Do you remember what you were doing on the day that you heard the album which changed your life? Perhaps you were at home with your headphones on, slipping a record out of its vinyl sleeve, or maybe you were on the way to work. Wherever you were, though, you’ll always remember that one album. Over the course of the last ten years, we’ve been able to enjoy hundreds and thousands of defining records, and it’s safe to say that each one changed at least one person’s life. But how do you objectively rank them all? Simple: you don’t, and you can’t. Music means something different to everybody, but here at All Things Loud we’d like to think we’ve done a solid job of reflecting on this wonderful decade. After spending the best part of half a year trawling through record collections, collating them as a team and working out a list worth celebrating, we’ve finally managed to come to a conclusion. Ladies and gentlemen, please sit comfortably and read on as we introduce you to the 20 best albums of the decade. We hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed putting it together.
20 Chance the Rapper – Acid Rap
Officially, Acid Rap is classified as a mixtape, but let’s forget that for just one moment as we try and justify why it’s deserving of a spot in the top 20 for Chance the Rapper. Although he’s slightly lost his touch anno 2019, Acid Rap was like capturing lightning in a bottle. It served as the long-awaited breakthrough for Chance, who had been on the cusp of greatness for a while but really needed to find that moment of enlightenment which would thrust him into the limelight. Opener Good Ass Intro alone is a prime example of why Acid Rap is a killer mixtape, ahum, album: full of joy, enthusiasm and hope. The rest of the mixtape operates on a similar wavelength, and so it’s a shame that we’ll probably never hear him do anything better.
19 Lorde – Pure Heroine
Lorde is one of few artists able to say so much while using so little. Debut album Pure Heroine sees the Kiwi songstress employ minimal beats and subtle rhythms as a means of underpinning her familiar tone and relatable lyrics. It’s also home to one of the decade’s biggest hits: Royals. Over the course of six years, this track has accumulated not only hundreds and millions of streams (623 million, to be exact), but also overwhelming acclaim from all corners of the musical stratosphere. Sophomore record Melodrama – although good in its own right – wasn’t as strong as Pure Heroine. But then again, how can you ever surpass a record as well-crafted as this? You can’t.
18 Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked At Me
Grief is a tricky concept to grasp for even the strongest individual, lasting years for some and mere days for others. How you cope with grief varies per person too, which makes its impending impact on your psyche all the more daunting. Mount Eerie’s Phil Elverum has been through hell and back, losing his wife Genevieve to cancer and leaving him to raise their young daughter alone. Processing these thoughts is an arduous task at best, let alone transforming them into sound as Elverum did on the heart wrenching A Crow Looked At Me. It’s one of the most intense albums of the decade, hitting nerves you never knew you had and opening tear ducts you didn’t realise existed. It’s the sound of a man grieving at his most humane, reflecting on a life lost and pondering how to move forward. Elverum does this alongside incredibly sparse musical backing, centring the songs more so on their lyrical content than the acoustic guitars which underpin them. It’s fragile, it’s emotional, but first and foremost it is a striking glimpse at what it means to grieve.
17 Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE
Frank Ocean hails from the same group of cataclysmic (then) youngsters as his good friend Tyler, the Creator, namely Odd Future. And although Ocean’s part in that collective wasn’t as prominent as the others, deep down we all knew that one day he would go on to do something incredibly special. That something special turned out to be channel ORANGE, a slick exercise in pristine RnB from a future star in the making. He wasn’t always as elusive as he is now, but channel ORANGE was the record which sparked a world of change for Frank Ocean. Now seldom seen onstage, he tends to confine himself to studios by himself or alongside a vast array of collaborators, doing what he does best. Some may argue that Blonde is a far superior record to channel ORANGE, but when you’ve got a song as beautiful as Thinkin’ Bout You it’s hard to argue in favour of anything else.
