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At the close of the decade, our writers tell us about their favourite albums released in the past ten years.
TAYLOR DONOGHUE-SMITH – Music Editor
The Suburbs by Arcade Fire
Arcade Fire is not afraid of making grand statements. Their propensity for density often finds them the subject of criticism – usually, they’re too earnest, too pretentious. Yet it’s undeniable that The Suburbs, released at the very start of the decade, deserves every iota of praise imaginable. It’s an album as lyrically touching as it is danceable.
Most importantly, it’s an album full of feeling – something I always draw back towards when deciding the ultimate worth of an album. It’s an album about growing up, progressing towards adulthood and discovering that the world you inhabited innocently growing up isn’t as clear cut or as straightforward or as easy as you thought it would be. Cinematic in its scope and slightly magical in its outlook, The Suburbs succeeds in both romanticising those precious formative years while retaining a healthy detachment from it. As the decade ends and we move on, The Suburbs is a reminder that it’s okay to be scared, but it’s also okay to be ready.
Benji by Sun Kil Moon
Benji by Sun Kil Moon is a very personal choice to me, but I do think this is an extraordinary album and one that everyone should give a listen. A singer-songwriter album from a man that seems very hurt. Yes, many singer-songwriters have gone through a lot, but there is a difference here. Mark Kozalek is honest and raw. He is more fearful and confused. More human. This album touches on a plethora of relevant themes to me personally; from death to the family, to growing old, and the confusion we feel in the madness of the world. But it is all seen through a more personal and unique lens. It is compelling and relatable, and it occasionally brings me to tears. I love this one and recommend it wholeheartedly. Pretty much perfect from start to finish.
SAM STEWART – Sports Editor
Montevallo by Sam Hunt
I’ve heard so many people profess ‘I don’t like country music’. But, in the past decade, country music has diversified so much that its almost impossible to say this anymore. If you fancy listening to something a little more left-field, then this is the one for you: Sam Hunt, ‘Montevello’.
Its stand-out song is ‘Take your Time’. Switching from singing to almost talking (a trait that Sam has developed and incorporated into much of his work), this song is instantly relatable. Everyone knows about guys who chat up girls in clubs and ‘stay a little too long’. This song shows that Sam isn’t one of those guys; he doesn’t want to ‘steal her covers’; he wants to ‘take her time’.
From the heart-warming ‘Take your Time’, Sam moves on to the heart-wrenching ‘Break up in a Small Town,’ which shows the struggles of breaking up with someone and seeing them move on. Not everyone will have experience of this, but there’s no doubt that the listener appreciates what he’s going through – with every tremor in his voice you can feel the emotion, the pain, and even the anger. Then the album takes a turn. Here Sam gives us a cover: ‘Cop Car’ – originally by Keith Urban.
It’s rare that I listen to a cover and think it does justice to the original. Sam doesn’t reinvent the wheel. His cover is very similar to the original, and it’s just as good. He finishes up with ‘Speakers’. This song is lyrically sexually loaded, and the beat of the song matches it perfectly. The speeding up of the final two lines of the chorus and the abrupt end is so unorthodox, but they create a song that’s so refreshingly different to what you have likely heard before. This album introduces you to unique styles of singing; it takes you seamlessly from one emotion to the next. This album gives country music a new reputation, a new style. That is why it’s my album of the decade.
RUTH WALBANK – Editor
The Golden Age by Woodkid
Despite its brief success in soundtracks such as Divergent and one O2 advert, Woodkid’s The Golden Age is an album that has stayed with me. It’s a unique mixture between Chamber and Art pop, incorporating the orchestral and the synthesised with the catchy choruses that led to his success. I remember when this album was released, every dance teacher I knew was using it in their class, and every music teacher was using to show that popular music doesn’t have to be your bog-standard four-chord string. It plays with the line between conventional and inventive, popular and indie, in a way that I’ve never seen another artist pull off.
