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11.28.23 Your 5s choices reviewed AGAIN 11.15.23 learn from my WORST REVIEWS
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Johnny's Decade: FINISHED 100

Bye bye 2010-2019. List is *ranked*, criteria is a mix of critical, personal and (in a couple of cases) wider significance reasons, rule of thumb was one album per band unless I particularly felt like two. My list my rules, enjoy :]
100Deathspell Omega

Black metal count: 43
I am actively not a fan of Deathspell Omega: they represent a range of things I hate about metal. I don’t like their self-cultivated esotericism, their pretentious anonymity or their fascist dogwhistles. My relationship with metal is not dissimilar to young adults with Catholic upbringings: I’ve spent so long questioning, denying and running away from it that I’ve inevitably wound up identifying the aspects that show it at its finest, and so I know a good metal album when I hear one. Paracletus is fantastic: the production and guitar performances here are a gold standard and it’s remarkably fat free for a metal album so atmospherically oriented. Putting aside my bias, this is an album of the decade because it can’t not be, and that’s as much as I’ll concede.
99The Chariot
One Wing

Hardcore count: 60
One Wing is an exemplary hardcore album, furious and unrelenting in its reassertion of the genre’s fundaments but with a wider creative scope that incorporates samples and stylistic departures almost unnervingly seamlessly. It’s as fat free as it gets, relentless in its focus and clear in its vision from start to finish. All good so far, but these qualities should be treated as a foundation for the real sell here: this is not a set of arty forays, but a lean set of slammers intent on finding new, exciting ways to raise a familiar kind of hell. What a note to end a career on.

Electronic / indie count: 200
The fact that Koji Nakamura (Supercar), Miki Furukawa (Supercar) and Hisako Tabuchi (Number Girl) were in a band together and released an album as awesome as Modanica gives me a special kind of happiness. Modanica is, for all intents and purposes, a poppier take on a Supercar album that would have fitted snuggly into that band’s discography somewhere just before or just after their classic album Highvision. Nakamura and Furukawa sing over a set of brightly nostalgic indietronica numbers, supported by their own instruments and Tabuchi’s veteran guitar accompaniment; the album is more than a little inconsistent in its realisation, but its warmth and easy relistenability make up for this and support an excellent set of highlights concentrated around its opening and closing stretches.
97La Dispute

Post hardcore count: 77
The most last-minute addition the list, I wasn’t originally planning on including Wildlife but one final base-touching was enough to convince me there was no real justification for excluding it in favour of some of the lower hanging fruit here (sorry, Daughters). Despite unintentionally catching them live a few years ago, I’d written La Dispute off for a long while. I remember dipping into Rooms of the House and ending up unimpressed; it struck me as a boring insertion of slam poetry over template post hardcore. Wildlife is a whole different kettle of fish. Its narratives are knockouts in both content and delivery, but the band’s instrumental side is far more kinetic and creative here. For a solid hour of unrelentingly intense lyricism, Wildlife is remarkably even in quality and full of individually memorable tracks; I look forward to seeing how this one soaks up a few extra years’ attention.
96Coheed and Cambria
The Unheavenly Creatures

Prog nerdcore count: 281
Coheed and Cambria have now reached a place where their new material is an obligatory feature for fans but can be swept under the carpet by anyone else. This is less a cynical lament and more a convenient arrangement of mutual benefit; Vaxis I is so easy to take shots at that I’m glad it has a safe space. It’s a silly, bloated album in many ways, but also the best end-to-end listen Claudio Sanchez and co. have come up with this decade. This album of the equivalent of being asked whether Coheed are still a good fix, answering with a hesitant …yes, and then following through with an awkward grin: it exemplifies all their longstanding dumb qualities but throws in just enough quality to remind partial listeners why it’s always been worthwhile to roll with them. On you steam, Coheed - we’re in it for the long run at this point.
95A Beacon School

Dream pop count: 70
Succinct, packed with instant gratification and too fluidly layered to elicit cognition as candy, Cola is a dream pop treat that delivers all the genre’s most familiar kicks with its own upbeat flavour. It’s a weird album insofar as it’s packed around two major highlights (It’s Late and Fade in Nylon), but both the sequencing and quality of the material around these two is carefully crafted to make this the best kind of highlight album rather than an inconsistent listen. Most bands would give us filler - A Beacon School give us jangly math rock. Shorter jams I Don’t Believe It, JCult and Stay Awayare off-path secondary highlights that make the album as a whole sound twice as good, but the main events are simply fantastic tracks that belong in any bedroom pop fan’s zany library.
Serotonin II

Dream pop count: 151
Serotonin II is catatonic dream pop so enveloped in its own haze that it’s hard to tell where it draws the line between daydream and nightmare. Both are explored with a decidedly dark, murky edge that wraps the whole package in ambiguity. Needless to say, its title contains ‘serotonin’ because the music and lyrics do not; it’s been a long decade of late-stage capitalism, we’re good at deconstruction by now. The irony stops there, however: Serotonin II is a rare, convenient case of an album where first impressions are largely accurate. Even before listening, titles like Pixel Affection, Your Shadow, An Angel Held Me Like a Child, Veil of Darkness and Reverie are such a good one-glance summary of the sound that trying to summarise the album concisely feels like a waste of time. The only observation more succinct I can offer comes from Dewi’s take that Serotonin II is “just bedroom pop with a shit ton of reverb.” The man’s not wrong.
Autumn Bells

Electronic count: 62
Minimal house (or whatever) is far enough out of my usual ballpark that I can only presume Autumn Bells’ mesmerising ambience has its own way of getting under my skin. Sometimes tranquil and relaxing and at others unsettling and creepy, each song’s arrangement and melody is so sparse that the attitude I bring to the table seems as instrumental in setting the tone as the music itself. This versatility complements its fragile, haunting tone nicely - I Fell In Love, for instance, could just as easily be the soundtrack to a busy airport as it could a dystopian cityscape. Needless to say, the album is a slowburner, but Gidge space their strongest motifs evenly and end up with a gripping ambience.

Shoegaze count: 145
With an updated aesthetic and a fresh creative approach, Slowdive’s comeback was a welcome addition to one of the decade’s most widely disappointing years. It doesn’t quite rewrite the bedroom pop rulebook in the manner achieved by the group’s earlier work; the sense here is very much that of reclaiming the genre - and reclaim it they did! Slowdive play contemporary dream pop better than practically anyone else here, showing an attunement to space and atmosphere that could only every have come from masters of the scene. While it works perfectly as a reassertion of craft, the album feels more than a little conservative at points, and I’m hopeful Slowdive will take things into more wayward territory in future - because, if nothing else, the self-titled record shows how majestic the band’s lowest common denominator is.
King Nine

Post rock / alternative count: 201
Blessed with an immediacy and emotional urgency uncommon to post rock thanks to vocalist Duncan Attwood’s fragile performance, King Nine feels more like the soundtrack to a gloomy drama than the panoramic fare usually associated with the genre. It’s a rainy day album from the word go and only gets bleaker as things go along, but this doesn’t stop Blueneck from working a few moments of gripping tension (Man of Lies, King Nine) alongside their foggy tearjerkers. King Nine is understated enough that it’s dynamic shifts don’t have to be unsubtle to feel pronounced and its songwriting is competent enough to carry the considerable emotional weight it shoots for, with its destitute imagery and depressing lyrics. A sleeper hit, to be sure.
90Nana Kitade
Violet Blaze

Pop count: 233
Albums like Violet Blaze are not supposed to be highlights of decades: it’s a template of radio pop with unextraordinary production, generic chord progressions and structures, and more cheese than you can fit in your fridge. It should be a bland throwaway, especially coming from an artist as image-orientated as Nana Kitade, who to top it all off didn’t write any of the music. As such, it counts as one of the decade’s Exceeds Expectations standouts: Kitade pulls off a doozy of a performance with character and conviction. The probability of any song’s excellence is directly proportional to the odds that she’ll slip into her dreamy higher register at any given moment. This happens a lot and (somehow) never get old despite the songwriting’s tendency to play the same trick over and over; the way Kitade elevates what that the potential to be a middling traipse of an listen to one of the ’10s’ catchiest, most unpretentious albums is a recurring source of joy.
89Kishi Bashi

+ Omoiyari
2014 / 2019
Indie Folk count: 133 / 159
This list forced me to make some tough decisions, but Kishi Bashi, sweet hero of our times, square-on defeated me. Lighght and Omoiyari are unbelievably level in overall quality: neither is better than Arcane Roots or worse than Violet Blaze, but they scratch such different itches that whenever I’d pick a favourite, some aspect of the other would pop up to say “but can that one do *this*?” The answer would always be no, and I gradually saw how these two balance out each other’s strengths and weaknesses: Lighght is perky, flighty and a little inconsistent, whereas Omoiyari is sombre and evenly paced. The former’s wildfire creativity is complemented perfectly by the latter’s mature songwriting, and each has always struck me as a mini-masterpiece, very impressive but without the knockout value of the decade’s absolute finest. Technically this means there should be no 90 or this won’t be a true top 100, but fuck it - my rules
88Arcane Roots
Blood and Chemistry

Post hardcore count: 242
Blood and Chemistry is very much an album of its time, but it retains a surprising amount of its original spark. Arcane Roots’ chemistry (ha) and tone sounded mature here, but their songwriting is enjoyably all over the place. Several tracks here are a total mishmash of mostly good ideas that lurch from one to another with minimal notice. These aspects adds an enjoyably messy facet to an otherwise fairly polished group destined for the edge of the mainstream and live heroics - and heroics is very much the word of choice given how explosive their their live show turned out to be both times I caught them in the 2013/14 window. Anyhow, Arcane Roots always had a “good guys” demeanour going for them, whatever that means as far as alt-post-hardcore-rock-whatever goes (maybe it’s because they came from Reigate, of all places…), and I’m glad to see Blood and Chemistry still sounds solid enough to merit a place here.
87Ryuichi Sakamoto

Ambient count: 104
async is an uncomfortable album. I’ve seen people discussing its roots in the tedium and banality of the everyday, but its triumph comes in the way it subverts these aspects into something unsettling, largely unobtrusive and overall dysphoric. Pieces like Disintegration and the title track are the sound of skin crawling in slow motion. It’s selectively personal and clever as such: as a whole, it’s possibly the coldest listen here, but on the two occasions it drops its sterile facade and allows the human voice to take centerstage, its sudden warmth and humanity are almost overwhelming. Sakamoto’s experienced ear for detail shines throughout; the album’s stark minimalism foregrounds the intricacies of every note in its placement, accent and timbre, and it was only after my first few listens that I began to see this less as a ‘mood’ album and appreciate exactly how much meticulous craft had gone into it.
86Dots (.........)

