Aquarium Drunkard :: Decade / 2010-19

By somethingwalrus somethingwalrus
updated 17 days ago

Taken from

"Well, that was fast. Decade is just about over, and as it draws to a close, its highs look awfully high in the rearview. Presented here, an unranked sprawl of 100 records that stuck with us, managing to break through the noise of an increasingly distracting age, and stick around in our heads. We’ve limited the list to one album per artist, in the interest of covering as much ground, but rest assured most here have other classics from the decade."

  1. Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest

    "Released nine years into their career, Deerhunter’s fifth album is their opus. Eleven tracks in 46 minutes, Halcyon Digest is the sound of aesthetic coalescence. A tempered transmutation of gauzy ambience, the record ebbs and flows as a fluid piece, buoyed by a subconscious undercurrent of emotional intensity. It’s sonic collage of shimmering pop/rock, repetition, delay, noise, electronics, and folk, touching on myriad muses Cox and co. had chased via previous output. With Halcyon, the call was heard. And answered."

  2. Purple Mountains - Purple Mountains

    "It’s hard to know where to begin in talking about the heartbreak of losing David Berman—it’s a tragedy from so many different angles it’s frankly overwhelming. But one thing in particular bears repeating: the lone Purple Mountains record is truly, objectively just a fantastic piece of music. Lyrically and musically a knockout in equal measure, Berman came back with ten songs that were beyond worth the wait—and that’s really saying something for someone who made us wait ten years for them. Knowing what we know now—that he was struggling severely, that he was pouring his damn heart into this thing, that he was collapsing within the darkness and cold that surrounded him—completely restages what was already a landmark album before the context of it changed completely. As a return, it was a celebration. As a farewell, it’s almost too much to bear."

  3. Gil Scott-Heron - I'm New Here

    "I’m New Here is quintessential Gil Scott-Heron: daring, reflective, clear-headed, clear-worded. It was to be the capstone to one of the greatest voices and writers of the American canon. Scott-Heron was, for the written word in the 20th century, a generational talent—in with the likes of Angelou, Elliot, Ginsberg, and Plath. But from Small Talk at 125th Street to I’m New Here, Scott-Heron never stopped creating musical works worthy of our rapt attention. He is nearly unparalleled, and severely unheralded, as one of the defining influences for music in the latter 20th century—and the second decade of the 21st. His entire oeuvre demands reverence and reexamination."

  4. Yo La Tengo - There's A Riot Going On

    "On their 15th studio album, Yo La Tengo turned the volume down, sending the listener into a landscape populated by spacious/spacey layers, tumbling looped rhythms and flickering balladry. But as its title hints, Riot is not placid. Even in its loveliest moments, there’s a restless tension lurking beneath every note here, a perfect reflection of our restlessly tense times."

  5. Neil Young - Le Noise

    "Recorded at Daniel Lanois’ Silverlake home and studio, Le Noise was originally intended as an acoustic album. Instead it’s one of Young’s loudest—which is truly saying something. His Gretsch White Falcon roaring from two Fender Deluxe amplifiers, Young sings into what feels like an endless echo chamber. Lanois works the controls like Lee “Scratch” Perry, liberally applying effects and dubby layers. Listening to a record like Le Noise, you can hear while Young has remained so passionate about sonic fidelity in the streaming era: it’s more than noise to him. He remains in love with the physicality of sound."

  6. Gilberto Gil - Gilbertos Samba

    "In 1981, when Gilberto Gil, Caetano Veloso, and Maria Bethânia were already established legends, they joined with the titanic João Gilberto for Brasil, where they covered sambas by Ary Barroso and Dorival Caymmi. In 2014, Gil repaid the favor, enlisting Domenico Lancellotti, Moreno Veloso, Pedro Sá, and more for an album of (mostly) João Gilberto covers. Gilberto’s Sambas highlights Gil’s incredible guitar playing—imagine Willie Nelson on a stutter-step beat—with subtle washes of synth and cymbal. An understated, off-the-cuff masterpiece."

  7. Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly

    "A sprawling meditation on money, race, power (and the lack of it), depression, anxiety, and transcendence, Compton’s Kendrick Lamar delivers his parables with chaotic grace. Incorporating players from the modern jazz vanguard and G-funk legends, Butterfly provides a souped-up vehicle for Lamar’s many voices, the trunk rattling underneath his extraterrestrial cadence, street preacher tone, torn garments and gnashed teeth howl. K-Dot’s scope is wide but his focus is tight—he calls out the unjustness he sees in the world, but locates it within himself too. “Loving you is complicated,” he heaves, speaking of his world, his God, and himself. Love is complicated work and it takes a lifetime to do its work. Lamar promises us—and himself—“I’ma do it ’til I get it right.”"

