Kirk Bowman

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Last Active 03-02-23 8:58 pm
Joined 05-29-14

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01.01.21 2k2010.28.20 best of the 2010s s-y
10.20.20 best of the 2010s l-s10.03.20 best of the 2010s d-l
09.22.20 best of the 2010s #-D05.31.20 20 years
01.03.20 2k19 08.03.19 looking for emo/pop/folky recs
01.01.19 2k18 10.27.18 M5+
01.25.18 tear01.21.18 pump
01.19.18 glitch01.17.18 drift
01.01.18 mmxvii12.25.17 best songs of 2k17
01.31.17 sad FRIENDZONE news12.29.16 what I liked this year
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best of the 2010s #-D

i've been working on a very long list of my favorite projects of the past decade for about a year now. i had originally planned on doing write-ups for all of them but i have decided that's not realistic. instead, here is what I have so far, including some with write-ups, but most without. anyways, hopefully you can find something you like here or in the next section. organized alphabetically by album title. as always, recs welcome and i'm happy to give them out as well.
3Beach House

While there's not much obvious difference from album-to-album of Beach House discography, but 7 feels like a finale. Like any good ending, it combines all the strength of previous contenders in the series, concluding with a satisfying look back at its legacy and its own spectacular resolution of all the sounds explored. While they might very well go on to make more music, when that final note hits in "Last Ride" I couldn't possibly ask for a better way to say goodbye.
4Cashmere Cat

Future funk is often deprecated, and for good reason. Many of the most popular tracks are literally just old disco hooks looped with drums over the top and anime girls on the YouTube link - think vaporwave but more fun and less thoughtful. Artists like Fibre are the exception to the rule. The basic formula is the same, but it comes much closer to the French house of the late 90s and early 00s, with extensive build-ups and heavy funk influence, along with chopped vocals and jazzy bridges.
6Taylor Swift

Remember back when the biggest Taylor Swift controversy was whether she was making country or pop music? I do. I remember hearing tracks off Red like "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" and "I Knew You Were Trouble" and being shocked by their synths and EDM drops. The real shock was still coming with 1989. Not only did it remove all traces of country for a full synthpop project, it was one of the best pop albums of the decade. It has classics like "Style" and "Blank Space," both practically perfect on their own. For the most part, it feels entirely unique and personal. When I'm craving 1989, there are no substitutes. This will be remembered, not only as one of her best, but one of the world's.
7George Clanton
100% Electronica
8Ana Caprix
13 Angels Standing Guard Round The DJ Booth
9Bon Iver
22, A Million

There's a multitude of reasons to dislike this album, and the music is not one of them. You can hate deadmau5, he's a dick, you can hate the scene he arrived in, it's full of lazy hacks attempting to capitalize on trends, you can hate his fanbase, it's pretentious and inexperienced, you can even hate most of his music, it's really a mixed bag. But I don't really see why people would hate this album. It's one of the best EDM full-lengths of the decade, with a great blend between dark, dubby tracks like "Raise Your Weapon" or "Cthulhu Sleeps" and house bangers like "Some Chords" and "Bad Selection." Music like this shouldn't be a guilty pleasure - we should all recognize quality even when it comes surrounded by the worst.
11A. G. Cook

Much has been said about the bubbly and bright segments of PC Music, the parts that center around movement, rather than aura. 6 is a reminder that the only way bubblegum pop and UK bass could have existed in the first place was because of ambient and trance, the two genres that have defined so much of A.G.'s aesthetic for so long. These may be a selection of unreleased instrumentals thrown together into a zip for promotional purposes, but they're still songs that reveal an oft-forgotten side of the PC Music ethos, a reminder of how beautiful music can be.
12Main Attrakionz
808s and Dark Grapes II