Shoegaze / pop count: 157
One of the quirkier projects to come out of the late decade, Dots were an enigmatic idol group with a flair for catchy pop tracks supported by dense shoegaze instrumentation. Points is in many ways the culmination of their short career: bookended by two mesmerising shoegaze jams, the album’s remaining five tracks flesh out a comfort zone in bubbly idol pop before springboarding on to a techno odyssey (Sign) and a noisey gauntlet of disjointed glitch (YOLO no Taki). Points is unafraid to go off the deep end when it comes to goofiness or wider strangeness, but the bulk of its tracks anchor themselves to the fundaments of pop so faithfully and with such craft that its whackier sections couldn’t ask for a stronger foundation. The shoegaze is used to its full scope here and the atmosphere is as such much more engrossing than your average pop album’s, a little opaque for the first few spins but with a very rewarding disposition for repeat listens.
85Touche Amore
Is Survived By

Melodic hardcore count: 99
Every list of this kind needs a record like Is Survived By. I missed out on Touche Amore in 2013 and only caught up with them very recently, but the album sounds so essential to the sound of hardcore I jammed back then that it spared me the trouble of finding a placeholder for that style. Fierce, melodic, a little gruff but overall open-hearted, this album is a vital part of the early ‘10s and an invigorating use of any half-hour you have to throw its way. The bookending stretches are particularly enduring, but there isn’t a second wasted here and the development of each song leads towards sections as explosive as Anyone/Anything’s stomping outro or Harbor’s knockout bridge every time the album’s comfort zone seems to get tired. I remember a user in the soundoff section for some album (I forget which) qupping that all it takes to write a good song is a minor third; Touche Amore are some of the best evidence you’re likely to find for this.
84Save Us From The Archon
How Terrible, The Undergrowths Jaws That Tangle.

Mathcore count: 191
The ‘10s were full of dubiously virtuosic kids throwing themselves into a unspoken competition of Who Can Start The Loudest Insufferable Prog Metal Band, and this category would likely be unrepresented here if Save Us From the Archon’s debut didn’t exist. On the face of it, this record is as full of disjointed songwriting, trigger-happy breakdowns and impenetrable barrages of too many motifs as the rest of its twisted kin, but there’s something of greater value here that ties it all together: an atmosphere. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, an atmosphere in this economy! Riffing off Mulholland Drive, Save Us… carry the many, many stray threads brought into focus by their hack n slash writing chops and weave them into a captivating instrumental journey; they circumvent prog’s bugbear of terrible vocals by wisely not having any. How Terrible…’s Lynch tribute lands it as my fan fiction album of the decade.
Morbid Stuff

Pop punk count: 232
“I was bored as fuck sitting around and thinking all this morbid stuff, like if anyone I've slept with is dead.” As far as great opening lyrics go, you’ll struggle to top that and oh boy are there more to come… Morbid Stuff’s toning down of previous Pup’s wildfire energy into a poppier, wittier model of songwriting plays out as a wise decision, likely the closest thing to maturity we’ll get from this catty gang of malcontents. Pup have never been a band to pull punches, but this album boosts their best crafted and most cutting lyrics to date, from elaborate character portraits to brutal one-liners. It’s bitter in a way that lends itself nicely to the album’s catchy rock and touches unexpectedly on elements of pathos that previous efforts had only hinted at. Every decade needs a few good Punk Rock Grows Up moments, and Morbid Stuff fits the bill perfectly while retaining a delicious level of savagery.

Math rock count: 229
Math rock’s longstanding reputation as cool music for uncool people doesn’t quite catch Tricot. One of the more widely appealing groups to come out of the style, these three ladies (plus whoever happens to be drumming for them) successfully streamline rhythmic complexity and guitar wizardry into largely straightforward indie rock songs that have earned them an impressive international following. With its clear, crunchy tones and tasteful nods to emo, THE is immediately palatable while reserving its finest qualities for repeat listeners. Tricot’s mastery of pacing on cuts like Art Sick or Tarattaratta chimes nicely with pluckier numbers (CGPP or Pool), and THE pans out as an enliveningly revistable compendium of most of the math rock’s less esoteric qualities.
81Cult of Luna
A Dawn to Fear

Post metal count: 71
Cult of Luna’s latest opus might just be the stoniest record they’ve put to tape. ‘Crushing’ is the adjective people have used time and time again to describe their sound, but A Dawn to Fear hones in on a new facet: austerity. While previous outings were outright hostile (The Beyond), full of atmosphere and warmth (Salvation, Somewhere Along the Highway) or set out as engaging narratives (Eternal Kingdom, Vertikal), A Dawn to Fear reconfigures the group’s sound into their most ‘massive’ record since The Beyond but with a firmly composed, almost impersonal edge. I’ve found it a little harder to grow into than their other work, but it is steeply impressive in its vast scope and towering, often protracted peaks. In many ways this might be the most larger-than-life release Cult of Luna have brought us so far, and their patience and reserve are as exemplary as ever.
Material Control

Post-hardcore / noise rock count: 171
While it took me a long while to warm up to it, it fills me with joy that Glassjaw would choose to make an album like this - essentially a comeback record! - at this point in their career. Material Control is slick, intelligent and uncompromisingly abrasive sign that Glassjaw have matured to an extent few would have expected (or even required) of them; as band once synonymous with problematic breakup anthems, they come up trumps with a riveting set of caustic tracks that sit quite comfortably in hardcore’s arthouse win. Closer and My Conscience Weighs a Ton are ferociously concise refinements of their trademark bombast, while Golgotha and Pompeii have been rightly picked up on as two of the flat out nastiest tracks to have been distributed on such a scale within recent memory. All in all, a real gamechanger from one of hardcore’s more enduring champions.

Electro-pop / dance count: 182
Level3 is probably the best produced pop album you will ever hear. Producer Yasutaka Nakata being every inch a man for his time, some of the album’s genre pastiche and choice of synth tones feel more than a little dated, but for the most part the album is wall to wall bangers with a dizzying range of textures and styles expertly arranged. Critics have picked up on how much of this album doesn’t particularly sound like J-pop; while many define J-pop as whatever Perfume sounded like at any given point in time, they have a point. Spending All My Time and Party Maker, for instance, sound like a perfect average of every Western radio pop slapper from that period, while 1mm might as well have been beamed in from a ‘80s Top of the Pops screening. Naturally, some parts could only ever have happened on a Japanese album (Daijoubanai), but Level3 is a stellar reference point to early ‘10s pop vogue and a heavyweight jam to boot.

Art pop count: 87
One of the decade’s more unlikely curveballs, Saijiki’s exhaustive narration of a year’s worth of days and overlying mesh of freakhouse pop layers. It’s an intense listen as far as its length, saturation of ideas and unrelenting quirkiness are concerned, but the album’s great triumph is that almost any given moment manages to be considerably entertaining and engaging based on its standalone merits. Saijiki is a surprisingly consistent trip as disorienting as any self-respecting year-compressed-into-an-hour concept album should expect to be, and it earns a spot as the most gleeful kind of hidden treasure. It gets bonus points for the best unwarranted appropriation of a movement of the Moonlight Sonata into a Japanese song this decade (sorry, Oomori Seiko). Iconic.

Pop count: 275
The overuse of the label ‘art pop’ is funny as hell, especially in reference to Melodrama. It gets this brand a lot, and it’s always an easy excuse for a eyeroll: by the sum of its composition, arrangement and performance, there isn’t much to differentiate this from any of the other dubiously alternative Jack Antonoff-credited pop that has been so prevalent these last few years. However, I can sort-of see where the tag comes from at times: there’s a cohesion and clarity to Lorde’s lyrics throughout the album that feel almost conceptual and elevate Melodrama from being just another slick pop album about bygone relationships to perhaps *the* breakup album of our times. Lorde carries the album with a sense of professionalism that seeps into its various facets of polish and production and empower them with great resonance - it’s a rare, but hugely satisfying case of seeing a young artist stand out from the pack simply by being among the best at what they do.
76Marika Hackman
We Slept at Last

Indie folk count: 201
While many contemporaries of her genre have carved out a fat niche and/or trope for themselves with moroseness and pathos, Marika Hackman writes with self-deprecation, raw desire and outright bitterness without ever coming across as an artist asking to be pitied. Her later works show these qualities up with a caustic edge, but on We Slept at Last they lurk behind the quiet folk songs with a strong sense of mystery that gives her a firm edge over the swathes of sadgirl minor chord artists prone to transparent sentimentalism. This album is in many ways as gloomy as they come, but it holds a depth and consistency that cut it out as one of the decade’s most understated keepers.
75Sigur Ros

Post rock count: 203
I never made it through an end-to-end listen of Sigur Ros’ 2012 effort Valtari, and although I had tuned into the band before Kveikur dropped, I still think half the reason for that is this album’s riveting opening trio. Just when the seemingly untouchable consensus of greatness for Sigur Ros’ early-mid career apexes was starting to wear thin on some people, Kveikur swept in out of nowhere as though to point out irrefutably that the band didn’t *have* to sound boring. While its palatable inspiration doesn’t quite resonate through the whole tracklist, Kveikur remains such a breath of fresh air within and beyond Sigur Ros’ pocket of post-rock that their continued lack of a significant follow-up is both frustrating and more than a little understandable; leaving us hanging on a gamechanger has served them pretty well for the last six years.
Il Sopravvissuto

2013 count: 197
Combining hardcore with string flourishes and post-rock dynamics, Marnero’s attempt as such maintains such a gritty timbre and frantic intensity that Il Sopravissuto, their finest work, plays out as an ambitious hardcore tour-de-force. From paying vague attention to the lyrics of album highlight Non Sono Più il Ghepardo di una Volta and scanning the album’s general imagery, it’s a concept piece to do with surviving a shipwreck or something along those lines. This figures; the album is appropriately desperate but unafraid to explore the intimidating scope of an expanding never-ending horizon as seen from open sea. The closer Zonguldak is a huge moment that, along with Non Solo…, shows Marnero playing with a sense of patience and restraint that leads both tracks onto ferocious climaxes. The rest of the album is a clamorous set of ups and downs that stand as one of hardcore’s best hidden gems.
73Utada Hikaru

Pop count: 155
If 2016 has gone down in history as the year of great death albums, Utada Hikaru’s comeback can claim a spot at the table. Partially inspired by the abrupt suicide of her mother, Utada lays down a series of delicate ballads and quietly momentous midtempo fare. Fantôme is classy and reserved in a way that feels appropriate for a pop legend in the afternoon of her career; compared to the past sentimentalism of Flavor of Life and Be My Last, the album is almost unsettlingly dignified, so much so that its eleventh hour sequencing of tentative lovesong Jinsei Seikou no Hi feels like a slightly trembling stiff upper lip in the wake of the moroseness preceding it. The songs adjacent to it show the album’s true scope, devastating outpourings that see the album’s composure shattered and blearily rearranged in a way that smacks of professional self-respect than anything else. Considered and sensitive, Fantôme is a beautifully terse listen.
72Steven Wilson
Hand. Cannot. Erase.

