Top 100 albums of the 2010’s

I am going to be counting down my favorite Music albums and Movies of the 2010-2019 decade until December 31st, one entry at a time. Enjoy!

*there is a list first, then a full list with reviews below

Top 100 Albums of 2010’s: List Only

1.Drogas Wave – Lupe Fiasco (2018)

2.Hidden – These New Puritans (2010)

3.Algiers – s/t (2015)

4.Viscera – Jenny Hval (2011)

5.Big Fish Theory – Vince Staples (2017)

6.A Laughing Death in Meatspace – Tropical Fuck Storm (2018)

7.Marnie Stern – s/t (2010)

8. PROTO – Holly Herndon (2019)

9.Bottomless Pit – Death Grips (2016)

10.Run the Jewels – Killer Mike and EL-P (2013)

11.Put Your Back N2 It – Perfume Genius (2012)

12.Tomorrow’s Hits – The Men (2014)

13.Carrion Crawler/The Dream – Thee Oh Sees (2011)

14.Immunity – Jon Hopkins (2013)

15.You Won’t Get What You Want – Daughters (2018)

16.Seduction of Kansas – Preists (2019)

17.The Underside of Power – Algiers (2017)

18.Have One on Me – Joanna Newsom (2010)

19.A Coliseum Complex Museum – The Besnard Lakes (2016)

20.Half Free – U.S. Girls (2015)

21. Shiney Eyed Babies – Bent Knee (2014)

22.Feelin Kinda Free – The Drones (2016)

23.San Fermin – s/t (2013)

24.The Seer – Swans (2012)

25.The Scene Between – The Go! Team (2015)

26.Death Magic – Anna Von Hausswolff (2018)

27.Remind Me Tomorrow – Sharron Van Etten (2019)

28.Slave Ambient – War On Drugs (2011)

29.Loud City Song – Julia Holter (2013)

30.Graphic – Troller (2016)

31.Pears – Dwight Yoakum (2012)

32.Mines – Menomena (2010)

33.Tetsuo and Youth – Lupe Fiasco (2015)

34.One Eye Sees Red – Lonker See (2018)

35.RTJ2 – Run the Jewels (2014)

36.Painted Ruins – Grizzly Bear (2017)

37.Love – Amen Dunes (2014)

38.Return of Luscious Left Foot – Big Boi (2010)

39.The Worse Things Get the Harder I Fight,

    The Harder I Fight the More I Love You – Neko Case (2013)

40.Schlagenheim – Black Midi (2019)

41.The Idler Wheel – Fiona Apple (2012)

42.Home Acres – Aloha (2010)

43.The Impossible Kid – Aesop Rock (2016)

44.Eleania – Floating Points (2015)

45.Ex-Military – Death Grips (2011)

46.Near to the Wild Heart of Life – Japandroids (2017)

47.Old – Danny Brown (2013)

48.Dirty Computer – Janelle Monae (2018)

48.Mutilator Defeated at Last – Thee Oh Sees (2015)

50.City Sun Eater In the River of Light – Woods (2016)

51.Moon Scales – Alcest (2010)

52.Kendrick Lamar –  (2012)

53.Thank Your Lucky Stars – Beach House (2015)

54.Freedom – Amen Dunes (2018)

55.Memories are Now – Jesca Hoop (2017)

56.Beauty and Ruin – Bob Mould (2014)

57.Inside the Rose – These New Puritans (2019)

58.Black Up – Shabazz Palaces (2011)

59.Skeleton Tree – Nick Cave (2016)

60.Clinging to a Scheme – Radio Department (2010)

61.Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit – Courtney Barnett (2015)

62.Aviary – Julia Holter (2018)

63.Is Not Defeated – The Ascent of Everest (2019)

64.Dark Bird is Home – The Tallest Man on Earth (2015)

65.Cosmology – Rolo Tomassi (2010)

66.Slowdive – s/t (2017)

67.UZU – Yamantaka//Sonic Titan (2013)

68.Angels & Devils – The Bug (2014)

69.Case / Lang / Veirs – s/t (2016)

70.The Roaring Night- Besnard Lakes (2010)

71.Year of the Snitch – Death Grips (2018)

72.METZ – s/t (2012)

73.Masseducation – St. Vincent (2017)

74.Brill Bruisers- The New Pornographers (2014)

75.A Sailor’s Guide to Earth – Sturgill Simpson (2016)

76.America – Dan Deacon (2012)

77.El Camino – Black Keys (2011)

78.My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West (2010)

79.Years to Burn – Calexico and Iron and Wine (2019)

80.Cancer for Cure – El-P (2012)

81.Hell On – Neko Case (2018)

82.In Between – The Feelies (2017)

83.Anastasis – Dead Can Dance (2012)

84.Dude Incredible – Shellac (2014)

85.Have You in My Wilderness – Julia Holter (2015)

86.Mariner – Cult of Luna (2016)

87.Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes (2011)

88.Then Came the Morning – The Lone Bellow (2015)

89.We Got It from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service – A Tribe Called Quest (2016)

90.Death Song – The Black Angels (2017)

  1. Secret Blood – Shannon Wright (2010)

92.MbongWana Star – From Kinshasa (2015)

93.Malibu Ken – s/t (2019)

94.Smoke Ring for My Halo – Kurt Vile (2011)

95.Luxury Problems – Andy Stott (2012)

96.Too Bright – Perfume Genius (2014)

97.Field of Reeds – These New Puritans (2013)

98.Halo – Juana Molina (2017)

99.To Be Kind – Swans (2014)

100.Blues Funeral – Mark Lanegan (2012)

Top 100 Albums of 2010’s: Full Reviews

1.Drogas Wave – Lupe Fiasco (2018)

         I loved Lupe Fiasco’s Tetsuo and Youth (2015), as it really changed my perspective on life in a lot of ways. After hearing the next record Drogas Light (2017) I was kind of discouraged, as I liked a couple of songs but I felt Lupe had lost his inspiration too and it was a cash grab. But holy crap – this is a 180 degree turn towards Tetsuo and Youth again: smart, lengthy, intricate and entertaining rap music. It’s about 100 minutes long and while that should be a daunting task for a hip hop release, he makes it a lot of fun to listen to. The lyrical concept is o slavery, whether it be slavery to Atlantic record label, slavery on the Atlantic Ocean hundreds of years ago, slavery to drugs and the pressures of life….etc.

      The album is divided in two, as the lyrical “Water” concept is the first part, and in its ambition it is similar to using water as a metaphor for freedom, for equality with mother earth, and being one with the universe. People who were enslaved become powerful as Aquaman on “Down” as they live and speak with fish; “Gold vs. the Right Thing to Do” tackles the worthiness of money; and “Manila” gives a history lesson from the Philippians capital city as fact in order to provide a way to live on to the future.

         Three of the greatest rap songs i have ever heard are on here: “Wav Files” with its sort of organic flow and never-ending structural changes prove the versatility of the hip hop language, like a truly creative person will never run out of things to say; “Haile Selassie” which uses the multiple voices effect in new ways whether it be crooning behind the rapping or an overlap of an R&B chorus mixing with the rapping, it exudes a psychedelic feeling; “Alan Forever” in which Lupe imagines a boy who drowned as living a full life, the theme of reincarnation runs strong throughout. Each song has multiple meanings and interpretations, each one fits into the them of the record but also becomes something more- spinning futuristic psychedelic fantasias around Lupe’s rap stylings.

         The second part of the record is concept album about growing up, and though it begins on the hardship of being poor and surrounded by harsh realities on “Stronger” and “Sun God” where the mood is subdued and “clouded” to reach the ultimate depression, sort of like Jim Morrison or Chris Isaak stuck in a rut. It soon progresses to life lessons learn and making it on your own on “Kingdom” which brings reggae from Damien Marley blending it with hip hop and “Stack that Cheese” which tackles making money with disregards to artistic promise. Being head of a family that relies on you with the jazzy “King Nas”, an excellent bass driven rock anthem a la Joe Henry. On the album’s closer, “Mural Jr.”, Lupe caps the record in his own lyrical masterclass fashion that recalls hip hop’s greatest lyricists from Rakim to Q-Tip to Black Thought.

         Though liberties are taken with the lyrical concepts, the rhyming and rapping Lupe is perfected on here, and the music is varied enough to fall under any musical umbrella (“Cripple” showcases a flute and “Quotations from Chairman Fred” incorporates spoken word). It is not simply hip hop anymore, the rock n roll has truly coalesced in with it as well as jazz and reggae in a new musical blend underneath the rapping. At an Hour and 40 minutes, it’s long enough to dare to define the entirety of human existence. That’s art. Don’t get hung up on literal concepts for real, just enjoy it. Your favorite music should reach your soul and make you feel as if for the first time, so to me this is Album of the decade no contest.

Best Songs: Haliee Salasse, WAV Files, Alan Forever, King Nas, Jonylah Forever,  Mural Jr

2.Hidden – These New Puritans (2010)

            Take everything you know about rock music and throw it out the window, then build it up from scratch using 21st century technology. I can’t think of a better analogy for Hidden, the best rock n’ roll record of the of the 2010s. It is rare that a band creates its own world on an album, but this band does that here with tribal and classical influences. Every song is injected with a sense of personal dread, a kind of longing to create something completely new. Everything works too, “We Want War” and “Drum Courts – Where Corals Lie” use collage techniques and experiment with structure while drummer par-excellence George Barnett creates a form of ghostly tribal music unheard of before. “Fire Power” and “Time Xone” are smaller tunes that add essential elements after several listens. There is no other album recently that has left me more interested and enthralled.

            The method in which it was recorded involved a thirteen-piece orchestra, live tracking, and a variety of laptops simultaneously making sounds and recording them. It’s not quite progressive rock and not quite post-rock. Everyone compares it to 1980’s heroes Talk Talk, but the only thing that sounds like them is that….no one sounds like them. Now if you but it together that Hidden was produced by Graham Sutton of the band Bark Psychosis- the real successor to Talk Talk back in the early 90’s, and you may have something there. Whether it be “Orion” which is a new form of ethereal date song, the blade sharpening noise in “Attack Music” and the almost rapping staccato of “Three Thousand” which are the two hard-hitting forceful rock songs (two of the greatest rock songs of all time for sure), or “White Chords” and “Hologram” which are new kinds of disjointed ballads that merge Radiohead and The Cure, you can’t go wrong with any song on this record.

            These songs are led by woodwind instruments like bassoons and use painstaking keyboard arrangements. The is guitar and bass are in the blend, but they are pushed to the background, as These New Puritans have a different idea of what rock music should sound like. Album closer “5” takes you into orbit using old fashioned madrigals and xylophones, showing this is music that is both psychedelic and raw. New genre, new sound, I don’t know what to call it besides ‘revolutionary’. The way that These New Puritans create rock music is in a class above everything else made in the 2010’s.

Best Tracks: Three Thousand, Hologram, Orion, Attack Music, We Want War

3.Viscera – Jenny Hval (2011)

Upon first listen, I knew this would be one of my favorite records of all time. Jenny Hval creates one of the most interesting vocal performances in music history on her debut album. Like the abstractness of great folk rock ledgends like Jane Siberry and Doloris O’Riordan meets the more recent Joanna Newsom, but prettier and more piercing than any of them. Viscera is also very well crafted – this is an album that ebbs and flows from back to front. It knows when to be silent, it knows when to bring in rocking drum beats, and it knows when to be eventful- sometimes all this happens within the same song. A good follow up to Mary Margaret O’Hara’s Miss America (1988), a singular achievement for all of womankind to stand behind.

         If opener “Engines in the City” serves as a welcome to the album’s unique tapestry, “Blood Fight” is the first real song on the record. It is anchored to a drumbeat, but its relation to all rock music that came before it is brand new- partly Enya’s Celtic chanting and partly a lost angel trying to find her way back to heaven. “A Portrait of the a Young Girl as an Artist” shifts from frightening, fragile a capella vocals to rock n roll to shoegaze style vortex all in one song. “How Gentle” is a song that is as soft as a sea breeze, while “Silver Fox” is similar in style but a little more joyous and very brief.

         For the second half of the record, “Golden Locks” serves as a respite for our emptions after we have been tossed around the universe by Hval’s unique take on singing with the human voice; this is allllmost a traditional folk melody. Her revolutionary approach is best exemplified in the album’s emotional climax: “This is a Thirst” is a song that brings human life to a standstill, a new kind of ambient vocal music. Her chant of “honey dew/ honey dew” near the end of the tune is one of the best things I have ever witnessed in any genre of music. ”Milk of Marrow” is the most accessible song and sums everything up at the end of the record, and “Black Morning/Viscera” is a hidden epilogue that reminds us that Jenny Hval has plenty to say, with an actual acoustic guitar accompaniment.

     Jenny Hval stands with Julia Holter, Holly Herndon, Marnie stern, Neko Case and many others as female artists that have refined the music of the 21st century like never before. The voice of woman in rock is stronger than ever, and honestly more interesting than any male counter-part I can think of. Each of Hval’s albums made this decade have their followers: The more accessible Apocalypse Girl (2015), the duet with Susanna on Meshes of Voice (2014) is another on of my favorites, and the odd tapestry continues to morph and change on Blood Bitch (2016) and The Practice of Love (2019). Viscera was her debut album and it is one of the best albums made this century. It is a true piece of art, not the typical rock n roll but a work that looks at music in a different way; delicate but easy to enjoy while also challenging and totally addictive. Jenny Hval has shown us what few people can- a picture of her soul as a soundscape – and it is truly beautiful.

Best Tracks: This is a Thirst, Portrait of the Young Girl as An Artist, Blood Flight, Milk of Marrow

4.Algiers – s/t (2015)

A furious and original band worth hearing, Atlanta’s Algiers have unequivocally made the greatest debut album of the 2010’s. Mixing the fury of a hundred post-punk bands of the 1980’s with he holy gospel of the south, a new sound is born that goes beyond mere soul music imitations. They are the beginning of a new sound that should dominate the next decade, and I feel like I’m waiting for the world to catch up on this one. Algiers are political in scope for sure, chanting about horror’s of the past (“Blood”, “Black Eunuch”) and present (“Old’ Girl”, “In Parallax). An old fashioned, soul-fused approach singer in Franklin J. Fisher makes a huge difference, especially in the gut-wrenching “Claudette” where he sings about a lost love or in “Games”, where an otherwise traditional spiritual is turned into an impassioned soliloquy.
When talking post-punk styles, noise rock always comes up and it is prominent in the beginning of the albums greatest tune “But She Was Not Flying”, a tune soaked in the buzz of guitar feedback where the background vocals that seem to come out of machines are as important as the frontman (who wisely refuses to hog the spotlight and shares it with scary ambience). This tune is a mix of gospel style preaching and new instrumental backing that instantly sounds timeless. “Old Girl” is also a song about the dangers of modern society, sung in the style of Public Enemy’s “She Watch Channel Zero”. Lastly, the backbeat used on songs range from live to often dated and referential, the prime example being “Irony.Utility.Pretext” which sounds like a 21st century version of M.C Hammer’s “2Ligit2Quit”, but you know in a good way!
Algiers are everything you want in a new band: a montage of artists and music and political ideas they love and aspire to be like. Influences as diverse as Nick Cave, Gun Club, Popul Vuh, Boogie Down Productions, Fugazi, TV on the Radio….the list is almost endless. As more and more music gets made, there are so many influences to pull from that I think people can get rather overwhelmed and I don’t BLAME them. There is so much music flowing through our ears and streaming on the internet that unless you write things down, make lists, and treat it like a job, it is hard to keep track of it all. The best thing I could say about Algeirs is that this album does indeed live up to the promise of their vast influences, and I am glad someone is using the old touchstones correctly. I see a bright future for this band. Every song on their debut record is amazing.

Best Songs: Blood, Old Girl, But she Was Not Flying, In Parallax

5.Big Fish Theory – Vince Staples (2017)

This album is one of the few instant classics of the decade, quickly becoming one of my favorite rap records of all time. Where so many hip hop albums (his debut full-length debut Summertime 06 included) are somewhat overwhelming upon first listens, this record accomplishes what it is trying in a small 35 minutes. Combining the inventive but depressing ideas from his Prima Donna EP (2016) – easily one of the greatest EPs of any genre ever created – the album is a trip in the different ways raps can be applied to music. Each song is a different “kind of ” rap song. The offbeat, experimental Residents influenced demented clang of “SAMO” stands next to the heavy ballad of “Rain Come Down” without a problem, and smooth bass happy grooves such as the hypnotic “745” right by solo skits stretched out to longer lengths like “Alyssa Interlude” go by seamlessly.
Big Fish Theory has a ton of cinematic qualities to it as well. The blips and bloops of “Love Can Be” sound like an alternate soundtrack to the silent movie Metropolis. The frantic and seizure inducing “Homage” questions the very nature of what pop music means while also name-dropping Alfred Hitchcock. Staples is influenced all over the album by modern acts like Janelle Monae and his guest star Kendrick Lamar on “Yeah Right”, but also by more old school artists like the playful antics of De La Soul on “Party People”, plus a healthy dose of depression and pretension to keep things at the pinnacle of diversity. “Bigbak” is cleverly placed towards the end of the album but is easily an era defining stand out, calling out the rich, government controlled state of our nation with the brilliant and but silly lyric “tell the government to suck a dick because we own them”.
What Staples expertly does is lay out possibilities and directions he could go in in the future, and he does so by being the best at every single idea he puts forward and NEVER plays it safe and easy. He could easily make an album full of songs like “Big Fish” (which is a banger that works for what it is), but that would bore him; his short attention spans echoes among the intelligent people of his generation. He knows how to find great producers (and a plethera of them help craft the sound of this record for sure), he knows how to please everyone from the neophyte kids who just wanna dance to the hard-edged critics looking for flaws in the veneer. It may take the world years to catch up to how fast Vince Staples is growing, but I would like to think that in 10 or twenty years, this will be the consensus as one of the greatest musical hip hop creations of 2017, if not the century.

Best Songs: Bigbak, SAMO, 745, Love Can Be

08/12/18 Live Set @ The Novo Downtown Los Angeles


6.A Laughing Death in Meatspace – Tropical Fuck Storm (2018)

This is the best and most consistent album released in quite a while, a return to form of psych-blues that is a joy to behold. The male/ female duo behind The Drones take a minor detour in a side project with a hilarious name, only harnessing their sound to be more unified and slightly less experimental in genre jumping. Still, the band lets loose the rock n roll in the demented “Two Afternoons” and “Antimatter Animals”, they work over your emotions with the languid “You Let My Tyres Down” and the militant “The Future of History”, they let atmosphere take control on the strange “Chameleon Paint” and abstract instrumental “Shellfish Toxin”. Music that is as fun to listen to as it is abrasive and in your face, every member of the band is female with the exception of lead singer Garreth Liddiard, a timely zeitgeist for the year 2018.

Title track “A Laughing Death in Meatspace” is their manifesto on the state of the world, and it may highlight our problems as members of humanity better than any song in recent memory. “Rubber Bullies” is the most potent blast of energy, searing everything that has come before and serving as a perfect finale while screaming “Take me on a holiday / put be on an aeroplane / I want a BMW /I want to be immortal in my lifetime too.” The emotional coda on “Rubber Bullies” is the climax to end all climaxes. This album changes the landscape or rock music by combining everything that came before into a magnificent witch’s cauldron of ideas, and the aftershocks will be felt well into the coming decades.

Best Songs: Rubber Bullies, Antimatter Animals, Future of History

7.Marnie Stern – s/t (2010)

Marnie just keeps growing as an artist. I cant emphasize enough what an important artist she is. Too add to her already insane guitar shredding and superb drummer/producer Zach Hill are some of the best LYRICS and stories she has ever done, along with some songs that really stand out from the rest. Of all her albums, the songs on Marnie Stern really are distinguishable from each other. “For Ash” is a touching ballad full of noise and double timed drums for a friend who died tragically; “The Things You Notice” is the most far out and touching ethereal ballad Marnie has ever done, in a way only Marnie can; “Cinco de Mayo” is some kind of rebellion against the structure of music itself; “Building a Body” is her greatest Sleater Kinney homage. Each song builds upon the other and the album is ordered perfectly.

