Joey’s Top 100 Albums of the Decade: 10-1

INTRODUCTION | 100-76 | 75-51 | 50-26 | 25-11 | 10-1 | FULL LIST

10. Janelle Monáe: Dirty Computer (2018)

Marking the occasion of her third album by finally coming out as pansexual, Janelle Monáe touches on her sexuality more explicitly than ever by…well, by once again dressing everything up in an elaborate analogy involving misbehaving technology. Which is fine! While I’ve always wondered whether Janelle’s music strictly needs these conceits, I’ve come to accept that she’s a total nerd, so it’s all for the better that she leans into it for an album about being unapologetically herself.

Where her previous two albums pushed seventy minutes, Dirty Computer doesn’t even hit fifty, and it’s refreshing to hear her being choosy about what makes the cut. She’s very focused on sex and anatomy: there are the gushing guitars on vagina anthem “Pynk,” the hysterically fun “Screwed,” and the note-perfect Prince tribute “Make Me Feel.” But she also again shows off her underrated rapping in the fearless “Django Jane,” she opens up about her queerness in “I Like That,” and she attempts to reclaim what it means to be American in the name of the country’s dirty computers.

Dirty Computer is Janelle Monáe’s leanest, most confident offering of her young career. It’s the sound of freedom and self-realization, both the payoff of her career up to this point and the beginning of a new chapter for her.

Listen: “Screwed” (ft. Zoë Kravitz)

9. Fiona Apple: The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw And Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (2012)

“My ills are reticulate/My woes are granular/The ants weigh more than the elephants.” The Idler Wheel is littered with bizarre spurts of verbosity like this, and Fiona refuses to filter or dumb down the thoughts racing through her head. Sometimes they’re about men, but they’re always about her anxieties. Wrestling with her mind on opener “Every Single Night” (“Every single night’s a fight with my brain”), she settles into and hums, “I just want to feel everything.” Fiona Apple is exceptionally gifted at bringing you into her brainspace.

Released seven years after 2005’s Extraordinary Machine, itself the product of a six year drought between albums, The Idler Wheel also finds Fiona at her most musically imaginative. “Left Alone” is manic, “Jonathan” waddles along, “Periphery” marches, and “Hot Knife” is a sizzling slow-burner of a closer, the most inventive track of her career. She’s also dangerously playful, having searched far and wide for the right soundbite of children screaming to throw on the second verse of standout “Werewolf.” And “Anything We Want” is the most content, assured thing she’s ever written. There’s still nothing quite like Fiona Apple suddenly shouting, “SEEK. ME. OUT. LOOK AT. LOOK AT. LOOK AT. ME. I’m all the fishes in the sea.”

But the gap between The Idler Wheel and now is even greater than the gap between Extraordinary Machine and The Idler Wheel. Luckily, if The Idler Wheel is any indication, Fiona Apple gets better and better, setting a new high mark each time she decides to give us a new collection of music.

Listen: “Left Alone”

8. Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

After autotune’s definitive artistic statement, 2008’s 808’s & Heartbreak, was released to mixed reception, Kanye West’s image would undergo further turbulence as he turned into the sort of figure they make South Park episodes about. His interruption of Taylor Swift at the 2009 VMAs remains among the most significant moments in both of their careers, and at the time it seemed like it could end up defining him (although now we know there are more embarrassing things to be defined by). As 2010 went on, it felt like it had been a while since Kanye West had done a rap album.

Honestly, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was the beginning of something deeply irritating. Moreso than before, Kanye West releases bred inescapable discourse as if he had harvested the Taylor Swift incident’s firestorm but for his own ends, and people would pay him this sort of attention for the next six years.

But here it’s deserved. “POWER” is the ultimate testament to his cultural force, complete with an embarrassing amount of time spent being angry at Saturday Night Live. “Monster” has a dreadful HOV verse and an all-time great verse from Nicki Minaj. “Runaway” is a nine minute mess of a masterpiece. “Lost In The World” sets Bon Iver’s “Woods” aflame and launches it into Gil Scott-Heron’s awesome “Comment #1.” A million guests all on one song. Chris Rock discussing pussy reupholstering over Aphex Twin. Too. Many. Urkels. My god. My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is deliriously ambitious, so much so that it loses sense of itself at least a dozen times.

Listen: “POWER”

7. Beyoncé: Lemonade (2016)

Lemonade’s hype cycle began with her perched on top of a police car submerged by floodwater. Shortly after, her Super Bowl backup dancers’ outfits’ semblance to the Black Panthers sparked a police boycott of her concerts. Beyoncé Knowles wasn’t the first to make music critical of the police, or even the first to do so in this particular era of police killings. She was just the most visible. But though it’s a constant undercurrent and its visual accompaniment brings it up frequently, Lemonade never explicitly confronts police violence. Instead, it tries to find some answers to these problems through a tale of personal strength.

After video emerged in 2014 of Knowles’ sister Solange attacking Jay-Z in an elevator, rumors of his infidelity swirled. Regardless of whether that theory is true, it sets the stage and informed the way we listened to Lemonade. The despair of “Pray You Catch Me” and the fire of “Don’t Hurt Yourself” may have done wonders for the album’s social media presence as we all experienced Lemonade in real time, but they’re also enduring songs about the different stages of feeling betrayed. “Sorry,” the album’s greatest song, is a masterpiece, beginning as a great fuck-off anthem (“boy, bye” just the latest in Beyoncé’s ouvre of enduring catchphrases) and finishing as a gentler but more intense stream of consciousness. And forget Pusha T, “Becky with the good hair” is the best barb of this decade in music.

Lemonade is fierce, occasionally sounding like a rock album. Jack White joins Beyoncé and Led Zeppelin’s “When The Levee Breaks” drum sample for “Don’t Hurt Yourself.” She sings her first country song with “Daddy Lessons,” and we should pray it’s not her last. BEYONCÉ was a more subdued beast. There’s an energy coursing through Lemonade, and its runtime (shorter by twenty whole minutes) keeps her laser-focused.

Its final three songs complete her vision. On penultimate track “All Night,” she finds acceptance and the strength in herself to continue her relationship, “Spottieottiedopaliscious” horns sending that arc out on a high note. On “Freedom” and “Formation,” she gives space to what seems like the real point: making music to empower black women. And these anthems are made more powerful by emerging through the pain of the album’s first act. She was served lemons and, well, you get it.

Listen: “Don’t Hurt Yourself” (ft. Jack White)

6. Robyn: Body Talk (2010)

After drastically stepping it up on her 2005 self-titled album and the singles that followed (“With Every Heartbeat” even going #1 in the UK), Robyn’s 2010 began with two eight song EPs. By November, she completed the Body Talk trilogy by releasing five more tracks but rolled them and choice songs from earlier in the year into a full length product. Body Talk is exactly what you might imagine when you think the words “pop music,” its sound fuller than her previous album (props to Klas Åhlund) and its lyrics with broader aim. “I’m in the corner/Watching you kiss her,” “Just don’t fall recklessly, headlessly in love with me,” “Call your girlfriend/It’s time you had the talk,” Robyn’s biggest songs here have become anthems to loneliness, infatuation, and breaking up.

Every single song is a certified bop, too. Max Martin and Shellback put their shine on “Time Machine,” Diplo puts his unique fingerprints on “Dancing On My Own” flipside “Dancehall Queen,” Röyksopp preside over the album’s most subdued track “None of Dem,” and Snoop Dogg hops on “U Should Know Better” to flex with Robyn “Konichiwa Bitches” style.

But the craziest thing about Body Talk is that Robyn leaves off Body Talk Pt. 1 standout “Cry When You Get Older.” The decade’s best pure pop album could have been even better.

Listen: “Call Your Girlfriend”

5. Alex Lahey: I Love You Like A Brother (2017)

Whoa! This album is awfully high up, isn’t it? But make no mistake, I Love You Like A Brother so deserves to be here. Right from the get-go, the skip and hop of the guitar on “Every Day’s The Weekend” lets you know how fun Alex Lahey’s music is. Then the first “WHOA-OH WHOA-OH WHOA-OHH” lets you know that this is the decade’s most fun music, and its best rock album.

After the Australian’s 2016 EP B-Grade University (which includes three phenomenal songs), Lahey brought the same approach to her 2017 debut album but made everything a little bigger. ILYLAB is nasty with wordless shout-alongs, from the joyous whoa-oh’s of “Every Day’s The Weekend” to the manic doot-da-da’s of “I Haven’t Been Taking Care Of Myself.” This all makes for a shockingly millennial product: a good times album about the sunny side of barely keeping your life together.

Her songs feel so relatable because of the small ways in which she fleshes out her own life: her relationship with her brother enduring her parents’ divorce, her begrudging admiration for Perth, her brief callout of Australia’s lateness to marriage equality, and generally her anxieties spilling out everywhere. I enjoy listening to I Love You Like A Brother more than any other album of the past ten years because of how much space and reverence she gives these anxieties, deploying them with a foolproof formula.

Listen: “Every Day’s The Weekend”

4. Kendrick Lamar: good kid, m.A.A.d city (2012)

Section.80 was among 2011’s best rap albums and it established Kendrick Lamar as the rapper to watch, but good kid, m.A.A.d city was so much more than anyone dared to expect from him. Few albums this millennium have so obviously been instant classics.

Kendrick’s narrative of a young man finding himself lost in gang violence and peer pressure, hitting rock bottom, and pulling himself out of it is simple but astonishing, with few concept albums throughout history equaling the sustained quality of its storytelling. “The Art of Peer Pressure” is an early turning point, detailing him and the homies breaking into a house and robbing it. “m.A.A.d city” is a monstrous two-part epic, a rapidfire soliloquy to end the second act. “Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst” is a late album showstopper, meditating on the death of one of his companions with three masterful verses from three different perspectives before accepting the need for salvation. “Am I worth it? Did I put enough work in?” just hangs there, the nagging question at the heart of the album.

Less talked about is good kid’s music, a unique atmosphere in which a haunted Beach House sample fits right in. The voice modulation on “m.A.A.d city” and “Swimming Pools (Drank)” help you hear Kendrick’s anguished mind. “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” is elevated by its relaxed disposition, raising many Aquemini comparisons.

good kid, m.A.A.d city is a stunning accomplishment, and for nearly any other artist, it would be all downhill from here. But this album was too determined and too well-imagined for Kendrick Lamar to have wound up a flash in the pan.

Listen: “m.A.A.d city” (ft. MC Eiht)

3. tUnE-yArDs: w h o k i l l (2011)

2009’s BiRd-BrAiNs is a wonderful album, and it was already clear that Merrill Garbus had a knack for songwriting. And while its lo-fi recording (edited using Audacity) isn’t exactly a fault, it’s immediately clear on whokill that she fiended for more from her music. BiRd-BrAiNs was mostly just her soft voice and ukulele, only sometimes getting louder and more complex. whokill immediately thrashes you with a lively drum machine, stacked instrument loops, horns, thick bass guitar, and Garbus just belting. Lead single “Bizness” and album opener “My Country” were each such shocking introductions to this transformation, which sounds so natural while being so dramatic.

But its real triumph is the intimacy of its politics. She frequently focuses not just locally, but in her own neighborhood. Amidst “Gangsta”’s horns bleating like police sirens, she contemplates her role in her neighborhood’s gentrification. She further considers her own privilege on “My Country” and “Killa.” The central line to her national anthem is “we cannot all have it.” Police violence occurs near her home in two songs, once on her very own doorstep. The closest her songs have to an answer is her howling, “THERE IS A FREEDOM IN VIOLENCE THAT I DON’T UNDERSTAND, AND LIKE I’VE NEVER FELT BEFORE.” But most revolutionary still is “Powa,” as in sex (as in the quote misattributed to Wilde), where she stretches her singing to its limits.

whokill’s political lyrics and imagination along with its extremely distinct sonic approach make it the best indie music of the past ten years.

Listen: “Bizness”

2. Frank Ocean: nostalgia,ULTRA. (2011)

This is some visionary shit.

In February 2011, the collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All gained newfound levels of prominence when head honcho Tyler, The Creator released his video for “Yonkers.” Based on “Yonkers” alone, one gained the sense that these kids would somehow take over the world. We were both right and wrong. Syd, Earl Sweatshirt, and Tyler, The Creator did become large figures in popular music. But, of course, one member of Odd Future became far and away more prolific than any of them.

