I don’t need to tell you that some brilliant albums were released in the 2010s. The word Landmark, or Important seems to have been used for some many full length records released. The image above shows the 40 albums (Minus some I forgot to include) of the list below that I own physically. These are albums so good that I own a CD or a Vinyl of them. There’s plenty of other really good albums released this decade, but these 50 are the ones that made the last 10 years for me.
Bjork’s most honest work of her career, Vulnicura is a hard listen at times. The journey of a relationship from start to end is explained in such a musically interesting way, showing she’s still at the top of her game over 20 years into her career.
Such a delicate album, I think I’m probably in the minority thinking that James Blake’s self titled debut is his best work, but it’s definitely the album that had the biggest lasting effect on me. The Wilhelm Scream is so intensely dense in sound, I’d genuinely never heard music like this before.
I fully understand that To Pimp A Butterfly is probably one of the most important albums of the last decade, and for that it’s an incredible body of work. This is a personal list though and all I can say is that of the three Kendrick albums from this decade this was the one I would return to the least. It’s complicated Jazz structure perhaps makes it less accessible, but of course that’s all part of the appeal of this baffling and incredibly detailed album.
I was wrong last year (one of many blunders I made this decade) this truly is The 1975’s greatest moment. Full of defiant energy, some of the best pop songs of the decade; this is the most exciting album from the UK’s most exciting and necessary band.
The most pure pop moment of Coldplay’s career, this album is remarkably straightforward and yet on songs like Us Against The World, Every Teardrop is A Waterfall and Don’t Let It Break Your Heart there’s some magical details the band have that make it truly special album.
Beyoncé stopped the world with BEYONCÉ. Both the moment when album campaigns were changed forever and the moment when Beyoncé went from a singles artist, to a full length album artist. She hasn’t looked back since this landmark album.
The same way we were in a post Fame Monster world for the first part of the 2010s, 2020 onwards will be defined as a post WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? world.
Following a series of hyper stylized concept albums about robots discovering themselves and understanding their humanity, sexuality and place in the world with a hyper stylized concept album about Janelle Monáe discovering herself is certainly a career trajectory no one else could have. Dirty Computer is a set of incredible moments, from her insanely powerful rap verse on Django Jane to the undeniable ‘funkiest song of the decade’ Make Me Feel. Seeing Janelle Monáe become the worldwide superstar she has been destined to be her entire career is one of the greatest things to witness this decade. She’s truly is one of the GOAT.
Absolutely bonkers, this is more like the soundtrack to a Persona game than an Americana album. Sturgill Simpson is so self assured on this record, calling out ‘all the haters wishing they was in my band’ across a set of increasingly brilliant songs.
The title of this album seems very appropriate at times. Often songs seem to become a blur of instruments and swirling synth, it’s always thrilling though. Lead singer Johnathon sounds fantastic on this album, his unique vocal truly shining on the likes of Good Shot, Good Soldier and the storming Can’t Do.
In which I admit I was wrong and 21 by Adele is a brilliant album, so good in fact that I’m now no longer one of the remaining 10 people in the UK who don’t own a copy of this album physically. Turning Tables, Rumour Has It, Don’t You Remember, I’ll Be Waiting and He Won’t Go are phenomenal songs and sit here alongside the now modern classics Rolling In The Deep, Someone Like You and Set Fire To The Rain. Adele is a star, singlehandedly holding up the music industry for much of the decade by being the only artist who can actually sell records.
Some very good pop songs collected in album form.
JAY-Z has always been an honest person with his lyrics, hs albums have always featured moments that show him dive deep and share his feelings, but 4:44 is totally different. It’s repentant, searching for some closure and acceptance for his mistakes, but also really celebratory being thankful for the life and family that he does have. The most introspective album of his long career and his most interesting in well over a decade.
Miranda Lambert has this uncanny ability to pour her heart out on a song, laying absolutely everything bare, but still find space for her sharp wit and humour to come through. Her personality is arguably her greatest asset as an artist and by allowing it to peek through, these songs are truly her strongest work yet. ‘I don’t have the nerve the use my heart’ is such a poetic and heart breaking thought. There’s a timeless quality to everything here too, which makes Tin Man sound like a country staple that people have been singing for decades, or vice a bluesy soul hit from the 70s.