It also finds an excellent balance between technical ability and spontinaty; while Hill and Stern are both great at their instruments, they are also great at improvising and beautiful songwriters. “Nothing Left” is a great example of this: A confusing and manic sounding verse gives way to an almost calm and pretty chorus, but then there is an instrumental break that comes out of nowhere- and then it all repeats in an almost random order, all while Stern reapeats the lyric, “You might think I’m crazy!” She is not crazy, but she is a manic genius that is destined to be remembered for our time.

One might argue that Stern is an acquired taste. I would say sure, if complex music taste is something that can be acquired. It might be summed up by Marnie herself, “In order to see it, you got to believe it.” There is nothing that is really difficult about this music, though the playing is complex and well thought out, it is very accessible. You could say it is prog-metal gone pop, but that wouldn’t do the sound justice. It is ethereal, deep, complex, tasteful, timely, colorful, and a bunch of fun. The only problem the girl has ever had is too much of a good thing (let’s face it her songs kind of blur together sometimes) but again, this is the most focused and touching collection of songs she has done so far.

Her rhythm section is also to die for, and this is the last album with Zach Hill as collaborator. It is kind of like Brain Eno leaving the Talking Heads after Remain in Light – she is still Marnie Stern on her follow up The Chronicles of Marnia(2013), but it is a very different kind of band. Her self-titled third album is a culmination of her first two, everything that is great about rock music can be found on this record – it is an album that will, in her own words, “outshine them all.”

Best Tracks: The Things You Notice, Building a Body, For Ash

8.PROTO – Holly Herndon (2019)

I love the human voice, as a singer and general fan of music it is truly my favorite instrument. You will read a lot of reviews pointed to the technological significance of this album, but why Herndon’s latest record is so important has to do mainly with the music present. The blend of the A.I. machine used (codenamed Spawn) to improvise and create vocals flow with the old fashioned use of chorales and layered vocal technique. In a huge way, Herndon takes everything we have learned so far with the glitch music genre and weaves it to a version of noise rock pioneered by so many others. Think of it as a combination of My Bloody Valentine’s 1991 album Loveless meets Solex’s 2004 album The Laughing Stock of Indie Rock. If that doesn’t quite make sense to you, don’t let it stop you- this album is the best of 2019 and worth seeking out.

Songs such as “Eternal” and “Alienation” not only sum up a deep yearning and feeling of wonder but also contain melodies hidden under layers of sound effects. “Godmother” is everything I could want in a more experimental type of music, as she is talking/chanting/singing her way through some sort of digital murky atmosphere. Even the song titles like “Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt” and “Crawler” adhere to a sort of formula like a blending of machinery to the universal language of music. “Last Gasp” is a doom laden album closer, a la “The Overload” from Talking Heads 1980 masterwork Remain in Light.

However, the album is not a one trick pony or a kind of quirky experiment. The songs THEMSELVES are meaningful and amazing to hear. The album is actually rather old fashioned, building on the noise rock experimenters of old and creating a whole new language that is post-industrial music, but also post-noise rock. In a way, Herndon makes “music” a whole different entity, and the entity is speaking to us from a new consciousness. It is very important not to get bogged down about how ambitious and forward thinking this album is, but to just appreciate it for how lovely and timeless it already sounds. Herndon dares to dream about creating music that is different and completely unique, and she succeeds brilliantly on this record.

Best Songs: Eternal, Last Gasp, Godmother, Crawler

9.Bottomless Pit – Death Grips (2016)

#9 album: Bottomless Pit – Death Grips (2016)

My favorite album of 2016 is by a band that has been at it for quite a while, and that many say are too prolific for their own good. Despite the multiple albums per year at times, the no-show live shows, the break ups and reunions, Death Grips at its core is a band that needs to be unstable to work. I mean, does it surprise anyone that a band capable of THIS type of music is a little crazy? The trio alters alien sound effect upon sound effect in a way that is completely listenable. Each listen to Bottomless Pit is a build up in intensity, to the point that all of it sounds great after fully absorbing the record.

It’s not overkill like some of their past records (N on the Moon, No Love Deep Web) and not lacking for ideas either (Government Plates comes to mind), this album is Death Grips as they were meant to be heard. And while Money Store and Jenny Death were other fine examples I wanna shout out to, something about Bottomless Pit rings true to me; I find a comfort in its madness. Though the album as a whole is better than the sum of its collective parts, there are songs that stand on their own against the band’s killer catalogue so far: the perfect timed echoes in “Spikes”, the compact cynicism of “Three Bedrooms in a Good Neighborhood”, the stroke inducing intensity of “Bubbles Buried in the Jungle”. The hilarious nonsense of “Eh” deserves a notice as well.

To quote from past rock n roll and hip hop influences, Bottomless Pit combines the wild abandon of Butthole Surfer’s masterwork Psychic Powerless (1984) and slams it into the hardcore perfection of Bad Brains’ I Against I (1986). Zack Hill, Stefan Burnett and Andy Morin make up one of the greatest bands ever, as the lines between hip hop music and rock n’ roll become completely blurred. The world needs a band like Death Grips to remind them that rock n roll is supposed to be dangerous, and Bottomless Pit’s final wail of “I’ll f*** you in half” should be taken completely seriously as beautiful nonsense. Its as close to Frank Zappa as we got this decade.

Best Songs: 3 Bedrooms in a Good Neighborhood, Bubbles Buried in the Jungle, Warping, Bottomless Pit

10.Run the Jewels – Killer Mike and EL-P (2013)

El-P and Killer Mike’s Run the Jewels debut is as close to a perfect rap album as the decade has produced. They make it seem effortless and fun on every song, which is harder to do than it might seem. It is seriously one of the most “alive” records I have ever heard in my life; it bursts with the joy of music with opener “Run the Jewels”, displaying their vulgar but vibrant sound. They make fun of fake rappers with their mocking “36 Inch Chain” and kill you with their flow on the hard rocking “Judgment” and “No Come Down”. Tracks like “Sea Legs” blend all of this together in a cathartic release, and if I haven’t mentioned it before, both El-p and Killer Mike rap on each song EQUALLY making this a true rap team. The guest stars are not very frequent but when they are there (Big Boi on “Banana Clip” or Prince Paul on “Twin Hype”) they blend in to the overall flow.

There is almost no pause, it’s a nonstop hardcore hip-hop thrill ride, but it does ebb and flow very well between flat out rockers and more relaxed tracks, all the way to closer “A Christmas Fucking Miracle”, a flat-out perfect M.C. duet full of more passion and knowledge than most rappers have in their entire careers. The fact that El-P and Killer Mike both had really good releases just the year before this is something to take note of (Cancer for the Cure and R.A.P. Music, respectively) and their idea to collaborate created one of the best rap duo records since Tribe Called Quest or Black Star. I can only hope the future leads to more flawless collaborations like this, but they only will if we keep celebrating the ones they give us and raise them far above the other albums of their time. El-P keep on making those alien beats and Killer Mike keep killin’ those microphones.

Best of all, Run the Jewels are two talented MC’s having fun with it. They are experienced, started this project in their 40’s, and having the most fun of their lives. I don’t care what genre of music you prefer, the aspect of fun is always the most important.

Best Tracks: A Christmas Fucking Miracle, Run the Jewels, Sea Legs, Get It

11.Tomorrow’s Hits – The Men (2014)

Band’s tend to progress in two different ways when it comes to rock music: either they keep getting more experimental or they keeping getting more streamlined and normal. The Men’s slow transformation from their noise rock beginnings in Immaculate (2010) into what can only be described as a classic rock band has been a wild and crazy ride, to say the least. The maniacs that made “Bastelle” off of Leave Home (2011) made this?!? With relaxing Tom Petty grooves like “Settle Me Down” and “Sleepless”? With the jangle pop Bryds style “Get What you Give” and the Springsteen E Street homage “Another Night”? Its raw, sloppy, and beautiful like your favorite garbage band finally made it big.

I never would have thought The Men were capable of pulling this chill sound off, and doing it better than almost any other band this decade so far! To listen to Tomorrow’s Hits (which, in a perfect world, all these 8 tracks would be radio staples) is to be jolted back to the mid 1970’s when rock n’ roll was much more simple, and when you didn’t have a care in the world. Each record by The Men invokes multiple songwriters and singers and is a group effort, but a unified front to create a work designed to be in the rock album format. Through sheer willpower, they bring the past crashing into the future.

Long term fans of the group need not worry though, it’s still the same band you have always loved as proved by the wild and rambunctious six minute “Pearly Gates”. “Different Days” has one of the catchiest riffs I have ever heard, but also sounds completely fresh. Tommorow’s Hits is a near flawless record perfomed by perhaps the most overlooked and most fun-to- watch evolving bands of the decade. They prove that they can tackle any style of music, similar to alternative heroes like Oneida and classic rock weirdos such as Blue Oyster Cult.

Best Tracks: Get What You Give, Pearly Gates, Settle Me Down

#12 album: Put Your Back N2 It – Perfume Genius (2012)

Put Your Back N2 It is an album of small pleasures. It’s a small wonder that the epic song of the album towards the end is only three and half minutes long, “Floating Spit”, though it feels it could go on forever. Its another small wonder that there is not much more than a piano and a man’s voice on most of these songs. But the biggest small wonder is that the album means so much to me personally, and it comes from a person that could not be more different in the way we view our lives and the world around us. Perfume Genius is a man not afraid to show his true, fabulous colors and one of the rare talents to emerge in the 2010’s with the songs and ambition to back up his image.

Of course Perfume Genius is only a moniker: Mike Hadreas is his name and he views the world as an introverted wonder, a shy and dark perspective on life that leaves little room for hope or joy. He is a pessimist at best, hopeless at worst, but he conveys his outlook through music that is among the most heartfelt I have ever heard. Just listening to a song like “Take Me Home” is like peering into another world, a world that Hadreas knows so well. He sings, “I’ll be like a shadow of a shadow, of a shadow, for you.” Picking a favorite off of the record is hard, as all tunes express a strong sense of loss and they all do it so well that favorites only come by what mood you’re currently in. “17”, for example, channels the best piano led ballads of the 1970’s while carving out a special corner in your heart.the title track is a slower, more meditative song about longing to be with a loved one that may not feel the same way; if ever the was a song to convince someone to let them love you, this is it.

Perfume Genius’ second album is my personal favorite, over his more popular later triumphs Too Bright (2014) and No Shape (2017), and it shows off the promise of a true artist: no emotion is too private to express, and he expresses it with the humility of an average nobody who is just walking down the street. His songs also take odd detours just when you think they are being close to conventional- check the structure of “Dark Parts” or the short but brilliant “Hood”. Put Your Back N2 It is an oddity for certain, but it will change your outlook on life if you give it a chance.

Best Tracks: Take Me Home, Floating Spit, Dark Parts, 17

13.Carrion Crawler/The Dream – Thee Oh Sees (2011)

Thee Oh Sees Carrion Crawler/The Dream is some what of a grower of an album, but it does play like an actual album. Whatever they intended by calling it an EP or a combination of 2 EP’s, it plays all the way through perfectly. I would say there are few examples of psychedelic pop as joyous as “Opposition” (bouncy bass guitar lines) or “Crushed Grass” ( the new standard for pysch in the 2010’s), as few rave-up songs with wild vocals as good as “Contraption/Soul Desert” -a sort of mix of Deep Purple’s “Highway Star” and The Velvet Underground’s “Waiting for the Man” to make one of the great driving songs ever- or “Crack in Your Eye”, a sort of twist on Syd Barrett’s idea of Pink Floyd updated to the new millenium.

The comparison spans from the 1960’s era singles of The Doors to the 1980’s dementia of The Pixies, but also adds a series of depth to the songs along with the fun bouncy jingles. The long winding journey of “Rubber Barons” would ignite most band’s entire carriers, and “Heavy Doctor” is a perfect closer that comes across brilliantly. There is another aspect as well, in songs like “The Dream”, of a new structure to rock songs that effortlessly morph from one thought to another; perhaps music that could flow on forever to infinity.

If there was any justice in the world, the commercials of today would feature tunes from this album. But of course, I’m glad that is not the case! Thee Oh Sees discography can be daunting, by releaseing solid albums year after year and sometimes 2 in one year! They are also constantly change how their name is spelled/ pronounced just to be obnoxious, but that is honestly part of their charm. The band, or basically genius John Dwyer and whomever he recruits, retains the vanguard of what it means to create music that moves the soul in the 2010’s.

Best Songs: Contraption/Soul Desert, Crack in Your Eye, The Dream, Heavy Doctor

14.Have One on Me – Joanna Newsom (2010)

Joanna Newsom’s records show up in most lists of best music of the decade for one simple reason: it’s just the best music. I dont care what genre of music is your favorite, you just hear this and think “yes that is good.” Her 3rd album is a beautiful, melodic triple album of music, and this album matches it’s predecessor Ys (2006) in quality. The songs are accessible yet lengthy, fun yet challenging, and complex yet absorbing. Like Ys, it creates a little world to exist in, but unlike Ys the influences are more obvious (Laura Nyro, Jane Siberry, Joni Mitchell, Randy Newman, Van Morrison). She ranks among the best songwriters of all time, easily.

Most songs run with one strong melodic idea and boy does it work! “In California”, the exotic and charming “Good Intentions Paving Company”, and “Go Long” (which with different instruments could be an arena rock song) could all be huge hits in a perfect world, all of these songs have an tangible quality not really seen by Newsom before. “Baby Birch”, “Have One on me” and “Does Not Suffice” are experimental madness, as well as being about ten minutes long each. Her mad rambles are quite toned down here, nothing being un-accessible and nothing being a challenge to hear. Instead Newsom perfects her sound and she does it with over 2 hours of music.

Newsom creates each song with minimal devices but each is a world unto itself, a poem made into song, where the words gel perfectly with the majestic, harp-filled music. “On a Good Day” and “’81” are perfect examples of tunes that are delicate as flowers and can make you cry because of their sheer beauty. Her albums always tend to be well received, but it is important to note that as time goes by, Newsom may be one of the few musicians of her age, rock music or not, that will be remembered in fifty to one hundred years. She is simply that good.

Best Tracks: Good Intentions Paving Company, Go Long, Baby Birch, Does Not Suffice, Easy

15.Immunity – Jon Hopkins (2013)

Electronic music is different than other music in that it is programmed, or produced if you will, at the same time that it is made. The sounds are made by a musician for sure, but it is musician as producer rather than a person coming through after all the music is made and “producing” it. In that way, it is much easier to judge harshly on electronic music as easy to make or as one reviewer for this album had said, “a 15 year old could make this on his laptop computer”.

But that argument is unfair, and as proved by Jon Hopkins on Immunity, this is more complex and harder to do then most guitar based music. The songs are put together in snip-its and glitches that constantly overlap one another; it is a kind of music that probably could not exist without computers and therefor usually has an inhuman sound.

But then again, sometimes magic happens. Songs like “Breathe this Air” and “Collider” literally sound organic, like robots turned into people! The 12 minute “Sun Harmonics” is like the dawn of a new era, where music is pulsated to a beat and then it trips over itself but keeps falling down the hill. The way Jon Hopkins makes techno music come alive is truly remarkable and his only contemporary worth of such fame this dexade would have to be Andy Stott or Floating Points. Immunity is an album that keeps electronic music relevant far into the distance, and geniuses like Jon Hopkins are going to effect the soundtrack of our life for the foreseeable future.

Best Tracks: Immunity, Collider, We Disappear

16.You Won’t Get What You Want – Daughters (2018)

      My favorite heavy rock album of the decade is this uncompromising slab of meat, as the return of Daughters is a wake up call for our generation for sure. It’s music that shakes you to your soul and makes you question your sanity. In the spirit of Jesus Lizard and Pere Ubu, there semi-melodic blasts of noise like lovely screams of “don’t tell me how to do my job!” in “The Reason they Hate Me” and the quite literal “The Flammable Man”; there are apocalyptic ballads such as the jovially off kilter “Satan in the Wait” or the gospel dreg of “Less Sex”, sounding as if the band Algiers had been possessed by the noisy demon of Sonic Youth.

      But mostly this music as open-heart surgery with no anesthetic. “City Song” is the most challenging listen and it is the first track! “Long Road No Turns” is truly the highway to hell, AC/DC would be proud. “Ocean Song” recalls early 80’s Nick Cave at its most frightening murder-ballad self, while “Daughter” is a further deconstruction of what a rock song is, like many of the songs on here there are stops and starts abounding in the music that while off putting at first sound better and better upon subsequent listens. This is only the band’s second album after an 8-year hiatus of sorts, but it is a marvelous leap forward. Who knows what the future of their music holds for the adventurous listeners out there. You Wont Get what You Want is an apt title for this record, but it is what the bolt of lightning that rock music needed late in the decade.

Best Songs: The Reason they Hate Me, Satan in the Wait, Less Sex, Daughter

17.Seduction of Kansas – Preists (2019)

The Seduction of Kansas is a substantial leap forward in quality and vision for the band, creating its own consistent and succinct vision of what a rock album should be. The production is key, creating a special atmosphere that gives it a clean produced yet still DIY kind of feeling. The influence of post-punk bands is still heavy: with 154 era Wire on “68 Screen” the bass driven “Not Perceived”, The Cult meets Gun Club level abandon on opener “Jesus Son”, and Blondie on satirical dance song “The Seduction of Kansas”. The out of control rage of “Control Freak” channels Johnny Rotten at his angriest, PIL influence on “Ice Scream”, a story of a victim (woman) escaping the abusive of her tormenter (man).

     A lot of new era technology fears are present in the lyrics, most obviously on “You Tube Satre” and the pop driven “I’m Clean” is an interesting diversion. The more artful direction is very well used in the mini song “Interlude I Dream…” and the way the chorus falls into itself on “Good time Charlie”. The dynamic approach of the musicians and intricate natures of the songs and guitar leads by GL Jaguar would take a team of mathematicians to decipher. A song like “Carol” is a late album example of a beautiful tune, like a snowflake in its uniqueness, sounding like nothing that came before and nothing after. The more so than their 2017 debut album, this record proves the group can conquer about any style they want to. Katie Greer’s lyrics also make this a concept album of sorts, proclaiming that the corporate and commercialized world we live in is a façade that we need to break through to be truly free. Lastly, the female lead vocals of Greer and drumming of Danielle Danielle are symbolic of the late 2010’s and a very provocative an absorbing album for it’s time.

Best Songs: Jesus Son, Control Freak, Ice Cream, Good Time Charlie

18.A Coliseum Complex Museum – The Besnard Lakes (2016)

            Oh, the awful album titles of The Besnard Lakes. I am positive that most people are not going to flock to an album called Coliseum Complex Museum, but I am here to tell you that you should. This band has been at it for a while, and in a way, they keep making the same album over and over with a mix of shoegaze, psychedelics, and never ending male/female harmonies. Beach Boys melodies, Arcade Fire pathos, and King Crimson grandeur all weigh in heavily and blend perfectly in this underrated Canadian’s bands work. More than any other band around, lead singer Steve Raegele understands that music is about “sound” and uses waves of noise to make his songs soar deep into the stratosphere.

             That being said, this is the best collection of songs they have come up with. There is not a dud in the bunch, and choosing favorite songs is simply apples and oranges. The energetic and tribal drumming of “Necronomicon”, my personal favorite blend of styles on “Towers Sent to Her Sheets of Sound”, the thundering triplet shimmers of “Golden Lion” would be a radio staple in another universe; opener “The Bray Road Beats” exudes heavenly aromas. “The Plain Moon” brings the spooky quality with thundering guitar riffs to the forefront. “Tungsten 4” ends the album with an epic guitar solo, showing this is classic rock after all is said and done. At eight songs, there is just enough to satisfy and, unlike so many contemporaries, not too many songs to digest. It’s gorgeous neo-psychedelia that puts all of their contemporaries to shame.