Six days after the “Yonkers” video released, lone Odd Future singer Frank Ocean posted nostalgia,ULTRA. to his Tumblr. Though certainly noticed, nostalgia,ULTRA. was quietly received relative to some Odd Future brethren, and eight years later it’s much less discussed than its successors channel ORANGE and blond.

This is mostly because in the streaming age, nostalgia,ULTRA. might as well not exist. Three of its ten songs and several of its skits rely heavily on uncleared samples, most infamously “American Wedding,” which uses “Hotel California” in full for Frank’s tale of rushed and failed young love. He keeps the entire guitar solo section in, and Don Henley threatened to sue when he performed “American Wedding” live while playing “Hotel California” on Guitar Hero.

Along with besting Eagles on their own song, he does Coldplay one better by taking “Strawberry Swing” and blasting it with a heavy dose of nostalgia before its bridge sucks it into armageddon. He seizes MGMT’s “Electric Feel” and reimagines it as Adam and Eve stumbling upon sex for the first time in the Garden of Eden.

Frank established himself as a storyteller, a lyrical powerhouse. On single “Novacane,” he relays a tale of meeting a college student at a music festival, sharing her ice blue bong before the two disappear into each other. Then we leap out of the chorus: “Sink full of dishes/Pacing in the kitchen/Cocaine for breakfast/…yikes!” Frank’s capacity for imagery is endless, and he has a knack for spitting you out in new and interesting places in a narrative.

“Dust” and “There Will Be Tears” show off his sensitive side while “Swim Good” and “Songs 4 Women” put his charisma and sense of humor on display. But the most astonishing song on nostalgia,ULTRA. is “We All Try,” where Frank contemplates existence and humanity. Marriage equality, abortion, and the moon landing all feature on the journey to this affirming refrain: “I still believe in man/A wise one asked me why/’Cause I just don’t believe we’re wicked/I know that we sin/But I do believe we try.” “We All Try” is the most explicit example, but nostalgia,ULTRA. goes so far in part because Frank Ocean is always trying to grapple with something unimaginably huge.

And while that trend continued well into his career, much of what makes nostalgia,ULTRA. so wonderful has become less and less present. He no longer tells stories and his music has gotten more and more formless, and while publications have championed channel ORANGE and blond on their decade lists, nostalgia,ULTRA. is far and away his best album, this millennium’s benchmark for lyricism.

Listen: “Novacane”

1. Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)

If good kid, m.A.A.d city hadn’t already established Kendrick Lamar as the world’s greatest rapper, his scorching verse on “Control” in 2013 firmly established how far ahead of his peers he was. Still, the idea of following up his masterpiece seemed unthinkable.

Fast forward a year and the police assassinations and subsequent protests in the wake of the killings of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Freddie Gray (among others) became among the most common topics for rappers, most notably from Run The Jewels and J. Cole. Even D’Angelo sped up his long-delayed Black Messiah in response. But especially after performing an untitled track (“We don’t die/We multiply”) as the final musical act on The Colbert Report, Kendrick’s forthcoming album was slowly taking on insurmountable expectations.

The first voice you hear on To Pimp A Butterfly is Boris Gardener’s on a sample of the 1974 track “Every N—-r Is A Star.” The next is funk titan George Clinton’s. To Pimp A Butterfly is a musical tribute to so many black musicians that came before. Along with reggae and funk, “King Kunta” is an homage to the blaxploitation music of Curtis Mayfield and Isaac Hayes. Nineties hip hop legends Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur appear. The lead single is built around an Isley Brothers sample. Flying Lotus, Thundercat, Kamasi Washington, and Terrace Martin make jazz one of the album’s go-to backdrops. To Pimp A Butterfly is an immense step up musically for Lamar.

To Pimp A Butterfly’s throughline is reminiscent of good kid m.A.A.d city’s. Kendrick’s character falls into a deep depression and almost destroys himself, but is saved through the power of self-love and self-respect. And while no song on good kid, m.A.A.d city really floundered, the connective tissue was flimsier and “Real” wasn’t the most convincing resolution. But here, “u” drowns in its sorrows, almost suicidal. “The Blacker The Berry” ruthlessly clarifies Kendrick’s self-hatred. The faster, far livelier version of “i” sounds more convincingly like a revelation, and a celebration of finally turning the corner for the better.

But To Pimp A Butterfly isn’t just about one man saving himself. The album wasn’t wholly a response to the recent string of high profile police assassinations, but it still paints a compelling picture of the way that the United States has screwed over black Americans: “No condom, they fuck with you/Obama say, ‘what it do?’” It was so vital to point out that so much suffering was still taking place under even a relatively progressive administration.

To Pimp A Butterfly is a massive contemplation of these facts and a debate between facing them with hope or hopelessness. “We gon’ be alright” might be getting harder and harder to believe, but he doesn’t open with “Alright.” It’s the album’s centerpiece, a conclusion he arrives at after a good deal of accounting for musical and African-American history.

It is a dizzying achievement. It is the greatest American album of all time.

Listen: “Alright”

INTRODUCTION | 100-76 | 75-51 | 50-26 | 25-11 | 10-1 | FULL LIST

Joey’s Top 100 Albums of the Decade: 25-11

INTRODUCTION | 100-76 | 75-51 | 50-26 | 25-11 | 10-1 | FULL LIST

25. Grimes: Art Angels (2015)

You’ll get the most out of Art Angels if you think of it as a rock album. Though Grimes grabbed everyone’s attention in 2012 with her slightly off-kilter art pop, these loud, abrasive dance songs are driven by an undercurrent of guitar. And nothing captures what’s wonderful and horrible and *holds up spork* about Grimes better than a song about Al Pacino in The Godfather Pt II, “except he’s a vampire who can switch gender and travel through space.” Grimes might just be the most interesting musical figure of the decade. This is where it all came together.

Listen: “Flesh Without Blood”

24. Jens Lekman: Life Will See You Now (2017)

This is simply Jens Lekman’s greatest storytelling by a fair margin. And it’s not just the telling but the stories themselves: the 3D printing of a tumor, trespassing to hotwire a ferris wheel, a conversation with a cold-footed bride, of course the Mormon missionary walking through Vasa Lane, and…the history of the universe? And thanks to Jens’ unique arsenal of sounds this time, each is independently presented so tenderly but cuts deep. If there’s a unifying theme to be found, it’s finding our place for a short life in a vast universe. Profound, hilarious, heartbreaking.

Listen: “Wedding in Finistère”

23. Frank Ocean: channel ORANGE (2012)

Written about the summer when he first fell in love with a man, channel ORANGE brought more ambition to the table and saw him getting rawer than before. Frank Ocean moved away from the tightly-woven episodes of nostalgia,ULTRA. but put his back into more colorful compositions and more memorable performances. “I wanted to create worlds that were rosier than mine. I tried to channel overwhelming emotions,” Frank wrote on Tumblr. The style in his coming out note was just what he brought to his music: contemplating the biggest questions while fucked up by the bigness of it all.

Listen: “Bad Religion”

22. Chance The Rapper: Acid Rap (2013)

Acid Rap once and for all shattered the stigma of the mixtape being a lesser product. Instantly you heard the glow and gush of the live instrumentation and you knew it’d be a fool’s errand to wait on his “official” debut. Paired with the playfulness of his backing tracks, his youthful exuberance manifests as a spinning Tasmanian Devil of sly references and guttural yelps. His hyperactive train of thought speeds through his and our senses of nostalgia and interrogates it. Acid Rap was his moment, and he knew it. You can still hear how tickled he was.

Listen: “Cocoa Butter Kisses” (ft. Vic Mensa & Twista)

21. Pistol Annies: Hell on Heels (2011)

Angaleena Presley and Ashley Monroe have both spent the decade making incredible music and Miranda Lambert towers over all other country artists, but none of them have put out anything as wonderful as when they came together in 2011. The jams (“Takin’ Pills,” “Boys from the South”) and ditties (“Lemon Drop,” “The Hunter’s Wife”) are all fantastic, but the music truly shows its power in its quiet, violent, bare bones moments, as on “Housewife’s Prayer” and “Trailer for Rent.” These women broke from making their own grand statements to come together for a simpler, more understated kind of masterpiece.

Listen: “Trailer for Rent”

20. Parquet Courts: Wide Awaaaaake! (2018)

After spending the decade scratching the itches of Pavement and Velvet Underground fans, Parquet Courts’ newest and best approach most closely resembles The Clash. Andrew Savage’s bark really does evoke Joe Strummer, his yowl both world-weary and hopeful. And though the album’s most famous line is “FUCK TOM BRADY,” it’s the dreary “Violence” that lies at its heart. In its “Know Your Rights”-style rant, Savage contextualizes the accusation that riots are violent by listing the small ways in which that escalation has already been made in your daily life.

Completing Parquet Courts’ portrait of 2018 America, Savage also rattles off anthems about collectivism (“Total Football”), climate catastrophe (“When The Water Gets Too High”), and normalization (er, “Normalization”). But complemented by three songs from co-frontman Austin Brown, including the “Range Life”-reminiscent “Mardi Gras Beads” and the mourning children’s choir on “Death Will Bring Change,” Wide Awaaaaake’s great triumph is in its touching resolution “Tenderness,” a hopeful song that wonders if we might come out on the other side of this stronger. Entirely unexpectedly, Parquet Courts has released the best political rock of the Trump era. Right now, they’re the world’s greatest rock and roll band.

Listen: “Total Football”

19. Japandroids: Celebration Rock (2012)

After 2009’s solid but timid Post-Nothing, Celebration Rock is an astonishing upgrade of Japandroids’ heartland rock, showing off their new, humongous sound. Their production makes it sound much more like a live show, the drums booming and the voices scratching. Japandroids shed their inhibitions and sing about adrenaline, sexual red, and hearts from hell colliding. Punctuating the affair at every juncture is an “ALL RIGHT” or “WHOA-OH” or “OH YEAH.” Celebration Rock is the sound of sweat on concrete.

Six of the eight songs here follow a similar blueprint of unrelenting, wild-eyed momentum and bombastic, wide-eyed lyrics, frequently reclaiming former glory or seizing this very moment. The other two songs close out each side: One is a vicious cover of The Gun Club, the other is the relatively quiet finale “Continuous Thunder.” It has a line that goes “and if the cold, pissing rain flooded that fire.” Even dialing it back, Japandroids didn’t have an off switch. It’s such a thrill.

Listen: “The House That Heaven Built”

18. Azealia Banks: Broke With Expensive Taste (2014)

No song this millennium has had the same big bang nothing-into-everything effect of “212,” Azealia Banks’ skillful working of Lazy Jay’s bouncing “Float My Boat” beat. Her employment of a certain c-word lifted it to virality, but the song was nasty with promise alongside its plain old nastiness. Her flow was smooth, her voice was fierce, she could shift gears on a dime, and her singing voice was incredible.

Three years passed, and after great but minor releases (2012 gave us the 1991 EP and Fantasea mixtape), we finally got Broke With Expensive Taste, and it delivers on the promise of “212.” From the opening moments of “Idle Delilah,” it’s apparent that Banks has a unique ear for beats, and her rapping sounds so effortless, her boasts rolling naturally off her tongue, her writing stuffed with assonance. When she sings her own hooks, as she best does on standout “Chasing Time,” her power and versatility as a performer is terrifying. Broke With Expensive Taste is a perfect showcase for the most talented hip hop artist out there. Just pray she bothers to give us another.

Listen: “Chasing Time”

17. Against Me!: Transgender Dysphoria Blues (2014)

“And if I could have chosen, I would have been born a woman/My mother once told me she would have named me Laura.” In 2007, these lines were part of the unreal New Wave finale “The Ocean,” and in May 2012 Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender to Rolling Stone, instantly becoming the most high profile trans figure in music. Grace’s first album as an out trans woman rose to the task and tackled all this head on, and it was…despondent.

With song titles like “Osama Bin Laden As The Crucified Christ” and “FUCKMYLIFE666” and lyrics as coldly straightforward as “you don’t worry about tomorrow anymore, because you’re dead,” Transgender Dysphoria Blues is an unflinching dive into the existential despair that can come with transition. Near its end, its bleakest song details a trans woman killing herself in a hotel bathtub, capped by the gut-wrenching line “Standing naked in front of that hotel bathroom mirror/In her dysphoria’s reflection, she still saw her mother’s son.” It’s compelling, captivating rock music, but this might be too brutal a listen for many. But for those who stick it through, its honesty is beautiful, devastating, and revelatory.

