WSUM Exec Team’s Favorite Albums of the Decade!

Woah!!! It’s been 10 years of insanely good music! Check out our ~staff picks~ for hot takes, and an overall celebration of music in the 2010s.

Jack Snedgar: Traffic Director

  1. Brave Little Abacus – Just Got Back From the Discomfort – We’re Alright
  2. Jeff Rosenstock – Worry
  3. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
  4. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening
  5. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
  6. Black Midi – Schlagenheim
  7. The World is a Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid to Die – Whenever, If Ever
  8. Hop Along – Get Disowned
  9. Bomb the Music Industry! – Vacation
  10. Brockhampton – Saturation II

Honorable Mentions: Fleet Foxes – Helplnessness Blues, Algernon Cadwallader – Parrot Flies, Glocca Morra – Just Married, Bomb the Music Industry! – Vacation, Arcade Fire – The Suburbs, JPEGMAFIA – Veteran, Alvvways – Antisocialites

I started writing this review about an hour ago. As I sat down, I put on the source material. Might as well listen to my album of the decade while writing its review, right? My fingers scrambled their way over the 12 track project, trying to make sense of the album I loved so dearly. Yet, time and time again, my pinky always returned to the backspace key. It’s hard to make sense of something you hold close. There’s just so much to say that your mind can’t find a way to squish it all down. I could create some dishonest anecdote, conjure up a contrived metaphor, or just list all its merits like an emo encyclopedia. But that just seems wrong. So, I won’t. Just give it a listen.

Sean Horvath: Traffic Director

  1. Bon Iver – 22, A Million
  2. Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly 
  3. King Krule – 6 Feet Beneath the Moon
  4. Fidlar – Fidlar
  5. Pond – Beard, Wives, Denim 
  6. D’Angelo and the Vanguard – Black Messiah 
  7. Earl Sweatshirt – Some Rap Songs
  8. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs 
  9. Billie Marten – Feeding Seahorses by Hand
  10. Swans – To Be Kind

Honorable mentions: Danny Brown – Atrocity Exibition, King Gizzard – Nonagon Infinity, Hiatus Kaiyote – Tawk Tomahawk, Noname – Room 25

Olivia Chavez: Traffic Director

  1. Neck Deep – Life’s Not Out to Get You
  2. The Maine – American Candy
  3. The 1975 – The 1975
  4. Seaway – Vacation
  5. ROAM – Great Heights & Nosedives
  6. The Maine – Lovely Little Lonely
  7. Grayscale – Adornment
  8. Harry Styles – Harry Styles
  9. Waterparks – Entertainment
  10. The Story So Far – The Story So Far

Izzi Bavis – Administrative Specialist

  1. Sufjan Stevens – Carrie & Lowell
  2. Anderson .Paak, Malibu
  3. Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly
  4. Noname, Telefone 
  5. Childish Gambino, Because of the Internet
  6. Solange, A Seat at the Table 
  7. Chance the Rapper, Acid Rap
  8. SZA, CTRL
  9. Bela Fleck & the Marcus Roberts Trio, Across the Imaginary Divide
  10. Justin Bieber, My World 2.0

Honorable mentions: Playboi Carti, Playboi Carti, Blood Orange, Freetown Sound, Childish Gambino, “Awaken, My Love!”, Foster the People, Torches, Frank Ocean, Channel ORANGE, Frankie Cosmos, Next Thing, Hozier, Hozier, The Internet, Ego Death, Mac Miller, The Divine Feminine, Princess Nokia, 1992 Deluxe

Carrie & Lowell is 11 tracks of sadness and I love it. Sufjan Stevens has always hit listeners with depressing songs, but on his past records he has broken up the sad songs with uplifting, fast paced songs. On Illinoise he interrupts the gloom with “Decatur, Or, A Round of Applause for Your Stepmother!” which is a charming song about a road trip to Decatur. Carrie & Lowell does not have this. “Eugene” is a simple song and my favorite. A guitar and soft vocals make up the two and a half minute song, within it Stevens gathers nostalgia and loss to further his brand. This song centers me, the lyrics “What’s left is only bittersweet / For the rest of my life, admitting the best is behind me / Now I’m drunk and afraid, wishing the world would go away” stand out to me, it reminded me of feeling hopeless and trying to figure out what to do. Throughout the album Stevens brings in themes of death, growth and change. Each time I listen I fall more and more in love with the album.

