Complex Distractions Presents : Favorite Albums of the Decade

We’ve arrived at the end of the decade. The 2010’s were filled with all kinds of good, bad, and the in-between. For me it was a transformative decade. I feel I’ve grown into the middle-aged man I feel I’ve been since the age of 10. Now, I look the part and feel the aches associated with such aged indifference. I was meant to be this old. From the time I was still setting up Star Wars battles in the basement, lip syncing to Ratt’s “Round and Round” in my bedroom, and wondering how long it would take before I was abducted like poor Adam Walsh as I sat in the backseat of the family car while mom and dad were in the liquor store buying a case of Strohs(usually received some beef jerky out of it, though.) The shoes I fit most comfortably in have been that of the middle-aged married dad with a fading hairline who contemplates flexible waist jeans. This is my golden age.

Lining up a decade’s worth of records into some kind of order of importance has proven impossible, both on a time level and sanity level. I will post a top ten at the bottom, but the rest are listed in no order of importance, by each year. If they’re on this list they’re important to me.


2010

LCD Soundsystem : This Is Happening

Flying Lotus : Cosmagramma

Tame Impala Innerspeaker

Oneotrix Point Never : Returnal

Sufjan Stevens : The Age of Adz

2011

The War On Drugs : Slave Ambient

Radiohead : The King of Limbs

Kurt Vile : Smoke Ring For My Halo

Oneohtrix Point Never : Replica

Real Estate : Days

2012

Com Truise : In Decay

Soft Moon : Zeros

Wild Nothing : Nocturne

Melody’s Echo Chamber : S/T

Flying Lotus : Until The Quiet Comes

2013

My Bloody Valentine : mbv

Youth Lagoon : Wondrous Bughouse

Deerhunter : Monomania

The Flaming Lips : The Terror

Medicine : To The Happy Few

2014

Jonas Munk : Absorb Fabric Cascade

Real Estate : Atlas

This Will Destroy You : Another Language

Craft Spells : Naseau

Thom Yorke : Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes

2015

Viet Cong : Viet Cong

Oneohtrix Point Never : Garden of Delete

Protomartyr : The Agent Intellect

Beach House : Depression Cherry

Tame Impala : Currents

2016

Black Mountain : IV

S U R V I V E : RR7349

Victims : Form Hell

Thug Entrancer : Arcology

Jakob Skott : All The Colours Of The Dust

2017 

Maine : V

Timothy Fife : Black Carbon

METZ : Strange Peace

Tangering Dream : Quantum Gate

Videodrones : Nattens Haevn

2018

Graham Reznick : Glass Angles

Jake Schrock : Tropical Depression

Rival Consoles : Persona

Soft Moon : Criminal

Mythic Sunship : Another Shape of Psychedelic Music

2019

Hunter Complex : Open Sea

Skragn : Stund

Cory Kilduff : When It All Gets To Be Too Much

Jonas Munk & Nicklas Sorensen : Always Already Here

Thom Yorke : Anima

And now, my top ten favorite albums of the decade

10. Deafheaven : New Bermuda

They had me at Sunbather, but New Bermuda upped Deafheaven’s game to new sonic heights. Black metal, speed metal, and dreamy, melancholy post-rock all rolled into one black gloved fist pumping into the air with complete abandon.

9. Pentagram Home Video : The Satanic Path

The perfect mix of horror soundtrack queasiness, lo fi electro grooves, and myth making. An album I come back to often.

8. Causa Sui : Return To Sky

Individually the guys in Causa Sui run the gamut musically from synth/drum skronk, Komische electo vibes, and new age ambient grooves. But when Jonas Munk, Rasmus Rasmussen, Jess Kahr, and Jakob Skott come together as Causa Sui they lay waste sonically with a mixture of Sabbath riffs, Soundgarden heft, and the mindset that no style or musical path is off limits. Return To Sky is their ode to molten riffs and heavy deep space tripping. It’s their absolute masterpiece.

7. Atoms For Peace : Amok

For me, this is the best thing Thom Yorke has done since Kid A. A cut and paste masterpiece, with Yorke playing Miles Davis to Nigel Godrich’s Teo Macero. Jamming as a full band with Flea, Joey Waronker, and Mauro Refosco, then taking those sessions and cutting them into songs, Amok feels live and spontaneous despite the cut and paste aspect. It’s a record filled with life and groove and intent. This is Thom Yorke’s Fela Kuti record.

6. Quaeschning & Schnauss : Synthwaves

This was a record that took me completely by surprise, though I don’t know why. The pedigree of talent involved with this electronic duo is overwhelming. Thorsten Quaeschning and Ulrich Schnauss, which are two-thirds of the current Tangerine Dream line-up, stepped out of their roles as purveyors of electronic music’s most prestigious band to make a quieter electronic record. The result is an all-encompassing musical journey. An album to fall in and disintegrate to.

5. The War On Drugs : Lost In The Dream

Adam Granduciel’s ode to loneliness and desperation, Lost In The Dream borrows sonically from 80s Springsteen and arena rock of that era. But while the songs are driving and catchy, there’s an underlying melancholy that shows an artist trying to keep his head afloat. A true masterpiece of the decade.

