Top 100 Albums of the Decade So Far (2010-2014)

top 100 albums of the decade so far

top 100 albums of the decade so far washed out80. Washed OutWithin and Without
(2011; Sub Pop)

Chillwave has already reached a creative peak, but it definitely has its merits. To wit: genre favorite Ernest Greene bounces back on Within and Without, creating an atmospheric album loaded with summer pop jams drenched in synths and live instrumentation. Within and Without is more than just a chillwave album, though; it’s romantic and insightful. Greene expands his musical palette, integrating new styles and making his own sounds. Instead of just a laptop with layered samples and keys, there are instruments that make Greene’s vision colorful. Within and Without is a record that continually offers more after repeated listens.- GM

Chance the Rapper - Acid Rap79. Chance the RapperAcid Rap
(2013; Self-released)

To be young — and super fucking talented. We all strive for greatness; some of us get there quicker than others. Just 20 years old when Acid Rap dropped, Chance The Rapper (real name Chancelor Bennett) grasped universal acclaim early and practically fresh out of school suspension. Honestly, Chicago hasn’t raised a better hip-hop artist since Kanye West, and some may argue that Acid Rap outdid Yeezus in 2013. If Acid Rap is a “mixtape,” then color me tie-dye and roll me down a hill because it plays and sounds like a magnificent album. Everything is tight from start to finish. Chance spits faster than a speeding bullet on “Good Ass Intro,” sings a love ballad alongside a flute on “Lost,” and channels The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill on “Everybody’s Something.” The live instrumentation — yes, there are horns — gives Acid Rap some jazz, and Chance’s rhymes (“put this behind us and put this in your sinus”) have few limits. Acid Rap is the fucking jam. – JJM

hot chip78. Hot ChipOne Life Stand
(2010; DFA/Astralwerks)

After something of a midtempo misstep on 2008’s Made in the Dark, London quintet Hot Chip elevated their indie-dance to a modern form of disco matched only by Daft Punk, Todd Terje, and Hercules & Love Affair. One Life Stand is their most consistently upbeat affair, marked by ecstatic riffs on house like “Hand Me Down Your Love,” “I Feel Better” and “Take It In.” Broken up by balladry like “Brothers” and “Alley Cats,” it’s an incredibly smart album on too many levels to count. – AB

top 100 albums of the decade so far xxx77. Danny BrownXXX
(2011; Fools Gold)

It’s absolutely ridiculous that Danny Brown was once denied a deal from G-Unit Records because he wore his jeans too tight. G-Unit’s huge loss was Fool’s Gold’s gain; Brown spits even hotter fire than he smokes. XXX was Brown’s golden nugget after a decade of struggles, which included jail time and probation for selling drugs. In his mind, he always knew how to rap well; it was just a matter of making ends meet and finding uninterrupted focus. Brown is undeniably candid, raw, hilarious, and inspired on XXX. The cavalcade of producers — SKYWLKR, Brandun DeShay, Paul White, Quelle, Frank Dukes, Nick Speed, Squadda Bambino, and DJ House Shoes — seem to share an affinity for giving Brown a sturdy platform to succeed. As a speedball of tension, XXX totally destroyed conceptions of what a rap album could be. Its filthy glory is one of a kind. – JJM

earl sweatshirt doris76. Earl SweatshirtDoris
(2013; Tan Cressida/Columbia)

The first line of “Hive,” the fifth track off Earl Sweatshirt’s debut proper Doris, is a hilarious self-contradiction: “Promise Heron I put my fist up / After I get my dick sucked.” It’s a line that defines a lot of Earl Sweatshirt’s career to date, a desire for poetry (as invoked by the mention of Gil Scott-Heron — and, implicitly, his estranged father, poet Keorapetse Kgositsile) in contrast with a sense of teenage hedonism. Doris tends to lean toward introspective poetry, with Earl reflecting on the pressures of his newfound career, and his strained relationship with his mother. But there’s room for that hedonism too, on tracks like “20 Wave Caps” and “Whoa,” both of which feature his Odd Future cohorts. The album isn’t afraid to explore Earl’s contradictions, and with his follow-up (temporarily titled Gnossos) already in the can, there’s a good chance you’ll be seeing him on a similar list in five years. – SP

pj harvey top 100 albums of the decade so far75. PJ HarveyLet England Shake
(2011; Vagrant)

