• Eject Staff

Eject's Albums of the Decade

With 2020 just days away, the writers at Eject decided to look back on the past 10 years of music to make a list of the standout albums. These are the projects that evoked our emotions, challenged our opinions, and soundtracked our decade. Hundreds of albums were put forward, but sadly, and completely arbitrarily, only 30 made the cut. Here are our picks for the best albums of the 2010s.

30 Queens of the Stone Age — …Like Clockwork (2013)

To see liner notes for an album – especially by a band with the reputation of Queens of the Stone Age – have such a long list of guest appearances is nothing short of alarming. However, despite the presence of such heavyweights as Trent Reznor, Alex Turner and Elton fucking John, …Like Clockwork never feels bloated or overcooked. Josh Homme is very much in control of proceedings on this one, whether living up to his Ginger Elvis moniker on the straight-up rocker “I Sat By the Ocean” or the unusual piano balladry of the album’s title track or “The Vampyre of Time and Memory”. The band’s heavy but danceable riffs hadn’t sounded this vital in years and Homme’s voice fits each and every track like a glove. This was well and truly QOTSA’s best album since Songs for the Deaf and a welcome return to form. - Danny Kilmartin

29 Drake — If You're Reading This It's Too Late (2015)

Just before he had fully ascended to global megastar status, Drake released If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, a Toronto-inspired ‘mixtape’ unconcerned with having chart-topping smashes but instead focusing on proving his hip-hop credentials to those who derided him as just a pop-rapper. The project’s opener ‘Legend’ with the lines “If I die, I’m a legend” is a statement of intent and the 16 tracks that follow do nothing to negate that claim. Drake comes off hungry and exudes a supreme confidence that feels more earnest than typical rap braggadocio. The production is cold and atmospheric, giving Drake enough room to either chew out people who whisper his accomplishments or melodically lament about lost loves. Each song never overstays its welcome with interesting structure and beat switches often not far away, and just enough personal moments to make for rewarding listening years later. - Jay Fernando

28 Sampha — Process (2017)

An album dealing with his mother’s death by cancer - Process is the perfect way to describe the emotions explored on this gorgeous, at times beatific, album. It perfectly conveys the fragile and convoluted emotions that come with grief. It was the deserving winner of the 2017 Mercury Prize, it finds exquisite beauty in every aspect of life, even the unthinkable death of a parent. Stand out tracks include the anxiety-driven opener ‘Plastic 100℃’, in which we are talked through the process of Sampha’s own cancer scare, played out in a nevertheless sunlight-fuelled instrumentation with harps and electronic passages. Sampha’s songs are at once transient, removed yet utterly saturated with emotion. - Rosie Solomon

27 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds — Ghosteen (2019)

Written and recorded following the tragic deaths of both Nick Cave’s teenage son Arthur and long-term member of The Bad Seeds, Conway Savage, Ghosteen reflects heavily on the grim realities of life and death, coping with grief and wrestling with faith. Each song immerses the listener in an ethereal, otherworldly landscape of sound punctuated by Cave’s commanding vocal performance, wavering, quivering and creaking from the weight of the world. The end result is a tearfully emotional experience as hard-hitting as it is tender and uplifting. The mournful and pained vocal cries on “Bright Horses”, the vivid lyrics of the title track “Ghosteen” - visualising the torment of the loss of a loved one - and the starkness of album closer “Hollywood” reminds us all that ultimately, we have the same cross to bear. Ghosteen is a truly stunning accomplishment; the consequence of a genius laying bare his soul. - Chris Sneddon

