Top Ten Albums of the Decade

Hunter Horan, Writer

With the decade behind us, now is a good time (since we all do certainly have a lot of time to ourselves now) to look back on the decade to see what music defined this period of time and how the scene of music itself changed.

To keep things diverse as possible, only one album per artist on this list, to ensure as many kinds sounds are exposed as possible. For an album to appear on such a prestigious list, it needed to be influential for its genre or music in general. These albums are envelope pushing, setting the scene for the next decade of music while delivering sounds never heard before.

Honorable Mentions:

good kid, m.A.A.d city (Kendrick Lamar) [Rap]

The Life of Pablo (Kanye West) [Experimental Rap]

Veteran (Jpegmafia) [Experimental Rap]

Joy as An Act of Resistance (Idles) [Punk Rock]

Pure Comedy (Father John Misty) [Singer/Songwriter]

TA13OO (Denzel Curry) [Rap]

You Won’t Get What You Want (Daughters) [Noise/Industrial Rock]

Saturation I-III (Brockhampton) [Pop/Rap]

Piñata (Freddie Gibbs/Madlib) [Rap]

Rodeo (Travis Scott) [Psychedelic Rap]

Atrocity Exhibition (Danny Brown) [Experimental Rap]


Top Ten Albums of the 2010s

10 Blonde (Frank Ocean) [Alternative R&B]

If any album embodied the “sad boy” vibes found during the last decade, it’s Frank Ocean’s Blonde. Here, Frank Ocean takes tropes found with typical R&B music and turns them into something more distinct and different. Songs like “Godspeed” take their time and set an infectious and serene vibe with the beautiful production. Frank Ocean’s singing is amazing and the album’s messages about expressing emotion and how we do that is something that is vitally important for this day and age.

Best Tracks: Nikes, Pink + White, Ivy, Nights, Godspeed, White Ferrari, Self Control


9 This Is Happening (LCD Soundsystem) [Dance Rock]

Dance Rock Band LCD Soundsystem delivers nine insanely catchy and infectious tracks with This Is Happening. Each song is creative and wholly unique their own way, making a very dynamic listening experience. Some of the longer songs start off with very few instruments, but end up being larger than life as they progress. This album is different for its genre, but it does not sacrifice creativity for accessibility, making it one of the grooviest albums of the decade.

Best Tracks: Dance Yrself Clean, Drunk Girls, All I Want, I Can Change, You Wanted A Hit, Pow Pow, Home


8 Charli (Charli XCX) [Pop]

Charli sets the scene for the next generation of pop with her self-titled album. The tracks here ride the line of being both experimental and forward thinking as well as being assessable for most people. This album provides the wind needed for the genre as a whole to change to shifting to a more hyper and futuristic genre. While this album is important stylistically, pretty much all of these songs still are quite great. This album sound is able to bring in people who are bored with contemporary pop as well as opens up its audience to new sounds.

Best Tracks: Next Level Charli, Gone, 1999, Click, Blame It on Your Love, White Mercedes, Silver Cross, Shake It, 2099


7 Blackstar (David Bowie) [Glam Rock, Pop]

Blackstar is the first of its kind, being a sort of “pre-postumous” album. On this album, David Bowie reflects on death, with him knowing he is at its door with him being in the later stages of cancer. Just a couple days after this album’s release, David Bowie passed away. This makes the material on the album all the more harrowing, making it feel like the listener is peaking into an experience beyond life itself. While the album can be serious and existential, there are still ballads here that are very much like those Bowie released earlier in this career, but with a modern twist added to it. This album is not only a notable listening experience, but an emotional one as well.

Best Tracks: Blackstar, Lazarus, Girl Loves Me, Dollar Days, I Can’t Give Everything Away


6 IGOR (Tyler, The Creator) [Neo Soul, Pop, Rap]

Tyler creates the best breakup and relationship album of the decade on his most recent album: IGOR. Tyler blends so many genres together on this project that it’s hard to really define it as just being one think, with him incorporating soul, pop, and rap all into one to create something wholly unique to Tyler. The entire album is a narrative about Tyler being in this love triangle and how a toxic relationship changed him into being this IGOR character. This album perfectly shows the complex feelings and motivations in relationships without becoming corny or too contemporary, providing a good listening experience to fans of pretty much every genre.



5 Kids See Ghosts (Kanye West/Kid Cudi) [Experimental/Psychedelic Rap, Psychedelic Rock]

On this album, Kanye West and Kid Cudi push each other to be their artistically best as well as push the boundaries of the genre of rap. While this album is only seven tracks at around 23 minutes, it still packs a mighty punch and still feels incredibly substantial for an album this short. Kanye is the most lyrical and on-point since the early 2000s and Kid Cudi’s vocals have never been so consistently amazing. This album is incredibly forward thinking with its production, with songs like Feel the Love being incredibly psychedelic and explosive and tracks like Freeee feeling pretty mind-altering. The ideas on this album are incredibly ambitious too, with the duo contemplating existential freedom on the song Freee and delving into the cycles of violence on Cudi Montage. Fans of rock and rap can find common ground on this groundbreaking piece of music

