Once we get into the top 10 albums, we get into all time greats. Albums I’ll still be listening to when I’m in a retirement home. These are all albums I’ve listened to obsessively since they first came out (or I first heard about them). This is the cream of the crop of the best of the 2010s.
10. DEADBEAT GRAFFITI (Black Pistol Fire, 2017)
Black Pistol Fire is, if you can’t already tell, my favorite band of the 2010s and after seeing them five times I can safely say they’re the greatest live band I’ve ever seen. Deadbeat Graffiti is their absolute masterpiece. The album when the innovations they tried (with moderate success) on Don’t Wake The Riot really came together to create something beyond words. From the upbeat anthems we’re used to from BPF like “Lost Cause” and “Yet Again” to downbeat tunes like “Watch It Burn” and “Fever Breaks” (is there a better opening lyric than “tell me it’s all just a dream” in the BPF canon?) to mixtures of the two like “Blue Dream” and “Bully,” this album has everything you could imagine Black Pistol Fire giving at this time, and I’m sure when their next album comes out it will have even more innovations.
9. BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON (Original Broadway Cast, 2010)
The odd one out on this top 10, in that it’s not an all time great album, it’s just the album of the play that changed my view of history and politics at large. Seeing the Speakeasy Boston production of Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson in 2013, I revisited Old Hickory’s legacy that is simulateously odious and glorious. It taught me that (excepting the class of politicians John C Calhoun sits in) no one is truly all good or all bad, and in fact some people are very good and very bad at the same time. Apart from that, Bloody Bloody also has one of the best lyrics about youth ever written “We’re young/we’ll live forever/at least for one more night.”
8. SET OURSELVES FREE (The Wild, 2010)
“Run away with brushes/run away with paints/this is not a picture/that you can paint.” Lyrics like these over the banjos, harmonicas, and rip roaring electric guitars, make The Wild’s debut one of the all time great folk punk albums. Listening to the album as I write this to refresh my memory on some of the lyrics, I still get chills from the flashback I get to waiting for the train to Reservoir Station so i could walk home from school. This album made me feel free at a time when nothing but music could. During what I considered my “institutionalization” at Boston Latin School, Set Ourselves Free alongside People Who Eat People and Born to Run saved me from myself.
7. WRECKING BALL (Bruce Springsteen, 2012)
Not gonna lie, after 1987’s Tunnel of Love, Springsteen hadn’t made anything that really impressed me. Ghost of Tom Joad felt like an overthought Nebraska. The Rising felt like a return to form without the inspiration, and those two albums in the early 90s will not be spoken of. As such, I was very surprised by how much I LOVED Wrecking Ball. A proper comeback album for a legend of rock and roll, this fusion of his work with his Sessions Band with his classic rock formula and a true emotional backlash to the financial collapse of 2008, on this album Bruce really entered the 21st century, if twelve years late to the party. The saxophone solo on “Land of Hope and Dreams,” Clarence Clemons’ last with Springsteen, brings me to tears every time.
6. THE EVERAFTER (Witness, 2010)
After a phase of being very rap-phobic,Witness brought me into that world with a new appreciation of what it can be. His jazzcore hip hop blends elements of Nuajbes’ instrumentals with rapping in the school of Eminem and Notorious B.I.G. makes for an elegant and spectacular work that continues to define my taste in rap seven years after I found it. The rhymes he spits are beautiful too. “She never kissed a boy without a drink on his breath/she never loved a man who didn’t remind her of her daddy,” (“Cheap Date”) “This sound is dedicated to the devils in dresses/that collect the heads of sexless men and decorate their necklace…draining angel wings so they could share a pair with Icarus,” (“Sylvia Plath”) and the forever memorable “That shit would never happen/Republicans are bad kissers” all add up to an absolute masterpiece that barely anyone has heard of.
5. SPEAK NOW (Taylor Swift, 2010)
Taylor Swift’s masterpiece. An album I came late to (didn’t really get into it until 2015), this album blew me away with the maturity Taylor expressed unlike her self titled album or Fearless, which I had listened to obsessively. From the elegant ballads of “Back To December” and “Dear John” to the upbeat romances of “Superman” and “Ours” to the lovely coming of age tune “Never Grow Up” (possibly her most sophisticated guitar work on any album), this album hits every note Taylor is capable of and it comes together beautifully.
4. DARK WAS THE YEARLING (The Bones of JR Jones, 2014)
In October of 2015, through some miracle, I got to see Bones play a house show in Dedham, MA. It as absolutely mind blowing and the greatest show I had ever seen to date. He played material off this album (and a few then unreleased songs from 2016’s Spirit’s Furnace) for about 20 people in someone’s living room kitchen combination. This unique blending of blues, Americana, reverb, and southern gothic as it is displayed on this album, and his 2012 EP The Wildness is an album that I will still be listening to for the rest of my life.
3. HUSH OR HOWL (Black Pistol Fire, 2014)
Two days after seeing Bones of JR Jones play Dedham, I saw Gary Clark JR headline The House of Blues in Boston. Opening for him was an act that blew my mind and I knew I had to see every time they came to Boston after. I’ve now seen Black Pistol Fire five times and can’t stop loving them. Hush Or Howl is not necessarily their best album, that would probably be Deadbeat Graffiti, but it was my first exposure to them and will forever hold a place in my heart for being the perfect distillation of their early power duo era.
2. THE MONITOR (Titus Andronicus, 2010)
I could never write an album more perfect for me than The Monitor is (this entry is kind of short, just because I’m trying not to repeat what I said in my previous article). A concept album about mental illness using the American Civil War as an analogy for it with references to Bruce Springsteen and John Brown. It’s post punk aesthetic contrasts with all these lyrical allusions beautifully to create a uniquely modern yet distinctly classic album that will stand the trial of a hundred years.
1. LIVE THE DREAM (Ramshackle Glory, 2011)
When I first thought of this list, I immediately double checked to make sure this was a 2010 or 2011 album and not a 2009 album. This is not only the greatest folk punk album ever, it’s also the greatest getting sober album ever, and maybe the best album about mental illness ever. This album, along side Born to Run and People Who Can Eat People changed my life when I first heard it when I was 15. With lyrics like “No one’s gonna stop you from dying young and miserable and right but if you want something better you gotta put that shit aside” and “I had a teenage conviction that I would be different (oh yeah) i was gonna be real different from the person I became,” this album is one of the all time great pieces of poetry set to music on top of being a folk punk masterpiece.
Elizabeth von Teig is a musician and author living in Brighton, Massachusetts. Her expertise is classic rock, folk punk, and the blues.