her voice, the spare but driving nature of the music, the virtuosity in the phrasing of the vocals, the intelligent bare honesty of the lyrics, all conspire to produce a powerful live-wire of an album.
The Suburbs (Arcade Fire, 2010)– The Arcade Fire is a good fire. Their album Funeral from 2004 was one of the best of that decade, and this has many of the same features that made that album so memorable- yearning vocals, damn smart lyrics that feel laden with meaning, music that knows enough about rock to powerfully move forward, but enough about indie experimentation to have depths that surprise. There’s even some structure that ties the whole thing together, but isn’t heavy enough to distract or feel gimmicky. This is kind of the gold standard for what indie rock can do- be both smart and sophisticated and a fun listen. Also maybe a testament to how easy it is to fall off that balance beam, which makes it that much more impressive when someone doesn’t.
This Is Happening (LCD Soundsystem, 2010)– Their 2005 self-titled album was one of my favorites of the 00s, so I was looking forward to checking this out. It doesn’t disappoint! Electronic dance music can be a hard sell for me, but I love their brand of it. I think the thing that makes it work is the propulsive drive, call backs to new wave, and attention to song structure, all of which make it function almost like rock. It’s also full of wit lyrically and musically, and the songs tell a story, or at least convey a strong feeling. All of this together makes it more deep and robust than electronic music often feels. LCD can bring their Soundsystem over my way anytime!
To Pimp A Butterfly (Kendrick Lamar, 2015)– This is his third album on this list, and it’s also the one with the most critic’s votes. Given how good DAMN and good kidd, m.A.D.d. City are, that’s really saying something. And you know what? It lives up to it! It’s musically virtuositic, densely sampled, full of dynamic flow, and lyrically dizzying as it wrestles with social and personal issues along the way. The middle dives deep into the later, and builds some interesting repeating motifs around it. All of what I’m describing makes it sound powerful and serious, which it is, but doesn’t get across quite how fun it is to listen to. I’m right with the critics on this!
Yeezus (Kanye West, 2013)– Ibid. everything I said a few posts ago while introing My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. In terms of the specifics of Yeezus, it kicks off with a really interesting electronica-flavored start. Then Kanye wades in with his patented swagger, lyrical density, and strong production assault. This album in general has a heavy, even menacing sound, which is well done and lends urgency to the already lyrically/vocally fraught tracks. The misogyny is thick sometimes, but is presented as part of wrestling with demons. And the ego everywhere is bursting through, but often with a looming sense of dread. Looking at it, with knowledge of his later issues, it does have the feeling of the soundtrack of a manic break in progress, but a damn well-produced one.
If you’d prefer a names-only list version for easier reference (hey, I can appreciate that) here you go:
- 1989 (Taylor Swift, 2014)
- A Seat at the Table (Solange, 2016)
- Acid Rap (Chance the Rapper, 2013)
- AM (Arctic Monkeys, 2013)
- Art Angels (Grimes, 2015)
- Beyonce (Beyonce, 2013)
- Blackstar (David Bowie, 2016)
- Blonde (Frank Ocean, 2016)
- Brothers (The Black Keys, 2010)
- Burn Your Fire For No Witness (Angel Olsen, 2014)
- Carrie & Lowell (Sufjan Stevens, 2015)
- Celebration Rock (Japandroids, 2012)
- Channel ORANGE (Frank Ocean, 2012)
- Control (SZA, 2017)
- DAMN. (Kendrick Lamar, 2017)
- Daytona (Pusha T, 2018)
- Dirty Computer (Janelle Monae, 2018)
- Good Kid, M.A.A.D City (Kendrick Lamar, 2012)
- In Colour (Jamie xx, 2015)
- Invasion of Privacy (Cardi B, 2018)
- Lemonade (Beyonce, 2016)
- Lonerism (Tame Impala, 2012)
- LP1 (FKA Twigs, 2014)
- Melodrama (Lorde, 2017)
- Modern Vampires of the City (Vampire Weekend, 2013)
- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Kanye West, 2010)
- Norman Fucking Rockwell! (Lana Del Ray, 2019)
- Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit (Courtney Barnett, 2015)
- Take Care (Drake, 2011)
- The Idler Wheel (Fiona Apple, 2012)
- The Suburbs (Arcade Fire, 2010)
- This Is Happening (LCD Soundsystem, 2010)
- To Pimp A Butterfly (Kendrick Lamar, 2015)
- Yeezus (Kanye West, 2013)
And that, my friends, is our wrap-up on this search for the best albums of the 2010s.
I know from my 2021 project that my particular tastes are rather idiosyncratic, so some of what I might like best probably isn’t even on the consensus critical list. But 34 albums that make it out of a decade really having something going on is a good place to start! I’d love to hear if you have some favorites that didn’t make the list. And, now that we’ve wrapped up the series on the 2010s and 2020, please join me for the final installments of our 2021 review!