Friday, December 6, 2019

Top 50 Albums of the 2010's: Numbers 10-1

Way back in 2009 we were lucky enough to help contribute to Glide Magazine's list of Best Albums of the 2000's. Hard to believe it has been ten years since we worked on that list, but it is that time again to look back at the previous decade and put together some arbitrary rankings. Since this site has been going strong the full decade we have a lot to pull from.

Here comes RtBE's picks for the top albums from the last decade, 2010-2019.

If we reviewed the album we will provide a link to that review in the title, a brief reflection on the record and a tune from it. A lot can change in ten years and a lot stays the same. Some albums were just right for their time and place and haven't aged particularly well and others were perhaps misunderstood or even prophetic as to where the world was headed.

Just our two cents, but this decade will not be looked back at fondly when it comes to remembering music in general. Things (for the most part) are being programmed and mushed together into mellow, white bread, digestible tunes with a hip hop foundation around pop hooks, synth vibes, a few strings and nothing the least bit exciting or offensive for the majority of music out there. In an era that should be considerably be ripe for protest, outrage, and individual expressionism, very little of actual substance has escaped to the masses.

Also from a practical standpoint, never before has the concept of "album" been so meaningless in our streaming/playlist curated society. While RtBE isn't completely old fashion, we still haven't bought into those ways of consuming music and the album is still our only way of listening to things, whether on vinyl or downloaded; no shuffling of singles here. This list focuses on full lengths that are played from beginning to end and deliver the goods.  

We will break this down over five parts, doing ten albums a day. There were a ton of good records released over the last ten years, much more than fifty, but these are our choices. We kept our personal musical releases off the list, but feel free to listen and critique those.

As a note, Glide Magazine, the main site we contribute to, changed it's rating system in the middle of the decade from 5 Stars to 10 stars, then removed it all together so if you see say #49 on our list with only 4 stars, consider it doubled to 8.

Like all of the lists RtBE have done, this is meant to start conversations, not end them. So let's kick it off...

#10 Spoon - They Want My Soul 2014

One of the best rock bands going, Spoon put out an album that ranks up their with their career best as They Want My Soul displays strong song after strong song. Britt Daniel and crew did what they do best.

From opener "Rent I Pay" through until closer "New York Kiss" there isn't a miss among the tracks. "Do You" nails the bass, "Inside Out" amps the keyboards and the strutting "Let Me Be Mine" are all top level catchy pop rock. Joe Chiccarelli & especially David Friedman's production should also be noted as he gets extra fuzz, sheen or silence when needed, elevating the whole album. Every record Spoon releases is worth checking out and with They Want My Soul, they released one of their greatest.

#9 Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels 2 2014

RtBEs favorite hip hop album of the decade came from the duo of Killer Mike and El-P as Run The Jewels. Their second album was a blast of inventive modern beats, unique rhymes and a mixing technical skills, serious social matters and god damn fun tunes.

 "Blockbuster Night Part 1", "Lie, Cheat, Steal", "Crown" and a guest spot from Zack De La Rocha on "Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)" are all dynamite and prove that RTJ were at their creative peak on 2, each song bangs and makes the listener think; a great combo.

#8 Beyonce - Lemonade 2016
The biggest artist of the decade who turned the internet on her ear by releasing albums at a moment's notice, playing oversized and over analyzed shows, and touring with her slightly less famous husband twice, Beyonce had a top notch decade. Lemonade is her high water mark; it's the most complete full length and her most personal work to date.

The album came about after B decided to not break up with Jay-Z revolving around tabloid fodder and elevator fights, and that passion with which the songs get executed is what really elevates Lemonade. It is a pop/tabloid version of Blood on the Tracks for 2019 but without the finality of divorce. Songs like "Hold Up", "Sorry", "Hurt Yourself" all rage, while more diverse offerings like "Daddy Lessons" gets personal. For a pop artist, she made a compelling full length release that is worth returning to; witness the power of the Queen B.

#7 Jason Isbell - Southeastern 2013
The struggle with sobriety is everywhere in society but when a talented artist cleans up and focuses on his craft it can create something truly special.  Such is the case with Jason Isbell's Southeastern which announced to the world that he was one of the best songwriters on the scene today.

