The version of Thrice that made Major/Minor was an enviously well-oiled machine, a savvy group of veterans effortlessly creating some of the best rock music of the decade. A natural conclusion to the band’s sonic transformation, in some alternate universe where the hiatus is a permanent break-up, Major/Minor is viewed as the perfect swan song. Thrice’s return five years later, however, does not make Anthology any less anthemic, nor negate Yellow Belly as the best opener in the band’s catalog, nor does it diminish the irresistible groove the Breckenridge Bros lock into on some songs. Teppei found many of his best textures and tones here (see Treading Paper and the underrated Blinded), and Dustin’s vocal performance (aside from some rehashed lyrical themes) is refined to the ideal mix of soul and grit. Everything fits together perfectly, making Major/Minor one of the best albums from one of the 21st century’s most reliably great bands. – BroFro
Genre: Post Metal // Released: 2013
At once claustrophobic and expansive, Vertikal’s oppressive, dismal industrial atmosphere builds titanic walls around you that slowly but surely close in, crushing all in their path. Opener The One explores decaying brutalist synth tones punctuated by distorted kicks; the totalitarian mood further probed for I: The Weapon, which evolves from ferocious riffage to an earth-shattering climax. Followed by the 18-minute epic that is Vicarious Redemption, moving between haunting ambience and moments of sheer metallic beauty (and even tasteful dubstep-inspired wobbly synth bass!), the sheer adventurousness on display is a treat. A stomping mid-section leading to the adrenaline-pumping In Awe Of and dolorous, plodding comedown-of-a-closer Passing Through round out the album in soul-stirring style. Have Cult of Luna ever really missed the mark? No, solid arguments exist for every one of their albums being their crowning achievement. But for my money, the throne belongs to Vertikal. – Sinternet
Genre: Indie Folk/Americana // Released: 2011
Helplessness Blues could have been a very different album. When Fleet Foxes’ sophomore release came out, many acts were seeing great success pumping out a sappy brand of clappy, strummy acoustic music, bringing indie folk to the mainstream. Robin Pecknold and co. had already drawn major attention with their debut, and they probably could have made it even bigger if they had streamlined their rustic sound. Instead, they made Helplessness Blues, maintaining the gorgeous melodies and harmonies that made their debut a success while increasing the intricacy of the arrangements and songwriting and combining them with more introspective lyrics steeped in philosophy and regret. It’s a deceptively complex work, one which took a lot out of the band; the follow-up, which saw the band going into even more progressive territory, didn’t arrive for six years. While excellent, it lacked some of its predecessor’s effortless beauty. Helplessness Blues remains Fleet Foxes’ masterpiece. – theBoneyKing
Genre: Indie Folk // Released: 2013
While its predecessor sowed the seeds, White Lighter was the creative bloom of Typhoon. Kyle Morton led his massive folk-rock band through an album operating at full bombastic capacity, building skyscrapers with intricate guitar melodies, choirs of horns, and moving backing vocals. This opulent scope is grounded more than ever in Morton’s musings on death and the future, largely inspired by a near-fatal bout with Lyme disease when he was much younger. Fueled by enough experiences in life and near-death to last multiple lifetimes, White Lighter works because it operates on an emotional scale that matches its sonic ambitions. And despite several bright compositions on the record that contrast its lyrics, we find the band skewing darker than before, laying the groundwork for the existential dirge of its successor, Offerings. Still, in maintaining this masterful balancing act of sounds and emotions, it’s easy to see why White Lighter remains the jewel of their discography in many fans’ eyes. – Neek
Genre: Electronic/Indie Pop // Released: 2015
