My Top 50 Favorite Albums of the 2010s, Pt. 1: 2010-2014
1. Tame Impala – "InnerSpeaker"
Overall placement: #5
This debut record of one of my favorite artists ever and certainly of the 2010s is the one that got me into Tame Impala. InnerSpeaker is Kevin Parker's most overlooked album, not only because it was released before his breakthrough in the mainstream, but also because it isn't particularly poppy or accessible. But at least for me, it was. I'm a sucker for fuzzed-out and catchy psychedelic rock and InnerSpeaker definitely delivers on that. Furthermore, it has a very Beatles-esque sound and The Beatles of course are my favourite music interpret of all time. This is exactly what the album got criticised for though: that it is a bit derivative. Even Parker is distancing himself from InnerSpeaker as he thinks he stayed to much in his comfort-zone with it from a stylistical point of view. Obviously, I still love this album, although I understand these criticisms. The thing is, despite all that, InnerSpeaker is a perfectly paced, very consistent work with great songs that are emotionally potent as well as heavy and relaxing at the same time.
8.5 / 10
Check-out-tips: "Why Won't You Make Up Your Mind"; "Alter Ego"
More highlights: "It Is Not Meant To Be"; "Runway Houses City Clouds"
2. Broken Bells – "Broken Bells"
Overall placement: #14
Broken Bells is a superduo consisting of James Mercer from the beloved indie rock group The Shins and prolific producer Danger Mouse. I've talked about their self-titled debut a lot already, so I won't go in depth on this comment. Broken Bells is a very solid indie rock album that has elements of psychedelia and contains some great string arrangements, analogue synth melodies and sing-along choruses. My parents discovered it in the German magazine Musikexpress when I was younger and often listened to The Shins. They bought the CD for me and ever since this album is part of my soundtrack of life. It came back once again in holidays with my father on Island. So while Broken Bells is a good record, it certainly wouldn't be this high without my history with it.
8 / 10
Check-out-tips: "The High Road"; "Vaporize"; "The Ghost Inside"
3. Foals – "Total Life Forever"
Overall placement: #17
Opposing my story with Broken Bells, Total Life Forever just grew on me much recently. Foals is a band my best friend and somehow uncle 2nd grade Aurel Petronis was obsessed with for some time. Through him, I learned of the band but couldn't really get into them. And for most of their other albums, that is still the case. I think no other Foals project can keep up in the slightest with Total Life Forever which only is their sophomore record. Foals are known for their catchy but complex indie rock. They're also labelled a math rock band – another hint on their complex guitar arrangments. On Total Life Forever, they open up their sound and turn down their math rock characteristics for more synthesizers. The result is absolutely stunning, tightly produced and reminiscent of Radiohead sometimes (combine the spacey, ghostly atmosphere and sound of How to Disappear Completely with the synths of Kid A and the guitar playing and build up of Weird Fishes/Arpeggi). Total Life Forever offers a great mix of melancholic, dramatic, even depressing and largely instrumental songs with colourful, energetic and catchy tunes.
8.5 / 10
Check-out-tip: "Blue Blood"
4. Gorillaz – "Plastic Beach"
Overall placement: #24
This album deserves to be way higher on the overall list. Unfortunately for it, this is still largely about how I personally feel about and for these works. So while Plastic Beach is an absolutely brilliant album, one of Gorillaz' two best, it just isn't up there when it comes to my all time favorites. Gorillaz generally, after I had a heavy phase of almost only listening to them, kind of lost me. I listen to them from time to time, but they didn't stick with me in the way other interprets did that I was obsessed with once. And I honestly don't know why as Plastic Beach has some breathtakingly beautiful songs, like the synth pop odyssey Empire Ants featuring Little Dragon or the simple On Melancholy Hill which makes me, well, melancholic in the best possible way. I also love the playful duett To Binge which has Little Dragon on it as well. And then there's some cool, sort of rocking moments, e.g. Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach featuring Snoop Dogg with Orchestral Intro leading into it, the banger Stylo or the comedic De La Soul feature Superfast Jellyfish. What makes Plastic Beach so good is this stylistic variety and experimentation. The album has a long track- and feature-list, but it manages to bring everything together for a cohesive, well paced and very Gorillaz project.