Best Songs: Towers Sent to Her Sheets of Sound, The Plain Moon, Necronomicon

19.Half Free – U.S. Girls (2015)

Meg Remy completely re-does her sound and style with a commentary on women’s place in modern society on the often-overlooked record Half Free and it is a wonder to behold. Whether talking about self-esteem, military wives, or mental stability, the subject matter is always gripping and quite often a mix of dance music and haunting keyboards. Songs such as the depressing pathos created in her best song yet “Navy and Cream”, the shuffle with a political message “Damn That Valley”, and operatic angles of “New Age Thriller” survive more on atmosphere and special effects than music, making the album quite the cinematic experience. Remy’s music is lo-fi and intimate, much like the female pioneers in the 1990’s such as Edith Frost and Lida Husik.

            Her skill with crafting meaningful pop music- much like similar but more famous acts like Lady Gaga, St. Vincent or Yeah Yeah Yeah’s- is in the way she makes each track its own sort of saga and can come up with great rock songs in the process. “Sororal Feelings” sets up a mood and then dares to dwell in it long enough to explore it; something a much lesser artist would not have the patience to do. “Sed Knife” is a hard rock version of all this, but still continues the tale of a housewife that wants to break free, that in order to truly become your own person in this world you have to lash out at everything until you carve your own path. Even a brief skit like “Telephone Play” has a point beyond being any kind of filler, as every aspect of this album is a statement of some sort, albeit in a very entertaining way. Though she rose to further fame and mass acceptance on In A Poem Unlimited (2018), Half Free remains Remy’s masterpiece and it is a rebirth of her creative soul.

Best Songs: Navy and Cream, Sed Knife, New Age Thriller

 

20.Shiney Eyed Babies – Bent Knee (2014)

Operatic singer Courtney Swain’s band is some kind of wonder to behold, flying the flag of progressive rock high for the 2010’s. “Way Too Long” is a wake up call to all people who thought prog rock was dead using odd drum time signatures and chamber orchestra backgrounds to create sounds as dynamic as Faith No More and Tori Amos combined (as well as the tortured hard rock of “Skin). The Robert Fripp style guitar of “In God We Trust” further exemplifies this, and these students of Boston’s Berkley college of music unite in a truly independent way. There really is not a bad  song on the entire album, which manages to entertain on the shorter songs (piano opener title track and “Democratic Chorale”) and especially on the shifting and turning “Dead Horse” and Battle Creek”, both challenging rock milestones in their own rights.

               When I hear music like this, totally original and hard to pin down, I feel kind of bad because it is made more for musician types and completely above the heads of casual music listeners. Still, it is the kind of music that deserves to be championed more than any other, because it is rock music that goes where no band has gone before and dares to change rhythms and actually be unpredictable in structure. And the best part is, they pull it off brilliantly! “Being Human” and “Toothsmile” are two of my favorite album closers of all time, building to an epic kind of ending that is well earned for this hour-long record.

There were plenty of progressive rock bands to arise this decade (Deer Hunter, Knifeworld, Between the Buried and Me, Battles, tons of others) but my vote for the best Prog album of the decade goes to this beauty. It expands the language of what can be done.

 

21.The Underside of Power – Algiers (2017)

With only their second record, Algiers have established themselves as important for defining the sound of the 2010’s. Their music is rebellious in lyrics and timely in sound, which is the reverse of most great rock bands. There is an arc to the album, and it plays in perfect track list sequence opening with the blistering “Walk Like a Panther” and ending with the thoughtful soul cry of “Cycle / the Spiral”. It’s a record that creates great singles as well: “Underside of Power”, Cry of the Martyrs” and “Cleveland” each have their own take on radical rock music.

In between the singles we have tunes that expand their template such as instrumentals as “Plague Years” and “Bury Me Standing, as well as the crushing “Death March” and the punky “Animals”, and the piano sonata “Mme Reiux”. New drummer Matt Tong , formerly of Bloc Party, is a amazing addition to the programmed drum machines and 80’s inspired percussion, and the two get to play in tandem. Much like Algiers’ amazing 2015 debut, The Underside of Power collides post–punk era thought with 21st century angst, that both recalls the incendiary 1960’s and ignites the future of music.

Best Songs: Underside of Power, Cleveland, Death March, Cycle/ the Spiral

22.Feelin Kinda Free – The Drones (2016)

Australia’s best band of the 21st century, this is a band of rock music terrorists with little disregard for critical favor or mass acceptance; they just do what they do and they do it very well. The Drones know exactly how to conduct business by this point in their career, as previous albums such as I See Seaweed (2013) and A Long Wait by the River (2005) has proven these folks are deft at telling horrifying stories in multiple genres.

Their latest and perhaps final ablum (as the husband/wife duo of Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin have moved on to their Tropical Fuck Storm band for a few albums) is like a distillation of all of their former excesses into one futuristic statement. The brooding, folk rock horror stories from the past continue (eight-minute opener “Private Execution”, the sparse “Tailwind”); the fast paced and terrorizing rock n roll (you’ll need an Aussie thesaurus for “Tamun Shud” alone, not to be outdone by the best hard rock track they ever cut in “Boredom”); the gut wrenching ballads are also present in “To Think that I Loved You” and “Then They Came for Me”. These tracks cut the listener to the core and leave over nothing but a frissled husk.

The album ends in a mash up of all these sounds, “Shut Down Seti”, which sums up the career of one of the world’s most often over-looked rock n roll bands. It is hard to define The Drones in their nearly twenty year career at this point, they always seem to be wise and all knowing, but also disgusted and ready to lash out. Underneath it all its beautiful and meaningful music, some kind of combination of Nick Cave, Butthole Surfers, and Jon Spencer. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea well….I’m not sure it would be  😉 but instead of the stale, boring, predictable pop music of the modern times- i’ll take The Drones creativity hands down every time.

Best Songs: Boredom, Tamun Shud, To Think i once loved you

23.San Fermin – s/t (2013)

A  landmark album that is perhaps too long but overflowing with good ideas so it hardly matters. At a sprawling 17 tracks, there are about eleven or twelve full length songs that have the mark of rock-opera all around them. Ludwig-Leone planned the record as a call and response between male and female vocalists as he graduated from college. Songs range between the jovial youth recollection “Sonsick” (best song about growing up ever made?), the dark and emotional “Renaissance” (one of my favorite album openers of all time), the Arcade Fire-esque rock of “Bar” (great emotional climax at minute mark 3:49) and emotional catharsis in closer “Daedalus” where it all comes together. These four songs rank among the great songs of the 2010’s for sure, even though they are buried within the texture of a dense album. Lyric sample: “There’s a mob at the door, I hear them / calling /for my head” is the perfect emotional chorus that many rock musicians aim to create but few succeed at.

It should also be noted that this is a true “album”, and it plays like one. It may be longer than most at 57 minutes, but it is very well thought out and even the little instrumental snip-its compliment the songs (“Lament for VG”, “In the morning”, “At Sea”) along the way. “The Count” is a fun avant-rock blast through odd time signatures and bassoon blasting choruses, while “Torero” and “Crueler Kind” laments the follies of youth in a way Nick Cave would. “Methuselah” is an old-fashioned folk tune that seems to come along to send the listener relaxing vibes amid all of this emotional devastation. “Cassanova” is yet another moving ballad that is just gorgeous to listen too, with it’s worldly knowledge reaching a pedestal that is rare in rock music.

Still the record grows on you, and we have not had this kind of multilayered full album experience enough in rock music, it is the heir of Tindersticks’ self-titled first album (1993) and Lambchop’s I Hope Your Sitting Down(1994), Arcade Fire’s Funeral (2004). It’s rare that one group of musicians can mix classical instrumentation, moving emotional balladry, popular music cadences, and progressive rock aspirations all on one album. I can’t wait to see what this band does in the future.

Greatest songs: Renaissance, Sonsick, Bar, Daedalus, Torero, Cassanova

24.The Seer – Swans (2012)

So, for the Swans most well received album critically there have been tons of theories and analysis and most of them have been sort of right. This is a summation of 30 years of work, since the album came out in 2012 and the band started in 1982. But Swans are not like most bands. The center of it all is of course Michael Gira, who runs his own record label and is one of the pioneers of great, independent music. Not only does he support other artists independence through his label and on his records, but he is a metamorph who can do about anything. My favorite song of his happens to be a folk ballad that doesn’t really exist on any album, but it’s on one of his compilations called Various Failures culled form tracks In the early 90’s (Its called “Blind”, go look it up!). Swans were like that, at once giving you some of the most challenging industrial music you have ever heard and at the next instant giving you the most beautiful, and contemplative folk music you have ever heard.

I go back that far, to talk about The Seer because it is really a mixture of Gira’s obsessions and contributions to rock music so far. He employs people he admires (Low, Karen O), people on his label (Arkon Family), and people he trusts (ex wife Jarboe) to find a mix of sounds that’s only he could mastermind. His tours around and during The Seer are of a totally unique sort, more akin to classical music then to rock. There are a lot of stops and starts between songs, and each song has a style of its own, the only resemblance to one another is that they are intense pieces of work. This album is exactly two hours long, but every moment seems necessary. Diversity is the name of the game: “93 Ave. B Blues” is a noise-jazz freak out; “Lunacy” is a vocal drone type piece featuring the members of Low that is absolutely haunting; “The Seer Returns” is the most compressed piece on the record, making it the albums defining song in terms of definition; “Song For a Warrior” has the Karen O duet with Gira and makes for the albums most touching ballad. “Avatar” uses chimes to fly off the heavens with a touching melody and repeating “your light is in my hands”, channeling Gira’s always conflicting relationship with God, and ending with a classical fanfare orchestra.

Then there are the three songs that last longer than 15 minutes a piece. Closer “The Apostate” starts with a surge of jangling guitars but turns into a madness of drumming, followed by what could only be described as organized chaos and people chanting and screaming over pulsating guitar slides. It might be the best song Swans ever made. “A Piece of the Sky” wonders along an almost ambient soundscape before finally having Jarboe sing a solemn coupe of lines at the end that could only be called a country song (seriously), but it succeeds beautifully. “The Seer” is 32 minutes long, which is an album length in itself, and it works as a piece of music best in the middle with Gira chanting “I see it all” about a zillion times; I mean, its 32 minutes long- take it or leave it. I don’t know and can’t think of any rock album that had tried stuff like this and had it WORK as a record in the whole history of the medium so far. Of course there are some precedents in Progressive Rock: Pink Floyd, King Crimson, the krautrock bands of the 70’s, etc – could go on but I digress; it’s rare, ok?

All of this leads me to my point on Seer and on the Swans in general really: I doubt know how to rate this album. Truth be told, I don’t listen to it that much. One listen will do me for several months if not a whole year sometimes. But I do enjoy it and I do come back to it eventually, so the love is there. It’s not my favorite Swans record – that would be 1991’s White Light From the Mouth of Infinity. I know, more than I know almost anything, that I will always come back to Swans as a band because they peak my interest. No, brutal industrial rock is not my favorite genre of music by choice. Swans do everything so well though, that maybe they are the best band around after all is said and done. The Rolling Stones have lasted the longest, but Swans are still going at it too with the recent Leaving Meaning (2019) being their 15th studio album…and most if those are double albums. What band has more great albums then Swans, or if you count solo records and side projects, than Michael Gira? These are all rhetorical questions really and maybe (maaaybe) these statements are open to interpretation, but the thoughts on this record always lead to this: Can anyone who gives The Seer an honest listen ever forget it?

Best Songs: The Seer Returns, The Apostate, Song For a Warrior, Mother of the World

25.The Scene Between – The Go! Team (2015)

Forget about crafting the best melodic pop album of the last couple of years, this is an album that will shine bright for decades to come regarless of its invisibility among the critics of the era. The Go! Team were kind of forgotten and destined to be a footnote in rock music history when their debut album Thunder, Lightning, Strike back in 2004 had certainly a grrat single in “LadyFlash”, but they were so all over the place stylistically that they seemed more intetested in experimenting in sounds and styles then crafting something cohesive. But the stylistic remake on The Scene Between releases a whole new avenue of possibilities, with new classics in a shimmering pop style that bounces all over through room- like an entire album of what they did so well on “Ladyflash” a decade prior.

Ian Parton acts as background orchestra conductor to a cast if all females singers, as “What’d ya Say” kicks things off mildly befire blowing the roof off the joint the purpulsive title track, an ageless melody to die for. “The Art of Getting By” and “Catch Me on the Rebound” are masterpieces of power pop joy that try to inject meaning amongst all the supersonic over production and bombastic drums. The psychedlic sheen of “Her Last Wave” sounds retro and futuristic at the same time, recalling past underground rock greats such as Stereolab, Mercury Rev, Blonde Redhead and even more established girl group harmonies harking back to The Surpremes- all together in a whirlwind of pop music glamour and a menagerie of illuminated melodies. An entire album that goes down like eating a cloud made of cotton candy.

Best Songs: TheArt if Getting by, The Scene Between, Catch Me on the Jetstream, Her Last Wave

26.Death Magic – Anna Von Hausswolff (2018)

At nearly 50 minutes and only five tracks, I don’t think it would be unfair to call Anna’s 3rd album a record an album of great moments. But what moments they are! Like Jenny Hval, Anna von Hausswulf hails from Scandinavia with a sort of gothic inspired sound, a sort of mix of classical or new age music and Dead Can Dance’s 1980’s dreamscapes. Opener “The Truth The Glow The Fall” is a three part murder mystery, a tune that conjures up all types of imagery and feeling during its epic length back by organs and other natural sounds. “The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra” is a pounding, Swans style run through the tundra while being chased by a rabid wolf (check out the music video for proof to back this up) and it is a joy to hear Anna howl at the moon. “Ugly and Vengeful” is probably the album greatest triumph, at 16 minutes it portrays a woman who is an heir to all the great performs of vocal music that came before her but adds something new, much like Joanna Newsom’s “Only Skin” or Diamanada Galas’s ”Litanies of Satan” updated for a new decade. The tribal drums and earth shattering ending are a wonder to behold, just put the headphones on and behold at that marvel.

Von Hausswolff’s music requires patience though, and it can be impenetrable to some. Saying genres like “dark-wave” and comparing it to bands like Black Tape for a Blue Girl is only going to resonate with some of you reading, and I understand that. The reason music like this is not more popular unfortunately IS because of its purity, because of its unwillingness to compromise. For example, after the first three magnificent songs the final two tracks are mostly instrumental, and much more delicate and thoughtful then the horrorshow that came before. This will turn off many people, but looking at the album as the artist wants us too and not just how we as people would judge her, reveals a beauty in this kind of music that she obviously wants us to admire. The closing track “Kallans Ateruppstandelse” especially works in the spirit of great record endings, and the album is a watermark in 2018 for its unwillingness to adhere to anyone style or form. Dead Magic is a masterpiece, pure and simple.

27.Remind Me Tomorrow – Sharron Van Etten (2019)

After a five year break between albums, Von Etten returns with her most focused album so far. The first half is rather difficult but after a couple of listens i have come to like it a lot more, the moody opener “I Told You Everything” is nice glimpse into Von Etten’s newfound digital dream world. “No One is Easy to Love” and “Comeback Kid” are more rock oriented songs in the vein of her older records and “Jupiter 5” is the ballad to end all folk ballads, perhaps not as successful as “Malibu” a ballad from outer space and more in line with the tone of the rest of the record. Her songs here are slow paced, but you can hear and feel every single note and nuance, such is the delicacy of Sharon’s brand of rock n roll.
     The second half of the record is where Von Etten and her band really shine, and it is easily the best thing she has ever done! Blasting anthem “Hands” is her most powerful soul-searching rocker, while the trickily worded “Your Shadow” and should be hit “Malibu” betray an almost Caribbean influence. “Seventeen” is the most accessible rock number she has made yet but it totally works as a teenage anthem, and closer “Stay” points to her future as an electronic music sculptor. Remind Me Tomorrow is her most introspective and diverse work, incorporating the digital sound into the singer songwriter atmospherics a la Low or Sparklehorse. This album merges traditional folk rock with new found exploration into the music of the 2010’s in a perfect way.

28.Slave Ambient – War On Drugs (2011)

29.RTJ2 – Run the Jewels (2014)

There are very few instant classics released these days, but it’s pretty safe to say that within the first month RTJ2 came out it acheived that status very fast. Improving on a lot of the rough edges of the debut and backed by a wider variety of sounds, RTJ2 showed how to expand upon their sound without losing the edge. The points they make are grand are far more profound then the norm, opening up accessible hip hop with very weird touches. It’s easy to talk a bunch about a record that works on so many levels, and hopefully the rest of hip hop can take notice.

The beats are classic rock inspired: alien noises in the background with the 1969 Joe Byrd and the Metaphysical Circus sampling “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”, the moving ballad “Early” which uses a ghostly swoon for the chorus, huge bass in the pounding “Blockbuster Night”, doom and gloom soars while sampling Rolling Stones “Brown Sugar” in “Crown”. That last song is one of their most poignant songs ever, as is Zack De La Rocka’s cameo and repeating verse on “Close Your Eyes” which has to be heard to be truly experienced, as well as a commentary on the racial divide in our country.

Some tracks are acquired tastes, such as the crude but funny “Love Again”, and the spaced out opener “Jeopardy” which is a great attention grabbing tune. Still, it all blends very well together effortlessly and even more so than the debut it is more diverse in styles and more ambitious when compared to other hip hop releases of the decade. El-P earns his mantle in my opinion as the Brian Eno of Hip Hop, with mind blowing producer skills. It’s an evil little stew and everywhere you look and listen you hear genius lyrics slammed down by El-P on “All My Life” (“sharp like knife/bet a buck i’m stuck in the guts of the night”) and Killer Mike on “Lie Cheat Steal” (“like who really run this? Like who really run who say they run this?”), proving without a doubt that this is a rap duo that will stand the test of time. .

Best Tracks: Crown, Close Your Eyes, Oh My Darling Don’t Cry, All My Life

30.Graphic – Troller (2016)

Band’s like Troller are what you find when you dig a little deeper into music and find that sometimes the best music actually comes from the most obscure places. Do not listen to critics, do not drink the kool-aid, and try to expand the idea of what is actually good- and maybe you will find that albums like this can be just as good as the music that is hyped over the underground. Forgive me if this review sounds a little more pretentious then the others…..or don’t whatever ð���

Graphic is an incredibly dark and forbidding album that recalls the best of gothic rock. Now when I say that…..there are different expectations of what that means. What I’m talking about is music that creates an atmosphere of a sense of dread, that can cause beauty or can be rooted in a deep inner pain. A supreme mix of Dead Can Dance (“Graphic”), a mix of dream pop Bel Canto and Black Tape for a Blue Girl (“Torch”) and Nine Inch Nails and Pain Teens style Texas industrial rock (the apocalyptic “Sundowner). The masterwork of the disc is “Storm Maker”, which sounds like an angel falling from heaven, struggling to get back in. Amber Star-Goers sings the album beautifully with lyrics that always hit home even though they fade in and out of obscurity.

There is a use of several one 1/2 to two minute mood pieces that are spread across the album but perhaps could have been combined into one track? Regardless, Troller have made one of the best mixes of “operatic” vocals and throbbing synthesizers I have ever heard, putting contemporaries like Cocorosie and Beach House to shame – both bands I admire a great deal – while adding a touch of pathos that is hard to find in rock music. They do combine their influences like some of the more mainstream bands of the 2010’s do, but their influences are deeper and more far reaching, so it comes off in a more articulate way. I hope that makes since, it is often hard to write about this kind of musis that is primed to set off our emotions. The amazing thing is, when the album is over, you instantly want to turn it over and start it again.

