DECADE IN REVIEW: The top 102 albums of the 2010s

At the beginning of 2019 I set three New Year’s resolutions for myself—track my calories in my phone every day, eat at least one bagel a week, and select a different year from over the past decade each month and listen to albums that were released that year. 

I somehow managed to track my calories for the first 295 days of the year until a weekend on vacation got the best of me, and while I started the year off strong with bagels, that streak ended sometime in early May when my fiancée Melissa and I bought a home and moved away from the two neighborhood bagel shops I was frequenting. 

The one resolution I did keep was the music one, and what was originally just supposed to be a way to go back and relisten to some old albums I used to know turned into a way to listen to all of the significant music released over the past decade.

Each month, I selected a year (starting with 2010 in January, 2011 in February, and so on) and downloaded an about 75-album mix of the most acclaimed and most popular releases from that year.

I listened to all of them at least once. Some I liked, some I loved and have gone back to multiple times, and some I wouldn’t care to listen to again. In hundreds of instances I was listening to an album, or a genre, or an artist that I had never tried before. 

It was fun at times, tiring at other, but my New Year’s resolution was a success and a highly rewarding project. By the end of 2019, I had listened to and scored 684 albums that were released in the 2010s. 

This list is the culmination of hours of listening and organizing, and it highlights my 102 favorite albums of the decade. Why 102? Because that’s how many 4-star or better ratings I awarded, which signifies a great album in mind. 

In total, I awarded 7 albums a 5 stars rating (signifying an almost perfect album); 28 albums 4.5 stars, 67 albums 4 stars, 101 albums 3.5s, and 202 albums 3s. I consider every album that’s a 3 or higher at least a good album.

I awarded 173 albums 2.5 stars, which is reserved for average albums—nothing special, but nothing too bad about them either. And finally, I gave 106 albums a score of 2 or worse, representing albums that are below average or just flat out bad.

Listening to music, talking about it and sharing it with others is my favorite thing to do in the world. Whether you’re just scrolling through the list, skimming it for your favorite artists, or actually reading the reviews, I thank you. I appreciate you taking the time to look through, and I’m so happy to finally be sharing this with all of you

Here are my top 102 albums of the 2010s.

1. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West

YearStarsScoreGenre
2010599Hip-Hop

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is one of those albums that, when you throw it on, it’s impossible not to sing along to the entire way through. From the Nicki Minaj introductory monologue and Kanye’s masterful opening verse, to the Bon Iver sample leading into the album’s energetic closer, MBDTF is 68 minutes of hip-hop perfection. The album’s full of memorable lines, funny moments, and catchy hooks, not just from Ye, but the all-star cast of characters—Rick Ross, Pusha T, Jay Z, Rihanna, John Legend, Justin Vernon—all performing at their highest levels. When this album was release in 2010, to that point it was the most well-crafted hip hop album I’d ever listened to, specifically the production. Every track twists and turns in beautiful ways that you usually wouldn’t expect from a hip-hop beat, with the vocals mixed in as another layer. Hip hop has come a long way since 2010, and Kanye West as both a person and an artist isn’t at all what he was at his peak, but regardless of what you think of Kanye nowadays, there’s no denying Dark Twisted Fantasy’s glory.

2. The Suburbs – Arcade Fire

YearStarsScoreGenre
2010599RockIndie

One of my favorite albums to listen to during long car rides, The Suburbs is a wonderful album filled with themes of innocence, nostalgia, dread and optimism. It’s an album that, because every song is so good, it’s really hard to pick out your favorites. For fans, the title track is iconic, while “Sprawls II” is probably the most acclaimed, but every song serves its own purpose, really stands out and sounds different from the others, and still, everything comes together perfectly.

3. good kid, m.a.a.d city – Kendrick Lamar

YearStarsScoreGenre
2012598Hip-Hop

good kid, m.A.A.d city has always been my favorite Kendrick Lamar album. To Pimp A Butterfly is probably more culturally important due to the subject matter, but song to song and on an enjoyment level, good kid, m.A.A.d city is a better listen. Kendrick’s storytelling throughout is right up there with any other hip hop album you can find, and at the time it was something fresh. Back in 2012, the list of quality, non-commercialized or poppy hip-hop artist was slim. Kendrick has since really elevated the genre, to where we almost expect an album to sound more like a story instead of a playlist of random songs and beats that could show up on radio. good kid, m.A.A.d city is a story, and one that’s memorable and impactful.

4. …Like Clockwork- Queens of the Stone Age

YearStarsScoreGenre
2013597AlternativeRock

The best pure rock album of the decade, and far better than anything else Queens of the Stone Age has made throughout their careers. …Like Clockwork’s ballads are slow and beautiful, and the loud songs ruckus and energetic, which is exactly what you want. Even the slightly weaker tracks—like “I Sat By The Ocean” and “Vampire of Time and Memory”—have undertones that follow through with the rest of the album really well. “If I Had A Tail,” “My God Is The Sun,” and “I Appear Missing” really “slap” as the kids would say.

5. American Dream- LCD Soundsystem

YearStarsScoreGenre
2017596AlternativeDance

Of all four of LCD Soundsystem’s album, American Dream most embraces the band’s rock and roll side, which is probably why it’s my favorite. Like the other albums in their catalogue, American Dream has plenty of highlights, but LCD Soundsystem’s earlier record each have a few songs that are a cut below the rest. I’m not sure there’s a clear weak point on American Dream, while the title track, “call the police,” “emotional haircut,” “where do you sleep?” “tonight” and “oh baby” are all up there with the band’s best, dancy anthems. Start to finish, I think it’s their most complete work.

6. Blonde- Frank Ocean

YearStarsScoreGenre
2016596Hip-hopR&B

Dull moments are few and far between on Blonde, Frank Ocean’s second masterpiece in four years. The production is refined, the lyrics are creative and personal and the album flows seamlessly from start to finish. Some tracks, like “Nights,” “Nikes” and “Seigfried,” are ambitious in their scale and production, while others —”Solo,” “Self Control”—are ambitious in their level of intimacy.

7. Modern Vampires of the City – Vampire Weekend

YearStarsScoreGenre
2013595Alternative

Every once in a while a good band puts it all together at once. Vampire Weekend’s first two albums were fine, and each had a handful of standout tracks that carried them. But the band reached an entirely new level in 2013, making a record with little fault that rounds up all the best elements of their beachy, upbeat, baroque, indie rock style. Modern Vampires of the City doesn’t have any throwaway songs, and the top songs on the album—”Hannah Hunt,” “Diane Young” and “Oblivious Bicycle”—are probably the three best tracks across the band’s now 13-year catalogue.

8. Masseduction – St. Vincent

YearStarsScoreGenre
20174.594AlternativePop

St. Vincent is one of the coolest rockers out there, but in 2017 she released one of the best “pop” albums of the decade. Masseduction mixes beauty, humor, sorrow, intelligence and sex appeal all in one. The album is still riddled with alternative rock elements, but it’s St. Vincent’s most commercial sounding and her most theatrical in the best way possible. “New York,” “Happy Birthday, Johnny” and “Slow Disco” are beautiful, slow, personal piano ballads, while tracks “Pills” and “Sugar Boy” are almost the opposite—loud, electronic, exciting and witty.