Alice Alexeeva: Station Manager

  1. JPEGMAFIA – Veteran
  2. KAYTRANADA, 99.9%
  3. Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp A Butterfly
  4. DJ Rashad, Double Cup
  5. Anderson .Paak, Malibu
  6. Tame Impala, InnerSpeaker
  7. Blood Orange, Freetown Sound
  8. Shintaro Sakamoto, Let’s Dance Raw
  9. Lana Del Rey, Born to Die
  10. Flying Lotus, You’re Dead!

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Goldlink, The God Complex; Frank Ocean, channel ORANGE; Earl Sweatshirt, SOME RAP SONGS; Gorillaz, Plastic Beach; A$AP Rocky, AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP; Mac Miller, Watching Movies with the Sound Off; Danny Brown, XXX; LIL UGLY MANE, MISTA THUG ISOLATION; Sufjan Stevens, Carrie & Lowell; Playboi Carti, Die Lit; Tyler, the Creator, Cherry Bomb; Thundercat, Drunk; BADBADNOTGOOD, IV; Chrome Sparks, Chrome Sparks

It should be no surprise that Veteran is my pick for top album of the decade. I do truly believe that it established the genre of experimental hip-hop. Veteran is full with anti-alt-right lyrics combined with samples from mid-90s hip-hop, early era video games, Brad Paisley (??!!?), Travis Scott, and more. The chaotic production and general length make it a dense album that’s difficult to approach and absorb–BUT, it makes the album an ~experience~ that everyone should try. To stray from sounding like a Pitchfork article, my concluding thought is that aside from Veteran’s obvious musical merit, JPEGMAFIA’s DMV roots make me especially proud of the album. Although Baltimore is not the focus of Veteran lyrically, the industrial tones and tempos are reminiscent of Baltimore’s early club scene. But Peggy takes them to way more chaotic levels. As he does.

Daniel Palmeter: Assistant Tech Director

  1. Miracle Musical, Hawaii: Pt. II
  2. Chance the Rapper, Acid Rap
  3. Mac Demarco, 2
  4. Death Grips, The Money Store
  5. Swans, To Be Kind
  6. Oh Sees, Orc
  7. Sun Kil Moon, Benji
  8. The Books, The Way Out
  9. Pile, Dripping
  10. Tame Impala, Innerspeaker

Honorable mentions: Run The Jewels, Run The Jewels 2, Deakin, Sleep Cycle, (Sandy) Alex G, Beach Music, Arcade Fire, The Suburbs, King Krule, 6 Feet Beneath the Moon

As I only found out about this album a few months ago, I was a little reluctant to put it as the number one album of the decade. But it really is that good. Led by Joe Hawly of Tally Hall, Miracle Musical’s Hawaii: Pt. II is more than a side project. This album is genre-defying, with diverse instrumentation including synths, vocoder, strings, xylophone, pitch-shifted vocals, and even a few rap verses. The most impressive part of this album is the production; it ties together the combination of acoustic and electronic instrumentation in an incredibly detailed way, to the point where I am still hearing new things with every listen. For fans of any style of music, I cannot recommend this album enough.

Zoey Knox: Traffic Director

  1. Angel Olsen – My Woman
  2. Mitski, Be the Cowboy
  3. Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp A Butterfly
  4. Leon Bridges, Good Thing
  5. Car Seat Headrest, Teens of Denial
  6. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats
  7. Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer
  8. Whitney, Forever Turned Around
  9. Big Thief, Two Hands
  10. Courtney Barnett, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

Honorable Mentions: Honorable Mentions: Adrianne Lenker, abysskiss; Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book; Lady Lamb, After; Lucy Dacus, Historian; Sudan Archives, Athena; Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires of the City

Angel Olsen’s slow-burner of an album, My Woman, hits all of the points you look for in an album’s emotional landscape. Romance, heartbreak, relatability, humor, nostalgia — it’s all there. Add in Angel Olsen’s captivating voice and skillful guitar playing, and there you have it: the best album of the decade.

