Today marks the halfway point of our Top 100 countdown, and so buckle up and get ready as we introduce you to the albums which hold positions 60 through 41.
60 Denzel Curry – TA13OO
Denzel Curry’s TA13OO (pronounced taboo) isn’t just the rapper’s third studio album, but it’s also a record split into three distinct acts. Each takes on its own lease of life, allowing Curry to explore the deepest darkest depths of not just his own psyche, but of the entire world he’s found himself living in. Critical and commercial hit Clout Cobain is a perfect example of how Curry’s worlds collide, highlighting the dark side of fame and how – due to the rise of social media – artists slip into an artificial persona in the name of relevance. Just look at the amount of clout chasing, Twitter feuds, Instagram live exposures and label control which we witness on the daily. The industry will forever control the artist until someting changes, and Clout Cobain’s circus music video is a brilliant visual representation of this. Denzel Curry has never been afraid to push out the boat, but on TA13OO he sounds readier than ever to set sail.
59 Superorganism – Superorganism
What do you get when you put eight internet friends-cum-creatives from around the world in a shared flat in London? That’s right, Superorganism. As one of very few acts whose baby steps were formed on the World Wide Web, the collective managed to become one of 2018’s most anticipated live acts. Not that this should come as a surprise, though, because a Superorganism live show is more than just that: it’s an immersive creative experience flanked with colour and happiness. Just like their self-titled debut album, which features standout tracks Something For Your M.I.N.D. and SPRORGNSM. They’re two perfect examples of how to do glitchy alt pop right, fronted by the youthful Orono and accompanied by no less than three backing vocalists and a full band. Superorganism’s debut album isn’t groundbreaking by any means, but what it may lack in that department is certainly made up for by the fun factor.
58 The Growlers – Chinese Fountain
Californian slackers The Growlers didn’t have an easy time putting together the immaculate Chinese Fountain. For all its happiness, the creative process was actually shrouded in sadness: the band’s long time LA home studio burnt down, with a close friend dying not long later. Having said that, though, it’s safe to say that Brooks Nielsen and co. came out fighting when Chinese Fountain landed in the second half of 2014. Over the course of eleven tracks, the surf rockers reflected on heartache, change and loss whilst also refining and polishing their DIY-laden beach goth sound. It was the first Growlers album to signal significant sonic change, taking on hints of disco on the title track whilst delving deeper into the world of scuzzed out garage on Good Advice. Whilst dark in places (Purgatory Drive and Magnificent Sadness, to name but two examples), it’s a record which finds hope in amongst the despair. Its golden moment rests within a song which has become the hallmark of quintessential Growlers: Going Gets Tough. It’s a reflection on everything the band went through while making Chinese Fountain, and it beautifully bridges the gap between 2013’s Hung At Heart and 2016’s more commercial City Club. If you ever need to recommend The Growlers to a friend, start with Chinese Fountain and let the music take you on a ride.
57 Run the Jewels – RTJ2
Run the Jewels’ EL-P and Killer Mike have never shied away from extreme political commentary, and so it should have been a surprise to absolutely no one that Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de La Rocha is a guest of honour on their self-titled second album. The 2014 collection is the sonic equivalent of a steam train racing past its final destination and straight into a fiery hellscape, one commandeered by RTJs rapid missives. Highlight Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck) – featuring the aforementioned De La Rocha – is the best example of this, and it goes on to demonstrate exactly why RTJ2 is untouchable.
56 U.S. Girls – In a Poem Unlimited
After spending more than a decade somewhat under the radar and wholly underrated, Meghan Remy (aka U.S. Girls) returned with the momentously captivating In a Poem Unlimited in early 2018. Although it isn’t Remy’s most experimental collection of music to date (her seventh full release, at that), it does serve as an indicator of her multi-faceted skillset, one which spans multiple instruments and sonic disciplines. Over the course of eleven songs and 37 minutes, Remy takes the listener on a colourful journey which touches upon frazzled RnB (Velvet 4 Sale), disco-infused pop (M.A.H.), and warped indie jazz (Pearly Gates).”I still do what I want, and I do what I like” she sings on the bouncy Incidental Boogie, and it’s unlikely that anyone will argue against her doing it incredibly well. The album is a near faultless exercise in blending Remy’s most experimental capabilities with her most radio friendly and, dare we say, poppy, and she executes it with little difficulty and maximal impact.
55 Ariana Grande – thank u, next
Pop is no longer a dirty word, and if there’s one singer who isn’t afraid of showing her colours then it’s Ariana Grande. Musical trends may come and go, but one thing remains a constant: Grande and her prolific output. This year’s thank u, next is her fifth studio album in just six years, and although her status is already long cemented it’s taken until now for the world to really sit up, pay attention and realise that Grande is more than just another popstar. It’s an album which was born out of her intense personal life, including the death of Mac Miller, her break-up with Pete Davidson and the Manchester bombings. The empowering thank u, next sets the bar very high for a new decade in which pop music will once again take more new forms than there are members of the So Solid Crew.
