|best of the 2010s s-y
cw: suicide, self-harm //
alphabetical by project title, recs welcome and happy to give them. 4/4
Some Rap Songs
One of the most transparent examples of growth shown this decade, Some Rap Songs is I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside's mature older brother. Instead of anger, peace permeates this project, instantly calming throughout despite its esoteric production style and tortured core. This is the sound of someone who's been through a lot (the last two tracks were recorded after finding out his father unexpectedly died) and knows better than to blame himself. Instead, he's grateful - "not a Black woman I can't thank."
Soon I Won't See You at All
sovereign nose of (y)our arrogant face
Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing
This is a cry for help. It’s not just an ambient folk project released after a member of a minor band found some ideas and decided on a whim to drop them on Bandcamp, it’s a suicide note. If it wasn’t clear by the lines about “drawing the red, shaving off breath,” the last song is her fantasizing about cleaning her body (“just dirty clothes”) out with bleach. Even though it’s the most gorgeous and emotional album released this decade, that doesn’t matter. What matters is how much pain she went through, openly, publicly, and what that should mean to us as listeners. For the 2020s, let’s try and have a little more empathy for the actual human beings behind the music. They are more important than any art ever could be.
Steel Mogu is the moment Iglooghost hit the top of the mountain he's been climbing this whole decade. By far the most accelerated project in his wide-ranging discography, it's pure adrenaline coursing through your veins. He finally figured out how to turn the malleable goo from his previous music into crystallized plastic. That's not to say there's anything wrong with squishy songs, but sometimes you need something harder. This is the hardest.
Stents + Arteries
It’s easy to look back at Arca’s earliest work and see it as just the prototype to her more developed works, but then you’d miss so much. Brevity isn’t bad, and this quick haunt through her mind is significant for more than just the introduction it played for many. It’s a full exploration of sexuality, disappointment, and wonder through what technically is probably hip-hop but still defies genre years later. We live in a musical world influenced deeply by the sounds Arca created, but her work still stands on its own as unique.
Super Ultra Mixtape
|Lido & Canblaster
This album is nowhere near the modern classic many claim it to be. It's overstuffed with tracks scattered randomly across emotional and musical spectrums, obscene wealth and misogynistic nice-guy-isms rearing their ugly heads on what could be a near-perfect flow. Ultimately though, despite Drake's best efforts, there's a gorgeous gradient that overcomes his random flexes for the first and only time in his career. Maybe it was just 40 at his peak and a little bit of luck that made this work, but whatever, it still manages against all odds. Drake might have unveiled his real face as a lot more unpleasant than we all thought, but Take Care still feels like an underdog, and who doesn't love an underdog?
Take Me Apart
Tears of Joy
Tetsuo and Youth
Tha Carter V
Thank U, Next
The 20/20 Experience
The Age of Adz
The Bling Ring: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
The Bones of What You Believe
The Colour in Anything
The Electric Lady
The Fame Monster
The Ghosts That I Fear
I don't know much about emo, so last year, I went on a binge and listened to almost nothing but emo recommendations and classics for a couple months, desperately looking for something like The Hotelier and Paramore. (I know, I know.) This was one of the very few projects I enjoyed. For some of you, that will be a turnoff, and I get it. But I think there's something to an album that can be enjoyed by people who don't have the history of the genre behind them for context, the newcomers. Artists like Kanye, Daft Punk, Sufjan Stevens, Tame Impala, etc. do a great job expanding their respective genres for a wider audience, and I think that's to be applauded, not rejected. So I don't like emo much, but there's a few bands, like Dad Thighs, that do such a good job exploring their emotions and making it accessible for people like me, that I love.
The Life Of Pi'erre 4
The Perfect Lullaby
The Quanta Series
The Sun's Tirade
One great thing about artists is how many of them are able to package all of our worst tendencies and our ugliest feelings inside beautiful frames that remind us of our shared pain and make us feel better about being who we are. Isaiah's frame is not beautiful, and might not even be a frame. It is unending depression, raw jealousy, bitter self-hatred. Moments of joy are rare, seconds giving way immediately to minutes of frustration. It's a real self-portrait, scrawled on the wall next to all the pretty pictures, but with greater effort and skill than most any of them. It's slow-paced, slick and overextended west-coast hip-hop, Drake for the people who have grown up enough to stop blaming others but not enough to stop blaming themselves. It's human nature, firmly defined and spit.
There Is Love In You
This Is Not
This Is Not is very deep, like the green water on its cover. After a minute of ambiance to set the mood, the first beat appears, a flat drum, subtle and just enough for the job. Over the next fifty minutes or so, DJ Metatron dives deeper and deeper into mostly house (sprinkled with a little bit of drum and bass) until the end, when he submerges to the deeply hopeful "2Bad (DJ Metatrons What If Madness Is the Only Relief Rework)."
|Ricky Eat Acid
Three Love Songs
It's hard to sympathize with Phoenix, at least Phoenix in the second half of the decade - a bunch of extremely rich kids given their careers handed to them on a silver platter, singing about love. Normally they at least have pain in their songwriting, but this album really gives you no reasons to fight for them. They're singing about being in love on the beach, and everything that entails, with a distinctly optimistic Italo-Disco energy. It's hard to imagine being so happy over the years this was recorded and released (2014-2017). Apparently they did, though, because Ti Amo is pure bliss, a sunrise to counteract the sunset of Wolfgang and the night of Bankrupt!. Is it essential? No. Are they underdogs, fighting for justice in any way? Absolutely not. But they're really good at what they do, which is make fun, tight pop music. Play this on a beach sometime with someone you love, and pirate it if it makes you feel any better.
|Tiger & Woods
Through The Green
The Life of Pablo
|Boards of Canada
To Pimp a Butterfly
|Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs
Turn Out The Lights
After the absolutely masterful expression of pain that was Sprained Ankle, Julien Baker somehow managed to soundtrack healing. It's the sound of acceptance, recognizing your hard feelings and feeling them so strongly they almost take you over. But then, just in the knick of time, you somehow emerge victorious, ready to go on another pain-filled day. If you listen enough, you might start to understand how important it is that the pain is there. I know I did.
