The end of 2019 means more than just another end of the year-it’s also the end of the decade. The current web writing staff was between the ages of 9-12 when the decade first started, can you believe that? In the past ten years, we’ve not only grown as people, but our music taste has changed, too. In no particular order, these are the albums that have shaped our decade and our taste in music.
Modern Baseball – Sports
By Kyra Puetz
Modern Baseball came out with Sports, their debut album, on November 27, 2012 (also known as my 15th birthday!). I was only a freshman in high school at the time, and, having not yet gone through my ~angsty~ phase, I had zero clue who they were. It wasn’t until mid-sophomore year that one of my friends introduced me to Modern Baseball which led to my music obsession and shaped the person I am today. Sports is quintessential mid-2010s emo. The boys of Modern Baseball lament over their problems with girls, slipping in playful references to social media (in “@chl03k,” Brendan sings: “I’d rather spend my evening / talking to Chloe on Twitter / than having to look you right in your eyes,” another song is named “I Think You Were In My Profile Picture Once.”)
Sports was an influential album throughout the first half of my college experience as well. “Coals,” the last song of Sports, describes Jake Ewald’s college experience which can be relatable to most college students, with lyrics like “I spent the last 3 bucks / On the last thing that I’ll need / There’s no way that I’ll end in the black for this term” (haven’t you ever eaten out when you’re absolutely broke? #relatable) or “You wanna join me for dinner?” / “Man I got so much to do” (don’t talk to me during finals season), and finally, my favorite lines of all: “You find it hard to miss your family / When everyday you’re part of one more” (sorry mom and dad, shoutout to my roommate and friends though).
Bring up Modern Baseball in any group of music lovers and you’re sure to get at least one response from someone, eyes bright as they remember the music they listened to adoringly in high school. For me, Sports was the beginning of my alternative music education, something that heavily shaped my 2010s. While I may not be an angsty teen anymore, I doubt I’ll go through my 2020s without listening/screaming the lyrics to Sports.
Bon Iver – Bon Iver
By Paige Patano
No album better captured my decade than Bon Iver’s 2011 album Bon Iver. It was the soundtrack to my high school years, to my transition into college, and to my college years. The album is–and I use this term extremely sparingly–a masterpiece. From the seamless transition between “Perth” and “Minnesota, WI,” to the next trio of songs that marks my favorite part of the album, to the eventual comedown of the album’s hectic beauty on its final two tracks, there are no weak spots. In my opinion, there are truly no flaws. Even when you don’t know how to describe what you’re listening to, you know how it makes you feel. Bon Iver is haunting, stunning, and, in many ways, unable to be defined. We still hear the folkiness of Bon Iver’s debut album, but to define it as folk would be an injustice. There is more production involved, but by no means is it overproduced. It is in its own league. Adding to the album’s uniqueness is Justin Vernon’s unmistakable voice. His upper register adds to the haunting element of the album on several tracks. The result of combining all of these unique elements: one of the best albums of the decade. Bon Iver defined my 2010s, and it is likely to continue defining my 2020s.
Iceage – You’re Nothing
By Ryan Davila
Uncut, abrasive, strident, and tumultuous can only penetrate the surface of You’re Nothing. Every single moment is occupied with instruments and vocals so stark that it teeters on the edge of complete and utter cacophonous chaos. This position on the edge gives it a niche so definitive, so memorable, and so crucial for the evolution of punk music in general, it transmutes every ear-splitting song on this album into an experience of sheer joy. The raw talent, passion, and charisma presented by each member of Iceage radiates through their masterfully crafted blistering vocals, explosive drumming, thunderous bass, and livewire guitar, leaving not a sour note nor dull moment in its wake. An uncut, abrasive, strident, and tumultuous testament to the beauty of imperfection.
