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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.

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To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar ★★★★★

YearAlbumArtistStarsScoreGenre
2015To Pimp A ButterflyKendrick Lamar★★★★★96Hip-HopWest Coast Hip-HopJazz Rap

I remember the night To Pimp A Butterfly came out. The album’s two lead singles helped build up hype in Kendrick Lamar’s fanbase — which had slowly but steadily grew in size since 2012’s good kid, m.A.A.d city was released three years earlier — and for music critics, who hailed the rapper as one of the genre’s most creative minds after just one studio album.   

Released a little before midnight and with work in the morning, I threw the album on, but didn’t know if I would have it in me to fight through my tiredness. Should I stay up, or just go to bed and listen first thing in the morning?

Within the first minute and a half of “Wesley’s Theory,” my mind had been made up. For the next hour and 18 minutes I knew I was in for something special. 

I don’t know what exactly I expected To Pimp A Butterfly to sound like, but whatever it is that “Wesley’s Theory” is — a funky, psychedelic, jazz experiment produced by Flying Lotus, with multiple layers of soul vocals, old school, screeching West Coast synths and Thundercat’s distinctive bass slapping — was something I had never heard before on a hip-hop record. That feeling is carried throughout the record, both musically and lyrically. 

Similar to what Kanye West did for hip-hop in the mid 2000s — expanding the understanding of what hip-hop as a genre could do, with more lush, colorful production, and bringing a huge roster of collaborators together to vary the sounds, voices and personalities found song to song — Kendrick here redefines how deep, how personal, how political and how innovative a hip-hop record can truly be.  

The beats and music are sometimes through-composed, constantly shifting and morphing to match his vocals. The lyrics are smart, powerful, memorable, sometimes catchy and sometimes unexpected, and Kendrick’s various voices and inflections perfectly match his themes and the characters he forms through his stories. Elements like saxophone and clarinet solos, background conversations, brief interludes and harmonies, are continuously added to the album to keep the listener on their toes.

He achieves all of this while staying true to himself and being grounded in his roots — West Coast production flairs, snippets from hometown heroes like Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, and themes that revisit his old songs and Compton life. 

Compare almost any song on To Pimp A Butterfly with a typical hip-hop hit from 2013-14, and the chasm between the two makes Kendrick’s tracks almost feel like a different genre. But looking at some of the things artists have put out since, it’s impossible not to credit Kendrick for removing any preconceived constraints of the genre and inspiring the intricacies in storytelling and album building seen from the likes of Schoolboy Q, Vince Staples, Danny Brown, JID and others. 

That point, to me — the vast pallet Kendrick formed and made accessible to a wider audience, not only for himself, but for others — is just as impressive as any of the poignant and timely statements about racial empowerment, social justice and police brutality Kendrick makes throughout the album.

While every track on To Pimp A Butterfly is good, I do prefer listening to good kid, m.A.A.d city. Some of the weightier themes and slower moments on Butterfly drag at times, making the album feel long. And the best tracks on good kid are more fun and better to listen to on repeat, because To Pimp A Butterfly isn’t supposed to be an easy, laid back experience. 

Still, To Pimp A Butterfly is almost undoubtedly Kendrick Lamar’s most important album — the most important socially, the most important for the genre, and the most important for his own career — making it one of the five or six greatest hip-hop records of all time.

Deathconsciousness – Have a Nice Life ★★★★

YearAlbumArtistStarsScoreGenre
2008DeathconsciousnessHave a Nice Life★★★★77RockShoegazePost Punk

Deathconsciousness is an atmospheric, muddy, desperate feeling record that draws from the dark, post-punk sounds of Joy Division, the heavy, slowcore plodding of Low, the drawn-out post-rock creativity of Slint and the haunting noise-rock production of early My Bloody Valentine.

The beauty of what Have a Nice Life does here is the band uses low-fi layers of heavy distortion, droning vocals and a blended mix of buzzing that makes it difficult to hone in on the melody a lot of the time, but then offers glimpses of warmth that resolve the tension and become the focus. Just when you think there’s too much going on, a clean acoustic guitar line, or a set of strings will cut through the mix, and flip the feelings of dread or peril to peace and calm. 

