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Our favourite albums of the decade

Here’s our comprehensive list of all the best projects that came out over the last ten years.

This decade was, to put it mildly, a turbulent one.

We’ve seen our political systems shook by online misinformation, an escalating climate change emergency, the rise of both influencer and cancel culture, as well as civil unrest in some of the world’s largest and most economically influential countries. It’s all been a bit mad.

All of that confusion and angst has translated into some of the most popular chart-topping albums of the 2010s. From Billie Eilish’s heavy emo, ASMR inspired pop to the rise of psychedelic trap such as Travis Scott’s ASTROWORLD, a lot of the biggest acts from this decade have embraced the dark, edgy introspection that reflects the moody troubles of our time.

We’ve picked out our top albums of this decade here at Thred, each one serving as an important soundtrack to particular moments in our lives. Many of these you’ll have no doubt heard, but there may be some hidden gems you’ve yet to discover that could wind up being part of your favourites next decade. Better get your playlists ready, people.

Billie Eilish – When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? (2019)

You didn’t think I’d start this list off with anyone other than Billie Eilish, did you? At only seventeen years old she’s undoubtably the pop star of the moment and her debut album from this year has landed her at the very top of the music world. Her brother produced most of the record and it stands out amongst the crowd for its twisted, raw energy that’s mysterious and unsettling.

Having created an aesthetic that’s unlike anything else, it’s very probable that Billie’s influence will be felt across the industry for years to come. We reviewed the album upon its release earlier this year and, unsurprisingly, we loved it. Her videos boast a Tim Burton inspired sullenness and she has a clear knack for emotive, expressive lyricism. She recently released a new single titled ‘everything i wanted’ that continues her impressive streak of prestigious pop.

I would be shocked if you hadn’t seen this video yet but here’s ‘Bad Guy’ anyway, just in case you were in the mood for a banger.

Sufjan Stevens – Carrie and Lowell (2015)

Written after the passing of his estranged mother, Carrie and Lowell is often cited as Sufjan Stevens’ most gripping and immersive work. Grief is laid out in a grimacing, truly dark way throughout this record, and it still holds up nearly five years on. You’d be hard pressed to find another singer songwriter whose written such a concisely, moving album this decade, and you’ll see many comparisons to Elliot Smith’s 1990s work, Either/Or.

Highlights include the opener ‘Death With Dignity’, ‘Should Have Known Better’, and ‘Fourth Of July’, all of which tackle Sufjan’s complicated relationship with his parents. They also feature on the album artwork, and he’s since admitted that he ‘barely remembers writing the record’ due to intense emotional trauma.

While it is a sad listen, it’s also very pleasant on the ears and is an essential listen for any fan of gentle, acoustic music. You can listen to ‘Should Have Known Better’ below.

Lorde – Pure Heroine (2013)

David Bowie cited Lorde as the next big thing all the way back in 2013, right before she dropped her debut album Pure Heroine. When it did land on our iPods at the time it was an instant hit and a refreshing change of pace in a pop landscape filled with cluttered dance anthems.

Lorde’s production is notably stripped back, optimising negative spaces and emptiness to create something that’s since been utilised by big acts such as Selena Gomez, Lana Del Rey and, most notably, Billie Eilish. My most-played singles from the album include ‘Royals’, ‘Tennis Courts’, and ‘Buzzcut Season’, all of which poetically reflect on the teenage experience.

If you’re feeling a nostalgia trip, you can watch the video for ‘Royals’ below, which has similar visual minimalistic vibes to the song itself.

The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships (2018)

This one usually gets a groan from some in our office, but The 1975’s latest album from 2018 is a poignant, fizzing collection of tunes that manages to perfectly encapsulate the millennial angst that comes with modern living. No matter what my fellow writer Jamie might say.

A breakout moment for the band, singles such as ‘Give Yourself A Try’, ‘Love It If We Made It’, and ‘Sincerity Is Scary’ showed off impressive musical growth that incorporated elements of jazz, synth, and R&B, all within a glittery pop package. It was a commercial and critical success and the boys have since released several singles for their next album, Notes On A Conditional Form – all of which show just as much promise.

Check out my personal favourite song off of the album ‘Sincerity Is Scary’ below.

Beyoncé – Lemonade (2016)

Beyoncé’s 2016 record was an abrasive explosion of empowerment that immediately sparked a million rumours as to the state of her marriage to Jay-Z. She brought on board a collection of talents including Jack White, James Blake, and Mike Dean amongst others.

The album feels like private diary entries being spilled into song writing, as Beyoncé warns her husband of the ramifications that may come with infidelity. Lemonade has a wide variety of musical influence; everything from R&B to country is littered across its track list, as the queen herself demonstrates why she’s such a star. This is my favourite album of hers to date and is a vital entry in an already impressive discography.

You can watch the video to ‘Hold Up’ below, which is an immense artistic achievement in its own right.

Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)

How could this one not be included on a decade list? Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 effort To Pimp A Butterfly is a fully realised masterwork that covers so many societal and political topics that it’s impossible to really summarise it all in a few paragraphs.

