Folks, it’s that time of the decade. It’s time to look through all the amazing music released in the last ten years to choose a list of the best of the best of the best. This decade, however, I decided to do something different. Instead of a best of a best of the best, I decided to do a list of the most memorable albums of the 2010s.
Why am I doing the most memorable albums of the 2010s, instead of a standard best of? When the year changed from 2009 to 2010, my listening habits were totally different than they are today. I spent more time with albums, as I usually had to pay for each album (or at least spend a decent amount of time downloading them from Soulseek). Now, I mostly stream my music. If there’s an album I really love, I might buy the vinyl. If there’s a band I really want to support, I might fund a kickstarter and possibly get a single or LP. Still, for the most part….my music choices now come from Spotify and other streaming services. With streaming, it’s just harder to recall all the great music that came out in the 2010s…..so I’m choosing the albums I remember the most. Albums that shaped my worldview, albums that made me love, and even albums that made me rethink my tastes in music.
So with that in mind, I bring you the 15 most memorable albums of the 2010s.
The Magnetic Fields – Reality (2010)
The Magnetic Fields had already been around for nearly 15 years when Realism came out. Yet Realism shows us The Magnetic Fields are just getting started. The first song, “You Must Be Out Of Your Mind,” gives us a post break up anthem and features some of the harshest lyrics I’ve ever heard. Take for instance the line, “I want you crawling back to me, down on your knees, yeah, like an appendectomy, sans antestisa,” or “I no longer drink enough to think you’re witty.” So descriptive, and so painful on multiple levels!
Reality features songs that seem to be in their own reality. There’s the almost cult like (but fun as hell) “We Are Having a Hootenanny Now.” Meanwhile, “The Dolls Tea Party” features a world of sparkly, “it crowd” bliss. “Dada Polka” encourages us to “do something, anything, do something….strange.” In other words….get out of your shell people! Get out of YOUR reality!
Other notable songs include “I Don’t Know What to Say, “Everything is One Big Christmas Tree,” and “Seduced and Abandoned.” Released in January, 2010, Reality was the perfect album to start the decade!
Sleigh Bells – Treats (2010)
Sleigh Bells started the decade with a bang, and haven’t slowed down since! Their first release, Treats, sounds something like a pep squad set to heavy, indie rock guitars. Perhaps that’s what makes the album so great – the mixture of the overdrawn guitars with the sweet and controlled vocals of Alexis Krauss. Regardless, Sleigh Bells “Treats” has kept itself in a constant rotation in my music library since the day it came out. Certainly, Treats has earned its place as one of the most memorable albums of the 2010s.
Other notable songs include “Tell ‘Em,” “Infinity Guitars,” “Rachel,” and “Rill Rill.”
Adele – 21 (2011)
There’s just something special about Adele’s 21. Honestly, her later albums, and her earlier “19” just doesn’t do it for me….but 21? Yes please! The song “Rolling in the Deep” makes me melt every time I hear it. From Adele’s lead vocals, to the pouding and constant piano, to the 60s Motown-esque background vocals, to the absolute wit in the lyrics.
Of course, the other big hit on the album, “Fire to the Rain,” is what got me to check out the album to begin with! Adele’s Dusty Springfield-esque cries caught my ears with its absolute, no holds barred, aggression.
Other notable songs include: “Rumor Has It,” “Turning Tables,” “He Won’t Go,” “Lovesong,” and “Someone Like You.” There’s not a bad song on Adele’s 21.
Against Me! – White Crosses (2011)
Choosing my favorite Against Me! album of the decade may as well be choosing my favorite arm. Against Me! put out several solid albums, including the incredibly personal album about Laura Jane Grace’s transistor, “Transgender Dysphoria Blues.” Still, the songs that mean the most for me come from “White Crosses.”
The opening title song, “White Crosses,” shares a story about returning home and finding the place had essentially gone to hell…or heaven (depending on who you ask). The religious right had taken over, and the band members couldn’t even walk into a store without being singled out as a possible theft risk. Meanwhile, a church hammered in a dozens of white crosses as a pro life statement.
One particular thing I love about Against Me! is their punk attitude mixed with pragmatism, and we really see that in “I Was a Teenage Anarchist.” The song taught us to remember the passions for justice we had in our youth. Even if our methods and paths don’t work….remember your message!
Other notable songs include “High Pressure Low,” “Rapid Decompression,” and “Bitter Divisions.”
Florence + The Machine – Ceremonials (2011)
Florence + The Machine sounds as if they want to get a lot more esoteric, but their record company just won’t let them. Still, with Ceremonials, they seem to let their freak flag fly as high as they can. Opening with a song about a dream about a dead grandmother, “Only if For The Night” gives us a feeling of familiarity and yet otherworldliness. We hear this “ghost” scolding her granddaughter, as though the grandmother were still alive…so intriguing.
The stand out song was of course “No Light, No Light.” Beginning almost seremly, we get thrown rather quickly into a crumbling relationship’s possible final conversation. The emotions portrayed in Florence Welch’s vocals makes you hold your chest in pain and anguish. Grab a hankey when you listen to this one….you’ll need it.