Best Songs: Storm Maker, Sundowner, Not Here

31.Loud City Song – Julia Holter (2013)

What is noticeable about Holter’s 3rd record is she seems to be at peace the demons that haunted her on the first two records. She is at once more focused as a songwriter as well as being a more confident singer, able to command a song with little accompaniment or band to back her up. Inspired by the 1950’s novel and Oscar winning film Gigi, the album has a story and structure to it that is the opposite end of the abstractness of her debut, Tragedy. “World” is a nearly acappela track that makes for a perfect opener for her album and mindset. “Maxim One” is a haunting piece where Holter’s vocals pierce the soul of the listener but then heals them by a brilliant touch of violin; “Horns Surrounding Me” brings the rock n’ roll influence for a rare occasion, echoing Kate Bush at her most alluring; “In the Green Wild” flirts confidently with beatnik jazz delivery and sparse instrumental accompaniment and whispering its chorus before doing a 180 degree shift effortlessly into a melodic style that is uniquely her own. These songs constitute Julia Holter’s best four-song suite yet and make it an album experience.

Even if the remainder of the record was a failure, that would still be an impressive feat. But the remainder is very good as well: a cover of Barbara Lewis’s “Hello Stranger” drifts in a daze of wonderment and longing that she has perfected on her first two records while closer “City Appearing” is another psychedelic experience to top all that she has done before; a shout out to bass player Devin Hoff from Xiu Xiu, whose playing on this record is another high point. “Maxim’s II” deconstructs her song of choice even more, kind of just proving this is an artist capable of anything and there is no border just coloring outside the lines. “He’s Running through my Eyes” is a short but touching stream of consciousness that feels, again, like a concise version of a song on her first record.

As women out do their male musical counterparts in about every way in the 2010’s, Julia Holter’s transformation into a kind of futuristic vocal savant is all the more glorious and meaningful, and Loud City Song is her masterwork in perhaps the most impressive string of albums by any musician this decade.

Greatest Songs: In the Green Wild, Horns Surrounding Me, City Appearing, Maxim’s I

32.Mines – Menomena (2010)

Menomena’s third album is their most consistent and well made so far. While sloppiness was a part of their charm for a long time, on here they have perfected a unique trademark sound. There are rockers (“Taos”, “Bote”), brooding ballads (“Dirty Cartoons”, “INTIL”), and experimental pieces (“Lunchmeat”, “Sleeping Beauty”) that sound like they were made by three guys live in the studio. Opening track Queen Black Acid” is the break of ballad to end all relationships dead in their tracks. Though this may sound like a gloomy mess, it’s actually quite cathartic, which is a victory unto itself.

As some readers know the band uses a unique algorithm to extract sounds and manipulate loops into songs, but they really have perfected their art here. Their approach to music, through a computer program called Deeler, point to the future of rock music and the band is years ahead of their time creatively. Lyrics are another improved factor: on prior albums they were mostly irrelevant, but now they tell stories (mostly of the doomed working class) with ease! Many, many listens are required to get into Mines but the time spent is well worth it in my opinion. “Tithe” is the manifesto if you want a sample, as Knopf sings “This is a play that takes place in a freezer / count your blessings it is far removed/ from your group of peers.” Mines had an effect on my life that few albums do.

Overall, Mines is a break up album- one of the great breakup albums of all time- but more than likely about the break up of the band’s original line up. Lead singer and songwriter Brent Knopf left the band after this album, leaving only rhythm section Justin Harris and Danny Seim, and they were never quite the same on following releases. When i got to witness them playing live while touring this record, all three members play multiple instruments and switch off between songs, it was like nothing I had ever seen before. Mines is that rare thing in the 2010s, a beautiful and consistent album listen form start to finish. Menomena is a musical giant in an age of disposable bands, one that has gone totally underground and is in danger of being forgotten. Time to dig it back up.

Best Songs: Tithe, Killemall, INTIL, Queen Black Acid

33.Tetsuo and Youth – Lupe Fiasco (2015)

Epic hip hop, and probably Lupe’s rebirth into a rapper of true stature. The length of some of the tracks (“Chopper”, “Prisoners”, “Mural”, each approaching nine /ten minutes) is very impressive because they earn their length and tell engaging stories. “Mural” on its own as the first song puts the listener in a state that anything is possible if you are creative in music, endlessly rapping for what seems like only a moment, definitely one of the greatest hip hop songs ever made. Ditto for the shorter tunes (“T.R.O.N.”, “Blur My Hands” with a soaring chorus by Guy Sebastian that should have been a top 40 hit, “Little Death” with is soulful passages by Nikki Jean) as these are some of the best tunes of the year that have the power to elevate hip hop to a healthier extreme than the mainstream music of today.

            It is so refreshing to hear a record that accurately tackles topics as diverse as Obamacare on “Chopper” as each new rapper on the block uses “filet mignon with my food stamps” as a lyrical entry point, where the music and bass line is so oppressive you almost wanna just run away from the speakers. Single mothers trying to raise their sons in a cruel world on “Madonna”, truly a moving tune as a sort of hymn sent out to the universe. Youth obsessed with comic books and videogames on the masterwork “Mural”, using pizza delivery as a metaphor for ‘peace of mind’ on “Deliver”, and trying to maintain relationships in the real world of prison on “Prisoners 1&2”, two songs in one form the view of the prisoners in jail and one from the guards at the prison.

            Guest vocalists are used subtly throughout the massive album and it never loses track of Lupe’s main objective, especially the break-out performer Nikki Jean. Less vulgarity and more articulate than most modern rap, this sets a high standard; if you need proof just listen to the insane flow of “Adoration of the Magi” on its third verse, jazz rap at its best. Only two songs, “Dots and Lines and “No Scratches”, really fail to live up to the greatness around them, and even those are tolerable. The best Hip Hop album of 2015, drowned and forgotten as it was released within weeks of the critically acclaimed To Pimp a Butterfly by Kendrick Lamar. Lupe vented his anger at the time on twitter for being ignored by the press…..and he was completely right in this case. But in all honesty, the truth telling style of Fiasco and his cohorts has no financial hope on a major label (Atlantic) and soon he would leave that label to find his freedom, and create his supreme masterpiece on an indie label, Drogas Wave in 2018.

34.3 Pears – Dwight Yoakum (2012)

Yoakum has always been an outsider in country music, mainly because he refuses to adhere to one kind of sound and standard when writing a song or album. He is honky tonk at heart, but there are many glimpses of jangle pop, power pop, folk rock, and hard rock strewn throughout. Growing up playing shows with The Blasters and Los Lobos in Los Angeles will do that, as well as an overt fondness for British Invasion music from the 60’s. While always holding a high standard as an album maker i my eyes, 3 Pears is probably one of his best records, definitely the best in almost twenty years since 1993’s This Time. “Take Hold of My Hand”, “Trying”, and “A Heart Like Mine” are perfect examples of his gold standard of country music. “Missing Heart” may his best slow ballad, and “Waterfall”, “Dim Lights Thick Smoke”, and “3 Pears” are very much his own brand of weird lyrically. The record has good pacing too and plenty of ideas to keep it interesting all the way through, I can’t think of a song I don’t like in some way.

Country music has gotten an awful reputation in the last 30 years as a narrow-minded genre, and a lot of brainless pop stars can be attributed with keeping this true (Taylor Swift, Little Big Town, Garth Brooks, etc) but really when it is done well it can be the best of all genres as plenty of people this decade have shown (Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson, Neko Case, many others). What the best artists within country music keep showing is an ability to be true to past traditions while exploring new territory as well. The two versions of “Long Way To Go”, one traditional country and one piano ballad, is a perfect example of this. Both versions have their strengths and neither have a weakness.

Best Tracks: Trying, Missing Heart, Long Way Too Go (both versions)

35.One Eye Sees Red – Lonker See (2018)

There are many instrumental record’s that bear the influence of Hawkwind and Boredoms in the 21st century, but Polish artists Lonker See’s latest is special in what it achieves. For these types of records, i personally enjoy a maximum of melodic ideas in a minimal amount of time. At 3 songs in 40 minutes, i would not say the album overstays its welcome at all. Leading track “Lilian Gish” is the most impressive, named after the silent movie actress but projecting a harsh reality of cascading saxophone and guitar progressions. It ends with pounding percussion and a catchy theme that stays in your head for days.

“Solaris Pt. 3 and 4” is more loose rhythmically and abstract, with an improvised feeling that never gets old throughout it’s 17 minutes, continuing a theme from their 2015 EP of the same name. The many twists and turns of the music are very haunting and stay with you for days. Closing track “One Eye Sees Red” caps the album with a deafening noise rock jam that actually uses some vocals to highlight everything the combo achieves. The band keeps it simple, and that is why it is the best instrumental record of 2018, and one of my favorite psychedelic rock records ever. I don’t see a lot of other people putting this on their year end album lists, but that has never stopped me before!

36.Painted Ruins – Grizzly Bear (2017)

Grizzly Bear are not a band that usually makes my top “whatever” lists honestly, so it was a surprise to me when I loved their new record. It was always how I wanted the band to sound, but they never quite nailed it like they finally did on their 5th record. It does happen in rock music that bands don’t make their defining records until many years into their career, and great bands like Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and The Church all have fans that make those kinds of claims; sometimes it takes a band a while to find its sound. Painted Ruins takes the cold of snow covered old Grizzy Bear and moves it into the warmth of springtime. The band does nothing new here, but songs bloom and blossom like never before, and the lister is treated to a much more polished version of the groups sound.
       Throughout its lush tapestry on tunes such as “Three Rings” and “Stysole” are beautiful examples of songs that erupt into volcanic rainbows of melody. “Aquarian” and “Four Cypresses” are as elegant and polished as the best 60’s and 70’s progressive rock bands. Vocals are still the bands forte, and “Losing all Senses” and “Mourning Sound” are a joy to hear. “Wasted Acres” and “Cut Out” fit well into the bands catalogue of patient, atmospheric space rock. Closer is brilliant too, harnessing the power of all the above mentioned songs for an epic finale. I can’t wait to see where the band goes next, even if it take them another 5 years to make a follow up record. The equivalent of a lovely abstract painting in 2017 rock n roll.

37.Return of Luscious Left Foot – Big Boi (2010)

In 2007, Big Boi set out to make a solo record after the demise of Outkast and thanks to major label allowances and clearance (basically, stupid corporate bullshit) it took Antwan Patton three years to get the album released. Finally in 2010, the closest thing we will ever get to another Outkast record! Some great tunes here, including the single “Shutterbug”, the bombast of “General Patton”, the utter jollyness of “Tangerine”. It’s lengthy and a lot to absorb, like most Big Boi projects, but there are plenty of great,stand alone hip hop moments (“Fo Yo Sorrows” with a surprisingly coherent and always decadent George Clinton and “Be Still” with a lovely chorus Janelle Monae both jump out) and its nice to hear him destroy conventions with such abandon. “The Train Pt. 2” features one of the best guest rapper spots ever with Sam Chris, utilizing different voices like the Outkast geniuses were always good at.

I feel like this record has been almost forgotten by the majority of people about ten years after release, and perhaps it is because Big Boi seems a bit old fashioned. In an era of politically conscious hip hop like Chance the Rapper and Kendrick Lamar among others, here is an album about rapping that is fun and full of party anthems. Sure some newer acts like Vince Staples blend this influence into something new and unique, but there is a timeless quality to all of Outkast’s records and this is no exception. Some real chances are taken, like the rap rock blend of “Follow Us” and whether it works or sounds dated is all going to be personal opinion, but I tell you I still love it. Big Boi was always more of the straight hardcore rapper of the Outkast duo, but here he breaks new ground on almost every new track, releasing an onslaught of sound effects on each time around. A collaboration with Andre 3000 (under a pseudonym for legal reasons, sigh) on track “You Aint No Dj”, collab with Jamie Foxx “Hustle Blood”, and closing track “Back Up Plan” are amazing examples of the dirty south rap personality that is alive and well for the 2010’s, and Big Boi set the standard for all other hip hop to follow for the future with this varied and amazing record. It was hardly a rebirth, just the sequel to  Speakerboxxx (2003) that was delayed a couple of years.

Best Tracks: Shutterbug, Fo Yo Sorrows, Tangerine, Back Up Plan, Hustle Blood

38.The Worse Things Get the Harder I Fight,

    The Harder I Fight the More I Love You – Neko Case (2013)

Making us wait four years between albums is rough, but Case is back and as strong as ever on her latest album. For one, she can still write songs in multiple genres and excel in any of them whether it is country (the polished geometric wanderings of “Night Still Comes”), power pop (the blistering rocker “Man”), experimental rock (“Where Did I leave that Fire” blends a kind of free form noise to an old time ballad), or a capella vocals (a cover Nico’s “Afraid”). For two, her voice can put most others of the 2010’s to shame. She has a voice that would make singing the phone book a joy, as they say. “Local Girls” is another on of her great songs, where Kelly Hogan and her compete for anguished wails and like the best songs of the past the ending could go on forever and ever and never get old.

One more underrated thing about Case is she has a killer sense of humor and often ‘speaks’ in a way that is unique to her. Would a song like “Nearly Midnight, Honolulu” even work otherwise? It Could be debated that the cover of Robyn Hitchcock’s “Madonna of the Wasps” which was a bonus track on the cd would have been a better track on the main album, but that’s neither here nor there) Her lyrics quote everything from centipedes to “being the man in the fucking moon”. And then there are songs like album opener “Wild Creatures”, “Bracing for Sunday”, and “City Swan” that combine all of these genres and quirks into a sound that is simply perfect. Great songs other artists would yearn for are almost afterthoughts- the winding ramble of “I’m from Nowhere”, the brief but memorable “Calling Cards”, the fanfare of horns on album closer “Ragtime”.

Neko Case has been a trailblazer in The New Pornographers as well, but with her solo albums she outclasses even them. This is her third absolute masterwork in a row, albums with no bad songs at all, superbly and mathematically sound. She is the best example I can think of a person that is on another plane of existence then the rest of us: a transcendent artist that blurs the line between country and rock music.

Greatest Songs – Local Girl, City Swan, Wild Creatures, Man, Night Still Comes

39.The Impossible Kid – Aesop Rock (2016)

Aesop Rock has been honing his craft for a while and his word-driven hip hop songs reach an apex here. Not only are his rhymes and massive rap vocabulary on point, the music that accompanies this record is his best yet, all created by Aesop himself. Whether it is tough and menacing (“Rabies”, “Shrunk”, Public Enemy energy of “Tuff”, “Defender”) or psych-rap at its best (the ethereal “Rings”, the funk-bass guitar riffs of “Supercell”, amazing career summery so far “Molecules”), Aesop displays a beautiful mix of brains and heart. On “Dorks” his chorus is “don’t need no help / I can do it all by myself / I think we’re all a bunch of weirds on a quest to belong” and it sums up his philosophy on life pretty well.

On his early albums like Float (2000), the rapper was wordier without music so much of the emphasis and it was still thrilling to listen to most of the time. But Aesop has come a long way, learning from his buddy El-P for sure and blends captivate songs with rapping now even singing his choruses a couple of times- The playfulness extends to some of the smaller brief word sketches as well as a song about his cat, “Kirby”. The videogame intro of “Lazy Eye”, contained in this song is another minor miracle that is key to the album’s success, the Chuck D recording left on an answering machine that compels Bavitz to make this hip hop with a purpose. No other rapper combines intelligence with catchy songs quite like he does. He stands alone- “whatever keeps the scallywags wrapped up in the subterfuge.”

Best Songs: Supercell, Rings, Molecules, TUFF, Defender

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sup4JaVr1eI

40.Love – Amen Dunes (2014)

While there were several other high profile folk artists at work in the 2010’s, no one did it as well as Amen Dunes does on Love. The psych aspects have an other worldly quality on songs like “Splits are Parted” one of the best psych-folk songs of all time; the innocent “Lilac in Hand” comes straight out of 1960’s raga; the longing of true love shine through on “Lonely Richard” and “I Know Myself”. The soft quality of these songs are like touching a dense star in outer space and unlocking a secret of the universe; the listener feels transported just by listening.

From his humble lo-fi debut on 2009’s Dia, McMahon has grown so much as a songwriter. “Rocket Flare” is a soft tunic of a song, drifting along harmlessly but meaning so music with every beat. Towards the end, title track and “I Can’t Dig It” are more raw versions of his art, kind of brief attacks on the fabric of reality itself trying to find another form of communication. The flow and content of the record could almost be viewed as a concept record about a disintegrating relationship, like a version of Richard Thompson’s Shoot Out the Lights (1982) or Beck’s Sea Change (2002) for this decade. Love holds up well and is the pinnacle of his career so far. It is also a universal anthem to his fellow man, a giant in pillar in rock music and the folk album that we have been waiting for this decade.

Best Tracks: Splits Are Parted, Lonely Richard, Rocket Flare, I Can’t Dig It

41.Schlagenheim – Black Midi (2019)

 

The members of Black Midi view rock n roll as a bit of joke, which it is, so its nice to hear youngster’s that really get it. Of all the over hyped British next big things over the years, this band is deserving of their accolades. If practice makes perfect then BlackMidi must have practiced their asses off because the endless tempo changes of opener “953”, the wild spasms of “Near Dt, MI”, and thoughtful progressive rock of “Ducter” are not easy accomplishments.

      Even better, the Pere Ubu esque chants of “Bmbmb” are something that I always enjoy in rock music, a simple riff of an idea made more and more complex by creative musicians. “Speedway” owes something to Sonic Youth, the way the atonal guitars mix with a lively rhythm section over whispering Lee Ranaldo style poetry. “Western” echoes some amazing King Crimson / Robert Fripp guitar style acrobatics, with Adrian Belew lyrics (“ in anteater town after anteater town”).

       Singer Gordie Greep is a nice mix of David Bryne and Les Claypool, while drummer Morgan Simpson does an amazing job of keeping everything at a steady pace despite the haphazardness of the arrangements. Schlagemhaim is an album made for rock music adventurers. Sure, maybe this will be the only great album they ever make but even if that’s the case what an awesome mind-blowing experience it is. The potential for this group of musicians, even more so.

Greatest Songs: Western, 953, bmbmbm

42.Eleania – Floating Points (2015)

Influenced by some of the better post-rock artists around, Sam Shepherd’s Floating Points project subtly knocks out any competition in terms of electronic album of the year. The jazz influence of opener “Nespole” recall’s Tortoise’s TNT meets the cosmic synth waves of Klaus Schulze. The multitrack “Silhouettes I,II,III” moves from nervous energy to mind-bellowing calm with ease, all over the course of eleven mintues, sort of like if Flying Lotus was able to condense all of his good ideas into a cohesive whole instead of multi-fragments. “Argente” and “Thin Air” are basically the same track – one played normal and one dissected and played at random, not simply backwards like most would do. Only the title song “Elaenia” fails to satisfy, coming off as rather slow and not as well thought out as the other tracks. Saving the best for last, “For Marmish” perfects the pseudo-jazz of the opening track to open new doorways for the future in progressive rock and closer “Peroration Six” used diminished chords to their full unnerving effect, ending in one of the most abrupt yet satisfying ways I have ever heard. In a word – Astonishing.

Greatest Songs: For Marmish, Silhouettes, Peroration Six

43.The Idler Wheel – Fiona Apple (2012)

Fiona Apple only makes an album every 7 years or so, but this is the first record that has sounded like a real progression of her piano ballad template. At first, it seems odd that Apple does not have as many catchy melodies as she usually does as her previous album (2005’s Extraordinary Machine) was already putting an end to that era. Instead here, Apple succeeds in vocal and sonic experimentation. Opening track “Every single Night” contains one of the more jarring choruses you will hear all year, where closing track “Hot Knife” explores a new multi vocal technique that works once and that is all we get, like a cliffhanger to a great TV episode.

