I do love a list. If you gave me a choice between making a million pounds through toiling away at a novel or a million pounds to sit around all day making playlists and best of lists, I’m sorry but chances are you’d never read another book from me ever again. Well, maybe. But it might take a while.
This High Fidelity-esque love of lists is deeply ingrained in me, so much so that when I launched a music website a decade ago with a few friends, the first thing we ever published was a multi-sourced bit of nonsense that somewhat inexplicably picked Andrew WK’s I Get Wet as the best album of the decade before (over my somewhat overlaboured objections).
It was while writing for that website that I began my idiotic quest to go through another list, Rolling Stone Magazine’s Top 500 albums of all time, offering bite-sized opinions on that bloated corpse of overrated nonsense. That journey became my first non-fiction book, Welcome to Discovery Park. As of this moment, it remains my only one, but every now and again I get the urge to do something equally idiotic again. Don’t worry, I haven’t. Not yet.
However, since we all find ourselves standing around at the end of another decade, scuffing our trainers on the floor and trying not to look directly into the eyes of our new and nightmarish government in case they try to shove some chlorinated chicken down our throats, I thought I might as well throw together something to listen to. I got to wondering what my favourite albums of the last decade would be, and before you could say ‘whoops we voted the fascists in’ I had a solid list of my top 50 albums of the last ten years. Let’s check it out!
DISCLAIMER: These choices are presented as exactly that. I am not claiming this to be the definitive list of the 50 best albums of the decade. Although, you know, they are. If you disagree, please let me know below the line, on one of those social media channels, or go howl into the wind. Thanks.
50. Can’t Swim – Fail You Again: Emo’s not dead, it just grew up. A wonderful pop album with bite and swagger, the constant hit after hit after hit just washes over you until you can’t help but submit.
49. Blood Command – Cult Drugs: A neon dayglo joy of an album. Blood Command may be Norwegian but there’s more than a touch of the J-pop about them. Misfit pop played at a million volts and the volume cranked up to eleven, this is proper dance-around-your-kitchen music, so I’d like to apologise to my neighbours for subjecting them to the sight of an overweight forty-year-old pogoing around the place.
48. Pijn and Conjurer – Curse These Metal Hands: Given that this was a bit of a pisstake, recorded half in jest by two bands who frankly have enough going on, it’s startling how well this piece of Baroness worship works, especially when you put against the dreadful effort that Baroness themselves put out this same year. Huge, anthemic, and as heavy as a herd of tanks.
47. DVNE – Asheran: Seemingly encompassing every end of the spectrum of doom and all the points in between, this is by turns crushingly heavy and gloriously epic, often within the same minute of each other. Completely epic, and endlessly enjoyable. Riffs absolutely everywhere.
46. Employed To Serve – The Warmth of a Dying Sun: Absolutely bruising modern post-hardcore that doesn’t so much ape its influences as chew them up and spit them out as something defiantly and pointedly new. For a sound so indebted to its American progenitors, it also manages to sound unwaveringly British. There are also more killer riffs in here than you’ll find in a killer riff factory.
45. Wear Your Wounds – WYW: When I first heard that Jacob Bannon, a man who’s never played an instrument on a single Converge album as far as I know and whose singing voice could most charitably be described as so bad it could be a review of the new Cats movie, I can’t say I held out much hope. But WYW is a wonderful, haunting piece, retaining some of the crunch of his main band but mostly packed with songs of aching sadness. Sure, he still can’t sing, but it works, somehow.
44. Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 2: Somehow, even though I got back into hip hop in a big way this decade, only two hip hop albums grace this list, and they couldn’t be more different. This is one extreme, a punchy, infantile, glorious pop rap album. It’s big, definitely not clever, and I haven’t been able to stop listening to it since I first heard it.
43. 40 Watt Sun – Wider than the Sky: Apparently a much heavier band in their earlier incarnations, this is – much like Wear Your Wounds – a beautiful album, its haunting melodies stretched out beyond reason. So much sadness, and sometimes sadness is exactly what you need.
42. clipping. – Splendor & Misery: This is an album that practically defies explanation, but let’s give it a go anyway. An Afrofuturist sci-fi opera that sounds nothing like that description, a sparse soundscape of barely musical noise that is also incredibly and throbbingly melodic. A work of satire presented entirely straight-faced. It’s impossible to pin down, there’s nothing else that sounds like it, and it’s utterly brilliant.
41 Emma Ruth Rundle – Some Heavy Ocean: If there’s a theme running through this list, apparently, it’s sadness. Back when I was a kid I used to make endless compilations of songs taped off the radio and off my cd and tape collection. I used to number them in order of creation and the sixth one I made I labelled as Mix 6. It had everything from Suede to Metallica to Nirvana to Portishead, but it was universally a place to stick anything that you’d want to stick on while feeling endlessly sad, preferably while staring out a rain-soaked window at an ashen grey sky. From then on, any time I would make a sad music mix I’d call it Mix 6, perhaps out of some nostalgia for that first tape and the feelings it provoked in me. If I was going to make one today, almost every song on this album would be in contention for a Mix 6 placement. The melodies are so gripping, so wistful, so achingly wonderful.
Back tomorrow with more!
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?