For those who don’t know Woodkid, he is probably better known as director Yoann Lemonie who worked created the music videos for Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” and Lana Del Rey’s “Born to Die”, among others. This debut album was his first step onto the music scene for himself, and (surprise, surprise) its music videos were nominated for two Grammy Awards.
The album’s narrative element is something that contributed to its success, with Lemonie stating that he based the songs around his childhood experiences. It gives the album a collective feel of drama and tension, a structure that links all the tracks together with a thread of themes including mystery, discovery, performance, and movement. If nothing else, the series of music videos produced to go alongside the album will fill an afternoon’s procrastination.
Ranging from the energetic ‘Run Boy Run’, to ‘The Golden Age’s soothing piano introduction, to the powerful ‘Iron’, this hour of music is riveting. It’s bold, it’s loud, it’s imperfect, and it’s poetic. It is, without a doubt, one of the best musical moments of the decade.
OLIVIA KENNY – Associate Editor
1989 by Taylor Swift
There was never any doubt in my mind what album I would write about as my top pick of the 2010s. 2014’s ‘1989’ by Taylor Swift isn’t only my favourite album of the decade; it’s my favourite album of all time. I may be a little biased as I attended one of the listening sessions Taylor hosted for fans before the album was released, but for me, that’s what makes 1989 so personal and significant. There are no fillers or tracks that you feel the need to skip, only those that make you wonder how the next can get any better.
As Taylor’s first pop album and the successor of her last country album ‘Red,’ 1989 reflects on personal growth, romance and growing into a new version of yourself following heartbreak.
Many of its thirteen tracks, (sixteen in the deluxe,) have heart-rending lyrics set to synthesisers, which I think is the beauty of the album. Especially evident in ‘All You Had To Do Was Stay’ and ‘ ‘Out of the Woods,’ Taylor’s undeniable talent for lyricism isn’t lost in commercialised pop but instead showcased on a stage much more prominent than her Nashville roots.
Filled with synth-pop reminiscent of eighties throwbacks, each song from the irresistibly catchy ‘Style’ to the hauntingly nostalgic ‘Wildest Dreams’ weaves together to create an album that smashed musical records.
1989 is what I play when I need cheering up after a long day at uni, what I force my housemates to listen to during pre-drinks and what you will always catch my mum and I dancing to in the car. Winning the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2015, 1989 redefined Western pop music as we know it at the close of the decade and will undoubtedly be remembered favourably in history.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West
“Can we get much higher?” It’s a hard time to be a Kanye West fan. In between missed release dates, controversial comments, and all-around jackassery, even the most ardent supporters are likely to struggle to defend some of his actions. Amidst all this, it’s easy to forget that he started the decade off with one of its most acclaimed albums, lauded by fans and critics, and setting the bar for rap in the 2010s. Recorded during a period of controversy following his now infamous interruption of Taylor Swift at the VMAs, West retreated to a studio in Hawaii, where he would invite collaborators to work on the album with him. What resulted is an exercise in maximalism that goes beyond anything he had released up to that point.
Sonically the album features samples from a wide variety of genres, such as King Crimson on ‘Power’ or Aphex Twin on ‘Blame Game.’ Countless guest artists include frequent Kanye collaborators such as Kid Cudi, Pusha T, and Jay Z, most notably on track ‘All of the Lights’ where countless voices overlap creating an overwhelming feeling. Lyrically, the album deals with West’s approach to his fame on the track ‘Monster’, as well as his acknowledgement of his flaws on nine-minute opus ‘Runaway’. The result is an album where ‘larger than life’ feels like an understatement, where every listen offers a new element to discover or get lost in. It’s arguably the best West’s ever been, and it’s hard not to feel a tinge of melancholy looking at his recent albums and antics and realising he may never be this good again. Regardless of what may lie in store for the rapper in the future (and we can only hope it will be slightly more positive developments), My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy will remain a classic for the ages.