Here we are at the end of my countdown of the 50 greatest albums of the last decade, spread out as they are over five days in the lead up to Christmas like I’m some kind of a demented cross between an advent calendar and Pitchfork. In case you are wondering, this really has served as an epic way to procrastinate instead of writing the book I’m supposed to be writing right now, so thank you for joining me as I completely avoid doing what I am supposed to be doing. So, without further ado, here are my favourite ten albums of the decade. After that, you’ll find a lovely playlist of one song from each album, because making Spotify playlists is also an excellent way not to write the end of a vampire novel. Enjoy, and a very merry winter festival to you.
10. Every Time I Die – From Parts Unknown: I never thought ETiD’s good time party hardcore would be anything more than an entertaining-if-empty experience, but I was wrong, as I am about a great many things, I imagine. This takes their established blueprint and focuses it to laser precision, an anthemic masterpiece with a snarling undertone. And in getting Brian Fallon from The Gaslight Anthem to guest on Old Light they hit upon something properly magical.
9. Bossk – Audio Noir: I once had the pleasure of seeing Bossk playing in a tiny pub to me and about seven other people. As good as they were, with their sprawling post-metal opuses, I had no idea that they’d disappear for years and come back with this, an album that transcends both the post-rock and post-metal labels to become something almost totemic in its majesty.
8. Black Mountain – IV: This may be firmly rooted in stone rock, but on this album, Black Mountain became the twenty-first century Fleetwood Mac. Huge melodies are all over this album, and on the excellent Cemetery Breeding, they might have the most goth lyrics to a pop song ever.
7. Converge – All We Love We Leave Behind: Easily the band I listened to most this decade, this album is everything I want in extreme music; brutal, dark, angry, but with light and shade painted over it. Also, it has the saddest song ever about losing your dog.
6. Rolo Tomassi – Time Will Die and Love Will Bury It: An album almost singly emblematic of British metal’s resurgence in the last ten years. Rolo were a band solidly chugging along in the shadow of their infinitely more successful American bands in their field, until this hit. Melding together a kaleidoscope of different genres and ideas, this frankly sounds like nothing on earth, an album that veers between moments so beautiful they catch in your throat to pummelling aggression that hits like a hammer to the spleen. One fifth of this list comes from modern British metal, something I doubt could be said for the decade before, and as someone who stood and watched the likes of earthtone9 play to as many people as they had on stage, it warms my heart to see the place British metal is in right now.
5. Baroness – Purple: Just an absolutely barnstorming rock album, so good it hasn’t even been diminished by the turgid awfulness of its immediate successor. Let’s just draw a line in the sand and say this was the culmination of a brilliant run of albums, and pretend this year’s Gold and Grey didn’t happen, eh?
4. All Them Witches – Dying Surfer Meets His Maker: Absolutely my band of the decade, their mix of stone rock with psychedelia, alt country, and big blues riffs has become be go-to music to chill out to, and this album is an almost crystalline example of what they do so well.
3. Cult of Luna – Vertikal: Another slab of post-metal perfection, welding huge riffs and aching melodies onto an industrial soundscape that owes as much to the movie Metropolis as it does to any of metal’s great totems. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a bigger sounding album.
2. Barren Womb – Nique Everything: An apocalyptic concept album made by two drunk Norwegians with a wicked sense of humour and an even wickeder ear for a dirty, dirty riff. This is utter grimy rock filth, and I love it.
1. Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas – Mariner: When humanity is long gone and giant insects are picking through the detritus of our cultural achievements, they’ll come across this album and decide it’s the pinnacle of the whole damn enterprise. A perfect album in every way and I feel extraordinarily lucky to have seen it performed in full in a room with a sticky floor and a thousand or so people nodding their heads along in sage agreement at its majesty.
So there you have it. My top 50 albums of the last ten years. Not necessarily the greatest, but the ones that have brought me through love and heartbreak, good times and bad. The albums that soundtracked the creation of all the books I’ve written so far, and the ones I’ll be writing for many years to come. I look back through this list and keep coming back to the same thought – that music is magic, a gift from somewhere we don’t quite deserve somehow. It’s highly unlikely that any of the people who’ve made these glorious noises will end up reading this, but just on the off chance, thank you.
If you’ve enjoyed reading through this, may I just point out that you might enjoy one of my splendid books, such as the apocalyptic horror trilogy Blood on the Motorway, or the musical misadventure chronicled in Welcome to Discovery Park. Check out more details in the links below, or by clicking on the books tab in the navbar.
Here’s to another decade of magic.
Oh, and hey, I made a playlist with all the albums on, please feel free to have a listen and discover anything you’ve not had a chance to listen to yet
Paul Stephenson is an author and blogger. His first series, the post-apocalyptic thriller trilogy Blood on the Motorway, is available now in ebook and print from Amazon, and free to read for Kindle Unlimited members. Get Short Sharp Shocks, a collection of three exclusive free short stories when you join the reader’s group. Subscribe to the blog to get a weekly roundup of all posts sent directly to your inbox. Also you can share using the buttons below, or why not buy Paul a coffee?