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

top 100 albums of the decade so far

el-p top 100 albums of the decade so far30. El-PCancer 4 Cure
(2012; Fat Possum)

In retrospect, 2012 seemed like the year of really pissed off rappers. With Death Grips’ The Money Store there was unclear and displaced anger. Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music focused more on the political and societal decay of America. El-P’s Cancer 4 Cure has a Brooklyn native pissed off about everything. After being gone for five years, El-P’s return is one that packs a clenched fist to the face. The beats here are on-point and some of the finest production El-P has crafted. Echoing the styles of The Bomb Squad, Cancer 4 Cure contains glass-shattering beats and a sharp set of guests. There are a lot of topics glossed over: drones over Brooklyn, kicking babies to live and letting the mother of El’s enemy know they’re dead. The underlying message of this album is: Don’t fuck with El-P and his friends. – GM

days29. Real EstateDays
(2011; Domino)

New Jersey janglers Real Estate set it up for us almost too perfectly by naming the first track on their remarkable second album “Easy.” It’s pretty much on the nose — a pretty guitar-pop song with a melody that immediately endears itself to the listener, and a chorus that’s as catchy as it is unimposing. Real Estate doesn’t make music that bludgeons or strongarms — it’s there for you to enjoy and revel in if you want to, but where much of contemporary pop music is designed to drive out any such distraction, Real Estate almost invites them. “Green Aisles” is melancholy daydream fare. “It’s Real” could soundtrack a slow drive to the beach. But their music cradles rather than throttles; it’s only when you allow it to wrap around you that the emotional core of the music begins to take over, and those pretty melodies grow from pleasant to achingly gorgeous. Who knew politeness could be so profound?  – JT

Watch-The-Throne1128. Jay Z and Kanye WestWatch the Throne
(2011; Roc-a-fella)

Well, somebody had to be rich, didn’t they? The summit between Jay Z and Kanye West was drenched in opulence from its gold cover down to the fashionista dalliances on “Niggas in Paris.” But even if Watch The Throne was an affirmation and collision of two outsized egos, it was an extremely well-orchestrated one (better than Hova’s album with R. Kelly, anyway), as entertaining as anything in either’s catalog. Jay Z and Kanye bring out each other’s sheer performer, making their respective stories about the perks and traps of their high lives unexpectedly funny and catchy as rubella. But there’s profundity as well. “No Church In the Wild” compares each of their reactions to discovering how their heights nearly make God irrelevant to their fans – Jay’s philosophical, Kanye falls back on hedonism, and neither of them is sure it’s the best place to be. It’s a masterpiece, as is the touching “New Day,” a pre-emptive apology to their then-hypothetical offspring for what they’ll have to shoulder because of their fame. But then there’s “Otis,” a three-round head-to-head where Jay Z gets Kanye to experience and relate the purest joy he’s ever put on record. Watch the Throne had something for everyone, like an Oscar presenter’s gift bag. – PP

My Bloody Valentine - mbv27. My Bloody Valentinem b v
(2013; Self-released)

Out of all the comebacks of the past half-decade, My Bloody Valentine’s was probably the most surprising and the most highly anticipated. I say ‘anticipated’ because MBV fans had been dreaming and hoping for a follow up to Loveless, and ‘surprising’ because Kevin Shields has made it clear over the years that he does what he want and living in the past was not really something he showed much interest in. For all those reasons, m b v exists in a weird position of space and time. It’s an immediate follow up to Loveless as much as it is a return to form two decades later. It’s a classic shoegaze record while simultaneously shedding a lot of elements of classic shoegaze; reconstructing the genre as only one of that genre’s prime innovators could. – ATB

Sun Kil Moon Benji26. Sun Kil MoonBenji
(2014; Caldo Verde)

Part of what makes Benji so arresting is its mix of stream-of-consciousness observations and deep, profound life lessons from the 47-year-old singer-songwriter. If Benji was all philosophical and serious it would seem inhuman, cliche; but instead Kozelek makes it abundantly clear that he’s wading through the same waters as the rest of us; not immune to depressing news reports, insufferable sports bar shit, or flirting with the girls of Panera Bread.  – DG