16 IDLES – Joy As An Act of Resistance
On Joy As An Act of Resistance, IDLES found themselves up against the infamous second album syndrome. Most bands will tell you that capitalising on the success of a critically acclaimed debut album may be the end of you, but not IDLES. Debut record Brutalism (#29) had barely been out a few months before the first murmurings of a follow-up manifested themselves, indicating that Joe Talbot and co. would show no signs of slowing down. Joy As An Act of Resistance is the result of continuous writing and recording both on and off the road, and the result is nothing short of sublime. There aren’t many bands around right now who are able to capture a raw, ferocious and unabashed outlook on modern British society quite like IDLES do, something largely down to frontman Joe Talbot’s impeccable lyricism. His snarky outlook on life injects a new dimension into songs which are already larger than life. Opener Colossus builds up ever so slowly, eventually exploding like a WW2 grenade. It raises the bar incredibly high as Talbot sings of putting “homophobes in coffins” whilst comparing himself to retired wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin. Never Fight A Man With A Perm is a vivid insight into Talbot’s rowdy teenage years, namedropping Michael Keaton and infamous reality show Love Island in the process as the record maintains a strong peak. Album highlight Danny Nedelko is a raucous and brash celebration of immigrants, whereas Samaritans and Television tackle the tough concepts of male emotion and self-love in ways only Talbot knows how (“I kissed a boy and I liked it”). From start to finish, Joy As An Act of Resistance is an absolutely spectacular record which ought to go down as one of the best (if not the best) punk albums of the last eighteen years. Don’t expect IDLES to slow down any time soon, because that’s the total opposite of what this absolute battering ram of a band are hardwired to do. They mean business.
15 LCD Soundsystem – american dream
On American Dream, James Murphy and co. reinstate their title as understated dance-punk pioneers with a knack for catchy melodies, thoughtful ambience and Murphy’s classic New York drawl. His lyrics, which are as quick-witted as ever, touch on the hyper-personal as he tackles topics such as isolation, love and his outlook on life. From the brooding, beat-infected how do you sleep? and groove-laden tonite through to anthem call the police and pulsating opener oh baby, American Dream has slowly but surely grown to become one of Murphy and co.’s best records. It’s the comeback nobody knew they wanted, but now love more than they expected.
14 Jon Hopkins – Immunity
Building rich visual landscapes through music isn’t for everyone, but for Jon Hopkins it’s a specialty. The London producer has put out five studio albums this century, but none of them hit as hard both emotionally and visually as 2013’s Immunity. It’s an album built up of vast sonic layers, so many that you’d be here forever picking them apart. From the moment opening track We Disappear kicks into motion until the dying seconds of final song Immunity, Hopkins has you in the palm of his hand as if you’ve found yourself in some sort of trance. Ironically, most people will probably listen to this album in a trance of their own, but that’s a story for another day.
13 Rosalía – El Mal Querer
Oh, Rosalía. You’ll be hard pushed to find anyone who currently puts in as much hard graft as the Catalan singer, whose 2018 sophomore record El Mal Querer is up there as one of the best Spanish language albums of not just the decade, but the century. Although not entirely in the same vein as her flamenco-centric debut Los Ángeles, it does still retain some of that charm throughout whilst also looking forward and employing enough Latin-tinged pop sensibilities to stand out from the crowd. Early highlight QUE NO SALGA LA LUNA (Cap.2: Boda) is a prime example of Rosalía’s ability to blend elements of flamenco with music and urban pop, a combination not too many artists are capable of pulling off well. She does a magnificent job of it, though, setting the tone for beautiful thirty minute listen. Other highlights include opener MALAMENTE (Cap.1: Augurio), as well as the more radio friendly PIENSO EN TU MIRÁ (Cap.3: Celos) and punchy BAGDAD (Cap.7: Liturgia). There’s little you can fault Rosalía for, and as we head into a new decade it’s anyone’s guess as to what she could do next.
12 Jeff Rosenstock – POST-
Jeff Rosenstock is the kind of guy you’d want to be best buddies with. You know, the kind of mate who you can call up on a Tuesday night and who’ll stand outside your front door with a crate of beer in no-time. If the ensuing evening ever needed a soundtrack, then it would probably be his surprise album POST-, which he put out with no warning on New Year’s Day in 2018. Opener USA is a seven and a half minute dose of scuzzy garage rock complete with cowbell, gang vocals from frequent collaborators PUP and an extended, hands-in-the-air mid-section. Powerlessness, on the other hand, takes a leaf out of the country punk book as it powers on in full ADD mode. It isn’t until finale Let Them Win that you realise how brilliant of a record POST- is, though. Its eleven minutes go by in a flash, only hitting you once a wall of synth swallow you whole. A special album by a special man.