Claiming that any list contains the best albums of a decade is endearing bullshit, but how about the most significant? To this end, Art Angels is an oddly necessary inclusion in both its strengths and weaknesses. Grimes being Grimes, these are intertwined: she teases the potential for self-sufficient stars to cut out a slice of the mainstream, but also indicates how they suffer from having less quality control on their production chops. She shows an exciting willingness to look beyond the stale horizons of Billboard conventions, yet she presents crass appropriations of Oricon tropes to a largely ignorant Western audience at ominously close to face-value. For all Grimes’ problematic qualities and its dubious veneer of polish, Art Angels is important for what it taught its audience and artist alike about consuming and creating pop; it left many people much the wiser for having chewed through it, and certain cuts continue to bop to this very day. – Johnny
Genre: Post Black Metal // Released: 2010
Alcest probably gets too much credit for pioneering blackgaze. Bands like Wolves in the Throne Room had been successfully experimenting with similar textures years before Ecailles de Lune was released, and Alcest wasn’t even the only band to combine black metal and shoegaze in 2010. Ecailles de Lune’s real strength is not in its novelty, but rather in just how thoughtfully and effectively it balances the delicate chemistry between its different elements. The two-part “Ecailles de Lune” suite alternates between gentle, clean shoegaze passages and cacophonous black metal passages, but never do the two feel disparate; together, they are the same experience, brilliantly bringing to life the celestial/marine imagery on the album’s cover. “Solar Song,” by contrast, finds the middle ground between the two, using harsh guitars to craft gorgeous, soaring melodies instead of bursts of dissonance–and somehow, it works. Ecailles de Lune may not be especially innovative, but there’s a reason that an entire subgenre used it as a jumping-off point: It’s just that good. – hesperus
Genre: Psychedelic/Folk // Released: 2019
The name “Titanic Rising” accurately conveys a grand, ambitious record, mixing folk, indie, psychedelia, and dream pop with exceptional vocals and rich instrumentation. Lyrically, it provides a melancholy mood tinged with hope and resolve. “Everyday” stands as the poppiest standout, and the line “true love is making a comeback” in its midst is one of the most euphoric musical moments for a long time. Its Beatlesque bouncy catchiness symbolizes the tuneful influences of 60s and 70s artists throughout the record. The genius lies in filtering nostalgic styles through a modern indie paradigm. “Something To Believe” is like a 70s classic written specifically for our disenchanting times. Finally, the album ends flawlessly with the gorgeous, deeply vulnerable “Picture Me Better”. Titanic Rising takes a deserved place among the decade’s best due to the quality of the music and the fashioning of a distinct sound out of diverse influences. – Sunnyvale
Genre: Metalcore // Released: 2012
There’s something satisfyingly oxymoronic about One Wing’s sound: intensely profound one moment, cartoonish and outlandish the next; built like a brick wall, yet performed like a house on fire; carefree and sporadic, whilst orchestrated with precision and intent. The reckless energy and goofy creativity splattered across its furious 30 minutes is ridiculous, quite frankly, with its disparate mosaic of influences and styles being such as to make that first listen inevitably disorientating. Give it a moment, though, and the pieces begin to slot into place. As the full picture comes into focus, One Wing becomes impossible to put down. The Chariot’s final LP reveals itself as a breathless ode to life, pushing metalcore beyond mere catharsis into something genuinely euphoric and uplifting. Few records make me smile quite like it does, and fewer still SLAP this HARD. What better way to ride out the storm? – Asleep
Genre: Post Hardcore // Released: 2018
My incessant structuralist impulses impel me to search for precise meaning in images and symbols, but From the Gallery of Sleep frustrates all semiotic attempts to capture meaning in a triumphant chokehold. Night Verses pare away vocals, abstain from traditional musical imagery, and scorn decorative ornamentation in favor of an entirely manual, easily (for them) stage-reproducible sound. The Orange County trio’s 2018 effort is at turns maximally intense, refreshingly groovy, and hauntingly powerful. Soundscapes rich in technical prowess, uncategorizable generally and fearsome yet oddly recognizable in delivery, populate every moment of this record. Each track looks you dead in the eye as it whirls, thrusts, and lunges into being, imbuing the album with confidence, strength, and grace. I could sit here and throw ten dollar words about this work in your face all day, but you should just listen to “Trading Shadows” and let Aric blow your mind. – bludngorevidal