If PJ Harvey doesn’t quite fit in the same forward thinking chameleon mold as artists like David Bowie and Beck, it’s not for lack of reinvention. Rather than lead by example as those artists once did, Harvey is something else entirely — her own shape-shifting singularity. Part of what made Let England Shake such a compelling listen was its utter uniqueness in the pop landscape in this era, and this from artist that was celebrating her 20th year releasing records. Her reverb-soaked autoharp may not be pushing the envelope exactly but it’s certainly distinctive. Rarer still, it’s an album exploring the horrors of war (and WWI in particular) that manages to be convicting without becoming preachy. The stark realities of combat juxtaposed with Harvey’s most gorgeous songs to date. – CK

FKA Twigs LP174. FKA TwigsLP1
(2014; Young Turks)

It’s no mistake that Jeff Terich and I both brought up LP1 in our recent musings on the evolving notions of genre and full length records. Few records are a better case study of how modern popular music — when done right — is more nuanced, complex and transcendent than ever. LP1 is a deceptively minimalist affair; sonic references to R&B, soul, trip-hop, trap music, Brian Eno and more blend together so smoothly that one hardly notices the genre-mashing at all. Instead, what becomes prominent is Twig’s voice — that gorgeous, understated coo — and her intoxicating wordplay. LP1 is one of the most complicated pop records you’ll ever hear. It’s sexual, triumphant, terrifying and speculative all at once, but doesn’t ever feel like it’s trying to be complex. That’s just Twigs, pouring all she is into one devastatingly beautiful piece of art. Get ready for one whopper of a sophomore effort, people. – ATB

Tim Hecker - Virgins73. Tim HeckerVirgins
(2013; Kranky)

The draped figure on the cover of Tim Hecker’s Virgins isn’t much more than a large piece of fabric and some posts to hold it up, but with just a little distance, it begins to take on different shapes: a ghost, the Virgin Mary, one of the prisoners at Abu Grahib. Hecker’s own music is the same way, using simple elements like organs or stark piano melodies, treated with electronic distortion to mutilate them into horrific and chilling soundscapes. Each time the Canadian producer returns with a new album, it’s filtered through a conceptual lens that gives each drone or distortion a slight change in hue, and Virgins may well be his darkest shade yet. Ostensibly an exploration of both sacred and profane ideas, it blurs the lines between spirituality and horror in minimal strokes and climactic builds from ether into Big Bang. On Virgins, Hecker doesn’t distinguish between transcendent and terrifying; in his world, the two ideas don’t contradict each other. – JT

Autre Ne Veut - Anxiety72. Autre Ne VeutAnxiety
(2013; Software/Mexican Summer)

An album as intensely micro-managed as Anxiety has no business being as complete a listening experience as it is. Then again, very few micro-managers make as many good decisions as Arthur Ashin does. As Autre Ne Veut he bases everything on his firm grasp on workmanlike R&B, especially of the ‘80s variety. He doesn’t even stray too far from the form’s heated and simplistic carnality; he’s perfectly happy singing words like “Love riding your sexy body.” It’s in the manically applied sonic details that Autre Ne Veut leaves others in the dust: 808 snares fall all over the place, drones float from left to right and sometimes sink, guitars bend and shriek, and backing vocals squeak, chant and sometimes gasp for breath. Anxiety takes the stock responses of R&B and turns them into random, electric melodrama that’s always in constant motion. – PP

top 100 albums of the decade so far tune-yards71. tUnE-yArDsw h o k i l l
(2011; 4AD)

Every once in a while a talent comes along that’s truly individual. Sure, every artist is unique to themselves, but few have the same kind of idiosyncratic power as Merrill Garbus of tUnE-yArDs. Armed with her ukulele and a looper pedal, Garbus’ early live shows were often freewheeling and highly imaginative. She managed to capture that same inventive charm on w h o k i l l, an album that both honed in on Garbus’ songwriting talent and showed off her animated spirit.  Throughout her R&B-tinged sophomore record, she strikes a confident swagger that gave her off-kilter melodies an added muscle. The addition of a backing band certainly helped elevate the energy and was a welcome addition. But this was still Garbus’ show and it was fantastic. – CK

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View Comments (3)
  • Such bias in this list. Indie and alternative music is all right to listen to but this list is severely lacking in the genre of metal. For example listen to Mastodon’s The Hunter. True art work. Wake up because there is more out there than your hipster junk.

    • We included Baroness, Pallbearer, Converge, KEN Mode and Deafheaven. Keep in mind that we’re not exclusively a metal site, and that some of our writers are more steeped in hip-hop, electronic or what have you.

      The Hunter is a good album, though, certainly.

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