Listen: “Transgender Dysphoria Blues”

16. Tegan & Sara: Heartthrob (2013)

The endpoint of Tegan & Sara’s voyage from indie to indie pop to full-on, no asterisks pop, Heartthrob has nine perfect songs of ten. From the second the synths on makeout jam “Closer” start buzzing, they’re fully realized in this mode. It’s sacrilege I’m sure, but they’re even better with synths than they are with guitars, and Greg Kurstin’s tight production helps keep their heavy songs fun.

As always, they specialize in breakup songs that cut to the bone. Sometimes they reminisce (“Drove Me Wild”), sometimes they agonize (“How Come You Don’t Want Me Now”), sometimes they join the two (“Now I’m All Messed Up,” a stadium-ready track up there with their best songs), but the best moment is their upsetting dose of reality: “WHAT. YOU. ARE. IS LONELY.”

Somehow tying it all together is their song about “Tegan & Sara”: “I’m Not Your Hero,” their reckoning with just how many other young lesbians they inspire. It’s perhaps the biggest reminder that even with this radically different approach, Tegan & Sara’s music still has the same heart. And while they never get as intimate as they did on The Con, I think their ears for melody are best here.

Listen: “Now I’m All Messed Up”

15. Lana Del Rey: Norman Fucking Rockwell! (2019)

Is Lana Del Rey authentic? So went the discourse around her 2011 single “Video Games,” and her proper debut Born To Die landed with a thud. It was unfair, sexist bullshit. But right away she let us know what she wanted: “Tell me I’m your national anthem.”

On Norman Fucking Rockwell!, Lana Del Rey is really going for it, trying her hand at writing the next best American record. She’s always been suited for the role: her knack for plumbing nostalgia and Americana would make for a great chapter in Greil Marcus’ Mystery Train. She brings her style (shameless triplets like “Lying on your chest/In my party dress/Baby I’m a mess”) and gives them her best melodies and lush arrangements. Daring to write a drugged out, ten minute song or a song as triumphant as “The greatest” (her greatest) is the difference this time.

She’s our national anthem.

Listen: “Norman fucking Rockwell”

14. Beyoncé: BEYONCÉ (2013)

It’s a little jarring to remember a time when Beyoncé wasn’t one of the decade’s most auteuristic music makers. Then twin wonders “Countdown” and “Love On Top” ramped up her hype leading up to her Super Bowl XLVII halftime performance, the moment when she became even more than a superstar. The following December, Beyoncé somehow surprise released an album in an era of constant leaks, and it marked the official start of this new era of her career.

Her self-titled album is by far her most cohesive long-release, a dark, electronic sound permeating every song. “***Flawless” is a microcosm, its “bow down, bitches” emphasizing her new place as queen of the world, the passage by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie affirming the central place feminism now had in her career (enough for bell hooks to call her a terrorist), and “I woke up like this” as ready for the meme big time as her videos for every track (!) were for Tumblr gifs. The album is both a victory lap and the start of a new chapter for one of the most massive recording artists of the millennium.

Listen: “XO”

13. Titus Andronicus: The Monitor (2010)

On just their second album, Titus Andronicus went all out. The Monitor is an insane, sprawling rock concept album built around Civil War imagery. Its ten tracks more often than not exceed seven minutes, although this is partly because of interludes in which indie figures like Cassie Ramone and Craig Finn recite writings of figures like Jefferson Davis and Walt Whitman.

Somewhere between The Pogues, Bright Eyes, Bruce Springsteen, and The Replacements, Titus Andronicus’ music joyously ventures into the saddest, most pathetic feelings you’ll have: “I will not deny my humanity/I will be rolling in it like a pig in feces.” Patrick Stickles’ lyrics are phenomenal, most impressive on 14-minute epic “The Battle of Hampton Roads,” where the lines seem to endlessly flow from him. Titus Andronicus excels at songs to listen to while crying on the bathroom floor and at leaving you smiling by the end. The Monitor is among the finest monuments to human misery ever concocted.

Listen: “A More Perfect Union”

12. A Tribe Called Quest: We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service (2016)

Two men loom large over A Tribe Called Quest’s first album in 18 years. The first is the late Phife Dawg, who had passed eight months before release but who still has verses on most songs here. The second is Donald Trump. In fact, We Got It From Here dropped just three days after his surprise 2016 election. And while it sounds like Tribe thought we’d have another President Clinton, the fact of President Trump makes the album so prescient and necessary. Hearing “Muslims and gays/Boy, we hate your ways” that November was just gutting.

If the situation weren’t so serious, We Got It From Here would be a bit of a party: guests include Busta Rhymes, Elton John, Kendrick Lamar, Anderson .Paak, Jack White, and many more. This all gives the album a unique feel that wonderfully fit both the political tracks (“The Space Program” calls out the notion that society’s advance will necessarily bring any equality) and the memorials (“Black Spasmodic” is a deeply touching tribute). It’s so unexpected and beautiful that Tribe can come back after so many years and create a contender for their best work.

Listen: “We The People….”

11. Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires Of The City (2013)

Moving beyond the electronic sound of Contra and shedding the African influence that brought their music fame, Modern Vampires of the City is Vampire Weekend’s best album, full of their most intricate compositions. Quite a few songs here are explicitly about God and religion, and even when he’s on another topic, Ezra Koenig speaks in huge terms: “There’s no future. There’s no answer,” ”I don’t want to live like this, but I don’t want to die.”

The band’s writing is at its peak, most thrillingly in the knotty, reference-loaded “Step.” And while Koenig is still a smartass, it’s a lot cuter when he doesn’t come off as so knowing, helped here by constantly wondering aloud about the meaning of life. “Ya Hey” is likely the best song any of them will ever write, a choir-adorned track that shouts into the void, begging to know God and coming the closest when hearing “you spinning ‘Israelites’ into ‘19th Nervous Breakdown.’” Modern Vampires of the City is the 21st century’s greatest album centered on religion this side of The Hold Steady.

Listen: “Step”

INTRODUCTION | 100-76 | 75-51 | 50-26 | 25-11 | 10-1 | FULL LIST

Joey’s Top 100 Albums of the Decade: 50-26

INTRODUCTION | 100-76 | 75-51 | 50-26 | 25-11 | 10-1 | FULL LIST

50. Kacey Musgraves: Golden Hour (2018)

Pageant Material was just a worthy retread, so when Musgraves’ new single came drenched in disco, it was a revelation. She’d finally stepped beyond being the queen of smartass rhymes and lovely melodies. The hoedown of “High Horse” and the echo and boom of “Space Cowboy” are one thing, but the real wonder is the arrangements, her growth in songwriting showing up in force on “Oh, What A World” and “Love Is A Wild Thing.” Her relentless positivity and ear for melody have put Musgraves on track to broaden what country can be and, vitally, who can listen.

Listen: “High Horse”

49. Mitski: Be The Cowboy (2018)

After two fantastic, deeply intimate bedroom guitar albums, it was a bit of a jolt for Mitski to come out with Be The Cowboy, a pop-curious album that’s big and small and big and small again. It sometimes even comes off like a St. Vincent album, but the soul of her music remains the same, with deep-cutting lines like “nobody fucks me like me” coming left and right. Still, this is her most serene body of work, with anxious dance tracks, including best in show “Nobody,” feeling somewhat at peace.

Listen: “Nobody”

48. Rihanna: ANTI (2016)

After putting out a new album every year, Rihanna finally took her first break in 2013, taking a two years before releasing by far her greatest achievement, ANTI. On her first album that isn’t defined by its singles (“Work” wishes), every single track is an absolute vibe, from the whirr and chirp of “Needed Me” to the resounding triumph of “Love On The Brain.” Even the Tame Impala cover, easily the longest song here, is apiece with the album’s relaxed demeanor. With ANTI, Rihanna finally has a document worthy of her superstardom.

Listen: “Needed Me”

47. Vampire Weekend: Contra (2010)

A radical departure from the warm African-inspired guitar of their debut, Contra’s use of electronic music, auto-tune, and even an M.I.A. sample require you to reimagine Vampire Weekend as a project. But once you do, you’ll realize that Contra is a significant level-up in songwriting for the band, with topics ranging from Japanese samurai to a gay romance that might sneakily be about Joe Strummer. Contra was a change-up and is still their odd duck, but it remains Vampire Weekend’s most consistent album. Contra was not the album we wanted, but Vampire Weekend knew what we needed.

Listen: “White Sky”

46. Kacey Musgraves: Same Trailer Different Park (2013)

Almost no one knew Kacey Musgraves when she bowled us over with “Merry Go ‘Round,” a bleak, vivid, and unflattering portrait of small town America. An album of that would have been fantastic, but it never came. From moment one, Same Trailer Different Park is almost comically sunny, sometimes verging on precious. But Musgraves’ ability to turn a phrase is considerable and her ability to evoke a feeling is infectious. These stupid simple songs are each somewhere near perfect, and submitting “Follow Your Arrow” to country radio was a pretty radical act back in 2013. Still would be today.

Listen: “Follow Your Arrow”

45. Carly Rae Jepsen: E•MO•TION (2015)

To follow up smash hit “Call Me Maybe” and her overlooked Kiss, Carly Rae Jepsen unleashed a humongous love letter to the sensibilities of ‘80s radio hits. E•MO•TION’s warmth and swells and release are overwhelming pop majesty, the album stacked with simple songs about the rush of romance. Every refrain is a home run and even the three ballads are marvelous. The way the saxophone introduces signature song “Run Away With Me” and the way the bass bounces along on “Boy Problem,” E•MO•TION sounds like somebody’s perfected a formula. God help us all.

Listen: “Run Away With Me”

44. Taylor Swift: Speak Now (2010)

More than just a worthy sequel to breakout Fearless, Speak Now finds Taylor Swift building a friendship with the electric guitar. The exceptions, the airtight “Mean” and the lullaby “Never Grow Up,” are stunners in their own rights, but this album is defined by those guitars: the nimble, soaring heights of “Mine,” that confident descent on “Sparks Fly,” the frantic tumble of “The Story of Us.” Speak Now remains Swift’s most consistent collection of music, the ultimate realization of her first iteration as an artist, and by far the best of her infamous barb-throwing.

Listen: “The Story of Us”

43. Taylor Swift: Red (2012)

The easy narrative around Red is that it’s when Taylor Swift dipped her toe into pop aesthetics. While quite a few songs fit that narrative, Red isn’t her best because it hits a sweet spot in the evolution of her sound but because here her songwriting ambitions hit maximum, beginning the album with echoing drums and centering it around a six minute magnum opus. Songs like “All Too Well” and “Holy Ground” are demonstrations of everything Swift does well. Her muscles for imagery and storytelling were never as strong before or since. Even two dud duets can’t weigh Red down.

Listen: “Holy Ground”

42. billy woods & Kenny Segal: Hiding Places (2019)

Rather than dealing in impressive flow or deft metaphors, billy woods’ rapping is straightforward, delivering each tightly written line with maximum possible impact. On Hiding Places, he uses this talent to stare unflinchingly into the abyss of American poverty, countering Public Enemy to show there are scarier letters you can receive than a draft notice. Kenny Segal’s bleak but fascinating production perfectly backdrops woods’ pictures of lives that can collapse financially at any second. All society offers is an orchestra at Carnegie Hall to woods’ fellow observer Nas and “anthropologists watchin’ negroes sell dope.”

Listen: “Spider Hole”

41. Lorde: Melodrama (2017)

Her career no longer buoyed by the shocking fact of her teenagerdom, Lorde stepped all too comfortably into the lofty expectations for her follow-up. “She thinks you love the beach, you’re such a damn liar” is a hilarious way to introduce a collection of ultra-intense heartbreak jams. And Lorde shows her strongest form isn’t even classic youth anthems like “Royals” or “Green Light,” but unreal hyperspace trips through lost love: “Supercut” is her best song to date and represents her at her most powerful. Among today’s pop singers, few are as distinct as Lorde. Even fewer are as fearless.

Listen: “Supercut”

40. Billie Eilish: WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? (2019)

Many musical wünderkinds are celebrated for how grown up they come off. Billie Eilish takes that trope and breaks it over her head, immediately reminding you she still wears a retainer before leaping into cutesy, crawly number one jam “bad guy.” That, “you should see me in a crown,” and then one that samples latter day The Office demonstrate why she conquered the moment, but her debut is defined by shockingly accomplished and catching slow songs. Eilish’s music is hyperactive and haunted as fuck, and despite comparisons to Lorde and Lana, there’s no one else even remotely like her.

