Yesterday (1 December) we kicked off the final month of the decade with our biggest list to date: the 100 best albums of the last decade. Today we continue with part two of five, featuring the albums which hold positions 80 through 61.
80 Foo Fighters – Wasting Light
“These are my famous last words” shrieks Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl at the start of Bridge Burning, the opener on chaos-inducing career magnum opus Wasting Light. After a lacklustre spell of releases towards the tail end of the noughties, Grohl and his buddies bounced back in absolutely thunderous in 2011. Recorded entirely analogue with producer Butch Vig, Wasting Light is an album which takes zero prisoners and leaves not even one stone unturned. Bridge Burning’s sonic assault is merely a tone setter, taking you on a wilde ride which includes the frenzied White Limo, made-for-stadiums These Days and caterwauling finale Walk. Walk is one of the best songs Foo Fighters have ever released, on par with Best Of You and Everlong. There’s something very special about Wasting Light, for not only is it the sound of a band on top form, but it’s also a stark reminder that they’ll never back down either.
79 Ghost – Infestissumam
Ghost are a curious creature. Loved and hated equally by the forever elitist world of metal fans, Sweden’s darkest sons hit the ground running on 2010’s Opus Eponymous. It wasn’t until 2013, though, that the world started listening. For that’s when Tobias Forge’s well-honed mystery men put out the absolutely career-defining Infestissumam, an album so dark and revered that it sent shockwaves through the metal world. From start to finish, the record is a fascinating listen which blends grisly riffs with haunting choirs and a newfound sense of radio friendliness. Year Zero, featuring Dave Grohl on drums, is the album’s ultimate standout; a peak on an album which put Ghost on the map for life, eternal.
78 Iceage – Beyondless
It doesn’t take long for Danish post punkers Iceage to hit the ground running on 2018’s Beyondless, a return to form of sorts for a band who had been out of the game the best part of four years. And as we all know, a lot can happen in four years: in this case, post-punk well and truly made a comeback, and it meant that Iceage almost had to fight for their place all over again. They didn’t have to fight all too long though, because Beyondless picks up exactly where 2014’s Plowing Into the Field of Love left off in 2014: brazen rhythms, haunting vocals and enough flair to set the Danes apart from the rest. Highlight Pain Killer, a brass-laden collaboration with Sky Ferreira, is all the proof you need.
77 HAIM – Days Are Gone
HAIM are the kind of band who never put in less than 110%, emerging in 2013 with acclaimed debut record Days Are Gone. It not only served as the result of years and years of sisterly jamming between the Haim sisters (with and without their musical parents), but also as the start of something very special. Over the course of eleven tracks, the trio explore the length and breadth of their musical capabilities by means of polished 70s rock, RnB and pop. On paper it’s a combination which may have made some scratch their heads, but on the record it works. My Song 5 is the perfect example of this, fusing grimey beats with fuzzed out riffs and slick harmonies. Days Are Gone was the start of something huge, but something tells us that – six years and another album down the line – HAIM are far from done. Will they surpass Days Are Gone’s unique memorability? Perhaps, but it’s unlikely.
76 Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree
During the recording of Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds’ sixteenth studio album Skeleton Tree, Aussie icon Cave suffered a great loss: the passing of his son, Arthur Cave. Although Skeleton Tree never directly addresses his past, it’s safe to say that the resulting eight songs come as close to catharsis as you could get. Not only for Cave himself, but for anyone who’s had to deal with the passing of someone near and dear. Although spanning a mere eight tracks, Skeleton Tree is one of Cave’s most fulfilling and (emotionally) loaded albums to date, filled to the brim with intensity which is only furthered by the record’s downbeat grandiosity. A contrast of sounds, yes, but oh how magical it turned out.
75 Daughters – You Won’t Get What You Want
If you ever wondered what it would sound like if a ton of metal bricks fell on top of you in the midst of a snowstorm, then all you have to do is listen to the second track on Daughters’ spine tingling comeback album You Won’t Get What You Want: the manic Long Road, No Turns. It’s a five minute slice of brazen intensity which grabs you right by the throat and doesn’t let go until it’s flung you across the room to its heart content. The rest of the album operates on a similar wavelength, but none of these words will really matter until you’ve actually taken it up on yourself to press play. Sit tight and let Daughters take you on a road.
74 BROCKHAMPTON – Saturation II
BROCKHAMPTON hit the ground running in 2017 when they released three studio albums in six months as part of the Saturation series. The strongest of these, Saturation II, is a pristine exercise in both balls-to-the-wall rap and mellow slow jams. It’s a balance which the American collective (who all met on a Kanye West forum) work nicely for 48 minutes, and it’s probably the closest they’ll ever come to a masterpiece of their own. The end of the Saturation era was soured by key member Ameer Vann’s departure, but nothing will take away from the fact that BROCKHAMPTON well and truly put themselves on the map with Saturation II.
