I was on my way home yesterday when I found myself wondering about the best records to have been released so far this decade. Never one to shirk a list-based challenge, I gave myself 15 minutes to come up with a top 10, on the (enormously dubious) basis that any album that didn’t jump to mind in those 15 minutes couldn’t be much cop anyway.
Enclosed below is what I came up with – I’d be interested to hear what others here would have on their own lists.
Before we go any further, I want to clarify that I am well aware that modern music is for the birds, that there was a 6 year period between 1963 and 1969 (or whenever) that shits all over this stuff, that Deafheaven have never had a top 10 hit, and all that other great stuff we must always be treated to when new(ish) music is raised on the blog. You’re fascinating, and ever-so-discerning and special and I’d love to hear more about all of it, just maybe on another thread.
With that out of the way, and without further ado – here we go….
1. “Have One On Me” – Joanna Newsom (2010)
I didn’t much care for either of the first two Joanna Newsom albums, and I could never get on with “the voice”. Then I heard this, and it all clicked into place. The vocals are just that little bit more measured, the poetry of the lyrics is a little more focused, and the whole idea of fusing Joni, Kate and some truly beautiful harp playing is strong enough to carry us over all three discs. I know it’s still very much a marmite record, but it’s the one I can most easily imagine still going back to in decades to come. Provoked one of the very few moments of the last six years where a piece of music stopped me dead in my tracks; all nine minutes of “In California”, listened to stock still in the corridor of a Las Vegas hotel, missing home badly.
2. “New Bermuda” – Deafheaven (2015)
Those that get it, get it.
3. “channel ORANGE” – Frank Ocean (2012)
The great “where the fuck did THAT come from” musical moment of the decade. Frank Ocean first gained exposure as a member of the hip hop group Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All (also home to Word Magazine favourite Tyler the Creator), a much-hyped gang of teens who ultimately offered more in the way of potty mouths and sensationalist interviews than they did talent. In 2012, via a couple of highly rated mix tapes and a guest spot on the Kanye/Jay-Z crossover record, Ocean released one of the more influential albums of the decade, a record which spawned a thousand copyists and rewrote the rules of what could be done lyrically in its own genre. Modern, but retro, tough, but tender – channel: Orange didn’t sound like anything else when it first dropped, and it still doesn’t today. It’s an album that takes a bit of time to reveal all of its charms, full of introspection and maturity. Ocean’s bisexuality gave rise to claims that this was R&B’s own “Bowie” moment, but I’m not so sure – Bowie could never sing like this.
4. “Settle” – Disclosure (2013)
One of the great party records of recent years, and certainly the sound of every BBQ in young London in the Summer of 2013. One of the most fully-realised debut records you’ll ever hear, and guaranteed to get heads nodding and feet moving to this day. Always a go-to on a sunny day.
5. “Helplessness Blues” – Fleet Foxes (2011)
There was a lot of fuss around Fleet Foxes debut record, and this one kind of got lost in the back-wash. Nonetheless, it’s the one I’ve gone to, time and again, in the half decade since its release. It sounds great on a woozy Sunday morning when you’re frying the eggs, it sounds great on the train home of a summer evening, with the sun down low over the rooftops, it sounds great pretty much any time. Barring “Have One On Me”, it’s the most self-consciously “classic” sounding record on this list, with its close vocal harmonies and camp fire guitar. It’s a lovely, lovely album that’s much better than you remember it, which repays being revisited, and which gets a little better with each year that passes.
6. “Carrie & Lowell” – Sufjan Stevens (2015)
Already been done to death on here. It’s just lovely, OK?
7. “The Money Store” – Death Grips (2012)
The sonic template bitten on by Kanye and dozens of others over the last four years. An abrasive, unpredictable beat with a madman ranting over the top of it.
8. “I Love You, Honeybear” – Father John Misty (2015)
If any album on this list sums up the decade, it’s probably this one. The sheer hipsterosity of the thing is repulsive to some, but it’s what make it work from where I’m sat. The lyrics make me laugh out loud, there are tunes in abundance and it’s all just so much fun that I can’t stop listening to it.
9. “Tradi-Mods v Rockers (Alternative Takes on Congotronics) – Volume 1” – Various (2010)
Every decade needs its Endless Box of Chocolates album. The one you never quite seem to get to the bottom of, no matter how much you dig, and which always offers up a fresh treat even after many, many listens. For me, that record was “69 Love Songs” in the previous decade, and “Tradi-Mods…” in this one. Basically, it’s a tribute record, with different acts contributing their own responses to the classic “Congotronics” compilations which circulated in the early 2000s. It’s insanely varied, but the overall effect is of African village life, if you air-dropped a metric shit-ton of synths and string instruments into the middle of said village.
10. “Clark” – Clark (2014)
If you listen to certain genres of electronic music, the shadow of Burial has been cast long over this decade. Both in terms of the ongoing effort to refract, distort and atomise the human voice, and in terms of the gloomy, part-heard, part-felt dynamics of his many heirs apparent. Topping my personal list of the records that would not be but for Will Bevan is this, Clark’s 8th album, and a veritable feast of brooding undertones and skittering, Warp-ish beats. The overall vibe is basically War of the Worlds, if the response of the human race to the arrival of the Martian invaders had been to throw a gigantic hallucinogenic rave up.
Others which sprang to mind: Lonerism – Tame Impala, Black Messiah – D’Angelo, Cosmogramma – Flying Lotus, Sunbather – Deafheaven, Philharmonics – Agnes Obel, Celebration Rock – Japandroids, Modern Vampires of the City – Vampire Weekend, The Old Magic – Nick Lowe, There Is Love In You – Four Tet, Art Angels – Grimes, Coexist – The XX, Les Revenants Soundtrack – Mogwai, Immunity – Jon Hopkins, Warpaint – Warpaint, Blanck Mass – Blanck Mass, Royal Blood – Royal Blood, Spaces – Nils Frahm, good kid, m.A.A.d city – Kendrick Lamar, Hopelessness – Anohni, mbv – My Bloody Valentine, Smoke Ring For My Halo – Kurt Vile, Rival Dealer E.P – Burial, Black Prince Fury E.P – Anna Meredith, Tetsuo & Youth – Lupe Fiasco, Diamond Mine – Kid Creosote and Jon Hopkins.
So then, over to you – what would make your list?