9. Total Life Forever – Foals

YearStarsScoreGenre
20104.593Alternative

Earlier on in their careers, Foals was great at building their songs. They would so many add layers of percussive, echoing guitar, synths and drum work that you could really get lost in the sounds being created.  From “Blue Blood,” to “Afterglow,” to “Spanish Sahara” to “Black Gold,” the songs take you places you don’t expect, and when you’re at the end and the song’s have fully built to their climax, you can’t even remember how the song started but you know you love how it came together. If it weren’t for “Alabaster” and “Miami” (which aren’t even bad songs but are clear weak spots), Total Life Forever would be a 5 stars album, because I like all the other songs so much.

10. Carrie & Lowell – Sufjan Stevens

YearStarsScoreGenre
20154.593Alternative

Probably the saddest and one of the most personally reflective albums on the list, Carrie & Lowell features Sufjan haunting voice whispering about his past over beautiful arrangements of acoustic guitar, piano and distant synths. While other Sufjan albums may be more ambitions and grand in their construction, the simplicity of Carrie & Lowell is what makes it his most impactful.

11. To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar

YearStarsScoreGenre
20154.592Hip-Hop

From the opening notes of To Pimp A Butterfly to the 2Pac outro, there are some many things that show Kendrick was trying to create a kind of album that had never been made before. The production fuses elements of modern and old-school hip-hop with jazz, funk and rock, while the sounds and lyrical themes throughout move together almost flawlessly from song to song. Kendrick’s lyrics are some of the most socially honest and poignant of any commercial hip-hop album, and while I’m partial to good kid, m.A.A.d city, on To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick’s biggest asset is his confidence. Kendrick knows exactly what he was doing, what he wants his album to be, and executes without holding back.

12. channel ORANGE – Frank Ocean

YearStarsScoreGenre
20124.591Hip-HopR&B

Back when Odd Future was still coming up and Tyler The Creator was attracting attention for both his creativity and his harsh lyrics, Frank Ocean released the group’s least offensive and best album up to that point (and arguably ever depending on if you prefer channel ORANGE to Blonde). channel ORANGE is filled with tracks that sound smooth but are filled with emotion, and lyrics that are simple but highly visual in their imagery.

13. Teen Dream – Beach House

YearStarsScoreGenre
20104.591AlternativeDream Pop

Beach House is one of the most consistent bands of the decade, and the duo kicked it off in 2010 with a highly consistent album. Every track on Teen Dream fits together well and brings Beach House’s signature brand of dream pop—featuring hypnotic guitar and keyboard melodies, and soaring choruses. 

14. A Deeper Understanding – The War On Drugs

YearStarsScoreGenre
20174.591Rock

If you don’t like The War On Drugs, chances are you won’t like A Deeper Understanding, where the band’s signature guitar work, slow builds and distinct vocals are on full display. There isn’t a bad song on here, and the balance of fast, slow, loud and soft is really strong. But the best part of the album is that it shows how the band had matured—stronger choruses, wider soundscapes and a handful of intimate moments.

15. Teens of Denial – Car Seat Headrest

YearStarsScoreGenre
20164.591AlternativeRock

For my money, Teens of Denial is the quintessential indie rock album of the decade, with Car Seat Headrest serving as a more upbeat and hard-rocking version of the early-days Strokes. There are so many hits, so much youthful energy and a refreshing amount of pure rock. Although the album’s a little too long, you’d be hard pressed to find a more exciting opening three tracks to an album than “Fill in the Blank,” “Vincent” and “Destroyed By Hippie Powers.”

16. Double Negative – Low

YearStarsScoreGenre
20184.590Alternative

Double Negative is this decade’s Kid A, not in importance or influence but in its bleak tone and sparse sound. Not every song is individually compelling, but as a whole, Low creates a sprawling world of dark echos, icy ambient noises, soft guitars and almost heavenly vocals.

17. Slowdive – Slowdive

YearStarsScoreGenre
20174.590AlternativeShoegaze

You’ve gotta love it when a band makes their first album in 22 years and it ends up being their best. Like any good shoegaze album, Slowdive creates dense walls of sound, where the choruses tower over the verses and bridges. The album’s great fun, with a balanced mix of upbeat, fast paced tracks and slower, more personal ones.

18. Settle – Disclosure

YearStarsScoreGenre
20134.589ElectronicPop

Settle is, I think, as close to perfect as a group could get with a poppy house album. While “Latch” enjoyed commercial success over a year after the albums release due to Sam Smith’s sudden fame, the reality is there are probably 7 other tracks on the album that are similarly catchy, feature similarly skilled vocalist and are maybe even better songs overall. Every time those club synths hit and the songs start to build, I’m hooked.

19. V – The Horrors

YearStarsScoreGenre
20174.589Alternative

The Horrors fifth album may be one of the least known near the top of my list, but it’s one I’ve returned to a lot over the past three years. If you haven’t listened before, at least give the first three songs a try. “Hologram” sets the industrial tone of the album flawlessly, opening with dissonant synths over a funky bass; a distant, wailing guitar leading into the tracks abrasive, echoing chorus; followed by a killer solo a calming piano outro. “Press Enter To Exit” is a more traditional alternative track, that draws influenced from late 90s-early 2000s rock production. Then, the aptly named “Machine” returns to a more abrasive, industrial style—loud with distorted guitar builds. The rest of the album’s a little softer, and more shoegaze influenced but still with high energy and character. And to top it all off, the album’s final song is also the its best song and most surprising— dancy, synth-pop ballad that almost harkens back to The Smith’s “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out.”

20. Singularity – Jon Hopkins

YearStarsScoreGenre
20184.589ElectronicAmbiant

The first album on my list without vocals, Singularity is an ambient work that, as a whole, pants a full picture. Hopkins builds every song from soft piano or synths to driving beats and frantic computer clicks, without ever getting too out of control.

21. Soft Sounds from Another Planet – Japanese Breakfast

YearStarsScoreGenre
20174.588AlternativeDream Pop

I’ve irrationally loved this album since it came out. Soft Sounds from Another Planet is a subtle album with a lot of emotion that mixes a wide array of genres, from dream and chamber pop to electronic and indie rock. Michelle Zauner’s lyrics are simple and honest, and her voice matches the music perfectly. There isn’t anything anthemia or particularly noteworthy about the music itself, but tracks like “The Body is a Blade,” “12 Steps,” “Road Head” and “Machinist” leave a lasting impression.

22. Currents – Tame Impala

YearStarsScoreGenre
20154.588AlternativePsychedelic

By listening to Currents‘ opening track, “Let It Happen,” you learn pretty much everything you need to know about the album itself. Currents is 50 minutes of upbeat, synth-driven psychodelic rock, with some songs being fast paced dance tracks and others slow, groovy ballads. Sit back and enjoy while the album takes you away.