73 Nothing But Thieves – Broken Machine
When Conor Mason and his men in Nothing But Thieves emerged at the tail-end of 2014, many knew that there was something very special about these five unassuming lads from the English coast. Was it their charm? Was it their killer riffs? Or was it Mason’s bewildering vocals? The answer is undoubtedly all three, having enabled them to become a force to be reckoned with. Although their self-titled debut lapped up the all-important critical praise, it was sophomore release Broken Machine which elevated Nothing But Thieves to an untouchable status. From its opening barrage of riffs on I Was Just A Kid to stadium-ready single Amsterdam and the vulnerable Soda, Broken Machine had something for everyone. As the band get ready to kick off the new decade with album number three, it should honestly come as no surprise that Broken Machine was the record which set them up for succes beyond their wildest dreams.
72 Kanye West & Jay Z – Watch the Throne
There are plenty of different things you could say to describe Watch the Throne and its impact on rap and hip hop, but at the end of the day it all boils down to one thing: two legends joining forces for an album so unique and grandiose that it’s likely never to be repeated again. From the frantic N*ggas in Paris and soulful Otis (which samples the late Redding himself) to haunting opener No Church in the Wild, everything about Watch the Throne is larger than life and utterly memorable. The artwork says it all: a regal gold plate worthy of only the greatest. Fun fact: Watch the Throne was initially meant to be a five-song EP, eventually morphing into a full record and sparking the highest grossing hip hop tour in history.
71 Carly Rae Jepsen – Emotion
The first half of the 2010s was absolutely littered with one hit wonders, and for a fair few years you’d be forgiven for expecting Carly Rae Jepsen and the sickly sweet Call Me Maybe to join the club (anyone else remember Owl City? Thought so). That’s until she returned a few years later on Emotion, an exercise in pure pop perfection. It was an album which not only demonstrated that you don’t have to think outside of the box to push boundaries, but also that Jepsen was more than just a one trick pony.
70 Slipknot – We Are Not Your Kind
Admit it: we’ve all loved or hated Slipknot at one point. Such is the divisive nature of the Corey Taylor fronted nine-piece; a band who bridge the gap between so many sonic boundaries that it becomes hard to keep track. Where at one moment you may be greeted by a breakbeat sample, the next might hammer a ferocious metalcore riff into the confines of your mind. Slipknot take no prisoners, and on We Are Not Your Kind – their best record since Iowa – this is more than evident. It hasn’t come at a small cost either: WANYK is the band’s first album not to feature percussionist Chris Fehn. Slipknot’s albums are immersive experiences; cathartic bouts of chaos which serve as more than just a collection of sounds. We Are Not Your Kind lives up to two decades worth of ever rising expectations, in particular on the thrilling Nero Forte, haunting Spiders and monstrous Solway Firth. Slipknot may not be your kind, but you’ll love them all the more for it.
69 Arctic Monkeys – AM
Arctic Monkeys took a massive left turn in 2013 when they unleashed the wildly different AM upon fans around the world. It was, and still is, an incredibly divisive collection of music, something largely down to Alex Turner and co.’s smart choice to ditch the laddish indie rock and follow a more streamlined, polished trajectory which took its cues from glam and the stadiums they had always dreamt of filling. Do I Wanna Know? may be its standout hit, but it’s far from the strongest track: Knee Socks takes this honour, injecting some sex appeal to proceedings. Love it or hate it, but AM is an album which will go down as generation-defining. AM walked so that The Neighbourhood and The 1975 could run.
68 Tyler the Creator – Flower Boy
Remember when Tyler, the Creator was the infamous poster boy for raucous rap collective Odd Future? When every move he made sparked controversy, some unnecessary and some genuine. Over the years, the rampant rapper has toned down his image and opened up to the world, sparking critical acclaim on the sprawling Flower Boy. It’s a world away from the mania he helped spark through Odd Future, joining forces with the likes of Rex Orange County, Frank Ocean, Anna of the North and Steve Lacy. It’s a list of collaborators as varied as Flower Boy’s fourteen songs are (perhaps down to the fact that some songs were initially meant for other artists), and it marked the final step in Tyler’s transformation from crazed lunatic to soulful rap lord. It also doubles up as his most personal album to date, one in which Tyler placed more emphasis on allowing his guest stars to shine than before. With IGOR following this year, it’s safe to say that things are only getting bigger and better for our favourite creator.
67 Muse – The 2nd Law
Say what you like about Muse, but they’ve never made the same album twice. They took this a step further on 2012’s The 2nd Law by opting to make a record where not a single song sounded alike. Go on, try it, you’ll have a hard time disagreeing. That’s what makes one of Matt Bellamy and co.’s more leftfield albums so special, as there’s an impending curveball each and every time you start to get comfortable. Digging those falsettos on the synth-led Madness? Then here’s some funk. Enjoying Survival’s epic finale? Then strap yourselves in for some drum and bass. And let’s not forget all the orchestral parts, most of which were written by Bellamy himself. That’s pretty much the wavelength The 2nd Law operates on, and that’s what makes it one of the more exciting Muse releases.