Other notable songs include “What the Water Gave You,” “Seven Devils,” “Heartlines,” and “All This and Heaven To.”
Django Django – Django Django (2012)
Django Django’s eponymous debut features a mix of retro future synthesizers, surf guitars, and psychedelic rock. The song “Hail Bop” particularly focuses on this sound. Using the Hale-Bopp comet as a metaphor, the song laments a relationship that keeps one end hanging for a seemingly impossible amount of time.
The strongest track on the album, “Waveforms,” examines emotions….specifically those of romance and amore, and asks if they’re something scientifically explained, or if they’re more than the sum of their parts.
Other notable songs include “Default,” WOR,” “Storms,” and “Silver Rays.”
Daft Punk Random Access Memories (2013)
If you had told me in 2013 I would list the fourth Daft Punk album as one of the memoriale albums of the 2010s, I would have laughed in your face. I did not care for Random Access Memories, and felt as though Daft Punk had passed their prime. Somehow though….Random Access Memories really grew on me over the last seven years. Sure, “Get Lucky” is like an earworm from hell, but the rest of the album sounds solid. “Lose Yourself to Dance” breaks my heart everytime I hear it. Meanwhile, “Fragment of Time” shows an interesting mix between 1970s pop and almost country sounding vocals.
Other notable songs include “Instant Crush,” “Motherboard,” and “Doin’ it Right.” Heck, even “Get Lucky” works well – if you can get past the earworm status of the song.
Blonde Redhead – Barragán (2014)
Barragán is not your typical Blonde Redhead album, but then again…is there such a thing as a typical Blonde Redhead album? Full of confusing genre bending tracks, Barragán is a jumbled mess of noise. That, my friends, is why I love Barragán so much. That is also why I consider Barragán as one of the most memorable albums of the 2010s. No one song really stands out from each other, and so Barragán almost sounds like a symphony. Mixing genres such as classical, space rock, psychedelic rock, art rock, shoegazer, singer songwriter…Barragán will make your mind ask itself….what did I just listen to?
Again, Barragán should be listened to as a whole, but if you really want one or two tracks to sample the album, I suggest “Lady M” and “Cat on Tin Roof.”
“Weird Al” Yankovic – Mandatory Fun (2014)
The last full length album “Weird Al” might ever record, Yankovic certainly saves the best for last. While every song stands out on its own merit, we must give credit to “Word Crimes” for hammering grammatical rules into the brains of countless listeners (though I disagree with Al on the use of Oxford commas).
My favorite song on Mandatory Fun, “Mission Statement,” mixes the folk music in the style of Crosby, Stills, and Nash with business jargon. The results – a full on mind blowing juxtaposition of the music of the hippies with the rhetoric of the yuppies. There’s something that makes this juxtaposition even more brilliant; these are the stereotypes of Baby Boomers from when they were young, and from where they are now. Now that’s a paradigm shift!
Other notable songs include “Foil,” “Sports Song,” “First World Problems,” “Tacky,” and “Jackson Park Express.”
U2 – Songs of Innocence / Songs of Experience (2014/2017)
Yes, these are two seperate albums, but clearly, U2 was inspired to name the albums after a collection of William Blake poems. Besides, U2 even named the tour the “Innocence and Experience tour.” Clearly, these two albums are really half of a double album released three years apart.
The first track on Innocence, “The Miracle of Joey Ramone,” sets the tone for the entire project. About the first time Bono heard The Ramones, and the rush of inspiration it brought him then (and throughout the rest of his life), we get a really amazing glimpse into what makes U2 tick….what powers this band that’s been at it for over 40 years.
Also from Innocence, “Raised By Wolves,” we get another side of U2’s formative years. “Raised by Wolves” tells the story of a car bombing in Bono’s hometown, when he was only 13 years old. Bono even wonders if the incident is what draws him so strongly to protest music.
From Experience, the song “Get Out of Your Own Way,” has become a personal anthem of mine. A protest song for certain, “Get Out of Your Own Way” calls for Americans to standing up for liberty and freedom by fighting hatred and greed. A powerful song indeed, but it also takes such a positive approach.
Other notable songs include “Iris (Hold Me Close),” “The Troubles,” “Summer of Love,” “The Blackout,” and “13 (There is a Light).”
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell (2015)
Remember when Sufjan Stevens said he’d do an album about every state? Well…he did the third album in this unrealistic series in the 2010s, kind of. Carrie & Lowell talks about his time spent with his mother and stepfather in Oregon – all the while dealing with the abandonment and eventual death of his mother.
The first song, “Death With Dignity,” refers to Oregon’s Death with Dignity act. The song hints that this is how Stevens’ mother left this world. The soft, and oftentimes even comforting tones of “Death With Dignity” brings a myriad of emotions…grief, sorrow, joy, and even relief.
Eugene pulls on our heart strings as well…in a different way. We get a picture of young Sufjan, just trying to be near his mother, who constantly pushed him away.
No doubt, Carrie & Lowell is not the happiest album Sufjan Stevens has ever done, but it certainly is one of the best albums he’s done. Other notable songs include “The Fourth of July,” “Carrie & Lowell,” and “Blue Bucket of Gold.”