Bringing on Thundercat for his trademark, grooving basslines, and featuring vocals from Pharrell Williams and Snoop Dogg, among many others, this album successfully discusses personal struggle, distrust in the USA government, institutionalisation, and even creates a fictitious conversation with Tupac Shakur. It’s widely regarded as Kendrick’s shining moment, and I have no doubt that this album will be remembered as a classic.

If you haven’t heard some of its most famous singles (which is impressive at this point, frankly), then listen to ‘Alright’ below. You won’t regret it.

Noname – Telefone (2016)

When it comes to Chicago jazz rap, several names always come to mind. There’s SABA, Smino, Chance The Rapper, and Noname. Her debut record from 2016 is a colourful, free form effort that’s often described as ‘lullaby hip-hop’, making use of bouncy beats and sparkly melodies that are irresistible.

While Chance has obviously blown completely into the mainstream (let’s not talk about his album Big Day, though), Noname’s Telefone remains a landmark moment for the Chicago scene and absolutely stands as its own timeless work. Opener ‘Yesterday’ is a sentimental look back at childhood and wishing you were a child again, and it’s a definite favourite.

Watch Noname’s performance for NPR’s Tiny Desk below.

https://youtu.be/K58JYXhb4YA

Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

It’s been a hot minute since I really, truly idolised Kanye for his creative talent. Nowadays his album rollouts are a bit of a mess and his music videos look more like cult indoctrination pieces than something you’d see on VEVO. Before the half-hearted Jesus Is King or Ye albums, though, West was on a perfect streak when it came to artistic consistency.

Nowhere did he triumph more than on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which was a sweeping, wild, all-encompassing collection of tracks that firmly cemented Kanye’s place as one of the greatest producers ever.

Whether it’s the gutting lows of ‘Runaway’s’ piano-led lamenting or the electric boasting of ‘POWER’, this album remains his most stimulating, thought-provoking, and moving work. I am forever afraid that he’ll never top it and I’m yet to be proven wrong.

Taylor Swift – 1989 (2014)

At this point Taylor’s 2014 record is probably overplayed (most people I know groan whenever ‘Shake It Off’ comes on), but for a long while there was no stopping her from chart dominance.

1989 is as close to a perfectly crafted pop record as you can get, and represents the biggest highs of her career. She would be rocked by controversy and a change in public perception in the years following this release, but 1989 remains her best moment.

As with many of the works on this list, 1989 has plenty of great tracks. Personal top songs include ‘Blank Space’, ‘Wildest Dreams’, and ‘Bad Blood’. I’d like to also give a shout out to her 2012 album Red, which comes a close second behind 1989 for pure pop pleasure.

Brockhampton – SATURATION trilogy (2017)

Okay, so this one technically isn’t a single album, but each instalment of the SATURATION trilogy was released in such quick succession that it might as well be one project. These three records were the springboard for the hip-hop collective’s rise to fame, and hold up as some of the most compelling music of the decade.

Taking inspiration from Odd Future, Brockhampton consists of over ten guys who rap, produce, and design everything from music to merchandise. They’re a truly independent act, and the SATURATION albums are indisputably the most exciting and prolific projects of their run so far.

So many songs are memorable here, but my favourites include ‘GUMMY’, ‘SWEET’, ‘BOOGIE’, and ‘MILK’. The band has faced controversy since 2017, with member Ameer Vann removed last year due to sexual abuse allegations. They bounced back with two more works called Iridescence and GINGER that, while not quite at the same level, remain great albums. Check out the video for ‘GUMMY’ below.

https://youtu.be/vWhPimx07H0

The Japanese House – Good At Falling (2019)

Amber Bain is a solo artist from Buckinghamshire and the sole member of The Japanese House. Mixing together electronic synthesizers, pianos, and vocalizer effects, her sound is entirely her own and often feels like it could be the soundtrack to a robot’s dreams. That’s an admittedly niche description but it’ll make sense once you give her 2019 album Good At Falling a listen.

The LP digs into relationship troubles, estrangement, and has a feeling of sorrow that runs throughout. Despite the left-field approach and vibe, The Japanese House keeps its pop sensibilities firmly at the centre, making it an accessible listen from the get-go. Think of it as an artsy breakup album that embraces booming drums and glitchy, shimmering sounds.

Listen to ‘Maybe You’re The Reason’ below. I’d also recommend her most recent singles, ‘Something Has To Change’ and ‘Chewing Cotton Wool’. I wouldn’t be surprised if her next album is even better than her first.

Tyler, The Creator – Flower Boy (2017)

Tyler’s career has done a full U turn since the start of this decade. Where once he was seen as a shock-value rapper with a quirky fashion sense, he’s now at the heart of the alternative indie music scene. Both his latest albums Flower Boy and IGOR showed heaps of maturity and growth, with each project almost entirely produced solely by Tyler himself.

For me, Flower Boy is the best album of his discography so far, with a warm and vibrant sound that brings personality and refreshing originality to the table. It’s one of my favourite albums of all time, and includes Frank Ocean, Kali Uchis, and Rex Orange County as vocal features.

If you haven’t heard this album yet, listen to ‘Boredom’ below. I promise you’ll be thankful you did.

