.. and a song to get you started
#1 The War On Drugs — Lost In a Dream (2014)
While 2017’s “A Deeper Understanding” won a Grammy, the prior album was better. With modern recording techniques, DAWs and autotune, there is a longing for something human and just a little imperfect. These rock songs are good enough to play with headphones on and have people look at you a little funny. All of a sudden the world makes a little more sense. I put “Lost In A Dream” at #1 because I can listen to it over and over and over.
#2 Frank Ocean — Blonde (2016)
I almost forgot how good this album was until I watched the film “Waves” which not only has the best soundtrack but is also my favorite movie of 2019. Blonde is a record about being yourself, and as such he refused to submit the album for consideration of a Grammy, which instead I think went to Bruno Mars. A side note, my cat is named after Frank Ocean.
#3 Tame Impala — Lonerism (2012)
Also featured in the film “Waves”, Tame Impala could easily be my favorite artist of the decade with 3 great albums: “Innerspeaker”, “Lonerism” and “Currents’. This one is my favorite because it wasn’t at first, but it’s the one I keep coming back to.
#4 Kurt Vile — Wakin On a Pretty Daze (2013)
Having once been a member of the War On Drugs, Kurt Vile always gives a dose of human in a world of digital music. This album is the easiest to get into, and although it doesn’t seem like it, is the least depressing. Some people think Kurt Vile is too dark, but why do we even have music? who are you even?
#5 Vampire Weekend — Modern Vampires of the City (2013)
I met Ezra Koenig at “All Time”, a trendy restaurant by my apartment in Los Feliz last year and had to talk to him. I told him how Modern Vampires was the soundtrack to my wedding, and that I couldn’t wait for his latest album to come out — ironically which would be titled “Father of the Bride”. He was a really sweet guy and asked if we were still together, (we are). For me this album is a time capsule of 2013.
#6 Panda Bear — Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper (2015)
While I was always a huge Animal Collective fan, The obsession with Panda Bear, and in particular his album “Person Pitch” never really made sense. Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper marks the first period of peak solo acts from the Animal Collective, during a 4 year draught between “Centipede Hz” and “Painting With”. Panda Bear is the only one that can pull off combining Beach Boys vocals, the Harp from the Nutcracker, and J Dilla drum beats.
#7 Beach House — Teen Dream (2010)
Like all great albums, it took me a few listens to fully comprehend just how great it is, and I think it has lasting power. When I saw them live in Raleigh, NC several years ago, I had no idea it was a duo. The sound is so full, I would have thought it came from a 4 or 5 piece.
#8 Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam — I Had A Dream That You Were Mine (2016)
Hamilton Leithauser (Singer, The Walkmen) and Rostam (Guitar /Keyboard, Vampire Weekend) both left at the peak of success of their respective bands and found something that works with each other. You may have heard the single “1,000 times” but its probably my least favorite of the album. Sort of like Strokes “Last Night” — may have been the most commercially friendly, but definitely the worst song on the album. All of the rest of the doo-wop, drum-forward, alto chorus-pop songs are really good.
#9 Tame Impala — Currents (2015)
The only band to get mentioned twice in the top 10, I think Currents could have shown up on more top albums of the decade lists than it did. It cemented Australia’s Kevin Parker as the most influential artist of the decade for me. Bass-driven with chained effects, borrowing percussion from both chill wave and hip hop, nobody sounds like Tame Impala.
#10 Born Ruffians — Ruff (2015)
Born Ruffians were on absolutely nobodies top albums of the decade list. Most people who know who they are liked “Red Yellow and Blue” when the Canadian Pop Quartet released it in 2006 and mostly forgot about the band. I didn’t. This decade they’ve released four LPs, three EPS, and played 1,634 shows on 44 tours that hit 36 countries. Luke Lalonde is one of the catchiest singer-songwriters since Bob Dylan, John Lennon or Kurt Cobain. I’m serious.
#11 Mac Demarco — 2 (2012)
After recording “Rock and Roll Nightclub” in his apartment using a four track recorder, his Canadian label “Captured Tracks” was impressed enough to fund a follow up album, which Mac famously also recorded in his apartment in his underwear, by himself. Pitchfork would give the album an 8.2/10. The following year he would break into the mainstream with “Salad Days,” also recorded in his bedroom, by himself, with a 4 track.
#12 Caribou — Swim (2010)
Dan Snaith is a musical genius. Swim is him having fun. After shaving down over 700 tracks to just 9, he went on tour with extended club-friendly renditions that felt somewhat like the album, but a lot different. Fun fact, Luke Lalonde from Born Ruffians does the vocals on Jamelia.
