woo boy, what a trip this has been. the confounding continued existence of sputnik is a great source of pain and relief for me. this list jettisons the pretense of objectivity and is meant to portray the decade as it was (the wall-to-wall music, earmarked albums putting numbers on the board), not as i would like it to have been. go gentle. goodbye
An Album By Korallreven
The Age of Adz
Let England Shake
|94||Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds|
Bel Air Highrise Plantation
Leak 04-13 (Bait Ones)
Have One on Me
How Are You?
Under The Skin OST
An Empty Bliss Beyond This World
New History Warfare Vol 2: Judges
Open Your Heart
Bedroom Databank, Vols. 1-4
The Way Out
|57||Yo La Tengo|
There’s A Riot Going On
A Crow Looked At Me
The Idler Wheel...
Some Rap Songs
|51||A Sunny Day in Glasgow|
Sea When Absent
Velvet Elvis for the soul.
Earth To Friend
Chillwave for grown-ups who really like Prefab Sprout.
There is always the fear of disappointment for the follow-up to a genre’s decade-defining consensus masterpiece, especially for one eight years in the making. Honey sidesteps this completely by accentuating the mature grace that give Robyn’s best tracks their longevity, favoring tension and sparse arrangements over tectonic beats and strobing clutter. The rafters are met gradually and with an alien precision that cements Robyn’s place in the echelon of great pop songwriters.
|47||The Tallest Man on Earth|
The Wild Hunt
Kristian Matsson is hot and he knows it. I will allow it!
On Your Own Love Again
Jessica Pratt’s folk music glistens with the glow of its amber encasing gently melting away, revealing timeless tunes as incredible in 2015 as they would be in 1965.
Pregnant deserved better! The Sacramento band have spent the last decade quietly releasing small odysseys of impressionistic indie rock, culminating in the wonderful collage-pop of their best work. There are some albums that feel generous, usually for their effervescence or grandeur; Duct Tape is such an album, bringing a leveling maturity to imaginative compositions and charming vocals pitched liked an Adult Swim cartoon. You’ll get it.
808s and Dark Grapes II
Music this good made by people this young can often framed as some fateful, cosmic accident, a perfect storm of youth and generation and narrative. But this one feels purposeful and grand, smart guys humbled of their own acumen, who put in the work to make it bold.
The Original Faces
Some Sunday mornings you wake up having somehow passed through the keyhole of your apartment obliterated drunk and horny and this album greets you with an Advil and water and speaks the secrets of the universe like whispered sweet nothings you’ll forget; and you will.
To listen to Nujabes is to forget wholesale the concept of cynicism.
Dynamic doom metal that weaves beautiful clean passages into its thundering centerpieces not as a reprieve but as its complement. A brilliant friend once wrote of Heathen that “its beauty is incidental to a forever kind of pain,” and to struggle through Heathen is to be comforted all the same.
A sonic bubblebath. Go inward and travel.
THE de facto trunk-rattling invocation of earthly desire in the age of accelerated innovation. Unsubtle on its face in ways that deepen upon impact, the sonic world built up with OPN and Hudson Mohawke as intricate and palatable as the ideas they sequence. I’ll entertain every conversation on HOPELESSNESS as a complicated intersection of politics and the personal, and for whom this kind of toe-the-line smug self-laceration is actually for. But when was the last time a pop album, let alone one so artfully composed as this, made you say that?
Shaking the Habitual
Sustainable pop of the distant present.
|37||Ian William Craig|
A Turn of Breath
Once on a long car trip by myself, as I passed into the flat rural lands of Texas’ sun-dappled plains and the radios began to scramble their frequencies, an opera bubbled to the surface all distorted, enveloping the eerie sounds of radio talk shows and undulated synth-pop tones from its neighboring sources. It was unexpectedly sublime, and I longed to capture it just so.
... the stunning architecture / fills with wind …
In an alternate universe, Zonoscope made Cut Copy international superstars. Sequenced to heaven and back, lit up like the Eiffel Tower, an electrifying synthesis of their pre-decade dance-rock predilections into a molten music bed of electronic genres, the gleaming future timeless of music past.
Please trust when I say it speaks to the quality I find within DAMN. that I didn’t even question its placement in lieu of his preceding two landmark albums. This one is just bonkers, a blockbuster hip-hop album that commands attention with every facet: the production is airtight and surprisingly conceptual (considering it follows the novel-intricate To Pimp a Butterfly), while Lamar is at his most formidable, churning out bars and hooks with incredible precision. No one at his scale is doing it like this, maybe ever.
COIN COIN Chapter One: Gens de couleur libres
The stand-in (though still my favorite) for a decade that saw the first third of Roberts’ 12-part Coin Coin series. Incredibly powerful for reasons that are a given, but like all great albums we champion with import, there is a real majesty to this jazz music that is compelling in the same ways it is challenging.