Best Tracks: Feel the Love, Fire, 4th Dimension, Freeee (Ghost Town Pt.2), Reborn, Kids See Ghosts, Cudi Montage


4 Helplessness Blues (Fleet Foxes) [Folk]

This is not just a simple folk album about life in the country, Fleet Foxes on Helplessness Blues are contemplating the loneliness and call to something greater found in recent generations. This album is so pure and full of life and love that it is awe inspiring. Rather than singing about relationships in the most basic and contemporary way possible, Fleet Foxes talk about genuinely wanting to know the other person and just how much they give to them. The band does not dwell on unrealistic lifestyles, but sings about the glory of the humble life on farms or in small grocery stores and how even with these occupations people can have life and worth with their work. The beauty found with this album’s messages are also found in its sound, with the whole piece feeling like a spiritual experience. This album is very important for younger generations who may be uncertain about their place in this world or their futures.

Best Tracks: Helplessness Blues, Lorelai, Bedouin Dress, Montezuma, Battery Kinzie, The Plains / Bitter Dancer, Growth Ocean, Blue Spotted Tail, The Shrine / An Argument, Someone You’d Admire


3 To Be Kind (Swans) [Experimental Rock]

To Be Kind can be described as being the soundtrack to the apocalypse, with sound being pushed to such an extent that it can be hard to describe or even comprehend. Swans make one of the most uncompromising, mind-bending, and creative rock albums of all time on To Be Kind. These songs start out simple enough with the amount of instrumentation expected for a rock album, but as these songs progress, more sounds are gradually added to increase tension until it reaches an insanely explosive climax that is so dense and noisy that the human mind cannot even contemplate it. This album goes against the quick satisfaction found with most music today, with this album focused on delivering very long and evolving tracks. The song, Bring the Sun/Toussaint L’Ouverture, is even 34 minutes long. This album is the most meditative and mind-altering piece of music from the last decade. This is definitely a challenging listening experience, but ultimately a rewarding one with it being one of the most transportive and mind altering pieces of music out there.

Best Tracks: Screen Shot, Just A Little Boy (For Chester Burnett), A Little God In My Hands, Some Things We Do, She Loves Us, Oxygen, Nathalie Neal, To Be Kind


2 The Money Store (Death Grips) [Experimental/Industrial Rap]

The 2010s marked the transition from music based in record stores to primarily being based on the internet. One of the most influential groups from the internet scene is Death Grips with their album, The Money Store, being one of the most influential albums of the decade as well as one of the most influential rap records of all time. Just like To Be Kind, The Money Store is a challenging listening experience, with first time viewers most likely hating it, thinking it is just a bunch of noise. However, after time to digest it, this sound has garnered a pretty big fanbase and has gone on to influence the likes of xxxtentacion and Ski Mask tha Slump God. There are sectors of rap today where there are people screaming their brains out over heavy beats thanks to Death Grips. While this album is initially hard to get into, it quickly becomes quite catchy and entertaining with Death Grip’s amazing production and MC Ride’s manic performance. While he does yell a lot on this album, he still has good flow on tracks like Get Got and is capable of being quite lyrical, setting the stage for this album’s themes of paranoia and dehumanization found in this internet age. If any album embodies the digital dystopia we currently find ourselves in, it’s this one.

Best Tracks: Get Got, The Fever (Aye Aye), Lost Boys, Blackjack, Hustle Bones, I’ve Seen Footage, Double Helix, System Blower, The Cage, Punk Weight, Hacker


1 To Pimp A Butterfly (Kendrick Lamar) [Rap]

To Pimp A Butterfly is one of the most important albums ever made as well as being quite possibly the greatest rap record of all time. The amount of ideas on this album is numerous, but the way they are organized is unparalleled in any album in any genre of music. The album is not just a bunch of rap tracks, but a wholistic piece and experience. At the end of most of the tracks, Kendrick recites a poem he wrote with the poem getting longer as the album progresses. The parts of the poems masterfully set up the track they’re in, add meaning to the album as a whole, and effectively create comparisons between the individual tracks. To Pimp A Butterfly is not just all ideas, the creative aspect is also there with the production being consistently gorgeous, calling back to bling era rap and jazz, making this album a kind of swan song for these older genres while looking forward to the future. Every track is great in their own way and is quite adventurous for a mainstream rap album. If I were to delve into the ideas of this album or give an example of any individual track’s genius, we’d be here all day. This album can be called “political” in a sense, but what makes it something far greater is how Kendrick relates those ideas to the human condition, with the album at its core being a complex character portrait of Kendrick as well as a contemplation of self-worth for humanity in general. To Pimp A Butterfly, all the way back in 2015, predicted much of the turmoil that has transpired in 2020 and may happen in the future. Kendrick shows that changing the future is almost impossible, but even changing just a little tiny bit of it can be infinitely valuable. This album is absolutely a masterpiece, transcending rap and music in general with it being such a groundbreaking piece of art, making it the best album of the last decade.

Best Tracks: Wesley’s Theory, For Free?, King Kunta, Institutionalized, These Walls, u, Alright, For Sale?, Momma, Hood Politics, How Much A Dollar Cost, Complexion (A Zulu Love), The Blacker the Berry, You Ain’t Gotta Lie (Momma Said), i, Mortal Man