At the same time I started doing this blog, I also started listening to full albums for the first time. From there, I realize that there was a whole slew of great songs that I wouldn’t have discovered through radio or TV. And through the years, I’ve done album reviews, which is something I hope to do more of in the future. I haven’t got the chance to listen to every album that was released this decade because there’s only so much time in a day and there’s things that I do outside of this blog, but I believe that I’ve listened to enough albums to justify a list. For this post, I decided to share with you all some of the albums released in the past decade that has been in my heavy rotation. A couple of things before we start: this list won’t be in any particular order. I’ve implemented the “one artist per entry” rule that I’ve used for all of my lists, otherwise, certain artists would take up a good chunk of the list. And this list will be rap-heavy. So let’s get started. These are some of my favorite albums of the 2010s.
To Pimp A Butterfly-Kendrick Lamar
Release Date: March 15, 2015
Best Tracks: How Much A Dollar Cost, Wesley’s Theory, The Blacker The Berry, These Walls, King Kunta
Later this month, I’m going to work on my list of favorite Kendrick Lamar songs and I can guarantee you that a good chunk of the list will have cuts from To Pimp A Butterfly. I mean, you all know how I feel about this masterpiece. It’s rap at its highest level with production that contains some stellar funk and jazz grooves on this side of Parliament and Miles Davis along with some neo-soul, capturing the many sides of black music. This soundtrack is fitting for the razor-sharp writing, which goes into the multi-faceted experiences of black America with songs like Wesley’s Theory, Institutionalized, and Alright, the latter being pretty much a rally cry for Black Lives Matter. Along with that, we also see Kendrick being more personal as he deals with his own depression on songs like u. Five years later and this album still holds up with subject matter that has become more relevant now than ever. I can’t wait for the next Kendrick album.
Dirty Computer-Janelle Monae
Release Date: April 27, 2018
Best Tracks: Crazy Classic Life, Django Jane, Make Me Feel, Dirty Computer, Americans
In a better world, Janelle Monae would have more recognition in the mainstream because she’s a talent that should not be slept on. Her catalog contains some of the dopest music you would have ever heard, from the ArchAndroid to The Electric Lady all the way down to Dirty Computer. Like the majority of her work, Dirty Computer embraces an Afrofuturistic theme expressing the experiences of being a black queer woman and what that means in the broader American picture. The production and instrumentation of this album is great, varying between the sounds of funk, pop, and hip-hop for a milkshake of clean grooves and hard-hitting bangers. In addition to showing off some great pipes, Janelle Monae can also rap her ass off, especially on tracks like Django Jane, where she shows up most rappers these days. Again, don’t sleep on Janelle Monae. Check out this album if you haven’t and go through the rest of her catalog.
Run The Jewels 2-Run The Jewels
Release Date: October 24, 2014
Best Tracks: Oh My Darling Don’t Cry, Closer Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck), Early, Blockbuster Night Pt. 1
As I’m writing this, Run The Jewels 4 is out for release and it’s fire. Perfect timing since I’m gonna talk about Run The Jewels now. I had a hard time deciding which of their albums I was gonna put on here because all of them are great in their own light and have heavy replay value for me, but I eventually settled with Run The Jewels 2. A combination of explosive production that bumps in the whip and the back-and-forth bars between Killer Mike and El-P that varies from bragging about being the best and killing the competition or commenting on social issues like police brutality. This is the perfect type of hip-hop that I want to see more of in the mainstream that can deliver bangers and more lyrical material at the same time and Run The Jewels excel at this.
Every Open Eye-CHVRCHES
Release Date: September 25, 2015
Best Tracks: Leave A Trace, Make Them Gold, High Enough To Carry You Over, Down Side Of Me
There was no shortage of synthpop records in the 2010s and one of my favorite acts doing this type of music is CHVRCHES. Their debut album The Bones Of What You Believe garnered a lot of critical acclaim when it came out. Their second album, Every Open Eye, is even better, with tighter synth grooves and textures and hooks that instantly stick to the mind. It’s also helped by Lauren Mayberry’s performances and clever nuanced writing that looks further into a relationship that just isn’t working out. Some of the best pop tunes of the entire decade are within this album and I’m loving every second of it.