There are plenty of flaws in 808s & Dark Grapes 2 - messy tracklisting, fuzzy mastering, goofy lyrics. But there's a reason that for a too-brief moment in 2012, everyone in the know fell for Mondre and Squadda, a reason that this was the tape that helped cloud rap felt so good for a moment. It's because of how real it feels and more importantly is. Early 2010s trends in music felt like cynical cash-grabs almost constantly, so to hear someone express their hope, disappointment and passion over beats that sounded so of-the-moment was nothing short of a miracle. Over the years, despite continuing to improve, they lost much of their fanbase, and it turned out they were the genuine ones all along. In retrospect, it's obvious. People don't reveal their mistakes unless they trust us, and 808s is the sound of a duo constantly handed difficult cards fighting to trust themselves and the world.
13Main Attrakionz
808s and Dark Grapes III

808s & Dark Grapes 3 is, in my opinion, the best hip-hop project produced this decade, and the best cloud rap album of all time. Mondre and Squadda have absolutely perfected their styles, balancing confidence with wisdom to form lyrics that make listeners feel great about themselves. FRIENDZONE produce the whole thing in their sadly ultimate project, and do a brilliant job complimenting the Attrakionz with their stuttering beats. With a concise tracklist and just enough features, this is the one album I would recommend for hip-hop fans looking for something under the radar.
14The 1975
A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships

The 1975 started their career making catchy indie pop that was drenched in irony. It was great music, but the meaning that it had was projected onto it by its many teenage fans. It took six years for them to figure out how to showcase sincerity. Sure, these lyrics aren't the most brilliant, but they're so honest it's really hard to hate them. And musically, they finally figured out how to make everything necessary, with a no-filler hour-long album of emotional catharsis. In a way that escaped many listeners, it showcased something people are deeply in denial about re: the internet. It made a case that it will never matter how cringeworthy it is, that there will always be beauty in being earnest.
A I A: Alien Observer
A Moon Shaped Pool
A New Family
A Seat at the Table

Throughout the history of recorded music, black art has consistently been overlooked. From rock to dance, jazz to folk, practically every major genre in the past century has owed something to black creators, frequently ignored until white artists start working within that sphere. In that regard, records like this bring me hope. It is exceedingly rare for black artists to be given the credit they deserve, and although commercial audiences still generally didn't give her the time of day, at least critics accepted her finest work. Enjoy this tour across genre lines, expanding the idea of album in a musical landscape that seeks to minimize it, and maybe this time we'll remember where the idea came from before it's too late.
Access All Arenas

Justice feel like they should be stuck back in the decade before - the electroclash movement was pretty firmly pre-2010. And this is just a live compilation, half stuff that was literally released in 2007. But Access All Arenas, like Alive 2007 before it, is absolutely worth the listen. Even if it's not quite to the same standard as the other live album by the other famously slow French house duo, it still pulls off many of the same tricks. House (and EDM) in general is a great genre to get creative with live, and mashups and inventive transitions can help to segue in new material smoothly, even when that material was not a fan or critic favorite. This is much, much easier said than done, and Justice pulls it off with aplomb. It's too bad this seems to be a tradition we've left in decades past.
21Chance the Rapper
Acid Rap

This isn't the perfect mixtape a million people who had recently moved on from an Arcade Fire obsession and maybe heard 3 mixtapes in 2012 made it out to be. That being said, there's a reason it had such universal appeal. It's not the production, which was, frankly, fucking weird. Nobody else in the mainstream was rapping over a weird-ass stilted Nosaj Thing beat like Chance did on "Paranoia." But it made sense, because Chance was weird ("igh!" might seem normal now in an age where "skrrrt" is something everyone knows, but it wasn't at the time). The confident voice crack parallel to Future's insecure autotune (equally vital, for different reasons), he was confident enough to drop a second tape, his big chance to impress the public, with something for everyone. The dizzy smoking jams, the longing romances, the upbeat yet uncertain intro, the ill-advised Gambino braggadocio - this was music for every kind of weirdo.
23Kara-Lis Coverdale
All My Heroes Are Cornballs
Always Never Home

It’s less your pulse, more the feeling of breathing in and out, muscular tension rather than pure excitement. Syd’s dark, grimy form of R&B lives up to the hype blogs promised us with The Weeknd in 2011, finally perfected years later. Sex is represented as two-sided, like it always should be, and this presents itself not only lyrically but in the push and pull of the music.
26Amelia Airhorn
Amelia Airhorn

