Anyone who quips that there’s no good music anymore needs to open up and let it in. Music is more daring, experimental and free than ever, and the artists who fearlessly explore are often rewarded with appreciation from the music loving community. From edgy late-in-life releases like Bowie’s ‘blackstar’ to mind-expanding opuses like Kamasi Washington’s “The Epic”, there were ample stellar albums released in the 2010’s. Some of the choices on this list are here because of their artistic might or pure potency of statement from the artist. For example, whatever you think of slowthai’s “Nothing Great About Britain” as an album, or Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp A Butterfly”, it’s pretty easy to agree that both albums are quite daring artistically and deserve a lot of merit simply for how the artist is putting themselves out there.
The album’s downfall is much ado about nothing, especially with the current vinyl resurgence. New generations are appreciating the format as what it is; appreciating an artist’s complete work as it was intended.
You can keep your soundbites. I’m going to sit down and listen to another human being out for an hour or so. This quality of openness affects all areas of life. That’s why it’s a great practice to listen to albums, new albums, new expressions, as much as possible. Here are my top 50 albums of the 2010’s.
- David Bowie – Blackstar
Bowie’s ‘blackstar’ is a fearless record that cuts deep because it delves deeply into some of the darkest, most painful emotions generally considered unfashionable to explore. Some of the most beautiful works of art hover over death as their muse, and this is no exception. We reviewed the album upon it’s 2016 original release. Read here.
2. Windhand – Eternal Return, Grief’s Infernal Flower
Windhand’s last two full-length albums are equally excellent. Either could deservedly be placed here, and either would be ideal places to start for listeners not familiar with the band’s output. We’ve been following Windhand with enthusiasm for some time now. Check out Matt Bacon’s feature on the band’s rise here.
3) Kamasi Washington – The Epic, Heaven & Earth
What a brilliant musical voice Kamasi Washington is, one who transcends genre and brings something truly visionary to the table through his albums and performances. I own both “The Epic” and “Heaven & Earth” and they’re both profound releases that belong on this list. Don’t choose if you can avoid it. Buy them both.
4) NIN – Bad Witch, Add Violence, Not the Actual Events EP trilogy
Trent is entering his elder statesman period with grace and renewed vitality on the lean, mean 2019 EP trilogy, which flows perfectly as a single album. Buy them all and get to know them. Reznor even goes full Bowie with great success in “God Break Down the Door”. Out of the 3 EP’s, common consensus is that “Bad Witch” is the superior, and this is true. But they’re all great. “Bad Witch” just provides more context for the whole and allows for an incredible finish.
5) The GOASTT – Midnight Sun
It upsets me greatly that anyone would sleep on Sean Lennon….ever….but it happens. It’s amazing to see all the new fans he’s gotten with his Lennon Claypool Delerium project, also highly recommended (and on this list). The GOASTT’s “Midnight Sun” album is essential listening, though, for psych rock enthusiasts, and really, Beatles fans. The songwriting and production are both rich, detailed, and in many ways an inspired continuation of his father’s rock legacy.
6) Swans – Glowing Man
Swans have released several stunning projects this decade and several of them belong here. ‘The Seer’ was equally strong. ‘Glowing Man’, though, is as good an entry point as anywhere else if you’re looking to get into this inexplicable band.
7) Aphex Twin – Syro
This was the return many fans were hoping for from Aphex Twin, showing off what he does best while still breaking new ground.
8) The Dillinger Escape Plan – Option Paralysis
All DEP’s albums are really strong and come recommended. “Option Paralysis” perfectly summed up the band’s frantic music and message, and proved itself an album for our frustrated times.
9) Tom Waits – Bad As Me
Superb from front to back, “Bad As Me”, surprisingly, could even pass for a greatest hits record although it’s not. It’s just that the songs are lean, convincing…and that good.
10) Tom Petty – MOJO
For me this is Tom Petty’s late opus, one where it seemed like the goal was to record the Heartbreakers’ version of ‘L.A. Woman’, taking that low down, honest blues inspiration, leaning into it and running wild. It’s fantastic. One of the best rock and roll records Tom, or anyone, has put out.
11) TOOL – Fear Inoculum
Most of us are just glad they came back. The album is beautifully layered and spacious, perhaps not filled to the brim with new inspiration or experimentation, but the sincerity of the band is not lost on this fine return to form. We published a review of ‘Fear Inoculum’ here.
12) Glassjaw – Material Control
13) Future Sound of London – Environments Series
14) Faith No More – Sol Invictus
15) Russian Circles – Memorial (read our review of Russian Circles’ superb 2019 full-length here.)
16) Gucci Mane – Everybody Looking
17) Souljazz Orchestra – Solidarity
18) GRAILS – Deep Politics
19) Pinkish Black – Concept Unification
20) Scott Walker – Bish Bosch
21) Lennon Claypool Delirium – Monolith of Phobos
22) Future – Self-titled
23) Saul Williams – Martyrloserking
24) Zomby – With Love
25) Flying Lotus – You’re Dead!
26) The Budos Band – Burnt Offering
27) Federale – The Blood Flowed Like Wine
28) Deftones – Koi No Yokan
29) Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats – Mind Control
30) Elder – Reflections of a Floating World
31) Slowthai – Nothing Great About Britain
32) Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
33) Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid
34) Thom Yorke – Anima (read our review of the “Anima” vinyl)
35) Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree (read our review of Nick’s brilliant new album “Ghosteen”)
36) Ben Frost – Wasp Factory
37) Neurosis – Fires Within Fires
38) Pallbearer – Heartless
39) Katatonia – Dead End Kings
40) Iggy Pop – Post Pop Depression
41) QOTSA – Like Clockwork
42) Fuzz – self-titled debut
43) Marilyn Manson – Pale Emperor
44) Gojira – The Way of All Flesh
45) YOB – Our Raw Heart
46) Ex Eye – Ex Eye
47) Skinny Puppy – Weapon
48) Candiria – While They Were Sleeping
49) REFUSED – War Music
50) Denzel Curry – ZUU (read our “ZUU” review here)