Little Simz – GREY Area (2019)

UK grime and rap got a phenomenal boost this half of the decade, with a plethora of fresh talent such as Dave, J Hus, slowthai, and – of course – Stormzy propelling the genre firmly into the mainstream. Little Simz is another big name whose been repping the scene in recent years, and her 2019 effort GREY Area is a defining moment in her career.

Unapologetic, authentic, and wide-ranging in sound, Little Simz’s latest record has hard-hitting moments alongside introspective mellow tracks that keep things fresh throughout. Each track chops up samples and bass-heavy beats to pack a punch, particularly on opener ‘Offence’, ‘Boss’, and ‘Venom’.

She can also be found in Netflix’s Top Boy as part of the main cast. Check out the video to GREY Area’s biggest song, ‘Selfish’, below.

Mac Miller – Swimming (2018)

The late, great rapper Mac Miller managed to redefine himself several times with his musical endeavours, pulling away from the frat rap trend of the early 10s and venturing into more funk infused sounds as the years went on. Swimming is the final product of that growth and, sadly, is the last work we’ll ever hear from him.

The project shows off equal amounts of groove as it does personal conjecture. Mac talks about finding his own personal peace after a public breakup with Ariana Grande, accepting his circumstances in life, and attempting to navigate the ‘demons as big as [his] house’. There are so many great songs here, including ‘Come Back To Earth’, ‘Self Care’, and ‘Small Worlds’.

‘Self Care’ has an eerily foreboding music video that shows Mac inside his own coffin. If you’re feeling particularly resilient you can watch it below but be warned – it’s quite heart-breaking in retrospect.

https://youtu.be/SsKT0s5J8ko

Lana Del Rey – Born To Die (2012)

Is there any more iconic early 10s pop figure than Lana Del Rey? Her second album Born To Die was a monumental success, combining flavours of hip-hop and indie pop to create a vibe that feels inspired by the classic 50s era of American film and style.

Though it faced polarising opinions and reviews at the time of release, with some critics arguing that her persona was a forced, heavily marketed one, the album has held up throughout the decade and is now generally considered a cult classic.

Her videos are no less stylish than the tracks themselves, either, revelling in vintage colour grading and throwback style. You can watch the video for lead single ‘Video Games’ below.

Lil Peep – Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 1 (2017)

Lil Peep is perhaps best known as the face of emo-trap, serving as the most prominent example of a niche genre that’s continued to grow in popularity throughout the latter half of the decade. Taking inspiration from the punk bands of the early noughties and blending their angsty style with contemporary instrumentals, Come Over When You’re Sober, Pt. 1 is an acceptance of dangerous vices and mental health struggles.

Sadly, many of Lil Peep’s song subjects would be the cause of his passing, as he overdosed at the end of 2017. His style of song writing and general aesthetic proved controversial while he was still alive, with critics divided as to whether he was a genius or simply a reckless addict. Lil Peep’s art resonated with Gen Zers, though, and his legacy has continued on after his death.

Watch the music video to one of his most popular tracks ‘Awful Things’ below.

Adele – 21 (2011)

She’s been one of the biggest money-makers in the industry for practically the last ten years, but Adele’s 21 is where it all started to properly take off. With multiple hard-hitting ballads including ‘Rolling In The Deep’, ‘Set Fire To The Rain’, and ‘Someone Like You’ just on this album alone, it’s become clear that she’s an artist that defines a certain time in pop culture.

Her extraordinary voice, along with bombastic, grandiose production, makes this album a must for the decade list. She also went on to record the James Bond ‘Skyfall’ theme that’s perhaps the best soundtrack of any entry in the franchise.

Give ‘Rolling In The Deep’ a listen below if you missed it the first time round.

Tame Impala – Currents (2015)

Psychedelic rock isn’t exclusively for the seventies, guys. Tame Impala’s 2015 effort Currents is their most lauded album and proves that there’s still plenty of room to keep rock and guitar music fresh. This project boasts near-perfect production and intriguing song structures that’ll take you for a trip.

It’s been a long while since we’ve heard anything new from Tame Impala, though luckily we’re set to get our ears on a brand new album in 2020. The two singles that have dropped so far – titled ‘Borderline’ and ‘It Might Be Time’ – are both stellar, so I’m optimistic about their next work.

The opener track from Currents called ‘Let It Happen’ is a seven minute rollercoaster, but it’s absolutely worth a listen. You can watch the video below.

Those are our top picks from the office, but we couldn’t round off without some honourable mentions. Here’s a few other albums you should absolutely check out if you haven’t already.

Glass Animals – How To Be A Human Being (2016)
Grimes – Art Angels (2015)
Car Seat Headrest – Teens Of Denial (2016)
Janelle Monae – Dirty Computer (2018)
Slowthai – Nothing Great About Britain (2019)
S. Vincent – MASSEDUCATION (2017)
Caravan Palace – Robot Face (2015)
Counting Crows – Somewhere Under Wonderland (2014)
Loyle Carner – Yesterday’s Gone (2016)
Travis Scott – ASTROWORLD (2018)

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