In between that great opener and closer, we get some charming piano based gems that could come from any era of her songwriting: “Anything We Want” and “Periphery” charm us with the chanteuse of old, with single ready choruses to boot. These types of songs have given Apple plenty of imitators for sure, but where she shines are with tunes that are uniquely her own: “Valentine” and “Warewolf” point to a new more steam of consciousness kind of style; “Daredevil” has a mental breakdown as part of the bridge that totally works; “Left Alone” employs an odd percussion background and time signatures that lends a more jazz element than usual. Apple constructs a record that sounds as fresh and alive than anything she has ever done, and that cannot be imitated by any other songwriter of her era – only admired.

Best Songs: Hot Knife, Anything We Want, Left Alone, Warewolf

44.Home Acres – Aloha (2010)

Aloha have proved to be one of the greatest alternative bands working in the last decade time and time again, and they may have reached the pinnacle of their art with Home Acres. The playing is better, the music has maintained its own unique voice, and it is a really consistent listen. “Building a Fire” is literally is a moody build up to the true opening song “Moonless March”, featuring one of the greatest drum intros/parts ever recorded in rock music (can we say hats off to Cale FUCKIN’ Parks just one more time?!?). The second part of that song is a moment where marimbas, drums, and guitar play in unison like nothing else ever heard. “The shimmering quality of the keyboards is also brought to light on songs such as “Waterwheel” and the smooth ballad “I’m In Trouble”, likewise the shimmering guitar lines of “Everything Goes My Way” truly create a solar system of their own. “Microviolence” may be a standout single, as it demonstrates how Tony Calavallero’s singing can blend eloquently with the marimba lines of T.J. Lipple and maintain a pop song elegance.

“Blackout” and “Seaarchlight” have an immediate bounce kind of quality that will bring in new listeners, while closer “Ruins” maintains the prog-rock quality that they have always had in them by being two spectacular songs in one, the first moody and psychedelic and the last one rocking and anthemic; it’s their personal “Stairway to Heaven”. Even the two less interesting songs in the middle have good moments in them (“White Wind” with it’s odd time signatures and “Cold Storage” with its relentless drums and quirky guitar lines) and the playing is always vibrant (with vibraphone!) Again, more people should listen to this band! No one can make an album quite like Aloha where every song truly feeds off the other like energy being transferred from one electron to the next. Home Acres is the definition of a hidden gem of a rock album.

Greatest Songs: Microviolence, Everything Goes Your Way, Moonless March

45.Ex-Military – Death Grips (2011)

Death Grips first record was a well of a debut, originally released as a cassette/mix tape very limited in stock; thankfully in the internet world but was still very accessible to access (though currently I don’t even see it in streaming services like Spotify). While their later records expanded their sound and they hit a dead end for a while when it all became an issue of style over content (speaking of Government Plates from 2014, though they made a swift recovery with Jenny DEath), the first record kept the samples classic and everything under some kind of controlled chaos. Even though they used more recognized classic rock samples (Pink Floyd, Jane’s Addiction, Black Flag, etc) the raps are still full of angst and frenzy and the beats are still killer.

“Known For It”, “Takyon”, “Culture Shock”, and “Beware” are probably the greatest and most influential songs, but there is plenty to love on Ex-Military. It’s a good title for an album as well, as some people say this sounds more like metal or punk than rap because of all the militant shouting and repetitiveness. they have a point but in reality its just hardcore all genres: metal, punk, rap, honestly it all kind of blurs together for me and becomes genreless. But if anything it harks back to albums like Public Enemy’s It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988), or even something like Cypress Hill’s self titled 1991 debut. The production by (ex Marnie Stern / Hella drummer) Zack Hill is so dense with samples that it begins overpowering what is being said by singer Stefan Burnett (shouter). Experimental hip hop, or how ever you want to classify it, does not get much better than this in the 2010’s.

Best Tracks: Known For It, Takyon, Culture Shock

46.Near to the Wild Heart of Life – Japandroids (2017)

Japandroids take the emo influenced sound of previous album and turn it to epic classic rock on their long awaited third record. They are not the first band to do this, but their syntheses is still rare in a mostly digital music age. In the year 2017 where we lost both Tom Petty and Malcolm Yong, we get killer grooves that mix both with attitude like “True Love and a Life of Free will” and the travelogue “North East South West”. The lyrics mark a huge growth, especially by making era defining statements on “In a Body like a Grave”. “Love will scar the Heart / school will deepen debt / sun will burn the skin / work will sap the soul / just the way it is”.

“No Known Drink or Drug” and the title track are more a simple statements about love and life, and about personal growth just as the band goes through artistic growth. Best of all, the nearly eight minute “Arc of Bar” shows how a two piece band of only guitar and drums can pull of an epic rock song of towering proportions. Seeing the band live in late 2017, I also witnessed that it was possible to be as effective live as it is on record, and “Arc of Bar” is one of the great power chord anthems of all time, as it redefines grandeur for an age that has forgotten its roots.

Best Songs: Arc of Bar, No Known Drink or Drug, North East South West

47.Old – Danny Brown (2013)

      Old is a great follow up to his breakthrough album XXX (2011) because it is more consistent, more varied, and more confident. It is everything you want in a follow up to a minor masterwork- an almost perfect record. It stands as one of the better hip-hop albums of the 2010’s. The record is divided into two different sides (like XXX was) the first one devoted to more fast paced and straightforward Danny Brown: “Wonderbread” and “25 Bucks” are absolutely hilarious in a style unique to Brown; “Dope Fiend Rental” takes it to extremes, as a dream date by Brown is surely like a ride to an amusement park; “Clean Up” and “Lonely” calm things down at the end showing the reality of the world and sinking into depression; “Red 2 Go” shows his triumph over the world and his rise to stardom.

     The second half and the key to his growth is in the way he mocks the current styles of the time. “Dubstep” and “Dip” take shots at club and trap rap, and manage to sound like no one else while doing so; “Handstand” is like a cavalcade of insanity, describing an act so bizarre it can’t doesn’t make sense. “Smokin and Drinkin” is probably his best tune to date, making fun and celebrating the life style of people that party every single night. His constant chants of “Don’t let me into my zone! You haters leave me alone!” may end up being his defining statement. He also sounds timeless while doing so and hires different producers to help- the latter album track “Kush Coma” sounds exactly as you think it would with hazy sound smoke clouds. Rappers like Danny Brown are super rare these days, since originality is a scare concept. Danny Brown is alone in is his fight against mainstream, sterile hip-hop while simultaneously existing in that world. A schizophrenic concept album for the king of schizo rap.

Best Tracks: Smoking and Drinkin, Dip, Dope Fiend Rental, Wonderbread, Handstand

48.Dirty Computer – Janelle Monae (2018)

I stand by Janelle’s third release as my favorite so far of hers, a lot of critics would pick her debut The Archandroid (2010) but this one just speaks to me personally more. I don’t believe in fighting my gut instincts  😉

On her 3rd album, Janelle Monae gets more personal than ever. Revealing herself as a talented actress in movies like Hidden Figures and Moonlight, while also declaring to the world she is a proud bisexual, Monae lets it all loose on this record. Obsessed with the concept of people as robots or machines, here she reveals herself as a “Dirty Computer” or a flawed figure and outcast among society. Make no mistake though, this is also her most pop oriented record, as songs such as “Pynk” and “Make Me Feel” dominate the charts in the spirt of Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Prince before her. Many prestigious guest stars populate the album, such as Brian Wilson, Stevie Wonder, Pharell, Zoe Kravitz, and Grimes.

Why it works so well is in my opinion….well, its personal. Take a song like “I Like That” which is a monologue about how she was often ridiculed in middle school for being a weirdo, but how even at a young age she embarrassed it and had enough self confidence to continue being herself; that is something I can personally relate to , and I suspect I am not alone. The chorus sings “oh me o me o me o my”, but again it is putting as all in her position. Great artists have this ability to bring people into their world, to make them feel as one of them, to include while also being entertained.

Monae is good at that, and as much as I complain about the state of pop music (probably too much I know) If more pop music was this personal while also being universal, I would like it more. Music this good, that strikes as many chords to so many people, is not usually as catchy and danceable as songs like “Crazy Classic Life” and ”Django Jane”. She bring the spirit of the independent or indie musician into the mainstream. Monae also released a music video of every song on here creating a flowing story arch along with the music, so while the album may have its detractors, at least no one can fault her ambition.

Best Songs: I Like That, Pynk, Django Jane

49.Mutilator Defeated at Last – Thee Oh Sees (2015)

            John Dwyer has made a huge mark on the psych rock evolution of the 20th century, beginning with the Couchwhips last decade flowing through with Thee Oh Sees in the 2010s. Or is it Oh Sees now? Whatever he calls his project there is no denying his gift for a good, catchy distorted rock song, as he has made 10 or eleven albums this decade alone fueling the new psych rock scene and inspiring artists like King Gizzard, Ty Seagul, and whoever else falls under the psychedelic rock banner these days. Most of the albums he created are good to great, and some of them are truly exceptional, Mutilator Defeated at Last is probably my favorite except for one other that falls higher on my list…..but we can talk about it later about whether it is a proper album or not.

            While there is something to be said for a band that makes the same kind of songs/music over and over again, in the case of Thee Oh Sees it is a good thing. The degrees to which they are able to find new uses for the same couple of chords, song titles, and old Pink Floydian riffs is borderline insane. Nevertheless, “Poor Queen” and “Rogue Planet” are as relentless as their rockers have ever been; the masterful and career defining “Sticky Hulks” and “Lupine Ossuary” point in new directions for slow, menacing psych rock; “Web” and “Palace Doctor” would not be out of place on any other of John Dwyer’s records. What the band does right on Mutilator Defeated at Last is the secret to all great albums: keep it concise, consistent, and keep changing it up ever so slightly.

Best songs: Sticky Hulks, Rouge Planet, Palace Doctor, Withered Hand

50.City Sun Eater In the River of Light – Woods (2016)

Woods are far enough into their career that they effortlessly move from genre to genre, and on this album they proved they have just about mastered them all. While on the surface, it may just seem like another super-polished indie rock release with splashes of funk or prog-rock influences scattered throughout, there is much more to it. The intricate complexity of “Sun City Creeps” and “The Other Side” often collide with magical melodies like “Hollow Home” and country ballad “Morning Light” that stay in your head for days.

The super power pop of “Politics of Free” and the spacey funk “Can’t See at All”, two of the best songs this band ever has done, mix all of this together in a cavalcade of rainbow-esque joy. Ex-Bassist Kevin Morby has his own solo record of power this same year in Singing Saw (2016), and perhaps he got more attention, but mainstays Woods did not slack off either. The second side of the album is especially strong. The band shows they have staying power and if they keep making records this solid, may become very famous with their accessible yet entertaining sound. Even if they don’t, for their many albums of great music so far, hats off to Woods.

Best Songs: Politics of Free, Can’t See at All, Hollow Home, Morning Light

51.Moon Scales – Alcest (2010)

Though Neige, the main songwriter of Alcest, tries to say that his band is more metal than shoegaze it really is a perfect mix of both. Pushing the boundaries of what is possible in music, this French black-metal band comes through with an album that is not that like anything heard before. There is no comparison for the mix of atmosphere, memorable guitar riffs, and ethereal/growling vocals. “Solar Song” in particular, sounds both out of place in 2010 and like a perfect song for the new millennium; my only comparison is early Slowdive and My Bloody Valentine as it moves around its repetitive beauty patterns of heavenly angels reigning down destruction on the world but saving those who have earned it. A tune foreshadowing the end of the world, but also the rebirth of the universe, and one of the great rock songs ever written.

         The twenty-minute opening two part anthem, translated as “Moon Scales”, is as entertaining progressive metal music gets, albeit the growls and scream of death metal are an acquired taste. The guitar arpeggios and crystalline quality of the playing is amazing to behold on “Openings of Light”, and even though there are only five real songs to the album total its an enthralling release to convert new fans of the genre. Every part fits, and it appeals to lovers of 80’s dream pop and extreme black metal even improving on their great album prior to this one Memories of Another World (2007). Robin Guthrie and Justin Broadrick would be proud of their baby.

Best Tracks: Solar Song, Moon Scales Part 2, Openings of Light

#52 Album: Good Kid, Maad City – Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar is one of the best storytellers of the decade for sure, no matter what genre of music he exists in. He happens to be a hip hop artist, so his lone excursions into the reality of his surroundings is always fascinating to listen too no matter what the music sounds like. I say that because he is the kind of artist is it interesting to follow, but in my opinion sometimes frustrating to listen to musically. Merging good lyrics and music are one of the main challenges of the history of “rock” music and while it can still be music can exist as wordless as still be considered rock (often post-rock is the genre there) im not sure about a man simply telling a story over a programmed beat, especially in hip hop. The music to me still has to be interesting, and it’s been my main issue with Kendrick Lamar’s albums from the ones critics declare as instant classics such as To Pimp a Butterfly (2015) and Damn (2017), to his proper debut here, probably his most successful musical album so far.

Anyways, you are probably wondering why I have this album on my list if I have such an interesting/conflicting relationship with it. Well, it kind of doesn’t matter what I think , I can’t really have a list of the best 100 albums of the 2010’s and not include a Kendrick album because it would be ignoring one of the real talents of our time. If I could give a spot for the most impressive guest spots of the decade he would definitely win, as this guy is on every major rap release since he got big it feels like. And I like this album a lot even if I feel like his best album will probably appear in the future, some artists are like that. Songs like the reaction to his reality on “Money Trees”, the musically fascinating “Good Kid”, the proper single that earns his fame “Swimming Pools” and the long-winded poetry of “Real” are right up my alley for sure. The album also begins with a prayer to God, furthering the relation between rapping and religion. There are some tunes that may not have aged that well and they are right at the beginning, with the demeaning “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” and Kanye influenced “Backseat Freestyle”, but maybe im just wrong. Maybe I am just seeing if anyone reads the reviews this far!

But I do enjoy Kendrick even though I feel someday he will top this great debut. I understand why he is so popular and at the end of the day I am beyond glad there is still intelligent hip hop that people on all levels embrace, as hip hop becomes the most interesting genre of our day. “Sing to Me I am Dying of Thirst” is a twelve minute story backed by a beat and it s a concept he will probably expand on in the future, kind of like a symphony by Frank Zappa but in the universe of rap. Whether this is the only hip hop album you own or think it’s the greatest among the thousands released this decade, there is no doubt that Kendrick is the quintessential popular rapper of the decade. I think this is his best record….so far.

Best Songs: Money Trees, Swimming Pools, Real, Good Kid

53.Thank Your Lucky Stars – Beach House (2015)

Some people regarded this album as a sort of b-sides since it was the second release of 2015 for the all of a sudden prolific band, but nothing could be further from the truth. In every way, it is the most important and essential BH release as it strips back all of the excess and gives the band its best melodies in the forefront. “Majorette” is as majestic as anything else the band has ever released for a lead single; “One Thing” is probably the band’s greatest tune, which its simple pounding indie rock beat showing off what the group can do with simple means. The chilled out “She’s So Lovely” sounds like a song Enya could have made, so ethereal that perhaps it has always existed, and “All Your Yeahs” floats along a similar trajectory, as light as a feather. “Common Girl” is unique in that it could be a song created by a ghost, where the words said are not as important as the way they are projected.

As the album progress the songs get a tad more ambitious, with the complicated melody of “The Traveler” creating a story as twisty as the chorus of the song itself. The epic length “Elegy to the Void” is one of their better jams, a song that seems to go on forever with its repetitive riff. Beach House albums are never too long, and this one is true to that summing up with its ninth track “Somewhere Tonight”, the gorgeous waltz to end all waltzes. The album might come off as harmless but it’s simply chilled to the extreme. Beach House continue the dream-pop of Cocteau Twins to the digital vibes of the 21st century.

54.Freedom – Amen Dunes (2018)

Amen Dunes exists on his own spectrum, project of Damon McMahon who has only released 4 records total in this decade-plus career. That is because each album is a fine tuned work of beauty and craftsmanship, and Freedom is another solid release. Two of the best songs Amen Dunes have ever made are present here: the soft-spoken and emotional climax present in “Miki Dora” is executed perfectly, a rare example of a prefect song that achieves what it is trying to do, worthy of the best of Van Morrison. It’s not too loud and not too showy.

      Secondly there is the underrated “Dracula”, a song I have not been able to stop listening to since i heard it, a spooky sounding yearning for the meaning of life in a world that is constantly set to drain us. The album is full of folk-rock updated for the 2010’s, like the pulsating “Time”, and the patient opener “Blue Roses”, the contemplative “Call Paul the Suffering”, and the brief “Saturdah”. “Skipping School” incapsulates the feeling of freedom itself, as he tells a story of what it was like to break the rules in his childhood. It all works brilliantly and each separate tune sucks you into a unique world where we become one with the universe. Freedom is a record that pushes Amen Dunes’ sound forward, and who knows where it will go from here.

Best Songs: Dracula, Miki Dora, Time, Skipping School

55.Memories are Now – Jesca Hoop (2017)

         Jesca Hoop is one of the greatest singer-songwriters of the decade for sure with about 7 albums to her name so far. Hoop’s unique, stripped down style is one for the ages, taking a disjointed sound and atmosphere and making it sound very nurturing and immediate as well. “Animal Kingdom Chaotic” is a great tale of technology versus our own brains, told in a nonsensical style. “The Lost Sky” and the abtly titled “Simon Says” recalls Paul Simon is a couple of ways: the former with its mysterious aura and haunting lyrics, the latter having a playful quality like its from another Victorian era all together. The title track “Memories are Now” sets up the template for odd time signatures and catchy choruses and “Cut Connection” is an instant classic of folk music with an airy melody that stays in your head for days.

            The second side of the record is a little more of an acquired taste, but no less entertaining once odd tales such as “Unsaid” and “Pegasi” are absorbed into the psyche, the latter is perhaps her prettiest song. Closer “The Coming” encapsulates the entire record, playing like a dirge from down below and making us want even more. Her tunes are unpredictable but very endearing. Jesca has the ability to pull you into her world, as her sound is that of angst portrayed in an often jarring contrast to the minimal acoustic counterpart. The best tunes rival that of Joni Mitchell and Joana Newsom. This is her most successful album, though Stonechild (2019) is about equally as great and her collaboration with Iron and Wine “Every Songbird Says” from 2016 is probably her catchiest song. Hoop’s is a female voice that blows all her male counterparts away, though at times it’s merely a whisper.

Best Songs: Cut Connection, Memories are Now, The Lost Sky, Animal Kingdom Chaotic

56.Beauty and Ruin – Bob Mould (2014)

For me, Bob Mould is one of the most unique songwriters of all time. From his days in the hardcore progressive punk band Husker Du through his radical (or not so radical viewing certain parts of the last 2 Husker albums) change to singer-songwriter afterwards, Mould has wondered back and forth and in and out of almost every kind of music known to man. Though I think he did most of the styles very well, the exception being his club faux disco phase in the mid 2000’s, he is always better when he is rocking out. Mould began rocking like he did in the 80’s and 90’s again on 2012’s Silver Age, a nice return to form after being reminded by Dave Ghrol’s concert in his honor from 2011 that “oh yeah I influenced an entire generation!” Maybe he always knew it secretly and just had to try other things for a while, but even on later albums like Patch the Sky (2016) and Sunshine Rock (2019) he sounds revitalized with a new power trio made up of Jon Wurster on drums and Jason Narducy on bass. I mean he can write rock songs better than anybody, and he proves it with Beauty and Ruin.

“Low Season” beings the record in a depressed mood but its heart is deep in the dirt, and the album progress from there. “Little Glass Pill” and “Kid with the Crooked Face” are fierce and punchy like his best songs always were, while “I Don’t Know You Anymore” brings the irresistible pop chorus from the 1960’s radio into play. “The War” and “Fire in the City” put so much pathos under the distorted guitar chords its amazing they work at all but they can manage to make you tear up for sure telling stories from a master of alternative rock long ignore by the public. “Tomorrow Morning” is an ancestor of The Ramones “Blitzkrieg Bop” if there ever was one.