11 Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
By the time that Queens of the Stone Age released …Like Clockwork, Josh Homme and co. had already lived through three decades as one of rock’s most enamoured acts. Dating back to 2013, it was their first release in six years (2007’s Era Vulgaris left fans begging for more) and by far their best yet. It’s easy to say that about a lot of the albums in this list, but …Like Clockwork really was that good. You don’t just rock up with ten songs after six years out of the game and expect it to be a disappointment, because that’s something Homme and his men have never been. The haunting Keep Your Eyes Peeled rang in proceedings, but it wasn’t until the funky If I Had A Tail that …Like Clockwork met its first proper highlight. We say first, because the one-two of the equally groovy Smooth Sailing and monstrous I Appear Missing are up there with some of Josh Homme’s finest compositions. If …Like Clockwork doesn’t do anything for you, then keep trying until something changes.
10 Enter Shikari – A Flash Flood of Colour
There’s a moment early on in Enter Shikari’s A Flash Flood of Colour where you can sense that the album you’re about to listen to is on a completely new level to anything which came before it. It takes place during opening track System…, when frontman Rou Reynolds switches from reminiscing about his childhood to slowly ramping up the energy for an onslaught of politically charged chaos on the imminent …Meltdown. The hope in his voice slowly fades away as it’s replaced by a sense of quivering anger, a brand of protest-like rage which he projects throughout A Flash Flood of Colour’s eleven tracks. Dating back to 2012, it’s Enter Shikari at their most sublime, and at their most determined. The album came during a period of dire politics for the United Kingdom (the irony…), with most of its subject matter still as relevant today as it was back then (Arguing With Thermometers and Stalemate, anyone?). Whether it be Reynolds’ visceral missives about climate change and corporations, or the crazy blend of styles they churn out, there isn’t a single moment on A Flash Flood of Colour which falls short of the mark. You can say what you like about Enter Shikari and the direction they took on future releases, but deep down we all know that their magnum opus is already on display.
9 Grimes – Visions
Visions is not your ordinary synth pop record. With deadlines to meet for its completion, Grimes (aka Claire Boucher) ended up not sleeping for nine days as she took amphetamines to get through the process as fast as humanly possible. This might sound like it would have been a rushed affair, but on the contrary: it only went on to work in her favour. Visions is 45 minutes of out of this world synth pop, partly fuelled by drugs but also fuelled by Boucher’s insane attention to detail and penchant for the weird and wonderful. Standout singles Genesis and Oblivion demonstrate this early on, setting the tone for an album which bewilders the mind just as much as it enthrals.
8 Lana Del Rey – Born to Die
Blue Jeans, the third song on Lana Del Rey’s debut record Born To Die, references James Dean and red, white and blue imagery within its first minute. It thus shouldn’t come as a surprise that, as years went by, Lana was often described as the musical equivalent of the American Dream. She’s the poster girl for a world where everything’s perfect, and on Born to Die she hammers this aesthetic home like a subtle bullet to the head. The album’s twelve songs are a glimpse into her visually rich world, one laced with serenity and grandeur. Most of this is down to her sultry vocal drawl, something which has set her apart from contemporaries over the years. Born to Die is as timeless as they come.
7 Future of the Left – How to Stop Your Brain In An Accident
How DO you stop your brain in an accident? That’s the question Future Of the Left asked on their fourth studio album, which dates back to 2013. Over the course of fourteen songs, the Welsh alternative rockers take the listener on a journey which blends all the most intriguing elements of math rock with the grittiest aspects of grime and noise. It’s not an album for the light-hearted, but then again track titles like Singing of Bonesaws and I Don’t Know What You Ketamine aren’t exactly meant to set you up for some light listening. Future of the Left are one of the UK’s most underrated bands, and if there’s any one record which should serve as proof as to why they deserved more than they got, then it’s How to Stop Your Brain in an Accident. Which begs the question, how DO you do that? Because we never got the answer, guys.