23. Random Access Memories – Daft Punk

YearStarsScoreGenre
20134.587ElectronicPop

I remember listening to Random Access Memories the night it came out in 2013 and being blown away. The idea that one of the most acclaimed electronic groups—in putting out one of the most anticipated electronic albums of the previous 10 years—decided to rely so heavily on real instruments instead of synths and real vocals instead of auto tune or computer loops, was a big surprise. But that they were able to do it really well was the real shock. Even if a lot of the songs—like “Touch” and “Giorgio by Moroder”—have over the top production or corny lyrics, every track reflects on people’s relationships with music and each other, creating one of the most human albums of the decade.

24. Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso

YearStarsScoreGenre
20144.587AlternativeElectronic

Sylvan Esso is a cute, feel good album in the best way possible. Songs like “Hey Mami” and “Coffee” sound childlike and have simple lyrics but are mature in meaning and really unique in structure. The entire album is built on synth beats and computerized vocal rounds, which makes the tracks sound light, airy and really interesting. The duo creates a district sound that I really enjoy.

25. Trouble Will Find Me – The National

YearStarsScoreGenre
20134.587AlternativeRock

The National have put out a lot of songs this decade and four albums, but in my mind Trouble Will Find Me is their only album that is consistent start to finish. No individual track might be a great as “Buzzblood Ohio” or as melodically beautiful as “Light Years” (although some come very close), but every song is good, and each sounds exactly like what you’d want from The National.

26. Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit – Courtney Barnett

YearStarsScoreGenre
20154.587Rock

Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit is the kind of album you remember liking, but don’t realize how much until you revisit it after some time off. Every song is good, there’s a nice mix of both fun and serious lyrics sung in Barnett’s signature deadpan delivery; some really strong guitar riffs and solos (See “Small Poppies” and “Kim’s Caravan”); and plenty of catchy melodies.

27. 22, A Million – Bon Iver

YearStarsScoreGenre
20164.586Alternative

Picking which Bon Iver album to feature on this list first was tough (so I decided to put them back to back). Ultimately, I chose  22, A Million because it’s a bit more diverse in its production and content. Go track-by-track, and each song is surprisingly unique despite Justin Vernon’s extremely distinct vocal style—from the powerful driving drums and bass on “Deathbreasts” to the piano on “God” to the acoustic guitar work on “Strafford Apts” and to the light electronics on “666”.

28. Bon Iver, Bon Iver – Bon Iver

YearStarsScoreGenre
20114.586Alternative

A folk album on its surface that has layers of production depth and creativity, Bon Iver’s second album doesn’t have a bad song on it. “Holocene” is one of the decade’s best tracks, and other like”Perth,” “Towers” and “Calgary” round the album out nicely.

29. Summertime ’06 – Vince Staples

YearStarsScoreGenre
20154.586Hip-hop

A modern hip-hop classic, the double-disk Summertime ‘06 showcases Vince Staples at his best and rawest. The album’s tone is constant throughout in big part thanks to No I.D.’s flawless production, as well as Staples’ personal storytelling and creative lines. I’m more partial to the album’s first disc, with the highlights being “Jump Off the Roof,” “Senorita” “Norf Norf” and “Summertime,” but start to finish ever song is solid and compelling.

30. 7 – Beach House

YearStarsScoreGenre
20184.586AlternativeDream pop

7 is Beach House’s most diverse album. There are a few more rock elements and upbeat tracks here than usual, a few more electronics and some varied song structures. That’s not to say that every song sounds like anything but a Beach House track (their sound is so distinct) but there’s more going on, and an overt confidence in their craft that allows them to try more things than usual.

31. A Moon Shaped Pool – Radiohead

YearStarsScoreGenre
20164.586Alternative

Radiohead did what they always do back in 2016—pivot. The band went from releasing a highly electronic and blunt tracks in 2011 to almost fully orchestral pieces on 2016’s A Moon Shaped Pool, with beautiful string arrangements and piano pieces. Thom Yorke’s constant lyrics about climate change might be a little too directly political for some, but some lines and tracks are the most personal and emotional of his career, like the studio rework of “True Love Waits.”

32. Cocoa Sugar – Young Fathers

YearStarsScoreGenre
20184.585AlternativeHip-hop

Cocoa Sugar is an album that can’t really be described using one conventional genres—songs are a mix of hip-hop and R&B vocals over electronic beats—but is highly listenable. Frantic songs like “Wow,” “Wire,” and “Toy” are panicked-sounding dance tracks with fantastic beats and telling lyrics.  “In My View” and “Lord” are tortured-sounding gospel songs, with grand instrumentals and subdued, reflective vocals. There isn’t much else like it out there.

33. We Got it From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service – A Tribe Called Quest

YearStarsScoreGenre
20164.585Hip-hop

A classic, a throwback, whatever you want to call it, We Got it From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service—A Tribe Called Quest’s surprise comeback album after the death of Phife Dawg earlier in 2016—is refreshing and a pleasure to listen to. The production on disc one sounds exactly like old-school Tribe, while disc two is more of a modern take on the genre. But the groups still sounds right at home. The only song I don’t like is the final track (it’s too repetitive for me), but the lyrics are strong and current, the production is top shelf, and the features are really well selected.

34. Magdalene – FKA Twigs

YearStarsScoreGenre
20194.585ElectronicR&B

The first 2019 entry on my list, Magdalene is a fun, cool sounding album with sometimes crazy-sounding electronic production and haunting R&B vocals. Compared to FKA Twig’s first album, she feels more in control despite the chaotic sounds. The songs are also surprisingly more digestible, with “holy terrain,” “fallen alien” and “cellophane” showing her vocal range and grasp on different genres. 

35. DiCaprio 2 – J.I.D

YearStarsScoreGenre
20184.585Hip-hop

While there isn’t one thing sound-wise that really stands out that makes DiCaprio 2 special, it showcases one of the finest young MCs out there today. J.I.D. mixes a spitfire flow with a swagger and a storytelling ability beyond his years, layered on top of pretty immaculate production. The album is super solid and tight, with every track bringing something to the table.

36. Joy as an Act of Resistance – IDLES

YearStarsScoreGenre
2018484AlternativePunk

Joy as an Act of Resistance is the album that introduced me to the current punk-rock scene, which is thriving (see Shame and Fontaines DC later on this list). IDLES has a unique style, which they introduced on Brutalism in 2017 and refined in 2018. Joy as an Act of Resistance is fun, high energy, angry and—dare I say—brilliant lyrically, with pop culture references and current political commentaries sprinkled atop the chaos.

37. Let England Shake – PJ Harvey

YearStarsScoreGenre
2011484AlternativeRock

On first listen, Let England Shake might sound a little repetitive or too mellow, but once you listen closely, there’s a lot of cool textures and things to discover in both the instrumentals and the lyrics. The production is subtly lush and intricate considering how, at its base, songs are mostly acoustic guitar with a drum behind it.

38. Lost In The Dream – The War On Drugs

YearStarsScoreGenre
2014484Rock

A solid, classic rock throwback, Lost In The Dream features 80s-style guitar effects and synths with fast-paced drums. Almost every track could have been a radio single 40 years ago, and still work well as a part of an album today.  