Sampling and plunderphonics are some of the most used and discussed techniques of the last forty years, but the strength of the form has weakened as it has been kept in check by rich artists and the RIAA. Albums like 3 Feet High and Rising and Endtroducing aren't really possible anymore under traditional release formats. The Knocks and Skylar Spence, aka Amelia Airhorn, understand this and chose to drop their plunderphonics project as a free mixtape (plus an app!). It's absolutely deserving of a full-scale album release, with all the recognition and profits that implies. Instead, overwrought copyright rules don't allow these gorgeous 43 minutes of New York-focused party samples, surrounded by young YouTubers singing, Bob's Burgers' clips, and a flowing narrative of skits. It's absolutely dripping with sincere creative energy, and it's a shame it wasn't allowed further attention.
27Elysia Crampton
American Drift

It's been five years since American Drift, and it still stands alone. Nobody else is brave or even creative enough to recognize the ambience in Lil' Jon-isms, to utilize equal parts "Rock of Ages" and "Music for 18 Musicians," to create music focused on precolonial transevangelisticism. It's part cumbia, part new age, part classical, part psych, and all striking. To the skeptics, this isn't just some weird high-concept Tiny Mix Tapes-core project, it's a gorgeous piece of art that reveals more with every listen.
28DJ Koze

Amygdala is the sound of a trip. Not the psychedelic, but the feeling of stumbling over your feet when you didn’t expect it. It’s a bit stomach-churning, familiar in ways both pleasant and unsettling. This is a fermented stew of electronica, stirring R&B, ambient, folk and others into an oddly cohesive mold. At times, it’s comforting, at others, it’s revelatory. But however it feels to you, it’s a pitch-perfect presentation of the weirdness of the moment we fall.
29Ana Caprix

I struggle with escapism as a concept, because I don't think it's truly possible or even ethically responsible. I'm uncertain whether or not I can or should do it, but I still try to find these little worlds to escape to for a little while. Ana Caprix's music is one of my most visited, an inviting land of ambient and trance. I think what makes it at least temporarily sustainable is the way it doesn't pretend to be more than it is - it's not optimistic, or pessimistic, or overly complex. It just is. If you take a leap into its static, you'll find a source of light inside that will keep you (not keep you entertained, not keep you happy, just keep you) for a little while, and sometimes that feels like all you need.
32Toro Y Moi
Anything In Return
35Majical Cloudz
Are You Alone?
36Moses Sumney
Art Angels
38Ryuichi Sakamoto
39Faye Webster
Atlanta Millionaires Club
40Julia Holter
Bad Vibes
42Freddie Gibbs and Madlib

Freddie Gibbs was never perfect. He was never even close - his flow is sporadically fantastic, it would be generous to call his lyrics anything but problematic, and vocally he leaves a lot to desire. So it makes sense for him to work with Madlib, another very talented artist that has received nothing but praise in the past few years for a deeply flawed discography. Like any good pair, they complement each other. Gibbs's aggressive wordplay is softened by Madlib's soul beats, while Madlibs' insistence on weird, vaguely offensive interludes are a lot easier to handle when Gibbs makes the surroundings feel so hard. So, yeah, this isn't the standard to which hip-hop should aspire that its biggest fans are claiming it to be, and there are some serious issues. It's just a really good album, with some issues, but not nearly enough to truly ruin the highs.

After Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix did more than its part to break down genre elitism by creating pop music so flawless that everyone had to admit it was pretty good, Phoenix had their work cut out for them. How do you duplicate perfection? The answer is, you don't. Finally having found their sound, Thomas Mars and crew took five years to use their bloghaus synths and unabashed polish on a new set of songs. These songs include "The Real Thing," a euphoric tale of religion and honesty, "Bankrupt!," a tragic Reich-esque exploration of disappointment and relief, and "Bourgeois," a biting and self-aware critique of the greedy. Check it out if you liked Wolfgang.
BBC Radio 1 Mixtape
46Ty Dolla Sign
Beach House 3

There's an obvious appeal to opulent music. Audiophiles have known this since Abbey Road and Aja, and Ty Dolla $ign clearly gets it. I can't claim to have heard this in the best possible conditions, but to my ears, this is some of the richest music I've heard. Ty's buttery voice practically glides over the decadent, milky beats. Even when featured artists producers come in with traditionally bouncy drums (Pharrell and Skrillex, for example), they're anchored to stereo-panning reverbed vocal samples and gorgeous strings. And the other collaborators - Lil Wayne, Future, Tory Lanez, The Dream, etc. are a natural fit for such a wavepool of an album. The point is, this is an extensive, relaxing, R&B project from the modern, luxurious perspective of one of the most experienced and talented artists in the game.
47Four Tet
Beautiful Rewind
48Various Artists (Electronic)
Beauty: A Journey...
Beneath The Toxic Jungle
50Stella Donnelly
Beware of the Dogs
Beyond The Fleeting Gales

There's a lot of music on this list, and a lot of it that I would never recommend to a normal person who didn't already have a special interest in the genre. Beyond the Fleeting Gales is probably the best example here of something that anyone would enjoy. If you are looking for something to play in the car on a roadtrip, a CD for your stereo when your friends are there, something that won't offend or bore, this is the album to play. That's not to say it's generic - it's blasting power pop with chiptune energy and some of the best compositions I've ever heard. It's a lot of fun.
52Vince Staples
Big Fish Theory
Black Messiah
54Shabazz Palaces
Black Up

Experimental hip-hop is full of people who don't understand hip-hop making rap music. This isn't the case with Black Up, a futuristic, edgy, smart hip-hop album for people who like hip-hop, not people who don't. More than that, it's just good to listen to, regardless of your take on this discussion. Tracks like "An echo ... " bang, "Are you..." sounds like what I imagine it felt like to hear "93' Til Infinity" the first time when it dropped, and "The King's..." is a dense, layered listen. If I had to pick one word to describe this album, it'd be rewarding.
55Main Attrakionz
Blackberry Ku$h
56Frank Ocean
57Troye Sivan
58Tove Lo
Blue Lips

Passion isn't the only thing that drives good art. Feelings need direction, a meaning that can be communicated successfully to an audience. Tove Lo has always had emotion, but here, she funnels it into something that involves participants as much as it presumably does herself. The dark and much-improved sequel to the decent Lady Wood, Blue Lips is a powerful channel, confidently regaining autonomy after facing rejection and admitting ones' flaws. These lyrics are paired with carefully curated producers, creating a shifty, dimly lit and ultimately empowering atmosphere. In an era where albums are increasingly irrelevant and often merely elaborate PR strategies, it's refreshing to see a major-label artist really put her best self forward for her fans.
59Nathan Micay
Blue Spring
60Bon Iver
Bon Iver, Bon Iver
61Kero Kero Bonito
Bonito Generation
62Elysia Crampton
Bound Adam
63Azealia Banks
Broke With Expensive Taste
64Erykah Badu
But You Caint Use My Phone [Mixtape]

"Hotline Bling" seems to have disappeared off the face of the planet - we all conveniently forgot how much we liked it, how for a far-too-long moment, Drake owned all of culture with his weird little dance. It'd be a shame if the secondhand embarrassment caused us to overlook this masterwork of a project. More than just a one-off cultural moment, But You Caint Use My Phone is a thorough exploration of a concept, an ode to communication in all its forms by someone from a generation that for the most part dismisses it. It has some of the best beats of Badu's career, a smooth balance between high energy and relaxation, and an incredibly cohesive flow from front to back. Most impressive of all, it transforms a meme into something real, something thousands of artists attempted in the 2010s but only Badu really succeeded at.
Butterfly Case
66DJ Paypal
Buy Now
Care For Me