St. Vincent - self titled25. St. VincentSt. Vincent
(2014; Loma Vista)

St. Vincent’s fourth album shows that an artist can maintain the same lyrical gravity once achieved with darker, less pop-forward mixes. Recorded not long after finishing her tour with rock legend, David Byrne, Annie Clark (the artist behind the name) carried the energy and sounds harvested during her work with him. This album offers some of Clark’s most cutting declarations, like those found on the single “Digital Witness” about the technological drain on society (“If I can’t show it, if you can’t see me / what’s the point of doing anything”) and in what she proclaims in “I Prefer Your Love,” when she professes that “all the good in me is because of you / it’s true / I, I prefer your love to Jesus.” The track hasn’t been released as a single, but it’s still one of the best testaments on the album to the strength and confidence of the bold and self-possessed artist. What’s so inspiring about St. Vincent is that Clark hasn’t ever stood still. She’s only gotten more daring, creative, and prolific since the day she dropped out of Berklee. – NG

cosmo24. Flying LotusCosmogramma
(2010; Warp)

Other critics could argue that You’re Dead! deserves to be in this spot, but that album wouldn’t have been possible without the confidence that Flying Lotus gained from Cosmogramma. With this sonic adventure, Steven Ellison went from promising beat maker to full-blown pioneer. Cosmogramma is off the rails, and for sure some “Zodiac Shit.” It’s not necessary to listen to these 17 tracks in chronological order; the puzzling graphics on the record sleeves and two LPs make that clear.  If you’re not following the track list, it’s tough to figure out where anything begins or ends — Cosmogramma needs its own map. Kudos to FlyLo for awesome songs names: “Pickled!,” “Nose Art,” “Do the Astral Plane,” “German Haircut,” etc. And extra kudos for going where no other electronic musicians went before. Cosmogramma is spinning right now, and I have no idea what track is currently playing. However, I do know that it’s Side D, and that I’ll be disappointed when the album is over as I try to comprehend the cyclone that just swirled around in my head. – JJM

top 100 albums of the decade so far killer mike23. Killer MikeR.A.P. Music
(2012; Williams Street)

At some point in the not-too-distant future of hip-hop culture analysis and criticism, Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music will be required listening. The Atlanta native has had a long, fruitful and overlooked career, but with R.A.P. Music, he once again proved he was an unstoppable entity. Top to bottom, R.A.P. Music is unlike any other hip-hop album released in recent years (other than, say, Mike’s records with Run the Jewels). Backed with the ear-splitting beats of El-P and the mind-blowing raps of Mike (along with some solid guests), it’s got enough muscle to keep a dirty politician running scared. R.A.P. Music couldn’t have come at a better time too. With police brutality escalating and the American political spectrum radically changing, this is Killer Mike’s call to arms to activists all over the world to start paying attention and changing the system. – GM

Lotus Flower top 100 songs of the decade so far22. RadioheadThe King of Limbs
(2011; tbd)

Perhaps the most daring move that Radiohead could have made in 2011, after spending the previous decade making such massive statements as Kid A and In Rainbows, would be to release The King of Limbs. It’s an undeniably minor album compared to the scale of their discography, but now, four years later, it remains one of the most consistently rewarding entries in the band’s catalog. It’s fascinating on one level for its duality: the first half consisting of angular, sample-happy beats, the second of beautiful, almost pastoral ballads. But the album’s real success comes from its dense production, which imbues the entire album with an endlessly explorable lushness that the album’s title implies. – SP

Angel Olsen Burn Your Fire For No Witness21. Angel OlsenBurn Your Fire For No Witness
(2014; Jagjaguwar)

Rather than wallow in pity and sorrow, Angel Olsen’s response to loneliness is delightfully sarcastic and patronizing: “Are you lonely too? Hi-five! So am I!” Feeling alone isn’t something to cry over for Angel Olsen, the young Chicago singer-songwriter takes it upon herself to connect with the world and those around her; empathy and compassion are her ultimate goals as she sings, “if only all our memories were one” and “I wish I had the voice of everything.” – 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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