Top 10 albums of the 2010’s


Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp a Butterfly Photograph: Universal

The 2010’s have been marked by many ups and downs, but all throughout there has been a constant stream of incredible music to make everything better. Every genre has had its standouts. While it is impossible to summarize a decade of music in just ten albums, and there are so many remarkable pieces of music that aren’t represented in this list, here are ten albums that defined the last ten years.


10. A Tribe Called Quest: We Got it From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service (2016, Hip-hop)

Released less than a year after the death of former group member Phife Dawg, We Got It From Here is surrounded by melancholy. The album is upbeat, but much of the subject matter tackled has pessimistic undertones. The album navigates a different world than the rest of Tribe’s discography, with it being their first album since 1998. Featuring great rappers such as Andre 3000 and Kendrick Lamar, the album is filled with clever wordplay and unbelievable technical skill. Released three days after the results of the 2016 election, politically charged songs like The Donald remain as relevant today as they were three years ago. 

Standout Songs: Kids…, We The People…

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9. Mount Eerie: A Crow Looked At Me (2017, Folk)

Real Death, The first song of A Crow Looked At Me, begins with the lyric “Death Is Real.” This devastating line succinctly outlines what the album is all about. This album by indie legend Phil Elverum revolves around the death of his wife, cartoonist Genevieve Castree. Recorded in the room she died in, the album is punctuated with almost unbearable sadness. A heartbreaking reflection on mortality, A Crow Looked At Me is a very hard album to listen to. However, in pushing through that difficulty, there lies a depressing yet beautiful experience that is like no other.

Standout Songs: Real Death, Ravens

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8. Charli XCX: Pop 2 (2017, Pop)

Incorporating ideas explored in Charli’s 2016 EP Vroom Vroom and her other 2017 mixtape Number 1 Angel, Pop 2 was revolutionary at the time of its release. Featuring an ensemble cast of guest features that add wonderful character to the record and innovating production from the likes of A. G. Cook and SOPHIE, there is great variety in the album’s 10 songs. Pop 2s influence can be felt throughout the current pop landscape, as more and more artists adopt its production style. Charli XCX was one of the first to start the revolution that is changing pop music, a precursor to an inevitable revolution that will leave an indelible mark on the music industry.

Standout Songs: Track 10, Out of My Head

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7. clipping.: CLPPNG (2014, Hip-hop)

Starring Hamilton alumna and Tony Award winning vocalist Daveed Diggs’s relentless flow and William Huston and Jonathan Snipes’s unique collective clipping. Is a stand-out hip-hop group. CLPPNG is named so because the album is told  entirely without first person pronouns, hence the removal of all of the I’s from the groups name. Instead, songs tell third-person stories of violence and chaos over intense beats, including Get Up, a song backed by the sound of a blaring alarm clock. CLPPNG is a truly innovative piece of industrial hip-hop that was and still is ahead of the curve in 2020.

Standout Songs: Story 2, Ends

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6. FKA twigs: LP 1 (2014, Genreless)

On LP1, twigs’s first full length release, she took her artistry to the next level. twigs produced the bulk of the album herself while also enlisting forward-thinking producers such as Arca and Sampha. The instrumentals are exquisite, incorporating all sorts of genres, including Electronic Music and R&B.  Her style is her own: her raspy voice contrasting with the sometimes incredibly intense electronic instrumentals sounds pristine on this album. FKA twigs is an artist who isn’t afraid to do something that’s never been done before; this can certainly be said of LP1. For more on FKA twigs, read this review of her 2019 album MAGDALENE:

Standout Songs: Two Weeks, Kicks

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5. Grimes: Art Angels (2015, Pop)

Having self taught herself the art of music, Grimes  is certainly unique. Art Angels, the follow-up to her critically acclaimed 2012 album Visions, takes a much more pop-sounding approach and is much less murky than its predecessor. The album features a wide array of sounds, from Grimes’ high-pitched vocals to the distinct flow of Tawainese rapper Pan Wei-Ju. The production is sometimes aggressive, sometimes calming, but always exquisite. Due to label disputes, Grimes hasn’t released a follow-up album, but the wait is nowhere near as excruciating as it could be with the sound of Art Angels to pass the time.

Standout Songs: Venus Fly, Realiti

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4. Sons of Kemet: Your Queen Is A Reptile (2018, Jazz)

Despite featuring few vocals throughout its 55 minute run time, Your Queen is a Reptile tells a powerful story. Its title rejects the British royal family, choosing instead to highlight ten incredibly accomplished black women in the titles of its songs. Titles honor figures from anti-slavery icon Harriet Tubman to current British activist Dorren Lawerence. Equipped with a tuba, saxophone, and drums, Sons of Kemet create a unique and infectious sound that resembles none other. Working in a genre whose prime has long gone, Sons of Kemet are a reminder that jazz musicians still have many wonderful ideas that have yet to be explored.

Standout Songs: My Queen is Ada Eastman, My Queen is Angela Davis

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Arguably the face of the electronic label and pseudo-genre PC Music, SOPHIE is leading the vanguard of new electronic musicians who are changing the landscape of music. OIL OF EVERY PEARL’S INSIDES is the labels’ bizzare swan song. The album can go from surprisingly calm to absolute chaos in seconds. Loud and daring, OIL OF EVERY PEARL INSIDES is just a glimpse at what SOPHIE can accomplish over the next decade of her career. 

Standout Songs: Is It Cold In The Water?, Whole New World/Pretend World

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2. Flying Lotus: Cosmogramma (2010, Electronic)

Cosmogramma sounds like it could have been released today. In electronic music, a genre that is constantly evolving and changing, this is quite the accomplishment. This album navigates a wide array of sounds, with samples of trains and Lotus’s mother’s hospital equipment. Beginning with a barrage of sound in the song Clock Catcher and slowly shifting throughout to a peaceful end, the sheer number of ideas implemented during Cosmogramma’s  runtime is remarkable. Cosmogramma shows just how insane a piece of music can truly get. 

Standout Songs: Do The Astral Plane, Zodiac Sh*t 

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1. Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp A Butterfly (2015, Hip-hop)

For good reason, almost every young American has heard the name Kendrick Lamar. Ever since 2011’s Section 80, he has brought some of the most revolutionary music of the 21st century to the forefront of popular music. To Pimp A Butterfly is flawless. The album is infused with jazz inspired production, adding yet another complex layer to Lamar’s intense and virtuosic rapping. Every song is powerful and needed for the album’s message in its own way. No album has ever been as simultaneously culturally important and perfect musically as To Pimp A Butterfly. The album is both emotionally devastating and inspirational, and very close to the peak of how good an album can get, if not on top of it. Of all the albums that came out in the last 10 years, To Pimp A Butterfly is the most important, daring, and thought-provoking.

Standout Songs: U, Hood Politics

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