Somehow, we’ve made it the end of another decade, and with that it’s time to get reflective. When we think back to the ’70s, ’80s or any other decade, it’s the classic albums that come to mind. So how will the 2010s be remembered by the generations that come after us? Our writers take a look at some of the most iconic albums of the last ten years, the records that went above and beyond and changed the game forever.
Mac DeMarco – 2
You don’t come by a moniker like “The Prince of Indie Pop” without good reason, and Mac DeMarco has more than earned it. Speaking solely in terms of trendsetting, DeMarco’s first full-length project 2 deserves recognition as one of the most important of the 2010s. The trail blazed by DeMarco on 2 has energised the indie pop scene and helped dispel the untimely reports of guitar-driven music’s demise.
A brief, 30-minute album that doesn’t outstay its welcome, 2 plunges listeners into a suburban, nicotine-stained idyll, a dreamy conception of both everyday life and DeMarco’s own personal background. His lyrics touch on familiar topics – wanting to skip town, falling in love with a girl – for the most part. The album really shines during tracks like ‘Ode to Viceroy’, DeMarco’s love song about his preferred cigarette brand, or ‘Cooking Up Something Good’, a relentlessly upbeat track about his father’s illicit dealings in the family basement. These tracks infuse the record with an irresistible sense of personality, often desired but rarely achieved.
The cardinal sin of entertainment is to be boring. Mac DeMarco has never fallen into that trap, most of all on 2. Lightning-paced and authentically weird, 2 was likely as fun to write and produce as it is to listen to.
Ed Sheeran – +
It’s the album that brought us the iconic singles ‘The A Team’ and ‘Lego House’ – Ed Sheeran’s + really was ‘the start of something beautiful’. Released in 2011, it was an absolute success in the charts; it was certainly Sheeran’s commercial breakthrough in his musical career, and from then on he has gone from strength to strength, and is now one of the biggest singer-songwriters around.
Alongside the popular tracks that everyone knows, +’also blessed us with the gorgeous melodies of ‘This’ and ‘Autumn Leaves’, and some upbeat, exciting tunes like ‘You Need Me, I Don’t Need You’ and ‘The City’, meaning this album has a little something for everyone to enjoy.
From tunes about hopeless drunkenness, break-ups, and finding love again, it’s safe to say that Ed Sheeran’s debut studio album is one of the most iconic of this decade.
Slaves – Are You Satisfied?
Slaves‘ Are You Satisfied? is one of the best British rock albums of the 2010’s. There’s simply no doubt about it, however, if you have even an inkling of confusion as to why the Maidstone Duo’s debut album is a massive hit, let’s get into it.
Proper grimy British punk died out in the 70s. That’s until Slaves (along with a few other artists and bands, such as Yungblud and Idles) caused a mass revival in the genre. In a fucked up world riddled by discrimination, poverty and corruption, new era punk is such a vital platform – and Are You Satisfied? calls this out. From critiquing the existential idea of existing to work and the idea of money not being the main purpose of life in ‘Cheer Up London’ to taking profits from charities and standing up for beliefs in ‘Hunter’, Slaves’ work in Are You Satisfied? is multidimensional and helped relaunch a genre.
Frank Ocean – Blonde
Frank Ocean’s Blonde is more than just album of the decade but is album of the century. Other than Ocean’s beautiful vocals, the album features an incredibly abstract experimental sound featuring guest vocals from Beyoncé in ‘Pink + White’. Having Beyoncé feature as a backing vocalist already shows how great the album is. It’s 45 minutes of pure bliss, full of emotion and is incredibly intriguing. One of the highlight tracks of the record must be ‘White Ferrari’ as it truly showcases Ocean’s beautiful and captivating vocals. The merge of different vocals playing at the same time creates a dynamic sound portraying psychedelic rhythms. No one can argue that this is one of the best albums of the decade, it’s an astounding and completely raw record.
Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
Sufjan Stevens’ seventh album Carrie & Lowell whispers intimate family portraits in sleepy childhood trips to Oregon, in memory of Stevens’ late mother. The quiet, understated and modest intimacy of Stevens’ experience with abandonment and death may seem heavy, but the album became an unexpected album favourite of 2015 – and in his personal subject matter, stood away from other releases to become a truly original piece of the 2010s. Tinged with the bitterness of grief, lyricism wonders and plays around on how to deal with the memories left behind after a parent’s bereavement. Although taboo, Sufjan Stevens does not shy away from nor filter his thought processes, allowing listeners to follow along with him as he tentatively learns to live again. And that is what the album is about: learning and re-learning about life, with and without loved ones. Sufjan Stevens illustrates that sometimes, an iconic and memorable album isn’t in the grandness of production, but in the ability to create a raw and honest body of work.