4. Oneohtrix Point Never : R Plus Seven

Daniel Lopatin turned a corner with R Plus Seven, taking his new age synth drifts and turning them into something more. Adding a sometimes ghostly sparseness, Lopatin gave Oneohtrix Point Never a transcendent sound. This really was a turning point for OPN, and one that has led Lopatin to film scores, art installations, and a place among electronic music giants.

3. Boards of Canada : Tomorrow’s Harvest

The return of the great and powerful Boards of Canada was a subtle one, but with each listen Tomorrow’s Harvest became deeper and more complex. The album stands as one of BOC’s quiet masterpieces.

2. Jakob Skott : Amor Fati

When I first heard Jakob Skott’s Amor Fati I felt like I’d finally found some great missing musical link. The back-and-forth improvisational nature Skott created with his sequenced synths and live drums was invigorating and so new sounding. The next closest thing to Skott’s sound was maybe Zombi, but Skott took a looser approach to his synth/drum freakouts. His sound was rooted more in a Krautrock/jazz fusion hybrid. Like if Tony Williams ever jammed with Cluster. This isn’t prog rock, it’s like deep space Komische funk. Amor Fati is a record that I will listen to almost weekly. It’s a one-of-a-kind sound and album.


My number one album of the decade, easily, is

Tame Impala : Lonerism

Lonerism captured my imagination in 2012 and has never let go. Kevin Parker is a master of making modern psych rock sound sun-dried and stoned. From his hip hop-flavored drums to his tape hiss guitar solos and his John Lennon-like vocals, he combines 70s strut with a modern melancholy that I completely locked into. With Lonerism he connected to the idea of loneliness as almost a way of life; a religion even. He covers being broken-hearted, existentially adrift, horny, and stoned immaculate over the course this nearly hour-long opus. There’s a depth to the songs I can’t quite explain. He covers the album in a gritty hue, like looking at the Grand Canyon thru dirty car windows or the Milky Way thru a smudged telescope. You see the greatness there, but it’s sort of deteriorated by our own indifference. Kevin Parker is one of the most talented songwriters/producers working today. I hope he someday finds his way back to this record.


I hope you all have enjoyed stepping into my brain and seeing what makes me click with these lists. It’s a lot of work, but I truly enjoy it. Like I said, this makes me go back and listen to albums I may have not listened to for a couple years. A record is like a little time machine, taking me back to when it first hit my ears. Memory isn’t the most accurate, given that we’re remembering our time stamp of how things went down, not necessarily how it went down. But music is a much more reliable narrator. It locks those emotions in. A song is like a recall button. Anyways, I’m rambling.

See you on the flip side.

 

 

15 thoughts on “Complex Distractions Presents : Favorite Albums of the Decade

  1. I really have to give credit for taking on the whole decade. I’m staying away from it, myself. Leaving albums off my yearly lists is hard enough, and a trying to sum up a decade is too daunting I feel. Love seeing War on Drugs rated well here. Their a group that really crept its way into my heart. They have such an understated style that you don’t realize immediately how great they are, and then suddenly you can’t imagine life without their music.
    Personally, I’ve not connected with Tame Impala as well, but I know a lot of people that would agree with you there.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve realized that this whole list business takes a lot of pragmatism. It means that I do leave off stuff I genuinely love for stuff that I’ve played far more. I couldn’t have rated 50 albums in order, so going year by year was a much easier route, with a top ten at the end. That top ten came quickly.

      The War On Drugs are just an absolute joy to me. My wife and I saw them live back in 2015 and it was amazing. Lost In The Dream, from front to back, is a masterpiece. And yeah, it seems you either dig Tame Impala or you don’t. Lonerism is the their last great album to me. Everything after just gets less and less interesting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Incredible, JH… some genuinely brilliant choices here and I’ll be bookmarking this list for further exploring.

    I’ve been doing my own decade list, but it’s been tough. I did it similar to you – pick a few from each year and even include a few that didn’t quite make the final list.

    Causa Sui make my own list (Nicklas Sorensen’s Solo is on there too). My list wouldn’t be complete without QotSa’s Like Clockwork or Sturgil Simpson’s Metamodern Sounds… no place for Tame Impala, though (and I’ll be honest, I’m surprised by its position here!)

    Also, you’ll be pleased to learn that I finally clicked with Lost in the Dream after years of feeling indifferent about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Can’t explain the Tame Impala love, other than the heart wants what the heart wants. That album just clicked with me on so many levels. It was my favorite for years.

      Like Clockwork is such a damn great record. And of course Sturgill rates high with you, that album is amazing! Cheers friend!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No need to explain it… that’s the beauty of this thing called music. It can resonate on such a deep level. Like Clockwork is that album for me, I think. It never gets old… it just stays there.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Jeez, the whole decade?! I’m steeling myself to grapple with the best of 2019.

    Interesting choice of #1, I didn’t see that one coming. I’d have bet on you picking something by Deerhunter.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know. What’s the point, right? I’m just a glutton for punishment.

      Lonerism hit me at just the right time. Had everything I love about rock and roll and songwriting. Plus, Kevin Parker paid me well for that praise.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Just wanted to say thanks for doing this – I’m a fan of a lot of the electronic music you cover recently, but know a lot less about the guitar-based albums you recommend, so it’s great to check out material from e.g. Sufjan Stevens that I really appreciate!

    Liked by 1 person

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