AdHoc staffers highlight their personal favorites of the decade, in no particular order.
The last 10 years have proved to be quite the rollercoaster for the landscape of music. A lot has shifted––how we listen to it, how it’s being recorded, how it’s rolled out, and who’s making it. With all these changes bouncing around in our heads, we attempted to write about our personal favorite albums of the decade.
See below for the list of albums of our staff’s personal favorites of the 2010s, written for your reading pleasure, in no particular order. Enjoy!
I spent the greater part of this decade writing about artists I felt were pushing music forward, responding to this technological moment with sounds that captured the specific anxieties and possibilities of a world where we spend more and more of our time online. On first listen, Cass McCombs’ Mangy Love felt the antithesis of that, transporting me back to long afternoons spent idling alone by a stream in college, listening to rock and folk music from the 70s and trying to connect with some old ideal of what it meant to be American, one full of open roads and eccentric truth-seekers.
But I never fully got there, and this album doesn’t either. Its heavenly guitar slides and aching vocal melodies may add up to bewitching fantasy of a time when the days felt long and we navigated a vast and unknowable world without a cellphone as a compass, sure. But on closer inspection, any semblance of meaning, of some tangible story to hold on to, falls away—it’s hard to find our way in this world of “Opposite houses,” Chinese alleys, and obscure references to the ancients. Which means that ultimately, Mangy Love is as much a reflection of the allure of the past as it is an approximation of what it feels like to try to make sense of a world where “reality” boils down to the disconnected impressions of a Twitter timeline. Just when the spell feels especially intoxicating, we’re confronted with an intrusion from the present: Netflix and die. —Emilie Friedlander
In 2010, I graduated high school, started my first year at college, and discovered Daughters. I made so many copies of their self-titled 2010 release on so many CDs and wore each out in my trusty Toyota 4-Runner. For so long, I just wanted another Daughters album and, after 8 years, they finally delivered, with You Won’t Get What You Want.
When they dropped the first single, “Satan in the Wait,” I realized Daughters was fully and totally BACK. My excitement (and anxiety) grew with each single release. Are these three songs going to be the only good tracks? Or will the whole release be just as important to me as that album from years ago? It was: After the album dropped in October of last year, we were inseparable. I felt it in my chest, and the hairs on my neck stood fully at attention. It became my daily soundtrack, the background to every activity. It HIT me, and I continue to remain excited about it every time I push play. Since then, I’ve seen them three times and plan for another before this year is over. This album resonates in a way I haven’t felt in almost a decade, and I really don’t see myself getting tired of it anytime soon. —Drew Martin
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is the closest a hip-hop album has ever come to capturing the essence of good theater. Lyrically, Kanye gave listeners a glimpse of his own mania while still remaining socially conscious and relevant to the youth. It was heavily inspired and influenced by Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut and was darker than what the masses would expect from a major artist like Kanye. To me, this album and roll out transformed the whole industry and its impact went beyond rap music. Sonically, the album is still untouched. Plus it had some of the greatest verses of all time. —Drew Drialo
What else is there to be said about this 2010 release from LCD Soundsystem? While it is undisputedly a perfect disco-punk album, it also embodies some of my wildest times spent as a young 20-something: inebriated house shows turned dance parties, my weird weekly college radio show, red bull-powered all nighters, the list goes on. It pulls from my musical icons in ways I had not initially fully realized at the time: Bowie, Iggy Pop, The Strokes. And still, James Murphy & co. were somehow able to make a record whose sum is greater than its parts. With lyrics that met my college freshman brain with equal servings of romanticism and self-deprecation, “I Can Change” helped me see myself and every potential partner in the words, “I can change—-if it helps you fall in love.” With this record as a companion, I was able to grow into what some call adulthood, making mistakes both small and large, hoping that eventually we can all figure out a way to dance ourselves clean. —Morgan Schaffner
At the start of the decade, I was an angsty teen with a sick parent and no comprehension of death beyond listening to My Chemical Romance and reading John Green novels. When my mom died a few years later, I suddenly became hyper-aware of the way people talked about death, especially in media. It was all tragic, romantic tales of big and meaningful loss, and while not invalid, these stories felt inauthentic to me. When A Crow Looked at Me came out in 2017, I actively avoided listening to it; I wasn’t sure I could handle it. But when I finally did, it was life-altering. I had never heard anyone talk publicly about death in such an honest way.
Death is real, and that’s all it is. It’s more often lonely than sad; time bulldozes on, and that’s the most devastating thing about it. When someone dies, we have to throw out their things and then we have to take out the garbage at night, because we have to move on despite how impossible that seems. Hearing someone say that out loud was revolutionary to me, because those are the tragic, universal experiences that are the hardest to talk about. Grief is an intricate monster and a decade-defining experience that is now a part of who I am as a person. I’ve learned that that’s okay, even if it sucks, and I revisit this record whenever I need a reminder of that. —Caroline Vance
Okay, hear me out. I know saying that this is the best album of the decade will elicit groans of “Lindsay, we get it, you’re emo,” but first, let me take you back to early 2007: I was in 6th grade, listened to Top 40 radio exclusively, and dreamed of being a pop star when I grew up. Then Paramore released “Misery Business,” and my 11-year-old rural Vermont kid life was changed. Suddenly, I was in middle school, diving headfirst into a questionable scene phase spearheaded by the realization that Hayley Williams was everything. My dreams of being a pop star dissolved; I now only wanted to be the badass frontwoman of a band traveling the Warped Tour circuit. I listened to a lot of incredibly bad music during this time, but I also listened to a lot of Paramore, dreaming of one day seeing them live.
Fast forward to 2017, a decade after I first fell in love with them, and I was a post-grad with a music business degree and zero prospects, living on a twin-sized mattress in a Bed-Stuy closet. The future seemed pretty bleak. And then Paramore released After Laughter. It didn’t just secure itself a seat on my Spotify rotation; it was the only rotation. For at least eight months, you couldn’t get in my car without hearing me scream along to “Rose-Colored Boy,” or talk about the riff in “Told You So,” or discuss how despite sounding so happy, the record was so sad—a perfect mirror of where I was in my own life. I finally saw them live for the first time at Barclays Center in 2018. I was at the front of a sold-out crowd, covered in sweat, screaming the words to the albums I grew up with. It felt like coming full-circle.
Paramore is not my favorite band, but they are the band that held my hand throughout the highs and lows (yeah, mostly lows) of adolescence, heartbreak, and coming of age in the 2010s. The opening words of After Laughter are “All that I want is to wake up fine,” and with Paramore by my side, I was able to emerge from the 2010s a little more fine. —Lindsay Plesent