9 / 10
Check-out-tips: "On Melancholy Hill"; "Stylo"
More highlights: "Empire Ants"; "Orchestral Intro" / "Welcome to the World of the Plastic Beach"; "Rhinestone Eyes"; "Superfast Jellyfish"; "To Binge"; "Plastic Beach"
1. Fleet Foxes – "Helplessness Blues"
Overall placement: #3
Fleet Foxes' Robin Pecknold worked so hard on this record that his girlfriend split up from him in the process. After she heard the outcome, Helplessness Blues, she decided the efforts her partner took on were worth it. The sophomore work by Fleet Foxes is the only one to feature prolific songwriter Father John Misty in the line-up. The result, although Pecknold would go on to proof he can do just as good by himself, is the band's most meaningful album lyrically with the title track Helplessness Blues being Pecknold's most impactful statement:
I was raised up believing, I was somehow unique / Like a snowflake, distinct among snowflakes / Unique in each way, you can see
And now after some thinking, I say, I'd rather be / A functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me
And I don't, I don't know what that would be
Helplessness Blues is considered to be Fleet Foxes' masterpiece alongside their legendary debut album. In my mind, it's still their least consistent collection of tracks individually which in the end is a compliment to the album as all the songs work perfectly together to form one of the unquestionably best records of the 2010s.
9 / 10
Check-out-tips: "Helplessness Blues"; "Sim Sala Bim"
More highlights: "Bedouin Dress"; "The Shrine / An Argument"; "Montezuma"
2. Radiohead – "The King of Limbs"
Overall placement: #32
Even though The King of Limbs is Radiohead's worst album since their debut Pablo Honey, it is absolutely a Radiohead album (and it's difficult to say that about Pablo Honey), one that is shorter and less innovative and versatile as its predecessors, yes, but one that still gives you a lot of emotion and interesting song ideas. Most people have a problem with the general concept of The King of Limbs which is exploring looping technology. This results in an album that can be pretty repetitive with songs which's ideas are repeated very often and then don't lead into a satisfying conclusion. Instead, The King of Limbs is hypnotising and pretty consistent, consequentially not featuring any absolute standout moment inside of itself or inside of the Radiohead discography as a whole. There's is still songs I like a lot on this record. The opener Bloom has a mezmerizing arrangement. Every instrument, including Thom Yorke's voice, is relentlessly moving, spinning around itself. Then Lotus Flower has a great bassline and a very catchy vocal composition. And finally, the folky and heartbreaking Give Up the Ghost is one of the most underrated Radiohead tunes. Sadly, all of this doesn't change the fact that The King of Limbs is kind of a dud, especially being sandwiched between two of Radiohead's greatest works, In Rainbows and A Moon Shaped Pool.
7 / 10
Check-out-tips: "Lotus Flower"; "Codex"
More highlights: "Bloom"; "Give Up the Ghost"; "Separator"
3. Steven Wilson – "Grace for Drowning"
Overall placement: #49
On his second solo effort – and his first release since Porcupine Tree broke up – Steven Wilson starts his three albums long journey through classic progressive rock (tropes). The dark predecessor Insurgentes saw him experimenting with drone music, shoegaze and noise rock and some of that asthetic carries on into Grace for Drowning which for some reason is a double album. This is the biggest weakness of it. I don't really feel the tracklist works the way it is and the album also is too long. The prime example for this is Wilson's longest piece ever, Raider II, which doesn't come close to his other long-tracks like Anesthetize. On the other hand, Grace for Drowning includes some classics in his discography, like the beautiful Deform to Form a Star, the dark, heavy and jazz influenced Remainder the Black Dog or the simple ballad Postcard. And if you let yourself really drown in the album, it is definitely possible to get a huge, although unsettling enjoyment out of the full album experience. Nevertheless, Grace for Drowning is kind of inconsistent and, as already stated, dragging. Because of its atmosphere, musicianship and some outstanding highlights, it still has a place on this list.
