An entire decade of music is a lot to think about. From the tender age of 13 up to the (somehow more tender) age of 23, it seems as though I’ve shed and rebirthed more than several iterations of myself — and that’s not to mention my music taste. I never knew how much my infatuation with “Welcome to the Black Parade” would shape my listening habits and guilty pleasures as I grew up, nor how far my preferences would stray from that style as well. For me, the 2010s opened the doors to musical discovery in all facets. Having already been a band nerd for a few years, I was learning how to listen to music more attentively. Plus, Spotify happened, making music discovery more accessible and personalized than ever.
Though they’re not all my number-one go-tos anymore, each of these albums has been significant and special to me. Many of them can’t help but mark moments and memories of my life, however average, dismal, or extraordinary they might have been.
20. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
19. TV Girl – French Exit
18. Noname – Room 25
17. Vampire Weekend – Contra
16. Alvvays – Antisocialites
15. Beach House – Depression Cherry
14. Mild High Club – Skiptracing
13. Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Unknown Mortal Orchestra
12. Vulfpeck – Thrill of the Arts
11. Tom Misch – Geography
10. The 1975 – I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it
9. Bon Iver – Bon Iver, Bon Iver
8. Lana Del Rey – Born to Die
7. HOMESHAKE – Fresh Air
6. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach
5. Arctic Monkeys – AM
The Arctic Monkeys made their mark as an alt-rock band long before this breakout record, yet it’s hard to deny that AM came as a pleasant — and refreshing — surprise. We get to enjoy the full range of Alex Turner’s snarling voice infused with a more seductive swagger than the band’s past sound. Tracks like “Arabella” seem to consolidate the Arctic Monkeys’ best moments into one bite-sized piece. Though still definitively rock, AM also cleverly combines Americana and R&B vibes to curate the group’s most beloved tunes to date.
4. KAYTRANADA – 99.9%
Despite a title suggesting a sense of perpetual incompleteness, 99.9% is a powerful and solid debut by SoundCloud star and producer KAYTRANADA. It’s driven by much more than danceable beats and rather by skillfully produced instrumental hip-hop featuring standout performances from collaborators. While heavily synthesized, the record falls nothing short of precise; every note is intentional. The percussion — upbeat and rhythmically intricate — has a place in the foreground as Kay nods to the drum-driven heritage of Haitian music. For an electrifying listen with heavy, hip-swinging bass lines, this compilation is a go-to.
3. alt-J – An Awesome Wave
I must say that alt-J’s debut LP consists of many awesome ‘waves, indeed. To be quite honest, however, the first time I heard their music as a high schooler, I was deeply uncomfortable. But with time, it becomes comfortable. It grows on you. Something about the “folktronica” group demands your attention and ultimately expands your horizons. An Awesome Wave relies on distinct, dynamic vocals and crisp, unpredictable percussion elements that leave listeners in a consistent state of suspense. Laidback electronic and indie rock influences fuse in healthy competition against an acoustic backdrop.
2. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
From tender tracks like “Game of Love” to dance hits like “Get Lucky,” Random Access Memories highlighted all the best angles of Daft Punk as an electro-house duo. What’s more, the record brilliantly showcases other renowned hip-hop, indie, and electronic artists such as Pharrell Williams, Panda Bear, and Julian Casablancas. We’re launched back in time to a ’70s discotheque, and RAM even features a collaboration with “Father of Disco” Giorgio Moroder. Its beauty is in its variety; no one is likely to love every song, but everyone can find something to love about this album.
1. Tame Impala – Currents
This spot really could have been taken by any of Tame Impala’s releases, but this one is special, having thrust the band into the mainstream — and for good reason. Funky synth-pop grooves flowing alongside the artist’s signature psychedelic rock hooks spawn a palatable series of tracks with a cohesive theme about transitions. Aptly titled, Currents is a journey that is at times turbulent, yet equal parts smooth, each song purposefully melting into the next.