66 The Weeknd – House of Balloons
Not many people will remember a time when Canadian megastar The Weeknd was still dropping mixtapes left, right and centre. Back in 2011, Abel Tesfaye burst onto the scene with the gritty House of Balloons, a nine track collection which set the scene for a decade which he and his sultry voice went on to conquer. Opener High For This raised the bar incredibly high for the fifty minutes that followed, but it wasn’t until the title track that this bar was raised even higher and left there to dangle. The Weeknd’s music has become the case of many ‘love or hate’ discussions ever since he hit it big, but there’s no denying that House of Balloons was a very fine way to kick things off. A year after its release, House of Balloons and two other mixtapes were remixed, remastered and repackaged under the Trilogy title.
65 Temples – Sun Structures
Clocking in at just under an hour, Temples’ debut album Sun Structures was – at the time – hailed by many as one of the few records flying the flag for a resurgence in psychedelic rock. Now, five years and two more albums down the line, Temples are still doing their bit whilst also reinventing their own wheel wherever possible. Whatever they do, though, will never overpower the sheer wonder of Sun Structures. It’s filled with fuzzed out guitars and woozy vocals which build a dreamlike soundscape for the listeners straight outta Kettering. It’s a perfect formula for a band as perfectionist as Temples, a group able to take on the simplest formulas and give them space to thrive in all their psychedelic glory. If The Golden Throne doesn’t do something to you, then it’s all gone wrong.
64 Drugdealer – The End of Comedy
Michael Collins is a man of many talents, spending his career pre-Drugdealer flittering between different drug-themed projects from all walks of musical life (most notably the hazy Salvia Plath). However, it wasn’t until his first release under the Drugdealer moniker – 2017’s The End of Comedy – that he really hit his stride. The album’s eleven songs range from blissfully unaware psych pop and lounge-y jazz through to a slither of indie folk and the odd hint of funk. Despite the blend of styles, The End of Comedy still sounds like a cohesive whole spearheaded by a selection of guest stars (including Danny James and Ariel Pink). Weyes Blood collaboration Suddenly is up there with some of the best songs to come out this decade, and it’s a testament to Collins’ shapeshifting prowess. The End of Comedy marked the start of something new for Collins, and earlier this year he followed it up with the equally enticing Raw Honey.
63 Katatonia – The Fall of Hearts
You’ve probably been wondering where the heavy guitars in our countdown are. Well, here! Prog metallers Katatonia marked their tenth release on the sprawling Fall of Hearts back in 2016, and it serves as more than an hour of unbridled riffs, pummelling rhythms and ethereal sonic soundscapes. The Fall of Hearts is hard to get into at times, but once it grows on you you’ll realise that it’s one of the decade’s finest heavy releases.
62 Solange – A Seat at the Table
For the uncultured, Solange will forever just be “Beyoncé’s sister”, but for those with taste she’ll always be one of the decade’s strongest RnB vocalists. 2016’s A Seat at the Table is a 21-song journey through her mind which features collaborations with the likes of Lil’ Wayne, Sampha, Master P and Q-Tip. A Seat at the Table is as close to a masterpiece as Solange has gotten so far, all on her own strength. Highlight Cranes in the Sky was written eight years before it finally came out, working with Raphael Saadiq on that track amongst others. It eventually went on to become Solange’s first number one album, earning her a GRAMMY award. As we enter a new decade, don’t be too surprised if she leads from the front as a new generation of RnB vocalists rise up to the challenge.
61 Daft Punk – RANDOM ACCESS MEMORIES
Forever the elusive pair, Daft Punk completely and utterly reinvented themselves on 2013’s RANDOM ACCESS MEMORIES, a comeback album nothing short of their greatest ever. Sure, there’s Homework and Discovery, but both of those records came at a time where music was nowhere near as accessible as today. RANDOM ACCESS MEMORIES arrived at exactly the right time for the masked French duo, and on it they teamed up with all-star producer Nile Rodgers, whose imprints are found all over the 75-minute long record. Renowned disco producer Giorgio Moroder features on a song which is equal parts biographical and funky. Pharrell Williams and Julian Casablancas also feature, but Nile Rodgers remains the star of the show throughout. His influence on RANDOM ACCESS MEMORIES is what makes the album such a special listen, and it’s almost goosebump inducing once worldwide smash hit Get Lucky rears its shimmering head (with Pharrell in tow). Daft Punk may never return, and so if they don’t then Random Access Memories is a pretty great place to end things.
Check back tomorrow for part three of our countdown.