Those calming elements are introduced right away on the album’s atmospheric opening track, “A Quick One Before the Eternal Worm Devours Connecticut.” On the almost eight minute instrumental work, a soft guitar arpeggiates start to finish, accompanied by swelling space synths and hypnotic, echoing chimes. It’s a lot of different noises, but is never too loud or overwhelming, showing the band almost always knows the limits of what they’re trying to accomplish. 

“Bloodhail” follows the opener, and is a slow, dark, overbearing rock track with sharp, industrial snare hits and distant Midwest Emo vocals. Harmonies of lonely vocals at the song’s climax mix with these distorted but almost childlike synths that form a very cool, calming tone to the song’s tension. 

“The Big Groom” uses more traditional shoegaze fuzz guitar layers; slow, pounding drums that come in half way; and distorted vocals. Despite the bleak, isolated sounds, it somehow doesn’t really sound sad, and the tender strings that come in later have a sobering effect that adds a lot of life and brightness. 

“Hunter” gradually builds and speeds over 9 minutes, until the second half of the song introduces quicker drums, violins and echoing vocals. The first driving, higher energy moment of the album leads well into “Telephony,” a muted but more traditional rock song. 

“Muted” is a word that I’d use to describe a lot of this album, from individual sounds like the vocals that are almost hidden in the mix, or the moments on the album that sound like they should be loud or heavier musically, but are actually played at a soft volume. 

Tracks on the album fall into two camps — slow, plodding, atmosphere-building sections like the opening handful of songs mentioned earlier, or more traditional, quick-tempoed, punk tracks that are a bit more common on the back half of the record. 

“Waiting for Black Metal Records…” is a would-be standard, upbeat, heavy punk rocker, if it weren’t for the choked vocals and low-fi, almost violent drum mix. “Holy Fucking Shit: 40,000” starts with a lonely folk guitar and builds by upbeat, alternative dance percussion and mixes it with dark, gothing guitars that sound like their bouncing off the walls of a church sanctuary, before transitioning again into an industrial-styled march. While nobody would confuse it or “Deep, Deep” as a dance track, there are elements — like the dancefloor synths in the “Deep, Deep” chorus — that do get you moving a bit, even if they clash with some of the unsettling guitar strumming. 

While this is a record that you can find things to write about and can admire, with an hour and a half runtime, mostly incomprehensible vocals, and production that intentionally uses the mix to make the listener feel uncomfortable, it’s not the most accessible listen. Deathconsciousness is probably more easily approached as an ambient, industrial electronic record — sitting through it to feel out the vibe and to discover the different layers and depths of the music — than a standard rock album. Beneath its raw, cold, low-fi surface, the band is able to create a shockingly gorgeous mix of sounds. 

Turn On the Bright Lights – Interpol ★★★½

YearAlbumAtristStarsScoreGenre
2002Turn On the Bright LightsInterpol★★★½74RockAlternative RockPost Punk Revival

It’s nice when you can pinpoint the birth — or revival — of a genre. Interpol’s debut Turn On the Bright Lights might not have technically been the first Post Punk Revival record, but it started a run by numerous indie acts that brought the genre to prominence through the late 2000. You can hear Interpol’s driving drums, rhythmic strumming and sometimes layered guitarwork in a lot of other band’s records.

However, Turn On the Bright Lights doesn’t sound quite like many of the other albums of the genre that followed it. Interpol’s songs are darker, more serious sounding — even emotionally desperate or on edge at times — than most of the upbeat, warm, somewhat poppy choruses found in works by Bloc Party, The Killers, and even the Arctic Monkeys. 

There’s a cold, melancholic atmosphere and tension that’s felt throughout the album. Paul Banks’ effective flat, sometimes monotone vocals definitely add to that feeling of desperation, and are something that give Interpol a distinct sound. Same goes for the sparse production with disonent, staccato, hypnotically repetitive riffs, and muted drum hits that make you feel lost or alone and can be found on all of their records over the next two decades. 