Listen: “bad guy”

39. Sky Ferreira: Night Time, My Time (2013)

Sky Ferreira performs psychologically fraught yet picture-perfect pop songs, each vaguely clouded in bits of darkness. The manic pop drive of the first four songs is only half of the equation. “Heavy Metal Heart” comes off like those rare sane Sleigh Bells songs, “Love In Stereo” is a lightly digital, drifting tune, and “I Blame Myself” is her most singular moment aside from “Everything Is Embarrassing.” Its origin a throwaway line from Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks film Fire Walk With Me, Night Time, My Time oddly fits the source of its title.

Listen: “I Blame Myself”

38. Jamila Woods: HEAVN (2016)

HEAVN is one of the most understated, underrated achievements of the decade. Her songs play off – and “play” is indeed the appropriate word – Incubus, The Cure, Stereolab, “Woke Up This Morning (With My Mind Stayed On Freedom),” the Dawson’s Creek theme, and, on the best song here, famous schoolyard rhyme “Hello Operator.” And the darker, more determined “Blk Girl Soldier” makes the happiness and assuredness elsewhere feel so satisfying. HEAVN is remarkable because it sees Jamila Woods respond to tragedy by finding joy and strength in herself and her blackness and her womanhood. It’s beautiful and powerful as flowing water.

Listen: “VRY BLK” (ft. Noname)

37. Miranda Lambert: Platinum (2014)

Miranda Lambert is the best country artist of the millennium. And while her lightning-in-a-bottle moment Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is her greatest album, Platinum is her fullest showcase, the most comprehensive demonstration of her talent. From wonderful, schlocky lead single “Automatic” to the rip and roar of “Little Red Wagon” all the way to radio-ready new classics “Platinum” and “Priscilla” and onto her greatest epic “Bathroom Sink,” Lambert covers all her creative bases. Completing her transition from an of-the-moment superstar to an ever-dependable veteran, Platinum is Miranda Lambert’s definitive statement of excellence.

Listen: “Bathroom Sink”

36. Jamila Woods: LEGACY! LEGACY! (2019)

Jamila Woods’ sophomore effort is among the most ambitious albums in recent years. Following up a project about the struggle and joy of black womanhood, she dives even further, this time plunging herself into one of her heroes of color every song: Muddy Waters, Eartha Kitt, Sun Ra, and so on. But she doesn’t just idolize them. Woods inhabits and interrogates her subjects, challenging James Baldwin and channeling Nikki Giovanni. LEGACY! LEGACY! is a perfectly imagined showcase of not just her talents but her self. It’s well worth losing yourself in its footnotes.

Listen: “BALDWIN” (ft. Nico Segal)

35. Janelle Monáe: The Electric Lady (Suites IV And V) (2013)

On her second album, Janelle Monáe comes out guns blazing. Miguel. Solange. Erykah Badu. PRINCE. She overwhelms the listener with theatrics and starpower, and lead single “Q.U.E.E.N.,” her best song, especially knocks you over with its pulsing energy and its epic rap conclusion. The Electric Lady is unfortunately a bit frontloaded, but it’s still brimming with life throughout, its skits in particular illustrating the fun in Janelle’s vision in a way that The ArchAndroid couldn’t. It’s The Electric Lady’s fun and livelihood that made it clear that stardom was an inevitability for Janelle Monáe.

Listen: “Q.U.E.E.N.” (ft. Erykah Badu)

34. Maren Morris: Hero (2016)

With apologies to Kacey Musgraves, Maren Morris put out the breakout country album of the 2010s. Her keen sense for pop results in excellent melodies, and her voice absolutely thrashes its way through her sassy lyrics. Even the slower, sappier songs are expertly executed and don’t wear out their welcome, but her anthems really stand out: The kiss-off song “Rich” and two all-time great car songs, “My Church” and crowning achievement “80s Mercedes.” The way her big voice meets her big choruses (“FEEL LIKE A HARD-TO-GET STARLET WHEN I’M DRIVING/TURNING EVERY HEAD, HELL, I AIN’T EVEN TRYING”) is indelible.

Listen: “80s Mercedes”

33. The National: High Violet (2010)

High Violet is The National’s third and best entry in a trio of classic indie albums. Even the would-be sadsack songs (one’s even called “Sorrow”) near the front are lifted by the Dessners’ arrangements enough so that when you run through them up to the majesty of “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” it feels natural. The production can get in the way (“Terrible Love” is drowning in a warm fuzz), but it does wonders for new parent anthem “Afraid of Everyone” and their most satisfying closer ever, “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks.” High Violet’s triumphs are so hardwon.

Listen: “Bloodbuzz Ohio”

32. Miguel: Kaleidoscope Dream (2012)

Miguel’s silky smooth voice receives its finest demonstration here. He plays the part of a casanova and flips between R&B and rock, his magnetic intensity giving this album a distinct and sexy feel. Most illustrative of his charms is the slightly corny and very cute “Do You…,” in which he makes a “do you like hugs”/”do you like drugs” mixup somehow work. And of course there’s the magnificent “Adorn.” But the greatest expression of his power is “Arch & Point,” a sensual rock song whose sound contrasts the “Adorn”’s soft, trippy approach.

Listen: “Adorn”

31. Courtney Barnett: Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit (2015)

Barn burning hit single and fan favorite “Pedestrian At Best” is the stunner, yeah, but it’s the odd duck of this album. Courtney Barnett is just so infectiously comfortable elsewhere on Sometimes I Sit And Think, rocking out more convincingly – if not harder – on “Nobody Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party.” Barnett is better when her way in is a little more unconventional and she’s sighing detached, intricate little yarns about truck drivers or elevator operators. “Pedestrian At Best” is her flex of all flexes, but the other ten tracks are her real statement.

Listen: “Dead Fox”

30. Run The Jewels: Run The Jewels 2 (2014)

A theme of this decade was the destigmatization of righteous, unapologetic rage. When Run The Jewels dropped their second album, it was hard not to think of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and Laquan McDonald (killed just a few days earlier). But Killer Mike and El-P kept all that as subtext, instead making an album more broadly targeting American systems of power. Mike’s fantastic emceeing is buoyed by El’s aggressive production. Their craft would improve on their next release, but nothing touches the edge Run The Jewels had on their second album. And the rage felt so important.

Listen: “Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)” (ft. Zack de la Rocha)

29. Wussy: Strawberry (2011)

Strawberry stands out as Wussy’s most well-imagined album. This was the first time they made their sound bigger, Chuck and Lisa once again trading tales of devastation but this time letting their guitars and voices really soar. Their images are also at their most striking, making the most of a mountain of tires, a grand champion steer, an Indianan pizza chain, and a heart floating in a frozen void. Then the album builds such that the sky breaks in two. Strawberry remains their only album where Wussy doesn’t feel like they’re selling themselves short for even a second.

Listen: “Mountain of Tires”

28. Janelle Monáe: The ArchAndroid (Suites II And III) (2010)

A 70-minute concept album about a messianic, time-traveling robot sounds more like a groanworthy Rush album than one about black and LGBT liberation, but Janelle Monáe is a confounding sort of artist, so much so that when of Montreal take over for a full song, it only feels natural. Especially for a debut, it’s mesmerizing the way The ArchAndroid’s songs gently tumble into each other as Monáe jukes between styles, and here she still has such an itch for meticulously crafting this world of hers. Though she’s refined her approach in the years since, this stands as her grandest statement.

Listen: “Cold War”

27. Vince Staples: Summertime ‘06 (2015)

The hourlong Summertime ‘06 is such an outlier in Vince Staples’ discography, whichi s mostly full of twentyish-minute releases. Its length, only cumbersome by his own standard, justifies itself, as it really sounds like he’s trying to work through something. Vince’s nihilism is all too apparent here, the bleak backing tracks reflecting his struggle in finding hope between gang violence and police brutality. On some songs he sounds outright desperate to. Since Summertime, Vince sounds more guarded and releases music in shorter spurts. These days, I find myself wishing he was spending more time with us.

Listen: “Norf Norf”

26. Chance The Rapper: Coloring Book (2016)

Chance’s verse on “Ultralight Beam” was the musical moment of 2016 and teed up this: the gospel album (well, mixtape) that we all wished Kanye would make. Walking a razor’s edge between corniness and catharsis (an edge over which he’d later trip), Coloring Book is mostly a collection of gospel rap but also successfully goes so many other places: a ballad, a party anthem, even a straight up Young Thug track. Musically, lyrically, and personally, Coloring Book succeeds so wildly because Chance puts himself out there. In fact, it sounds like he’s been dying to.

Listen: “Angels” (ft. Saba)

INTRODUCTION | 100-76 | 75-51 | 50-26 | 25-11 | 10-1 | FULL LIST

Joey’s Top 100 Albums of the Decade: 75-51

INTRODUCTION | 100-76 | 75-51 | 50-26 | 25-11 | 10-1 | FULL LIST

For those who don’t have time to listen to 100 albums, I’ve provided links to one song after each write-up. Maybe it’s the album’s best song, maybe it’s the most representative, or maybe it’s something in between. I’ve also included a Spotify playlist of these songs at the bottom, although my #80 album is not on Spotify.

Oh, I didn’t realize my #75 and #74 would lead off on Tuesday. Please forgive me.

75. Kanye West: Yeezus (2013)

Alongside 808’s & Heartbreak, Yeezus is Kanye’s most radical album. It’s also super fucked; try not to think too hard about what the “Strange Fruit” sample on “Blood on the Leaves” is implying, and just forget it when he mentions sweet and sour sauce. But from moment one, the album’s aggro Death Grips-style onslaught is unreal, and in any other environment his self-comparisons to larger-than-life tragic figures (King Kong, Batman, Jesus Christ) would get tiring. Instead, this music is so satisfyingly primal that its title felt right. It was beginning to feel like the world’s most prolifically flawed man could do no wrong.

Listen: “Black Skinhead”

74. Drake: Take Care (2011)

In 2011, long before being exposed as an absent father and a generally sketchy dude, Drake sobbing about his riches was still new. This annoying, overlong magnum opus instantly elevated him from a young upstart to one of the world’s most essential pop musicians, all despite Take Care lacking even one superhit. The album was too sparse and sad for radio, its centerpiece, “Marvins Room,” being a vile drunk dial with a bare bones backing track. Drake painting a portrait of himself as King Midas with a Toronto nightlife backdrop might sound irritating on paper, but this is of one of this era’s most talented hitmakers ruthlessly pushing himself artistically.

Listen: “Take Care” (ft. Rihanna)

73. Mitski: Puberty 2 (2016)

“Your Best American Girl” is such a monster, such an awesome display, that Mitski, despite still becoming more and more powerful, is unlikely to ever match it. But Puberty 2 doesn’t vanish beneath it. Its ten other songs are all monsters in their own right. These songs are gutting yarns about mental anguish and unwellness, a sort of adolescence even more overwhelming than the first. Pairing surprisingly well with her tender singing, Mitski’s guitar attack is relentless. It’s an album about staring inwardly, honestly, and unflinchingly enough that we can actually grow.

Listen: “Your Best American Girl”

72. Fucked Up: David Comes To Life (2011)

Two star-crossed lovers build an explosive to bomb a factory. The bomb kills the young woman. The narrator leaps into the story to have a fight with the protagonist on a boat. David Comes To Life is a mess of a story and far too long, but it’s the best realization of Fucked Up’s grandiose approach to hardcore, their songs surrounded by a towering wall of guitar ambience. And though the story is knotty, its moments of clarity are something else. When Damian Abraham howls “LET’S BE TOGETHER. LET’S FALL IN LOVE,” all the insanity snaps into place.

Listen: “Queen of Hearts”

71. Old 97’s: Most Messed Up (2014)

The long, romping opener “Longer Than You’ve Been Alive” is a celebration of the band’s twenty-plus years, and it’s among the crown jewels in their catalogue. But Old 97’s are wonderful for the simple shit: a lovelorn rocker called “Give It Time” that concludes “it will break you,” the one about the tryst on the work vacation, the rockers that end the album, and of course “Nashville,” the tightest-written song they’ve ever put out. Most Messed Up was a back-to-basics album for Old 97’s, and consequently it was their best release in well over a decade.