Jack Swanson: Production Director

  1. Rex Orange County – Apricot Princess (2017)
  2. Cake, Showroom of Compassion (2011)
  3. Eels, Wonderful, Glorious (2013)
  4. Snarky Puppy, We Like It Here (2014)
  5. Ratatat, Magnifique (2015)
  6. Cage the Elephant, Melophobia (2013)
  7. Vulfpeck, The Beautiful Game (2016)
  8. Two Door Cinema Club, Beacon (2012)
  9. Phony Ppl, Yesterday’s Tomorrow (2015)
  10. Chris Walden Big Band, Full-On! (2014)

Honorable mentions: Ben Folds, So There (2015), OK Go, Of the Blue Colour of the Sky (2010), Anderson .Paak, Malibu (2016), Kendrick Lamar, Section.80 (2011), EMEFE, EMEFE (2015), Lawrence, Homesick (2013), Bruno Mars, 24K Magic (2016)

Apricot Princess showcases all of Alex O’Connor’s songwriting abilities in the variation of tone, texture, style, and instrumentation in each of its ten tracks. Many tracks, including “4 Seasons” and “Apricot Princess” demonstrate this variation within the same song. From deeply sorrowful lyrics contrasted with upbeat pop to melodramatic orchestral works, Apricot Princess represents what I consider to be the peak of O’Connor’s work thus far. I have thoroughly loved listening to each track on repeat for the past two years, so although there are many others on this list that had a head start, Apricot Princess takes the lead as my favorite album of the past ten years.

Sam Buisman: News Director

  1. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
  2. Kendrick Lamar, To Pimp a Butterfly (2016)
  3. Death Grips, The Money Store (2012)
  4. Mitski, Puberty 2 (2016)
  5. JPEGMAFIA, Veteran (2018)
  6. Earl Sweatshirt, Some Rap Songs (2018)
  7. Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels 2 (2015)
  8. NxWorries, Yes Lawd! (2016)
  9. Angel Olson, Burn Your Fire for No Witness (2014)
  10. Beastie Boys, Hot Sauce Committee Part Two (2011)

Honorable Mentions: LIL UGLY MANE, MISTA THUG ISOLATION (2012), Wilco, Star Wars (2015), AJJ, Knife Man (2011), Danny Brown, Atrocity Exhibition (2016), BROCKHAMPTON, SATURATION II (2017), clipping., Clppng (2014), Alex Cameron, Forced Witness (2017)

So, yeah, let’s talk about this one. 

I will be the first to admit that Car Seat Headrest’s Teens of Denial is not the crowning musical achievement of the 2010s. Nor is it particularly groundbreaking, even for its genre.  It is not the best album of the decade. But, it is the best album of my decade. 

I was 12 in 2010. Over the next ten years, I would have to start making real choices about who I am and if I’m happy with who that is. I would have to start “growing up.”

Sometimes, that was hard. Teens of Denial didn’t make it any easier, but what it did do was give me the language to understand it. Maybe the way I’m feeling is valid because “I’ve given every inch I have to fight it,” maybe ignoring those feelings is proof that “I haven’t been honest with myself,” and maybe trying to keep all of that buried deep has left me “empty as a car coasting downhill.” 

For most of this decade, I really was a teen of denial. This album helped me realize that I needed to stop. 

When I started thinking about this list, I hadn’t listened to the album in a little while. So, I popped it on as a refresher, and I didn’t like it as much as I remembered.

I was relieved.

Jocelyn Ostrowski: Web Manager

  1. Danny Brown – XXX
  2. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
  3. Parquet Courts – Light Up Gold
  4. Girl Talk – All Day
  5. Charli XCX – Charli
  6. EMOTION – Carly Rae Jepsen
  7. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
  8. Some Rap Songs – Earl Sweatshirt
  9. Death Grips – Ex-Military
  10. JPEGMAFIA – Veteran

Honorable Mentions: Frank Ocean – Blonde, Princess Nokia – 1992 Deluxe, (Sandy) Alex G – Beach Music, Beyoncé – Lemonade

I must begin with the disclaimer that Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy would have earned the top spot for this list but he lost his #1 spot privileges.  (Sorry Kanye) But anyway, Danny Brown is in no way less deserving of owning this decade when it comes to rap music. XXX is full of bangers and insanely innovative samples (featuring This Heat, Fleet Foxes, Metronomy, and the soundtrack of legendary anime movie Akira). It’s weird, it’s drugged out, it’s dirty, and it set up the rest of his discography perfectly. I’ve been listening to this album since it was released and it truly never got less exciting overtime. Can’t believe we were lucky enough to have SIX Danny Brown albums this decade.