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

top 100 albums of the decade so far

shields50. Grizzly BearShields
(2012; Warp)

Grizzly Bear championed late 2000s harmonic, vibrant indie rock acts with their 2009 breakthrough success, Veckatimest. Three years later, Shields is less an exploration of new styles and more a sophisticated realization of ideas they had only begun to explore previously. “Sleeping Ute” features ornate string work on which lead vocalist Daniel Rossen carefully tip-toes, holding his breath before a more animated performance on “Speak In Rounds” and “Yet Again”; the latter finds Rossen making some of his most urgent pleas on top of one of the band’s fuzziest, most psychedelic efforts.- DG

crystal-castles49. Crystal CastlesCrystal Castles (II)
(2010; Fiction/Polydor)

One of the most hilarious exchanges that occurred in many of the long discussions about this feature went as follows: “Who would win in a fight — Drake or Alice Glass.” “Glass would tear Drake’s face off.” Oh we laugh, but I wouldn’t fuck with Alice Glass. The frontwoman of now-defunct Toronto synth-pop duo Crystal Castles earned a reputation as being the most confrontational figure in electronic music for good reason. She makes statements like, “I’m one step away from being a vigilante to protect people and bring justice to the people I love” without even blinking, and it’s hard not to take her at her word. During Crystal Castles’ run, however, she funneled that white-hot intensity into accessibly menacing dance music with Ethan Kath, the duo’s greatest moment together being their self-titled second album. It zig-zags between blood-curdling shrieks and sedate coos, punk thrashers and dream-pop gems. But every time their music is at its prettiest, Glass is there around every corner to remind you: She’ll rip your face off. – JT

top 100 albums of the decade so far interstellar48. Frankie RoseInterstellar
(2012; Slumberland)

Frankie Rose spent a lot of time in other bands playing other people’s music, but on Interstellar, she outdoes them all with a set of her own post-punk tunes. This album is a full body of work spectacularly put together. “Know Me” takes a page from The Cure with its “Close To Me” drum pattern; the slick bass littered on “Daylight Sky” keeps the momentum and feet moving, while “Pair Of Wings” contains some of Rose’s most poetic and honest lyrics, backed with minimal musical arrangements. Not to mention the guitar playing on this record, which is on point with twang and reverb. Interstellar is Rose’s full-circle completion as both a talented musician and unstoppable songwriter.- GM

Fiona Apple top 100 albums of the decade so far47. Fiona AppleThe Idler Wheel
(2012; Epic)

In an era littered with overtly synthetic sounds and backwards looking genre looting, Fiona Apple reappeared with an album that not only cut deep with a raw emotional intensity but also felt fresh, organic and even refined. If the album didn’t exactly seem in step with the times it certainly wasn’t out of time either. Quite the contrary — there isn’t a date stamp to be found on The Idler Wheel… and that’s what makes it so bracing. It helps, of course, that Apple also happened to be at the top of her game, turning in some of the best songs of her career, from the haunting “Werewolf” to the moving “Regret.” – CK

top 100 albums of the decade so far contra46. Vampire WeekendContra
(2010; XL)

The midpoint of this Columbia University quartet’s revisitation of jangly pop—ranging from Paul Simon’s hiccuping cultural appropriation to Talking Heads’ edgy art—is literally the starting line for our countdown. Vampire Weekend’s second album Contra was available on their Myspace page (!) the first week of January 2010, and as the name suggested it was a bouncy survey in contrasts: winter and summer (“Horchata”), fake and authentic (“California English”), escaping the daily grind (“Run”), and progress (“Giving Up the Gun”). – AB

fucked up top 100 albums of the decade so far45. Fucked UpDavid Comes to Life
(2011; Matador)