“Nemesis Are Laughing” and “Forgiveness” are straight up bizarre tunes that only work because of Mould’s will power and determination, seriously these songs they could come from no one else. The record is clean cut like his second power trio Sugar was, but it’s a beautiful mix of punk energy, acoustic ballads, and just plain unique rock n roll like no one else on the planet can do. I can highly recommend a Bob Mould album as one of the greatest albums of the decade, and it feels great has been a while since I have said that! I always had faith he’d come back rocking.

Best Tracks: Fire In the City, The War, I Don’t Know You Anymore, Nemeses are Laughing

57.Inside the Rose – These New Puritans (2019)

      Despite a six year silence between albums, albeit a live album and some live performances, the band has lost none of it’s unique sound on fourth album Inside the Rose. They continue to be hard to define, and this is their most psychedelic and laid-back sounding record yet, somehow creating music defined as “rock” without a guitar to be found. Each song feeds into the next in away thought sound well planned out but also sort of a stream of consciousness flow. Title track “Into the Rose” is a traditional sounding mood piece starting out, but halfway through pulls a new age influence a la Enya and shifts by losing its rhythm and form and endures a mournful coda. “Anti Gravity” and “Into the Fire” recall their masterwork Hidden, with intricate percussion by George Barnett and dreamy vocals, full of repeating harmonics and a sort of gothic rock n roll influence (sort of??). “Six” and “Lost Angel” are mainly instrumental, short interludes that allow the listener to contemplate the new cosmic formations they have been witnessed to.

      Still, those are the more easily comprehensible songs. “Infinity Vibraphones” as a hell of on opening track to the album, only revealing its bizarre melody upon multiple listens and we get the impression that the song could easily have been twice as long and been just as good. “Beyond Black Suns” is literally two songs happening at the same time, one sang by lead singer Jack Barnett and the other whispered by guest female vocalist, and the way the two songs collide throughout operatic interludes is a wonder to behold. Best of all there is “A-R-P”, perhaps the best song on here brings minimalist synthesizer work of Field of Reeds back to reveal the soul of the group is still lost in the ether; the elongated intro giving way to a pounding crescendo of yearning by the end. Only song that fails to resonate with me is the nursery rhyme “Where the Tress are On Fire”, as it meanders around without purpose a bit much for my tastes. In all, this is the shortest record by the group yet at only 40 minutes, which prevents us from being fatigued at all by the challenging ideas and leaves us wanting more. The art of These New Puritans remains complex and impenetrable, like all great works of art should be.

58.Black Up – Shabazz Palaces (2011)

      Shabazz Palaces are one of the great hip hop duo’s of the last five years, and along with Run the Jewels the members were previously active in other groundbreaking rap groups before. They approach rap music like aliens from outer space, not only in the sound effects used on their records but also in their approach to lyrics and emphasis on words. Some words in phrases are brought OUT more than others, if that makes SENSE. “There, I want to be there, let me be in there,” is an example of a lyric that has multiple meanings and one meaning all at once. The way the duo raps has been criticized in a negative way as too old fashioned by some, probably linked to the fact that Ishmael Butler used to be in the 90’s collective Digable Planets, but in reality it’s a whole different approach – to rap as if hearing words for the first time, naive but effective.

      Shabazz Palaces don’t sound like anybody because of their odd approach, the act is more about the “album” than the song and more about parts of songs in a larger suite than traditional song structures. This makes Black Up a difficult listen to some, but for the right kind of music adventurer it’s the album and the group that hip-hop has needed for the last 30 years. And it still is very approachable for all of the weirdness: “Recollections of the Wriath” could be a modern r&b single, while “An Echo From the Hosts That Profess Infinitum” and “The Kings New Clothes” have catchy hooks. Black Up is the debut album of a group creating a new kind of rap music.

Best Tracks: An Echo From the Hosts That Profess Infinitum, Yeah You, Endeavors for the Never

59.Skeleton Tree – Nick Cave (2016)

I’ve tried to write a review avoiding the obvious, but Nick Cave suffered an awful loss during the making of this album, and it is so apparent because the album is his most grief stricken yet. That is saying A LOT of course, and fans of Cave since the late 1970’s know this man has some harrowing stuff in his impressive repertoire. Maybe a better thing to say about the man is that this is his most sympathetic album yet, the record on which the listener is pulled into his personal anguish and feels the pain of losing a child at a young age in full effect. “Girl in Amber” contains some of his most telling lyrics in his current state, and it exemplifies how grave Cave is being by sharing his tragedy with all of us.

       Some Songs really stand out as harrowing trips: “I Need You” sounds like Cave is actually crying each word, while “Jesus Alone” demonstrates his tactic if setting up mood brilliantly. “Rings of Saturn” is a ghostly number haunted by spirits of the neither world but it a catchy way and title track  “Skeleton Tree” connects the themes of personal and universal yearning like no other Cave album before it. Its one of Cave’s best albums ranking with The Good Son and Henry’s Dream. The trick: the listener almost feels guilty for enjoying the haunting music.

60.Clinging to a Scheme – Radio Department (2010)

One of the most unique pop bands around, The Radio Dept. are a Swedish group patterned off of many of the singer/songwriter acts of the early 00’s. The closest comparison I can think of is Badly Drawn Boy meets Belle and Sebastian. They had many enjoyable laid back hazy pop releases, but this album was their best. Enjoyable and carefree but very well made, electronic fused pop.
The carnival vibe of “Heaven’s On Fire”, pulsating keyboards of “This Time Around”, odd reggae throwback of “Never Follow Suit”, and jubilant “Memory Loss” are among the great pop songs of our time. “A Token of Graditude” plays with the traditional structure of sounds some and fades out with a soothing coda, and “You Stopped Making Sense” is one of the great album closers of the decade. The band succeeds at evoking an image of nostalgia while making an almost perfect pop record.

Best Tracks: Heaven’s On Fire, Never Follow Suit, You Stopped Making Sense


61.Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit – Courtney Barnett (2015)

Barnett filled a void that is always much needed in any year: a solid, hard rock album. There are also echoes of power pop (“Elevator Operator”, “Aqua Profunda!”, “Debbie Downer”) and plenty of darker, more complex diversions (“Small Poppies”, “Kim’s Caravan”) that make the album more than just another traditional release. It had the potential to be the next Nirvana’s Nevermind with a lead single that can appeal to everyone in “Pedestrian at Best”, and she whips up a classic alternative rock sound that channels 1990’s acts such as Pavement, Liz Phair, and Madder Rose.
In a lot of ways, the album feels planned out to show all facets of Barnett’s personality almost to the point of mathematical precision. It expands on her two initial EPs to a fully formed record, and still plays better than anything she has released since. It’s an awkwardly named album that hits all the right notes and proves that she can master any rock music style. That’s rare in any year, so it is a very welcome presence in rock music.

Greatest Songs: Pedestrian At Best, Kim’s Caravan, Aqua Profonda!, An Illustration of Loneliness

62.Aviary – Julia Holter (2018)

            For anyone expecting a further adventure into pop music territory for Holter, this album will come as a shock. At 90 minutes and 15 songs, it is a statement of complete absurdity. Stranger and more abstract then even her debut Tragedy, the album is a challenge to say the least. For those up for it, Avairy is very rewarding listen, requiring some time investment to truly unravel. There is still an element of catchy tunes but they are more like invitations to lure you into the darkness. Most of the material on Aviary is dense, labyrinth and quite the sonic journey. It’s a bold career move, if nothing else.

            The majority of the songs on the record extend the six minute mark, but among the more memorable is the pulsating “Underneath the Moon” with is keyboard churning rhythm, “Voce Simul” with its beautiful overlapping vocals, “Another Dream” with its use of mysterious atmosphere, and “In Gardens’ Muteness” incorporates expert piano playing as a minimal accompaniment, echoing Joanna Newsom and her most soulful, succeeding in being a classical music composition. It should be reiterated too, that Holter has mastered the craft of over-lapping vocals to create psychedelic atmospheres, as well as The Cocteau Twins before her, and tunes such as “Words I Heard” and “I Shall Love pt. 2” are a joy to behold. “I Would Rather See” defines epic songwriting, in whatever genre you want to contain it in, the song is truly a timeless creation, a tune that Enya or Sinead O’Conner would be proud to call their own.

      Overall the successes outweigh the failures, and it is hard to criticize an album to harshly that is so inventive and risk taking, especially compared to bland pop music of the era. Taking the best two-thirds of Aviary is perhaps Holter’s grandest album though, and that is a point (like the majority of double albums on the market) that is hard to argue with.

63.Cosmology – Rolo Tomassi (2010)

               One if my favorite bands of the previous decade (2000-2009) was The Fiery Furnaces, and in many ways Rolo Tomassi are their heir for the 2010s. The main brother/sister duo singer/ songwriters are Eva and James Spence, their musical technicality is beyond impressive as a band, and the songs are insanely complex. The obvious difference would be, Rolo Tomassi often scream and growl every word they sing at you. The ferocity if the singing style is usually reserved for metal bands but that’s not really what genre I would put this band in. In fact I’m hard pressed to think of any tag that fits their style, especially with producer Diplo producing and adding his own twist on the sounds.

           The record opens as a beautiful kiss off to people who dare to listen, the first three songs are all barley a minute long and grindcore rambles that are barley cohesive (“House House Cassonva” standing as the best of the three). After that begins the complex 5 songs-in-one of “Party Wounds”, truly a new form of compact songwriting somehow catchy though it never repeats itself. “Saika” is an even more extreme variation, “Kaisa” and “Tounge in Chic” are longer versions of the same thing with the latter aiming for the upper atmosphere in terms of a epic chorale. “Cosmology” is an excellent closer leaving  that does not let us off the hook by summing up the entire record and leaving us exhausted afterwards.

               The combination of angelic melody and screaming recalls both Blood Brothers and Sleater Kinney in positive ways. The band expands on this sound quite a bit on their latter albums Grievances (2015) and Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It (2018). Eva Spence has to be counted among one of the greatest front-women of the decade, and the band has formed an impressive cult of their own.

Best Songs: party wounds, tongue in chic, kasia

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eoOzpM-yPUA

64.Is Not Defeated – The Ascent of Everest (2019)

            The Ascent of Everest Is Not Defeated is a perfect return for the group after a nine year break between records, as it shows how the group has summarized all their collective strengths to make their best record yet. The sound is overwhelming in the best possible way, the song structures are unpredictable and enjoyable, and each new track brings a new idea to the forefront. It’s a dense, seventy-minute plus album that works all the way through thanks to its diversity and unpredictable songs while still maintaining their pronounced post-rock style. “Buried in the Leaves” is an amazing launch into their world, using dual female / male vocals to great effect with a tune that haunts your mind for days; “Aimless” is an apt name for a song that crashes and drowns you like a pirate lost at sea throughout its epic run time; “Dreadful Patient Persistence” might be the most accessible song they have produced yet as singer Devin Lamp brings forth the luminous quality present in progressive rock greats like Pink Floyd and The Church.

The new album has more female vocals than ever before, and it produces some sublime moments: the echoing fairies of “I Could Have Loved You”; the laid back space-country vibes of “Magnolia” which sounds like an alien race interpreting what flowers are for the first time (nice use of phaser effects); the siren wails of “Eyelids Like Anchors”. There are also little gems that only reveal themselves on multiple listens- the perfect ending to the first chapter of the record on “Too Sweet”; the mesmerizing cello of Casey Kaufman on “Words Fail”; the awesome rock n roll ending of “Secret Truth”. “Take Control” starts of as a somber eulogy but quickly transforms into a pulsating march all within the span of four minutes. 

     The band retains the style they began with on 2006’s How Lonely Sits The City, and the record ends with a 4 part instrumental ballad suite that plays as one monumental song: as the touching “Awake Before Dawn” starts innocently with a naïve melody as it flows effortlessly into “Break the Horizon” and the noisy breakdown of “My Body Broke My Mind Burned”, capping with the crescendo of “The Valley Below” which is some of the most touching and angelic music they or any band has ever produced. The fact that it all holds together so well is a testament to the group and proof that these musicians believe in making music that can shake the soul. Is Not Defeated is an album that matches the groups’ namesake, as it proves some albums should be ambitious double albums and earn their length, and that music has meaning beyond mere words and is truly an art unto itself.

Best Songs: Awake Before Dawn, Dreadful Patient Persistence, Words Fail, Buried In Leaves, Too Sweet

65.Dark Bird is Home – The Tallest Man on Earth (2015)

               Tallest Man kept getting better until this album, which is my favorite. Another fascinating thing about this record is it gets better as it goes, the second half is nearly perfect: “Sagres” is a soaring beauty of a melody that may be his best tune yet; “Timothy” recalls Dylan’s Desire era with a Scottish tinge; “Beginners” and “Seventeen” are the kind of epic ballads he has always excelled at; “Dark Bird is Home” is maybe his most complex song to date, lyrically and musically.

               It’s strange how good he is at crafting albums since he is not generally credited as an album artist, more for his quirky singing style. True folk rock is rarely done well with apt instrumentation and while its true that he can venture close to Billy Joel ballad territory at times (not always a bad thing), TM’s folk has never veered so close to actually rocking before then it does here. On Dark Bird is Home, it totally succeeds and stands as his best album.


Best Songs: Sagres, Seventeen, Dark Bird is Home, Darkness of the Dream

 

66.Slowdive – s/t (2017)

            In an era of band reunions, Slowdive’s was perhaps the most inevitable. I love how everyone starts off their review of this record like Slowdive have been anywhere the last twenty years. Primary songwriters Neil Halstead and Rachel Goswell simply changed their name to Mojave 3 after Slowdive released their last album back in 1995 and though the approach was somewhat different, the couple never stopped making amazing, atmospheric rock music.

               This “reunion” album is a merging of what Mojave 3 was doing with their atmospheric folk rock with a little distortion added from the Slowdive of old, and as the band accepts their legacy with songs like “Slow Roving” they also expand it with the eight-minute piano dirge “Falling Ashes” and moody daydreams such as “Sugar for the Pill” and “Everyone Knows”, showing a true lineage between The Cocteau Twins (the dreamy “dream pop”) and the 21st century digital age. It should also be said that Slowdive’s return to their shoegaze roots is more welcome and better complete than My Bloody Valentine’s was, as the two bands will forever be compared to each other. Slowdive made a conscious effort to expand their sound while remaining tethered to their roots. It’s just great songwriting from people who know exactly how rock music should sound.

Best Songs: Star Roving, Falling Ashes, Sugar for the Pill

67.UZU – Yamantaka//Sonic Titan (2013)

            Yamantaka Sonic Titan’s influence and original stance make them a standout among contemporary rock artists. Part progressive rock (the ‘concept album aspects), part psychedelic (“Lamia” is pure shoegaze glory), part art rock. The all women combination of Asian-Canadians (!?!) are very true to the history of music, but also very futuristic and unique on their own.

            Take a song like “Whalesong”: it sets the theme of the record up like some kind of sea shanty or banshee’s litany, but it is produced like an arena rock song and could only be categorized as pure classic rock, though in the progressive rock category. As the album chugs along there is surely a theme of travel, and of existing in modern times; “One” is one of the greatest rock-fusion songs ever made – it marks the point where Japanese psych music meets black metal tribal wailing. “Hall of Mirrirs” harks bzck to Kraftwerk’s Trabs Europe Exress album. Uzu is some kind of monumenal feat, for sure, even if it remains underrated and too unheralded in our time.

Best Tracks: One, Seasickness, Hall of Mirrors

68.Angels & Devils – The Bug (2014)

            In a way The Bug albums remind me of what Massive Attack did on Blue Lines back in 1991: they take the top vocalists they know of for the style they need which is some kind of mix of dance, reggae, and hip hop. The difference is that Kevin Martin has been doing this for 25 years under different monikers (Techno Animal, God, Ice) and refining his craft so that each of his albums keep getting better and better. While the record could be divided into two halves, each one devoted to different kinds of songs, it works as a whole better than almost anything else he has ever done.

            The world did not feel the same way, as Martin’s newest record got very mixed reviews but in honesty it is his most touching work. “Ascension” and “Pandi” are instrumentals of incredible power; “Function” and “Dirty” are some of the most badass reggae tracks ever made in any era; “Void”, “Mi Lost” and “Save Me” are some of the most odd and touching tracks Bug has done yet. Hopefully we won’t have to wait 6 years between each album from now on, as this record make you crave for more.

Best Tracks: Function, Save Me, Dirty, Mi Lost

69.Case / Lang / Veirs – s/t (2016)

            As different as these artists are, they work together to create a unified whole like few before them. The main comparison is Crosby/Stills/Nash and Young and the tri-vocal harmonies of “I Want to Be There” and “Atomic Number” displays this passionately. “Delirium” would be a true hit single from in alternate universe, with its odd structure and country music sway. Veirs dominates the record with 6 songs, while Case and Lang each have 4, but it is often blended into a unique whole, whereas 14 songs by only one of the artists may get old but together they are unstoppable.

        While I personally missed getting a complete Neko Case album this year (as she is my favorite female singer EVER), if these songs are any indication of how strong it would be, I am excited for the future. From the mysterious “Greens of June” (my favorite song of the year) and “Supermoon” to the torch ballad “Honey and Smoke” to upbeat/downbeat travelogues like “Best Kept Secret” and “Down I-5”, the variety is key to making the album work as a wholeThe production takes from late 60’s Nick Drake and Townes Van Zant arrangements with strings that echo the best of Randy Newman, Judee Sill, and Laura Nyro.

Best Songs: Greens of June, Best Kept Secret, Atomic Number, Delirium


70.The Roaring Night- The Besnard Lakes (2010)

            The Roaring Night is a continuation of the Besnard Lakes last album The Dark Horse (2007), which is a fine thing. This one ups the ante by being more thought out as a concept and more consistent. This is an album of extreme orchestration and emotion: The suites that begin each side of the album “Like the Ocean” and “Land of Living Skies” are soothing and devastating at the same time, like a wave of shoegaze hitting a wall of power pop chords. “And this is What We Call Progress” is the albums defining song, showing how to glide on the tracks and let the soundscapes truly shimmer.

            The relationship to Arcade Fire is unmistakable, but more of a compliment than anything else, as the Canadian husband and wife duo are more in sync with each other and at times form one consistent voice (perhaps more like Low than Arcade Fire). Some of the songs could go on longer than they do (“Glass Painter”, “Albatoss”), and some slightly over stay their welcome (“Land of Living Skies”, “Chicago Train”) but in all it is the tightest record yet from a band that has beat many hyped up bands at their own game. The Besnard Lakes exist in the shadows, waiting to be discovered. 

Best Tracks: And This is What We call Progress, Glass Painter, Like The Ocean Like the Innocent Pt. 2

71.Year of the Snitch – Death Grips (2018)

            Death Grips are the perfect kind of prolific, only releasing an album when they feel they have enough good ideas for the album. Seriously, the fact that nothing comes off as half assed is pretty impressive, as a follow up to one of the greatest albums I have ever heard (2016’s Bottomless Pit) it still stunning in completely new ways. The production is cleaner, and the thoughts are far more well pronounced than any past Death Grips released, as songs such as “Little Richard” or the stunning “Dilemma” could be taken seriously for contemporary radio hits. However there is plenty of controlled chaos to be had, whether it’s the madhouse ramblings of “Linda is in Custody” and “Hahaha”, the scary power of “Black Paint” or miniature tunes like “Outro” (which summons up the past madness of The Who’s “Boris the Spider”) and “The Horn Section” which still leave an impression despite their brevity. One of the best bands of the decade for sure, even though I never completely understand what they are yelling at me about.