Ultimate Care II
|Lana Del Rey
I have never lost a ten-year relationship. I have never been a fifty year-old woman without a man, seen as a failure to everyone around me. You could make a fair case that I just can't get this album. But I've felt heartbreak, felt worthless to the people around me, and most of all, I've felt anger, disappointment, sadness. This is really what Vulnicura is about - crushing pain. Sometimes, that's all you need. Sometimes, shared pain is enough.
|A Tribe Called Quest
We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service
It’s easy to overestimate the quality of a return to form. Nostalgia blinds us to the flaws of the past, and the relief of finally having our wishes fulfilled overwhelms our pleasure center. While this almost certainly played a role in We Got It From Here’s success, there’s something more here. Listen to the way Q-Tip cracks his voice up in the *fish*bowl, note their conscious effort to praise the future generation of rappers in a time when so many their age long for the so-called golden age, feel the presence of Phife and his passing permeate every ounce of the project. Just because their fans stacked the deck in their favor doesn’t mean they wouldn’t have won anyway.
WE Grown NOW
we think we alone
|Various Artists (Electronic)
Welcome to Paradise Vol. I: Italian Dream House 89-93
|How To Dress Well
What Is This Heart?
Where Dancefloors Stand Still
At the end of the absolute classic Midtown 120 Blues, there's a track called "The Occasional Feel-Good." After the gorgeous, aching melodies come to a finale, "Feel-Good" slowly rises as the encore of sorts. It's a perfect joy after the catharsis of the previous hour. Also, it proves that DJ Sprinkles is capable of having some fun, even while maintaining to her understandably strict moral codes of music. If you've heard that album and love the feeling at the end, listen to this. It's eighty minutes of excellently mixed deep house, bliss you tap your feet to.
When I Get Home
At this point, you've probably heard A Seat At The Table - one of the most powerful, expressive, and balanced albums this side of the decade. This might seem like a letdown in comparison, but I promise, it grows on you. Smooth like Janet, loopy like Screw, freeflow like Carti, Earl and Gucci (all featured) - there's a lot to digest here, easy to miss on first glide through. Houston to A Seat's Orleans, it's brief and much more rooted in hip-hop than traditional R&B and soul you might be used to from Solange. The genre flexing suits her omnivorous musical style, creating an album as significant as it is rewarding.
When You're Gone
White Men Are Black Men Too
The Ecstatic Music Of Alice Coltrane
Name an album you'd always wanted to hear that never actually happened. Electric Nebraska, Adult/Child, Madvillainy 2, Household Objects - whatever it is, it'd be a miracle if it leaked to the degree that XCX World did. While I and basically every other Charli fan wishes we had studio-quality copies of all these tracks, we have it so much better than most. 128kbps is how I initially enjoyed all my music, and this is a reminder of those days, limited access driving desire farther than it ever would be otherwise. Imperfection aside, there's too many perfect songs on here to ignore it for audiophilic reasons. "Bounce" is the incredible Vroom Vroom B-side we all deserve, "Reflections" is a heartbreaking synthrock anthem that holds up to her best. "Down Like Whoa" is equal parts ascension to a cute heaven and studded leather whip. The best part is, it's a bootleg. You can keep all the songs you want, ditch the filler, arrange it however you want. I'm not the only person who thinks this is o
This wasn't the most original industrial hip-hop album of the decade, but it was easily the best. Arriving at a perfect moment where Kanye was going insane but hadn't fallen for himself yet, it soundtracked the battle between his self-hatred and his anger at the world, his love of life and his nepotism. His post-808s perfectionism hadn't broken yet, and he was working with the best possible team he could have picked. I can't understate that - this was only possible with the money required to hire Daft Punk, Gesaffelstein, Arca, TNGHT, Evian Christ to create a dark electroslime, with Justin Vernon, Frank Ocean, Assassin, Chief Keef, King L and others helping bring it to higher and lower planes, finally trimmed down by Rick Rubin to the bare essentials. It was never about whether it was the first, the most conscious or the most heartfelt, it's just the most fun. It's the American Nightmare - pure commercialism, a miracle of luck and wealth. Enjoy it if you can.
You Only Live 2wice
Over the course of the decade, Steven Ellison transcended the FlyLo label, becoming much more than a beatmaker, living up to the high bar set by his ancestors. This, so far, is his peak. It's a melding of jazz and hip-hop and electronica in a way never before seen. It's slow and fast, depressing and uplifting, growl and coo. It lives up to its title, a trip down the twinkling, thumping River Styx, only to emerge from the waterfall more powerful than ever. It's hard to think that this is the same Ellison that made a decent beat tape 8 years earlier, but that's the journey he has taken. Listen to his legacy, and be reborn.