Is it alright if we feel good?
All the respect to Ms. Monae for having the gumption to back her ambitions with songs! A metropolis of silly riches, a flashpoint of psychedelic soul that plays with anachronisms and Afrofuturism to great effect, and better music.
Looping State of Mind
[lewis furiously writes research papers]
Years Past Matter
What I enjoy most about metal is the cacophony, the way guitars etch their sound while spiked in the red. I am drawn to albums where the atmosphere cocoons the album, draws the air out and lets rip. Something comforting in the claustrophobia even as every element is delivered with punishing ferocity. Years Past Matter is textured and detailed to an exhaustive, cathartic degree, and one I returned to most often.
Paul's Tomb: A Triumph
Everything cool about college rock stations and literally nothing lame.
Easy to explain, hard to articulate. Their trademark production tailored to some of the most charming and memorable melodies the genre has to offer. A gem from every angle. Describing how this album sounds is an admission of its everlasting worth.
|26||Oneohtrix Point Never|
R Plus Seven
Do y’all remember that Windows 98 screensaver where you wandered an underground brick maze?
Your guitar could never.
Innocence Is Kinky
Jenny Hval’s transition into an avant-pop auteurist, finessing the trip-hop that will underscore her later-decade ascent into humble indie-pop stardom. But Innocence is Kinky is a taut and caustic post-punk construct, with Hval’s most poetic redressing of gender politics in art and sexual expression.
The self-titled was good, I’ll give you that, but this—! Antisocialities is the unicorn of a “List Three, Choose Two” meme: an indie pop classic for Gen Z that is smart, funny and overwhelming with its gift for divine melody.
Nothing 2 Loose
Captures so singular a shade of melancholy that it feels revelatory, a whole new color in a spectrum already dense with fresh discovery. Simple in design, just patient trance beats sequenced between soft synth pads and spoken word snippets; but the assemblage is moment after moment of gentle wonders, overflowing with a spirit that time again brings me to tears.
Something pointed and disquieting about this one; even free of the political context in which it was released December 2014, it has an apparent murky edge that colors in the otherwise unpredictable, warm and frankly very sexy soul music.
Every individual component of this album is unspeakably ugly, but to Danny Brown’s immense credit, he fashions it all together in a way that is purposeful and rewarding. There is no question of Brown’s prowess as a storyteller, and Atrocity Exhibition becomes a concept album through the sheer force of its execution, in how the lyrics inform Brown’s performance and the dark psychosis of his warped music bed. It is the rare instance of an artist satirizing the culture that exasperates rockstar narratives like his own without losing himself to irony or self-deprecation, mapping his sins with a fierce awareness that translates with crystal clarity.
RIYL: Björk, Aphex Twin, falsettos to cut a diamond, the way a fire encroaches upon a lone cottage
Animal Collective are my favorite band. They had as perfect a decade run as any indie band borne of the new millennium’s technological advancements, rewarding a loyal fanbase with subverted expectations at each new release while telegraphing the blurred distinction between underground trends and mainstream successes. Centipede Hz continues the trend of retooling the sound to create something unique within their discography. Yet it is bogged down in an alien production that absorbs the blows of its clutter, the four-piece opting for a maximalist rock album that accentuates its lyrical fixation on fading frontiers and hyper-connectivity, the fear of our body aging faster than our sensibilities. Therein lies the key to the collective’s success, in their peculiar way of creating great art reflecting the very life for whom it was created. With growing pains and fresh anxieties, Animal Collective again telegraph something curiously obtuse about our modern obsessions and inadequate solutions.
Tomorrow, In a Year
With the help of Planningtorock, Mount Sims, and the operatic vocal stylings of their Danish and Sweden collaborators, The Knife write the best songs of their careers, totaling something grand and explicit about the process of evolution and the capabilities of sound structure to define it. The whole is a glorious, pretentious something and, especially in its first half, almost flagrant in alienating; connective tissue between the primordial and us, at the height of it all: eating, fucking, gawking and, privy to our inexorable species, creating.
The divisive “REALITi” is a good start. The fan-favorite demo is something of a calling card, the moment in which her bedroom sound transcended the soft blur of its lo-fi roots through sweeping, crafty pop hooks. It practically didn’t need to be touched. And yet… Grimes picks a telling track to retool for her AAA title, an album where she grapples with the consequences of perspective and autonomy, or lack thereof. There is a level of control across the album that speaks to her talent as a synthesist, trading the molten genre electro-pop of her breakthrough Visions for explicit detours and roadmaps that turn over with the ingenuity and inexplicable simplicity of a pop-up book. That “REALITi” works in both contexts speaks to the way in which the incredible pop music on Art Angels warps our understanding of the Earthbound observations of a woman already tending to her garden on Mars.