72.METZ – s/t (2012)

            I’ll just say it: bands like METZ have become a rarity in the 2010’s. I don’t know what happened in since the dawn of the 21st century, but the term “rock” doesn’t mean what it used to. In the 1990’s, music seemed to be headed in a musical direction that was dark, grungy, and overall just HEAVY. Then came the commercialization of pop music and the pop “teen idols” that never seem to die or go away anymore, and rock music just seemed to take a turn over all towards the bland. Which is not a bad thing: music should constantly evolve. But every once in a while I need a band like METZ to remind me why I started listening to music in the first place, which is to rock n roll.

            The mixture of punky madness and noisy guitars are blended in a catchy way on “Get Off”, “Sad Pricks”, and “Headache”, a sort of amalgam of Mission of Burma, Nirvana, and Big Black. “Wet Blanket” is sort of an epic anthem about getting up and making something of yourself. “Rats” recalls the seattle scene of the late 1980’s almost TOO well, while “Knife in the Water” mimics the feeling of the Roman Polanski film in a terrorizing song form. Best of all, the album (and none of their albums so far this decade) overstay their welcome and are nice and compact. METZ doesn’t change the formula of rock music of old too much, but you don’t need to when you are able to be this awesome at making anger seem fun. Their debut album slams home a return to punk rock n’ roll of old and it’s very welcoming.

Best Tracks: Get Off, The Mule, Wet Blanket

73.Masseducation – St. Vincent     (2017)

            Annie Clark was probably leaning towards a rock-opera style album her entire career, but it still took me by surprise. Maybe the concept itself is not the surprise, but rather how well it all came off. Her last self-titled record was a rather disjointed and somewhat confused sounding affair, and this one is completely confident and shows an artist in complete control of her craft. Since her spectacular debut, 2007’s Marry Me, Clark has always shown a talent for eccentric vocal arrangement, and here she finally marries that to a coherent synthesized sound. As far as lyrical theme, there is something going on about growing up and getting overwhelmed by life in a metropolis. “Sometimes I feel like an inland ocean / too big to be a lake too small to be an attraction.” 
            Musically, themes are repeated, like the major riff of the mind blowing “Los Ageless” being hinted at in the song before it “Sugarboy”. Just listen in awe at the epic closer, “Smoking Section” with a chords powerful enough to shake the planet to its foundations. There are some varied influences too, the obvious one I hear is The Who’s Tommy but there is something about the mechanical nature of the songs that hints at the delirious industrial albums of Foetus and Pop Group. The old-fashioned torch ballads of “New York” and “Smoking Section” are used to great effect, serving as a break from the controlled chaos of “Fear the Future” and “Masseducation”, two of her best songs ever. I am still waiting for her outright, blistering guitar ROCK album as I have seen her live several times and I know the lady can shred! But until then this is my favorite thing she has done by far, as Clark manages to be both heartfelt and progressive at the same time.

  1. Brill Brusiers – The New Pornographers (2014)

The New Pornos definitely needed a comeback album, and 2014’s Brill Bruisers busts right out of the gate as just that. It’s not that Challengers or Together were bad, quite the opposite on the latter actually, but the kind of energy the band was known for has been largely missing since 2005’s Twin Cinema. BB gives us that energy, and the overall sheen and production quality is changed enough from the old mold to sound fresh. There were times that the fist two records, as magical as the were, had rather shabby production for music with high aspirations, but no longer! A.C. Newman says his influences were ELO and Xanadu on the record, hence the overuse of keyboards, and it brings a liveliness to the entire album (quite interesting to see on the live tour as well, as there is a dueling keyboard aspect).

            However, none of this would mean anything if the songs were not good, and in the rainbow colored “Brill Bruisers”, the haunting synths of “Backstairs”, and the jovial pop of “Wide Eyes” especially, this is a minor masterwork of power pop, heavily recalling the unity and bombast of Twin Cinema! The first half of the record is exceptionally strong, as each song has an entertaining melody or…five. “Champions of Red Wine” “War on the East Coast” have that laid back indie rock chug that the band has perfected, with seductive lead vocals by Neko Case and Dan Bejar respectively. “Fantasy Fools” and “Dancehall Domine” may be the underrated rockers of the albums, both are fantastic singles that stack up with the band’s impressive pop discography (they have truly out beat Electric Light Orchestra at their own game at this point!). Though the last part of the record does have some clunkers (“Spider”, “You Tell ME Where”) and the band has trouble ending an album as strong as they start it, Hopefully they can keep the high level of ingenuity and consistency at this pace in the future.

75.A Sailor’s Guide to Earth – Sturgill Simpson (2016)

               Sturgill Simpson makes country music in such a way that it does not matter if it falls in the genre or not. More than trying to be a anyone’s cup of tea, he is always uniquely himself. Covering Nirvana’s “In Bloom” is the most obvious example, and it is quite the unique take on the song. But more impressive is the rang of style present on the album, sometime within the same song: watching opener ‘Welcome to Earth Pollywog” transform from piano ballad to gospel infused Van Morrison style rocker is a wonder; funk music echoing Little Feat in music and vocals rule on “Keep It Between the Lines” and “Sea Stories” that go far beyond the borders of country music; ballads are abundant and well done, with “Breaker’s Roar” and “All Around You” using a symphony’s worth of instruments to create genuine moments of musical pathos.

               The greatest moment on the record is “Brace for Impact” perhaps his masterpiece so far; the synthesizer outro to the groove laden tune is the most spine-tingling moment on an already impressive record. “Call to Arms” produces similar euphoric elements, threating to spiral out of control towards the end of the record with a bang. With his breakthrough record Metamodern Sounds in Country Music (2014), Simpson announced his presence as a futurist and traditionalist of country-rock, much like Dwight Yoakum before him. As long as he keeps making records like this one, hopefully the focus will not be on how he is or isn’t country music, but just on the amazing albums he crafts that blend all styles of music. In the end, all that matters is the quality.

Best Songs: Brace for Impact, Call to Arms, Breakers Roar

76.America – Dan Deacon (2012)

Dan Deacon’s brand of rock music will probably never be popular. It’s too calculated, professional, and quite honestly, too old fashioned. But that doesn’t make it any less relevant or necessary to our culture. Even though he gets the most out of overdubs and keyboard effects, kind of music harks back to early 20th century classical composers that made suites instead of short rock songs. The first three tracks on the album work pretty well and are similar to what Deacon achieved on his last record, “True Thrush” and “Lots” especially bring great use to backwards and pitch shifting vocals, but it’s nothing we haven’t heard before. The main part of this album that works is the last half, titled simply “USA”. It all plays like one long song: “Is a Monster” paints an epic backdrop of sounds first by using a horn section that quickly resolves into a valley of synthesizers and sound effects; “The Great American Desert” has an almost tribal and native American type elegance, as the voices hum and howl over the drums and synth-orchestra; “Rail” paints images harking back to the trans-continental railroad and has marimbas and xylophones that play to the effects of rain drops; “Manifest” sums up the USA suite in a parade of noisy electronic lightening bolts and other-worldly chanting. America is super ambitious and is like nothing else out there, as is all Dan Deacon music, but should be heard if you are thinking seriously about what is possible in music. 

Best Tracks: USA, Lots

77.El Camino – Black Keys (2011)

            The Black Keys first three albums have always stuck with me. Ever since I heard them back in the early 00’s, they have been a beacon of fun rock n roll when hard rock bands of any form were a rarity (I still believe rock music almost died back around the turn of the century. Boy bands nearly killed it you guys!). Rubber Factory (2004), especially, has kind of been the standard for me, and nothing has really done it like those first three records…until El Camino came along. It wasn’t that this was a departure for the band as Brothers had come out the year right before, but where Brothers felt overlong and kind of labored as a record, El Camino triumphs as a perfect example of what the band does best with its succinct length and perfect song playlist order. I mean the timeless “Gold on the Ceiling”, “Money Maker”, and “Lonely Boy” are the standouts and they are amazing examples of blues rock.

            But there is a depth to the album too: album tracks such as “Sister” and “Stop Stop” are tons of fun to listen too while “Dead and Gone”, “Nova Baby” and “Run Right Back” could easily be singles or standouts as well; the album almost plays like a greatest hits of sorts and many of these songs have been picked as standards and sports events around the world. “Little Black Submarines” goes even deeper, picking parts from classic Led Zeppelin and Tom Petty songs and gluing them back together in their own fashion. It is a consistently amazing album of straight up rock n roll, and I don’t care where it originates- it takes a ton of talent and skill to keep this kind of old fashion garage rock fresh in the 2010’s. So kudos to the Black Keys, for keeping mainstream rock music better than it has any right to be. I can’t ask for anything more from a band who just released their seventh record. 

Best Tracks: Money Maker, Gold on the Ceiling, Mind Eraser, Stop Stop

78.My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West (2010)

            It’s interesting to look back on Kanye’s best album from the end of the decade. West is still loved in most circles, but he has certainly lost some credibility among many of his fans with his politics and personality trumping his actual musical output (haha….). Though it was his fifth full record, MBDTF was honestly the first Kayne record I liked all the way through. I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that he is open and fully honest on this one. He is honest about being lost in the world, about being a monstrous personality, about being an asshole, the way few artists let alone people ever are. Kanye first and foremost puts his massive ego and sense of humor on display for the world all of the songs were self-centered, so they worked.

            Not to say that he doesn’t tackle other subjects or current politics (see the King Crimson sampling “Power” for a genius example of that) but the fact that most of this album works very well is a tribute to how honest, heartfelt music can produce the best results. It doesn’t hurt that he got the best production money could buy and best collaborators either, but that wouldn’t have meant anything without great music. The opening of “Dark Fantasy” building to the groovy throwback soul of “Gorgeous” culminating with “Power” is a killer one-two-three punch to start a record off.
           
            While I don’t think Kanye West is the best rap artist around and I do think he is overrated to some extent, he is a powerful force in mainstream hip hop. Most rap music that gets played on the radio are one hit wonders with no personality, so it is a joy to hear someone that stands out from the ordinary. In the tapestry of albums released in the 2010’s so far, this one is usually listed by critics one top of everything else. I have no real problem with that, though I would be hard pressed to find people that think “Devil In a Blue Dress”, “Blame Game”, or “Hell of a Life” are great songs. But with the powerful guest roster on “Monster” (creating a well-deserved star out of Nikki Manaj) and “So Appalled”, the stadium epic power houses “All of the Lights” and “Runaway”, and the rather historic closers “Lost in America” and “Who Will Survive In America”, it has plenty of great songs to go around. It is a well thought out and well executed album, as flawed and frustrating as its creator Kanye West. If the modern critical music society were going to pick out one album to champion above the rest, they did a good job of picking this one. But I would say that about any record in my top 100 on a given day.

Best Tracks: Monster, Power, So Appalled, Runaway

79.Years to Burn – Calexico and Iron and Wine (2019)

These two artists blend together so naturally that they must have been born to play together. The ease in which they make beautiful music is rather bewildering, but i am glad they decided to do so once more. The record mostly belongs to Iron and Wine, with “Father Mountain”, “Years to Burn” and “Follow the Water” being clear stand outs. Calexico has a little more of say then on the last collaboration though, with “Midnight Sun” and most of the “Bitter Suite” baring Joey Burns distinct flavor. In fact, Burns’ influence is more detectable this time around on Beam’s singing if not also his songwriting, and it sounds more as of a cohesive unit. It is a very relaxing, laid back, gospel-folk record that i highly recommend once again. Both artists are super consistent, and this is a proper album at over 30 minutes in length proving sometimes 8 songs is plenty to make a complete listening experience.

 

80.Cancer for Cure – El-P (2012)

            Some people forget that before Run the Jewels, El-P had a huge underground career. He started Company Flow in the late 90’s, he produced many artists on his DefJux record label including Aesop Rock and Cannibal Ox, and he has had several solo albums including this one. Cancer 4 Cure could be seen as a precursor to RTJ as it even has Killer Mike a guest a couple of times, most notably on “Tougher, Colder, Killer”. The album as a whole feels very cold and calculated, like rap that comes at you from Antarctica. There are many times that El-P’s raps come flying at you like nothing else he has done before: “The Jig is Up” features a plethora of self hate and loathing; “Works Every Time” and “Drones Over Brooklyn” could almost be an arena rock anthems; “True Story” and “Stay Down” could have been killer singles in El-P wasn’t so independently minded. However it is that independent mindset that fuels the albums manifesto; the hard hitting truth could only come from someone who has been there and done it all. And to think, he was on the verge of re-inventing himself yet again the next year. 

Best Tracks: Stay Down, Drones Over Brooklyn, Sign Here, The Jig Is Up

81.Hell On – Neko Case (2018)

       I am glad to say I am never disappointed in a Neko album. At best it’s a masterpiece, at worst it’s a fun challenge. This album serves as a break of sorts for sure, a sort of laid-back quieter affair attuned to Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska. On first listen I disliked this album, on subsequent listens I loved it; so in other words a typical Neko Case release. She never adheres to a formula, and she always fills songs with surprise twists (the multiple vocal effects of “Gumball Blue”) or sustains suspense with guest’s vocals. Her longest song ever on an album is the almost eight minute duet with Mark Lanegan “Curse of the I-5 Corridor”, a nod to her obsession driving down I-5 she first started on the album with K.D. Lang and Laura Veirs. The Eric Bachmann (Archers of Loaf frontman) collaboration “Sleep all Summer” is less successful, but it is still a haunting classic country ballad. In that same vain we have “Bad Luck”, an easy lead single form the record and one of her most fun tracks ever. “My Uncle’s Navy” is the hardest rocking track, and it is as menacing as it is haunting.

            The best thing about Neko is as always her insanely structured songs. I literally don’t know how you write a song like “Dirty Diamond”, it is so full of twists and turns but it SOUNDS very flowing and easy; it literally takes a surgeon’s focus to deconstruct its multiple flowing facets. “Oracle of the Maritimes” would be a metal song if the guitar had more distortion or if there were any percussion at all- just imagine a metal vocalist singing it. Oh and then it breaks into a prog-rock keyboard led instrumental bridge, wtf?? The mutated closing country rock of “Pitch or Honey” (Lyric sample: “moonlight reflected is many times stronger”), perhaps the first half is pitch and the last half is honey? Perhaps I’m not as smart as her so I don’t understand. But I have heard enough music to know a truly dense masterwork when I hear it.

Greatest tracks: Curse of the I-5 Corridor, My Uncle’s Navy, Pitch or Honey, Dirty Diamond

82.In Between – The Feelies (2017)

            There are some bands you get into after years and years of listening to music, that really don’t make much sense upon first listens. This band is like that, as their influences at first seem to be obvious but once you really listen there are layers and layers of subtlety to dig out. Do all their songs sound the same or is it just that they have that distinctive of a sound? The Feelies have been around for forty years now, and their music still works because it is timeless and simple. Beyond that, it feels simultaneously daring and effortless as well, and songs like “Stay the Course” or “Pass the Time” prove by sounding exactly like something that could have come off of 1986’s The Good Earth. “Time Will Tell”, creeping in toward the end of the album, is one of the greatest folk/rock jangles to ever come along by any group.

For The Feelies, patience is a virtue as they move at their own pace and make you wait for the big payoff. Every record they have made since the 1980s has depicted stillness as a mood, whether is it being up mellow and remaining on the same three chords on the peaceful “When to Go”, or playing it ferociously busy and distorted such as album closer “In Between(reprise).” They make it seem so easy to make great music and every time they release an album it is a blessing. They will never get into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, but they are always waiting for discovery to the true fans of music.

Best Songs: Time Will Tell, In Between Reprise, Stay the Course, When To Go

83.Anastasis – Dead Can Dance (2012)

            Following his 2010 excellent lo-fi self-produced release Ark, Brendan Perry decided to release an album with longtime partner Lisa Gerrard under the DCD moniker for the first time in 15 years as well as do some touring worldwide. By this decade, the group had amassed a following now greater than their heyday in the 1980’s and their brand of world music via gothic and haunting overtones was more fashionable. Their new songs didn’t sound that different than their old songs, and that is a good thing when they are as strong as “Opium” and “Children of the Sun”. “Amnesia” paints a song using instruments like bassoon and tuba to add another layer to a haunting tale questioning the validity and consciousness of memory.
            The middle eastern “Agape” is a timeless chant by Gerrard, her voice a more powerful force than any mere instrument, and “Return of the She King” is another stunner: slow and deliberate but utterly enchanting. The eight-minute “Kiko” could be her ultimate attempt on the Gregorian Chant style of music. Each songwriter on their own can become a bit monotonous at times on solo albums, but Gerrard’s stream of consciousness blends with Perry’s more folk driven stories of loss as well on Anastasis as on their early work, and it’s a welcome return by one of the greatest bands to fall under the moniker of rock n roll, as misleading of a moniker as that can be for a style that has existed for centuries.

84.Dude Incredible – Shellac (2014)

            I love Steve Albini and Co. approach to rock n roll, so minimal but soooo effective. Just guitar bass drums and vocals and that’s all you need, listening to Dude Incredible constantly revitalizes my faith in music. There is a sort of mathematical precision to any song Albini writes himself, and it makes sense that his father was a rocket scientist (literally). There are tons of imitators, but no one suffices. Steve Albini, Bob Weston, and Todd Trainer make just about every note and drum beat sound awesome. Riding Bikes? Ok! Being totally and utterly “Compliant” in our everyday lives? YES. “You Came In Me”…..I’m confused on that one… but ok! What could only be called an unhealthy obsession with surveyors, because it’s in three of the song titles…..but probably a dig at music critic’s at the same time. Lyrics like “You times son of a bitch SQUARED!” are yelled at us with unbridled passion, as many of the lyrics are just odd mathematical equations. To me it sounds interesting! But I have a mathy brain, you might say.

            Every couple of years I gotta have my Albini dose of rock n roll. Albini even gives us one of his own unique ballads with “Gary” and it really sounds unlike anything else I have ever heard. Some would say this music is depressing – I say life affirming. “The People’s Microphone” is an instrumental obsessed with the speed of a song, constantly changing in tempo. The thing with Shellac is this, and it’s always been this: simple is good. You can do more with live recordings, analog tape, and three people in a band then most can do with huge studio budgets and overloads of musicians crowding spaces. Here is more proof, if you have forgotten. 

Best Tracks: Dude Incredible, Gary, Riding Bikes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TmoCYy8xfk

85.Have You in My Wilderness – Julia Holter (2015)

            This album gets even closer to approachable then her previous masterpiece, 2013’s Loud City Song. While Holter will more than likely never fall into generic pop music or become accessible to the mainstream, she succeeds in remaining a valuable singer-songwriter for our time. In a different way then her obvious contemporary, Joanna Newsom, she can portray emotions through oblique soundscapes that are out of reach for other artists of her generation. She may be more Jane Siberry than Kate Bush at this point as well, as she aims higher and reaches deeper than most people would dare too. While many of the tracks are aimed to attract new listeners (opener and lead single “Feel You” is actually catchy, and perhaps creates her most carefree tune yet with “Everytime Boots”) she remains impenetrable except for those that dare to rise to her level.

            Half of the songs on this album aren’t even anchored to a rhythmic beat at all; they just sort of drift along in the ether. “How Long?” is almost agonizing as is drifts along at its slow pace, while “Lucette Stranded on the Island” has perhaps her most beautiful repetitive climax yet. “Betsy On the Roof” is the most complex composition, remaining entertaining despite its many vocal embellishments, and maybe my favorite song of hers. There is so much existential yearning within Holter’s music and no matter how accessible it gets, it always teeters on the edge of a nervous breakdown. ”Sea Calls Me Home” meshes all of Holter’s attributes so far into a haunting sea shanty with a killer saxophone solo! If she falters on a couple of songs (“Vasquez” is maybe too aimless and “Night Song” is a little redundant), the approach still works wonders on tunes that are sublimely beautiful, and that fact alone ranks her among the great experimental composers of our time.