7 / 10
Check-out-tips: "Deform to Form a Star"
More highlights: "Remainder the Black Dog"; "No Part of Me"; "Postcard"
Honorable Mention: Metronomy – "The English Riviera"
1. Tame Impala – "Lonerism"
Overall placement: #2
Lonerism is Kevin Parker at the peak of his powers, an album less derivative than InnerSpeaker, but just as consistent with masterful production that fits the style of the record perfectly. On top, the themes of loneliness and isolation from society are present in nearly every song making the album an almost conceptual piece from a lyrical point of view as well. This is the album Parker wanted to make from the start but didn't, because felt like he had to make an album that clearly shows were he's coming from first. The recording of Lonerism started on tour and when Parker was back at home in his studio in Perth, he became obsessed with exploring and expanding on his music. The result is an album that features a lot more synthesizers and some bold mixing and production choices while the guitar continues its role as a prominent instrument. The drums are more at the forefront of Lonerism as well with Parker stating that he first and foremost is a drummer. And it shows on Lonerism with some incredible performances. So, this is considered THE Tame Impala album by fans and by extension by me as well. It represents the perfect blend of InnerSpeaker, Currents and The Slow Rush. It encapsulates what Tame Impala is all about.
9 / 10
Check-out-tips: "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards"; "Elephant"
Highlights: "Apocalypse Dreams"; "Music To Walk Home By"; "Why Won't They Talk To Me"; "Nothing That Has Happened So Far Has Been Anything We Could Control"; "Keep On Lying"; "Endors Toi"
2. Grizzly Bear – "Shields"
Overall placement: #11
Shields sees American indie rock band Grizzly Bear further pursue the baroque route they took with 2009s Veckatimest. I would even say, Shields is another improvement for the band with better songwriting. The two albums might be equals but Shields' higher consistency and more mature sound and lyrics win over the poppier Veckatimest for me. Shields also features my favorite Grizzly Bear song: Yet Again.
I probably should describe to you what Grizzly Bear sounds like, but I can't really. They are unique, undoubtedly a rock band that can really rock out but these rock-outs are not only distorted, but somehow beautiful and subtle and not at the forefront of their music at all. Their sound is really colourful, but at the same time their album's sound samey if you haven't yet realized what makes each individual song stand out. It's so crazy, that they could create such a special sound with only your typical rock instruments – well on Shields they also utilize brass and orchestra, but still my point stands. To top it all of, they can make you just as emotional as Fleet Foxes can with their compositions. Grizzly Bear could truly be one of the best and most artistic alternative rock bands of the 21st century.
9 / 10
Check-out-tips: "Speak In Rounds"; "Yet Again"
More highlights: "Sleeping Ute"; "Sun In Your Eyes"
3. Frank Ocean – "Channel ORANGE"
Overall placement: #18
I'm not into hip hop, nor into R&B or pop established in the mainstream. But there's some exceptions. Frank Ocean is one of them. His music is absolute magic. And he shaked the respective scene with all of his three full length releases. Channel ORANGE, produced by Pharrell Williams, is a long, smooth and versatile R&B album presenting rock, electronic and hip hop influences. Nearly all the songs are outstanding in today's pop landscape (well, maybe they're not anymore from a stylistical point of view as everyone has adpoted Ocean's style) – e.g. the mystical, electronic influenced, 10 minute epic Pyramids, the grandiose and touching hymn Bad Religion, the jazz-funk influenced Sweet Life, the atmospheric Pink Matter with André 3000 or the catchy hits Lost and Thinkin Bout You – and they're all unified by skits and interludes. Channel ORANGE is an album that really comforts you, while sending you in different directions to explore musically and emotionally. Personally, it's also a special part of my music library, because I don't listen to this style of music otherwise. And that's one of the biggest accomplishments a musician can hope for.
9 / 10
Check-out-tips: "Sweet Life"; "Thinkin Bout You"; "Lost"
More highlights: "Bad Religion"; "Super Rich Kids"; "Forrest Gump"; "Pyramids"; "Pink Matter"
4. Mac DeMarco – "2"
Overall placement: #45
Mac DeMarco, known as the prince of indie, is an odd figure; a cheeky dude. His music proves that he has a big heart though. On 2 he found the sound that he is best known for and which he would go on to improve upon with Salad Days. In comparison, 2 is a bit rougher, but it already has the appeal of Salad Days and some of Mac DeMarco's classics like Freaking Out the Neighborhood, Ode to Viceroy and My Kind of Woman with a good portion of his fans arguing this is his best work.