#13 Kanye West — My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)
Only Ye would spread 11 songs across 3 pieces of vinyl just to make you turn the record more. I hate him and love him for it. Kanye is a different Kanye from 2005 Kanye. George Bush doesn’t care about black people Kanye. Imma let you speak Kanye. 2010s saw Kanye build a shoe empire, start a church, seek mental help, and even dabble in politics. Come back, Kanye. 2020 needs ye to be ye again.
#14 St Vincent — St Vincent (2014)
Bill Murray is famous for having a single voicemail service in lieu of an agent. He’s already accomplished more than enough to be remarkable for centuries, he doesn’t need to work, he isn’t trying to make people like him. He’s just in the moment. Only a few of these people live today, David Byrne (Talking Heads) is one of those people, which is why when their joint Album “Love This Giant” came out, I started taking Annie Clark seriously (that or the first time i heard her play guitar). She also played Lithium alongside Nirvana (chose by Nirvana) at their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction.
#15 Animal Collective — Painting With (2016)
So anyone that knows me, Animal Collective is like the second coming of the Beatles to me. EVERY MEMBER puts in the work. They are all dads now but act like they’re in the same 30k/year Montessori school they met in when they were kids. Where “Feels” reminded us you don’t need to go to college, “Painting With” could have been a failed thesis paper the professor didn’t quite understand. I too didn’t think I liked it much until they were touring and I had to see them for the first time ever. Seeing this album live with the back and forth echo chamber voices just made sense. The album was recorded in the Studio 3 room at EastWest studios, Hollywood- Where Brian Wilson created Pet Sounds and Smile for the Beach Boys, decades earlier.
#16 Deerhunter — Halcyon Digest (2010)
If all of the Deerhunter albums sound one single song, it’s probably because Bradford Cox is the Lil Wayne of Indie Rock. What I mean is, he doesn’t write down lyrics ahead of time or piece songs together. “Usually I go into a sort of trance and I’ll have five or six songs afterwards,” Cox says.
Cox is literally a mutant, having been born with Marfan syndrome. People with Marfan tend to be tall and thin, with long arms, legs, fingers and toes. This helps him reach the whole girth of the fretboard like a hipster Shaq.
#18 Kendrick Lamar — good kid m.A.A.d city (2012)
I actually sort of like mumble rap. Lil Yachty, Young Thug, Rich Gang. RIPXXX. But mumble rap is like a fun snack to eat in your car, and if you drop a few pieces, so what. Kendrick is a prime filet. The main course. He’s raps heir apparent.
While DAMN was my introduction to Kendrick Lamar, they played “Humble” on the radio in LA every other song. (Also the curse for Childish Gambino’s “RedBone”) I think this one has more lasting power.
#19 Starfucker — Reptilians (2011)
“I don’t really know why, but Starfucker are one of my top ten favourite bands. They’re like that best friend who scares away all the ladies at the club, but they’ll bring a spliff round when you’re feeling shit.” — Random Youtube comment
#20 Arcade Fire — Suburbs (2011)
I once heard Green Day messed up the recordings for American Idiot and had to do the whole album over again, which they did in one take, and subsequently won a grammy for. I’m not sure if that’s true, but Suburbs sounds like Arcade Fire went back in the studio with the same sense of purpose, feeding from previous near-perfect albums to introduce themselves to the world in this Grammy winning album.
#21 M83 — Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (2011)
Best known for that Victoria’s Secret commercial, if I had to define M83, I would say classic-french shoegaze-electronic synth-pop. I’m not really sure what that means, but Anthony Gonzalez creates some beautiful music.
#22 LCD Soundsystem — This Is Happening (2010)
Ok, so LCD Soundsystem announced they were retiring, playing one last show at Madison Square Garden known as “the funeral”, asked all their fans to dress in black and white, then released this album.
I remember the show selling out in milliseconds. I remember spending a lot on 2 tickets on Stubhub. I did not remember the tickets when we left for NYC. Knowing they were print-outs, I called Stubhub all weekend asking for a reprint, which they had to contact the seller for, and could not. 20+ calls later over the next 2 days and not knowing if we were going to the funeral or not, I made one last attempt. Stubhub saw that I had called so many times and decided to give me (better) tickets to the show.
They made a movie about the 4+ hour concert “Shut Up and Play the Hits,” and if you stop at 1:36minutes, there’s me, dancing like an idiot! Deanna on her phone (it was a long concert).
They started off their last concert ever with the first song on what was supposed to be their last album ever. “Dance Yrself Clean”. Which I did.