Greatest Songs: Betsy on the Roof, Everytime Boots, Sea Calls Me Home, Lucette Stranded on the Island

86.Mariner – Cult of Luna (2016)

               The balance of female and male roaring voices are a joy to behold on the joint collaboration Mariner, as with previous Cult of Luna releases we feel worn out by the end of them but it was worth the exhilarating experience. Guest vocalist singer/screamer Julie Christmas who adds plenty of imagination on opener “A Great Call” is a perfect example of this, building the sound in a very accessible way. For black metal / sludge metal whatever subgenre you want to call it, it doesn’t get much better than “Chevron” or “Cygnus”, both shifting epics that change tempo and melodies several times over the course of nine to thirteen minutes, the latter notably turning into an odd nursery rhyme by the end.

               Swedish / Norwegian metal has such a devoted fanbase I’m sure someone could school me in other bands of the genre I will leave out or not recognize fully on this listing, but for a person just trying to listen to everything, this album stood out among the enormous number of releases I have heard this decade. In particular, “The Wreck of S.S. Needle” appeals to me as some kind of homage to Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” except you know……if Gordon was a demon from hell. Fun stuff.

Best Tracks: Chevron, The Wreck of the SS Needle

87.Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes (2011)

            The second album from Fleet Foxes does what a second album should and expands their sounds in many ways. The album itself is longer with more songs, and the song lengths are longer as well, some exceeding eight minutes. There is a bit of a progressive rock ambition in songs such as “The Plains/Bitter Dancer” and “The Shrine / An Argument”, and it especially succeeds in the latter by becoming an almost experimental art piece. Much of the old folk and jangle pop sound still survives on the albums strongest tunes: “Battery Kinzie” is a jolly tune that matches any vocal harmonies from the previous record, “Lorelai” is giddy with homage to Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde album tracks, “Grown Ocean” is an epic way to summarize the album with music and lyrics to match; “Montezuma” is a folk tune for the ages that is truly timeless.

            Any influence singer/songwriter Robin Pecknold once had (My Morning Jacket, Crosby Stills Nash, Beachwood Sparks, Kingsbury Manx) is more synergized and blended together and combined with the larger ambitions as Fleet Foxes out grows their old sound to form a sound with no stylistic limit. This was to be their last record for a while (though they did end up reforming recently) as the band members would break up and splinter into other projects after this record, notably drummer Tillman’s Father John Misty project. With the promise of this album and the ambition present, Fleet Foxes have the potential to do about anything.

Best Tracks: The Shrine/ An Argument, Battery Kinzie, The Cascades

 

88.Then Came the Morning – The Lone Bellow (2015)

A great blast of gospel infused folk rock, that reminds one of a more upbeat Cowboy Junkies. The Lone Bellow (that’s ‘bellow’ like a yell, not ‘below’ like I mispronounced it for years) is an apt name for this group, who always sing and perform like their entire life is on the line. The group that is equal parts male /female know when to rock out (“Cold as It Is”, “Heaven Don’t Call Me Home”) and when to use dynamics in the favor of the song with great highs and lows (the masterful ballad “Fake Roses” and the classic rock influenced “If You Don’t Love Me”) not to mention well made anthems like “Take My Love”, one of many songs that im not sure why was not a big hit on the radio.

             They also know when to play for the emotional impact: “Marietta” builds and builds into an emotional climax that could last for days, title track “Then Came the Morning” setting the standard for music to grab the listener by the heart and grip on tightly. Ballads are the one area when the band kind of blends into the Americana crowd, but some still stick out like “Call to War”, a beautiful song with a great melody sung by Kanene Pipkin.  I had the pleasure of seeing the group live at the Pilgrimage music festival in 2016, and it was pretty amazing to watch the crowd respond to the music, it was very hypnotic effect. It’s old fashioned music for sure, rooted in country, gospel, and folk but it is done with great heart and consistency rarely found. Sometimes it is not fashionable to like band’s like this, but honestly its what keeps tradition alive and that is equally as important as innovation.

Best Songs: Fake Roses, Call to War, Cold as it Is, Marietta

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2J2ORn4i28Y

89.We Got It from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service – A Tribe Called Quest (2016)

               Most reunion albums from decade’s old acts fall flat on their face, which makes Tribe’s so much more triumphant. A sprawling 16 song album that contains about 20 years’ worth of ideas, it’s really solid for such a long record. Some of the samples used this time around are a little more pop culture oriented, from Willy Wonka at the end of “The Space Program” or Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” in “Solid Wall of Sound”, even sampling samples that have already been sampled : Musical Youth on “Dis Generation” channeling Public Enemy’s Fear of a Black Planet.

               All of this reminds us that Tribe were very much originals when it came to the start of sampling back in the early 80’s. Some songs really evolve and change halfway through: super moody “Melatonin”, while other deepen the jazz rap of old, especially “Enough!!” which is my favorite song on here and a great example of a dark love song only Q-Tip can produce. Phife Dog is missed as he had passed away by the time the album came out, but from the vocal examples he was able to leave his mastery of reggae is amazing still as exemplified by “Black Spasmodic” and “Solid Wall of Sound”. “Lost Somebody” is Q-tip and the groups homage to their fallen comrade, and it may cause some tears among hardcore fans, sampling the band Can’s “Halleluhwah”.

               Merging new and old guest MC’s reminding us why they are called a Tribe, Kendrick Lamar, Busta Rhymes, Anderson Paak, Talib Kweli and many more. Album ends with 2 of the best songs, the punching “Ego” where Q-Tip evaluates himself like few rappers do, and “The Donald” a commentary on the current political climate and a great posse track a la the classic of old “Scenario”. I wonder what people think of in the 2010’s if this is their first A Tribe Called Quest Record….I can only imagine they would wanna go check out Low End Theory and Midnight Marauders for the first time, and I’m kinda jealous of that newness.

Best Songs: Enough!!, Ego, Melatonin, Black Spasmodic

90.The Black Angels – Death Song (2017)

            The Black Angels have always excelled at making music of a certain blend of older Psychedelic rock icons, but now they have finally branched out into a more soul-searching kind of sound. It’s still got a hard rock edge, it’s still very rooted in mysticism, but this is their attempt at the “death song” mood of the ballads by early Velvet Underground and the like. “Half Believing” is a successful attempt at a new introspective ballad (perhaps a break up song?) as well as the even more underrated is “Estimate”. The native American influenced “Comanche Moon” blends in with the blistering opener “Currency”, as the dour mood of the music often gives glimpses of hope in the cheerful lyrics, “Never gonna lose you darling / never let them shoot us down”.

               Death Song is their best album of this decade, and ranks up with Directions to See a Ghost from 2008 as their best record. It’s always hard to decide when there is a band that has a very distinctive sound, especially when that sound is so obviously based in music of the psychedelic genre; the Pink Floydish “Life Song” and Clinic influenced “Medicine” are the best examples of that. Lead singer Alex Mass is just a great songwriter, with songs like “I’d Kill for Her” and “Grab as Much as You Can” really showing off entertaining grooves. Black Angels are that rare mix of trippy and catchy that is hard to pull off, even if their albums are variations on the same theme. The little ways in which they change the formula is the part that remains the most captivating. In the genre of 21st century psychedelic rock, I can’t think of a more hypnotic and entertaining rock band.

Best Songs: Half Believing, Estimate, Currency, Life Song

  1. Secret Blood – Shannon Wright (2010)

           

            Somehow Shannon Wright keeps changing her sound, ever so slightly. She can still kick ass with her dissonant bass heavy sound, and she can still charm your socks off with her pretty piano ballads. That mix of harsh and fragile produces some mighty rocking tracks once again: the unnerving “Violent Colors”, the brief and powerful “Fractured”, and the angelic but angular “Commoner’s Saint”. This time around the gorgeous ballads like the delicate “In the Needle”, repetitious piano of “Dim Reader”, and epic “Under the Luminaries” display her knack for purging the human soul.

            Shannon Wright is aware of her influences in a pretty big way, even though she remains uniquely herself. She dwells in her own sadness but makes it a very moving experience for the listener while she does it. Opening track “Palomino” is an homage to the greatest female artist of them all, Lisa Germano, and many of the tracks retain a quality reminiscent of PJ Harvey, Throwing Muses, and Susanne Vega. Since she started in the mid-1990’s, Wright has proven that she can do about any style of music well – she truly is one of the great artists of our time, male or female. This is one of her greatest albums along with Dyed I the Wool (2001) and Let in the Light (2007). 

Best Tracks: In the Needle, Violent Colors, Commoner’s Saint, Dim Reader

92.From Kinshasa – MbongWana Star (2015)

               The music created by the ensemble Mbongwana Star on From Kinsasha is a joy to behold, not merely a highly danceable record but one that strikes emotional chords as well. Sung mostly in the native Congolese language, songs such as “Shegue” and “Masoblele” prove music’s universal appeal, the latter featuring a repetitive line that is impossible to get out of your head. While many artists from Michael Jackson to Talking Heads to Paul Simon sampled the sounds of Africa on their 80’s rock albums, it is refreshing to hear the opposite come true here; the sounds of modern Congo republic mixing with the digital language of the 2010’s.

               “Malukayi” features one of Africa’s most popular bands of the decade Konono Number One on a tune that mixes multiple forms of percussive noises, and best of all is “Kala” a sort of tribal dance revolution that sounds like the wave of the future. As the album goes onward it picks up more and more of a percussive force, with “Suzanna” threating to fly off the rails and “Kimpala Pala” weaving mystical webs of emotion all over the place. Whether it’s a type of hymn to the universe or just a killer album full of groves, From Kinsasha is a revolutionary album of the 21st century.

Best songs: Kala, Masobele, Suzanna, Kimpala Pala

93.Malibu Ken – s/t  (2019)

               Aesop Rock has always benefited from having an eccentric producer to match his manic rhyming vocabulary. El-P is his most famous previous collaborator, but here Tobacco produces the album as a perfect accomplice, providing each of the album ten songs with its own circus psychedelic atmosphere. Both artists contribute to the project resulting in a brand-new act named Malibu Ken, and The result is unlike anything I have heard before, a kind of fluorescent armadillo rapping down the interstate, upside down of course. Each methodic rhyme scheme is matched with beautifully flush sound effects, like single ready “Corn Maze’ and the translucent vocals of “Acid King”.

                The slow-motion party vibe of “Tuesday” is another highlight, as the sound of the album refuses to quit. The odd topics for rap songs Aesop is famous for continues here, with ‘Churro” being a true oddity about what a vulture considers a snack, and also the down on his luck magician of “Sword Box”. And for over all trippy effects check out the chorus on the bizarre “Dog Years” a song with a slow tempo but a super sonic fast rap. I love that Aesop always tries to new use new words not usually heard in music as well, lyric sample from “1 plus 1 = 13”: “My lucky sevens only ever make it up to six/ Every three tries Satan kind of wins/ Untied shoes aliven a wild goose/ The winner is unrelenting, the kindling is fireproof.” Team ups like this fuel rock, techno and hip hop into the future, fusing all the genres into some kind of fantastic jelly. Drink it up!

Best songs: Dog Years, Tuesday, Acid King

94.Smoke Ring for My Halo – Kurt Vile (2011)

            Kurt Vile provided an interesting contrast to most of the musical acts of the 2010’s mainly by just being his eccentric self. His style is a mix of classic rock and obscure British folk-rock from the 1970’s, and such an odd combination had never really been tried before. His breakthrough record Smoke Ring for My Halo is a true masterpiece that has revitalized my taste for simple, haunting and catchy music. Echoes of Nick Drake’s depressing Pink Moon and vocal warbles channeling Tom Petty at his most charming. “Baby’s Arms”, “On Tour”, and “Runner Ups” search the soul and bring back memories of Kevin Ayers early work.

            The talented guitar work goes a long way, as Vile can not only really play the instrument but finds creative ways to make memorable guitar licks. “Jesus Fever” and “In My Time” get just about everything right about true singer songwriters making memorable music, providing a mix of Cat Stevens and Lou Reed at times. To those critics who think there is nothing redeeming about Vile’s sound, there is: while it is based in classic traditions it creates something new and effective. For each song that can incorporate more in atmosphere alone (“Baby’s Arms, “Society is My Friend”), the album points forward and allowed for more songwriters of similar qualities (Courtney Barnett, Amen Dunes, Sharon Van Etten, Cass McCombs, etc.) to flourish; and that’s really what it’s all about. 

Best Tracks: In My Time, Jesus Fever, Society is My Friend

95.Luxury Problems – Andy Stott (2012)

            If this is the techno music of the future, it will be a dark future indeed. Though the light female vocals do sound somewhat comforting at times (especially in opener “Numb” and chanter “Hatch the Plan”) most the album feels like people being used and abused in a systematic way. It might make a good sound track for a dystopian future type scenario like Blade Runner, 1984, or Metropolis. The first half of the record probably works the best, with “Lost and Found” being the most traditional tune and “Sleepless” being the most futuristic – its black hole type beats propel the genre forward in a very unique way. The second half of the record works too, but it’s hardly dance music- more a like a murky ambient mess. For all the downtrodden and dark sounds produced on the record, closer “Leaving” does leave some hope to be found. In all I am glad the record exists, and when I am in the mood to be enthralled and inspired I pull it out for a listen. The claustrophobic atmosphere is enticing.

Best Tracks: Sleepless, Hatch the Plan, Numb

96.Too Bright – Perfume Genius (2014)

            Perfume Genius shows a mastery over his odd brand of rock music on his 3rd record. Everything he tries works brilliantly, and he is more adventurous than ever before. He is still his insular self though, with opener “I Decline” and title track “Too Bright” crooning you along like nothing at all has changed in his simple piano lead ways. For every challenging moment, the is a small ballad next up to serve as a brief respite from the terror, for example the old fashioned melody trapped in the middle of “Don’t Let Them In”.

            Advances are also shown in “Fool”, a song that is mostly abstract sound painting smack dab in the middle of the song but manages to open and close with a catchy melody. “Grid” and “My Body” are amazingly dark and scary songs that point to a direction of intensity that I hope he explores further on other records; the songs are rhythmic but not meant to be danced too. The opposite is true for “LongPig” a sort of electronic tribal dance party. These kind of tricks are just there to show off how GOOD a songwriter Hadreas actually is, and hopefully his audience will keep expanding. The most accessible example of this type of song is of course “Queen”, penning the immortal line “no family is safe when I sashay”. Too Bright lives up to its title, though the title can be misleading, and it shows that he is full of so many ideas he doesn’t know what to do with himself. 

Best Tracks: Fool, Grid, My Body, Queen

97.Field of Reeds – These New Puritans (2013)

            These New Puritans are the true heirs to Talk Talk in every since of the word. Consequently, that means their sound grows in quality and range of each album. Their debut record in 2008 was inconsistent and overbearing at times, but 2010’s Hidden and 2013’s Field of Reeds take that sound to its (illogical) conclusion. If 2010’s Hidden was their Spirit of Eden, Field of Reeds is their Laughing Stock. The style of music here goes far beyond mere rock music influences, and it still manages to be very insightful.

            This record employs opera style singing to free form compositions in “V (island song)”, repetitive synth from the depths of space on “Organ Eternal”, and a sense of longing like no other on the title track and “Fragment Two”. Listening to this album is akin to take your first step on a newly discovered planet in a new galaxy: scary, exciting, and baffling. But Field of Reeds is a triumph for music, it is a step up in sound quality and production much like Tortoise and post rock bands were is the 90’s. Its use of alternate instruments not traditionally used in rock music (collage sample machine, oboes, bassoons, tympani’s,) add to the sense that bands like TNP are needed to push rock music in new directions WHILE ALSO being entertaining and melodic songs. They fight and struggle for their art, like all great bands do. 

Best Tracks: V, Organ Eternal, Fragment Two

98.Halo – Juana Molina (2017)

            Argentina’s Juana Molina is a lot of fun and transcends boundaries of language. Songs such as “Cosoco” and “Estalacticas” don’t have to be literally interpreted to be enjoyed, and the Portuguese language It has never sounded as charming as when it comes from her multi-vocal approach. At age 55, she shows no signs of slowing down in her efforts to make boundary-defying music. Sometimes there are a dozen different voices, all harmonizing with themselves in alien-trance like patterns (“Sin Dones”, “In the Lassa”). Other time we are treated to her vocals with bare accompaniment (“Lentisimo Halo”) and almost a new kind of Hip hop music in “AOO B01”. She has been making great music this entire decade, and while this album may not be quite as great as 2008’s Un Dia, it is the closest she has come to making the sound of South American rock music valid for the 21st century audience.

Best Tracks: AOO b01, Cosoco, In the Lassa

99.To Be Kind – Swans (2014)

            If I wonder one thing about the newest incarnation of Swans it’s why all of their albums have to be so long. I mean, there is nothing wrong with it, and a lot of their best 80’s and 90’s records were over an hour or so (Children of God, White Light From the Mouth of Infinity, and I guess Soundtracks of the Blind would be the template to the future). But at ten songs, this album is loooonnngggg at over two hours. If you took the six or seven best songs off of it and shorten some of the lengths of the tracks, To Be Kind would be the most accessible thing the band has ever done. But only Michael Gira could be accessible while still being uncompromising as hell. Never forget, this is a man with a band whose 1984 anthem was “nobody rapes you like a cop, with a club, in JAIL!” Not exactly the poster band for the Grammys.

            Swans have been around since the early 1980’s and the stylistic change they have gone through is like no other band in rock history. In his 60’s now and with a line up of industrial band’s elite players, leader Michael Gira shows no signs of really compromising. If you want more friendly melodies, they come with seven-minute song lengths at the minimum and thirty plus minutes at the maximum. If you want music with verse and chorus and normal structures, look elsewhere because Swans don’t do that: beyond minimalism, the music is repetitive to the point of insanity. But who wants that? The reason Swans are more popular then they have ever been (this album debuted in the Billboard top 40….it’s gotta be some kind of record) is because music lover’s tastes are catching up with Swans. They have always been ahead of the curve, and songs like “Little God in My Hand: and “Screen Shot” just solidify what the true fans have known for years: Swans are the most adventurous band currently in rock n Roll. 

Best Tracks: She Loves Us, Just a Little Boy, Nathalie Neal

100.Blues Funeral – Mark Lanegan (2012)

         When Mark Lanegan is on, he is ON man. This album is one example of this among many of his others (The Winding Sheet, Whiskey for the Holy Ghost, Field Songs), and this is Lanegan at his most experimental. He covers a plethora of rock music genres: “Riot in my House” and “Quiver Syndrome” are pulsating tracks that sound like they could be coming from the Rolling Stones themselves; “Gray Goes Black” and “Ode to Sad Disco” are dance rock at its best, the latter hilariously spoofing disco; “Bleeding Muddy Water” and “St. Louis Elegy” are grieving blues at its best for those who have never been moved by a blues song before; “Phantasmagoria Blues” and “Harborview Hospital” are the traditional ballads, minus the guitar of old and replacing with keyboards. The whole album has a lo-fi self-produced feel that totally works (it was produced by Alain Johannes)

         In fact, all of the instruments favor digital and modern age touches which is a nice change of pace from the former master of acoustic instruments like Lanegan was in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. I would almost describe this as Lanegan’s most accessible album as well, as the opening track “Gravedigger’s Song” is the closest thing to a defining song he has ever done: the gravel of Tom Waits meets the raw blues of Morphine with the drive of a modern Jim Morrison. Ditto for closer “Tiny Grain of Truth”, where Lanegan dubs himself the ‘shadow king’ of the 2010’s and I couldn’t agree more. This was Lanegan’s first release since 2004’s Bubblegum and it showed in the strength of the material; there is not a bad track on the whole thing.

Best Tracks: Gravediggers Song, Quiver Syndrome, Phantasmagoria Blues, Riot In My House