Tunes 2011 to 2019
Burial said trans rights!
Native Speaker has been the salve applied to so many wounds since its release that it should repulse me; “better” albums have fallen to such associations, and feel forever linked to memories to make a stomach churn on impact. But Native Speaker is different: Braids have written songs that speak to those formative experiences that illuminate the questions you should be asking in the wake of consequences defined by the answers you sought. It is, ah, an album of many wrinkles, lush, colorful and grand-scaled, but the blocks are simple and well-defined, built up and then dismantled in plain, evocative ways. It is an album I will understand differently as I grow, that rare album of post-adolescence that ages more gracefully than we do.
tfw ennui but make it post-punk masterpiece
Something like an Americana classic, a damning love letter to the excesses of toiling romance and shady desires, of spoiled dilettantes and passionate vagabonds, set against a twinkling backdrop of sophisticated new age indie rock and a saxophone so delicious it teeters on blasphemy. America walks away bruised and delirious, and we dance with bloody feet on the remnants of her once-majestic disco ball.
A I A
Grouper is too pure for our hype cycles, so bless the stacked year that saw this ambient twofer slip between the cracks and into our sleepy subconsciouses. This one deserves a pillow and the aurora borealis of a closed eyelid.
A fraught utopia of progressive queer inclusion and the careening emotional free fall of drug-induced euphoria and until-I-come love. Smart and frank exploration of workaholic neuroses and the necessary heartbreak of the rich and famous. Incredible production choices for 41 straight minutes. Ten of my favorite pop songs, period.
Many college students have gone to college and gotten hooked on drugs, marijuana, and alcohol. Listen, stop trying to be somebody else. Don't try to be someone else. Be yourself and know that that's good enough. Don't try to be someone else. Don't try to be like someone else. Don't try to act like someone else. Be yourself, be secure with yourself. Rely and trust upon your own decisions, on your own beliefs. You understand the things that I've taught you. Not to drink alcohol, not to use drugs. Don't use that cocaine or marijuana because that stuff is highly addictive. When people become weed-heads they become sluggish, lazy, stupid and unconcerned. Sluggish, lazy, stupid and unconcerned. That's all marijuana does to you, okay? This is mom. Unless you're taking it under doctor's, um, control. Then it's regulated. Do not smoke marijuana, do not consume alcohol. Do not get in the car with someone who is inebriated. This is mom, call me, bye.
Don’t pant and we’ll go unseen.
Oil of Every Pearl's Un-Insides
Sophie’s proper debut already feels like a landmark album, an iconoclastic blast of pop confetti and battering rams that draws lines as thick and textured as concrete slabs between synth-pop and industrial club music. Each song rings distinct in her oeuvre despite the precedents, and yet for all its whiplash segues and structural oddities, it hangs together with a purpose that mends the sharp edges into one cosmic, miraculous whole. What once scanned as well-crafted but ironically-distanced “deconstructed” pop (bolstered by her connections with the still-divisive PC Music) is now rendered vividly, achingly more-than human, a template not just for pop’s further exploration through genre boundaries but for the queer expression it galvanizes. “It’s okay to cry,” Sophie tells us; not exactly radical, but then, when was the last time someone told you that while they were laughing, sparkling, iridescent?
|5||My Bloody Valentine|
m b v
she found now
Lewis: The album sounds like to me a watercolor painting. Like how it should look, where one must really concentrate to understand how the colors and shapes come together. It is a very satisfying experience sonically.
Ishmael: [laughs] Yeah. That's interesting about the watercolor though, because every time we make a record, we always call and say it was mixed in, like say, "power glow," or you know, "mixed elixir log," which is like the overlying, or overriding philosophical approach sonically. And so, this one, we call it "pluvial" because pluvial is like a word that means "water-soaked" or "rainy," which I started thinking about how a moist atmosphere, how that geologically plays into sound and sonics. It must add a gravity, you know what I'm saying? Like if you soaked something in water, it's a little bit heavier, it's a little bit deeper, a little bit warmer, you know what I mean? And how sound plays out when you're deep underwater, too. I like that, too.
Have You In My Wilderness
This stands, so many listens later, as Holter's crowning achievement thus far: ornate, sun-bleached strings and rhythms that vibrate with an intensity that creates cacophony even in stillness. Holter brings her impressionistic bedroom synth-pop to full-tilt symphony with a flair that would consume egos twice her size. Have You In My Wilderness remains a stunning listen so many revolutions later, the premier work of one of the decade’s great artists.
E S T A R A
I hope everyone has one album that makes them feel the way E S T A R A makes me feel.