Harry Styles – Fine Line
So many fantastic albums came out this year, and so many of them managed to transform the music industry. For me, though, only one album managed to completely excite and overwhelm me, while also completely blowing my mind, and it was just released about a week ago. On December 13, Harry Styles released his second solo album, Fine Line. I’ve been a pretty big Harry Styles fan for a while now, and I was incredibly excited for his debut solo album, which he released in May of 2017. Since then, though, I, and the entire Harry Styles fandom, had been anxiously awaiting his next move, which he finally made this year. After releasing three singles earlier this fall, Styles released the album Fine Line, which has managed to completely surprise me with new musical techniques and sounds that I haven’t heard from Styles before. In Fine Line, Styles digs deep into his feelings to tell the story of falling in love, being in love, and getting your heart broken. He tells the story of his own heartbreak and allows himself to be completely open and vulnerable, even more than on his last album. With this album, Styles has proved that he has completely moved on from his boyband days and is turning into a new artist that the music industry has never seen before. If you haven’t listened to Fine Line yet, I highly recommend that you do so because listening to it is an absolutely glorious experience. Every song is amazing and unique in its own way, but some standouts to me are “Golden,” “Watermelon Sugar” and “Sunflower, Vol. 6.”
BadBadNotGood & Ghostface Killah – Sour Soul
In my opinion, Sour Soul is one of the most overlooked hip hop releases of the decade that combines one of the genres best lyricists with some jazzy, organic production from a jazz collective that seems to have a soft spot for hip hop. Sour Soul is the collaborative effort from Wu-Tang Clan member Ghostface Killa and Canadian jazz group BADBADNOTGOOD. The production on the record is some of the best I’ve ever heard with the live drums and hypnotic bass lines providing the scaffolding for each track with some combination of guitars, strings or synths fleshing out the beat to create an ominous, head nod-inducing atmosphere with enough room for Ghostface to spit some of his best bars since Supreme Clientele. The track “Gunshowers” is a great taster for what the rest of the album has to offer. You can almost hear Ghostface’s snarl as he says the lines, “My culture rises in attack just like a vulture, Ghostface the next Escobar or Sosa.” This album seemed like it got no attention despite its insane production and lyrics that create a jazzier version of classic New York hip hop which is why I think it makes a great underdog pick for album of the decade.
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly
By Ryan Flynn
Kendrick Lamar dominated the decade with perfect albums like good kid m.A.A.d city, To Pimp a Butterfly, and DAMN. His most memorable for me was To Pimp a Butterfly. Not just because it’s a great social commentary on present-day America, but because every song is unique, vast, and even haunting. Kendrick is able to roll jazz, soul, and hip hop all into one album unlike anyone before him.
The 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It
By Emma Boone
The 1975’s sophomore album is the antithesis of their first self-titled project. Where The 1975 is dark, serious, and brooding, I like it when you sleep… is bright, campy, and chock-full of clever lyricism that earned the band a spot in the musical canon of the 2010s. The album pulls from numerous influences to develop its unique sound, including 80s synth-pop, jazz, and electropop. Matty Healy’s range as a vocalist- and an artist- is on full display throughout all 17 songs; “If I Believe You” serves as the soulful summit of the album, while “Love Me” and “UGH!” are the snappy, sharp hooks that make you want to hear more. I like it when you sleep… marked the shift in the band’s identity; free from the brooding introspection of their first works, The 1975 was now free to be bold, severing the cords to the intense contemplation of their past and launching them into the politically charged, irreverent space they occupy today.
Panic! At the Disco – Death of a Bachelor
Panic! at the Disco formed all the way back in 2004, but their music has not gotten lost in the past yet. Their 2016 album Death of a Bachelor is an explosive, eccentric piece of art that serves as frontman Brendon Urie’s final goodbye to the single life. As the last remaining member of the original Panic!, Urie had more freedom to express himself on this record. This led to Death of a Bachelor being one of the band’s most outstanding works yet. This album shouldn’t work — it combines the smooth, old-fashioned sound of Frank Sinatra and the flamboyant style of Queen, along with Urie’s own unique spin — but it does. There are tracks to hype you up, such as “Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time” and “Victorious,” which are balanced out by the more mellow “Death of a Bachelor” and “Impossible Year.” Then there’s “Hallelujah,” in which Urie especially showcases his unmatchable vocals. It’s clear that even after 15 years of being in the business, Panic! at the Disco is here to stay.