Fucked Up sought out to create a rock opera set to a play, but the meta-narrative plot-twists and beautiful onslaught of heavy melody on David Comes to Life makes adapting it to fit on a Broadway stage a daunting task yet to occur. This Toronto outfit’s magnum opus — spanning 18 tracks — is a complicated story of love and destruction. Musically each song can stand on its own as a dense, visceral, and accessible composition. “I Was There” is a shoegazing, spaced-out thriller packed with layered guitar noise, but after “Queen of Hearts” commences, the screaming story teller Damian Abraham, aka Pink Eyes, is the perfect narrator throughout this barrage of riffs, hooks, and painstaking beauty. – DP

Julia Holter - Loud City Song44. Julia HolterLoud City Song
(2013; Domino)

Whenever I listen to Loud City Song, I’m amazed by those thin cymbals that are being hit so lightly. This happens on “Maxim’s I,” “Hello Stranger,” and “City Appearing,” and the production is so clear that the mist created by these cymbals becomes a focal point. Each tap is like a pin drop, and I can hear every single one. Of course, there’s more amazing elements at play here, like Holter’s sublime vocals, or the exploration happening throughout these mini-universes of sound. Loud City Song is The Sound of Music re-imagined through Holter’s transfixed mind. What amazes me even further is how still this album leaves me. The cats saw a bird feeding outside, and I saw them staring with such intent, only to realize that Loud City Song had me locked into that same sort of concentration. – JJM

top 100 albums of the decade so far Kill For Love43. ChromaticsKill for Love
(2012; Italians Do It Better)

Kill For Love should really be two albums. Clocking in close to 78 minutes, The Chromatics’ fourth record is challenging, but brilliant. Johnny Jewel already has the skills to pull off such an act, considering his original compositions for the film Drive were rejected, but later released into a two-hour collection of music. Jewel & Co. maintain the aesthetic from 2007’s Night Drive, but elevate it to new levels. Kill For Love can’t just be played; it has to be dissected to be thoroughly enjoyed, because of its musical abundance. It creates a noir ambiance that sounds like every single song was meticulously crafted to create an entire universe unto itself. From Ruth Radelet’s haunting vocals to the rest of the band’s excellent playing, Kill For Love isn’t just an album — it’s an artistic masterpiece.- GM

Savages - Silence Yourself42. SavagesSilence Yourself
(2013; Matador)

If the name Savages evokes menace to you, then that’s a good thing. You’re on the right track — the UK post-punk group does a lot more than simply borrow shades and textures from Joy Division albums and dress them up in a modern production sheen. If anything, they’ve done the opposite, starting with the sleek and streamlined aesthetic of late ’70s Manchster and mangling it until it’s even darker, more mangled and dangerous. Singer Jehnny Beth is a full-throated frontwoman who bellows and yelps with an almost physical kind of vocal delivery. When she sneers “If you tell me to shut up — I’ll shut up now,” you get the sense that you probably don’t want to test her. And she’s alternately elegant and intense in her vocal range on “I Am Here.” A great singer needs a great band to back her, however, and the musicians in Savages push each melody until it becomes jagged, muscular and feral. Silence Yourself is a little less post-punk revival, and more rock ‘n’ roll survival. – JT

030911-2_1up [Converted]41. Shabazz PalacesBlack Up
(2011; Sub Pop)

Given an unfortunate lack of analogues, Shabazz Palaces often get labeled as “experimental hip-hop.” With sounds that shift and contort through exotic samples and strong R&B elements courtesy of THEESatisfaction, Shabazz Palaces aren’t experimenting with form or style, they’re experimenting with aesthetic and cadence; elements that deserve to be consistently pushed by artists rather than taken for a given. Without getting too pretentious, Black Up is hip-hop in its purest sense: rhymes over rhythms. The album succeeds where other “experimental” or “alternative” hip-hop albums fail; it’s never self-indulgent or corny, Ishmael “Butterfly” Butler is a veteran rapper who never half steps: “If you talk about it, it’s a show, but if you move about it, it’s a go.” – DG

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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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