Genre: Indie Folk // Released: 2017
That morning I had woken up at 5AM and headed to work, trudging through the side streets of snowy Chicago. Maybe that sounds dreamy–it wasn’t. The snow was already a mud-brown, and my shoes were soaked long before I would arrive. Anyway, someone, I’m pretty sure it was Blush, convinced me to give this a listen the night before. The cover seemed sunny enough. To say I was unprepared would be an understatement. My two-year-long relationship with my high-school sweetheart had ended months ago, but our hearts were both still in it. “Smoke Signals” rolled over me like a wave. “Scott Street” broke me down. “Georgia” built me back up. “You Missed My Heart” probably hurt the most. But it was a good pain. The kind that makes you feel a little less alone as you work through the snowy dark while thinking about your ex. Phoebe had the words for me that no one else had back then. And over time, the album has proved itself a panacea for whatever life throws at me. Somehow it’s been willing to grow as much as I have. I don’t really think about my ex anymore. But I still listen to this. – Neek
Genre: Post Metal/Post Rock // Released: 2017
Amenra’s path through their numerical album series is immense, but with Mass VI the band coalesced their art into a display of raw, swirling emotion. In itself the album is a colossus of sorts, blending moments of soul-crushing riffs and noise into moments of compositional restraint. The immensity found within this forty minutes of sludge infused emotion and atmosphere blended into the listeners’ psyche while Colin’s vocal fierceness wraps the album’s instrumentation within his firm embrace. Mass VI embraces the moments of light, soaring melodies that break through the overall sense of catharsis like rays of light through grey clouds – but the illumination is only temporary as Amenra’s intensity once again suffocates its victims in hopelessness. – Nocte
Genre: Indie Folk // Released: 2014
The hungover after the suffocating success of Ben Howard’s breakout debut Every Kingdom was, to put it mildly, monumental. Thousands of voices singing along with him, night after night, was an exhausting experience that the young troubadour didn’t want to reprise with any potential follow-up. The whole thing made him artistically implode, turning his craft into a much darker expression of itself, as a short EP titled The Burgh Island clearly showed only one year after. In the three years that followed, Howard gradually exchanged his usual acoustic for an electric guitar, a decision that helped him expand his sound in ways he had never done before.
The result was a more refined and mature album, a long awaited release that featured some of the best songs he has ever written, with special mention to the stirring love that emanates from a song like “End of the Affair”. The elusive magic with the six strings he managed to capture in I Forget Where We Were wasn’t that of speed or skill, it was something deeper, almost intangible. His sophomore release solidified the idea that no one is capable of speaking through a guitar in the way that Howard does it.
With the aforementioned EP, Howard planted a seed that would outgrow his own expectations of what the world wanted from him. What he harvested in I Forget Where We Were was the majestic shadow of the musical wealth he once knew, an album that defied and divided his entire fan base, while being testimony of the sensational artist he had become. – Dewinged
Genre: Post Black Metal // Released: 2015
No doubt there was some measure of hype for New Bermuda considering the certain pink covered release no-one (read: everyone) was talking about. Considering the accolades that came with Sunbather, the band’s decision to change things up again was largely welcomed. New Bermuda is a motley collection of the group’s larger influences, taking rampart features and throwing them at a wall of creatively minded art. Imagine an artsy teenager discovering Jackson Pollock for the first time…well, this is nothing like that. The uncompromising nature of Deafheaven still pulses through the very framework, but it isn’t as aimless as it seems. Moments of traditional experimentation find themselves knee-jerked into another direction while providing throwbacks to metal’s more prominent faces. Still, Deafheaven finds reckless abandon’s appeal—and wears it on their collective sleeves. – Nocte