Tegan and Sara were never popstars. They still aren’t really. But on Heartthrob they managed to create some of the most interesting and original pop records of the decade. Their songwriting is so blunt and no frills that it allows for the music to properly shine on the likes of Closer and I’m Not Your Hero. I Couldn’t Be Your Friend is a storming banger, while I Was A Fool is a sudden burst of emotion on such a peppy uptempo record.
I downloaded I Speak Because I Can on the night that Laura Marling unexpectedly won the Brit Award for Best Female Solo Artist. Literally introducing herself to the confused crowd in her acceptance speech, I wonder if she realised people like me would then seek out this album and discover probably the most important new artist of their personal decade. ‘I speak because I can/To anyone I trust enough to listen/You speak because you can/To anyone who’ll hear what you say.’ her songwriting was a revelation for me and while it may have taken me longer than most others to get on board with her music, this album is an impeccable example of what her words can do. On album highlight What He Wrote: ‘He wrote, I’m broke/Please send for me/But I’m broken too/And spoken for/Do not tempt me’.
The best representation of Ciara as an artist, as a woman and as a performer. This album is far and away her best work, full of charisma, confidence and danceable energy. It’s the sound of an artist who is starting to reclaim their own career, the one person who has never given up on Ciara is Ciara, the hardest working woman in the industry.
The only reaction to have to this album is right there in the title. DAMN how could one artist deliver yet another incredible album, his 3rd ‘all time best’ in a row.
There’s a bit on the title track of HAIM’s debut album where Danielle sings ‘Days are gone, days are gone, huh’ and the way the vocals and song is produced around her is pure magic. This album is stacked with amazing songs; Falling, The Wire, Don’t Save Me, If I Could Change Your Mind, Forever, Go Slow. These songs are so packed with the energy and work of years of touring, years of writing together and years of honing the HAIM sound until you get to this knockout debut album.
Loud is front to back, 11 tracks of pure Rihanna magic. It’s her greatest album of the decade because it perfectly defined her all time peak as the biggest artist on the planet. The hits from this album, S&M, Only Girl, Man Down, What’s My Name, Cheers, California King Bed(!) and even the superior version of Love The Way You Lie genuinely made it feel more like a greatest hits at the time. I have such vivid memories of listening to Loud every day as I walked home from uni, this album along with the string of hits she would follow it up with was genuinely the soundtrack to those years of my life.
The album I have to thank for truly bringing Laura Marling into my life. Moments like Sophia and the outstanding Salinas capture everything I love about Laura’s voice and lyricism. Such an important album for me back in 2011.
I See You is The xx at their most confident and relaxed. It allows them to capture much more personal stories on the likes of Replica and Brave For You, while Dangerous and On Hold are the most danceable records they’ve ever had. The start of the next phase of their career.
Pop albums are usually big shouty affairs, with all the bangs and whistles and theatrics that accompany them. Someone Out There is so small in scale, but so massive in sound. Rae Morris manages to make her music so necessary on the likes of Reborn and Lower The Tone, deeply personal music that’s as daring and unique as pop can be.
Taylor Swift was her usual self deprecating self while accepting ‘Artist of the Decade’ at the Billboard Woman of the Year awards, where she said that Lana Del Rey was the most important and best artist of the decade. Listen to popular music in 2019 and it’s hard to disagree too much. The way she has created such a unique sound, style and image through her music makes her an obvious star and Ultraviolence is by far my favourite of her work. On Shades of Cool she’s effortlessly operatic in the way she sings, while on Fucked My Way Up To Top her nonchalance at such a concept gives everything this incredible atmosphere.
The Weeknd’s very first mixtape is undoubtedly his strongest and most conhesive body of work yet. Long before he was singing to Daft Punk produced beats he was creating a seedy, uncomfortable and intriguing atmosphere on every track here. High For This, The Morning, Wicked Games, The Knowing and Loft Music all sound completely different, but as one cohesive album are so thrilling.