7.5 / 10
Check-out-tips: "Freaking Out the Neighborhood"; "Ode to Viceroy"
More highlights: "My Kind of Woman"; "Cooking Up Something Good"; "The Stars Keep On Calling My Name"
Honorable Mention: The Shins – "Port of Morrow"
1. Queens of the Stone Age – "…Like Clockwork"
Overall placement: #7
For most people, ...Like Clockwork was a return to form for Queens of the Stone Age after their last two albums Lullabies to Paralyze and Era Vulgaris got more mixed reviews. For me, it wasn't… but not because ...Like Clockwork isn't great, but because I like both its predecessors, especially the latter one. Still, QOTSAs first album in the 2010s is a different animal. It's the band's best album since the infamous Songs for the Deaf, but a very different one. The group leans more into alternative rock on it, almost abandoning their stoner (or psychedelic or desert) rock identity, and in return relies more on songwriting, utilises piano and puts together a bunch of ballads. Simultaneously, the album flows extremely well and has a unique background: Josh Homme was confined to a bed for four months due to severe health problems in 2010/2011. This lead to him sinking into a deep depression which in turn lead to ...Like Clockwork and Homme rediscovering his love for music that was lost during this phase. Thus, the album changes between the dark, the romantic, the melancholic, the nostalgic and the optimistic – and it does so seemlessly. The journey from the gritty opener Keep Your Eyes Peeled to the groovy and playful fourth track If I Had a Tail is the prime example for that.
9 / 10
Check-out-tips: "I Sat By the Ocean"; "The Vampyre of Time and Memory"; "My God Is the Sun"
More highlights: "I Appear Missing"; "Keep Your Eyes Peeled"
2. Steven Wilson – "The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)"
Overall placement: #13
With The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories), Steven Wilson delivered the first great album in his solo career which is in a constant rivalry with its successor Hand Cannot Erase from 2015 as fans are split between the two considering both masterpieces. Most of the critics and people not into prog nostalgia talk Raven controversially though. Engineered by Alan Parsons and carefully produced with the standards of '70s prog classics in mind, the album sounds very much like it's out of another decade. Hell, Wilson even bought and used the original mellotron from In the Court of the Crimson King on Raven. In my opinion the record still isn't too regressive, because it is much heavier than most '70s prog, pretty much flawless from front to back, has a unique, dark atmosphere and features some very emotional and therefore distinctive songs like Drive Home and the title track. On top, Marco Minnemann on drums and Guthrie Govan on e guitar, two of the most technically skilled professional musicians at the time, contribute outstanding performances making every second of the album a blast musically.
8.5 / 10
Check-out-tips: "Drive Home"; "Luminol"
More highlights: "The Raven That Refused to Sing"; "The Holy Drinker"
3. All Them Witches – "Lightning at the Door"
Overall placement: #25
The sophomore album from American stoner rock band All Them Witches is where they found their own sound with bassist Michael Parks Jr. fully taking over vocal duties with his deep and majestic voice. Astoundingly, he doesn't even need to sing to deliver the emotions and range of expression a singer does. The album's production is magnificent too. The drums by Robby Staebler, who's responsible for every bit of the amazing artwork the band uses, sound uniquely visceral and physical further enforced by his playing style. The sound-stage has a lot of space to it and there's distortion all over the bass and e guitar, but at the same time every song has punch and weight and dynamics. Furthermore, All Them Witches show off some of their best songwriting chops to date with the bluesy The Marriage of Coyote Woman, the catchy When God Comes Back, the mystical build up of Swallowed by the Sea and the perfect intro track Funeral for a Great Drunken Bird, not to mention Charles William and The Death of Coyote Woman. This is undoubtedly one of their finest works and one of the best albums in stoner rock ever.
8.5 / 10
Check-out-tips: "The Marriage of Coyote Woman"; "When God Comes Back"
More highlights: "Charles William"; "The Death of Coyote Woman; "Swallowed By the Sea"
- King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – "Float Along - Fill Your Lungs"
- The Mars Volta – "Noctourniquet"
- Foxygen – "We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic"
1. The War on Drugs – "Lost in the Dream"
Overall placement: #10
It's kind of weird that I love this album so much. I'm not a fan of '80s production, nor do I like most Americana-style music. I don't even like any other The War on Drugs project. But something about Lost in the Dream is irresistable for me. And this seems to be the case for many people as it is by far the band's most acclaimed and popular album. So, what is it about Lost in the Dream that has this effect? I guess it's a combination of its psychedelic haze, the intricacy of the songs, the brilliantly composed instrumentations, long-lasting jams and, most of all, the non-pathetic, never overly kitschy emotionality. Lost in the Dream is the one album where Adam Granduciel manages to make this tightrope-walk. The result is all the more astounding. Lost in the Dream is immediate but incredibly detailed. It takes you on a journey of self-reflection, melancholic nostalgia and grief. And despite every argument I have against The War on Drugs' music and their American conservatism, I can't help but go on this journey every time I am invited.