Progressive rock count: 135
While Steven Wilson’s self-cultivated aura of uncoolness shows no signs of diminishing, Hand Cannot Erase is finally a concept that feels entirely appropriate to his scope. Moving on from his past portraits of serial killers and zombified kids, this is the relatively lowkey story of a woman who abruptly dies in her apartment. It still taps into Wilson’s quest against the internet and Coldplay-level asinine balladry, but on the whole it’s an effective pairing for his glum demeanour: simple, relatable and unexpectedly moving, taking the mininarratives The Raven That Refused to Sing and fleshing them out in greater depth. I’m focusing on the narrative because at this point Steven Wilson’s instrumental side is a moot point: Hand… is as satisfying and beautiful as anything that can be expected of him, backed by an all-star band. I was lucky enough to catch this twice in concert and have more than enough fond memories to hand it a healthy spot here.
71Kero Kero Bonito
Time 'n' Place

Indie Pop count: 280
While Kero Kero Bonito’s megadork brand of coolness is a constant source of joy, it doesn’t catch the full scope of Time n Place. The group have always been self-consciously quirky, but this album sees that ethos fully realised in their music. It’s as much a freak pop fairground as it is a catchy set of indie bangers, and the band’s scattergun creative approach is convincing enough that a track as perky as Flyway can sound good next to one as sulky as Dump. Their pop instincts sound sweeter than ever, but they dip into glitch sounds with great resolve. The key to the whole thing comes quite early: for my money, Time Today is hands-down their best track, an anxious, ultra-concise earworm that (for me) defines exactly what wholesomely worldly indie pop should sound like in the present day, and traces of this sound pervade the rest of the album with a strong sense of ambivalence between superficial bubbliness and introspective depth.
70Kayo Dot
Coffins on Io

Post punk / experimental rock count: 134
Kayo Dot’s 2013 masterpiece Hubardo threw open the floodgates and seemingly realised every possible mode of the project at once; following on only a year later, Coffins on Io sidestepped that album’s gold strandard and expanded on its gothic and darkwave elements in what turned out to be Kayo Dot’s most accessible release to date. Part Sisters of Mercy, part cyberpunk and part oddball wizardry, Coffins on Io is a convincing homage to all things ‘80s neo-noir. It’s a good fit for this lineup, particularly since the steady progressions within each song feel like Toby Driver’s most unawkward, relaxed fare since the expansieve, sparse fare on 2006’s Dowsing Anemone… While there’s certainly a fair amount to unpack here, there’s something quite appealing about a Kayo Dot album you can sit back and enjoy without overloading your headspace, and it cuts Coffins on Io out as one of the more reliably relistenable albums of the ‘10s.
69A Lot Like Birds
Conversation Piece

Post-hardcore count: 299
A Lot Like Birds is not a name likely to be remembered fondly in years to come. This is no cause for great sadness: the lyrical mishaps, whingy vocals and instrumental indulgence that go as by-words for bands in orbit of the Swancore tag are a blight on post-hardcore and likely to be swept under the carpet by would-be genre historians. Conversation Piece, then, is a somewhat tragic record insofar as it forecasted a wealth of early decade potential that neither the band nor the genre came close to fulfilling. Its complexity, virtuosity and overall ambition are all exemplary on paper and, for the most part, largely strong in realisation. It plays out with boldness and resolve uncommon to its style; Truly Random Code, say, is one of the only pieces I’ve heard from this kind of post-hardcore that has made me step back and think “Wow, this has *claws*…” Conversation does indeed have claws, and chops to boot, and it’s both of and above its time
68An Isle Ate Her

Grind count: 90
I listen to Phrenia, uh, hardly ever, and the reasons that do occasionally draw me back to it have little to do with the stability of my headspace and a lot to do with it being the most desperately, ferociously violent album I’ve heard this decade. An Isle Ate Her have no respect for cohesive song structures, tempered outpourings of intensity or the overall wellbeing of their listener, although they certainly know when to drop a good melody (Landsraad), turn the tempo down to devastating effect (Improcalypse) and swerve into an impromptu ambient headfuck (Phrenia). For the most part, Phrenia is a full-throttle assault that constantly rearranges itself between overlapping dimensions of hell. It’s miraculous how intuitively this trainwreck of an album fits into place, and its corrosive edge is so well executed that when I find myself unable to imagine revisiting the album any time in the near- to mid-future, I consider it an implicit compliment.
67Aphex Twin

Electronic count: 171
I hate writing on electronic music and have nothing but huge respect for those who do so routinely. Hapless user MiloRuggles can attest to this after I challenged him to a review swap and he hit me up with a Plaid album I still haven’t managed to turn into convincing words. Albums like that one and Syro resist all my usual efforts of description, and I’m loath to add to the body of work hyperloaded with words such as “cold”, “alien” and “calculating”. So here’s the take: Syro is engaging, diverse and kind-of fun. It’s more immediate than Aphex’s older fare but I find it more interesting than the Richard D. James album, previously his most approachable. The album is an expansion on Drukqs’ stronger tracks, which sparks joy because these remain among my favourites from Mr. James. Beyond that, uh, it has great pacing and I like the synths a lot? It’s surprisingly *warm* for a largely Calculated album? Hmpf. Better watch out, Plaid…
66St. Vincent
St. Vincent

Indie pop count: 293
By far the most openly enjoyable St. Vincent album, the project’s self-titled record saw Annie Clark streamline Strange Mercy’s clinical arthouse palette into something catchier, less cryptic and a little warmer. Crucially, traces of her signature guarded anxiety are scattered all over the shop, most notably in the done-with-this-shit closer and the wryly admonishing Prince Johnny - these are key when it comes to grounding the album and preserving some of Strange Mercy’s vast depth. For the most part, however, the album breezes by in a flurry of Clark’s finest bangers and lands in a lovely sweet spot between artistry and accessibility.
65Jeff Rosenstock

Punk count: 181
Standing the other side of two layers of discontent, Jeff Rosenstock doesn't so much undertake a midlife crisis as he envisions one in the future. He articulates this with more than enough snappy lyricism, self-deprecation, and unstoppable hooks to raise WORRY from a melodramatic tantrum to a gripping airing of lamentations. It plays into excess at every turn - when it gets personal, it goes the whole way, but when it steps into systemic critique it sounds no less wholehearted. Pacing is everything here; this one doesn’t really work by the sum of its parts, but by the choppiness with which it turns from end to end on a continuous, unsuccessful quest for peace of mind; this spiralling tone of discontent spirals very naturally into the medley that runs through final few tracks, tying Worry together into one of the most complete, cohesively crafted punk albums out there, simultaneously as one of the most and least mature offerings of the decade.
64Ben Howard
I Forget Where We Were

Indie folk count: 95
Holy hell, Ben Howard. This man could murmur “I do believe we’re only passing through” through the entirety of this album and I’d still be listening til the end of time. I Forget… is so dark, adventurous and so damn *refined* that the indie folk label barely does it justice - I actually checked it out as a courtesy to indie folk within a week of finishing the list and was astounded to find the answer to everything the style routinely does wrong in front of me so unexpectedly. The musicianship here is impeccable and integrated so tastefully into Howard’s brooding slowburners that you’ll be torn between hanging on his every word and waiting for the next bastard folk/blues guitar lick to round off the edge of each 4-bar sequence. I can’t wait to spend more time with this one, but it can have a generous perch here meanwhile.
63Ichiko Aoba

Folk count: 223
While drafting this list I culled several albums from artists with two contenders in a similar vein. This was both to flesh out a more interesting set of names and because I couldn’t be bothered to reiterate statements transferable from one work to another; if one of Nick Cave’s sorrowful albums or The Dear Hunter’s Acts is an album of the decade, it doesn’t take a genius to guess the other probably is too. If there’s once artist who surely deserved to have her inclusion instantly halved on this basis, it’s Ichiko Aoba: qp does very little not already covered by a certain, higher ranking album. Its inclusion here is half because my rule against repeating artists unless necessary is trumped by the rule that there should be two or more more Ichiko Aoba albums above the highest ranked indie folk of the decade, but qp is no slouch and neatly rounds up Aoba’s ‘10s legacy-to-be as a highlight for longstanding fans and a perfect point of entry for new listeners.
62(The) Slowest Runner (In All The World)
We, Burning Giraffes