39. Love What Survives – Mount Kimbie

YearStarsScoreGenre
2017483AlternativeElectronic

On Love What Survives, electronic music duo Mount Kimbie mixes electronic production with indie rock elements to create an unconventional, creative and pleasant album. Every song sounds a little different—from the frantic and jazzy King Krule-featured “Blue Train Lines;” to the almost tribal and soulful “Marylyn;” and the two more ominous, electronic James Blake ballads. The album is also short, easy to listen to straight through, and different without being jaring or noisy.

40. IGOR – Tyler The Creator

YearStarsScoreGenre
2019483Hip-hop

If you showed a Tyler The Creator fan back in 2012 IGOR, the artist’s 2019 release, I’m not sure what they’d think. Comparing his recognizable music style in the early 2010s to the music he’s put together over the past 3 years has to be one of the biggest shifts for any artist this decade, but a shift that, if you track it album to album, makes sense. Since Goblin, Tyler’s albums have slowly toned down the antics. Wolf still sounds like Goblin but is more subdued. Cherry Bomb focuses more on the production and jazz than the lyrical context, while Flower Boy looks closer at emotions and further explores the sounds of soul. 2019’s IGOR is hardly a hip-hop album at all, with most tracks featuring singing, synthetically processed, high-pitched vocals, and only a handful of actual rap verses. Songs are brilliantly crafted, the lyrics have a great balance of sarcasm, purposeful corniness and authenticity, and they still, somehow, sound like something only Tyler could throw together successfully. Well done.

41. Daytona – Pusha T

YearStarsScoreGenre
2018483Hip-hop

Of all the Kanye-related albums released in 2018, Pusha-T’s was the only one that really stood out. It’s a quick, 8-track album, but all the songs (except maybe “Infrared”, which actually receives the most attention) stand on their own. Pusha-T finally released an album that truly showcased him as an elite hip-hop talent, which had only really been hinted at in bits and pieces over the past 20 years.

42. Friend of the People – Lupe Fiasco

YearStarsScoreGenre
2011483Hip-hop

In the category of “you’re probably not going to see this on any other publication’s decade lists,” I have three Lupe Fiasco works in my top 100, starting with his stellar mixtape from 2011. Mostly made up of freestyles over electronic samples, Friend of the People is Lupe at his sharpest and most fun. There’s gravity to they lyrics but also personality to his flow and how it’s all strung together. If you decide to listen to one of his albums from the 2010s— or just want to relive that weird, short-lived dubstep movements that sprouted up in the earlier part of the decade—give Friend of the People a shot.

43. Swing Lo Magellan – Dirty Projectors

YearStarsScoreGenre
2012483Alternative

Dirty Projectors is a band that’s constantly changing lineups and styles, but still makes music with a distinct sound. The band’s sixth album, Swing Lo Magellan, is my favorite. It’s easy to get through start to finish, has quirky lyrics and ideas, some pretty good guitar, and a noticeable sense of pride. The beautiful, folky and acoustic title track; the dark, harmonious lo-fi “Gun Has No Trigger;” and” Offspring Are Blank,” the album’s ruckus opener, are my favorite tracks, but each song on the album brings something a little different to the table.

44. In Colour – Jamie XX

YearStarsScoreGenre
2015482AlternativeElectronic

Part house music, part indie rock, and part some…weird, island, steelpan, electronic thing, In Colour paints a wide spectrum of textures and sounds and is far superior to any other album The XX or Jamie have put out in the past. The pure electronic elements are what make In Colour go above and beyond the band’s other works, while the indie elements and sad vocals make it stand out above other similar electronic releases. The album’s two best tracks are the loud, heavy opener “Gosh” and the albums lone hip-hop track, “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times),” featuring Young Thug and Popcaan.

45. Run The Jewels 3 – Run The Jewels

YearStarsScoreGenre
2016482Hip-hop

Rap duo Run The Jewels have released three consecutive high-level rap albums since they formed in 2013, each with their highlights.  All three in the trilogy are immaculately produced by El-P, are funny and are smart. And while all three RTJ albums make my top 100 list, I think RTJ3 is their most complete work. It’s for sure their most serious, and at times is blatantly political, but it’s also Run The Jewels at their most confident. With two other records behind them, RTJ has perfected their unique song-making formula.

46. Kaputt – Destroyer

YearStarsScoreGenre
2011482Alternative

I decided to look up Kaputt’s genre in Wikipedia before writing this review, and they’re all extremely appropriate and accurately descriptive—soft rock, smooth jazz, electropop, and “sophisti-pop.” I’ve never heard of sophisti-pop before (I’m guessing it’s short for sophisticated), but it’s honestly a perfect way to describe the album. The instrumentals are gentle and warm, featuring soft, natural sounds and computer chirps, light synths, distant saxophones and horns, acoustic guitar and piano. Even the way Destroyer frontman  Dan Bejar sings is soothing, regardless of if he’s talking about wasting your days and chasing cocaine all night—like on the album’s stellar title track—or not. Kaputt is a beautiful composition that runs start to finish for 50 minutes without a hiccup. 

47. Innerspeaker – Tame Impala

YearStarsScoreGenre
2010482Rock

I feel like Tame Impala fandom is pretty split on how they would rank the band’s three albums. While Currents is my favorite, I think I actually prefer their debut album Innerspeaker a little more than Lonerism, although it’s a really close call.  Innerspeaker is probably the band’s most straight forward album, and while Tame Impala clearly matures on their next two releases, the raw, gritty, garage band sound of Innerspeaker draws me in. Almost every song is fast, has some guitar soloing, and has elements that hark back to classic, psychedelic rock of the late 60s and early 70s.

48. My Love is Cool – Wolf Alice

YearStarsScoreGenre
2015482AlternativeRock

My Love Is Cool is…cool. Wolf Alice does a great job of getting soft guitar and ambient effects sprinkled across an album that’s, ultimately, made up of pretty heavy shoegaze and grunge rock tracks. There’s a lot of loud, 90s-styled fuzzy guitars and bass riffs, and vocalist Ellie Rowsell does a fair amount of screaming, even though she can really sing when she wants to. “Lisbon,” “Giant Peach,” “You’re a Germ” and “Moaning Lisa Smile” are throwback rockers, while “Bros” and “Freazy” are more modern sounding indie tracks, all of which work really well together.

49. ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ – Joey Bada$$

YearStarsScoreGenre
2017481Hip-hop

All AmerikKKan Bada$$ just slightly edges out DAMN as what I think is the best Hip-hop album of 2017. Joey Bada$$ raps political versed without it being a highly political album. It has commercial elements without sounding watered down. It has some good, fun and serious features, and is really consistent beginning to end.

50. DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar

YearStarsScoreGenre
2017481Hip-hop

DAMN is a flex by Kendrick. After dropping two of the most important hip-hop records of the last 20 years, he decides to make a commercial, radio rap album using commercial producers and commercial features like Rihanna and U2, just because he can. And it’s great. DAMN doesn’t have the same depth or creativity that good kid or Butterfly have, but it has an element of fun that the other two do not. And there is still a lot to digest lyrically about current politics and the rap game overall.

