I am the last person in music criticism to ask about the 2010s. At the dawn of the decade I was 12 years old, listening to The Click Five and the All American Rejects. I spent all of 2012 in denial that good music could be made in the modern era, and most of 2013-2015 insisting it could never come out of major labels whose interest was in maintaining the status quo (don’t mention to 15 year old me that Gary Clark Jr was on Warner). It wasn’t until shortly before I started writing this column that I gave a second thought to household names (unless they were Taylor Swift). I can’t comment on the movements of popular music of the decade. I don’t know what most frequently went platinum or what new styles came into vogue.
On the other hand, I might be the first person you want to ask about the 2010s. Hiding from the mainstream for six years brought me to dig through Bandcamp and Reddit for some truly innovative masterpieces. There’s going to be a lot on this list that you won’t find on anyone else’s “best of the 2010s” lists, because my intense dedication to hiding from popular music led me to some strange places that not a lot of people live in. I also came of age to this music, so it all has great meaning to me and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about why. So, welcome to Feedback’s 50 Favorite Albums of the 2010s.
Brief rules before we go into this: 1) These are not the greatest albums of the 2010s. If these were the greatest albums it would probably include Blackstar, something by St Vincent, and a lot of hip hop. This was a great decade for a lot of genres I don’t listen to and I’m not gonna try to weigh in on them. 2) I am only talking about full length albums. As much as I love Hold You Up by Gaslight Anthem and Bluestown EP by Rag n Bone Man, it would be unfair to have those short succinct masterpieces compete with full length releases. 3) I am only discussing albums that are commercially and legally available. I love Tom Caruana’s Black Gold: Wu Tang Clan Meets Jimi Hendrix, and Erik Serna’s Killing Floor defined a few years of my life, but the point of this list is to promote music you can listen to, so I will be omitting these.
50. BLACK PISTOL FIRE (Black Pistol Fire, 2010)
Black PIstol Fire is unique in that they are the only band on this list whose every album released this decade (indeed, their entire discography) is on this list. Five stellar albums and they all began with this one. Rough around the edges, as Kevin McKeown and Eric Owen were still learning how to make their signature power duo sound work, but nevertheless this debut is a strong one and if they’d never put out another album I’d still love them for this one.
49. ELECTRIC (Richard Thompson, 2013)
Richard Thompson was not at his finest this decade. Much of his effort went into the, admittedly fantastic, Acoustic Classics and Acoustic Rarities. Still and Dream Attic failed to inspire me. However, Richard Thompson not at his finest is still damn finer than most artists. Electric is a stand out performance with some stand out writing as always. He brought a modern sound to his classic style on this album in a way that just worked beautifully.
48. ALPOCALYPSE (“Weird Al” Yankovic, 2012)
It kills me that I’ll never get to review a Weird All album. He announced after the conclusion of his 13 album contract he was done with the format, and while I totally support him doing what he thinks fits his artistic vision, it also breaks my heart I’ll never get a full article to gush about Weird Al Yankovic, international treasure.
47. LOVER (Taylor Swift, 2019)
I weighted 2019 releases slightly lower than they might otherwise be because they’re so fresh in my mind I’m not sure which will hold up and which are the flavor of the moment. Still, I suspect Lover will stand the test of time and hold up as one of the great pop albums of the late 2010s. Elaborating on the musical themes she explored in 1989 with newfound maturity lyrically as a nearly 30 year old. The little girl who wrote “Teardrops On My Guitar” has really come a long way.
46. WESTERN STARS (Bruce Springsteen, 2019)
I was skeptical of Western Stars when it was first announced. That’s no secret. But it’s also no secret that, when the album came out, I was blown away. My in depth thoughts are already in my review, so let me just reiterate that this was the first album without the E Street Band Springsteen has done that I actually liked, and that’s quite the feat.
45. BIDE MY TIME BEFORE I DIE (Catl, 2019)
Catl could be accurately described as “a poor man’s Black Pistol Fire.” But that’s fine by me. This Canadian blues punk power duo truly smashed their way through the decade with some fantastic releases. More of them I’m sure would be on here if I had discovered them more than 6 months ago and had more time with them. They are exactly my brand of intense, teeth smash, bluesy rock and roll.
44. EMOTION (Carly Rae Jepsen, 2015)
The “Call Me Maybe” girl grew up on this album. A newfound maturity both in production and in lyrical content made for a potent followup to 2012’s Kiss that produced that hit and put her on the map. Many of the best songs of her career, like “”Gimmie Love” and “Boy Problems,” came out of this stellar album.
43. ACID RAP MIXTAPE (Chance the Rapper, 2013)
There isn’t a lot of rap on this list, but that’s not because a lot of good rap didn’t come out this decade. It’s just that I don’t usually listen to it. The hits of the rap scene right now are very sparse on instrumentation and minimalist in arrangement, Kendrick notwithstanding. Chance The Rapper is none of these things. This breakthrough album from Chance was an instant classic. His notable collaborations with Childish Gambino on “Favorite Song” and Action Bronson on “NaNa” made for a beautiful accomplishment in rap and RnB.
42. A PRODUCTIVE COUGH (Titus Andronicus, 2018)
Titus Andronicus’ “acoustic album” wasn’t quite that, but as I said in my review it was still a home run. The quieter mood and production fit Patrick’s style at that time perfectly and made for melancholy, powerful ballads that packed quite an emotional punch. “Crass Tattoo” in particular was a potent lament about times gone by, and “Above The Bodega” is a great little jam meditating on the odd people who know your secrets.
41. SING A LONGS (Blair Crimmins and the Hookers, 2013)
The awkward middle child in Blair Crimmins’ so far trilogy of albums still comes out fantastically. Straying away from the gothic sensibilities of the first album, Sing A Longs is a jaunty ride through hot jazz and Dixieland of the 1920s and 1930s that has some unforgettable and dreadfully catchy tunes in addition to its stellar lyrics.
Come back next week for albums 40-31!
Elizabeth von Teig is a musician and author living in Brighton, Massachusetts. Her expertise is classic rock, folk punk, and the blues.