The first album I claimed was my favourite of its year, I do feel like I’ve given Plan B a bit of a hard time at the end of the decade. Perhaps it’s because the main appeal of ill Manors was listening to it within the context of ‘Look how amazing London is everyone we did an Olympics and everything’ which made it such a compelling listen back in 2012. It’s worrying relevant 7 years on though, ‘And if we see any rich kids on the way we’ll make ’em wish they stayed inside/There’s a charge for congestion, everybody’s gotta pay/Do what Boris does rob them blind’. ill Manors s brutal and unflinching which is what makes it such a fantastic album, but it’s also why I don’t think I’ve gone back to it nearly as often as some of the albums still to come.
No album this decade explored self identity, sexuality and personal experience like this did. And Chris made it sound funky as hell too. If you were looking for hooks in the 2010s, look no further than this masterclass in writing pop music. An album so good she wrote it in two different languages.
Jamie xx has a mastery of using samples and creating completely new music out of them that I’ve never heard before. On In Colour he almost samples the first two The xx albums, flipping their whole style, the style that countless acts were copying for the start of this decade, on its head. In Colour gave The xx new life and is one of the finest pieces of dance music composition of the decade.
An incredibly talented musician and songwriter crafting their greatest work yet makes KIWANUKA an essential album. There’s so much soluful emotion on every one of these songs, but it truly comes together as a full album when listened as one. It makes this list after being released just 2 months before the end of the decade.
This album was like a dream come to life. A truly collaborative album from my two all time favorite Rap artists, Watch The Throne sees two people who bring out the best in each other’s music pushing each other to the limit. The kind of landmark record I just can’t see us experiencing again.
There are glimpses of the artist that Drake was on the verge of becoming on his greatest album, on HYFR and The Motto he trades verses with Ll wayne as he’s been doing it for generations, popularizing YOLO along the way. Headlines still sounds so satisfyingly huge so many years on. It’s on the more introspective moments like Marvin’s Room and Over My Dead Body that Take Care truly shines, Drake proves he can do both and still look dissapointed in himself in the process.
1989 is a start to end outstanding pop record, the kind of moment when everything aligns for an artist so perfectly that we hardly ever see. All You Had To Do Was Stay is a perfect song and part of me very nearly just scrapped the entire Top 100 songs list and just said it was that. Taylor Swift will probably never match it again, which is okay, as she doesn’t have anything to prove after all.
Tough Love manages to show every part of a relationship in its rawest form. Every moment that’s hard, that’s a slog to get through, before the pure joy of being with the person you love. It’s relatively simple next to some of the genre defining world conquering records that surround it on this list, but Tough Love just hits this perfect balance between sentimental love songs and brutal honesty. Also Want Your Feeling is the dance anthem Jessie Ware fans were crying for.
Engaging, personal, memorable, relevant, important and iconic. Lemonade is Beyoncé’s greatest moment because it cover every facet of her character and place as a performer. An album of anger, recovery and acceptance, it’s an incredible achievement from the industry’s greatest star.
DAMN is Kendrick’s most polished album, full of massive hit singles. To Pimp A Butterfly is his cultural masterwork tapping into racism in america in a way no one else managed this decade. What makes Good Kid M.A.A.D. City my favourite of the three is how personal the journey of the album is to Kendrick. Interludes of messages from his family waiting for him to come home become progressively more difficult to hear, as his own story of life on the streets comes into view. His lyricism on songs like the title tracks and Money Trees is second to none. With three albums on this list he’s the most consistent artist of the decade.
I only listened to The Suburbs because I wanted to write something about The Grammy Awards. Who knew I’d end up writing HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of words about that award show and that this album would become one of my favourites of the decade. The Suburbs is wonderfully diverse, the fact that everyone’ favourite track on an Indie rock album is the one that sounds the most like Abba is evidence enough. You hear influences from all over the world, every instrument brings something different to these songs. The Suburbs feels like returning home after a few months away, everything seems a little different than before, but it’s definitely still the place you remember.
The little country pop album that could, Hero remains a joy to listen to. Maren Morris is so assured in her sound that Hero sounds more like the sort of album someone makes decades into their career, once they don’t need to worry about their ‘country music sounding too pop’ or ‘using too much guitar twang in their pop music’. Hero is confident, full of hooks and on tracks like How It’s Done and Once showcase one of the stars of her generation.