#23 Cassius — Dreems (2019)
I always loved French house music, and mostly anything from Ed Banger records (Breakbot, Justice, Sebastian, etc) When I heard the french duo Cassius was coming out with a new record, it was not how I wanted to hear.
Philippe Zdar died of an accidental fall from his apartment window in Parisat 52, just two days prior to the release of “Dreems”. I hope this album gets the respect it deserves. It really takes Cassius back to their roots, and sounds a lot like “1999”
#24 Deakin — Sleep Cycle (2019)
Although short, this 6 track LP is the first from Deakin of Animal Collective, and was entirely funded by kickstarter, with all the proceeds going to help the enslaved Tuareg people of Mali, where he had been working during bouts of absence from the Collective catalog. I picked up the album at a show in Point Reyes where all 4 members were reunited for the first time since “Strawberry Jam” to play new songs to the dedicated fans willing to trek for the show, in a town population 400 people.
#25 Toro Y Moi — Outer Peace (2019)
I always loved “Chaz Bear.” He went to school in the Carolinas, so I got to see him quite a bit, opening up for the main act. He was a part of the Neon Indian / Washed Out / Chillwave scene at the time. I really like how he’s progressed and when I heard his “Tiny Desk” performance of a few songs off Outer Peace, I immediately bought the album (it was late). Great album, sort of stream of conscious pop-funk with relatable lyrics and all the songs go together.
#26 Unknown Mortal Orchestra — II (2013)
I’ve heard people compare this album to something George Harrison would have written in a different time. It’s psychedelic, but approachable. It sort of has that muffled bass sound of Tame Impala, but more melodic choruses.
#27 Kurt Vile — Smoke Ring For My Halo (2011)
If I hadn’t been going through a breakup, I probably wouldn’t have got to know Kurt. I probably played Baby’s Arms 100 times a week. I didn’t even know what he was saying half the time, but I knew what he meant.
#28 Real Estate — Days (2011)
If I wasn’t playing Baby’s Arms I was playing this album, which was less of an emotional investment. It’s perfect sort of like the Shins were.
#29 Washed Out — Paracosm (2013)
“A paracosm is a detailed imaginary world. Paracosms are thought generally to originate in childhood and to have one or numerous creators. The creator of a paracosm has a complex and deeply felt relationship with this subjective universe, which may incorporate real-world or imaginary characters and conventions.” — Merriam Webster
#30 Mr. Oizo — All Wet (2016)
Another French artist from Ed Banger records. It’s nice to have start to finish party records at your place in case you need them. Since chances are your friends haven’t heard this in a while (or ever) it won’t go out of style soon.
#30 Robyn — Body Talk pt 1 (2010)
Remember when you found out it was actually the Berenstain Bears and not the Berenstein Bears? That’s what I felt when I found out “Dancing On My Own” was actually an original, not a remake. It’s called the Mandela Effect.
The whole album is great, but I think “Dancing On My Own” will be one of those “Jealous Guy” songs with a million covers. My favorite: Pink Gloves from Italians Do It Better.
#31 Aphex Twin — Syro (2014)
I remember this kid in my high school computer class loved Aphex Twin and I thought the shit was weird. I hope he reads this (Hey RC!) The creepy album covers didn’t help. I admit I sat on this guy for too long, but this album was as good a place as any to get into his catalog.
TLDR: He’s a composer that can play classical instruments but prefers things that sound like you just successfully signed into AOL at 56,600bps
#32 Bonobo — Migration (2017)
No Ambient record is ever going to top the list, but Bonobo is too good not to include. Between Black Sands and Migration, I think this one is my favorite album from my favorite artist on Ninja Tune.
#33 Chance the Rapper — Acid Rap (2013)
Released for free ended up paying off in name recognition, and 10,000,000 eventual downloads on legit streaming services.
#34 Caribou — Our Love (2014)
You almost forget about this record. It didn’t get a lot of airplay and it gets overshadowed by Swim, but I can’t forget this record. Literally the cd got stuck in my car for a bit.
#35 Tyler the Creator — IGOR (2019)
Los Angeles loves Tyler the Creator, and I love concept albums.
#36 Kanye West — Yeezus (2013)
Although Kanye had stopped creating albums of physical medium and vowed to release only digital, the black market printed a ton of these Yeezus records on vinyl and you can still find them once in a while at used record stores. Bound 2 is the best track, and also the one that doesn’t quite fit. What also doesn’t quite fit — Seth Rogan and James Franco’s remake of it. I’m just kidding, go watch it if you haven’t, it’s hilarious. Seth Rogan is bottom.