51. Lonerism – Tame Impala

YearStarsScoreGenre
2012481AlternativeRock

Like I said in my Innerspeaker review, it’s a really close call for me between Tame Impala’s first two albums. Ultimately, what it comes down to is that there are a few songs on Lonerism that I feel are a bit redundant and kind of mesh together in an unmemorable way. That probably sounds harsher than I mean it to, because I do like every song on the album except for the first and last tracks. The combination of the guitars and synths on “Endors Toi” and “Apocalypse Dreams” is exhilarating to listen to; “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” is a lazy song with a great vibe; “Elephant” is a fun, blues rock track; and the keyboard on “Nothing That Has Happened…” is really hypnotic. I’ve always wished it was the last track on the album.

52. A Seat at the Table – Solange

YearStarsScoreGenre
2016481R&BHip-hop

A Seat at the Table is absolutely an album that is more about the whole work than the individual songs, and it takes a few tries to fully appreciate. It’s a little long, but every song is solid, and the interludes and overall production help connect themes together for a cohesive album. “Crains in the Sky” is the clear star of the album, but the Q-Tip-produced “Borderline” also stands out, as does “Mad,” which includes the best Lil Wayne verse of the second half of the decade.

53. Ctrl. – SZA

YearStarsScoreGenre
2017481R&BHip-hop

Ctrl. is close to the perfect version of an R&B album that’s both highly creative and extremely accessible for a pop audience. There’s great production throughout with subtle synths, guitars and strings, and a balanced mix of ballads, upbeat pop songs and R&B radio singles. SZA also puts together a nice amount of relevant feature artist without having them suffocate the album. Plus, she adds really good lyrical and vocal performances with memorable hooks that are sometimes funny, sometimes sad and always smart.

54. ROYALTY – Childish Gambino

YearStarsScoreGenre
2012481Hip-hop

Gambino’s a lot bigger name now than people could have ever guessed back in 2012, but for my money ROYALTY his best work (outside of Atlanta seasons one and two on FX, anyway). If it wasn’t a mixtape and he was as big then as he is now, there are a lot of tracks on here that I think would be a lot more known. ROYALTY is a classic hip-hop record, with a mix of original beats and cleverly-selected samples, but the highlight is the cast of collaborators Gambino put together. Excluding the legends on the album—Bun B, RZA, Ghostface, Nipsey Hussle and Beck—ROYALTY features ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Danny Brown, Chance the Rapper, Kilo Kish and even Danielle Haim, all of which were pretty unknown artists back in 2012 who went on to have solid careers as musicians with some pretty important contributions of their own throughout the decade.

55. St. Vincent – St. Vincent

YearStarsScoreGenre
2014481AlterntiveRock

St. Vincent’s self titled fourth album is the rocker at the peak of her powers and a culmination of all her previous works. Start to finish, the album runs almost like a greatest hits catalogue, a parade of high-quality alternative tracks, although there isn’t one, giant standout track. While I prefer 2017’s Masseduction (I think that album’s top tracks are stronger than the best here), St. Vincent is for sure a career milestone and her first fully fleshed out work.

56. Songs of Praise – Shame

YearStarsScoreGenre
2018481AlternativePunk

Songs of Praise is a top-level punk album that’s easy to listen to and has a nice balance of upbeat drums, shouting, and clean guitar riffs. “One Rizla,” “Friction,” “Concrete” and “Angie” are the highlights, but almost every song delivers.

57. Blank Face LP –  ScHoolboy Q

YearStarsScoreGenre
2016481Hip-hop

It’s hard to describe what makes Blank Face LP so noteworthy. There isn’t any one thing that it does that’s particularly original, but the whole package takes the best parts of standard gangster rap and double downs on them. The beats are hard and dense, the lyrics are typical thematically but strong and the features are top notch (and include probably the last good, funny Kanye West verse). It’s a bit long for my liking and could maybe use to lose a couple songs, but  Blank Face LP is ScHoolboy Q’s finest work and as solid as rap albums come now days.

58. Benji – Sun Kil Moon

YearStarsScoreGenre
2014480AlternativeFolk

On Benji, Sun Kil Moon is reflective about his past in the same vein as Sufjan Stevens is on Carrie and Lowell one year later. Sun Kil Moon is a bit more direct with his lyrics, and musically the album is pretty simple, acoustic guitar driven storytelling, but the songs are highly descriptive and compelling.

59. Dirty Projectors – Dirty Projectors

YearStarsScoreGenre
2017480AlternativePop

The Dirty Projectors self-titled album is more of a solo album by band leader David Longstreth than the band’s typical highly collaborative works, and more of an art pop and R&B album than an indie rock one. The album’s different, but comes together really nicely. To make up for the lack of typical collaborators, Longstreth more heavily than ever embellished his own voice, utilizing some autotune, boy band-esque layering and falsettos, and different hip-hop-like flows on various songs (as well as recruiting some outside help). The production mixes pianos, horns, strings, midi synths and computerized tribal percussions, making each song sound different, and a little disjointed. Not every track works, but the highlights—”Cool Your Heart,” “Keep Your Name,” “Up in Hudson,” and “Little Bubble”—make the entire album very much worth a listen. 

60. Let Them Eat Chaos – Kate Tempest

YearStarsScoreGenre
2016480Hip-hopElectronic

If you’ve ever listened to Kate Tempest, Let Them Eat Chaos is exactly what you would expect—spoken word political poetry mixed with an occasional British hip-hop flow over highly-electronic beats. Let Them Eat Chaos is a narrative concept album that tells the individual stories of random strangers, connected by proximity during an unexpected storm at 4:18 a.m. Her poetry focuses on politics, the economy, internet culture and climate change, and how people are ignorant to the threats around them until they’re affected. The overall story is maybe a bit of a stretch for some, but the songs connect very well, and it’s an album that clearly builds as it goes, culminating in the aptly named closing track “Tunnel Vision.” It is a unique hip-hop experience for sure.

61. Melodrama – Lorde

YearStarsScoreGenre
2017480Pop

I really like both of the albums Lorde has out to date. While I think 2013’s Pure Heroine has the better top songs, Melodrama works better as an album. Lorde’s sound has matured—the songs have more layers musically, lyrically and in her vocal stylings.

62. FM! – Vince Staples

YearStarsScoreGenre
2018480Hip-hop

FM! is short, upbeat, catchy and really easy to listen to. There isn’t anything particularly groundbreaking here, but Vince Staples put together a fun, quick, digestible summertime rap album that I’ve gone back and listened to at least a dozen times over the past year.

63. Goblin – Tyler The Creator 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2011480Hip-hop

If I’m remembering right, when Goblin came out while I was in college, I gave it 4.5 or 5 stars because it was such a departure from the prominent hip-hop music being made at the time, and the creativity in Tyler’s work really shone through his antics. Goblin doesn’t age well in the same way that, when you go back to listen to Eminem from the late 90s and early 2000s, you may like the music but you cringe quite a bit with some key lyrics or concepts. Goblin was very shocking in an intentionally over the top, comically offensive and partly satirical way, but whether or not you choose to listen closely to the lyrics or take them seriously, Tyler’s production is the real star here. He’s matured A LOT since 2012, as have his skills as a songwriter and composer, but regardless of how different 2019 Tyler is from early 2010s Tyler, Goblin is where it all started, and still packs a punch when you throw it on.