Listen: “Nashville”

70. The Beths: Future Me Hates Me (2018)

These New Zealand rockers are defined by their social anxiety. Their most enduring choruses go “you wouldn’t like me if you saw what was inside me” and “future heartbreak, future headaches, wide-eyed nights laid lying awake.” But while my favorite mode for The Beths are these anxious pop rock songs, they have more in their arsenal. They also come with all-out rockers (“Uptown Girl”), melodic singalongs (“Whatever”), and massive, strangely serious songs (“Not Running,” “Little Death”). What feels like a small album has a lot to love and a lot to offer.

Listen: “Happy Unhappy”

69. Jay-Z: 4:44 (2017)

Jay-Z’s decade should be remembered for him ending it as earth’s most notorious scab, although 4:44 is a complicated listen for other reasons (mostly the billionaire stuff and the bizarre antisemitism). But damn, here’s his first essential full length since The Black Album. Between his embarrassing brags about his obscene wealth accumulation are racial observations tied to La La Land and OJ Simpson, a song celebrating his newly out mother, and two fiery, grippingly remorseful responses to Lemonade. But most importantly, No I.D.’s production carries this album with a career-best effort.

Listen: “Smile” (ft. Gloria Carter)

68. Heems: Eat, Pray, Thug (2015)

One knock against Eat, Pray, Thug is that it’s not Heems’ most thrilling project, and it’s not even particularly close. His creative fire has been more felt in both Swet Shop Boys and obviously Das Racist, but the emotional heft of this one wins out. The album consists of his usual brand of joke rap with the occasional poppier attempt, but the vibe ranges from somewhat to severely depressed. The album’s true heart is in “Flag Shopping” and “Patriot Act,” two absolutely gutting stories about Himanshu’s life as his communities were persecuted in New York City after 9/11.

Listen: “Patriot Act”

67. Deerhunter: Halcyon Digest (2010)

Halcyon Digest is the sweet spot of Deerhunter’s career: still obsessed with the sonic approach that defined them while maturing into remarkable songwriters. Their fascination with textures is still in full force here, and you can hear the meticulous craft on every drum sound throughout. Sometimes it sounds like they’re just showing off: on guitarist Lockett Pundt’s best ever song, masterwork “Desire Lines,” his playing sneaks its way into your soul, and on leading man Bradford Cox’s best ever song, “Helicopter,” he tells a harrowing story of Russian human trafficking. Halcyon Digest remains Deerhunter’s finest hour.

Listen: “Helicopter”

66. The Mountain Goats: Transcendental Youth (2012)

Transcendental Youth is The Mountain Goats operating at full capacity. Darnielle’s writing is as strong as ever, and the arrangements (the horns!) reach new heights. The band never clicked this well, and these are their most lasting melodies. Darnielle’s topics of choice (a gladiator on the brink of death, Frankie Lymon’s death, Scarface villains (who are dead)) are their most brutal since at least The Sunset Tree. Transcendental Youth is a return to what worked in their peak years but also an evolution thereof. It would do quite well as an introduction to a complicated discography.

Listen: “Harlem Roulette”

65. The Regrettes: How Do You Love? (2019)

Lydia Night is a gargantuan talent. After putting out a superb debut as The Regrettes’ bandleader at just sixteen, two year’s later she’s released this album about the rush of being in love. It’s a stunning achievement. The songs are bigger, and her pop sense is unreal. Evoking L7, The Marvelettes, The Bangles, and The Strokes, the execution in the power pop blast of “Summer Friends” or the Strokesy big single “I Dare You” are undeniable. The Regrettes aren’t exactly breaking new ground with their music, but they take a tried and true approach and do it so damn well.

Listen: “California Friends”

64. Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains (2019)

You know, for an album that was released less than a month before the artist’s suicide and whose greatest song is titled “All My Happiness Is Gone,” Purple Mountains isn’t a total bummer. Yeah, the occasional fit of humor seems even sadder now, but mercifully this album isn’t pure wallowing. But still, fuck. David Berman is painfully hard on himself. His divorce and his mother’s passing are constantly on his mind, and he ends with, “If no one’s fond of fucking me/Maybe no one’s fucking fond of me.” Then suddenly you realize you’re tapping your foot to it.

Listen: “Just The Way That I Feel”

63. Arcade Fire: Reflektor (2013)

Dunking their faces into Greek mythology, Kierkegaard, and trips to Jamaica and Haiti, Arcade Fire teamed with James Murphy for their most ambitious album, its sheer thematic reach outweighing the negatives of its length and pretensions. Their increasingly irritating grumpy old man shtick is salvaged by flipping it onto a century-old thought that constant reflection breeds inaction. It results in the slightest song here, “You Already Know,” being a convincing diagnosis of what ails our souls. And finally, they tie their unrelated themes together with “Afterlife,” leaving you with just one question: “When love is gone, where does it go?”

Listen: “Afterlife”

62. Death Grips: The Money Store (2012)

Death Grips’ industrial hip hop perfectly crystallized on their early, most pop-sensible offering, The Money Store. Here, Andy Morin and drummer Zach Hill marry mission statement Exmilitary’s musical groundwork with inviting, unconventional hooks. But obviously MC Ride is who makes this album remarkable. More than ever, his bizarre phraseology is easy to latch onto or meme. Ride roars, speaking oddities that become instant catchphrases (“I stay noided,” “I’m in your area”). And on “Hacker,” all restraint exits, and Death Grips deliver a titanic kaleidoscope of seizing madness. On The Money Store, their power is convincing and infectious.

Listen: “I’ve Seen Footage”

61. Car Seat Headrest: Teens of Denial (2016)

Will Toledo’s drug addiction can really be a downer, and the only reprieve from Teens of Denial’s hopelessness is an insane “IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE LIKE THIS,” though that hope is only found for the orcas of SeaWorld, not any of Toledo’s human subjects. But nevertheless his writing is fascinating enough and his music engaging enough to justify these songs’ welcome after six or even eleven minutes. Finally making his proper debut despite this being his tenth album, Toledo makes his big moment count, the horns on “Vincent” loudly announcing Car Seat Headrest’s new musical normal.

Listen: “Drunk Drivers / Killer Whales”

60. Sleigh Bells: Treats (2010)

The sheer brazenness of Sleigh Bells as a project is unbelievable. Alexis Krauss’s hypersonic screams and Derek Miller’s humongous blasts of electric guitar would knock anyone on their ass. Krauss is also a keen melodist, whether it’s reworking Funkadelic for standout “Rill Rill” (the album’s lone quietish affair) or weaving hooks between rampages. Treats’ noise pop makes other music feel small and cowardly, flexing with every jolt of sound. Krauss sounds possessed chanting on “Infinity Guitars,” and “Crown on the Ground” turns their chaos into something triumphant. Sleigh Bells are unstoppable, and Treats was their purest mission statement.

Listen: “Riot Rhythm”

59. The Weeknd: House of Balloons (2011)

When this faceless set of songs dropped, The Weeknd’s identity was still mysterious, which was appropriate given the half-creepy, half-sexy aura of House of Balloons. The unnerving, spooky production is wonderful on its own, but the sample selections (Siouxsie, Beach House) are sublime. On many of these nine songs, he seems more like a vibe in the air, a devil on the shoulder, a Kaa the snake, but he still makes way for a raw, bombastic love song in “Wicked Games.” The anonymity was key, and the idea that these songs were simply birthed from the ether was hair-raising.

Listen: “House of Balloons / Glass Table Girls”

58. D’Angelo & The Vanguard: Black Messiah (2014)

After nearly fifteen years, D’Angelo’s follow-up to Voodoo was already imminent, but shortly following grand jury decisions to not indict the policemen who assassinated Michael Brown and Eric Garner, D’Angelo felt urgency to release Black Messiah as soon as possible. Wearing his influences on his sleeve as always, the album is a restrained hum of disarray in the vein of There’s a Riot Goin’ On. But on a chaotic album, “The Charade” is unexpectedly direct. Black Messiah has nothing so awesome as “Untitled (How Does It Feel?),” but its more understated mastery makes this return worthy of its title.

Listen: “The Charade”

57. Solange: True (2012)

In between her 2000s output that never caught traction and her fully realizing herself with sparser, artier music, Solange gave us a brief, wondrous ‘80s pop album. Dev Hynes’ production was her best match, topping off “Losing You” with rhythmic chirping and “Locked In Closets” with a naughty groove while “Some Things Never Seem To Fucking Work” bopped back and forth. All the while, she casually tosses out lighthearted, specific lines like “Remember when you kissed me/At Jimmy John’s when I was seventeen?” It’s a shame we never got a full album of this. It’s the EP of the decade.

Listen: “Some Things Never Seem To Fucking Work”

56. No Age: Everything In Between (2010)

Compared to the beloved Nouns’ loud guitar bursts, Everything In Between scans like typical indie rock by comparison. This is still a noise punk album, but it so frequently sacrifices the awe their sheer power can spark. But it was because they found confidence in their songwriting that they stripped everything down, showing off not just their furious and aggressive “Fever Dreaming” side but finding room to show off their superb angstier songwriting as on “Glitter.” Everything In Between hits the sweet spot between Nouns and An Object with a two-prong approach that was pointedly straightforward and simple.

Listen: “Fever Dreaming”

55. Charly Bliss: Young Enough (2019)

Cleaning everything up and adding synthesizers and drum machines, Charly Bliss’s second album goes much deeper, introducing an all-consuming sentimentality and breaking through trauma with disarming ebullience. Young Enough’s power pop is about falling in love, getting your heart broken, and picking yourself back up into a stronger, wholler person. Here, Eva Hendricks’ voice finds a more natural fit, getting your feelings going whether she’s learning how to love herself or just plumbing credit card fraud for some greater meaning. It’s just icing that when they really want to, they can just straightforwardly fucking rock.

Listen: “Hard to Believe”

54. Lana Del Rey: Born To Die (2012)

After “Video Games” proved a thinkpiece-generating machine, her major label debut served up even further unfair discussions of her “authenticity,” and Born To Die became the most unfairly maligned album of the decade. Later that year, Lorde proved Lana was onto something, and the album’s slinking, depressed music with a light hip hop sheen was on its way towards vindication. Her vocal hooks sink slowly but surely, but her lyricism is her strong point, veering violently between vivid imagery and more general grandiosity. She makes Diet Mountain Dew an all-American symbol.

Listen: “Off to the Races”

53. Lorde: Pure Heroine (2013)

Lorde’s minimalism on Pure Heroine displays a wide set of influences and excellently buoys her songs about materialism, generational divides, and, relatedly, anxiety with growing older. “Ribs” is a song about approaching adulthood so wise that only a teenager could have written it. “Don’t you think that it’s boring how people talk?” is an asskicker of an opening line. Her personality is so big it manages to contain “Royals,” a hilariously ambitious mission statement for Gen Z. It wasn’t just that Lorde made such a splash at the age of sixteen. Pure Heroine had her saying some real voice-of-a-generation shit.

Listen: “Ribs”

52. Kendrick Lamar: DAMN. (2017)

What do you do to follow up two ultra grandiose concept albums, each among the greatest rap albums ever? Kendrick Lamar wisely dialed it back a bit and created more radio-ready hip hop, including some outright pop on “LOVE.” and “LOYALTY.” Still, even his relatively light fare is pretty heavy, especially in the final stretch of the album where he sneaks in some songs that would fit right at home on To Pimp A Butterfly. But the format allows him his big anthem, and it isn’t “HUMBLE.”: “DNA.” is currently the earned boast atop Kendrick’s unparalleled career.

Listen: “DNA.”

51. Downtown Boys: Full Communism (2015)

Sounding like X-Ray Spex with a hard leftist bent, Downtown Boys’ Full Communism tears through everything briskly. No one is spared, not Bruce Springsteen, not white hegemony, and certainly not the inheritance tax, the latter inspiring a chorus simply of the percentage they’d like to see the tax raised to: “ONE. ZERO. ZERO.” As the saxes lock horns with the guitars, Victoria Ruiz’s vocals send things further into a frenzy. And Full Communism is also a wonderful reminder that much of the best music to get us through the Trump era applied under Obama, too.

Listen: “Monstro”

INTRODUCTION | 100-76 | 75-51 | 50-26 | 25-11 | 10-1 | FULL LIST

Joey’s Top 100 Albums of the Decade: 100-76

INTRODUCTION | 100-76 | 75-51 | 50-26 | 25-11 | 10-1 | FULL LIST

For those who don’t have time to listen to 100 albums, I’ve provided links to one song after each write-up. Maybe it’s the album’s best song, maybe it’s the most representative, or maybe it’s something in between. I’ve also included a Spotify playlist of these songs at the bottom, although my #80 album is not on Spotify.