Release Date: June 16, 2017
Best Tracks: Green Light, Liability, Perfect Places, Writer In The Dark, The Louvre
Like a lot of people, I also can’t wait for a new Lorde album. In 2017, she released her second studio album Melodrama, which is considered one of the best pop records of modern times, which it is. It’s another example of a sophomore album that improves upon everything from the debut. Lorde’s penmanship has been impeccable and that’s no different here as the songs on this album dive into loneliness, heartbreak, and leaving the past behind. The production is some of the best in pop music this decade, going much grander with anthemic tracks like Green Light, which is a fucking classic, and smaller piano numbers like Liability. You’ve already heard the well-deserved praise that it has gotten, so I have nothing new to add. This is one of those albums that’s damn near flawless and it deserves way more success than it has gotten. Imagine what Lorde has to offer for her third outing.
Tetsuo & Youth-Lupe Fiasco
Release Date: January 20, 2015
Best Tracks: Prisoner 1 & 2, Mural, Deliver, Dots & Lines, Blur My Hands
After Lasers and Food & Liquor II, Tetsuo & Youth is a return of form for Lupe Fiasco where he’s back to doing what he does best. He’s once again bringing more of that layered lyricism and sharp writing that was made for sites like Genius to decode. And make no mistake, there is a lot of lines with double, triple, and even quadruple meanings all sprinkled out throughout the album, especially on the nine minute-long Mural, which doesn’t even feel that long. This album also has some of the best production out of any Lupe project as they fit perfectly with every song and enhances the mood. There isn’t any obvious attempts at appealing to the mainstream outside of maybe Deliver, but even that song is dope when you look into the meaning of it. This is up there with some of Lupe’s best projects and it’s his best album since The Cool.
Random Access Memories-Daft Punk
Release Date: May 17, 2013
Best Tracks: Touch, Get Lucky, Doing It Right, Instant Crush, Motherboard
I’ve done an entire review on Random Access Memories a long time ago and my views on it haven’t changed much. It’s Daft Punk doing a tribute album to music of the late 70s and early 80s and they succeeded at making something that’s both retro and modern at the same time. This is possibly due to the disco grooves and electronica textures that brings out some great music and the best out of all the featured collaborators. There’s also a surprising amount of emotional weight in the tracks when you look into them that makes the songs connect more. It’s the perfect nighttime driving music and it comes from two guys with robot heads.
Blurryface-Twenty One Pilots
Release Date: May 17, 2015
Best Tracks: Stressed Out, Fairly Local, Tear In My Heart, Ride, Not Today
Blurryface is the album that broke Twenty One Pilots to the mainstream and it’s their best project. The music is a blend of different genres with indie, rap, and reggae influences all around for Tyler Joseph to show off his singing and rapping skills. It takes the sonic palette that was established on Vessel and both improves and adds newer elements to it along with hooks that have a more pop appeal for larger audiences. The majority of the album is about insecurities and facing them in the face of a ruthless music industry with enough nuance and good framing to make it all work. Both Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun really outdone themselves to overcome the sophomore slump and make something special.
Same Trailer Different Park-Kacey Musgraves
Release Date: March 19, 2013
Best Tracks: Follow Your Arrow, Dandelion, Merry Go Round, Silver Lining
You’re not gonna see a lot of country on this post because I don’t listen to country music that much compared to other genres, but if I had to mention any country albums that would be here, one of the choices is Kacey Musgraves’ debut album. In a time period where bro country was all over the place, Same Trailer Different Park bucked the trend and went towards a folk-flavored, neotraditional sound with some gorgeous instrumentation. Along with that is Kacey’s brilliant writing in the perspective of those from the heartland of America, but presenting a more progressive message in contrast to an industry that’s stuck in the old ways. I think this explains why Kacey has been black-balled by Music Row and Nashville radio, because she won’t play by their rules. That’s alright, though. She’s still massively successful in spite of those road blocks and I have a feeling that history will be on her side, especially if she keeps making records like this.