Genre: Ambient/IDM // Released: 2013
For years, Jon Hopkins had been trying to perfect a blend of ambient downtempo with heavier electronics. Insides showed him in conflict with himself, placing songs with elements of dubstep and IDM next to beautiful, softer tracks like the (later sampled by Coldplay) “Light Through The Veins.” It took until 2013 for him to perfect his formula. With Immunity, he created an hour-long masterpiece, a total blend of peace and power. “Open Eye Signal” builds tension like the best jazz, growing from a simple beat into a techno powerhouse. “Immunity” is probably my favorite song of the decade, an absolutely stunning tearjerker of a piano ballad on refinement. And both of these songs somehow fit together onto the same album with absolutely no problems with cohesion, because Hopkins figured out how to perfectly balance them, using a well-paced tracklisting and giving each song a little call to another. I don’t say this lightly – this is the greatest accomplishment of his illustrious career, and a flawless album. – granite
Genre: Post Hardcore // Released: 2019
Clairvoyant was the album I needed in 2019. In contrast to the unending slog of the year before, 2019 was tumultuous, full of dramatic shifts in both my personal life and the world at large. I needed a piece of art that could encapsulate that tumult while reassuring me that things would all work out, and Clairvoyant delivered. From Jonny Andrew’s harrowed vocals to Jared Wallace’s whirlwind drumming, State Faults evoke the pandemonium of being caught in an inescapable maelstrom, but there are moments such as the latter half of “Dreamcatcher, Pt. II” and the opening of “The Olive Tree” where the sun shines through and provides a brilliant respite. This interplay of chaos and catharsis was what I needed in 2019, and as we get deeper into the utter clusterfuck that is 2020, I find that I need and appreciate it all the more. Screamo was overall less important in the 2010s than it had been the previous decade, but with Clairvoyant, the genre came roaring back into relevance at the perfect time. These days I’m inundated with COVID-themed commercials trying and failing to communicate the same trite message, but State Faults somehow convey this message sincerely and believably: These are hard times, but we’ll get through them together. – hesperus
Genre: Shoegaze/Electronic // Released: 2011
I’m of two minds about the trend of 80s nostalgia that permeated the entirety of the 2010s and continues to this day. On one hand, from what I can glean (keep in mind this is coming from someone who was born in 1992), the 80s actually kinda sucked. The threat of nuclear war was still looming, the utter nightmare that is our current economic landscape began to take shape under the Reagan administration, and AIDS was ravaging the community that I have since come to identify with. I will always feel a bit uneasy glamorizing such a tumultuous period.
On the other hand, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming.
Anthony Gonzalez was born in 1980, so he never experienced the decade as anything but a child, likely too young to know or care about AIDS or Reaganomics. Accordingly, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming isn’t so much an ode to a bygone era as it is a celebration of youth, as seen through the lens of the art that defined Gonzalez’s childhood. The 80s admittedly produced a lot of great pop culture that skillfully conveyed the loneliness of childhood and adolescence while still portraying them as grand adventures, and that’s the note that Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming hits perfectly. In the wrong mood, the fairytale monologue in “Raconte-Moi une Histoire” feels sickeningly saccharine, but in context, after entering the right mindset via “Midnight City” and “Wait,” it’s an almost cathartic experience to occupy the thoughts of the little kid babbling about hopping frogs and giant cupcakes. Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming is an oft-needed reminder that it’s possible to grow up while retaining a part of your child self, to care about the real world while taking a break from it now and again to remember when you saw the world as nothing but full of wonder. – hesperus