Little Simz has been on the edge of producing an album like GREY Area for a few years now and finally seeing everything fall into place is so satisfying as a fan. Her verses on every song are outstanding, the energy on something like Venom is so engaging and enthralling. It comes together as a fully realised album though, thanks to her musicianship and uncanny ability to allow the music to flow around her when needed. This isn’t a Rap album where self promotion and bravado is top of the agenda, the music comes first, which makes the times when Little Simz does big herself up that bit more impactful; you can’t argue that she’s the best when she’s knocking it out of the park like this.
Gaga was EVERYTHING in 2011. She had been inescapable for over 2 years at that point, she delivered Poker Face, Just Dance, Bad Romance, Alejandro AND Telephone in that time. As a fan, Born This Way is one of the most vivid album ‘campaigns’ I can ever remember being part of, and that’s key here as Gaga’s Little Monsters were so intrinsic into why Born This Way worked as a campaign and why it works as an album. It’s an absolutely bonkers, grisly, screeching, danceable, dark, banger filled album that on reflection sounds absolutely nothing like any other pop album released in this decade. Abba style pop on Americano; amazing. Mugler Fashion show in song form on Government Hooker and Black Jesus Amen Fashion? Yes please. Stadium filling rock anthems on Yoü & I and The Edge of Glory? Thank you very much. Born This Way is a lot at times, but that’s entirely the point. It’s the musical equivalent of that Real Houswives gif ‘I’m gonna give the gays everything they want’, Gaga gave me everything I wanted and I’m still amazed it’s even remotely listenable to this day. There’s a reason it’s my most listened album of the entire decade.
Blood goes to so many places. There’s the dark energy of Never Get Enough, next to the quiet acoustic sound of Good Goodbye. Throughout Lianne sounds phenomenal, especially on the outstanding Midnight which becomes the centerpiece of the record. Vocally flawless.
How to even begin to unpack this musical masterpiece. The ArchAndroid is truly unique, a futuristic, funky, soulful, theatrical concept album about a Robot falling in love while on the run. It’s excessive, but in a beautiful way. The album is split into suites that flow between each track, not singular ‘songs’. Each begins with an orchestral overture! Musically it’s a phenomenal achievement and in the decade it has been part of the musical landscape it has only gotten better with age. It’s hard to imagine a debut album being as fully formed in vision, style and musical variety as this, but Janelle Monáe did it. A landmark achievement in music introducing one of the decades true stars to us is glaring technicolor.
Bon Iver have become synonymous with really daring, often obtuse and unintelligible songs that are full of depth and layers. It’s easy to forget that prior to this album Justin Vernon was just that folk guy who wrote that while album by himself in the woods and then accidentally ended up on the Kanye album. This album gives so much more than you can possibly imagine it could, adding so much lyrical, emotional and sonic depth to every moment here. Holocene gets picked out so often, but it’s the 80s piano of Beth/Rest and the opening grandeur of Perth that do it for me. This album sets such a mood throughout that really feels timeless in its presentation and musicality.
Treats is like sitting down to listen to literally anything else on this list but at the same time. It’s loud, unforgiving and impossible to avoid, everything is so big and obvious. This isn’t some experimental album though, it’s instantly more accessible than either of the Bon Iver records I’ve mentioned here for instance, it’s massive pop hooks being drowned out with screeching guitars and I absolutely adore it. Tell ‘Em sets the tone immediately, the sort of change in volume from everything else on your iPod that you wonder if your headphones are broken, and it doesn’t let up from there. Infinity Guitars is a TUNE, A/B. Machines is absolutely ridiculous, while Crown On The Ground is impossibly catchy. Treats is the album I think I’ve told the most people to listen to this decade and I think just 2 people have ever actually enjoyed it. Their loss.