64. Twin Fantasy – Car Seat Headrest

YearStarsScoreGenre
2018480AlternativeRock

The 2018 re-release of 2011’s Twin Fantasy isn’t perfectly crafted, but the seven-track run from “Beach Life-In-Death,” to “High To Death” on Twin Fantasy—which includes “Bodies,” my favorite song of 2018—is one of the most lyrically and musically exhilarating album sections this decade. For indie rock, the songs are ambitiously long and layered, with authentically relatable lyrics that are catchy and smart. Some moments are sad, reflective and soft, while others loud and energetic. It’s really a wonderful mix of emotions and sounds.

65. Tetsuo & Youth – Lupe Fiasco

YearStarsScoreGenre
2015480Hip-hop

Back in 2015 I really didn’t think Lupe Fiasco would put out another album I liked. It had been four years since he released his mixtape Friend of the People. Other than that, he had released two very average, long and inspiring albums and a boring mixtape since 2010. Tetsuo & Youth  was a return to form, with lyrics that were sharper and beats that were more artistic. It’s an authentic Lupe Fiasco album, which is what I like. When he’s struggling as an artist, the music is really hard to listen to (I only needed to listen to 2017’s Drogas Lights once to know it wasn’t working), but when Lupe’s on, and he’s telling stories and crafting rhymes with triple meanings and switching his styles up to make a point, I’m usually all in. He’s a highly gifted talent that unfortunately needs the perfect situations and production to thrive in and show off—like a star wide receiver who thrives with a good QB but is unbearable when the team is struggling. Fortunately, 2015 was one of those good situations. 

67. Antisocialites – Alvvays

YearStarsScoreGenre
2017480AlternativeRock

I feel that Alvvays is one of the most undeservingly unknown bands of the past 5 years. Both of their albums to date are solid, but Antisocialites is the standout. It’s extremely consistent, with upbeat guitar riffs and choruses, and lyrics that are both emotion and cute, in a really good way.

67. 6 Feet Beneath The Moon – King Krule 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2013480Alternative

6 Feet Beneath The Moon is full of emotion, coming from a deep, raspy voice sung by an at-the-time 19 year-old, thin, ginger kid from London. It’s sparsely produced, with soft, mostly guitar and drum tracks that mix genres like folk, jazz, hip-hop and blues really well. It’s not the most energetic album by any means, but the smooth instrumentals with unique vocals create a really chill grove that just works. There are also a handful of great moments that somewhat break the mold of the rest of the album—the high-energy, jazzy “A Lizard State”, the hip-hop influenced “Neptune’s Estate” and the guitar break on “Out Getting Ribs,” that, melodically, almost teases “Dum Surfer” off Krule’s 2017 release—but still fit into the overall feeling really well.

68. Care For Me – Saba 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2018479Hip-hop

This was an album I missed entirely when it came out in 2018, but I’m glad I caught it on my relisten this year. Saba does a fabulous job of switching his flow and voice throughout the album depending on the mood of the song and the kind of story telling he’s doing. His production is jazzy and minimalistic—utilizing a lot of soft piano and spacey synths— but highly impactful. Care For Me’s opening track is probably its best, but the quick, 41 minute record has plenty others to love, like “Smile,” “Grey” and “Calligraphy.”

69. Brutalism – IDLES 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2017479AlternativePunk

For a while, I went back and forth on which of IDLES’ two albums I’d rank higher. I really enjoy the rawness and simplicity of Brutalism, but sometimes the repetitiveness of the lyrics does hold the album back a little, although the pure punk attitude keeps me interested.

70. E•MO•TION – Carly Rae Jepsen 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2015479Pop

When I was in college and “Call Me Maybe” was constantly playing on the radio, I just didn’t get why people liked Carly Rae Jepsen, and got annoyed every time I heard the song. Clearly an example of being oversaturated with a song or artist all at once, because every song she’s put out on the radio since I’ve really enjoyed. Emotion is an album that smacks you over the head with those recognizable radio hits and about eight other top-20 caliber tracks that were never singles. It’s generic, radio pop at its finest.

71. Wide Awake! – Parquet Courts 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2018479AlternativePunk

Parquet Courts’ best album is their sixth, a youthful mix of politics, humor, joy and anger. Wide Awake! is fun, quick, a little trippy and a little retro. Despite some nods to funk music and  classic pop rock, Wide Awake! is 100% a punk record, one that captures your attention the entire way through.

72. Telefone – Noname

YearStarsScoreGenre
2016479Hip-hop

While people were out celebrating Chance the Rappers’s 2016 mixtape Coloring Book for sounding happy, joyful and a bit innocent, Noname released her own 2016 mixtape that, on the surface, has similar appeal. It’s very jazzy, extremely chill with upbeat production, but—compared to the Chance release—Telefone is less commercial, while Noname’s lyrics are smarter and extremely thought provoking. The other collaborators—like theMIND and SABA, who has a verse and produces a number of the tracks—really fit in with the album’s overall feeling as well.

73. 1999 – Joey Bada$$ 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2012479Hip-hop

(Other than A Tribe Called Quest’s 2016 album, which is authentic old school hip-hop by an actual old school group) 1999 captures the styles and feel of a classic, jazzy, 90s hip-hop record better than any other this decade, and there are plenty that try to tap into that feeling. Joey’s lyrics and flow are smooth, but the star of the show is the production, with stellar beats like “Waves” and “Survival Tactics.”

74. Remind Me Tomorrow – Sharon Van Etten 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2019479AlternativePop

Remind Me Tomorrow may not be as intimate as some of Van Etten’s other albums, like 2014’s highly personal Are We There or 2011’s subtle more Tramp, but it’s probably her most accessible and upbeat, at least in terms of the instrumentation. Where Van Etten traditionally croons over guitars and pianos, Remind Me Tomorrow’s tracks include more electronics and grand builds, and is closer to an art pop record and an indie rock one.

75. Room 25 – Noname

YearStarsScoreGenre
2018479Hip-hop

Noname’s two releases are very consistent and similar to one another. Like Telefone before it, Room 25 is jazzy, smooth and brief. On it, Noname is a little more aggressive and mature, but with the same level of sophistication in her lyrics and flow. In my rankings, it was a very close between the two works (I ultimately gave the slight edge to Telefone), but what Room 25 best shows is Noname can continue to grow and expand her already wide field of vision. This album and her two 2019 singles signify that, as good as she is already, the best is yet to come.

76. Big Fish – Vince Staples 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2017478Hip-hop

What I love about Vince Staples is that on each album, he chooses beats that are different styles, and finds a way to rap over them really well. Big Fish is his most electronic album. At times, the production is loud and abrasive. At others, tracks are quieter and bass drive. But despite the sometimes inaccessible production, most of the songs are pretty brief—only five of the album’s 12 tracks top 3 minutes in length, and only one tops four minutes—making it pretty easy to digest. 