Frank Ocean – Blonde
Blonde is an intersection of competing crossroads, each idea contradictory adding to a cacophony of noise, and every song finds itself steeped in the concerns of the decade; the turning of a modern era, a new presidency, nostalgia for youth, a car speeding into the future, unrequited love, the need to settle down, sexuality, age, race, unobtrusive sound, the need to be heard, the need to be loud, the need to be together, the need to be alone, silence. Taking a breath. At its center, directing this impossibly complicated movement, Frank Ocean finds himself, and guides us to crawlspaces, shoulders to lay down on, and a place to take time as the world outside rushes, reckless, into life. Compared to the energy of Channel Orange, Ocean’s sophomore album is insular but finds his storytelling and voice in the spotlight. These stories told are aching and searching, trying to scrap together emotions and actions into some sort of meaning, and by the albums end in “Futura Free,” it scraps musical confrontation with a confusing world for something akin to an experimental film. It is the sound of street cars and people, asking questions and leaving with little answers, or your own answers, or a friend’s response, or maybe nothing at all. “How far is a light year?” Everything is confusing, and Blonde does not try and give those answers, but it does have an empathy to being here, helps to guide us in taking a breath, to sit down, to take a moment and look up, keeping sight of street lights and stars sparkling above.
BTS – Wings
As possibly the only writer at this station who has ever written a KPop-based album review, this can’t be unexpected. I thought I would add a little variety to the musical genre discussed and talk for a moment about KPop. KPop as a genre has grown tremendously throughout the past decade, going from the virtually unknown outside of South Korea itself to a worldwide phenomenon. While I personally was not reeled into the genre by BTS, this group is by far the one that has converted many a disinterested soul into a hardcore KPop fanatic. BTS’s Wings features title track “Blood Sweat & Tears”, the song that truly propelled the group into fame outside of South Korean borders. It was a bit after the release of this album that BTS also began to rack up awards internationally, propelling them further into the spotlight on a ridiculously grand scale. With the success of BTS, numerous other KPop groups have since been highlighted internationally; bringing the world of KPop to millions of new fans and to the popularity it holds today. If not for the wonderful tracks the album contains, the fact that it ushered in what could be considered an entirely new era for music is enough to make it my pick for album of the decade.
LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
What album has the best opening track? Which one has the best closer? Can any make you relate to the worries of a 50-year old man who is “losing his edge”? LCD Soundsystem answers all these questions and many more on their third LP, This is Happening.
“Dance Yrself Clean,” the opening track, could arguably be one of the best songs of the decade. If you haven’t gotten around to listening to it, just give it a chance. Like a 13 minute long chance. “Home,” the closer, is my all-time favorite song. It’s a graduation song, a moving on with your life song. Yet it reminds the listener that regardless of where your life takes you, that you should never forget the past loves and laughs. Other honorable tracks include a dazzling “I Can Change,” the Bowie-inspired “All I Want,” and the hilarious “Drunk Girls.”
James Murphy (frontman) does not hinder his lyrical abilities on this album, nor does the rest of the group lack in musical talent. One can feel the energy and emotion brought by the group to each of the tracks.
Another reason for choosing this album as my decade favorite was its rich history. Prior to this album being released, LCD Soundsystem had decided to call it quits; This is Happening would be their last album. For the group to go out with such a powerful hit makes the LP even more meaningful. Of course, they came back in 2016, but that’s a story for a different time.
Maggie Rogers – Now That The Light Is Fading
By Abby Weber
Though it is only an EP, Now That the Light is Fading by Maggie Rogers absolutely deserves a spot on a top albums of the decade list. Paving the way for her debut album in 2019, Now That the Light is Fading was released in February 2017 by Capitol Records. Laying the foundation for a rapidly growing career with years of promise to come, this EP contains current hits “Alaska” and “On + Off.” Separate from her debut album, NTTLIF also contains songs “Dog Years,” “Better,” and “Color Song;” songs not to be overlooked by their exclusion from Heard It In A Past Life. This decade-defining release offers listeners a glance towards Rogers’ folksy pop future successes, with a lyricism unmatched by anyone else.