Genre: Hip-Hop // Released: 2017
Although this album is snugly fit between the other ends of a trilogy, the structure employed here is quite self-sufficient. Brockhampton’s brash, in-your-face, bass-blaring beginning to the project slowly and carefully melds into a heart-on-the sleeve, emo-riddled, passionate ending much like the SATURATION that came before it and the one after. It’s almost insane looking back on how absurdly obvious their albums’ formula was and yet how little all the eager, hungry fans seemed to care when it developed in quite a sterile fashion in comparison to other trilogies or follow up albums. Yet, that’s the appeal with Brockhampton, a churning rap machine unapologetic in the end product yet vigorously desiring to produce more. It’s hard to deny the instant pop appeal of a ‘SWAMP’ or even a ‘SWEET’, but on the other side of the coin there’s the viscous ‘QUEER’ and off-kilter, desperate ‘FIGHT’, clawing at the album’s pre-packaged design. The groups’ versatile flows and voices all coalesce and contrast throughout the runtime, sometimes surprising and other times falling right in line with modern rap trends. One of these three albums is deserving of a spot, and although I’m not convinced it’s this one, it’d be hard to make a compelling argument for any other SATURATION. – Con
Genre: Progressive Metal // Released: 2019
This blurb only took me about thirty minutes to write instead of thirteen years and I didn’t bear the burden of millions of strangers on Twitter, Facebook, and Sputnikmusic.com, constantly haranguing me as I wrote it. But that doesn’t mean it was easy. Writing about Tool is inherently hazardous to one’s mental and emotional wellbeing. Some people would be unhappy with this blurb no matter what I wrote, while others would enjoy it, and still more would be apathetic to it—and they’d likely all be obnoxiously vocal with their opinions. That kind of pressure is hardly conducive to good writing.
But I couldn’t let that stop me because the people who voted for Fear Inoculum expect to read about it. I went the route of self-aware meta-commentary because I felt like it would be something that Tool fans would appreciate, and exactly the sort of thing that people who roll their eyes at the perceived self-importance of the cult of Maynard James Keenan would deride as too clever by half. As artifices go, it might be a bit contrived, and this isn’t my best work, but, all things considered, I think I did a pretty good job. After all, this blurb was always going to be more for the fans who voted for Fear Inoculum than for me. – SitarHero
Genre: Shoegaze/Dream Pop // Released: 2013
By 2013, My Bloody Valentine were more of an iconic history lesson than an actual band. This is mostly still true today, but it weighed heavily on mbv; had it been released a couple of years after Loveless (largely plausible) it would rightfully be viewed as a robust upgrade on that album’s shimmery haze and tepid momentum. Alas, 22 years on it was doomed by the band’s own myth to be glass-ceilinged as a sequel that Isn’t Quite The Same. This is a shame: “She Found Now” is the final form of MBV’s romantic fever dream; “Who Sees You” is electrifying; “If I Am” is the most underappreciated emulation of a drunk washing machine ever undertaken by a classic band; “New You” straight-up slaps; and so on. My Bloody Valentine’s pedigree is above that of shoegaze in general, so much so that the question of where mbv sits within their discography is more important than where it sits within the scheme of the decade. Fortunately, it’s right at the top of both. – Johnny
Genre: Indie Folk // Released: 2013
Wheel’s details slowly float to the surface, demanding multiple listens. Cursory listens expose Laura’s strong, flexible voice, fluent in melody-alteration; the Cans as a band that utilise dynamics to a degree not often seen in indie-folk (country?) records; and ear-catching motifs. Familiar ears will find lyrical phrases revealing deep emotional undercurrents, and notice how the music seems to react to these moments in kind. With lyrics memorised and references consulted, one realises that amongst a relatively unassuming album lie stories of fiery death, deep depression, unconditional love, plain hatred, wildly varying approaches to parenthood, and even a marijuana-inspired dose of conspiracy rock.