77. GREY Area – Little Simz 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2019478Hip-hop

Every track on GREY Area shows that Little Simz is a really talented MC. Simz comes off as very confident, delivering her sharp lyrics with a quick, powerful cadence. The album is extremely crisp—a breezy 35 minutes—with clean, simple production. While other British hip-hop can get tiresome or repetitive over a full album, Simz does a lot to make each song sound different and catchy.

78. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2013478Hip-hop

In 2013, at-the-time forgotten hip-hop veterans Killer Mike and EL-P joined forces to form Run The Jewels. They created an album that’s sonically different than other hip-hop album out at the time, with lyrics that are highly entertaining. They take turns rapping, each verse a perfect response to the last, with loud, almost comical, amounts of bravado in their voices. The beats reflect that same energy. Their lyrics are funny, self deprecating at times, and serious at others. But the best part of the album is that Killer Mike and EL-P genuinely sound like they’re having fun, experiencing what may be the best time of their lives.

79. 4 Your Eyez Only – J. Cole 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2016477Hip-hop

J. Cole’s put out a body of work this decade that could go up against the catalogue of almost any other MC. Every one of his albums are pretty similar, but he’s consistently growing as a musician. Each new album is more concise than the last and more complete beginning to end. 4 Your Eyez Only may not have any traditional hits or bangers, but it best displays Cole’s strengths—his storytelling and production. The songs feel meditative and are all linked tonally, with some of the most compelling instrumentals of his discography.

80. Process – Sampha 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2017477R&BElectronic

Sampha brings soulful, genuine lyrics and a soft, pure voice to the R&B world. However, what makes Process—the debut album by an artist who had been featured on dozens of tracks over the decade prior to it’s release—stand out is how Sampha’s voice mixes with the high-quality, electronic-heavy arrangements on every track. Even with the electronic clicks and synths, it feels like R&B, achieving a balance of the two you seldom find elsewhere in the genre.

81. Our Love – Caribou 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2014477Electronic

For an electronic dance album, Our Love is surprisingly low tempoed, with really lush production. In a way, it’s Caribou’s most straightforward sounding album—without any particularly foreign sound effects or song constructions—but it’s still highly creative and interesting. There’s not a bad songs here and it’s a very easy album to get through start to finish.

82. SOUND & FURY – Sturgill Simpson 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2019477AlternativeCountry

Sound and Fury is Sturgill Simpson’s least country-sounding album to date. It’s still got a bit of twang, but most of the tracks are upbeat southern rock jams, with plenty of guitar solos, 80s-style synths and keyboard, and memorable hooks. Is it as innovative as A Sailor’s Guide to Earth (ranked #103 on my decade list) or Metamodern Sounds in Country Music? Probably not. But, as its name suggests, Sound and Fury is full of energy, different noises, humor and, best of all, fun. 

83. Coloring Book – Chance the Rapper 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2016477Hip-hop

Chance the Rapper was an indie darling prior to his 2016 breakout, which started with a feature on Kanye West’s “Ultralight Beam” and continued through the release and subsequent touring for Coloring Book, his third mixtape and first widely-released record.  His feel-good brand of hip-hop that mixed gospel and dance sounds was refreshing and made for a fun and light listening experience. The majority of the songs on the album are good—singles “All We Got” and “Angels” being the biggest standouts—and there’s an all star cast of collaborators from across different genres—including Lil Wayne, Kanye, Justin Bieber, Jamila Woods, and Francis and the Lights to name a few. Coloring Book hasn’t aged as well as it should have—probably because it’s probably a little too happy and optimistic for some; Chance’s long-teased follow up record delivered a longer, watered-down, worse version of the same thing; and there have been more exciting and serious things created in hip hop since—but you can’t ignore how big of a deal it was in 2016.

84. Out in the Storm – Waxahatchee 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2017477AlternativeRock

On Out In The Storm, Waxahatchee brings everything you could want in a power pop, rock album—upbeat, happy sounding choruses; soulful ballads; cool guitar riffs; and personable lyrics. Every song is good, the album flows nicely and is easy to get through, and there are a few strong highlights—”Never Been Wrong,” “Recite Remorse,” “Silver,” and “Hear You.” It’s not anything groundbreaking, but it’s pleasant to listen to and fun.

85. Atrocity Exhibition – Danny Brown 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2016477Hip-hop

There are a lot of words that can be used to describe Atrocity Exhibition. Paranoid. Grim. Unhinged. Funny. Vulger. Hyper. Frantic. It shouldn’t be a fun album to listen to, but it absolutely is, and a big reason is because Danny Brown sells it all perfectly. His unique, high-pitched voice and various flows really set the mood, and the unconventional production is loud and in your face to match.

86. Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves  

YearStarsScoreGenre
2018477CountryPop

As you’ve probably noticed looking at this list, I’m not a fan of most country music, but I enjoy every song on Golden Hour up until “Velvet Elvis,” and then enjoyed the last four tracks too. While “High Horse” gets most of the attention, “Wonder Woman,” “Rainbow,” “Slow Burn” and “Butterflies” are the real standouts.

87. Dogrel – FONTAINES D.C. 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2019477AlternativePunk

For a punk album, Dogrel is surprisingly even tempered. Compared to their contemporaries, FONTAINES D.C. isn’t as loud or angry as IDLES, and they aren’t as alternative rock as Shame. They sound more radio friendly and approachable (hence the mild success of “Boys in the Better Land”) but the tracks are absolutely quick, authentic punk and fun to jam to.

88. Drogas Wave – Lupe Fiasco 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2018476Hip-hop

I promise, this is the last Lupe Fiasco album on my list. After the disaster of an album 2017’s Drogas Lights was, I was blown away by the quality of the individual songs on Drogas Wave. He’s hitting on all cylinders lyrically, and the production is top notch start to finish, but the sum is not equal to all the individual parts. The sheer number of good songs is impressive, but at over an hour and a half long and 24 tracks, the album itself is bloated and impossible to consume. The high score here is because the talent and execution is there, even if it’s not digestible overall.

89. Ghosteen – Nick Cave & The Bad Seed 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2019476Alternative

This is a ranking I could end up regretting a little in a few years, because Ghosteen just came out in October. It’s part of a trilogy of really solid albums Cave has put out this decade, including Push the Sky Away in 2013 and 2016’s Skeleton Tree (which I have ranked at #113 for the decade, just outside of this list). All three are minimalistic and more ambient than melodic, focusing more on synths than traditional rock instrumentation. Of the three, I find Ghosteen is the most ambitions, most spacey, most emotional and most honest. Each song is good, with the musical and lyrical themes connecting between each track. At 68 minutes, it’s also by far the longest of the trilogy. As good as it is, my main hesitation is that due to its length I won’t listen to it much in the future.

90. Attack on Memory – Cloud Nothings 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2012476AlternativeRock

I’ll fully admit that a big reason Attack on Memory is included in my top 100 is that its second track—the nine-minute, guitar and drum solo heavy “Wasted Days”—is insanely addicting to listen to. But the remaining 24 minutes of the album are also very crisp, with a nice mix of indie, emo rock tracks that feature strong guitar riffs; lots of high hat and fast drums; and whining vocals.