I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It-The 1975
Release Date: February 26, 2016
Best Tracks: The Sound, UGH!, Somebody Else, Love Me
This is one of those albums that I find myself going back to again and again. The 1975 made their mark on the world with their self-titled debut album. This is followed up three years later with their sophomore record I Like It When You Sleep…, which like some of the other albums on this list, doubled-down and improves upon what was set before. What gravitated me most towards this album is the production, which is that new wave/dream pop/R&B sound that owes a lot to the 80s. It’s just the perfect atmosphere for those late nights and it also has one of the best songs of the entire decade in The Sound. It can be a bit self-indulgent and it does run a long time, but it doesn’t stop me from enjoying the highlights of the album.
Release Date: July 27, 2018
Best Tracks: BLACK BALLOONS, SIRENS, VENGEANCE, TABOO, BLACK METAL TERRORIST
You know who deserves more mainstream attention? Denzel Curry. I believe he hits a sweet middle ground for two different audiences: those who want lyrical bars and those who want hype bangers to turn up to. Granted, it is possible to have both and Denzel is proof of that. Anyways, TAB13OO. It’s chock full of explosive, varied production that can blow out speakers, pure raw energy from Denzel Curry, and content that varies from love to social issues to even more personal subject matters along with a ton of pop culture references and memorable hooks. TA13OO has everything you would ever want in a rap album and can work for every occasion. I can’t wait to see what else Denzel Curry has to offer.
Release Date: March 3, 2010
Best Tracks: Plastic Beach, Stylo, Empire Ants, Rhinestone Eyes, Welcome To The World Of The Plastic Beach
I’m not gonna lie: I just started listening to this album a few months ago, which I’m still kicking myself for. Still, at least I listened to it and it was a good decision because Plastic Beach is amazing. The third studio album by Gorillaz, it’s a concept album looking into a world made of plastic and one’s search for authenticity and appreciation for the human emotion. The production is a gumbo of varying sounds of baroque pop and sounds from around the world that gives the sound a lot of flavor. There’s a ton of features and they all do their thing on here. I still think Demon Days is Gorillaz’s best album, but Plastic Beach is a close second.
Souled Out-Jhene Aiko
Release Date: September 9, 2014
Best Tracks: The Pressure, W.A.Y.S., To Love & Die, Spotless Mind, It’s Cool
If you look past the mainstream, you’ll find some amazing R&B records that can compete with those of the past. One of those records is Souled Out, the debut album from Jhene Aiko. The music is real lush and heavenly with a lot of dope organic grooves and more guitar-driven melodies. Jhene Aiko shines both as a vocalist making the best out of her range and as a writer as she depicts heartbreak in a complex and even spiritual matter that most breakup records don’t have, making it stand out among the bunch. If more mainstream R&B sounded like this, the genre would be in a MUCH better place overall.
Atrocity Exhibition-Danny Brown
Release Date: September 27, 2016
Best Tracks: Ain’t It Funny, Really Doe, When It Rain, Hell For It
It wasn’t easy for me to get into Danny Brown initially because of his voice. But I got over that hump and discovered some real creativity that’s worth checking out. What hooked me in was Atrocity Exhibition, which is a peak into the downward spiral of someone struggling with substance abuse and it’s loaded with hedonism, dark humor, and a plea for help underneath it all. This is matched by the off-kilter, often psychedelic production and the manic episodes of Danny Brown’s performances. Listening to this album is like watching a freeway accident that you can’t look away from. A shame that his follow-up to this isn’t as good. That’s a shame because this is some potent material right here.