100. SZA: Ctrl (2017)

Though all its tracks are coolheaded songs that go down smooth, Ctrl is SZA pouring her heart out. Pop songs that sound broad get impressively specific on closer inspection, like when she frustratedly leaves a party to watch Narcos and smoke a fuckton of weed, or when she gets dumped on Valentine’s Day and fucks the guy’s friend. Her lyrics are consistently great, but “Drew Barrymore” and “Prom” cement her as a  formidable hooksmith. Her depressed horniness and tendency to overshare make her the perfect avatar of disaffected young adult millennials.

Listen: “Drew Barrymore”

99. Noname: Room 25 (2018)

Noname’s hip hop is usually jazzy and relaxed, and she breaks from this trend to kick off Room 25. “My pussy wrote a thesis on colonialism,” The Spook Who Sat By The Door samples, and a quietly intense admonishment of American policing on “Prayer Song” are just the first three tracks, and they loudly announce her revolutionary intent. Room 25 is just 35 minutes, but she still manages to work 11 songs in, and each one has a memorable hook. Even when her music gets darker, her soft-landing, easy-flowing delivery feels so reassuring.

Listen: “Prayer Song” (ft. Adam Ness)

98. Snail Mail: Lush (2018)

“Who do you change for?” “I can be anyone, but I’m so entwined.” “I’m not into sometimes.” Short, punchy lines like this sneak up on you. They’d be among the highlights of the scrawlings in your high school notebook. Lush, Lindsey Jordan’s debut album, is full of these, and while “Pristine” and “Heat Wave” are twin titans, each monstrous achievements, her double-tracked choruses kill throughout. But this album’s defining point is its guitar work. Jordan’s guitar sounds like a dreamier Sonic Youth. At just eighteen, Jordan has put out the best guitar album of the decade.

Listen: “Pristine”

97. Emperor X: Oversleepers International (2017)

Six years and one album after Western Teleport, another of the decade’s most underappreciated albums, Emperor X’s proper follow-up arrived in early 2017 and captured the bizarre political moment, including an exaggerated odyssey through the American healthcare system, maybe the best song that will ever be written about Brexit, and one called “Wasted On The Senate Floor.” Its sound and lyrics coming on like a stranger John Darnielle, Chad Matheny is hilariously verbose, his melodies are sneakily memorable, and his passion and excitement to be making music just bleed from every moment of every song.

Listen: “Schopenhauer In Berlin”

96. DJ Rashad: Double Cup (2013)

After playing a pioneering role in footwork going back to the nineties, DJ Rashad released his first true studio album in October 2013 and was dead just half a year later, cruelly taken at the age of 34. Standouts include when he stretches the Cheryl Lynn sample like putty on “Show U How” and the buildup and liftoff on “Acid Bit.” It’s killer dance music, and with the way he was still pushing the genre forward, it’s heartbreaking that he won’t be able to push it even more.

Listen: “Show U How” (ft. Spinn)

95. Frank Ocean: blond (2016)

Long gone is nostalgia,ULTRA.’s crystalline storytelling. blond is more ethereal. It’s a vibe. For many, that’s not enough. For me, “Ivy” is his most viscerally emotional writing and singing. “Nights” has ambition to match “Pyramids” and surpasses it. “Solo (Reprise)” is scorching, and makes me miss Andre 3000 dearly. Though much of this album is more formless, the guitars are always top-notch, and the best melodies always bubble up at just the right moments. It certainly isn’t the album of the decade, but blond is yet another reinvention from an artist with vision and ambition.

Listen: “Nights”

94. Jlin: Black Origami (2017)

Jerrilyn Patton AKA Jlin’s footwork is lively and hyperactive, and from its first second her sophomore album bounces nonstop. “Footwork” might imply that this is a dance album, and I suppose you could turn it on for that purpose. But instead it’s on this list for the way she turns over these ideas and their potential to take your mind somewhere in turn. On one listen, this might sound like a blast. On another, it might sound menacing or unceasing, its drum machines rap rap rapping until they wear down your psyche. She’s the most thrilling electronic artist out there.

Listen: “Black Origami”

93. Blood Orange: Freetown Sound (2016)

Empress Of. Nelly Furtado. Carly Rae Jepsen. Debbie Harry. These are just a few of the women found all over Freetown Sound. Dev Hynes so often defers to another voice, and as Ashlee Haze’s spoken word intro cries “feminism,” Hynes knows his voice isn’t enough for his album ambitiously exploring queer black liberation. Freetown Sound is best defined by the backdrop that Hynes’ expert production sets for his ponderings. The way “Squash Squash” or “Better Than Me” bring us inside his head is incredible. They make big songs and statements like “Best To You” or “Hands Up” hit harder.

Listen: “Best To You” (ft. Empress Of)

92. Jamie xx: In Colour (2015)

It wasn’t a question of if The xx’s producer and beatmaker was going to make a great electronic album. It was a question of when. Jamie Smith’s ear for samples is unparalleled, whether they’re front and center like the Persuasions sample on the Young Thug-driven single “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” or whether they’re more subtle, as on his kneading of The Four Freshmen on “Sleep Sound.” His music also echoes the intimacy of his band, and sometimes his bandmates show up outright. When they do, it’s a touching, well-earned victory lap for the trio.

Listen: “Loud Places” (ft. Romy)

91. Waxahatchee: Cerulean Salt (2013)

Ivy Tripp and Out In The Storm are immensely worthy follow-ups that see Katie Crutchfield becoming a better performer and a better bandleader, but her finest songwriting remains on sophomore effort Cerulean Salt. Here, she reflects on her uncomfortable adulthood and reacts by drinking. A lot. These songs are intimate, conveying their overwhelming melancholy by evoking the closeness of a friend. “Swan Dive,” the album’s bleakest song, is also its best and most vividly written: “We will find a way to be lonely any chance we get” is a harrowing realization. Cerulean Salt is stuffed with such moments.

Listen: “Swan Dive”

90. Control Top: Covert Contracts (2019)

“Office Rage” is a fairly standard piece of work-sucks writing, but it’s the greatest demonstration of Control Top’s powers. Ali Carter’s dancey bass lines are super high in the mix, Al Creedon’s guitar sounds like a nightmare, Alex Lichtenhauer whacks ‘em hard, and Carter yelps “CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK CLICK” with frightening conviction. “SERVICE WITH A SMILE, EAT SHIT!!!” is just icing. Their lyrics frequently straddle the ever-fuzzier line between being paranoid or simply crushed by capitalism. This post-punk is frantic, urgent, and anguished, and it’s important and straightforward in the way early punk albums were and too few are now.

Listen: “Office Rage”

89. Girls: Father, Son, Holy Ghost (2011)

Christopher Owens’ final release as Girls, Father, Son, Holy Ghost, takes the slighter, breezier guitar rock approach of the debut and piles on until it’s heavy. “Honey Bunny” would fit right in on Album, but after that the additional layers range from a tad weightier (“Alex,” “Love Like A River”) to cumbersome (“Die,” “Vomit”). It serves these heartsick songs well, and though much of the album teeters between heartbroken and devastated (the pained “Vomit” is the band’s best song), the final moments of the album on “Jamie Marie” sneak a smile on your face.

Listen: “Vomit”

88. Jens Lekman: I Know What Love Isn’t (2012)

I Know What Love Isn’t is a heart-wrenching breakup album. On “I Want A Pair Of Cowboy Boots,” he dreams of finding the courage to move on, and on closer “Every Little Hair Knows Your Name,” he sounds broken. Even on songs with gleeful piano riffs (“Become Someone Else’s”), misery is genuine and palpable on this record. But that makes it so much more rewarding when on “The World Goes On,” he recounts his embarrassing, impulsive, post-breakup misadventures and quietly sorts himself out a bit. And then he learns that the end of the world is bigger than love.

Listen: “The World Moves On”

87. oso oso: basking in the glow (2019)

On basking in the glow, Jade Lilitri is hellbent on keeping positive. A glimmering album of catchy pop-punk tunes, it’s less about simply staying positive than the process thereof, “trying to stay in that lane.” His lyrics are littered with smartassery like “watch an optimist drink half-empty cups,” and the album gets substantial mileage out of nonspecific lyrics chasing raw emotion, allowing simple lines like “my eyes lit up when I saw it” to speak for themselves. In his quest for a zen state of happiness, Lilitri’s bright guitars and expert hooks might just pull you in, too.

Listen: “basking in the glow”

86. Charly Bliss: Guppy (2017)

From Eva Hendricks’ first squeal on “Percolator,” Guppy is an excellent album of power pop that takes its cues from Weezer and Fountains of Wayne. These garagey songs bubble over with elation, even when they’re about her therapist, your boyfriend making out with his cousin, or finding the bright side of doggy death (“Does he love me most/Now that his dog is toast?”). Hendricks’ unrestrained, high-pitched singing is the real draw, especially on lines like “I bounced so high, I peed the trampoline.” It’s rough around the edges, but Guppy’s energy and charm are so rare.

Listen: “Westermarck”

85. Paramore: Paramore (2013)

Self-titling an album after losing half the band’s core is bold, but bolder still is that it’s a mammoth seventeen tracks. Aside from two wickedly sweet love songs (“Still Into You,” “Proof”), Paramore spends much time in heartache and loneliness. There’s the Cyndi Lauper twinkle on “Anklebiters” getting revved up and turned inside out, a breakup exploding on impact and giving way to a crazy girl stalker, and a gospel choir dropping you on your ass in the real world. Hayley Williams is one of the greatest rock vocalists of the century, and this ambitious album is the greatest testament to that.

Listen: “Ain’t It Fun”

84. Cardi B: Invasion of Privacy (2018)

What a debut. After the bravado of “Bodak Yellow” conquered 2017, Cardi B rose to the occasion with Invasion of Privacy as the salsa-infused trap of “I Like It” conquered summer 2018. But Invasion of Privacy isn’t built around her two biggest hits. Each song isn’t just readymade to infest radio but also dancefloors and advertisements. Her entire career is unexpected, but the most unexpected success here is “Thru Your Phone,” a quietly unnerving cheating song for the age of screens. Her braggadocio never wears, and that makes it more startling to know that this is still just the beginning.

Listen: “Thru Your Phone”

83. Mount Eerie: A Crow Looked At Me (2017)

Sometimes it feels as if indie has a competition for saddest album, a pathetic race to the bottom in which everyone loses. A Crow Looked At Me, about the passing of Phil Elverum’s late wife Geneviéve, is no such album, and instead claims that death is “not for singing about; it’s not for making into art.” But make it into art he does, and it hurts. Elverum’s family counselor dies two months after his wife. His wife secretly orders their daughter a backpack and he receives it after her passing. It’s heartbreakingly gentle and agonizingly lonely.

Listen: “Real Death”

82. PJ Harvey: Let England Shake (2011)

“What is the glorious fruit of our land? Its fruit is deformed children.” PJ Harvey isn’t playing around on her antiwar (by way of World War I) album, her lyrics thick with brutal images. And her haunting music sounds antiquated to fit the topic of the day, making use of the autoharp and using her thinner, higher vocals. But it’s not just war that Harvey is fed up with: she reappropriates Eddie Cochran and sighs, “what if I take my problem to the United Nations?” That skepticism of peacekeeping is why this album sounds so relevant, so exhausted.

Listen: “The Words That Maketh Murder”

81. Sky Ferreira: Ghost (2012)

The variety in these five songs is astonishing. The tender, light acoustic intro song is a bizarre introduction to this phase of her career, and becomes more intriguing set against “Lost In My Bedroom,” which is more representative of the electropop that’s made her famous. The Jon Brion production on the longing title track is another fascinating window into a different artist she might have become. But then the grunge of “Red Lips” swallows you whole then spits you out into the magnificent “Everything Is Embarrassing.” It’s scattershot and unfocused, but Ferreira’s versatility is overwhelming.

Listen: “Red Lips”

80. My Bloody Valentine: m b v (2013)

Over twenty years later, My Bloody Valentine finally rose to the impossible task of following up Loveless. Their 2013 album is rougher, weirder, and more violent. “is this and yes,” whose lonely organ and vocal hypnotically bounce you around, is the band’s strangest song, but mbv’s biggest moment is its final third, when three chaotic songs work themselves into fits until they take off. But though it’s a different monster entirely, mbv feels like Kevin Shields is picking back up where he left off. Should be fun to see where he picks back up in another twenty years.

