Thursday 19 December 2019

The 250 Best Albums of the Decade (2010 - 2019)

The 250 Best Albums of the Decade (2010 - 2019)

After listening to well over 4,000 albums from 2010 until 2019 while compiling a top 50 for each year, Jared Woods has become the educated voice that you can trust. Go ahead and read his book. Study his words. Steal his best suggestions. And, before you know it, you too can sound like a high authority on this decade of music. Your friends will be so impressed.

Old people like to say that music isn’t what it used to be, which may or may not be true. However, it is the abundance of modern material which can often create the daunting shell which prevents listeners from doing the necessary digging. Is this you? Never fear! For there are those of us who are willing to put in the necessary effort which you are not. We are the chosen ones. And allow us gleefully inform you that, yes, this was yet another fantastic decade of music. And by “us”, I mean “me”, obviously.

Humans can never predict how a decade will fair in the greater scheme of the musical history books. All it takes is one sleeper hit to utterly redefine the set period, overlooked in its time yet massively influential in hindsight, realigning the shape of all things to come. Such hypothetical gemstones remain out of our reach for now, but this does not mean that we are unable to observe some of the landscape’s bigger pictures. We are still capable of pinpointing specific albums and stylistic evolutions which sprouted higher than the weeds, and we can nod in their general direction with a certain approval, saying hello to those plants which shall surely be remembered for a long time after we are gone. Or not, whatever, I dunno.

From my perspective, the most interesting observation I made this decade was where the majority of genres appeared to split down the middle, making progressions in two very contradictory directions: the dumbed-down superficial incarnations vs. the more mature weigh-ins with far heftier substance to boast, verifying our human nature of perpetually venturing towards the extremes whichever way that may be. Perhaps these movements were a long time developing, but never before have we heard such a formulated lack of intelligence coming from our television sets while there was always a counter line running away from these ideals, incorporating artistic flairs and prefixing their various labels with words such as “contemporary” or “alternative” or “experimental” to further the distance.

Hip hop was a key player in this ethos, offering a myriad of hybrid genre-bendings to cater to the art students while the traps and the mumbles offered the more casual listeners something to mindlessly dribble over. R&B was another impressive focal point of the decade, standing as perhaps the greatest example of where more creative (oft-soulful) expressions could gently brush fingertips with the commercial world. Various teen pop stars made the mid-decade transition into more sophisticated and/or abrasive regions while EDM only banged harder and IDM outsmarted itself until nobody could understand it anymore. Meanwhile, the oversized umbrella term of rock was about as immovable as the name would suggest, with perhaps a little additional spice sprinkled upon the resurgence of post-punk and the refining of the already well-defined blackgaze genre.

But these are hardly fresh entries, right? Rather, they were steps along pathways set in motions long before 2010 even rolled about. Is there anything about this decade which stands truly unique? Grime’s evolution, perhaps? Vaporwave came and went pretty quick. Hey, remember when Dubstep conquered the world for a short period back there? No, I think what made this decade truly stand out was its drive for survival. This can be applied in terms of the now completely transformed industry models where record labels were becoming less imperative and the streaming platform were impacting finances, forcing artists to become smarter about their marketing ploys. But playing for even higher survival stakes, was our current political climate which affected the world as a whole, our art quick to follow. The voices of the audio medium shouted to be heard with plenty of Black Lives Matter themed records coming to the forefront while the female gender finally rose (or, perhaps, were finally granted the space to rise) as a driving force behind some of the year’s biggest projects. And yet, the most unprecedented offering from the 2010s’ cultural environment was the surge of LGBT (emphasis on transgender) electronics, most notably the very specific industrial vein for some reason. Honestly, if there was any genre-branch that could have only existed in the last 10 years, this would be the one that blasted the loudest.

With that in mind, the 250 entries that you are about to witness are what I consider to be the most exciting highlights that one can use to map out what made this decade so distinguishable. These albums were chosen not only in terms of personal opinion, critical acclaim, public reaction, charting ability, general talent, and uniqueness, but above all else, for how long they stuck in my mind after the record had stopped spinning. Because what else really matters? Nothing matters. You will be dead soon.

This is the official Best of the Decade list.
Every other list is fake and wrong.