9 / 10
Check-out-tips: "Under the Pressure"; "Red Eyes"
More highlights: "An Ocean In Between the Waves"; "Burning"; "Eyes to the Wind"
2. Mac DeMarco – "Salad Days"
Overall placement: #27
I honestly would never have thought that this album would go this high before figuring out the list, but I guess it's deserved. Salad Days is the crowning jewel of Mac DeMarco's discography so far as it features his best and most catchy songs and lush production. Chamber of Reflection was his breakthrough single, featured in several Instagram-stories when it became popular and I'm honestly glad such a psychedelic song is liked by such a large audience. Oddly, it is the second longest and one of the most psychedelic tracks off Salad Days – and most certainly the album's highlight. By the time the songs comes around late in the tracklist, it has such a climactic effect amongst the other, more casual sounding tunes. Overall, Salad Days is an incredibly good record to spin, lean back and relax a bit.
8 / 10
Check-out-tips: "Chamber of Reflection"; "Salad Days"
More highlights: "Blue Boy"; "Let Her Go"; "Passing Out Pieces"
3. Metronomy – "Love Letters"
Overall placement: #33
Following their breakthrough album The English Riviera including the hit song The Look, Metronomy released a tragic album about love, enriching their electronica sound with jazz-, soul- and psychedelia influences. Apart from Everything Goes My Way, The Look and The Bay, Love Letters is more accessible than its predecessor and overall more consistent and coherent. The heart-breaking melancholy is successfully interspersed with playful cheerfulness. Therefore, it's actually really surprising to me that the album as a whole didn't resonate as much with critics and listeners as The English Riviera. In my opinion, Love Letters is a step-up from its a bit streaky albeit more highlight-packed precursor.
7.5 / 10
Check-out-tips: "I'm Aquarius"; "Love Letters"
More highlights: "The Upsetter"; "Reservoir"; "Month of Sundays"
5. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – "I’m In Your Mind Fuzz"
Overall placement: #44
I'm In Your Mind Fuzz is the start of King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard's breakthrough as they ended their early phase with the collection of leftovers Oddments earlier in the same year. I'm in Your Mind Fuzz also is the first album of a trilogy which would later be completed by Nonagon Infinity (2016) and Murder of the Universe (2017). On all these works, King Gizzard adopt a heavy, groovy and garage rock inspired acid psychedelic rock sound, though I'm In Your Mind Fuzz contains some quieter passages reminiscent of past albums and a bluesy feel at some points. It is easily the best record by the band up until 2014 as they reach a new level of consistency and catchiness. The opening four track suite from I'm In Your Mind to I'm In Your Mind Fuzz goes straight into your mind with a killer groove that is kept throughout all four movements, relentlessly moving forward whilst staying in the same space. The vocally unique Empty and the jazz-folk of Hot Water are transitional moments in the tracklist that lead into the final four tracks which are all brilliant.
8 / 10
Check-out-tips: "I'm In Your Mind / "I'm Not In Your Mind" / "Cellophane" / "I'm In Your Mind Fuzz""; "Slow Jam 1"
More highlights: "Her & I (Slow Jam 2)"; "Am I In Heaven?"
The list so far: My Top 50 Favorite Albums of All Time
- Tame Impala – "Lonerism"
- Fleet Foxes – "Helplessness Blues"
- Tame Impala – "InnerSpeaker"
- Queens of the Stone Age – "…Like Clockwork"
- The War on Drugs – "Lost in the Dream"
- Grizzly Bear – "Shields"
- Steven Wilson – "The Raven That Refused to Sing (And Other Stories)"
- Broken Bells – "Broken Bells"
- Foals – "Total Life Forever"
- Frank Ocean – "Channel ORANGE"
- Gorillaz – "Plastic Beach"
- All Them Witches – "Lightning at the Door"
- Mac DeMarco – "Salad Days"
- Radiohead – "The King of Limbs"
- Metronomy – "Love Letters"
- King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard and Mild High Club – "I'm In Your Mind Fuzz"
- Mac DeMarco – "2"
- Steven Wilson – "Grace for Drowning"