Listen: “is this and yes”

79. Flying Lotus: Cosmogramma (2010)

The strange dance of “Nose Art,” the casual working of Thom Yorke’s voice, and the hypnotic use of ping pong balls make for an album full of ideas, and it all builds around Thundercat’s turn on centerpiece “Mmmhmm.” Steven Ellison’s jazzy electronica is one of the most distinct sounds in electronic music now, but, despite fantastic sophomore effort Los Angeles, 2010’s Cosmogramma is Flying Lotus at his best and most motivated from the second “Clock Catcher” began throbbing, and it was here where he really found himself as an artist.

Listen: “Do The Astral Plane”


The most memorable music moment in 2018 was when the beautiful “It’s Okay To Cry” faded out and then “Ponyboy” smashed your face into the wall repeatedly. UN-INSIDES still has the uncanny PC Music-style pop sensibilities of seminal EP PRODUCT, but this time it’s artsier and more feral. Especially clear when its best song “Faceshopping” (“I’m real when I shop my face”) twists itself into knots over the unclear lines between artificial and authentic, a central theme is the malleability of one’s personality, image, and body. SOPHIE magnificently plays with and demonstrates the thin line between horror and beauty.

Listen: “Faceshopping”

77. Hurray for the Riff Raff: The Navigator (2017)

A concept album about a young woman growing up ashamed of her city, waking up in the future, and taking account of what she’s lost, The Navigator is about perseverance. Reflecting Alynda Segarra’s roots in the Bronx and her Puerto Rican heritage, the album is set against a backdrop of hellish gentrification and a horrible new President. And released half a year before the landing of Hurricane Maria, “Pa’lante” is a profoundly powerful performance by Segarra, and has become a touching, wondrous anthem to Puerto Rico. The Navigator is among this millennium’s best and most important folk music.

Listen: “Pa’lante”

76. Wussy: Attica! (2014)

Wussy’s biggest album begins with Who tribute “Teenage Wasteland,” which competes with “Airborne” for their best ever song. In fact, Lisa Walker is at her best throughout. “Halloween” and the title track are breezy and perfect. And though a song or two might not live up to Wussy’s grand new sound, their even dronier guitars still push their music in a thrilling way. Attica! also marks a fifth straight album of largely unnoticed sustained greatness by Wussy. And even more than on subsequent releases, Attica! sounds like the height of their wisdom as writers, as bandmates, and as recording artists.

Listen: “Teenage Wasteland”

INTRODUCTION | 100-76 | 75-51 | 50-26 | 25-11 | 10-1 | FULL LIST

Joey’s Top Ten Albums of 2019

Here we go. I’ll have more to say about many of these in my best albums of the decade list next week.

10. 100 gecs: 1000 gecs

What if SOPHIE, M.I.A., and Skrillex had two horrible children?

Listen: “Money Machine”

9. Control Top: Covert Contracts

Covert Contracts is the best straight-up punk rock album in…

…wow, so long that I’m not sure how to finish the sentence. Maybe since riot grrrl.

Listen: “Office Rage”

8. oso oso: basking in the glow

The production can make this album seem slight or small. But Jade Lillitri’s talent for pop punk melodies and capturing sentiments is colossal.

Listen: “basking in the glow”

7. The Regrettes: How Do You Love?

There’s one certainty in 2019, and it’s that Lydia Night, who released this sophomore album at just eighteen years old, is an innate talent. Some young artists sound gleeful to be making music and living their dream. She performs this power pop with the poise and seriousness of someone who has been making music for a lifetime.

Listen: “California Friends”

6. Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains

David Berman gave us a comeback album about how fucking unhappy he was. A month later, he had died by suicide. The album’s less of a bummer than that sounds, but that all-consuming fact remains.

But do what you can to listen for his lyricism. He was really one of the best.

Listen: “Just The Way That I Feel”

5. Charly Bliss: Young Enough

Young Enough is an impressive evolution for an already impressive band. Their sophomore album is, dare I say, slick, and the shine suits their rock a little more neatly. More vitally, they’re more aggressively tugging heartstrings, looking back at heartbreak and trauma and coming out on the other side stronger for it.

Listen: “Young Enough”

4. billy woods & Kenny Segal: Hiding Places

billy woods raps carefully and considerately about the despair of living in a system in which more and more people are falling into poverty, and about how being black both makes poverty both more likely and considerably more horrible and inescapable. Kenny Segal’s bleak but inventive and engaging production completes it and makes this among the best musical documents of the American empire’s love affair with leaving its own people behind.

Listen: “Checkpoints”


Her zoomer energy can seem like a gimmick, but the charm of nearly every song is so wildly different. Her brother’s production is so unique, but it’s still Billie’s magnetism as a performer who’s unafraid to act her age that makes this the most memorable album of 2019 by a fair bit.

Listen: “bury a friend”

2. Jamila Woods: LEGACY! LEGACY!

Jamila Woods is the most talented person on this list, and her celebration and investigation of her heroes can feel like she’s just showing off. It might feel less from her soul than debut HEAVN, but LEGACY! LEGACY! is such a monument, a real thinker of a listen which you’ll never stop finding new angles to approach.

Listen: “BALDWIN”

1. Lana Del Rey: Norman Fucking Rowell!

The next best American record.

Listen: “Norman fucking Rockwell”

Honorable Mentions: Crush on Me by Sir Babygirl, Miss Universe by Nilüfer Yanya, Immunity by Clairo, Dedication by Carly Rae Jepsen, Patience by Mannequin Pussy, Two Hands by Big Thief, U.F.O.F. by Big Thief

Honorable Mentions to the Honorable Mentions List: uknowatimsayin¿ by Danny Brown, Eve by Rapsody, KIRK by DaBaby, Jaime by Brittany Howard, Beware of the dogs by Stella Donnelly, Remind Me Tomorrow by Sharon Van Etten, Bandana by Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, Dogrel by Fontaines D.C., Keepsake by Hatchie, Better Oblivion Community Center by Better Oblivion Community Center, the first glass beach album by glass beach, Buck Up by Carsie Blanton, Wildcard by Miranda Lambert, Cuz I Love You by Lizzo, The Best of Luck Club by Alex Lahey, Father of the Bride by Vampire Weekend, Fever by Megan Thee Stallion

Joey’s Top Ten Songs of 2019

Welcome, everyone. I always like waiting until the year is actually over to get these lists out. Just doesn’t feel right to do it earlier.

I have a lot of posts coming out in the next couple of weeks, so let’s just get right into it.

10. Sharon Van Etten: “Seventeen”

“Seventeen” is the biggest moment of Sharon Van Etten’s career. This song about witnessing a changing New York City is elevated by a great vocal performance and a grand presentation.

9. FKA twigs: “cellophane”

Much has been written about the naked emotion in “cellophane,” but what makes it work for me is the slow, broken piano track.

8. Clairo: “Bags”

A song about the unspoken calculations in moments of intimacy, something about the simple swagger of the guitars here really brings “Bags” together. The best part is her lingering on “know you’d make fun of me.”

7. Stella Donnelly: “Tricks”

Beware of the Dogs is a frequently dead-serious album about Stella Donnelly’s exhaustion with men. “Tricks” is also about that (it calls out the men who heckle her with song suggestions), but it’s her most fun song by far and it includes all of her best hooks. Lose yourself in the “LEAVE IT ALONE, LEAVE IT ALONE” bit.

6. Vampire Weekend: “This Life”

“I’ve been cheating through this life/And all it’s suffering/Oh, Christ!/Am I good for nothing?” is the best refrain Vampire Weekend’s ever made, and Jake Longstreth’s lead guitar lines are the best among many on a great guitar album. “Harmony Hall” is more viscerally thrilling, but “This Life” has incredibly strong fundamentals which make its virtue longer-lasting.

5. Lizzo: “Juice”

Lizzo has finally made a song as fun as she so obviously is. Not sure why the public had to reach back to 2018 and 2017 to get her atop the charts.

4. Lil Nas X (ft. Billy Ray Cyrus): “Old Town Road (Remix)”

Remember: Billboard removed the original “Old Town Road,” a modestly charting trap song with a banjo sound here and there, from its country listings. This sparked a frenzy of streaming “Old Town Road” in protest, and the song was already headed to number one. But the rest of the story is in Lil Nas X’s best tweet: “see he left and came back with help lol”

The original’s two minutes didn’t have an unwasted second, so some will still prefer that. But Billy Ray Cyrus’s verses turn the song into a world-conquering triumph. “Old Town Road (Remix)” had the longest stay at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in the chart’s history. Can’t nobody tell them nothing.

3. Alex Lahey: “Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself”

On I Love You Like A Brother, Alex Lahey found a foolproof formula. “Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself” returns to that formula and is the most euphoric thing she’s ever written. And she finally brings out a mainstay of her earlier career that had yet to appear in her solo work: her saxophone.

Her songs about daily millennial strife need this companion. Even if things are hard, you can make them just a little bit easier by being kind to yourself.

2. Lana Del Rey: “The greatest”

Lana Del Rey finally tops “Video Games” with this this weirdly triumphant song about the end of the world, inspired by the 2018 Hawaii false missile alert. What if the last words we ever heard were “Kanye West is blond and gone/’Life on Mars’ ain’t just a song/I hope the live stream’s almost on?”

1. Mannequin Pussy: “Drunk II”

God, what a fantastic band, and Marisa Dabice’s voice is a monster. What’s the greatest moment here? “I still love you, you stupid fuck?” “I have the answer now?” My vote’s for “you feel guilty, it’s pathetic.”

Dabice wrote the song while actually inebriated, drunk trying to escape the torment of her breakup.

“Drunk II” is a band taking everything it does well and doing it all at once. Holy crap.

Honorable Mentions: “Gone” by Charli XCX & Christine and the Queens, “Cruel Summer” by Taylor Swift

Joey’s Past Top Tens, 2010-2018

This is a new website mostly made to chronicle my best-of music lists, but starting history with the best of 2019 doesn’t make sense.

So here were my top ten songs and albums from 2010 to 2018 as submitted to the Village Voice Pazz & Jop Critics Poll. Many of these have changed since (and you’ll see a lot of that in my upcoming feature), but this feels worth chronicling.

Then you’ll see my best songs and albums of 2019 list in the first few days of the new year.



1. Janelle Monáe: The ArchAndroid (Suites II And III)
2. The National: High Violet
3. Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
4. Titus Andronicus: The Monitor
5. Robyn: Body Talk
6. No Age: Everything In Between
7. Dessa: A Badly Broken Code
8. Cloud Cult: Light Chasers
9. Broken Social Scene: Forgiveness Rock Record
10. Big Boi: Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty


1. Broken Social Scene: “World Sick”
2. Spoon: “Out Go The Lights”
3. Big Boi (ft. Gucci Mane): “Shine Blockas”
4. The National: “Terrible Love (Alternate Version)”
5. LCD Soundsystem: “I Can Change”
6. Janelle Monáe (ft. Big Boi): “Tightrope”
7. Cee Lo Green: “Fuck You!”
8. Robyn: “Dancing On My Own”
9. Metric: “Black Sheep”
10. Caribou: “Odessa”



1. Frank Ocean: nostalgia,ULTRA.
2. tUnE-yArDs: w h o k i l l
3. Wussy: Strawberry
4. Girls: Father, Son, Holy Ghost
5. Adele: 21
6. Drake: Take Care
7. The Weeknd: House of Balloons
8. Jay-Z & Kanye West: Watch The Throne
9. Fucked Up: David Comes To Life
10. Paul Simon: So Beautiful Or So What


1. Beyoncé: “Countdown”
2. Drake (ft. Rihanna): “Take Care”
3. Girls: “Vomit”
4. The Rapture: “How Deep Is Your Love?”
5. Britney Spears: “Till The World Ends”
6. EMA: “California”
7. Lana Del Rey: “Video Games”
8. Tyler, The Creator: “Yonkers”
9. Jay-Z & Kanye West: “Otis”
10. Das Racist: “Michael Jackson”