6 Bon Iver – 22, a Million
Justin Vernon is the human equivalent of a chameleon, shifting his shape and approach with each record he puts out under the Bon Iver moniker or any of his side projects. On 22, a Million, Vernon crafted what has turned out to be a modern classic which will not only go down as a defining moment in his career, but also serve as a cornerstone of the musical decade. The record is a world away from the indie folk we heard on the first two Bon Iver albums, instead opting for warbled synths, vocoders, samples and a sense of experimentation which shrouds the songs in a twinkling haze. Vernon’s vocals flitter between maximum autotune and raw beauty, often intertwining with one another to an extent of which its beauty is unfathomable. There are ten reasons as to why 22, a Million is one of the best albums to grace our ears this decade, and they’re the songs. From 715 – Creeks’ autotune a capella and 33 “GOD”’s intimacy to the stirring 8 (circle) and magical 0000 Million, this is Vernon’s magnum opus. This year’s i,i operates on a similar wavelength, but will never come close to replicating the magic heard on 22, a Million.
5 Tame Impala – Lonerism
Do you remember when psychedelic rock slowly started to make a comeback? No? Then let us jog your memory. Cast yourself back to the October 2012, when Kevin Parker proudly unveiled his second studio album as Tame Impala, the genre-defining Lonerism. It was an album packed with so much serenity that it elevated the psychedelic factor to a whole new level. No other release this century had created as much buzz as Lonerism, nor did anything else have as much of a lasting impact as these twelve songs did upon release. It was an album which kickstarted a brand new generation of bedroom musicians hoping to emulate Parker’s successes, some good yet some disastrous. And it should thus come as no surprise that Lonerism was so successful, because from the word go it is the ultimate example of how to do psychedelic rock right. The sprawling Apocalypyse Dreams (All Things Loud’s Song of the Decade) is like stepping inside the world of a man on the LSD trip of his life, his mind spinning around in circles as everyone’s favourite gateway drug rewires his brain. Mind Mischief, on the other hand, bridges the gap between hazy stoner rock and mellowed out 70s slow jams, with Elephant injecting a subtle dose of glam to proceedings. These three tracks form the backbone of Lonerism, and further served to propel Kevin Parker – albeit slightly against his will – to near-stardom status. This didn’t become a reality until Currents emerged in 2015, but it was certainly Lonerism which planted that seed (and many more).
4 Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
We’ve used the term magnum opus more than enough over the course of this album countdown, but we really mean it when we saw that My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is (and will remain) Kanye West’s crowning glory. Can he get much higher? No, he can’t. And although West is now as content as he’s ever been about being close to God, there used to be a time where he questioned how far life would take him. MBDTF is a rap album of the highest order, a 68 minute journey through the deepest darkest depths of West’s mind. From the monumental POWER and captivating All Of the Lights through to Pusha T and Bon Iver collaborations Runaway and Lost in the World (a foreshadowing to 22, a Million of sorts), this album touches on each and every one of West’s musical and lyrical strengths. It’s safe to say that he will never surpass the magic he created back in 2010, and deep down I think we’re all okay with that.
3 King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard – Nonagon Infinity
The whole concept behind Nonagon Infinity is one which only King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard could have dreamt up. The nine-song collection is essentially an infinite loop of music which doesn’t have a designated beginning middle or ending, almost like a rollercoaster ride through hell which you kind of actually want to keep riding. Each of Nonagon Infinity’s nine songs operates somewhere on a fuzzed out, garage rock wavelength, often opting for intensity (Robot Stop, Gamma Knife, Road Train) and seldom slowing down (Mr Beat). It’s an album which is bound to mess with your senses and take full control of your mind, something Stu Mackenzie and co. are no stranger to and which they have been doing for the best part of the last decade (in particular on Nonagon’s spiritual follow-up Murder of the Universe). Since putting out Nonagon Infinity in 2016, the band have put out seven more records, with more to follow in 2020. Although you’ll be hard pushed to find a King Gizzard album as consistent and memorable as Nonagon Infinity (2017’s Polygondwanaland comes scarily close), it’s safe to say that these shapeshifting Aussies are one of the best bands to grace music this past decade. Nonagon Infinity an album which has unsurprisingly gone down in King Gizzard folklore, planting the seed for years to come and kickstarting an enormous wave of critical and commercial succes which the band are still riding. They’re not the first band who’d come to mind in this sense, but you’ll find that we often find the beauty within the weird. A trip-like, infinite loop type of weird, that is.