Post-rock count: 152
The ’10s have not been kind to post-rock, and at this point its glory days can now be comfortably confined to its mid-90s through early-00s of steady development. As such, We, Burning Giraffes is a little unusual insofar as it’s an overlooked post-rock classic that could only ever have come from the genre’s twilight era; it plays out like a meditation on the melodically saturated peaks and valleys trodden by preceding albums countless times, but [The] Slowest Runner distinguish themselves with a baroque-toned melodic richness thanks to its guitar/piano/violin/cello melodic foursome, and also a bold lack of polish that lends a slightly amateurish sense of fragility to its sprawling atmospheres. Opener Zoe Machete Control is one of the finest post-rockers you’ll hear from any era, and the sense of space, gloom and depth that reverberates through the following tracks is consistently exquisite. An unheralded classic.
61Split End
Deep Love

Pop rock count: 97
While it’s not a fix that rewards excessive binges, Chatmonchy’s legacy of guitar-driven Japanese power pop has been one of the most reliable antidotes to the’10s’ late-stage gloom. Split End are far from the biggest band in the scene, but Deep Love is a six-track powerhouse that exemplifies pretty much everything that makes this style so great at its best. Passionate, catchy, bittersweet and occasionally larger-than-life, every track on this minialbum punches far above its weight and ends up as by far the most instantly enjoyable release to come out fo 2019’s largely mixed bag. Split End’s collection of supercharged lovesongs is full of the most wholesome kind of fire and almost entirely perfect for what it is.
60Maison Book Girl

Art pop count: 278
Yume sounds like something out of a misguided fantasy: an idol album rooted in conceptual math pop and interspersed with ambience, field recordings and/or experimental spoken word pieces. It makes no effort to be cohesive: of the album’s 21 tracks, only 10 are comprised of Maison Book Girl’s trademark syncopated bangers, with the remaining slots used filled with interludes ranging from sustained field ambience to short piano pieces to a glockenspiel-driven headfuck. They rarely outstay their welcome, but cast a grey, impenetrable tone over the whole album and render much of its appeal elusive. Even in its brighter moments, the most immediate hooks are camouflaged under complex rhythmic phrasings too intricate to be easily memorable, but it pans out as a multi-faceted sense of mystery that the album sustained admirably (if confoundingly) from start to finish. As far as bold pop experiments go, Yume is both as intricate and as fully realised as they come.
Messe I.X-VI.X

Neo-classical / electronic count: 151
Messe I.X-VI.X is comfortably Ulver’s strongest work this decade, cohesive and subtle on a level often unattainable for albums dedicated to stylistic fusion. Shri Schneider and Glamour Box (Ostinati), the pieces most openly engaged with combining classical and electronic elements, demonstrate a refined compositional sensibility through which each style complements the other. The rest of the album is beautifully evasive: opener As Syrians Pour In… is seamless and majestic but you’ll struggle to pick out a single memorable motif until the last of its twelve minutes comes around, Noche Oscura del Alma’s foray into dark ambient is murky and oppressive, and closer Mother of Mercy hints at an uplifting resolution before throwing itself back into the album’s depths. I don’t have any hyperbolic “…of the decade” claims for Messe: it’s a very impressive work well worth commemorating, and in this sense its appeal is ironically straightforward.
58Shinsei Kamattechan
Tanoshii ne

Noise pop count: 227
Tanoshii ne (How Fun) is an upbeat take-it-or-leave-it deal. Kamattechan’s trademark bloodstained pentatonics are a cross between the most overblown Western stereotype of Asian rock and full-scale stadium glory. The opener, for instance, is *odd*, but it shoots for the same campy stratospheric heights you’d get from a Queen album. The group’s morbid fixations and stylistic irreverence are on show here, but they’ve been rewired into a triumphantly outgoing sound full of earworms and cheesy hooks. The third track (I Have No Friends, Die) is the best of all worlds and a crash course in everything this band is about, drawing an unapologetically tasteless portrait of poor mental health and suicide from an aggressively catchy off-kilter piano splurge, pitch-shifted chorus and thundering beat with enough gusto to wake the dead. That’s the scope of the album: garishly thrilling freak-pop, anathema to all things sophisticated and refined.
Pure Heroine

Pop count: 295
Pure Heroine is the best and worst kind of tentative debut, inconsistent, self-absorbed, and unconvincing when it comes to some punches that seem to have the most clout invested in them (Royals, Still Sane, White Teeth Teens). The sense of young Lorde finding her feet can’t be played down, yet this a huge part of what makes the album so irresistible when its highlights land. Its precocious insight and naive scepticism still feel deliciously out of place in the pop landscape; its relative paucity of seamlessness and polish lands as a key part of its appeal. Not to mention that the peaks are glorious: in the album’s central run of Ribs, Buzzcut Season and Team, Lorde delivers an early career highlight that I find it hard to believe she’ll ever trump. While Melodrama has been subsumed a little too easily into pop history, Pure Heroine retains a freshness and choppy edge that have aged better than anyone could have expected.
56Kayoko Yoshizawa
Yaneura Ju

Art pop count: 176
Kayoko Yoshizawa is art pop in the same way that vintage Kate Bush is art pop: versatile, rich and timeless, and prone to dramatic (adorable) flights of fantasy. Hot take: Yaneura Ju dips into Never For Ever territory and does it better (sorry Fripp). While not on the same level as Bush’s, Yoshizawa’s pipes are personable and full-toned, backing up a cohesive set of tracks, as she dips into eclecticism and pastiche and produces her most unified work. Sweet and whimsical, flighty and breathless, and, in the majestic closer, outright breathtaking, it’s very much an album for sentimentalists yet fleshed out with a savoury range of sounds. The rest of my impression comes from a misunderstanding over the phrase ‘koi suru’ (lit. ‘to do love’, which I presumed meant ‘make love’ but later learned was ‘fall in love’); I was thoroughly convinced that one track (Hey Middle School-er) was based around Yoshizawa chirping about horny early teens. Who knows…
55Carly Rae Jepsen

Pop count: 128
One of the most universally loved albums of the 10s, and for good reason - Emotion is full of irresistible hooks, bright tones and a straightforward, digestible model of songwriting complimented by lyrical ambivalence (if you haven’t read up on the Jepsen Pattern at this point, that’s on you). Plenty of people have fallen in love with its opening run, but for me the album really kicks in somewhere midway through All That and barely lets up from that point onwards; Boy Problems through Let’s Get Lost should be etched into every pop rulebook consulted at any point in the future by anyone with a dubiously innocent temperament. Emotion is a straightforward rush bringing retropop sounds into present day glory, but it’s attracted a bemusing (but welcome) mythos as an unexpected unifying factor for virtually all quote-unquote music fans and for an even more unexpected legacy of conspiracy theory directed at Ms. Carly Rae’s lyrical fixations. What a time.
54Brand New
Science Fiction

Alternative count: 337
Time has not been kind to Brand New. Putting aside the tumultuous dismantling of their name over the past years, their early work is charmingly dated at best and much of The Devil and God’s veneer of existential profoundness has likely worn thin. Daisy remains their most engaging work thanks to its sense of volatilely jettisoning past postulation, but Science Fiction grounds itself in much more mature, considered territory and plays out with such a degree of refinement that it will likely be viewed as the band’s most enduring work further down the line. We still get the occasional off-line (“When I grow up I wanna be a heretic”) but the penmanship and composition are generally confident, reserved and nuanced in a way the band’s past work only hinted at. For the first (and last) time, we are treated to a Brand New release that *isn’t* a highlight album, and the results are as solid as can be hoped.
Atom Miraiha No.9

Post punk count: 198
BUCK-TICK have had an absurdly steady time for a band now in the fourth decade of their career. Over the course of the ‘10s they’ve gone through danceable bangers (Razzle Dazzle) and an exemplary set of classy rock jams (Yume Miru Uchuu), but Atom Miraiwa No.9 gets my pick as their most rewarding recent work. It plays out like an air raid siren articulated through ominous post-punk, full of innovations both subtle and pronounced. B-T being B-T, this is no less melodramatic than usual; they complement the album’s austerity with a synth hyperdrive that gives the album a well-placed dynamism and unpredictability. Atom… is best at its greyest and most uninviting: Atsushi Sakurai’s voice is a particularly gorgeous fit for this album’s doomy tone, and there are points at which he’s left to carry the greater part of its darkness. The album’s comfort zone, however, is that of tense gloom, and BUCK-TICK pull it off with huge flourish.
52Candy Claws
Ceres And Calypso In The Deep Time

Dream pop / shoegaze count: 132
‘Homogenous’ is a pretty backhanded description at best, but it did Candy Claws a world of favours on their 2013 near-masterpiece. Ceres & Calypso… is remarkable for the way it sustains a delirious psychedelic haze for 45 minutes, hardly wavering in style or quality. You’ll have heard everything you’re going to hear here within the first minute, but the way the group subtly reinvents it from song to song and keeps it fresh enough to fuel the whole album is the mark of excellent production and even better songwriting and sequencing; the latter qualities are hardly common to all music of this kind, but Candy Claws are a step ahead here. Ceres & Calypso… is trippy *and* smart, both on a superlative level - get a load of these guys’ production ethic!