Cher – Dancing Queen
Cher’s 10-track album, Dancing Queen (2018), comes after her role in blockbuster Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018). It of course features her iconic song in the film ‘Fernando’, which she sings to her foreign lover, and other memorable ABBA hits such as ‘Dancing Queen’, ‘Waterloo’ and ‘Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! (A Man After Midnight)’. Not only is it remarkable for Cher to be singing such cheeky pop-classics, but an ABBA x Cher crossover is something that this decade cannot forget. Both gay icons, Dancing Queen combines an international super-group and superstar to re-make memorable hits that we all know and love, but in the voice of Cher. What more could we ask for? The only tragedy that can be attached to this iconic album is that I didn’t get to see Cher perform it all live; a heartbreak of this decade that I will never forget.
Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
In 2009, Kanye West was the most hated celebrity in the media – disowned by the public after he interrupted Taylor Swift’s at the MTV VMAs and was dubbed a “jackass” by President Obama. Then, in 2010 West released My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, to rapturous applause and was rightfully welcomed back. Ushering in the new decade was a defiant ballad of ultimate ego and corruption with the album’s first single, ‘POWER’ – “screams from the haters /got a nice ring to it/ I guess every superhero need his theme music”. He didn’t return with an apology, but with an audacious attitude – conscious of his own flawed ego, West can only be admired for the bold album.
The star-studded guest list of the album stretches from Rihanna to Elton John, with 14 iconic guest vocals harmonising on ‘All of the Lights’. Notably, Kid Cudi proves to be one of West’s best collaborators with ‘Gorgeous’, while Bon Iver remains a highlight in ‘Lost in the World’. West embraces the douchebaggery and debauchery of fame in the album with the self-loathing track, ‘Runaway’; featuring Pusha-T’s harshest barbs. With a mythical arsenal of artists, decorative sampling and diverse instrumentation, MBTDF is a perfect collaboration.
MBTDF is the best album of the decade because it changed the landscape of hip-hop. Eight out of the thirteen tracks are over 5 minutes long and there is never a second wasted. All that glitters is gold with West’s maximalist masterpiece.
Lower Than Atlantis – Lower Than Atlantis
Despite accepting their fate earlier this year, Lower Than Atlantis are an immensely important figure in the British alternative scene. Their stylistic waves of sounds saw them attract the attention of music fans irrespective of whether you preferred pop, metal, punk or rock. Their extraordinary career saw the Watford-quartet produce five records, their first, Far Q was more grittier and was perhaps more enjoyed by hardcore punk fans, their latest album Safe In Sound takes on a massive change which saw the band take a much more commercial approach to their sound. However for me, their fourth album Lower Than Atlantis really showed us what the band were all about.
There was very little subtlety with this self-titled album. The record showed LTA at their best, no holds barred. The album packed in all of LTA’s biggest and most successful hits including ‘Ain’t No Friend Of Mine’ and ‘English Kids In America’. The real star attraction of this album are the songs that reached the mainstream, ‘Here We Go’ and ‘Emily’. The former being an absolute freight train, carrying a full load of killer riffs and juicy hooks. The latter was far more pop-based but the somewhat satirical and relatable lyrics garnered much deserved attention. The album saw LTA reach their highest points, headlining festivals, touring the world and selling out monumental venues like Brixton Academy. The album sums up the band’s success and highlights their talents, it cemented their place as alternative legends and should therefore be considered an album of the decade.
BROCKHAMPTON – SATURATION
As said by Kevin Abstract BROCKHAMPTON are the “greatest boyband since One Direction” it is certainly true as this decade has seen six extraordinary albums from them. Choosing a favourite is certainly hard but I have to go with the original from the Saturation series, as it features some of deepest and rawest lyrics BROCKHAMPTON have ever written. With songs like ‘HEAT’, ‘BOYS’ and ‘FAKE’ featuring on the record its hard not to get up and ‘Boogie’ (see the pun) when they come on. Not only do BROCKHAMPTON get you in that seshy mood they also know how to make the tears start falling. All you have to do is listen to ‘CASH’, ‘MILK’ or ‘FACE’ from SATURATION for the waterworks to start. I will forever say BROCKHAMPTON are the most creative band to come out of the 2010s and this album proves just that.
Paramore – Paramore: Self-Titled Deluxe
Though classics of the previous decade, RIOT! (2007) and brand new eyes (2009), are near-impossible to beat, Paramore’s Paramore: Self-Titled Deluxe (2013) made for worthy competition. Being the deluxe version of their come-back album of 4 years, it features classics such as ‘Hate to See Your Heart Break’, ‘Still into You’, ‘Ain’t It Fun’, ‘Daydreaming’, ‘Proof’ and many more. Being the deluxe version, it also has live recordings of some of their best earlier works, like ‘Brick by Boring Brick’ and ‘The Only Exception’. Paramore are the perfect band for when you want to feel raw, crying or screaming their lyrics no matter the occasion, but particularly when going through hard times (ba dum tss), and this album has a great host of songs for you to feel to. Paramore: Self-Titled Deluxe shaped many of us throughout this decade, and deserves to be remembered for the emos of 2010s.