"Cover Me Up" is one of the top songs of the decade and "Elephant" just may be even better as he describes a cancer patient and friend deteriorating. If anything this classic album has grown since this release, as has Isbell's status. Southeastern remains his strongest work from top to bottom, and it is one of the best Americana based albums of the decade.

#6 Titus Andronicus - The Monitor 2010
Patrick Stickles wrote a whole heaping lot during the decade including a triple album rock opera and other records but nothing was a successful as his Civil War meets modern day New Jersey fears and ramblings, titled The Monitor.

The album broke Titus Andronicus onto a national scene with poetic quotes from Walt Whitman and President Lincoln inter-cut with overloaded punk rock/arena ready songs like "A More Perfect Union" and "Too Old Friends and New". The tracks routinely ran longer than eight minutes and crashed into each other producing a messy and exciting full length experience. The titanic closer "The Battle of Hampton Roads" spells out ills and pains with screaming ferocity as it closes a truly stunning record; the enemy is still everywhere.

#5 Japandroids - Celebration Rock 2012
Opening up with fireworks the perfectly titled Celebration Rock was made by the Japandroids with the express purpose of playing exhilarating, upbeat, life affirming, live rock and roll across the globe. The Canadian duo just wanted to make sure they captured their live show spirit and they certainly did by writing the best songs of their career.

Only 8 tunes long but each original glistens with vitality. Opener (post fireworks) "The Night of Wine and Roses", Tom Petty like "Evils Sway", the bombastic "The House That Heaven Built" and really every other song that Brian King and David Prowse wrote works wonderfully. "Younger Us" captures that wild spirit of being young (and fighting to stay young) perfectly, isn't that what the best rock and roll is all about?

#4 Ryan Scully Rough Seven - Give Up Your Dreams 2010
Passionate, that is the term for rock and roll music produced by Ryan Scully and the Rough Seven on their debut Give Up Your Dreams. Having moved on from the drunken bar band Morning 40 Federation, the New Orleans singer songwriter recruited 6 other members to form a psychedelic, noise gospel group.

The results are stunning as Give Up Your Dreams rings with truth, beauty and some ripping tunes. Backup singers Meschiya Lake and Erica Lewis are dynamite on the title track, lead guitarist Rob Cambre rips through "Meltdown" and the aching lyrics and singing from Scully on the finale "Good Outweighs the Bad" is heartbreaking in it's rawness. A personal desert island record for RtBE that somehow combines the best parts of late night yearnings, Sunday morning holiness, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, hope/despair and a constant quest to always get better inside and out; what an album from an outstanding band who should be more well known.

#3 The Black Keys - Brothers 2010
This is a recording that added lyrical weight, musicality and a larger sense of what was possible for The Black Keys at a time when the band was ready to call it quits. Brothers solidified the duo's commitment to each other and propelled them to super-stardom because of the simple fact that it is a great album. The lead single "Tighten Up" had production help from Danger Mouse; however Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach developed Brothers more on their own then past albums and the raw honesty shows.

Efforts like "Everlasting Light", "These Days", "Next Girl" and "Too Afraid To Love You" deal with lose and love in deeper ways than the duo had ever took on before. Life events like divorce and deaths lead hardships to flow through the lyrics. However, they also could still rage with efforts like "Howlin' For You" while they injected a much need dose of bass on songs like "Sinister Kid". The increased instrumentation on the album was vital, as is the flushed out songwriting, making Brothers one of the best rock and roll records released in the last ten years. 

The first solo record from Jack White allowed him to break out of his self-imposed restrictions from his White Stripes days and the results were exhilarating.

Working with artists he hired, he crafted the songs, sometimes writing on the spot, but the lyrics certainly were influenced by his amicable divorce which happened in 2011. The end of relationships love and pain are all central lyrical with tracks like "Freedom at 21", "Love Interruption", "Missing Pieces" and the title track all dealing with the topics. Musically White was stretching out a bit, but he still rocked with lead guitar lines, pianos and drums and was just starting to move in larger direction. 
A cover of Willie Toombs "I'm Shakin'" kicks off with a rockabilly blast, "Hypocritical Kiss" bumps with great bass while album closer puts it all in the mix as "Take Me With You When You Go" sums up the record. The various players all color the record, but this is White's Blue Black and White outing, solidifying him as a major artist no matter what name/band/collection he releases records under.