Progressive rock count: 74
Just as much as when it popped up in 2014, Demon is equal parts anachronistic treat and patient reminder of the value of a haunting concept album. It’s one of those records I’ve never wanted to think to hard about or analyse in great detail; in their steady, cyclical way its four songs use a deceptively straightforward prog sound to weave an evocative story of a timeless wanderer tracking a dark presence. Gazpacho achieved something rare and fulfilling here, reconfiguring the thrill of the hunt into a delicately unsettling tale of paranoia and obsession. It’s beautifully pulled, all coming to a peak in the breathtaking epic Death Room. There’s something distinctive and unique about Demon, and it earns a spot amongst the decade’s finest as a result.
50Kyary Pamyu Pamyu
Pamyu Pamyu Revolution

Pop count: 106
Here’s one for which I intend to do absolutely zero justification: Pamyu Pamyu Revolution is a memey ray of sunlight and an unpretentious, easygoing Coolness that Kyary Pamyu Pamyu has upheld joyously ever since. Is it a good album? I dunno, probably. Who cares. Its various candybangers are excellent, but the amount of positive energy Kyary has carried through the decade is what really lands it a spot this high. If it *has* to be explicated, the appeal of this one is significantly epimusical, but the music itself is a vital conduit for that wider appeal, but if this album has taught me anything it’s not to overthink things and take good times wherever they are to be found.
49My Bloody Valentine
m b v

Shoegaze count: 135
Marlowe’s sprawling conquest drama Tamburlaine was described (accurately) as ‘a great play without being a good one.’ This stuck with me as a very useful phrase; for instance My Bloody Valentine are surely a great band without ever having been a good one. Their staggering influence and aesthetic mastery are undercut by Kevin Shields’ inadequacy as a rock vocalist in their early work, and Loveless’ label-bankrupting production value is let down by insipid songwriting chops and a mix indifferent to its bass track. With their legacy and texture so firmly established, MBV seemed one of the last bands destined for a reassessment-prompting comeback album, yet m b v is an unexpected treasure. Forget Loveless, this has the strongest production of any MBV album and the most varied tracklist to boot. It carries all of Loveless’ strengths with a sense of intensity lacking since Isn’t Anything and sits comfortably as a classic of shoegaze both new and old.
48Chelsea Wolfe
Pain Is Beauty

Gothic count: 258
Chelsea Wolfe’s work this decade has been remarkable for the way it’s brought a range of people from different camps together for very different reasons. The pounding heaviness of Hiss Spun, the oppressive industrial of Abyss and the chilling folk of Apokalypsis all have their own merits, but Pain Is Beauty is comfortably her most rewarding output in my book. It’s a murky strain of post-punk the supports perhaps her most diverse, accessible songwriting with both immediacy and depth: the simplicity and infectiousness of songs like We Hit A Wall and Destruction Makes The World Burn Brighter set the scene nicely for slowburners like House Of Metal, Sick and The Waves Have Come, giving the album a satisfyingly broad scope that it fills out very convincingly. In many ways this is Chelsea Wolfe’s least ambitious album, in which case it’s a great testament to the value of picking your battles wisely.
47The National
High Violet

Indie count: 331
The second instalment of the National’s peak trio of albums (sorry, Alligator), High Violet is probably the most grandiose album they’ve released so far. It’s a dour listen punctuated with moments of brief elation (Terrible Love, Bloodbuzz Ohio), but the band generally hold their own when it comes to making the former as engaging as the latter; Sorrow pulls off the admirable task of turning one of the most downbeat, hook-free songs in their canon into one of their most memorable. High Violet’s appeal all about little flashes of colour against an otherwise grey background, to which end England and Conversation 16 are stellar highlights. It’s a little stoney for my tastes at points and there are a few moments where the National misplace their usual sophistication (Runaway, Vanderlyle), but as iconic indie albums laid down like cement on a legacy go, this is as good as they come.
46Beach House

Dream pop count: 306
I bitch about Beach House a lot, and so should you. In the same way that Explosions In the Sky are a metonym for milquetoast post-rock upheld by amateurs, Beach House have become synonymous for lobotomised dream pop that oozes out of bedroom stereos like a damp blanket on a honeymoon. Don’t get me wrong, I love dream pop (and warm bedrooms), but Teen Dream lands as one of my flat-out least favourite albums this decade. Part of the reason for this is that all the band’s many failings there are shown up by the all they got absolutely right on 7. Their sappy bullshit is reinvented as engaging darkness, their lazy verse/chorus tradeoffs are replaced by creative structuring and pacing within each song, their sonic palette is widened vastly, and the choice to work with a real life competent drummer for the first time did them a world of favours. 7 isn’t just a non-mediocre Beach House album, it’s one of the finest outings of its kind.
45Blonde Redhead
Penny Sparkle

Dream pop count: 273
Most Blonde Redhead fans hate Penny Sparkle. It’s a terse dream pop album so emotionally sterile you’d think it was cultivated from a forgotten vanilla yogurt at the back of your ex’s fridge, and so it speaks to the furthest depths of my soul. Penny Sparkle has resisted every emotional attachment I’ve tried to pin on it and gives zero fucks for any of my feelings or opinions: for a while I was convinced My Plants Are Dead was a subtly devastating breakup song, but it turns out it was adapted from a set of pissy texts Kazu Makino received from one of her NY pals. Great. This album is the perfect cold shoulder; Blonde Redhead have always been strong at frigidity and distance, I’d rather get my depressive affect from a band sufficiently established in the annals of arthouse indie that they can get away with seeming to genuinely no shits about their disparate fanbase and enjoyably inconsistent critical reception. This decade has been good to the cynical.
44Ling Tosite Sigure

Post-hardcore / indie count: 231
Too delicate to fit into post-hardcore and too far off the deep end of instrumental pyrotechnics to sit comfortably as an indie group, Ling Tosite Sigure have long held the proficiency and intensity to stand as a category of their own. As their most direct (not to mention anime-ready) album, I’mperfect scales back on the post-rock and progressive tendencies that the previous two Sigure albums explored so well and stacks itself with banger after banger. For the most part, it riffs harder than most metal albums and rattles off endless hooks at full blast, but the dynamic shifts that take place in the final, comparatively reserved pair of songs are equally memorable and round the album off deliciously. I’mperfect may not have much breadth of appeal beyond its role as an adrenaline stimulant, but its watertight musicianship and songwriting are as well-realised as such things come.
43Queens of the Stone Age
...Like Clockwork

Alternative rock count: 255
…Like Clockwork is such a cosy consensus pick that extracting anything close to a hot take is likely beyond my ability. Perhaps the closest I’ll get is that its greatest accomplishment lies in the way it completely transformed what Queens of the Stone Age meant to many people: the band, whose hitherto uncontested masterpiece was one of the ballsiest hard rock albums of the 00s, put together an album on which the straight-up rock tracks were outnumbered by the dour ballads, celebrity guest spots and dark funky numbers, and for it to be widely embraced as their new gold standard speaks volumes for the craft and development on show here. As forward-thinking rock albums go, …Like Clockwork is seemed to suggest that rock music needed QOTSA more than the other way round. The bluff might have been called on that (thanks Villains), but Homme and crew had us fooled for all the right reasons.
42Kinoko Teikoku

Shoegaze / indie count: 141
Eureka is a shoegaze album through and through, but Kinoko Teikoku are a rock band that use this aesthetic as a particularly stylish means to an end. Drenched in reverb and masterfully paced, Eureka rocks as hard as it gazes and knows better than to mix the two beyond separation: Kokudou Slope is a masterful indie rock jam that channels kinetic verses into a rollicking bottleneck of a chorus (just you try and get that “KI-ZU-TSUKE-RU” line out of your head), while Musician is nine minutes of brooding shoegaze pulled off with slow-burning intensity. Vocalist/guitarist Chiaki Satou’s full-toned performance on the album in general is breathtaking; the band have rich melodic sensibilities and she fleshes these out with haunting beauty and great conviction. Anyway, between the two extremes of Kokudou Slope and Musician, Kinoko Teikoku come up trumps with a constantly innovative reinvention of everything their styles of choice have to offer.
41Rolo Tomassi

Mathcore count: 192
Rolo Tomassi’s development from an interesting, messy band full of bold ideas to a tighter, darker group no less fond of raising hell is a wonder to behold on Grievances. The album is violent and concise, competent in unpacking ideas to their full scope but never out of sight of the pressing sense of desperation that comes back recurrently to give things a necessary kick (and not overegged in the way of Time Will Die’s more expansive fare). In Estranged, Funereal and Opalescent the band came up trumps with a defining set of tracks that still stand as their most reliable live material, while Raumdeuter and closer All That has Gone Before show them playing with space and dynamics in a way hinted at but rarely fully realised on past efforts. This group have been one of the heavy scene’s more encouraging success stories this decade, and Grievances marks the moment they finally tapped into their full potential.

Dream pop count: 302
Visions is a lame album to write on. It’s largely atmospheric with a wide creative scope that *could* be analysed to no particular benefit, I have no desire to retread the vast body of histrionic writing that already exists under the ‘grimes’ tag . Visions’ broad assortment of well-placed ideas are exactly that: broad and well-placed. Hooray for that. I’m still not entirely sure whether we’ll remember Grimes in another ten years’ time as a concerted visionary or as the butt of decade’s worth of cyberpunk-, space- and Azelea Banks- related jokes, but part of this album’s charm is the way it stands beyond the scope of such things (for now); the answer to my uncertainty holds little bearing over this album, unlike good ol’ Art Angels, and as such it remains nothing more or less than a consistently excellent indie pop album that happens to be more consistent and more excellent than most other albums this decade.
39Flying Lotus

Electronic / experimental count: 321
Cosmogramma is a meticulously crafted, carefully pitched headfuck. Flying Lotus had to grace to open things up with a one-minute litmus test guaranteed to flag up anyone for whom making it all the way through would be a waste of time, but for anyone with the right mix of curiosity and patience the first track is just the first of many points of intrigue to come. ‘Inspired’ can be a needlessly heavy word, but it applies here: this album is full of originality in a way that sounds just as creatively enlivening at the time of writing; its otherworldly overtones and harmonic complexity haven’t aged a day.
38Maximum the Hormone
Yoshu Fukushu

Nu-metal / J-pop count: 202
Maximum the Hormone’s brand of dumb fun is just about the most grin-inducing thing I can think of. No-one does bathos quite like these guys, because no-one else pairs metal sections with pop throwaways in a way that teases such huge highlights out of both. ALIEN, Koi no Sperm and My Girl might be plain silly at points but the riffs on Benjo Sandal Dance, Beauty Killoseum and the self-titled track carry a razor-sharp nastiness that cuts straight through the limits that usually hamper novelty releases. As a spread of ideas Yoshu Fukushu is a glorious mess, but the inner workings of its individual songs are tight as hell. As someone who has largely grown out of metal due in no small part to a reluctance to take most of its largely concerted demeanour seriously, Yoshu Fukushu is a source of enduring relief and oddball bangers that sounds as refreshingly goofball now at it would at any given point in time.
37The Hotelier
Home, Like NoPlace Is There

