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.
LCD Soundsystem : This Is Happening
Flying Lotus : Cosmagramma
Tame Impala Innerspeaker
Oneotrix Point Never : Returnal
Sufjan Stevens : The Age of Adz
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
Com Truise : In Decay
Soft Moon : Zeros
Wild Nothing : Nocturne
Melody’s Echo Chamber : S/T
Flying Lotus : Until The Quiet Comes
My Bloody Valentine : mbv
Youth Lagoon : Wondrous Bughouse
Deerhunter : Monomania
The Flaming Lips : The Terror
Medicine : To The Happy Few
Jonas Munk : Absorb Fabric Cascade
Real Estate : Atlas
This Will Destroy You : Another Language
Craft Spells : Naseau
Thom Yorke : Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes
Viet Cong : Viet Cong
Oneohtrix Point Never : Garden of Delete
Protomartyr : The Agent Intellect
Beach House : Depression Cherry
Tame Impala : Currents
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
Maine : V
Timothy Fife : Black Carbon
METZ : Strange Peace
Tangering Dream : Quantum Gate
Videodrones : Nattens Haevn
Graham Reznick : Glass Angles
Jake Schrock : Tropical Depression
Rival Consoles : Persona
Soft Moon : Criminal
Mythic Sunship : Another Shape of Psychedelic Music
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.