The New Pornographers – Whiteout Conditions (2017)
With Whiteout Conditions, I was reminded on just how much I love The New Pornogrphers. I’ve called The New Pornographers one of my favorite bands for over 15 years, and honestly they’ve not put out a bad album…but the albums “Together” and “Brill Bruises” were certainly not their best. Oh, but Whiteout Conditions rocked my world! Certainly, one of the most memorable albums of the 2010s.
Despite being only three years old, the title song (Whiteout Conditions) is one of my most listened to songs of the 2010s. Whiteout Conditions paints a picture of a person in a desperate situation – just trying to get back to normal day to day. Yet something in his life won’t let him. Maybe he struggles with depression, maybe addiction, the theories are myriad (I personally believe it’s a gambling debt). Regardless…the song Whiteout Conditions wrenches your heart as you’re thrust in the hopeless world of this man.
A mind blowing closing song seems to be a Hallmark of the best TNP albums. With Whiteout Conditions, we get this closing song in “Avalanche Alley.” A techno rock pop song with dark connotations, Avalanche Alley warns us our time on this Earth is short. Our fate is only an Avalanche away.
If you’re new to TNP, Whiteout Conditions is a great album to start out with. Regardless, this might not only be one of my favorite albums of the decade, but of all time. Other notable songs include “Play Money,” “High Ticket Attractions,” and “Coliseums.”
Alice In Chains – Rainier Fog (2018)
Alice in Chains are back! After five years, and rumors of calling it quits, AIC put out Ranier Fog….and I couldn’t be happier with this album. I noted Rainier Fog as one of the top albums of 2018, and instead of rehashing what I said – read what I wrote a year ago.
The opening track of Rainier Fog -“The One You Know” is my second most played song of 2018. The track describes a relationship where the other person doesn’t actually know the singer – they just know the person the singer used to be. We get a real sense of AIC’s desire for authentic relations and brutal honesty in the chorus lyrics – “Tell me, does it matter, if I’m here or if I’m gone?”
“Red Giant”continues the desire for authentic relationships – and makes us wonder if the relationship is actually between the band and their fans. “Red Giant” wants us to know that the band has changed….even though they possess a lot of the same elements – they are not the same AIC we knew in 93, 2006, or even 2016.
Other notable tracks include title track “Rainier Fog,” “Deaf Ears, Blind Eyes,” and “All I Am.”
Screaming Females – All At Once (2018)
Another album in my best of 2018, here’s what I had to say about The Screaming Females album, “All At Once.”
Marisa Patermoster’s vocals and guitars dominate the band’s sound – especially on songs such as “Agnes Martin” and “I’ll Make You Sorry.” Still – while she could make a very successful career of herself, bassist Mike Abbate and drummer Jarrett Dougherty certainly compliment this amazingly talented woman, specifically in songs such as “Soft Domination” and “Bird in Space.”
By the way…if you get a chance….see Screaming Females in concert! You will not be sorry. They’re touring with Pup in February and March of 2020….so… GO!
Other notable songs….just listen to the entire album. You’ll love it all.
Jonathan Coulton – Some Guys (2019)
One of my rules for this list was to only include one album per artist (or shoehorn two albums together ala U2). Jonathan Coulton had two amazing albums this decade: 2011’s “Artificial Heart” and 2019 cover album called “Some Guys.” It was a tough choice between these two albums….but “Some Guys” really speaks to me more. This is why I liste Some Guys as one of the most memorable albums of the 2010s.
Yes, yes, Some Guys is a cover album, but Coulton makes these second wave covers personal. Starting with America’s “Sister Golden Hair,” we get the same sense of internal struggle from Coulton as we hear in the original. With Stephen Bishop’s “On and On,” we get the same sense of torture and desperation. Of course, with Baker Street, while the instrumentation includes more modern sounds than the original Gerry Rafferty version, we still hear the dreams of the song’s protagonist: a drunken man with big dreams that will never come true.
My point being…Coulton pays due tribute to all the songs on Some Guys. This is not a “just for the lolz” cover album like so many third wave cover songs….Coulton takes the music seriously. Coulton love the music and loves the songs on Some Guys.
Other notable songs include 10cc’s “The Things We Do for Love,” The Bee Gees “How Deep is Your Love,” and a version of “Micheal Martin Murphey’s “Wildfire” that I actually like better than the original!
Other memorable albums of the 2010s
Again, it’s impossible to list all the albums I loved from the 2010s….I just don’t have that data available. But here’s a short list of other albums I considered for the most memorable albums of the 2010s: Love At the Bottom of the Sea – The Magnetic Fields, 50 Song Memoir, The Magnetic Fields, Sleigh Bells – Reign of Terror, Jenny Lewis – The Voyager, Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues, Against Me! – Shape Shift With Me, The New Pornographers – In the Morse Code of the Brake Lights, Jonathan Coulton – Artificial Heart, The Protomen – The Cover Up.
Again, this is just a partial list, and I most likely missed your favorite. So….with that said, what are your most memorable albums of the 2010s? Let me know in the comments.