Emo count: 124
Writing on Home, Like Noplace feels like writing on emo itself. The album’s strengths and failings are established that offering another account of them feels like a regurgitation of moot points - so let’s not do that. What a record it is, though! Home…’s emotional fervour is extremely well paced, its dynamics rising and falling so naturally within each track that the whole package becomes as effortlessly engaging as it is focused and concise. Not that The Hotelier aren’t above switching things up - Your Deep Rest’s lurching bridge and Housebroken’s stunning instrumental midway section both come out of nowhere and give these already strong tracks the star factor they deserve. Star factor just about does it for Home…: it’s a thoroughly competent album with all the emotional conviction in the world, and no more needs to be added.
36David Bowie

Art rock count: 128
Discussion about Blackstar is based on a dialectic between whether Bowie’s death or the self-contained value of its music are more important, yet both parts are equally essential: it’s founded in eclectic and often brilliant music, but the morbid threads that bind it together both aesthetically and substantively are not just powerful in that they’re contextually informed by the death of their creator as a phenomenon outside the ‘album’, but in how they resonate with it inside-out. Blackstar flashes a stubbornly adventurous creative spirit in the face of the death, all articulated with a resilient wryness that never have come from anyone other than Bowie. The album’s middle third is an abrupt departure into dark noirish territory that smacks of a stark refusal to play things safe, and the final, overtly sentimental pairing is all the stronger for it it. Blackstar’s craft and resonance are such that it will always be remembered for the right reasons.
35Broken Social Scene
Hug of Thunder

Indie rock count: 435
Many people talk about how uplifting Hug of Thunder is. Fuck that. Broken Social Scene’s comeback album is their most morose collection of songs to date. While the Toronto megagroup’s most sombre register was once ironic self-pity, here they open their arms in a tentative, mature kind of solidarity no less warm for its reticence. Hug of Thunder is tasteful in the way it nods at the shame and despair the level-headed West has carried since 2016, butits political context is mercifully implicit: Broken Social Scene know are wiser than to call out the elephant in the room when they’ve never been playing for Trumpists, Tories and Canada’s pet nationalists to begin with. Hug of Thunder retains all the advantages of being a social album without being a ‘political’ one. It’s appropriately gloomy, commiserative, and uncertainly optimistic at the right points, landing as a sensitively crafted album that speaks directly to our times.
34The Gathering

Alternative count: 369
One of the greatest bands of the ‘90s and ‘00s, The Gathering’s last significant release to date sits well in their impeccable discog. Disclosure is by far the group’s best work without trump-card vocalist Anneke van Giersbergen and sees the band dipping in the most sentimental territory of their career. Even their fragile near-masterpiece Home held back from this level of heart-on-sleeve; Silje Wergeland’s lyrics are full of mopey heartbreak and the band brew up a morose dreamscape to match. Not exactly a hard sell for a band once famous for their flights of fantasy, but these tracks are so expansive and moving that there is little cause for worry: the first half in particular is a standout patch, with two fantastic epics and one of the group’s finest tearjerkers. Disclosure is as imaginative and rewarding as anything the group released in their peak years, and if it stumbles a little through its backend its highlights more than make up for this.
33Crystal Castles
Crystal Castles II

Electronic count: 296
While Crystal Castles’ infamous debut went down a storm for its chaotic brand of yelp-ridden bitcrushed, it was also fatally inconsistent. II is every inch the perfect follow-up, with a newfound atmospheric bent fleshing out an tracklist that preserves the debut’s wild abrasion. It’s the perfect sampler of every worthwhile sound Crystal Castles turned their hand to, all of which are shown up to their full strength. Baptism and Empathy are top-grade epileptic bangers, Celestica and Vietnam are probably the best reined-in tracks the project ever pinned down, and Violent Dreams is a delirious swirl of glitchy nausea. For all the name has been rightly soiled over the last couple of years, Crystal Castles’ great feat was to take club beats and boneheaded dance appeal, and turn it into something smarter, no less forceful and selectively atmospheric. II is their finest example of this and an enduring success.
32Dir En Grey

Progressive metal count: 221
While it faced stiff competition in 2011’s Dum Spiro Spero, Arche scores as Dir en Grey’s finest work this decade. Probably. It’s a tough choice - Arche and DSS are everything the other isn’t. DSS is an impenetrable, brutal record with a few melodic highlights, while Arche is beautiful and majestic, each track so succinctly packed with complicated ideas that it comes off as a collection of bite-sized epics. This album surely boasts some of the most disciplined songwriting ever heard on a metal record, yet its breathtaking scope and swooping melodies are pulled off with a grace that feels entirely un-metal. After the guttural barrage of DSS, frontman Kyo’s vocals are decidedly higher register, and he delivers a stunning performance that cements Arche’s place as a career highlight and a jewel of ‘10s metal.

Noise rock count: 253
The more I write on Melt-Banana, the more I’m convinced theirs is a sound that is possibly best left to speak for itself. This is especially true on Fetch, the most polished, melodic and palatable album this legendary duo have ever come up. Fetch is batshit fun, but there’s an ultra-precise sense of focus that runs through this one in a way that would have felt misplaced on any other MxBx album. It’s perhaps a little lacking in the wildfire spread of ideas that made Cell-Scape and Charlie so mindblowing, but this refined approach suits them well, resulting in knockout tracks like Schemes of the Tails and Candy Gun, delivered with a laser focus. Schemes of the Tails alone gets bonus points for being one of the most phenomenal live songs I’ve heard and Fetch in general is an unlikely combination of Melt-Banana raising their game and keeping their foot at the door at the same time, serving as an excellent basis for their long-awaited 2020 followup.
Marrow of the Spirit

Black Metal count: 201
It feels a little strange featuring Marrow of Spirit here: Agalloch feel like a relic of the ‘00s at this point, a reminder of a time when metal was carried on the simplest ideas and cleanest tones, when political awareness within the scene was a dead end and blackgaze had barely a fraction of its ‘10s popularity. If Agalloch themselves are a little misplaced in this decade, Marrow… is surely their black sheep, a little misplaced within their discography. This isn’t a criticism: its supremely brickwalled production, meandering song structures and oppressive intensity makes it by far their densest album, similar in some senses to their debut but fierce where that album was maudlin. The atmosphere on Marrow… is their strongest, and the it brought a new sense of dynamism that was somewhat lacking in past efforts; these factors land it as Agalloch’s best album and an early highlight of ‘10s metal.
29Hop Along
Painted Shut

Indie rock count: 329
Hop Along’s shift into conventional indie has been a well-guagedrefinement of style. Painted Shut has an even appeal for all Hop Along’s pliable demographics: it’s an album for rockers (see: the four dudes in front of me at their show who belted through the entirety of Powerful Man at the top of their voices), an album for pussies (see: Pitchfork’s albums of the 2010s), an album for hipsters (see: every lyric about homesickness and/or memory, and every narrative with a cold open), an album for people who didn’t care for Get Disowned but moon over Bark… (see: Happy to See Me), an album for people who love Get Disowned and were disappointed by Bark… (see: Happy to See Me) and it’s even an album for people who think they sold out (see: Well-dressed). It’s a fun, tight and hugely replayable rock record that goes down a storm live and provides as solid a foundation for Francis Quinlan’s jaded soul-barings as anything this group has done.
28Trophy Scars
Holy Vacants

Post hardcore / blues rock
2014 count: 247
Holy Vacants’ blend of hard rocking glory, dumbass epic concept and flare for heart-rending balladry is superlative in both scope and realisation. One of the most impressive parts of it is its potential for colossal failure - Trophy Scars’ style is so crass, so kitsch and so emotionally earnest that it has no right to work on anything resembling this scale. Holy Vacants should be the stuff of parody Tumblr pages, not of decade-defining rock albums. Fortunately, somehow, the album takes my well-founded cynicism and turns it straight on its head: it’s a thrill from start to finish, rocking hard enough to blur the scope of irony and spinning its ridiculous narrative into something well-crafted and passionately executed enough to be emotionally devastating by the time you reach the end. Full kudos to Trophy Scars - there’s nothing more impressive than the masterful vindication of terrible ideas.
We're Here Because We're Here

Progressive rock count: 353
Once the kings and queen of dour alt rock, Anathema’s reinvention as melodramatic sunshine prog is still as bemusing as it is sweet and smiley. Their post-hiatus material fits comfortably alongside the rest of their intimidating discography, but We’re Here… fell as an early peak for this era and stands as one of their very best. The only thing this record manages better than its miraculously tasteful forays into what in other bands’ hands would be unrefined hippy bullshit is it’s sequencing: the saccharine side-A is balanced perfectly by a moodier, proggy side-B in a way that gives We’re Here… a lasting depth none of its successors quite recreated. Of any album this high up, this is probably the one I’ve been listening to the longest; Anathema are the most reliable kind of old favourite and it’s remarkable how convincing they sound having evolved their trademark depression into romanticism.
26The National
Trouble Will Find Me

Indie count: 328
Trouble Will Find Me is the saddest, and therefore best, National album of the decade. It’s not for those averse to mumbling sadcore, but for me this is the purest exhibition of the maudlin overtones that grew a little stronger with each successive step in their discog up til here. This is a depression album through and through and plays out as an unrelenting downer; the upbeat songs (Graceless, Sea of Love) are arguably among the bleakest and the one moment of quaintness (I Need My Girl) is the only song I hate here. I haven’t had a particularly healthy relationship with Trouble Will Find Me - I clicked with it while listening to nothing but it, High Violet and Cocteau Twins on CDs for a weeklong period, hiding under my duvet from depression, heartache and my university workload (there goes the start of my sadboi Sowing fanfic review…), but I’ve flushed too much serotonin into its brittle depths not to appreciate its finer points.