Interpol also draws more from 90s’ shoegaze acts than most other bands in the genre, which helps the band juxtapose the alienating, unfriendly sections with lush choruses and layered outro sections on tracks like “PDA,” Obstacle 1” and “Roland.”  Not every song has a wall of dense guitar sounds, but the few slower tracks like “Untitled,” “NYC,” and “Hands Away” have shoegaze’s unmistakable whaling guitars and sustains in the distance. Interpol themselves move farther and farther away from it over time, except on select tracks, but that element adds to this album’s depth and does make it stand out from the crowd.

Turn On the Bright Lights is by no means a perfect album. With how distinct Interpol might be, it does make their songs all sound pretty repetitive. It’s almost all one energy level, all a similar style and tempo, and lacks any sort of real warmth. That narrow focus— while creating a really consistent vibe and sound — makes the album drag, especially near the end, and does make it lack some of the variety and creativity of its imitators. And Bank’s delivery and sometimes nonsensical lyrics make it hard to grasp onto many hooks.  

But, Turn On the Bright Lights is undoubtedly a good record, and is as pioneering as a record can be that clearly draws influences from music 10 and 20 plus years before it —  from Joy Division, Television’s Marquee Moon and even the Pixies. Here, Interpol was able to shape alternative rock for years, and allowed countless other bands to build off the groundwork they laid.

The Bravery – The Bravery ★★★

YearAlbumArtistStarsscooreGenre
2005The BraveryThe Bravery★★★57RockAlternative RockPost Punk Revival

The Bravery’s self-titled debut is a boilerplate Post Punk Revival record from a band trying to break into what was the genre’s growing scene in 2005. It’s a well produced album, and the band puts everything it has into it — whaling, quick strummed guitars over fast, dancy drums, with energetic, somewhat whiny vocals and some grand, catchy choruses — making it easy to get into and enjoy.

The album starts with “Honest Mistake,” a fun, danceable breakthrough single with synths that draw a little from New Order’s “Blue Monday” and that cashes in on The Killers’ giant success one year prior on Hot Fuss. This track is not as catchy as the best of The Killers, but is clearly the standout on this record and holds its own.

That last line is kind of how most of this record feels. It’s pretty good song after pretty good song of dance punk beats with some tasteful synths and electronics thrown in here and there. It isn’t as poppy at The Killers, but it isn’t as good either. “No Brakes,” “Fearless,” “Unconditional” are all single-quality indie rock tracks with solid guitar work and energy, but I don’t think there’s anything that The Bravery does that really makes them stand out among the pack of other artists from the mid 2000s.

The garage-rock aesthetic isn’t good enough to stand up against the Arctic Monkeys or The Strokes, although “The Ring Song” feels like a Room On Fire B-side. It’s not alternative dance enough to fit in with The Rapture or LCD Soundsystem. And there isn’t anything as distinct as Franz Ferdinand’s vocals, or Bloc Party’s more layered, angular guitar work. 

The Bravery clearly fit in, but it’s always a problem when you listen through an album and are constantly thinking of the other bands that it reminds you of instead of enjoying it as something new. Overall, it is solid, and there are songs to enjoy. It just isn’t anything special.

LULU – Conway the Machine ★★★★

YearAlbumArtistStarsScoreGenre
2020LULUConway the Machine★★★★77Hip-Hop

At only 22 minutes long, Conway the Machine might technically consider LULU an EP, but it feels like a complete album, and The Alchemist’s production just transports you into Conway’s world, with HARD bass notes, menacing, dissonant synths and gritty, methodical percussion. The beats are crazy, and Conway fits right in with his snarl and sometimes sinister feeling. 

There isn’t too much modern hip-hop that actually sounds like 90s New York hardcore rap out there, and now days expecially it’s near impossible for something to authentically be an “underground” record. But Conway and the other members of Griselda feel and sound the part more than anyone else with a real following. 

The album’s art — a Great White Shark’s gaping mouth breaching the surface of the ocean, showing off its teeth —  is a perfect representation of the realness, rawness, and ferocity in the songs and lyrics. 