54 Deafheaven – New Bermuda
For as long as Deafheaven have been around, they’ve managed to divide the metal community straight down the middle. While some think George Clarke and co. are too much of a shoe gaze band to be considered significantly metal, others believe that the quintet are one of the decade’s defining metal bands. Regardless of on which side you stand, though, there’s one thing we can all agree on: New Bermuda is an absolute powerhouse of a record which bridges the gap between two opposing genres so well that it almost creates a new one in itself. After debut album Sunbather whet the appetites of critics worldwide, it was up to New Bermuda to maintain the hype. Did it? Most certainly.
53 Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
On the whole, Sometimes I Sat And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit – Barnett’s debut album proper – is a very strong record, even if it does wander off at times for little bursts of carefully crafted self indulgence. Barnett’s lyrics are witty and calculated, something which sets her apart from musical counterparts both new and old. She may not have been a household name upon its release, but that soon came to change. “Put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you” she sings on Pedestrian at Best, yet it couldn’t be further from the truth.
52 Parkway Drive – Reverence
By now, you’ve surely heard the age old complaint from any forward thinking band’s diehard fans: “why did you change your sound?” No matter how successful you are, and no matter how many risks you take, there’s always going to be someone out there who isn’t quite satisfied. Parkway Drive are one of the many bands who had to face up to a cluster of naive diehards unable to process change, and in doing so they produced what may well be their most impactful record to date: Reverence. Reverence is the kind of album any hardworking rock band wishes they had made, possessing all the hallmarks of a modern day classic. Whether it be Wishing Wells’ subtle build-up and subsequent explosion, The Void’s riff eruptions or In Blood’s stadium-ready chorus, Reverence had something for (nearly) everyone. This is as close as Parkway Drive are ever going to get in creating a solid 10 out of 10, and it’s hard to imagine if (and how) they’ll ever be able to top it.
51 Foxygen – Hang
Foxygen may be an extravagant bunch, but you’d still be forgiven if you haven’t heard new album Hang. It’s not exactly risen high above the radar from a commercial point of view, but if you look at it from a musical perspective then you’re witnessing one of 2017’s finer collections. Frontman Sam France and compatriot Jonathan Rado enlisted the help of a 40-piece orchestra to give Hang’s catchy showtunes some bombastic, Great Gatsby-esque undertones. The Electric Light Orchestra-tinted On Lankershim serves as a highlight, with the short-but-sharp Upon a Hill and brooding America also making for memorable moments. Hang was a defining record in the Foxygen universe, and coincidentally also the last one they actively toured for.
50 Black Midi – Schlagenheim
Is mid-2019 too late for an album to be considered one of the decade’s best? Probably, but that hasn’t stopped London’s black midi from pulling out all the stops on incendiary debut album Schlagenheim. From start to finish, Geordie Greep and co. do their best to rattle the mind of the listener by means of frenetic post punk, dizzying tempo changes and percussive stabs which hit you right whee it hurts. Think Slint on acid, minus the pretentious overtones. Near DT, MI is as close to a masterpiece as black midi get on Schlagenheim, but the rest of its tracks certainly come close. Strap yourselves in and allow black midi to take you on the most unsettling (yet magnificent) sonic ride of your life.
49 Destroyer – Kaputt
We get it, you thought Destroyer was a metal band before you pressed play for the first time. And so we forgive you for being taken by surprise the moment you heard Dan Bejar’s melancholic voice blare out of your speakers alongside a mixture of demure soft rock and lilting lounge jazz on ninth album Kaputt. Dating all the way back to 2011, Kaputt kickstarted a busy decade for Bejar which took him and his thoughts all around the world and back. Although Kaputt is the German word for broken, Bejar’s career is – to this day – anything but. There’s a new album due January 2020, and if it has even a slither of the impact Kaputt had in 2011 then it’s safe to say that Bejar is here to stay until we have no choice but to stop him.
48 Baroness – Purple
If you had to sum Baroness’ Purple up in just three words, they would probably all start with R and end with ‘iffs’. That’s because the American metallers’ fourth studio album is just a balls to wall collection of killer guitar lines, pummelling rhythms and John Baizley’s famous vocal drawl. Baroness went through hell and back a few years ago following a horrific bus crash which almost ended them, but much like a phoenix they rose up from the ashes and are now back on top form.
47 POND – Man It Feels Like Space Again
One thing we were instantly sure of when we first heard Man It Feels Like Space Again back in 2015 was that there aren’t many bands out there doing things the way POND do them: zany, well-crafted and mesmerising. Frontman Nick Allbrook can be proud of himself for creating a career highlight in Man It Feels Like Space…, with each song standing out one way or the other. Whether it be Zond’s frantic energy or Waiting Around For Grace’s glam rock euphoria, Man It feels Like Space Again is quite deservingly one of the decade’s strongest psychedelic rock albums. And produced by Kevin Parker, no less.