Indie / sophisti-pop count: 110
If there was an award for classiest album of the decade, it’d go to Kaputt with little competition. Everything about this record is tasteful, considered and distinctively performed, to the point at which it’s almost too seamless for its own good. Kaputt is very close to perfect in my view, and its only stumbling block is that it’s a very “it’s not you it’s me album” - the degree to which it hits me personally is very inconsistent and there points at which I find myself admiring Dan Bejar’s composition and lyrics without feeling the sense of intense connection I feel they deserve. When I *do* connect with it, it’s a staggeringly good album that totally the deserves its soft consensus as one of the decade’s best, but these moments are infrequent enough that I’d struggle to justify doing more than sticking it reasonably high and tipping my hat from time to time.
24Soutaisei Riron
Tensei Jingle

Indie pop count: 315
Second only to The Veils when it comes to respectable bands who had seemingly run out of ideas unexpectedly pulling out a stunner, Soutaisei Riron’s fourth album is a triumph. The record mixes some of the group’s most infectious pop songs with some of the most cohesive realisations of frontwoman Etsuko Yakushimaru’s vision for kooky arthouse; to this day I believe that her anime-ready “Ah” at 4:29 of the borderline trip-hop closer Flashback is the perfect one-note distillation of her brand of cute edginess. The other 43 minutes 35 seconds are no slouch: the band hasn’t sounded this fresh since the band’s classic debut record Hi-Fi Anatomia! Tensei Jingle is a perfect reimagining of Soutaisei Riron’s trademark brand of fun aloofness, and it was something of a surprise to find that it’s the band’s longest record to date - it certainly flies by faster than 2013’s stodgy Town Age and lands as one of the decade’s most endlessly replayable delights.
23Car Seat Headrest
Twin Fantasy (Mirror to Mirror)

2011 / 2018
Indie / lo-fi count: 204
If you’ve been reading closely, you’ll have seen I called Melodrama the breakup album of our times. Fuck that. Twin Fantasy, in both its forms, is as brave, moving and unapologetically personal an album as you can hope to hear in this decade or any other. The very fact of its 2018 revision is both testament to transgressive value of the original’s raw portrayal of character and the paramount importance of the album as a personal and musical statement; it’s easy to fall in step with Will Toledo’s belief that Twin Fantasy mattered too much to be inadequately realised. I won’t get too caught up in the dual labyrinths of angst and self-fashioning that unfold throughout this album(s), because that would leave no room to vouch for how both versions champion the aesthetics of indie with stunning confidence and crassness. But then again, let’s not kid ourselves: those lyrics are the stuff of dead, bitter dreams. A truly great record.
22St. Vincent
Strange Mercy

Art pop count: 331
At points clinical, at others organic, Strange Mercy is an erratic mesh of ideas that sees Annie Clark stepping into her full potential and taking her craft into another dimension. It’s dazzlingly inventive and forward-thinking in a way her past albums only hinted at; St. Vincent’s brand had always been innocuously quirky, but Strange Mercy is enigmatic in a way that makes its stylistic mish-mash difficult to second guess. More than being a frankenstein’s monster of pop, it’s the elusive intent behind Clark’s performance here that’s the real source of mystery: the reserved anger of the title track, the confusion and weariness of Year of the Tiger and the thunderous FOMO of Dilettante all smack of great personal anxiety, none of which are ever explicated. This gives the album sense of intrigue that has aged…well, not at all. The crassness of her later LPs only serves to strengthen this: Strange Mercy remains the gold standard for American art pop.
21Shinsei Kamattechan

Noise pop / shoegaze count: 313
Tsumanne is a probably the most unapologetically horrible album on show here. Aptly termed ‘nightmare pop’ by some RYM kid, it dives into suicidal depression by means of pitch-shifted/screamed/unattractively deadpan vocals and a volatile fusion of glitch pop and synthed-up shoegaze. It has little middle ground: the bad parts are dull or unlistenable, but the (plentiful) good ones are inspired, infectious and often flooring. The ongoing friction between these sharply divided peaks and dips heightens the album’s stakes, making it twice as gripping, and at the end of the day what matters is that its insincerely saccharine haze is consistency and convincingly morbid, and that the highlight tracks swing out of said haze like wrecking balls. Oh boy. Kuroi Tamago and Sawayaka na Asa alone are worth the full journey, and the rest is enough to cut Tsumanne out as one of the most stirringly dysphoric albums in out there.

Electro pop
2016 count: 262
I won’t pick bones here: Sigma made the list by sole virtue of being the tightest collection of no-nonsense bangers you’ll hear from any artist this decade. REOL has the perfect amount of swagger to match producer Giga-P’s production freakouts, and the two together should come with an epilepsy warning. Remember how LEVEL3 was like a pop compendium for the first half of the decade? Consider Sigma a revised version that slaps three times as hard: it’s all over DetaramE KiddinG’s trap beats, Konoyo Loading’s crass bitpop, Yoiyoi Kokon’s sampling of world melodies, and RE:’s liberal foray into PC Music. Opener VIP KID has more in common with Eurodance than J-Pop, and 404 Not Found sets out a hilarious but surprisingly successful synthesis of emotional balladry with brostep breakdowns. Sigma’s flavour is far from standard Oricon fare, and it belongs at the top of your dance playlist every time all the time.
The Dream Is Over

Punk count: 214
The Dream Is Over’s brand of incendiary aggression, lyrical mishap and overt absence of f*cks given cut right to the heart of punk bedrock. Catchy and volatile, it’s full of an infectious strain of self-hating self-absorption by which you’d expect frontman Stefan Babcock would be all too happy to beat the living daylights out of his persona (by the time Familiar Patterns has run its course, If This Tour… might as well be viewed as a note to self). This gives PUP a great edge, but they support it with such a masterful range of adrenalised hooks that it sits comfortably as one of the most satisfyingly pissy albums I can think of.
18The Knife
Shaking the Habitual

Electronic count: 150
Probably the biggest success story of all the eleventh hour catchups I pounced on, this was a firm love on first listen. Shaking the Habitual’s songs expand and contract at rates that don’t seem to correspond to the material world, one minute skipping by briskly and the next seeming to slow time to an agonising crawl. At almost 100 minutes it’s the scope to flesh out and regulate its own dimension of dissonant madness, and it seems to take an active delight in testing this realm’s parameters. At its best, it’s is the best thing you could possibly be hearing; at it’s worst it’s outright exploitative of your attention but no less thoroughly crafted. This inconsistency belies a sense of daringness; it’s the kind of album to push the boat far enough out to risk seeming unbearably pretentious were it one jot less compelling. The Knife are inspired and confident here, and the album’s gripping highlights vindicate their uncompromising ethos almost entirely.
17Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds
Skeleton Tree

Ambient sadcore count: 264
If you haven’t yet, touch base with my writeup for Blackstar for how a great ’grief’ album should resonate inside-out with its context. This applies doubly to Skeleton Tree, most of which lyrically has next to nothing to do with the well-storied death of Cave’s son yet is realised with such devastating starkness that you have to remind yourself. It’s a great album by the sum of each sparse piano chord, barely-there drumbeat and beautiful, morose lyric, but double for so for how they reach out to that moment of history and useit as a focal point to concentrate the album’s quality. Skeleton Tree never needed a tragedy to succeed musically but the (hate this word) benefit of one opened its tracks up to a wider audience suddenly attuned to their real potential - in this sense it’s the polar opposite of A Crow Looked at Me, which is a terrible album for the same reasons. Anyhow, this album still hits like a wrecking ball.
16The Dear Hunter
Act IV: Rebirth in Reprise

Indie prog rock opera count: 435
Since each instalment is equally fleshed out and important for the development of the project, picking favourites in the Dear Hunter’s act series tends to end up as a circuitous waste of time. However, Act IV is the entry I’ve returned to most since 2007’s Act II. The project is so bold and dramatic that there’s often little room for subtly, but Act IV is the closest thing to it: it’s got a more elaborate, ambivalent scope than the other entries in the way it shows protagonist’s good intentions being gradually subsumed by the fervency of his quest for revenge, captured nicely in the weighty pondering of highlight track Abandon and the hints of apathy in the muted breakup track The Line. Most importantly, the first half’s highlight tracks are perhaps the most rousing, emotionally engaging tracks in TDH’s canon - Act IV’s theme of rebirth applies as much to the project itself as its narrative, and it carries a ostensively fresh inspiration.
15Haru Nemuri
Haru to Shura

Noise pop count: 437
Haru Nemuri is a precious treasure and must be protected at all costs. The sight of a wide-eyed millennial trying to conquer the world with music in an age where success is measured by distant statistics generated by streaming apps; Haru’s vision seems more visceral and un-jaded than anything the world could possibly reward her with. Miraculously, it seems to be working out okay so far: she’d seem ridiculous and more than a little naive if Haru to Shura was anything less than absolutely massive, but this album punches way above its weight, shattering whatever glass ceilings would normal apply to those in Haru’s shoes. Noisey, melodic and incredibly addictive, it’s a set of unrelenting bangers as open-hearted as they are distorted. I actually discovered what turned out to be my album as the decade as a throwaway find while looking for records to distract me from playing this one to death - a great reflection on both albums.
14Seiko Oomori
Kusokawa Party

Pop / glam metal count: 300
Following two comfortably ‘pop’ albums, Oomori Seiko dropped us a timely reminder that’s she’s always been punk as hell. Kusokawa Party is an irreverent mix of flat-out pop metal, incendiary party bangers, Seiko’s take on k-pop, and even an abrupt reprise of her raw early-career folk sound. It *starts* with the mother of all overblown power ballads and ends in a beautiful slow-burning ode to self-hatred and internalised misogyny, but the whole thing is so engaging and energetic that its many crass decisions are exciting and accessible - unlike many pop forays into aggression, Kusokawa Party is entirely convincing: metal guitars are as natural a complement to Seiko’s particular combination of desperate soul-bearing and ponderous self-fashioning as her own acoustic tones have been in the past, and the album plays out as a furious distillation of her most stubborn qualities. Another straight winner from pop’s crown jewel this decade.
13Kayo Dot

Experimental metal count: 301
Hubardo plays out like a greatest hits album from Toby Driver’s whole career. With a career-spanning lineup and subtle nods to the stylistic vocabulary of maudlin of the Well and earlier Kayo Dot works, traces of this album’s writing and aesthetic can also be heard in almost everything he’s done since - not that these albums are uninspired or retrodden, but Hubardo is so comprehensive as an anthology of his style that this resonance is inevitable. And what an album it is: even including its infamously egregious opener, the amount of ground covered here would be enough for any other band to pave its 100-minute runtime four times over! It’s produced in a way that continually foregrounds an acoustic, unprocessed sound (you won’t find anything obviously digital here other than its release format). Volatile, haunting and so saturated with diverse ideas that its huge expanse rarely seems intimidating, this one was a real gift.