1. Frank Ocean: channel ORANGE
2. Kendrick Lamar: good kid, m.A.A.d city
3. Fiona Apple: The Idler Wheel…
4. Loudon Wainwright III: Older Than My Old Man Now
5. The Mountain Goats: Transcendental Youth
6. Japandroids: Celebration Rock
7. Jens Lekman: I Know What Love Isn’t
8. Taylor Swift: Red
9. Leonard Cohen: Old Ideas
10. Dirty Projectors: Swing Lo Magellan


1. Pussy Riot: “Putin Lights Up The Fires”
2. Psy: “Gangnam Style”
3. Taylor Swift: “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”
4. Japandroids: “The House That Heaven Built”
5. Frank Ocean: “Thinkin Bout You”
6. Usher: “Climax”
7. Kacey Musgraves: “Merry Go ‘Round”
8. The Shins: “Simple Song”
9. Carly Rae Jepsen: “Call Me Maybe”
10. Miguel: “Adorn”



1. Arcade Fire: Reflektor
2. Tegan & Sara: Heartthrob
3. Kacey Musgraves: Same Trailer, Different Park
4. Vampire Weekend: Modern Vampires of the City
5. Kanye West: Yeezus
6. Janelle Monáe: The Electric Lady
7. Paramore: Paramore
8. My Bloody Valentine: m b v
9. Waxahatchee: Cerulean Salt
10. Disclosure: Settle


1. Superchunk: “Me & You & Jackie Mittoo”
2. HAIM: “The Wire”
3. Icona Pop (ft. Charli XCX): “I Love It”
4. Mariah Carey (ft. Miguel): “#Beautiful”
5. Lorde: “Royals”
6. Vampire Weekend: “Ya Hey”
7. Arcade Fire: “Afterlife”
8. The Knife: “Full of Fire”
9. Justin Timberlake (ft. Timbaland): “Dress On”
10. Drake (ft. Majid Jordan): “Hold On, We’re Going Home”



1. D’Angelo: Black Messiah
2. Against Me!: Transgender Dysphoria Blues
3. Run the Jewels: Run the Jewels 2
4. Miranda Lambert: Platinum
5. Azealia Banks: Broke With Expensive Taste
6. Old 97’s: Most Messed Up
7. Parquet Courts: “Sunbathing Animal”
8. tUnE-yArDs: Nikki Nack
9. Jenny Lewis: The Voyager
10. Aphex Twin: SYRO


1. Kendrick Lamar: “Untitled”
2. Beyoncé (ft. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie): “***Flawless”
3. DJ Snake (ft. Lil Jon): “Turn Down For What”
4. J. Cole: “Be Free”
5. Kira Isabella: “Quarterback”
6. Future Islands: “Seasons (Waiting On You)”
7. Taylor Swift: “Blank Space”
8. Flying Lotus (ft. Kendrick Lamar): “Never Catch Me”
9. Sia: “Chandelier”
10. Lil B: “No Black Person Is Ugly”



1. Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp A Butterfly
2. Grimes: Art Angels
3. Heems: Eat, Pray, Thug
4. Carly Rae Jepsen: E•MO•TION
5. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment: Surf
6. Waxahatchee: Ivy Tripp
7. Miguel: Wildheart
8. Courtney Barnett: Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit
9. Jamie xx: In Colour
10. Sleater-Kinney: No Cities To Love


1. Estelle: “Stronger Than You”
2. Fetty Wap: “Trap Queen”
3. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment: “Sunday Candy”
4. Kendrick Lamar: “Alright”
5. Justin Bieber: “What Do You Mean?”
6. Mark Ronson (ft. Bruno Mars): “Uptown Funk”
7. Grimes: “Flesh Without Blood”
8. Rihanna & Kanye West & Paul McCartney: “FourFiveSeconds”
9. Miguel: “Coffee”
10. Missy Elliott (ft. Pharrell Williams): “WTF (Where They From)”



1. A Tribe Called Quest: We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service
2. Chance The Rapper: Coloring Book
3. Jamila Woods: HEAVN
4. Beyoncé: Lemonade
5. Car Seat Headrest: Teens of Denial
6. Blood Orange: Freetown Sound
7. G.L.O.S.S.: Trans Day of Revenge
8. Frank Ocean: blond
9. Solange: A Seat at the Table
10. Kaytranada: 99.9%


1. Kanye West: “Ultralight Beam”
2. Car Seat Headrest: “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales”
3. Beyoncé: “Formation”
4. Chance The Rapper (ft. 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne): “No Problem”
5. Rae Sremmurd (ft. Gucci Mane): “Black Beatles”
6. Solange: “Cranes in the Sky”
7. Jamila Woods (ft. Noname): “VRY BLK”
8. Rihanna (ft. Drake): “Work”
9. Desiigner: “Panda”
10. G.L.O.S.S.: “Give Violence A Chance”



1. Jens Lekman: Life Will See You Now
2. Jay-Z: 4:44
3. Alex Lahey: I Love You Like A Brother
4. Kendrick Lamar: DAMN.
5. Emperor X: Oversleepers International
6. Lorde: Melodrama
7. St. Vincent: MASSEDUCTION
8. SZA: Ctrl
9. Brockhampton: SATURATION II
10. Kelela: Take Me Apart


1. Kesha: “Praying”
2. Jay-Z: “The Story of O.J.”
3. Mount Eerie: “Real Death”
4. Kendrick Lamar: “DNA.”
5. Paramore: “Hard Times”
6. Carly Rae Jepsen: “Cut to the Feeling”
7. Cardi B: “Bodak Yellow”
8. Lil Uzi Vert: “XO Tour Llif3”
9. Japandroids: “North East South West”
10. Khalid: “Young Dumb & Broke”



1. Janelle Monáe: Dirty Computer
2. Parquet Courts: Wide Awaaaaake!
3. Mitski: Be The Cowboy
4. Noname: Room 25
6. Kacey Musgraves: Golden Hour
7. The Beths: Future Me Hates Me
8. Snail Mail: Lush
9. Cardi B: Invasion of Privacy
10. boygenius: boygenius


1. Snail Mail: “Pristine”
2. Drake: “Nice For What”
3. Mitski: “Nobody”
4. Pusha T: “The Story of Adidon”
5. Ariana Grande: “thank u, next”
6. Lana Del Rey: “Venice Bitch”
7. Hop Along: “How Simple”
8. Playboi Carti (ft. Lil Uzi Vert): “Shoota”
9. Janelle Monáe (ft. Zoë Kravitz): “Screwed”
10. Rae Sremmurd (ft. Juicy J): “Powerglide”

Joey’s Top 100 Albums of the Decade: Introduction

INTRODUCTION | 100-76 | 75-51 | 50-26 | 25-11 | 10-1 | FULL LIST

I’ve undertaken a few large writing projects before, but this is, by far, the largest.

Next Monday to Friday, I’ll be rolling out my top 100 albums of the 2010s along with writeups for each album. I’ve kept a mental list of the decade’s best music for the entirety of the past ten years, and I’ve been thinking about this list and listening to music with this article in mind basically every day since August 2018. I’ve been writing it over the past half year.

So to begin, here’s an introduction in the form of an FAQ. And I have an honorable mention at the end of this post. Enjoy.

Q: Who are you? Why should I, a hypothetical internet wanderer who does not know you, care about your take on the music of the 2010s?

A: Hi! I’m Joey Daniewicz. I’m a 28-year-old Minnesotan who has been writing about music for just over ten years. I began writing a music column for the University of Minnesota Morris’s student newspaper The University Register in September of 2009. I went on to serve as that newspaper’s Arts & Entertainment Editor and then its Editor-in-Chief. I wrote about music there until November 2012.

I’ve done some writing at The Young Folks and City Pages, and I’ve gotten a few words published at Village Voice, where I voted in their famous Pazz & Jop Critics Poll for nine years (and I’ve now voted in its spiritual successor, the Uproxx Critics Poll, for two years). I was featuring on Robert Christgau’s blog roll for a bit back when he wrote for MSN. That was kinda neat.

I’m not a super decorated or active music writer, but I’ve existed in those circles for a while and have a decent resumé for it.

But that doesn’t really get at the question of why you should care. Well, it’s a hard question!

Not long after I was paying attention to new music and not long after I was writing about new music, the 2010s started. The 2010s have been special to me because it’s the first time I’ve really witnessed a decade of new music.

And while this list won’t be as important as Rolling Stone‘s or Pitchfork‘s lists, I think it’s pretty cool that unlike those, this feature is unified by a single voice and a single perspective. And unlike most lists made by one person, I’ve written about one hundred albums for it. It’s taken a lot of work, but I think this feature is pretty unique, even if, honestly, my selections are mostly pretty typical.

Q: Have you done this sort of thing before?

A: Yeah! Just a few months into my columnist role I wrote about my ten favorite albums of the ’00s. I named The Hold Steady’s Boys And Girls In America the album of the decade. My opinion on the matter has since changed (as you can see in this updated list I drafted a few months ago), although not a lot.

Q: What defined music in the 2010s?

A: There’s a lot to go over, but two things stand out.

The first is the collapse of the indie strangeness that defined 2009. Animal Collective, Grizzly Bear, and Dirty Projectors didn’t make big waves in the 2010s (although you should check out Swing Lo Magellan by Dirty Projectors, which almost made this list). Indie in general feels like it matters less than it did in the ’90s and ’00s.

The other trend is the dominance of black solo artists who have inspired auteuristic discussion of their work. They have cultivated media experiences and dominated discourses. Some are Tyler, The Creator, FKA twigs, Jay-Z, Solange, and Janelle Monáe. But four artists stand above all this decade. They are Kanye West, Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar, and Beyoncé. You will read plenty about those four on my list.

Q: Who is this list for?

A: Firstly, it’s for myself.

After that, I’d love for my friends to read it and maybe use it to discover music. That’d be such an honor.

Finally, the dream is absolutely for someone just getting into popular music to use this as a primer. I tore through these lists eleven or twelve years ago and through them built an understanding of the canon of recorded popular music. Obviously most people will go with an editorial list from a notable publication if they’re looking for that. But I think this does a pretty good job. If you’re reading this and looking for a jumping off point, I believe this list does right by you.

Q: What’s your criteria?

A: Uhhhh…..

I got this question a few times, and it’s a weird one.

I’m not in love with that question, but I get the demand for it. I think that if you read the list you can figure out what I do and don’t value, but a few things to keep in mind are an album’s consistency, its overall aesthetic, how memorable its songs are, the value of what it sets out to accomplish, and its success at actually accomplishing that.

Q: Is this a list of the best albums, or is this a list of your favorite albums?

A: The distinction has always seemed pretty pedantic to me. The purpose of these lists isn’t to assert some sort of musical infallibility but to contribute to a larger discourse about which music is especially noteworthy. Do I believe that my taste is unimpeachable and that these must be the best 100 albums of the decade? No. Obviously not. But it’s also true that these are more than just my favorites. They’re the albums that I really truly believe to be the best. At this moment in time, anyway. To me, “favorite” and “best” are the same question. And I think that people who treat them as separate questions should believe in their own judgment more.

Q: You left off my favorite album! What gives?

A: 100 albums is not very many albums!

I won’t name the albums that got closest right now, but there were some artists that had marvelous decades that didn’t quite find their way onto this list. Some of the most notable absences are Danny Brown, Nicki Minaj, Ariana Grande, Hop Along, Jason Isbell, and St. Vincent.

Q: Lastly, was there anything this decade that’s worthy of the list but doesn’t quite fit in?

A: What a suspiciously specific question. Why, yes there is!

It’s an anthology, so it doesn’t quite fit my rubric (my list only includes albums of new music). But it’s released in the 2010s and made exclusively from music originally released in the 2010s. A few of the releases that make up this anthology just missed my cut, so I was thrilled to see this release and feel compelled to give it special mention.

Honorable Mention. Burial: Tunes 2011-2019 (2019)

Since 2007’s landmark Untrue, Burial hasn’t given us the follow-up we’ve wanted, but his output of singles and EPs has been consistently impressive. But it isn’t until all his solo work for Hyperdub over the past ten years is laid out in this two-and-a-half hour display that one can appreciate the enormity of his decade. A few of these ten-give-or-take-three minute journeys are intense, but many wander, drowning you in ambience. Tunes taken altogether feels like an assertion that he’s still the best electronic artist out there. Maybe we don’t even need another album.

Listen: “Rival Dealer”

Meet me back here on Monday.

INTRODUCTION | 100-76 | 75-51 | 50-26 | 25-11 | 10-1 | FULL LIST