Top 50 Albums of the 2010s

decade 2010s

decade 2010s

To call the 2010s a unique decade for albums — and for music, period — would be an understatement. In fact, the album format has done quite its share of shapeshifting in only a 10-year span. While we’ll need more years’ worth of hindsight and distance to truly evaluate the ’10s’ musical legacy, it’s fair to say that just as society experienced some particularly messy and turbulent times, the climate for music went through a significant change of its own.

For one, it’s impossible to talk about music during this decade without discussing the influence of streaming on modern music consumption and discovery. Although streaming may be notorious for its piss-poor compensation to artists (which one can only hope changes during the ‘20s), it also not only seemingly usurped illegal downloading and file sharing, as well as buying songs from the iTunes Store, but brought people infinite and instant access to tons of music from all corners of the genre spectrum. Platforms like Spotify and Apple Music made people — a combined 173 million plus of them, at that — happily pay around $10 per month for unlimited, ad-free access to music. Playlists and personalized algorithms would arguably become THE defining tastemakers of the decade.

There’s no denying the influence of social media and the Internet at large on modern music, either. The ‘10s became an era where likes would help get artists signed; YouTube’s influence would lead to music video-focused TV channels like MuchMusic showing reruns of The Simpsons instead; artists’ Instagram and Twitter activity would help elevate their public image; and songs would go to number one thanks to memes and TikTok. Even music criticism played an influential role of sorts on albums specifically, thanks in large part to Anthony Fantano’s The Needle Drop YouTube channel.

As a result of this seismic change in music consumption, the full-length album format saw much upheaval, in good ways and bad. Let’s start with the latter: with CD sales steadily declining to record lows, and singles tending to overshadow albums themselves at times, more artists would start tailoring the construction of their albums for the streaming era. This would also mean some albums would be overstuffed with tracks to maximize streaming numbers, usually to their detriment; Drake’s Views and Scorpion and Migos’ Culture II being prime examples of this.

However, there were artists who nonetheless pushed the album forward in ways that paid off handsomely. Take, for example, the surprise drop from Beyoncé back in 2013, or how both The Weeknd and Chance the Rapper built their brands through free online mixtapes. Or interestingly, how Kanye West would drop an album, and then make further edits to it following its release. Artists like Ye who broke through during the aughts (Adele, Arcade Fire, Beach House, Bon Iver, St. Vincent) would release some of their best-ever work during the ‘10s. Many other artists first made waves at the start of the decade and stayed relevant and influential throughout, both in terms of festival bill-toppers (Lana Del Rey, Tame Impala, Kendrick Lamar) and indie darlings (The War on Drugs, Mac DeMarco, and Sharon Van Etten to name but a few).

The landscape itself may have seen a lot of changes, but many bold, brilliant artistic statements were still made in the form of full-length LPs. Though it’s ultimately impossible to sum up this decade’s music in just 50 albums, our choices are ones that we feel best combined a strong artistic vision with cohesion, excellent songwriting and, most importantly, staying power. Here are our picks for the Top 50 Albums of the 2010s.

Top 50 Albums of 2010s

1. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly

kendrick lamar

2. Tame Impala – Currents

Tame Impala share First Official Single "'Cause I'm A Man" new details of forthcoming Album "Currents"

3. Frank Ocean – Blond

frank ocean

4. Beach House – Teen Dream

beach house

5. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening

lcd soundsystem

6. Kayne West – My Beautiful, Dark Twisted Fantasy

kanye west

7. Gil Scott Heron – I’m New Here

gil scott-heron

8. D’Angelo – Black Messiah

d'angelo

9. The War On Drugs – Lost In The Dream

The War On Drugs Announce Spring 2015 Tour

10. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires Of The City

vvampire weekend modern vampires of the city

11. The National – Trouble Will Find Me

the national trouble will find demons track

12. David Bowie – Black Star

Review of 'Blackstar', the new full-length album by David Bowie

13. Father John Misty – I Love You Honeybear

Father John Misty Announces New Album I Love You, Honeybear

14. Nick Cave – Push Up The Sky

nick cave

15. Grimes – Visions

16. Alvvays – Alvvays

Review of Review of Alvvays' new self-titled album, it comes out on July 22 on Polyvinyl Records, the lead single is "Archie Marry Me" Alvvays play 7/11 in New York ' new self-titled album, it comes out on July 22 on Polyvinyl Records, the lead single is "Archie Marry Me" Alvvays play 7/11 in New York

17. Diiv – Is The Is Are

DIIV announces new tour dates, their current tour continues tonight in Los angeles. DIIV'S latest release 'Is the Is Are

18. Destroyer – Kaputt

destroyer

19. St Vincent – St Vincent

St. Vincent debuts video for "Los Angeles"

20. Lana Del Ray – Norman Fucking Rockwell

Lana Del Rey

21. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories

Random Access Memories review on Northern Transmissions

22. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest

deer-hunter-halcyon-digest

23. Slowdive – Slowdive

slowdive

24. Arcade Fire – Suburbs

arcade fire

25. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell

Sufjan Stevens

From position 26 to 50

26. Taylor Swift – 1989
27. PJ Harvey – Let England Shake
28. FKA Twigs – LP 1
29. Bon Iver – S/T
30. Angel Olsen – Burn Your Fire For No Witness
31. Car Seat Headrest – Teen Of Denial
32. Purple Mountains – Purple Mountains
33. The XX – The XX
34. Big Thief – UFOF
35. Girls – Father, Son, Holy Ghost
36. Kurt Vile – Walking On Pretty Days
37. M83 – Hurray Up Were Dreaming
38. My Bloody Valentine – MBV
39. Wild Nothing – Gemini
40. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
41. Radiohead – Moon Shaped Pool
42. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2
43. Mac DeMarco – 2
44. Solange – A Seat At The Table
45. Wu Lyf – Go Tell Fire To The Mountain
46. Fontaines – Dogrel
47. Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time
48 IDLES – Joy As An Act Of Resistance
49. Ty Segall – Sleeper
50. Vince Staples – Summertime 06

Intro by Dave MacIntyre

Credits: Charles Brownstein, Alberto Dal Santo, Adam Fink, Adam Williams,  Leslie Chu, Dave Macintyre, and the rest of NT’s family.