  8. Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith - EARS

    "With her compositional background and trademark Buchla at her side, EARS marked the true arrival of an enormous talent that rightly deserves to be mentioned alongside her mentor (and collaborator) Suzanne Ciani. A dizzying and stunning combination of the organic and synthesized—human music music filtered through the computer age. Eleven-minute closer “Existence In The Unfurling” is the album’s microcosm—processed vocals drift alongside the Buchla’s ever-changing coloring while woodwinds (courtesy of Bitchin Bajas’ Rob Frye) punctuate the air. Expansive and maximal, it envelops without overwhelming."

  9. Les Filles De Illighadad - Eghass Malan

    "Led by Alamnou Akrouni and Fatou Seidi Ghali, one of a very few female Tuareg guitar slingers, Les Filles de Illighadad weave a profoundly hypnotic and ethereal tapestry of tende and are bright stars in the Saharan sky."

  10. Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow

    "Remind Me Tomorrow is the one of the best encapsulations of the late 2010s that has been put to record. It’s an album that walks in a hinterland between a murky and calmly aggressive indie world and a much more beat-forward pop one. When Van Etten sings “Sitting at the bar/I told you everything/‘Holy shit,’ you said/You almost died” on opener “I Told You Everything,” you realize you’re on a personal and engrossing trip with one of indie’s newly canonical songwriters. In the ten years since her debut, Van Etten seems to be finding her most compelling voice yet; there’s no better way to close out a decade."

  11. Ty Segall Band - Slaughterhouse

    "Ty Segall had his hands all over the confounding, shapeshifting last ten years of rock, consistently putting out excellent albums, with several of them, like Twins, Manipulator, or Ty Segall, being worthy of any decade-end list. But perhaps no other Segall release was better—or cut more to the core of his being—than Slaughterhouse, a joint product written with his workhorse of a touring band, just as they were establishing themselves as the hard-rock act to see in the early 2010s. Ruthless and invigorating, it’s forty of the heaviest riffs and gnarliest screams put to tape during the 2010s—and with tracks like “Tell Me What’s Inside Your Heart,” it’s also home to some of the catchiest."

  12. Kamasi Washington - The Epic

    "This was a decade of increasingly meaningless adjectives, but The Epic more than lives up to its titular billing. While the album understandably positioned Kamasi and his band as heirs apparent to the spiritual jazz of the 1970s, they treat the 1938 classic “Cherokee” with the casual reverence you reserve for best friends you don’t see often enough. Even when he lays into supreme overblowing à la Pharoah Sanders, Washington exudes a gentleness and warmth that turn this album’s scope from a challenge into an asset."

  13. The Weather Station - The Weather Station

    "Tamara Lindeman self-titled fourth lp is her boldest, most declarative yet, a rock record, she professes, in spirit if not sound. Addressing climate change and ambiguities both personal and political her folk songs articulate way it seemed old systems sputtered and failed everywhere. While many of her peers have retreated into escapism, Lindeman is motivated by the urgency of the moment. Here, she raises her voice even while whispering."

  14. Shintaro Sakamoto - How To Live With A Phantom

    "The album that keeps on giving—Shintaro Sakamoto’s 2011 debut, How To Live With A Phantom. Following two decades fronting Japanese psych-rockers Yura Yura Teikoku, Sakamoto eased into second gear with Phantom, assembling a heady sonic quilt—one patched with nods to Euro-lounge, exotica, ‘70s crystalline pop, and funk. Masterful in both synthesis and execution, the record plays as (cliché be damned) timeless and out-of-time. Incredibly malleable, its 47-minute runtime works as well on the dancefloor as it does off. High praise, indeed."

  15. William Tyler - Impossible Truth

    "There aren’t any lyrics on guitarist William Tyler’s records, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t telling stories. The ones he tells on his Merge Records debut Impossible Truth center on the West Coast, inspired by two books (Barney Hoskyn’s Hotel California and Mike Davis’ The Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster) he read while on tour. The American imagination—and the role the west plays in it—offers Tyler a wide landscape to roam, suiting the the tremolo-soaked “The Geography of Nowhere” and playful “Country of Illusion,” while the overwhelming “Cadillac Desert” finds him reaching ecstatic heights. On the acoustic “The World Set Free,” he evokes the balmy quality of classic Windham Hill records, beautiful, ornate, and baroque, before a quiet chorus of horns, drums, and electric guitar rises to join him."

  16. Destroyer (4) - Kaputt

    "On the carefully crafted Kaputt, Dan Bejar takes us on a tour of his seedy downtown haunts after last call. Dan Bejar’s voice, as ever, is the linchpin, intoxicating and ever so slightly mad as far-off nowhere horns and street-wet synths pull the landscape in around his words. His Steely sheen and cryptic lyrics brighten dark corners, sending “a message in a bottle to the press,” reading “Don’t be ashamed or disgusted with yourselves.” Even more impressive…this album pre-dates the current wave of neo-indie soft rock—and it’s certainly the standard-bearer."