Indie / post hardcore count: 366
mewithoutYou’s final album is a juggernaut with an intimidating standard of consistency few albums can match. It borrows from Pale Horses’ beautifully cryptic imagery interspersed with personal bombshells, though where that album was opaque and evasive [Untitled] is probably the most direct mwY have been since their angsty debut. The music here is the strongest in their career and Aaron Weiss’ turbulent performance doesn’t miss a beat, but Untitled’s strongest suit lies in how it embraces ideas that would be ill-fitting for any other mwY record. Wendy & Betsy, Michael… and even Julia are bold moves from a band wearing their idiosyncrasies on their sleeve as proudly as ever, while their usual midtempo fare is well represented. mwY weren’t necessarily a band that needed a second decade after their stellar ‘00s run, but to see them turn it into the strongest material of their career has been a joy. I’m going to miss this group like hell.
Tales Of Us

Folk / chamber pop count: 335
Goldfrapp’s eclectic career has been so defined by their refusal to bring the style of one album into the another that the prospect of a spiritual follow-up for their classic debut Felt Mountain was long out of mind. And yet, Tales of Us unexpectedly gave us that record, with its eerie stillness, enticing understatement and slow-winding suspense. It’s the most pared back Goldfrapp album to date, opting for minimal chamber folk arrangements that sidestep the nods to Portshead, horror and noir that made Felt Mountain so enjoyably dated; Tales of Us is enigmatic and timeless and all the better for it. Its space and stillness give Allison Goldfrapp room for her finest vocal performance to date, and the occasional forays into electronic sounds are disarming without sabotaging the album’s lurking tranquillity. This atmosphere is masterfully sustained, full of shy restraint without being uninvitingly subtle; this one has shown its worth over time.
Garden Window

Post hardcore / post-rock count: 372
Remember when it was the ‘00s and Thrice were held as the peak of music? So do O’Brother, and their debut is quite comfortably the best Thrice album of the ‘10s. Garden Window’s relative simplicity underpin a focus on hard earned dynamic trade-offs and a set of guitar and bass (!!) tones that any atmospherically inclined rock band worth their salt would kill for. Aptly named, the album has a wonderful organic tone that gives the record a rare spark and resonance in its expansive builds and largely unrefined songwriting that future, tighter O’Brother albums still haven’t fully recaptured. If at this point post-rock is a dying scene and post-hardcore has been eaten alive by noodling tinnituscore custom crafted for peppy Sacramento kids, Garden Window might be one of the last great albums that can be attached to either genre. If so, I’ll be content.
9The Veils
Total Depravity

Indie count: 433
“I’m glowing black, obsidian / axolotl, amphibian” - of any opening line boasted by these albums, Total Depravity’s is perhaps the most evocative and aptly placed. Long-time underdogs in the scheme of big name indie, The Veils were well positioned to come out with a slick album that wasn’t so much dark and haunting as it flirted with those qualities for tasteful dramatic effect. It’s not excessive enough to land as Halloween kitsch, but its evocations of late night apparitions, twisted psyches and (of course) eyeliner are more than enough for it to give a nudge and a wink in that direction; it’s full of character and ambiguity, backed up by stellar songwriting from an experienced band clearly in touch with fresh inspiration. Frontman Finn Andrews’ modest, well-mannered demeanour bring extra nuance to the album’s slight postulation. I’m not sure what to expect next from the Veils, but Total Depravity remains an exemplary note on which to have been left hang
8Keiichi Okabe
Nier Automata Original Soundtrack

Soundtrack count: 261
The Automata OST sits in a different ballpark to these albums, not just by nature of being a soundtrack. I can comfortably listen to most albums here as a whole and pinpoint their strengths, failings and context fairly comfortably. With the Automata soundtrack, 90% of the time I’ll struggle to get past listening to City Ruins or Blissful Death on repeat and crying in a corner about dead robots. I don’t have anything close to an objective answer for how well the OST would work removed from any game experience, or how well the game would have worked without the OST to begin with: Automata and its music are both under my skin at this point. What I can say is that Keiichi Okabe’s knack for evocative motifs is breathtaking and that many of these tracks have inspired me hugely: along with Yuki Kajiura’s Kara no Kyoukai OST, this is top of my reference points when it comes to writing music, and so it gets my bias as one of the decade’s most impactful works.
No Devolucion

Post hardcore/post punk count: 385
Similarly to Agalloch, Thursday’s late output feels more like a legacy of the ‘00s than anything of the ‘10s. If anything, it looks further into the past than other Thursday albums, picking no bones with Geoff Rickly’s Joy Division fixation while smacking of the same Thursday sound that once defined post hardcore for a generation. As a best of both worlds package, No Devolucion is good as they come: the band sound perhaps the most inspired of any point in their career and boast a rigorous maturity that lands the album as a perfect swansong. ‘80s-leaning it may be, but the bleariness of No Answers’ reverby synthscapes and the triumph of Sparks Against The Sun’s three-note piano motifs are as compelling now as they’d ever have been elsewhen. The most timeless albums are often firmly rooted to their time of release (DSotM, Heaven or Las Vegas etc), and No Devolucion appropriates its influences strongly enough to inspire a similar feeling.
6Ichiko Aoba
0 (Zero)

Folk count: 176
There are two main patterns of praise I see waved around in 0’s direction. One is that it’s an intelligent, forward-thinking breaking of new ground in folk, carried by a quietly adventurous spirit. The other is that it’s simply one of the most gorgeously gentle collection of tracks streamable online. As far as two sides of the same coin goes, this is about as auspicious as it gets, and 0 lives up to both sides marvellously. While Ichiko Aoba’s vision and performance style are distinctly singular, the album’s scope of appeal is remarkably wide: it’s one of those records that you can put on in literally *any* situation not overloaded by adrenaline and end up with a great experience. Do whatever you like with 0 on and it’ll feel better. Coffee with your parents, long study periods, sleeping, eating, procreating, weeping, bathing, you name it: Ichiko’s got you covered.
Homephone TE

Electronic / glitch pop count: 315
Get your shit together Sputnik. 4 ratings for this dream of an album is nothing short of a travesty, but in a way appropriate: everything about Homephone TE has the feel of an undiscovered secret, immediately obvious in vocalist Emaru’s hushed, breathy approach. She sounds almost childish but her cryptic lyrics suggest otherwise: the tension between her content and delivery is part of an ambiguity that runs deep through the album. Homephone TE has a dense, complexly layered feel with its use of extensive, subtly integrated sampling (Yume), its trade-off of acoustic instrumentation against electronic tones and glitches (Kaijuu), its tendency to meander unpredictably from dream pop (Tsuiraku) to trip hop (Sinwave) to straight up glitch pop (Sjeme) often within the same song (Chess). Enigmatic without being uninviting, it’s a perfect mix accessible ideas realised with peak sophistication and never fails to hold my interest from start to end.
4Hop Along
Get Disowned

Indie / emo / folk count: 332
Get Disowned is as upfront as title as they come: Hop Along’s magnum opus is full of crass insights on death and failed relationships of shapes and sizes, savage one-liners, and brutal shifts from happy go lucky singalongs to colossal downers. It’s a deeply ugly album that wears its trendy rough ’n’ ready indie palette like a third-hand uniform with concerted discomfort, making a precociously endearing look out of seeming to have outgrown everything it touches. The album constantly foregrounds its own malaise, but it’s infectious as hell even at its most unattractive; there’s a point in underrated as hell highlight track Diamond Mine where frontwoman Francis Quinlan howls “SO, UNHAPPY CHILD” out of nowhere and the band kick into one of the surliest emo-tantrums I can remember hearing but it somehow lands as complete perfection and makes you wonder whether getting disowned is such a bad thing after all? That’s the form here: glorious discontent
3The Dillinger Escape Plan
Option Paralysis

Mathcore count: 433
Option Paralysis upholds such intimidating standards of quality and proficiency that I struggle to think of any album that could rival it as the best heavy release of the decade. This is the peak of the Dillinger Escape Plan, so much so that the two (stellar) albums after it feel like afterthoughts of the creative watershed that went down on this one. Option Paralysis covers all bases; it maps out the band’s finest melodic forays and delivers some of their fiercest stormers sometimes within the same track (I Wouldn’t If You Didn’t). The weaker tracks are bangers in their own right, the highlights are colossal, and the sequencing is absolutely exemplary to the point that it should be mass-distributed as a learning resource for retaining engagement over the course of a ferocious album. Calling albums ‘classic’ can be pretty dicey, with the ambiguous and often contradictory range of connotations involved, but this one owns them all.
Pale Horses

Indie / post hardcore count: 646
Holy shit, we’ve made it to the final two. This pair is very much its own category - if every other album on this list was erased from the world, my relief that these two had survived would be comfortably outweigh my regret for the 98 casualties. We’re in personal territory here: Pale Horses has been hugely important to me for several distinct periods over the last few years. It’s soaked up every thought, feeling and experience I’ve thrown at it, acting as a soundtrack for ditching quote-unquote youth and adjusting to early adulthood. From the weary opening chords to the thunderous bridge in Rainbow Signs, Pale Horses washes over me like terrible news told with the warmest of intentions; mewithoutYou are an famously effusive band but Pale Horses is their greyest, sternest record, a slow grower that belongs on any desert island I ever find myself washed up on.
1Seiko Oomori

Pop count: 503
Gonna stick to my guns on this one: Sennou (and Oomori Seiko generally) are an acquired taste that probably come off as a desperate, attention seeking mess to most first-timers - and for good reason! Sennou is a like Frankenstein’s take on a pop carnival, a twisted mesh of ideas that would never have come together otherwise. Yet, somehow, it just works. The more time I’ve spent with Sennou, which I first treated as a novelty find, the more convinced I am by Seiko’s phenomenal songwriting chops; there’s a current of desperation that seems to underpin everything she does, but she never bites off more than she can chew (for proof of this see the seamless self-cover of freakhouse kingpin Yakiniku Date on her Muteki compilation). Sennou is my album of the decade because it’s perhaps the most colourful, personable and repeatedly rewarding record I’ve come across, with a strong emotional bedrock and an erratic sense of flourish that speaks straight to my heart.
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