2 Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
Every now and then, an album comes along that completely changes the game. In this case, that album is Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly, and that game is the dynamic world of rap and hip hop. When Lamar burst onto the scene at the start of the decade, nobody could have ever predicted the amount of impact he would have a few years down the line. Not only is To Pimp a Butterfly a sonic masterpiece in its own right, but it’s also a powerful political statement which touches on topics people are – to this day – still apprehensive to discuss at the best of times. “Every n*gga is a star” is the first line on opener Wesley’s Theory (featuring none other than George Clinton and Thundercat), and it sets the bar high for a no-holds-barred collection of cutting edge raps, jazzy inflections and enough funk and gospel to last a lifetime. Early highlights King Kunta and These Walls are among Lamar’s grooviest song to date, featuring immaculate Thundercat basslines and Kendrick’s classic observational wit. Politically charged standouts The Blacker The Berry (All Things Loud’s #3 Song of the Decade) and Alright might stray slightly away from the album’s grooves (aside from the sax, of course), but what they lack in funk or jazz they make up for in social commentary. In fact, To Pimp a Butterfly is the perfect combination of sublime musicality and social consciousness. Lamar’s a lyrical master, and on To Pimp a Butterfly he is right in his element. “We hate the po po, they gon’ kill us in the streets for sure” he raps on the aforementioned Alright, and it serves as one of the most powerful moments on the entire album (plus the source of a TV sample he resurrected on 2017’s DAMN). Lamar isn’t afraid to hold back one bit, and it’s this which makes To Pimp a Butterfly one of the best albums of the decade, and by far and large the best rap album of the century thus far.
1 Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Do you ever yearn for a time where everything was just so…easy? A time where all your friends were a bike ride away and your only worry was getting grounded. Because this is a feeling which resonates all too well with Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler, who – together with his six bandmates – produced the most incredible ode to suburban life in the shape of The Suburbs, All Things Loud’s Album of the Decade. Although the band’s magnum opus will forever remain noughties classic Funeral, it’s The Suburbs which pulls out all the stops and takes you on a bike ride through the neighbourhood you grew up in. It doesn’t carry the rawness of their debut and the dark bombast of Neon Bible, nor does it break boundaries like Reflektor or discover its pop sheen a la Everything Now. On the contrary, The Suburbs is Arcade Fire’s most “human” and grounded record to date. Over the course of just over an hour, the North American titans stick largely to a blend of blistering indie rock, occasionally fused with flourishes of Americana, folk rock, garage and disco. Every song on The Suburbs has a story to tell, and although they come from the ends of Butler’s fingers, they resonate with oh so many people.
It should come as no surprise that The Suburbs is one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the last ten years, and thus also a more than deserving album of the decade. It’s the kind of record which reels you in from its opening cymbal crash all the way through to its final string flourish, equal parts brash, subtle and sincere in its delivery. There isn’t a dull moment on any of its sixteen songs, turning things up to 11 on the upbeat likes of Ready to Start, Empty Room and Month of May whilst taking the chance to step back and reflect on slow burners Sprawl I (Flatlands), Wasted Hours and Rococo. The Suburbs meets it highlight right towards the end on Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains), a monumental slice of soulful disco. Led by Regine Chassagne’s captivating vocals, Arcade Fire dance into the night with no more intention of turning back. You’ll be hard pushed to find anything worth faulting Arcade Fire for on The Suburbs. Half Light I? Emotional. City With No Children? Cheerful. Suburban War? Intense. The list goes on, you get the deal.
The Suburbs is an album which has managed to stand the test of time in a decade where everybody was too fixated on latching onto the next trend. Arcade Fire stuck to their guns, and got personal in a way only they knew how.
Thank you for joining us this week for the duration of our countdown. The entire Top 100 was put together by four people – Steven Morgan, Jack Parker, Marc Prodanovic and Sebastien Gamez – over the course of five months. From a combined total of more than 300 submitted albums, we were able to whittle it down to a list we hope does the last ten years justice.