  17. Helado Negro - This Is How You Smile

    "Helado Negro’s instant classic album This Is How You Smile was inspired by Jamaica Kincaid’s short story “Girl,” a complex tale about stereotypes and societal restrictions. The album seamlessly mixes psych-pop and Latin folk, bouncing between English and Spanish. A true expression of his background and art’s ability to blur lines and constructs. Roberto Carlos Lange is proud of the way he looks and what informs his approach."

  18. Sandro Perri - Impossible Spaces

    "Sandro Perri entered the new decade on an elevated plane of sound and vision. Impossible Spaces marked a massive departure from the languid, lo-fi, dusty folk of his previous records, lightspeed jumping into astral jazz-pop. With songs exceeding the ten-minute mark and often changing keys, tempos, and melodies without warning, Perri hasn’t stopped experimenting with and deconstructing his songwriting craft since."

  19. Dirty Beaches - Badlands

    "Screeching and scratching through a dim tunnel of primitive no-wave, greaser ballideering, and post-punk rage, Alex Zhang Hungtai’s fourth album under the Dirty Beaches banner revealed a flair for Lynchian noir and haunted romance, rumbling down the backstreets like Suicide, floating by on Françoise Hardy pianos, and bolstered by the promise of young love, it also indicated Hungtai’s restless fluidity and shape-shifting nature."

  20. Michael Hurley - Blue Hills

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    "Essential late period Snocko, released fifty-five years after his debut but every bit as casually magic as the best of his vast discography. Six sparse and unhurried songs, split between pump and electric organ, and his homespun Jimmie Rogers guitar playing. Rambling back to where it all began, “Tea” collapses times and breathes new life (with a new, old voice) into a First Songs classic, while highlight “The Corridor” shows off some new moves—a staggering seven-minute pump organ dirge that epitomizes Hurley’s beautifully refracted folk music."

  21. Bill Callahan - Apocalypse

    "At its root, the word apocalypse doesn’t signify a climactic ending so much as an uncovering or revealing. For Bill Callahan, those revelations play out in both wide open spaces and quiet moments. He paints monuments to both on Apocalypse, and in the details, he tugs at the concerts of our age. His loping “Drover”—the strong, silent type—winks at the deep shadows of this “wild wild country” as he passes through, and songs like “America” and “Riding for the Feeling” slyly forecast the nightmarish malaise that is always so close at hand in 2019. “Everyone’s allowed a past/They don’t care to mention,” he sings. Are they?"

  22. Radiohead - A Moon Shaped Pool

    "However reasonable or unreasonable it was (hint: it was very unreasonable), it seemed that expectations were a little more tempered for the future of Radiohead after The King of Limbs failed to change the world the way that In Rainbows did. But when A Moon Shaped Pool arrived, on Mother’s Day in 2016, it was immediately back to business as usual: Radiohead will save the Earth. Both a showcase of the band at its most restrained (“Daydreaming”) and in full Super Saiyan mode (“Ful Stop”), it’s one of the most stunning collections the band has ever put to tape, capturing everything about them that’s special while also pushing them somewhere new as well. No alarms and no surprises."

  23. Joshua Abrams & Natural Information Society* - Simultonality

    "A totally absorbing trip that brings to mind many great spiritual jazz masterpieces from the past, without feeling remotely like an exercise in nostalgia. Joshua Abrams and his Natural Information Society have been Chicago underground jazz fixtures for years now—and this 2017 LP was the perfect place to hop on board, with hypnotic rhythms, transportive vibes and deeper-than-deep interplay."

  24. Endless Boogie - Long Island

    "“My vibe is severe — and my intentions are unclear!” Endless Boogie frontman Paul Major exclaims on his band’s radical 2013 LP Long Island, which is likely this decade’s most purely satisfying rock ‘n’ roll listening experience. The first part of Major’s line is very true. But Endless Boogie’s intentions couldn’t be clearer — it’s all there in the name. This is a record that demands to be cranked up as high as your volume knob will allow."

  25. Kevin Morby - Harlem River

    "In the late autumn of 2013, Kevin Morby quietly released his solo debut, Harlem River. Comprised of material that had been gestating over the years while handling bass duties for Woods (and co-founded the Babies), the record scans as a love letter to wanderlust, youthful ambition, and a host of Morby’s musical heroes. While subsequent records have witnessed Morby’s continued growth and maturity as a songwriter and performer, his debut remains singular—one imbued and infused with the ineffable of magic of the unknown. As a debut, it acts as both a concise statement, and artistic blueprint of things to come… "