#1 Arctic Monkey's - AM 2013

The sexiest rock and roll to arrive in eons, the Arctic Monkeys reinvented their sound with this groove heavy collection of amazing tunes. Moving away from their driving guitar pub punk of their earlier successes the group evolved into this late night get down collection of tunes that bumps and grinds wonderfully.

From the killer cover art, to the opening bass and drum hits of "Do I Wanna Know?" until the closer poetic ramblings by Alex Turner quoting John Cooper Clarke on "I Wanna Be Yours" the band is just completely locked in. From the strutting "Mad Sounds" to the slamming drums of "R U Mine?" to the slinky "Why'd You Always Call Me When You're High" to the piano solo shift up mid album "No.1 Party Anthem" the great tunes just keep coming. Inspired by David Bowie, The Velvet Underground, Black Sabbath, Dr. Dre, the Arctic Monkeys AM infuses their inspirations but remains a gorgeous slice of late night, get down, grooving rock and roll.

How'd we do? Agree? Disagree?  Feel free to let us know in the comment section and as always thanks for reading.

Our full list is below with links to the original reviews:

#50 Kanye West - Yeezus 2013
#49  Dead Weather - Sea of Cowards 2010
#48  Dr Dog - Shame Shame 2011
#47 Archie Powell & The Exports - Great Ideas In Action 2012
#46 Screaming Females - Ugly 2012
#45 Galactic - Ya-Ka-May 2010
#44 Dinosaur Jr. - I Bet On Sky 2012
#43 Shannon & the Clams - Onion 2018
#42 Tom Waits - Bad As Me 2011
#41 Jenny Lewis - The Voyager 2014
#40 Bombino - Azel 2016
#39 Graveyard Lovers - Dreamers 2013
#38 Drive-By Truckers - American Band 2016
#37 Margo Price - All American Made 2017
#36 Burna Boy - African Giant 2019
#35 Big Boi - Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty 2010
#34 Becky Warren - Undesirable 2018
#33 Brittany Howard - Jaime 2019
#32 The Black Keys - El Camino 2011
#31 Noun - Holy Hell 2010
#30 The War On Drugs - A Deeper Understanding 2018
#29 Jason Isbell Something More Than Free 2015
#28 Leyla McCalla - The Capitalist Blues 2019
#27 Gateway District - Perfects Gonna Fail 2011
#26 Bop English - Constant Bop  2015
#25 Dan Auerbach - Waiting on a Song 2017
#24 Father John Misty - God's Favorite Customer 2018
#23 Benjamin Booker Benjamin Booker 2014
#22 Ex Hex - Rips 2014
#21 Screaming Females - All At Once 2018
#20 Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy 2010
#19 Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah - The Centennial Trilogy 2017
#18 High on Fire - Electric Messiah 2018
#17 Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse 2013
#16 Screaming Females - Rose Mountain 2015
#15 Jack White - Lazzaretto 2014
#14 Dr John - Locked Down 2012
#13 Sleater Kinney - No Cities to Love 2015
#12 Thurston Moore - Rock N Roll Consciousness 2017
#11 Father John Misty - I Love You, Honey Bear! 2015
#10 Spoon - They Want My Soul 2014
#9 Run The Jewels - Run The Jewels 2 2014
#8 Beyonce - Lemonade 2016
#7 Jason Isbell - Southeastern 2013
#6 Titus Andronicus - The Monitor 2010
#5 Japandroids - Celebration Rock 201
#4 Ryan Scully Rough Seven - Give Up Your Dreams 2010
#3 The Black Keys - Brothers 2010
#1 Arctic Monkey's - AM 2013

1 comment:

  1. My favorite album of the decade (The Suburbs by Arcade Fire) didn't even make your list, so maybe it was a better decade for albums than we thought! Also I never got into Jason Isbell but dug his set at the Town Hall show, so I'm gonna have to give his stuff another shot.