Tame Impala – Currents
By Matt Mak
These past few years, we’ve been seeing a rise in the popularity of solo, bedroom DIY, artists. Live in concert, Tame Impala is your typical 5-piece band. But at home, Kevin Parker is the sole creator behind your drugged-out, psychedelic joy ride. His debut, Innerspeaker, and its follow-up, Lonerism, are distinguished in their own right, but Currents is the album that put Tame Impala on the map. And for good reason – Currents is the best psychedelic rock album you’ll find from this decade.
Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride
An end of the decade review for an album is unique from a normal review in that it is a retrospective and not only does it have to take the quality of the album into account but also its impact. In this respect, Vampire Weekend are surely among the best of the decade, as they were initially the swan song of alternative rock, thereby putting them in an especially interesting position to decide its fate. By all accounts, Vampire Weekend has completely delivered with their impressive discography still keeping the spirit of the genre relevant today, and perhaps the best example of this is their 2019 LP Father of the Bride. Isolated, the album is absolutely fantastic with lavish production and a great catchy sway throughout almost all of its tracks, much like every one of their other albums. But it’s real noteworthiness comes from the fact that it is so extraordinary and popular despite being created and released after nearly a six-year-long hiatus for the band. Any artist that is able to pull this off so well this is certainly immensely influential in contemporary music, and Father of the Bride is special in that it stubbornly cemented alternative rock’s ethos into the mainstream for years to come.
Drake – Take Care
By Natalia Fic
Often melancholy rapper-singer Drake single-handedly solidified a spot in the hip-hop game when the release of his first album Thank Me Later sold millions of copies in the United States, freshly paving the road for his unconquerable career. Thank Me Later was an amateur showcase of his emotions, with Take Care revealing the less-macho side of the musician, setting him up for a lifetime of humiliation. All opinions set aside, Take Care remains the most iconic album of the decade, shaping and inspiring the generation that would grow with Drake and his career. It is heavily emotional and nostalgic, bringing every listener back to their middle and high school days- reminiscing of a simpler time. Here is a track-by-track breakdown:
- “Over My Dead Body”- A delicate ode delivered as a fresh start to the album with the help of Chantal Kreviazuk’s soft vocals. It is intimate and lush, showing the tender side of Drake, the foundation of his second album.
- “Shot For Me” – A personal favorite of mine- a ballad dedicated to all the ladies that Drake has somehow affected in his life. Filled to the brim with feeling, Drake brings out his singing voice, hitting those high notes- “Now you’re trying to find somebody to replace what I gave to you/it’s a shame you didn’t keep it” -breaking up with Drake is clearly something anyone will regret for the rest of their lives- both he and his listeners know it.
- “Headlines”- This track stands out from the desolate rest, as it is a boast of Drake’s fame and success, giving him the ability to do whatever he wishes. “Overdosed on confidence,” the rapper is too busy to waste time on petty emotions. His flow is sharp and clear cut.
- “Crew Love” feat. The Weeknd- With a hypnotic introduction from equally melancholy R&B artist The Weeknd, the duo complement each other’s styles well, serving as each other’s day ones.
- “Take Care” feat. Rihanna- A huge radio hit around the world, Rihanna and Drake reassure themselves they will take care of each other’s broken hearts over a series of repetitive piano chords.
- “Marvin’s Room”- Another personal favorite of mine, Drake includes a chain of drunk phone calls to emphasize the raw emotion shown in this track. He’s having trouble adjusting to the fame, and struggles to let go of the one woman he can’t have.
- “Buried Alive Interlude” feat. Kendrick Lamar- Kendrick is the spotlight of this track, taking two and a half minutes to rap about the fear of his upcoming fame killing his true inner self, turning to Drake for reassurance and knowledge.