“Shoot Sideways,” featuring ScHoolboy Q — who fits flawlessly on the record — is my favorite track, followed by “Calvin,” where Conway’s flow is captivating, especially the chorus, “I’ve seen it a lot,” which rolls right off the tongue in a fun way. But every song has something gripping, from the loud, long, sustained synth hits on “They Got Sonny” to the theatrical strings and horns on “The Contract.” 

Griselda has put out oodles of albums since 2019, but out of the bunch from 2020, LULU is my favorite, and Conway’s solo work always impresses me more than some of Benny The Butcher and Westside Gun’s albums. 

LULU is just great with its visual storytelling and references, with stellar, cold production tying it all together beautifully.  

how i’m feeling now – Charli XCX ★★★★

YearAlbumArtistStarsScoreGenre
2020how i’m feeling nowCharli XCX★★★★84PopElectropopHyperpop

how i’m feeling now is a really good, well crafted pop album that expertly combines Charli XCX’s catchy, simple choruses, with complex production that keep you interested and coming back for more. 

It’s a work that is 100 percent a product of the environment that it was made in. Being the product of the Covid-19 pandemic, an upbeat, modern pop record that sounds fun but is intimate and grounded in the ideas of isolation is so appropriate and relatable. 

The opening four tracks bring a lot of variety and go up and down in intensity really well. “Pink Diamond’s” aggressive, glitchy sound effects energize you right away. “Forever” is a little softer but is a classic, catchy top 40s-style pop song. “Claws” is more obnoxious, nails-screeching and in-you-face, but fun as hell, before the album calms itself down again with “7 Years,” a nostalgic, electronic ballad. 

All of these elements bounce back and forth throughout the record, and although the mid section is a little less memorable, the closing quartet of songs bring similar quality and intrigue as the opening. 

“Anthems,” in particular, really caught my attention the first time I listened to the album and has been my favorite track ever since. Those loud, staccato synths are explosive and exactly what you want in a song that’s supposed to feel like you’re losing control or losing your mind while you’re bored with your everyday routine and longing for human interaction. 

I do think a few songs in the middle of the album like “Detonate,” “Enemy” and “I Finally Understand” aren’t as strong and drag a little, especially compared to the higher energy tracks at the front and back ends of the record. They aren’t bad — “Detonate” has some cute little electronic flourishes in there that make it work, and “Enemy” is good, but a more straightforward radio pop song, which in my opinion leaves it more in the B tier of tracks. 

Similarly, if you’re looking for fault, the vocabulary on the record and repetitiveness of some of the lyrics are sometimes underwhelming if you stop to think about them. Thematically, they work, but you’re reminded that you’re indeed listening to a pop record, which could be a good or bad thing depending on what you’re wanting out of the experience.

The Downward Spiral – Nine Inch Nails ★★★★½

YearAlbumArtistStarsScoreGenre
1994The Downward SpiralNine Inch Nails★★★★85RockIndustrialElectronic Rock

The Downward Spiral has so many things going for it, and really feels like a starting point for making some of the darkest parts of alternative rock and metal music from the 90s more mainstream. Yes, Trent Reznor as Nine Inch Nails has been making music for years before this, and alternative groups like Korn and Marilyn Manson were already bubbling up, while grunge introduced plenty or darker themes for radio rock, but The Downward Spiral has a raw emotional edge to it that didn’t feel tapped into fully in 1994. 

While this album is usually considered a rock classic, it is a lot more industrial and electronic than it is actual rock music. Most of the percussion is created either through a drum machine, samples or loops, which is typically what happens when a band would bring Flood in to produce an album back in the 90s. A lot of the guitar is highly distorted to the point where it could be synthetically produced. Most tracks also have a modulating synth engine beneath the surface that, combined with the percussion, creates a driving force that propels you through the record. 

The seven-song run to start the album up to “I Do Not Want This” is incredible and there are a lot of individual moments in each song that really standout. 