91. Night Time, My Time – Sky Ferreira 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2013476PopRock

On Night Time, My Time, Sky Ferreira brings highly entertaining, high energy pop rock for 45 minutes, starting with the loud, grungy opening track, “Boys.” While none of the tracks live up to her 2012 breakout track, “Everything Is Embarrassing,” there’s plenty here that sounds like it should be living on mainstream pop or indie rock stations in the best possible way. Sky Ferreira may be a little elementary or too electro-pop sounding at times for some, but if you like catchy, upbeat pop music with a bit of a 90s rock edge to it, then this is an album for you.

92. Yeezus – Kanye West 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2013476Hip-hop

Hey, if you don’t like Yeezus because either the dumb album name; or the simultaneously over-the-top and kind of disappointing lyrics; or the untraditionally electronic hip-hop production, I get it. What I like, though, is that everything on the album sounds like it belongs. Even though Yeezus was the beginning of Kanye’s slow decline into…well…whatever it is he’s doing now, it still had catchy songs, highly compelling production and Kanye’s signature brand of humor, even if the lines are a bit less creative and more crass than the albums that came before it.

93. Patience – Mannequin Pussy 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2019476AlternativePunk

Like all three of Mannequin Pussy’s albums, Patience is very short, but the band took a huge step forward from its previous loud, disjointed, but fun 18 minute records. Patiences is a fully developed album, the songs complete thoughts and more varied in volume and tone. It’s still fast, basic punk music, but I like the majority of the song, and “Drunk 2” is one of the top tracks of 2019.

94. The Haunted Man – Bat for Lashes 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2012476PopArt Pop

On The Haunted Man, heavy art pop synths, electronic percussion and beautiful strings sit beneath Bat for Lashes’ haunting vocals, creating an album that sounds like mid-career Bjork, but that is much more easily accessible and maybe a little too on the nose at times. Still, every song uses really interesting sound effects or instruments (the dissonant autoharp on “Horses of the Sun;” the triplet synths and choral voices on “Oh Yeah;” the full string arrangement on “Winter Fields;” the military snare leading into the huge symphonic bridge on the title track, to name a few), making each track recognizable. But while many of the songs stand out, her vocals on the slow, piano driven ballad, “Laura,” are the clear superstar.

95. thank u, next – Ariana Grande 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2019476PopR&B

All I can say is that thank u, next is fun and well done. After a five year run with numerous Hot 100 hits and three solid pop albums worth of tunes, Ariana Grande put out her best full effort in 2019, and the first album that really fells like a complete work start to finish. It’s basic radio R&B/pop, but done at a high level.

96. The Colour In Anything – James Blake 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2016476AlternativeElectronic

The Colour In Anything is my favorite James Blake album, which is probably not a common opinion to hold. While some are drawn to the sparse electronic rumbles of Blake’s self titled album, the hypnotic synths of Overgrown, or the more commercialized, hip-hop styles of Assume Form, I feel that his 2016 release has the best elements of all three, as well as some more subtle classical, natural sounds. While the album is by far his longest and has a few too many tracks, I really appreciate its top songs—“Timeless,” “My Willing Heart,” “Choose Me,” “I Need a Forest Fire,” “Always” and “Put That Away and Talk To Me.”

97. Pure Heroine – Lorde 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2013475Pop

While I’ve never been the biggest fan of “Royals” or “Tennis Court,” two of Pure Heroine’s singles, I really like most of the album’s other tracks. On the album, Lorde gently walks along the line between coming off as a standard radio pop musician and an indie artist learning how to express herself. At face level, the album’s highlights—”A World Alone,” “Team”, “White Teeth Teens” and “Ribs,” one of the decade’s best pop tracks—sound somewhat like typical pop tracks, but have a feeling of authenticity that you don’t usually find on the radio.

98. Vulnicura – Bjork 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2015475AlternativeElectronic

Vulnicura is a very cool sounding album, where each song is long but a painting with orchestral flourishes, vocalizing and electronic beats. Bjork isn’t for everyone, but her creativity and artistic prowess are on full display here.

99. Reflektor – Arcade Fire 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2013475Alternative

Arcade Fire’s first three albums all had similar styles, covered similar subject matter and created similar vibes overall. Reflektor—the band’s fourth record—was a clear shift in direction. The double-album is in no way perfect—the first disc in particular has some songs like “Flashbulb Eyes,” “We Exist,” “You Already Know,” and “Joan of Arc” that just aren’t up to the standard the band set for themselves prior—and at an hour and 15 minutes total, it’s not an album you’re likely sitting through often. But disc two (at 6 songs and a little over 39 minutes) is really powerful, and, if separated from the rest of the album, represents one of the best works of music this decade. “Awful Sound,” “It’s Never Over,” “Porno” and “Afterlife” are all stellar tracks, with breathtakingly beautiful moments scattered across each. If you add back in from disc one Reflektor’s energetic opening title track, the upbeat “Normal Person,” and cut the rest of the fat, you have the workings of an album I likely would have rated between an 85-90. A lot of the time, less is more.

100. Torches – Foster the People

YearStarsScoreGenre
2011475AlternativePop

Like Foster The People’s lead single “Pumped Up Kicks,” Torches was a refreshing and fun take on commercialized indie music. The album’s singles—the aforementioned “Pumped Up Kicks,” “Don’t Stop” and “Houdini”—all had their much deserved time on the airwaves and as background music for commercials in the early 2010s, while “Helena Beats” kicks off the album in a great way, mixing the bands indie, pop and electronic roots.

101. SBTRKT – SBTRKT 

YearStarsScoreGenre
2011475ElectronicR&B

I don’t know if there’s a bad song here. SBTRKT’s self-titled debut is an easy-to-listen-to electronic album, made up mostly of dance tracks that have a slight dubstep build to them and R&B-style vocals. “Sanctuary,” “Right Thing to Do” and “Pharaohs” are subdued pop tracks that easily could have made their way to the dance floor, while slower, alternative tracks like “Hold On” and “Wildfire” are more suited for a chill college house party. With Sampha essentially acting as SBTRKT’s house vocalist on most tracks and other contributions from Jessie Ware, Little Dragon and Roses Gabor, the frequent vocals add a much needed layer to a genre that I personally feel is often too repetitive or hard to find memorable.

102. Thank Me Later – Drake

YearStarsScoreGenre
2010475Hip-hop

Despite the hundreds of tracks Drake’s either put out or been featured on over the past 10 years, there isn’t one Drake album that I really love. Take Care, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, and Nothing Was The Same are all fine albums with strong highlights, but I still think Drake’s first official studio album is his best. I still remember the hype surrounding the album before its release as Drake continued to grow in popularity, and the different names of guests being attached to the album. Nine time out of 10, an album with that much energy around it before its release is going to be a let down, but Thank Me Later delivered probably the best it could. Some of the songs and features might sound a little dated now, but the production throughout is strong, and everyone on the album—from Lil Wayne to Jeezy to T.I. to Jay Z—seemed genuinely excited to be involved with the project. There have been plenty of better hip-hop record to drop since 2010, but Thank Me Later started the decade out on the right foot, and both Drake and the genre have grown from that starting point.

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