Flower Boy-Tyler, The Creator
Release Date: July 21, 2017
Best Tracks: 911/Mr. Lonely, See You Again, Foreword, Garden Shed, Boredom
Previously, I wasn’t a big fan of Tyler, The Creator. I felt that his random shock-rap gimmick was tedious and made it hard for me to listen to his records. Then came Flower Boy, which signaled an artistic growth that I did not see coming and it made me respect him even more. Tyler opens up more about his anxiety, boredom, loneliness, and even his own sexuality, with the latter being interesting when you consider some of the homophobic lyrics of his past records. He’s not doing any trolling on this album, it’s him at his most sincere. The music, where Tyler produced every single song by himself, leans into more brighter neo-soul sound with a few hard-hitting tracks that knock. This album is a sign of artistic growth and I’m interested in seeing where Tyler goes after this and IGOR.
Release Date: January 8, 2016
Best Tracks: Lazarus, Blackstar, Tis A Pity She Was A Whore, I Can’t Give Everything Away
Blackstar, David Bowie’s final album, is grim in more ways you could imagine. For one, it was released two days before his untimely death. And also, the entire project is focused on his own mortality and the feeling of both not wanting to go because you want to do more and the eventual acceptance of the inevitable. That makes revisiting this album difficult considering what did happen in real life, but there is a lot to admire about the record like the experimental rock instrumentation that utilizes a lot of jazz grooves and Bowie’s somber performances that’s indicative of a man whose time on this planet are limited. It ain’t exactly an upbeat record of any measure, but it’s still an unforgettable swan song from one of music’s most ambitious acts. Long live Ziggy Stardust.
Release Date: April 23, 2016
Best Tracks: Freedom, 6 Inch, Don’t Hurt Yourself, Daddy Lessons
Beyonce has never had an album that I would consider great. Her self-titled album was just okay and I don’t really remember much of the other albums outside of the singles. She just never struck me as an album artist. That was until she released Lemonade. Beyonce took a big risk with this album and it paid off, with production that blends different genres together and writing that celebrates black culture/history and tackles infidelity from her own husband and all the emotions that come from that. This album also has some of Bey’s best singing to date. She’s never sounded this good anywhere else. I didn’t expect myself to enjoy a Beyonce album, but boy, did she stepped her game up here.
Release Date: June 30, 2017
Best Tracks: 4:44, Smile, The Story Of O.J., Kill Jay Z, Caught Their Eyes
And while we’re on the topic of Jay-Z, he released 4:44 a year after Lemonade and it’s his best album since The Black Album. One of the main reasons for that is he gets more personal here. For the majority of his career, Jay-Z has presented himself as an untouchable top dawg in the rap game. This time around, we see Jay bring himself down to human levels and admitting his flaws, apologizing for being unfaithful. Along with that, he also tackles . No I.D. handles the production for the majority of the album and he gave it a conscious, sample-heavy sound, matching the content that shows maturity. The genuine honesty of the record is what makes it stick more than the previous Jay albums.
Release Date: October 23, 2015
Best Tracks: Astoria, Wildfire, This Means War, Who Do Ya Love, Dearly Departed
And now for something from our neighbors up north, Canada’s own Marianas Trench. I was put on to this band thanks to Spectrum Pulse talking about their fourth album Astoria. It’s a grand pop rock record that lives on its Queen and The Who influences with anthemic choruses, fantastic melodies, and Josh Ramsey’s best performance to date. This entire record is composed like a movie soundtrack with orchestral interludes that act as transitions between certain tracks. It’s full of ambition and flair that’s indicative of some of the best pop records in history. Great stuff overall. Check out Marianas Trench if you haven’t.
A Sailor’s Guide To Earth-Sturgill Simpson
Release Date: April 15, 2016
Best Tracks: Welcome To Earth (Pollywog), Breakers Roar, Sea Stories, In Bloom
The final album that I’ll be talking about here comes from Sturgill Simpson, who gained his biggest success so far with A Sailor’s Guide To Earth. Musically, it doesn’t sound like your typical country record thanks to its heavy soul and rock influences, but the way the songs are composed and mixed gels together perfectly and sounds like a progression of the country music sound rather than a regression. Sturgill produced every song by himself, which is an amazing feat from such a talent. It even has one of the best Nirvana covers that can stand on its own from the original. I wish more country music could be this daring.