#37 Childish Gambino — Awaken, My Love! (2016)
You know, I gotta credit this album for getting me into Childish Gambino. Dude is talented as they come. This was supposed to be his exit from music, but then “This is America” came along and we are better for it. This would be higher on the list if it hadn’t been played TF out on the radio in LA. I can’t fault him for that. I can’t wait to see what Danny Glover has in store to come.
#38 Mac Demarco — Salad Days (2014)
Mac is your friend that has money but prefers Budweiser and could get a nicer car or bigger tv, but doesn’t feel like messing around with it. I think he lives in Echo Park, which is like the Bushwick of L.A. He records everything himself in his bedroom and usually has his friends make the video.
#39 A Tribe Called Quest — We Got it from Here, Thank You For Your Service (2016)
Anytime a band as big as ATCQ comes out with a new album after 16 years, it’s a big deal, but more so after Phife Dawg’s unexpected passing prior to completing the album, hence the name. It’s a really special album that brings back what Hip Hop was at its peak.
#40 Neon Indian — Vega Intl Night School (2015)
With Vega Intl Night School, Alan Palomo decided to merge his two solo projects “Vega” and “Neon Indian” into one. If you ever get the chance to see Neon Indian, he usually has to stand on something to reach the decks but like Prince, he packs a lot of energy. His new stuff isn’t the muffled 105bpm hipster-wave of the late 2000s, he’s found the low pass filter and put the levels back to normal a bit, turned up the tempo, sampled more pop, and graduated to dance clubs.
#41 Breakbot — By Your Side (2014)
A fun Disco record that comes in “Chocolate Vinyl”. I pre-ordered this record and I haven’t even seen or heard anything about it since. I like it though.
#42 Digitalism — Mirage (2016)
Digitalism were the first to play house music with a full band that didn’t sound like sh*t. I think the new album is just enough of the old where you remember who they are, but mostly new, and more grown up.
#43 Dirty Projectors — Swing Lo Magellan (2012)
Lots of people hate Dirty Projectors. I don’t. Here’s a good song that shows their depth without sounding like they’re trying too hard.
#44 Father John Misty — I Love You, Honeybear (2015)
Only complaint is I wish “Real Love Baby” would be included on the record as it’s his best song. This however is his best album.
#45 Panda Bear — Tomboy (2011)
I first heard this on Jimmy Fallon believe it or not.
#46 Solange — A Seat at the Table (2016)
I see you girl
#47 Jamie XX — In Colour (2015)
After summer of 2015 I almost forgot about Jamie xx but its still a great album. Also check out his Boiler Room set.
#48 Cass McCombs — Big Wheel and Others (2013)
Super simple from a veteran musician whose constantly overlooked.
#49 Avey Tare — Cows on Hourglass Pond (2019)
I heard from a friend “Eyes on Eyes” was playing at a Gucci store and now I can’t help but think that Weird in a Good Way is sort of their business model, and how robbing from the creative genius of Avey Tare is bad, but then again, THEY WERE PLAYING AVEY TARE IN GUCCI!
#50 Vampire Weekend — Contra (2010)
Rounding out the decade where it started, Vampire Weekend’s Contra was the Sophomore slump that didn’t happen. It’s also my favorite album cover of the decade. (If you didn’t know this photo has a story)
It turns out the photo is 37 years old and it was only after the model’s 13 year old daughter (who loves Vampire Weekend) saw her mom on the cover, that the model decided to sue. It was settled out of court, but NOT COOL MOM!
+37 years (looks good still, no?)
Barker — Utility (2019)
Janelle Monae — The ArchAndroid (2017)
U.S. Girls — In a Poem Unlimited (2017)
Earl Sweatshirt — I Don’t Like S**t, I Don’t Go Outside (2015)
TV on the Radio — Seeds (2014)
Panda Bear — Buoys (2019)
Miley Cyrus — Miley Cyrus and her Dead Petz (2015)
I know what you’re thinking, but I said I love concept albums, and this one is Miley Cyrus remembering all of her dead pets, stemmed from when her Alaskan Mini-Husky looking dog Floyd got eaten by a Coyote.
If that’s not weird enough, the Flaming Lips helped play and produce the album, and later toured with Miley. I didn’t want to get flagged on here, but when you have some free time, lookup her tour outfits. WTF, no?
David Byrne — American Utopia (2018)
The album is good, not great, but seeing David Byrne live made me see how it was more of a performance than something you listen to. It was multi-dimensional art in a way only David Byrne could accomplish.
Foxygen — 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic (2013)
Of Montreal — Aureate Gloom (2015)