Best Albums ... of the Decade
Welcome back to the Populus Music blog, returning to bring you a series to ring in the new decade! It's not often that we get to experience a change in decade (only once every ten years in fact!) so in order to celebrate, we'll be introducing our "of the Decade" series, in which we'll be counting down some of our favourites, and some of the most significant musical events of the 2010s. To start off, a list similar to many being published right now, we wanted to share our thoughts on the best albums of the decade!
This list isn't meant to be a master-list, but is only our opinion on what we felt were the greatest musical works published this decade, edited to be as unbiased as possible. You may find that some of these picks are quite similar to other lists published in the last month or so. This is for a couple of reasons. Firstly, these lists have been consulted and read voraciously by us during the brainstorming process of this list. And secondly, the albums found on those list are truly fantastic.
You might also find some albums that are less likely picks, these are because despite being lesser known albums, we truly believe these to be some of the greatest works of the last ten years.
You'll find some artists on the list below that have been making music for many years, and some that have only emerged within the last ten years. We worked to create a list that was as encompassing as possible, but if you think we've missed anything make sure to let us know!
Before beginning the list, we wanted to include some honourable mentions, albums that were considered for this list but did not make the cut of the top 10:
You Want It Darker - Leonard Cohen (2016)
Lonerism - Tame Impala (2012)
The Money Store - Death Grips (2012)
Plastic Beach - Gorillaz (2010)
Yeezus - Kanye West (2013)
But without further ado, let's begin with #10:
Pure Heroine - Lorde (2013)
For her debut full-length album, Lorde brought a unique approach to pop music in 2013 with Pure Heroine. With the chart topping radio hit "Royals" Lorde brought a more personal and melodic approach to the pop table, contributing to the beginning of a wave the likes of which some of the artists later in this list would be riding.
Some of our top tracks from the album include "Royals", "Tennis Court", and "Team".
Coming up is a pick you might not have heard of, but should definitely be listening to at #9:
There Existed an Addiction to Blood - clipping. (2019)
A very recent addition, dropping just one month ago, There Existed an Addiction to Blood is the latest record from experimental hip-hop group clipping., fronted by Daveed Diggs of Hamilton fame.
This album brings something scary to hip-hop. The album fuses hip-hop with noise and horrorcore elements and does so spectacularly. clipping. are experts of noisy and harsh yet melodic and deeply engaging hip-hop. This record is the best example of their brilliance with production, and Daveed's proficiency as a rapper.
Some highlight tracks include "Blood of the Fang", "Story 7", and "La Mala Ordina".
Up next, another hip-hop record that helped to revolutionize and perfect a current trend in the hip-hop world with #8:
Astroworld - Travis Scott (2018)
Travis Scott will likely be anointed as the godfather of trap music, and Astroworld is perhaps his tour de force. A swirling, bright, and rhythmic look into the mind of one of the greatest young artists in hip-hop, Astroworld is an action-packed take on the trap genre, which Travis himself helped to birth.
The most popular track dominated the radio for many months, and can still be heard today, most likely at least a couple of times.
The key tracks from this one are "Carousel", "Yosemite", and of course the venerable "Sicko Mode".
When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? - Billie Eilish (2019)
When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? is the debut full-length album from 17 year old (at the time of writing) Billie Eilish. The young artist made her debut back in 2016 with her hit early single "Ocean Eyes", and since then her method and creation of brilliant pop music has grown immensely.
The album is exciting, yet haunting. The production, crafted by producer and brother of Billie FINNEAS sells the record as one of the greatest pop experiences of the decade.
The key tracks are the breakout hits of the album such as "Bad Guy", "Bury a Friend", and "When the Party's Over".
Lemonade - Beyoncé (2016)
Up next is the best contender for being crowned the Queen of Pop. Beyoncé returns with a heartfelt yet merciless album about her personal struggles, particularly with the disloyalty at the time of her husband, Jay-Z. This deeply personal nature of the record is apparent, when she goes from enraged, and empowered, telling the [unnamed] male in her life "you ain't married to no average bitch, boy," to breaking down in tears later on in the record.
With dynamic guest features such as Kendrick Lamar, Jack White, and The Weeknd, this album is nothing to be messed with.
Key tracks include "Formation", "Don't Hurt Yourself (feat. Jack White)", and "Daddy Lessons".
"Awaken, My Love!" - Childish Gambino (2016)
Childish Gambino, musical alias of actor, filmaker, writer, producer, and countless other endeavors Donald Glover, returned after a three year hiatus with something unlike anything proceeding it. "Awaken, My Love!" is a return to the heyday of soul and funk of the 1970s, evoking the likes of Funkadelic and James Brown. Glover brought the live band to the forefront, with grooving bass, stylized, gliding guitar, and moving organ and synthesizers.
From this album was born Gambino's biggest hit, the funk masterpiece "Redbone", reminding everyone our modern R&B still hasn't lost its roots.
Recommended tracks from this record include the aforementioned "Redbone", "Me and Your Mama", and "Boogieman".
★ - David Bowie (2016)
From death, David Bowie created art. Blackstar is a statement on the meaning of death, without ever outright showing you the cards which it plays. The album is experimental, chilling at times, and is a harrowing ride from beginning to end.
Bowie brought jazz experimentation to his final statement of an album, with odd, jagged horns and creeping, melodic basslines. The album delivers a message, without ever saying it, death isn't the end.
The recommended tracks are the titular 10-minute epic "Blackstar", "I Can't Give Everything Away", and his farewell track "Lazarus".
Blonde - Frank Ocean (2016)
Frank Ocean is one of the most revered, if a bit mysterious pop/R&B artists of our day. Out from his relative quiet came 2016's Blonde, a soft, pensive take on modern celebrity, and dream-like haze of an album.
The record takes some time to fully appreciate. The album feels perhaps sleepy at first, but eventually you come to see Frank's vision, an artistic, nostalgic view on life, and it transcends even its ambitions.
Some of the key tracks from this one include "Pink + White", "Ivy", and "Nights".
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy - Kanye West (2010)
Kanye West's magnum opus is a perspective piece of fame and vanity. Created in a whiplash turn from his sorrowful and introspective 808s and Heartbreak, MBDTF is bombastic, and brilliant. This album reveals Kanye's brilliance as a producer in a way only he could accomplish.
The lustrous production on this album is combined with some of Kanye's greatest lyrics, some introspective, others as arrogant as his garnered reputation.
Some of the key tracks from this one include "POWER", "Gorgeous", and one of the greatest songs of the decade, the 9-minute introspection of "Runaway".
To Pimp A Butterfly - Kendrick Lamar (2015)
With To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar brings to the table what we consider to be the greatest album of the last ten years. The album speaks to the challenges and victories of African-American culture. He brings jazz, funk, and other rhythm and blues influences to his brilliant flow and lyricism. He builds a story with each song, that of a young man growing and surviving in black America. He builds a poem with each track, addressed to one of his idols.
The album is as much commentary as it is musical genius. For every deeply important word it conveys, it provides a grooving instrumental, and complex technical flows to accompany it.
This album is a conceptual piece, so our recommended listening is the way it is intended to be heard, as a whole.
The decade saw a great deal of change, musically and globally, as we reach its end, we're glad to have looked back at some of the music that helped to define this era of our lives, and every other music lover's lives as well.
We'll be back next week with another retrospective on the decade, this time discussing the best artists who emerged in the 2010s, some of which were mentioned on the list above. To stay in the groove, be sure to follow us on social media so you won't miss the next post, or any of the exciting updates we have upcoming before the end of the decade!