Florence Welch had been an incredible vocalist for the first part of her career, 2 brilliant albums that showed her unique presence as a performer and set her up as a Festival staple for years to come. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful is so much more than that, an album with so much depth and heavy presence that it was unforgettable for me this decade. On Mother, Florence is almost crying out to a higher power, the soaring finale some of the most exilerating moments of music I’ve heard in my entire life. On Various Storms and Saints, her voice is delicate like never before, the light and shade of this album is outstanding, making the massive moments like the storming Queen of Peace even more powerful. The greatest work from an artist who with this album became one of the UK’s greatest live acts.
Body Talk not only contains the greatest song of the decade, it also contains 14 other songs that are nearly as good.
No album title has ever felt so appropriate, as an hour spent with this is sure to be golden. ‘I don’t mind at all, no, I’m used to fallin’/I’m comfortable when the sky is gray/But when everything is perfect, I start hidin’/’Cause I know that rain is comin’ my way, my way’ has a song been written that’s as tragically beautiful than Happy & Sad? The answer is no, but the answer is also that every song on Golden Hour is so relatable to every single person who hears it; it’s outstanding that Kacey could create music that’s so universal. ‘Wish we didn’t live, wish we didn’t live so far from each other/I’m just sitting here thinking ’bout the time that’s slipping/And missing my mother, mother/And she’s probably sitting there/Thinking ’bout the time that’s slipping/And missing her mother, mother’ even just reading that makes me so upset, on the record it’s a minute that achieves more than some albums on this list do across an hour. Golden Hour is a ray of sunlight, reflecting on everything good, bad and messed up in life.
22, A Million is a really important album to me, it was released at the most difficult moment of my life and I found solace in its unflinching strangeness. Sounds crash and bang around, lyrics are often too obscure to pick out from the rest of the noises you hear, but what you are left with is such an emotional album about struggling with loss, separation and your own mind. It arrived at the right time for me. Or should I say wrong time, right album.
Melodrama is so exciting. There’s times where you genuinely can’t tell how the sound that’s coming from the speaker has been created, like Melodrama simply appeared into existence. Of course Lorde is the real answer why Melodrama sounds the way it does, so in control of her own sound that even when she’s writing and collaborating with others every moment is so distinctively her. The details on Sober are stunning, while her performance on Liability is so emotive. No pop record this decade felt as complete as composition of music as Melodrama does. ‘All the nights spent off our faces/Trying to find these perfect places/What the fuck are perfect places anyway?’ it’s an album about losing yourself in a relationship, that relationship ending and how you pull yourself back out from it. Every piece of Lorde is on this record and it’s absolutely astounding to hear.
No album this decade has defined an artist’s own decade as much as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Taken entirely out of context, this is the probably the greatest Hip-Hop record of this or any decade. It pulls from thousands of places, using ideas and emotions and themes and sounds from all over the world and from every genre to create a daring and unforgettable piece of art. Every moment is crafted to perfection, the thundering claps on Power echoing through to the screeching bass of Hell of a Life and the soul of Devil In A New Dress. Taken in context though, MBDTF becomes even more of a moment and even more interesting as a body of work. The journey of the album is full of the same anger, emotion, redemption, lies, badly timed comedy and frustration that Kanye had shown us this past decade. We stand 9 years on from its release and Kanye has managed to release his worst single (I Love It), his worst album (Ye), create his own religious ‘group’ that has resulted in 2 gospel albums and go from ‘The abomination of Obama’s nation’ to a MAGA hat enthusiast. This album is outstanding, but the way I hear it as a fan in 2019 is completely different to how I heard it in 2010.
Once I Was An Eagle is a perfect album. It showcases a songwriter, performer and artist at their creative peak and does so without any compromise. The lyricism here is stunning where picking out single lyrics does absolutely nothing to demonstrate how each song flows like an old friend talking to you. Honesty is clearly something I’ve picked up on in so many albums on this list and I believe every word that Laura sings on this album. The songs that lead off the album remain my favourite section of any record mentioned here. The opening 5 songs becoming a suite that builds and builds, lingers even after it has ended across some of the acoustic guitar before returning in a huge way at the end of the album. For such a long album Once I Was An Eagle is so complete in its composition, it’s so impressive that someone has created a body of work like this, that it often feels was completely natural in its creation. As an album, nothing has stayed with me in the way that Once I Was An Eagle has, where it sits as not only my favouirte album of this decade but as my all time favourite album.