“Mr. Self Destruct” pretty perfectly sets you up sonically and lyrically for what the album will be taking you through — it’s loud and abrasive right away with electronic, industrial  production, over distorted layers of guitar and muddy vocals, and has these huge contrasts in dynamics and timing that come out of nowhere. “Heresy” starts with a kickass synth out of the 80s that turns into a revving guitar sound in the chorus. I love the modulating synth bass in the pre chorus on “March of the Pigs” leading up to the commercially soft  “Now doesn’t that make you feel better?” line, before getting loud again. I enjoy that the melody at the end of “Closer” is playing in reverse in the distance during the song’s chorus, and returns as a reprise in the title track later on the album. And the synth brass in the chorus of “Ruiner” is really fun and really makes the soft, slower guitar solo at the bridge stand out. “The Becoming” does the exact opposite, with a heavy metal distorted guitar in the bridge that contrasts the acoustic guitar through the majority of the song.

Later on, “A Warm Place” is another aptly named song, because it kind of serves as a warm, softer, slightly comforting and reflective moment right after the craziness on “Big Man With A Gun.” “Eraser” adds in instruments gradually every eight bars or so and has a slightly unorthodox time signature as the song builds for 3 and a half minutes before the few lyrics at the end. And then “Hurt,” obviously, is an iconic track with its haunting dissonant, hanging note at the end of every phrase, leading to that final, grand explosion of noise at the very end. In terms of finishing off an album there aren’t many albums that do so more appropriately.

I don’t like every moment on this album or every song, but I can find something cool in each, which makes for a rewarding listening experience every time. 

That said, The Downward Spiral absolutely is not an album for everyone, or an album for any time or mood. It’s uncomfortable at times, abrasive most of the way through and obviously tackles themes and subjects like suicide, violence, mental health and inner termoil that aren’t particularly fun to think about. 

I also feel that the album’s a little front heavy, with the softer tracks near the end serving a purpose to balance the album and the story but without being that memorable other than “Hurt. And the album, for how intense and draining it is emotionally, is probably a few tracks too long. I think most folks probably get their fill 50 minutes in, which would be a lot more palatable than the hour plus we get.

Kala – M.I.A. ★★★★

YearAlbumArtistStarsScoreGenre
2007KalaM.I.A.★★★★76ElectronicAlternative Hip-HopSynthpop

Kala is a loud, bangin’ pop record that’s much less hip-hop leaning than M.I.A.’s previous album Arular and more overall about electronic production and creating dance tracks than her vocals. 

With an almost childlike, playground chaoticness or aggressiveness, M.I.A. mixes futuristic electronic sounds with tribal drum beats, world music elements and rapping that’s both playful and in your face. It feels like a really refined album, but has a grimy, grittiness to it at times that makes you feel cool and energized while listening to it. 

“Paper Planes,” is obviously one of the most iconic tracks of the 2000s and still holds up, but “Jimmy” and “20 Dollars” I think are additional standouts. 

There are a few issues with Kala though, the first of which being that the album is cranked up in volume and energy the entire time. The first few songs are probably louder than they are actually good, and the album doesn’t really settle down until the back half. 

And while “Paper Planes” may be the best song on the Kala, I actually don’t think it fits in all that well with the rest. It’s slower, and compared to the other dance tracks kind of kills the vibe a bit. Maybe it’s because I’ve heard it 100 times more than the other songs, but it feels much more traditional and contemporary than the rest of the record, which is more stimulating. 

Overall, Kala is an interesting and energetic album with one-dimensional production that’s cool and great in the right situations — like when you really want to get moving or to dance around — but that doesn’t really work in most other settings.

Post – Björk ★★★★

YearAlbumArtistStarsScoreGenre
1995PostBjörk★★★★81ElectronicArt PopTrip-Hop

On Post, Björk delivers both a more mature and more commercial performance compared to Debut two years prior. The vast production and pop styles touched on Post are breathtaking at times, mixing elements of dance, trip-hop, industrial sounds, art pop and big band all in one package. There isn’t a bad song in the lot, and the best moments are stellar. 

The powerful, in-your-face synths that start “Army of Me,” set the tone for what you might expect going forward, with Björk’s soft vocal and unique lyrics mixing with booming sound effects and climaxes. 

The softer “Hyperballad” follows up as one of those songs that, when I heard it the first time I thought to myself, “Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever heard something quite like this before.” The experimental and minimalistic whirling electronic production, her vocal performance and the introspective lyrics that almost glorify thoughts of self harm and conflict as a way to better appreciate the good things in a relationship all combine to make a totally one of a kind experience. 