46 Beach House – Bloom
Beach House are the kind of duo whose music is best suited to the nighttime, and if there’s any one record of theirs which confirms this then it’s Bloom. The 2012 release is by far the most emotional set of songs Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally have shared to date, with opener Myth perhaps their most intricately crafted and beautiful cuts to date. It’s all fair and well to label all dream pop artists as one and the same, but there’s something quite remarkable about Beach House (and Bloom in particular) which we haven’t quite been able to put a finger on just yet.
45 Whitney – Light Upon the Lake
Back in 2016, All Things Loud spoke with Whitney about the lilting, folky Light Upon the Lake. What frontman Julien Erhlich had to say about album closer Follow sums it all up nicely: “This one is about my grandfather dying, and it was in the middle of the weird transition that we were having. He had cancer so many times, like eight or nine times throughout his latter years, and the song came around a weird time where Max and I had both lost our apartments and were in the middle of writing this record. By circumstance we had to go to Wisconsin to Max’s parents cabin because we didn’t have anywhere else to stay. I had written the initial chord progression and I had the melody to it, so when we got to Wisconsin we workshopped it pretty hard and finished the lyrics after that. It became Follow, and a week later I went to my grandfather’s funeral. I gave the song to my grandma, and she played it over the loudspeakers for a group of 300 people that had known him throughout his entire life. It was a really intense moment, I don’t think I’ve cried that hard in my whole life. It was great to be able to do that for him, he was the hardest working man I’d ever known.”
44 Lizzo – Cuz I Love You
“I’m crying cuz I love you” sings Lizzo on the title track of her third album Cuz I Love You. It’s an album which is the modern day musical embodiment of self love, a record positive and empowering from minute one all the way through to minute 42. And even though it’s a fantastic album in general, there’s a lot to be said about Lizzo’s ability to churn out generation-defining hits and anthems. To name but three: the infectious Juice, bouncy Boys and in-your-face Truth Hurts. All three tracks help form the backbone of a record which focuses so much on self love and inner positivity that you’ll probably turn it off and walk out the room calling yourself “100% that bitch”. We would’ve loved a flute solo or two, but who needs woodwind when you’ve got Missy Elliott and Gucci Mane?
43 Snail Mail – Lush
We’re not going to beat about the bush here: Snail Mail is one of the best (if not, the best) singer songwriters to emerge in the last ten years. The Lindsey Jordan-helmed project sprung out of seemingly nowhere in 2016 on the youthful Habit, an EP which put her on the map and earned her a deal with the renowned Matador Records (also home to Julien Baker, who topped our Album of the Year list in 2017). A lot has happened in the two years since Habit surfaced, culminating in the absolutely wonderful debut album, Lush. It’s a defining slice of heartfelt, jangly indie which is constructed around Jordan’s internal musings and a twinkling mix of lilting guitars and subtle full-band backing. From a wistful intro and early single Pristine to the beautiful Stick and album highlight Deep Sea, Lush is a raw journey which is best listened to in one sitting, with tissues at the ready. Although there is nothing to connect the individual songs musically or conceptually, Lush is still comprised of ten tracks which sit so well as a cohesive collection of music that it’s hard to shift your focus away from it. It’s an album which opens up a door into Jordan’s mind, picking out her deepest and most emotional thoughts and laying them bare. It may only be the beginning for Lindsey Jordan, but it’s safe to say that there most definitely won’t be an end in sight for quite some time to come.
42 The Ocean – Pelagial
The Ocean aren’t called The Ocean for nothing. The opening track to seminal album Pelagial kicks off on the subtle sounds of water trickling down a stream as subtle synths slowly enter the frame in the background. It might not be exactly what you’d expect from a progressive metal band, but then don’t expect The Ocean to follow convention. Pelagial is a concept album of the highest order which is split into multiple chapters and narrative arcs. The record never hesitates a moment to unleash their inner sonic beauty, regardless of it being a brazen wall of guitars and screams or a gorgeous orchestral passage. The best way to get into Pelagial is by putting on some noise cancelling headphones, closing your eyes and allowing The Ocean to take you on a journey like no other.
41 SZA – CTRL
On the surface, Top Dawg Entertainment princess (and only female signing) SZA might come across as “just another RnB vocalist”. Once you dig deeper and pull apart the different layers on debut album CTRL, though, you’ll come to discover that the New Jersey native is far more than that. As the title suggests, SZA is well in control on the fourteen-track album (despite delaying its release due to anxiety), blending bedroom beats and warm tones with her soothing vocals and a host of enviable guest stars (among them Travis Scott and Kendrick Lamar). We’re still eagerly awaiting a follow-up to CTRL, but for as long as the likes of Doves in the Wind and Supermodel echo through our speakers I think we’ll be just fine.
Check back tomorrow for part four of our countdown.