Thursday, December 5, 2019

Top 50 Albums of the 2010's: Numbers 20-11

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 out 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.

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. Here are numbers 20-11:

#20 Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy 2010
As the decade began Kanye West delivered his magnum opus, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which indulges in all of his best bombastic habits as a track like "Runaway" sums up his life to that moment. He brought in heavyweights like Jay-Z, Raekwon, Rick Ross, producers Mike Dean and RZA and helped elevate/launch the careers of Kid Cudi, Pusha T and Nicki Minaj.

Overloaded, braggadocios, and most importantly delivering incredible songs like "Power", "All The Lights", and the diabolical "Monster". He displayed artistic urges by getting Black Sabbath hopped up on filthy beats during "Hell Of A Life", and sampling everyone from Smokey Robinson to King Crimson, West was never more expressive and successfully wide ranging. 

#19 Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah - The Centennial Trilogy 2017
This was RtBEs favorite jazz release from a decade which saw the genre come back into popular listening world more so than any time since the fusion of the 70's. We first came across Scott with his Stretch Music release but The Centennial Trilogy is a bigger and better ball of bad ass.

The three parts are not equal, we enjoy Ruler Rebel and The Emancipation Procrastination much more than the middle Diaspora album, but taken as a whole it is some of the most adventurous and coolest jazz RtBE has ever come across. Written to celebrate 100 years of jazz coming from his hometown of New Orleans, CSaA lived up to the lofty task by combining modern and old school jazz styles with trap drums, hip hop, R&B. Getting some help from the excellent Elena Pinderhughes on flute and Braxton Cook sax work helped elevate the triple album as it is a wonder and worth returning to often.

#18 High on Fire - Electric Messiah 2018

High on Fire released three great metal albums this decade, Electric MessiahLuminiferous and De Vermis Mysteriis (which just missed this list), but Electric Messiah overtook them all. Things are just more moving on the bands full album tribute to Lemmy as tracks like “Spewn from the Earth” and "Freebooter" are speed freak monsters.

HoF keeps it's stoner sound intact as well with “Steps of the Ziggurat / House of Enlil” as it marches and pounds the earth along with other album highlights "God of the Godless" and the killer title track. The last album for the band with drummer Des Kensel and he is the true MVP throughout, wrapping up his High on Fire career with his best playing; one of the most satisfying metal albums of the decade.

#17 Frightened Rabbit - Pedestrian Verse 2013
The world lost a hell of a songwriter when Scott Hutchinson passed away in 2018. One of RtBE's biggest regrets for our contribution to the best of 2000's list ten years ago was not putting Frightened Rabbit's Midnight Organ Fight on the list, which is rectified this decade as Pedestrian Verse is a hell of a complete record.

Hutchinson said that it was the bands best album and it is hard to argue as songs like "Backyard Skulls", "Oil Slick", "Acts of Man" and "Holy" are all fantastic as the group became more democratic in their writing process for this record. "Woodpile" is a massive tune that explodes with confidence as this band was at the peak of their powers.

#16 Screaming Females - Rose Mountain 2015
Rose Mountain signaled a change in direction for Screaming Females and it was a positive one. 2012's Ugly seemed to take their raw live sound as far as the studio would allow so the band shifted gears, and producers, working with Matt Bayles who gave them a slightly more metal and polished sound.

The bigger shift was in songwriting though, Marissa Paternoster was dealing with a horrible mono sickness and wrote directly to the experience. In doing so the song writing, lyrics and singing all seemed to fall into place around the strong bass and damn foundation of Mike Abbate and Jarrett Dougherty. Things got somehow prettier with the pain and clicked for the trio. They continued their success on All at Once, but Rose Mountain's half hour plus of ten direct songs (including the excellent "Burning Car", "Empty Head", title track and "Wishing Well") is a tighter example of their slightly updated sound. The band made zero bad albums this decade but Rose Mountain was the peak to RtBE's ears.

#15 Jack White - Lazzaretto 2014
Jack White dismissed hip hop when he was with the White Stripes, but it was only a matter of time that the blues obsessive found his way to the art form. With The Dead Weather he beat on the drums exploring the low end, Lazaretto was his first solo album where the beats were as important (or more so) than the riffs and lyrics.

The title track and "Black Bat Lyrics" are good examples of this shift but White also kicked open the door and wrote successful stripped down numbers ("Want and Able") ripping instrumentals ("High Ball Stepper") country influenced ditties ("Temporary Ground") and dramatic swelling tunes ("Would You Fight For My Love"). White was, and still is, an artist on the move and Lazaretto opened up his sonic palette even wider.

#14 Dr John - Locked Down 2012
A late career gem from Dr. John, who unfortunately passed away earlier this year, Locked Down was one of the best full length releases of his entire recording career. Producer Dan Auerbach got the most of the legend who returned to his original swampy voodoo but also added a post Katrina rage and powerful musical backing.

"Revolution" comes out over a brutally funky baritone saxophone and snapping drums while closer "God's So Good" rejoices in the gospel vibe as Auerbach flashes an Allman Brothers guitar line before backup singers praise the Lord and Dr. John's funky keys flash pure salvation, ending the triumphant album on a joyous note; this release sure is blessed.

#13 Sleater Kinney - No Cities to Love 2015
This was an unexpected comeback from the Northwest trio and a damn great addition to their catalog. No Cities to Love proved Sleater-Kinney had more to say and could do so in exhilarating fashion.

No filler here just great song after great song as "Price Tag", "Fade", "Bury Our Friends", "New Wave", "Hey Darling" and more are all pulsating with energy and classic SK tension. For a band as potent as SK a comeback could be tricky, as it was their follow-up record wasn't as strong to these ears, but on No Cities to Love one of the best American bands of all-time returned triumphantly.

#12 Thurston Moore - Rock N Roll Consciousness 2017

Thurston Moore's long time act imploded at the end of the last decade, but with Sonic Youth's demise he tried a bunch of different avenues (Chelsea Light Movingsolo work etc) but the most successful was his expanded, psychedelic influenced release 2017's Rock N Roll Consciousness.

It is his most relaxed, free ranging, rock and roll work; he and his band just lock in perfectly. The record stretches out over it's five songs, each a joy to listen to (all highlights but "Turn On" is a personal favorite) as it recalls Moore's best past melodic efforts but also a possible future where these tunes can go on and on forever....which he kind of went for with "Alice Moki & Jane" but that is a different album all together...

#11 Father John Misty - I Love You, Honey Bear! 2015
The breakthrough for Josh Tillman aka Father John Misty, found Tillman blurring the line between raw honesty, humor and pain, all describing his quest for love. Musically the album takes some risks and most work out as Misty/Tillman describes the struggles of relationships large and small.

"Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins)" is an amazing tune and fits into the overall thematic structure of the album. The closing run of "Bored In The USA", "Holy Shit" and "I Went to the Store One Day" pulls out for macro then micro, looking at love and modern life with great wit and charm. The fine line between artist, honest person and smug asshole keeps Tillman interesting and makes I Love You, Honey Bear! his most engaging, complete album.

Tomorrow is our top ten, stay tuned and feel free to comment on the list so far....
#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

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