Almost every track heads in a new direction, whether it’s moving from loud electronics to minamalitic, chill tones, or transitioning from orchestral-based production to blaring horns or looping dance percussion. 

However, when I put Post in context with the rest of Björk’s career, the experimentation on Post is just the tip of the iceberg of what she’ll reach in the late 90s and into the 2000s. Björk’s creative genius is just starting to show, and the steps and chances she takes later on are so much more interesting overall than what’s here in 1995, which, while great and interesting, are still pretty firmly in an accessible pop format. 

And while the production and overall product is a great success, I do think Post feels disjointed and scattered. That’s partly because, as mentioned earlier, each song does have a different style to it and there isn’t one overarching sound beginning to end. In fact, I feel like Björk is really tipping her toes into the different genres she’ll further and more successfully explore later on. 

While the more poppy “Oh So Quiet,” “Miss You” and “Modern Things” are all slight expansions of her previous sound on Debut, the trip-hop elements on “Army of Me,” “Enjoy” and “Possibly Maybe” feel like they could be on Post’s followup effort. Similarly, the minimalist ambient noises on “Hyperballad” and “Headphones” are reminiscent of some of the techniques she’ll use again on Vespertine, and the orchestral sounds on “You’ve Been Flirting Again” and “Isobel” can be heard countless times later in her career, especially after 2010. 
All this to say, the songs on Post are good, overall it’s a high quality package from start to finish and it’s an album that goes down as a classic because of the hits it produced, what it meant for Björk’s career and musical growth. But I do think most of these songs have future counterparts that are similar and do what Björk was attempting here a little better, and the sonic consistency found on most of her future albums is honestly missed.

Mutations – Beck ★★

YearAlbumArtistStarsScoreGenre
1998MutationsBeck★★43RockAlternative Rock

The first of Beck’s soft rock, no nonsense efforts, Mutations is almost offensively inoffensive. 

The songs are slow, they don’t really go anywhere, and Beck doesn’t do anything to impress or really even show any kind of emotion in his vocal performance, which comes off as a knockoff of Kurt Kobain on a few songs. 

But there’s also nothing particularly annoying or bad about the songs or the style at all. Every song is just…fine, but as a whole the album is so incredibly dull. 

There are three and a half good songs on here —  “Nobody’s Fault But My Own,” “Tropicalia,” “Static,” and the hidden track right after it. The production on “Nobody’s Fault But My Own” is interesting and matches the whole, quasi-60s Beatles vibe Beck is going for on this album. The chill, a little jazzy coffee shop groove on “Tropicalia” sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the other songs, but in a welcome way. It’s a refreshing change from the faux country music in front and behind it. 

Other moments are interesting, too, but fall a little short. I think “Static” has got a lot of cool stuff going on with the bells, the distortion fading in and out and some cool guitar work. On an album that was more upbeat I think this would have been a really nice change of pace, but on an album that’s very slow and soft already I think it gets a little lost, but deserves a deeper look. Even though “Diamond Bollocks” is a mess, and starts up and stops a bunch and is scattered, it’s a lot closer to fun, upbeat Beck than the rest of the record, and for that it really stands out. The bass and the somewhat intense guitar at the chorus are exciting and a burst of energy on an album severely lacking it. 

Beck is a really fun and weird artist, but every few albums he tries to show that he can be more serious and that he has a more conventional side to him. Mutations is the first example of this, but also the least impressive. Sea Change in 2003 has a little more energy and a more thoroughly developed sound overall, while Morning Phase in 2014 recreates that vibe but with a few nods to classic rock tradition, which I enjoy enough. 

I understand Mutations was the first time Beck changed up his style in this way, and he probably impressed fans and critics with his range and versatility, but when you know that he has so much more to offer that’s this same style, but better, in the future, it’s hard to really appreciate that alleged innovation. 

Without a standout single to draw you in, and sandwiched between Odelay and Midnite Vultures —two good and extremely quirky records — it really just falls flat.