While there are plenty of lofi hip-hop projects that made their name off faded beats, dizzy cadences and R&B-infused hooks, there was a time when this wasn't true. Care For Me was one of the first, and its gorgeous bars remains influential on hundreds of artists and projects. It's more than any of us expected.
68Puto Tito
Carregando a vida atras das costas
69Sufjan Stevens
Carrie and Lowell

I get the hate for this, and for its fanbase, a group of people who most often isolate their interest in folk to this and the latest Bon Iver record. To some extent, I'm in that boat, although I've tried to get out. But here's the thing - I love this for the same reason I love Blonde, Valtari, async or R+7 - a beautiful record that takes absolute mastery of it's form with ambient elements tying it all together. And I love it's fanbase too - the people I know who have really loved this album are people who have had a parent die in their teenage years. There's a million perfect touches to Carrie and Lowell from the cute little bridge on "Should Have Known Better" that leads to a dismal outro (like reality - death, in this case - suddenly hit) to the way that "The Only Thing" cuts out all the background atmosphere at the very end - this is clearly the work of a master, and it's no wonder it resonated with so many people, especially those going through the same thing.
70Frank Ocean
channel ORANGE

From laughing, a phone ping and the PlayStation startup noise to the sound of someone walking back inside from the car, channel ORANGE is a masterpiece. "Thinking About You" is the standard R&B track everyone loves so much it turned into a meme, "Sierra Leone" is a shuffling ballad that transforms into a fantasy, "Sweet Life" is a groovy warning on the dangers of wealth that is expanded on in "Super Rich Kids" which features maybe Earl Sweatshirt's best verse (!!), "Pilot Jones" is a trippy pathway into the jazzy "Crack Rock," "Pyramids" is an epic progressive synthesized track that continues the legacy of artists like Marvin Gaye and D'Angelo, "Lost" is a pretty break and great track on it's own right and it just keeps going. It's no wonder people were so impatient for more.
71Charli XCX
Chinese Nü Yr
73Christine and the Queens
74Jam City
Classical Curves
75Folie Douce
Cold Confessions
Collection 1

Countless articles, streaming platforms, comments, posts, thinkpieces and press releases have debated format definitions over the decade. There's no real consensus on what the firm lines between singles, EPs, albums, compilations, mixtapes, playlists, or bootlegs are. Projects like Collection I help us by blurring the line even more. Ostensibly just a pack of instrumentals from hip-hop tracks Friendzone produced, there's clearly intent here to create something impactful. Not that packs of tracks intended primarily for remixes or DJ usage can't be important on their own - the care they put into the Kuichiriburu Network series and 808s & Dark Grapes III instrumentals .zip shows they know the boundaries don't really matter, it's the effort that shows. On that note, this release excels, a deeply heartfelt message of love.
77Lil Peep
Come Over When You're Sober, Pt. 2
78Oneohtrix Point Never
Commissions I
79Vampire Weekend
80Flying Lotus
81Blood Orange
Cupid Deluxe
82The Field
Cupid's Head
83Tame Impala
84Isaiah Rashad
Cilvia Demo
85Kendrick Lamar
Damsel in Distress
87Ariana Grande
Dangerous Woman
Dark Energy
Deep Trouble
90Beach House
Depression Cherry
92Janelle Monae
Dirty Computer
Disco Thuggin!

Young Thug over a disco beat makes sense in 2020, and in 2014, it made sense too, but very few people were ready to admit it yet. The producer Amherst did a great job seeing it before everyone else. "2 Bitches" over "This Beat Is Mine" might be an "of course" moment now, but that doesn't make it redundant or poorly aged. It's actually the opposite. He did such a good job mixing the two similar genres, placing these tracks next to each other very deliberately (note how "Danny Glover" flows directly into "About the Money", how "Givenchy" has a natural introduction, and how "Lifestyle" feels like an encore after the airhorn), and branding it all as if it was just as normal as it should have been, that this ends up being one of the most well-aged EPs of the decade.
94Sam Kidel
Disruptive Muzak
95Elysia Crampton
Dissolution of The Sovereign: A Time Slide...
96DJ Koze
97Laurel Halo
98Royksopp and Robyn
Do It Again
99Sarah Davachi
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