- “Under Ground Kings”- Drake sounds animated while rapping his verses, cruising around his old hometown, not the king of underground anymore, but now one of the biggest rappers in the game.
- “We’ll Be Fine” feat. Birdman- Monotone rap takes over this track, with an extremely catchy chorus. Drake never fails to rap a clean verse. Birdman enters with less than a minute left in the song, overall a solid production.
- “Make Me Proud” feat. Nicki Minaj- Nicki kills it on this track, making her flawless flow seem effortless. The pair complement each other’s talent, with Drake celebrating Nicki doing well for herself and her career.
- “Lord Knows” feat. Rick Ross- A soulful instrumental makes this track powerful and portrays Drake in all his fame and glory. Rick Ross delivers a few funny lines, shining light on Drake’s triumph.
- “Cameras/”Good Ones Go” Interlude- A seven-minute piece dedicated to Drake’s plea for innocence when seen with different women on camera. “Look like we in love, but only on camera, only on camera” is echoed throughout the first half. The song finishes with an emotional ballad, dedicated to the girls we lose in our lives.
- “Doing It Wrong”- Stevie Wonder and his world-famous harmonica make an appearance on this track- busting out a solo similar to his hit “Isn’t She Lovely.” Drake laments of “living in a generation of not being in love and not being together” and finally lets go of an old lover.
- “The Real Her” feat. Lil Wayne and Andre 3000- Weezy and Andre add a bit of a variety of freestyle, rapping about falling in love with prospective one-night stands. Drake even references his 2009 mixtape “So Far Gone” with “Houstatlantavegas.”
- “Look What You’ve Done”-Finding himself at the piano bar Drake reminisces about his days prior to his come up. He thanks his mother, aunt and even his estranged father for the support. His grandma even comes on the track in the end, thanking him for keeping her alive and well- very touching.
- “HYFR” feat. Lil Wayne- Weezy makes a return just one track later, sharing a similar vocal tone with Drake, reflecting on the types of questions the rappers get asked during interviews, something that comes with the price of fame.
- “Practice”- Serving as a tribute to New-Orleans hip-hop, Drake raps about how down he is -“let me put something in your life” he sings- a tender, romantic moment within the album.
- “Ride”- The Weeknd returns in this track, this time passionately crooning in the background, with Drake overthinking the terrors that will accompany his ride of fame.
- “The Motto”- Technically only heard on the deluxe version of Take Care, it would be a shame not to include one of Drake’s most popular songs to this day, the inventor of the phrase “YOLO.”
Hippo Campus – Landmark
By Sam Enno
Hippo Campus, the Minnesota based indie rock group came out with their first full-length studio album Landmark in 2017. Since that time, I have spent hours upon hours listening to the Landmark album, it is one that has the consistency to be played on a turntable, and the hooks and listenability of a batch of singles. This album sports the band’s relaxed, fun, and upbeat style making it one of the most listenable albums that I can think of. It is music for any situation or mood, and the songs are easy listening for nearly any demographic. This album is special to me because it was one of the first albums that my band members and I really all got behind and enjoyed. For that reason, it became of great influence in the music that we were making. Hippo Campus as a band has had a huge impact on my love for music, and their shows are amazing, energy-packed, and fun only cementing my belief that this band deserves recognition for what they have put out. From top to bottom this album is clear, clean and beautiful, and if you want a true treat, watch them play it live -here. It is a video I have seen probably fifty times, and I cannot recommend a performance of an album anymore. The production of lead singer Jake Luppen’s vocals, and the boomy drums from Whistler Isiaah, get carried away through grooving baselines, and twinkling shimmery guitar soaring throughout the album. However, many bands sport these basic elements, what sets Landmark apart is its ability to be emotional, relatable, and fun. With support from synths (an OP-1) Luppen cracks his audience with bold and daring vocals not seen from other groups of their genre. The uniqueness and interesting vocals on this album are a big selling point that sets the album apart. The band uses gang vocals, delivering more fun and life to an album that is already musically impeccable. Landmark is, in my opinion, one of the greatest and most versatile albums in the genre, and a personal favorite of the decade.