And those were my favorite albums of the 2010s. What are your favorites? Comment below and let me know. This will probably be the last list of this scale that I’ll ever do because it took a lot out of me and I want to focus on other things. To wrap things up, here’s a long, long list of other albums that I enjoyed from the past decade that are worth checking out.
- Run The Jewels 3-Run The Jewels
- good kid, m.A.A.d city-Kendrick Lamar
- Ventura-Anderson Paak
- Trilogy-The Weeknd
- Living Things-Linkin Park
- 2014 Forest Hills Drive-J. Cole
- Joanne-Lady Gaga
- Starboy-The Weeknd
- Bandana-Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
- E.MO.TION-Carly Rae Jepsen
- Daytona-Pusha T
- Making Mirrors-Gotye
- Traveller-Chris Stapleton
- Modern Vampires Of The City-Vampire Weekend
- Venice-Anderson Paak
- Little Dark Age-MGMT
- WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO-Billie Eilish
- Ghost Stories-Coldplay
- Art Of Doubt-Metric
- Human Performance-Parquet Courts
- Pinata-Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
- St. Vincent-St. Vincent
- How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful-Florence And The Machine
- Pure Heroine-Lorde
- Hella Personal Film Festival-Open Mike Eagle & Paul White
- Teens Of Denial-Car Seat Headrest
- Oxnard-Anderson Paak
- Near To The Wild Heart Of Life-Japandroids
- Currents-Tame Impala
- A Thousand Suns-Linkin Park
- I Love You Honeybear-Father John Misty
- The Bones Of What You Believe-CHVRCHES
- Black Panther: The Album-various artists
- Wasting Light-Foo Fighters
- Compton-Dr. Dre
- Trench-Twenty One Pilots
- Because The Internet-Childish Gambino
- Golden Hour-Kacey Musgraves
- El Camino-The Black Keys
- IGOR-Tyler, The Creator
- B4.DA.$$-Joey Bada$$
- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy-Kanye West
- A Moon Shaped Pool-Radiohead
- 4eva Is A Mighty Long Time-Big K.R.I.T.
- DAMN-Kendrick Lamar
- Blank Face LP-ScHoolboy Q
- Malibu-Anderson Paak
- Camp-Childish Gambino
- The Electric Lady-Janelle Monae
- The Nashville Sound-Jason Isbell & The 400 Unit
- The 1975-The 1975
- The Juice Vol. I & II-Emotional Oranges
- After Laughter-Paramore
- Beauty Behind The Madness-The Weeknd
- We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service-A Tribe Called Quest
- 90059-Jay Rock
- Nothing’s Real-Shura
- Run The Jewels-Run The Jewels
- Brick Body Kids Still Daydream-Open Mike Eagle
- My Head Is An Animal-Of Monsters And Men
- Mr. Misunderstood-Eric Church
- Victory Lap-Nipsey Hussle
- Phantoms-Marianas Trench
- And The Anonymous Nobody-De La Soul
- DROGAS Wave-Lupe Fiasco
- Like Clockwork-Queens Of The Stone Age
- Control System-Ab-Soul
- Section 80-Kendrick Lamar
- ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$-Joey Bada$$
- Trip-Jhene Aiko
- DiCaprio 2-J.I.D
- Pageant Material-Kacey Musgraves
- Kaleidoscope Dream-Miguel
- Dua Lipa-Dua Lipa
- Awaken, My Love-Childish Gambino
- Man On The Moon II: The Legend Of Mr. Rager-Kid Cudi
- In Colour-Jamie xx
- Dark Comedy-Open Mike Eagle
- The ArchAndroid-Janelle Monae
- Southern Family-Dave Cobb
SONG OF THE WEEK
Frequency 75-DJ Snake