Although songs like “The Hole” and “The Wheel” are embedded in my head as explosive, defining moments, I inevitably forget that they’re actually comparatively sparse, and it’s pure feeling that gives these tracks- and this album- weight. – MiloRuggles
Genre: Indie Pop // Released: 2019
It’s hard to argue against assertions that Del Rey’s music is “shallow.” While I must admit that this is my only foray into her discography thus far, she doesn’t come across as particularly, uh, human here. In fact, on “Mariner’s Apartment Complex,” she makes herself out as some sort of God of Forgiveness and Love, melding imagery of rescuing men lost at sea with that of a perfect, caring girlfriend. It’s all a bit hard to believe–and can read as a massive ego-trip. But that’s the thing… I don’t think it is. This is a work of art from someone so burnt-out on reality, on cross-examining and capitalizing on their own lives, that it sounds equally careless and careful at once. This makes it sound like a pop masterpiece created by an apathetic God who wants to care more than she does. I’m not a terribly cynical man. Maybe I’m just staring at something for so long that it looks deeper than it is. Maybe I just want to believe. But clearly I’m not the only one. – Neek
Genre: Black Metal/Folk // Released: 2010
I think many of the site’s residents wouldn’t be able to stand it if Agalloch somehow missed this little “Best of the Decade” list. In a previous decade, The Mantle would have defined what’s to come (and in some ways it has) but Marrow Of The Spirit managed to develop their sound further than what would have been anticipated without the twenty/twenty vision of hindsight. Still, the album’s loftier moments share their influences directly in the band’s past works, taking the blackened folk elements off Pale Folklore, the restraint and atmosphere from The Mantle and a greater portion of the group’s tendency to seamlessly blend post rock into their visage a la Ashes Against The Grain. Marrow Of The Spirit is a both a seamless collection of the group’s past efforts and a deep introspection of a band looking to take ambitious moments of complexity in a new, lush direction. – Nocte
Genre: Shoegaze // Released: 2017
Slowdive left the stage in 1995 to come back more than twenty years later to a very different audience. Suddenly, everyone had a beard (the women too!). The one thing that didn’t change was their undisputable ability to paint the air effortlessly with lush and warm brushes of mesmerizing shoegaze. Still operating on the softer side of the spectrum, the English squad managed to continue exactly where they left, like those years in between had never happened. Their self-titled effort carried them quite late into the new century with the same subtlety that made them become part of the genre’s holy trinity during the 90s, along with Ride and My Bloody Valentine. Slowdive the album invites to moon-step under the neon lights aimlessly, whether it’d be to the bop of “Star Roving”, the melody drunk ecstasy of “No Longer Making Time” or the trance-inducing piano notes of “Falling Ashes”. It’s a welcomed comeback for those who never expected them to do so after so many years, but also an album that sits comfortably among first-timers to their music. – Dewinged
Genre: Indie Pop // Released: 2014
According to the Sputnik userbase the seventy-seventh best album of the decade is an obscure glitch-pop album with under 10 votes. Interesting.
The userbase is wrong, as usual, because Homephone TE is the best album here.
It’s awkward making bold claims about albums with limited iconic status but fuck it, this is the closest thing the ‘10s had to a Mezzanine. It’s on that level of precision and focus, within each track and across the whole album. Fay vocals glide over a weave of evasive samples and delicately glitching beats, all drawn together by a deceptively solid knack for key melodies. I wrote a headache of a review on why this is perfectly constructed and essential for glitch-pop as a whole, but the bottom line is there’s no topping this for ‘10s ambient pop or indietronica. It’s a slow grower – I initially thought Macaroom’s candyfloss follow-up was the better record – but when it comes to craft, atmosphere and nuance, Homephone TE is as good as it gets. – Johnny
Genre: Progressive Rock // Released: 2010
After a lengthy gap between albums, We’re Here Because We’re Here was yet another re-invention for Anathema, and also a platform upon which it commenced its current musical era. From lush crescendos to emotive atmospheres, bright sonic textures and occasional ominous undertones, the band traverses the various depths of raw musical emotion and paints various pictures that feel relatable on a human level. This is something the band has always excelled in, however the delivery is more optimistic in its tone here. This is new territory for the band but it’s evident that the members still strived to present an authentic and organic image of where they were at that point in their lives. It can certainly be heard in the performances of every member, with the album feeling very personal. It is in my opinion a milestone for the band and the Progressive/Art Rock genre as a whole. A fitting finale for the first decade of the 21st century. – OmairSh