2010: That’s the year it began, when I started to venture outside of my limited interests in Christian rock and Linkin Park. Sure, I was 15, and by the end of the decade, I was 25, but I’m proud of who I was throughout the entire in between. I kickstarted my musical journalism side pursuit, coming to Mind Equals Blown in 2011, and it unlocked a whole new passion for music I didn’t know I could have. I dove into heavier genres of music, interviewing artists from Bring Me the Horizon to Of Mice & Men — and basically getting Underoath back together. I also randomly dove into hip-hop (thanks, Kendrick Lamar), and developed a love for shoegaze and Britpop. Many artists stayed their course throughout my adolescence, including Switchfoot and Anberlin, and they’re a reminder that, once you love a piece of music, that love never fades away. I hope that stays true by the time I’m doing the next list in 2030 (hopefully it’ll still be for this site).
My list of favorite albums from the decade showcases several musical interests of mine: the emo and punk scenes that defined my trips to the Vans Warped Tour (RIP), the critically acclaimed releases that tickled both my fancy and Pitchfork’s, and the hardcore and metal releases that became my sources of strength and inspiration during tough times. It’s all over the place, but it’s also emblematic of a musical taste that’s less changing than it is expanding — and my 30,000 song iTunes library speaks for itself at this point.
30. Oso Oso – Basking in the Glow
29. The Maine – Lovely Little Lonely
28. Kendrick Lamar – Good Kid, M.A.A.D City
27. Foxing – Dealer
26. Norma Jean – All Hail
25. Twenty One Pilots – Vessel
24. Silent Planet – Everything Was Sound
23. Fit for a King – Dark Skies
22. mewithoutYou – [Untitled]
21. A Day to Remember – Common Courtesy
20. The Hotelier – Home, Like Noplace Is There
19. The Wonder Years – The Greatest Generation
18. The Front Bottoms – Talon of the Hawk
17. The Story So Far – Under Soil and Dirt
16. The Ghost Inside – Returners
15. La Dispute – Wildlife
14. Silent Planet – Where the End Began
13. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
12. Wage War – Blueprints
11. Switchfoot – Vice Verses
10. Turnover – Peripheral Vision
9. Stick to Your Guns – The Hope Division
8. Beartooth – Disgusting
7. Anberlin – Vital
6. The Ghost Inside – Get What You Give
5. Wage War – Deadweight
Wage War initially looked like yet another generic metalcore band, rehashing the same riffs, choruses, and breakdowns we’ve heard before by everybody from Killswitch Engage to Blessthefall. But Blueprints found a group that seamlessly blended all of its influencing elements across the heavy music spectrum, and Deadweight continued that with a more poetic lyrical approach. Every track has served a different purpose in the life of this metal listener: “Stitch” for immediate anger, “Witness” for personal reflection, and “Johnny Cash” for absolute heartbreak. There was a lot of great metalcore this decade, but Wage War connected with me — and many others — on a deeper level.
4. Julien Baker – Sprained Ankle
I have to thank former editor Nick Niedzielski for recommending Julien Baker to me at the tail-end of 2015. If things couldn’t get any better for me during this time of my life (I started my last year of college, then watched my Kansas City Royals win the World Series), Sprained Ankle became the hidden gem that I couldn’t get enough of. I walked across campus the final few months of the semester listening to “Good News” and “Something”, blanketing myself in Baker’s profound lyrics and potent songwriting. On the surface, I don’t share a lot with this young emo musician: She’s a woman, she’s gay, and she grew up in the south. Yet, I could relate to her from an expressive standpoint — and I’m still in awe of her form of catharsis on this record.
3. A Day to Remember – What Separates Me from You
It doesn’t make sense to have What Separates Me from You on this list. Looking at A Day to Remember’s catalogue, they’ve put out albums of higher quality (Homesick) and with much more variety (Common Courtesy). But the record they put out in 2010 has some of my favorite hooks I heard all decade — the kinds that randomly pop into your head when you wake up in the morning. This was a fun time for the Ocala natives, a time when they ascended quicker than any other (“All I Want” hit alternative radio stations that year). Even looking beyond the big single, “Sticks & Bricks,” “Better Off This Way,” and “All Signs Point to Lauderdale” are as immaculate as ADTR’s blend of pop-punk and metalcore gets — a style that’s super melodic and ridiculously addictive on this release.
2. Touché Amoré – Stage Four
Stage Four was a cross between an immovable force and an unstoppable object. Touché Amoré singer Jeremy Bolm is that unstoppable object, and earlier in the decade, he began his reign as hardcore’s poet laureate: a hyper-emotional frontman with a passionate vocal delivery. But what happens when an immovable force — the death of his mother — comes into play? The resulting album saw the fragments of that intersection. It was there for me when I lost my grandma, and I’m sure it’ll be there for me when I lose other loved ones in my life. No one can touch the rawness and pureness of Stage Four: It has the power to break down your grief and help with the healing process.
1. Bon Iver – Bon Iver, Bon Iver
I owe so much to Justin Vernon, and that begins with Bon Iver, Bon Iver. Where would I be without this album, the album that initiated my record collection? I can start with “Perth,” a song so distinctly resonant that Vernon’s description of “Civil War death metal” still comes to mind as the song explodes in its second half. I could go on to the Christmas reference in “Holocene” that makes it one of my holiday go-tos. There’s even the fact that, every time it snows, I want to go outside and taste snowflakes to “Towers” and “Michicant.” It’s a record that birthed the music critic in me, pushing me out of my musical comfort zone (and increasingly heavy tastes) to appreciate music that’s vivid, poignant, and important.