26 Brand New — Science Fiction (2017)

What I used to love about Brand New was the intensity. Brand New wrote about drama: raw tragedy, unconditional love, anger so cold and harsh it eclipses the sky. Their pop-punk songs had ultra-catchy choruses and sugary melodies; their emo songs had harsh screaming vocals and shrieking guitars. Science Fiction’s almost the opposite. Instead of screaming curses or crooning about tragedy, Jesse Lacey sings, in a calm, yearning voice, about the feelings people carry around in the background. The attitudes that build up quietly over months and years until –surprise! – they’ve defined you as a person. Most of the songs do not fully register on first listen, but instead spill out one metaphor, one sticky guitar passage, one hypnotic hook at a time. I expect that in twenty years, snippets of Science Fiction will still enter my head randomly, while I drive or do dishes. In a way, that makes sense. These songs aren’t meant to sound-track dramatic moments. They’re built to last through the slow, strange, boring process of living. – Lucy Weltner

25 Lorde — Melodrama (2017)

Although none of Melodrama’s tracks climbed the charts as much as her breakthrough smash “Royals”, twenty-year-old Ella Yelich O’Connor’s Melodrama remains a superior collection than her debut Pure Heroine. Lorde’s restrained yet euphoric synth-pop was updated with bolder production choices and stronger songwriting that expertly explored the visceral intensity of adolescence with honesty and wisdom. Loosely based around the concept of a single house party after a recent break-up, Melodrama seamlessly takes you through the emotional ups and downs in a way that is as introspective as it is hedonistic. Tracks like “Supercut” and “Perfect Places” exemplify Lorde’s ability to write songs to which you can cry, dance, or both at the same time - putting her head and shoulders above similar pop songwriters. - Dan Knight

24 Mac DeMarco — 2 (2012)

Mac DeMarco’s 2 is a classic example of an artist refining a sound that would later come to define them. It feels now like his true debut album - gone was the poor recording quality and unendearing, forced vocals of his debut, Rock n’ Roll Night Club (recycled tracks from his former group, Makeout Videotape). A greater focus instead was placed on DeMarco’s songwriting and now signature modulated guitar tone. 2 uniquely captured something in the alternative scene's shift away from its uninspiring, stagnant indie past - the true unsung element being the undercurrent, unresolved jazz discordancy indie-pop had been begging for. It’s stripped-back, echoing an almost Velvet Underground ethos, except now we’re all chain-smoking cigarettes instead of shooting heroin. - Grant Howse

23 Death Grips — The Powers That B (2015)

Death Grips are defined by subversion, and here they pulled off their greatest deception: A Goodbye. The two-part project released over a year ranges from Bjork sample-driven dadaist sprawls with shocks of harsh noise, through to post-rock inspired suicide dirges. At once unapproachable and the most open they’ve ever been, fans were prepared for the end of this trailblazing outfit, only to be surprised yet again with a casual ‘we might make more’. No matter where they went after, The Powers That B stands as one of the defining totems of their decade-long imperial reign over the internet. – Dylan Donnelly

22 Sufjan Stevens — Carrie & Lowell (2015)

Sparse yet vibrant, Carrie & Lowell tugs at the heartstrings across the 11 tracks. With a key motif being the passing of Stevens’ mother, the emotional intensity doesn’t feel fully present in his slightly whispered vocals, but through minimal instrumentation and frank lyrics, Carrie & Lowell highlights a needed closure and understanding of Stevens’ childhood trauma. This feels like a modern take on Nick Drake’s Pink Moon with its grim subject matter and folk undertones, and should be lauded the same acclaim in years to come. – Alex Bacon

21 SZA — CTRL (2017)

Top Dawg Entertainment’s leading lady, SZA, burst into the mainstream with her raw and honest debut album. Through the R&B production and hints of indie rock and neo-soul, CTRL put forward a fearless and vulnerable depiction of modern romance. The 2017 album featured label mates Kendrick Lamar and Isaiah Rashad as well as Houston rapper Travis Scott and singer James Fauntleroy. With no fillers, CTRL provided radio hits including “Broken Clocks” and “The Weekend”, empowering anthems like “Drew Barrymore” and “20 Something” and appealed to the Hip-Hop community with “Love Galore” and “Doves In The Wind”. This was a worthy contender for album of the year in 2017, and was a pivotal moment in SZA’s career, acting as the catalyst for her pop success in the years to come. -Frank Tremain

20 Kaytranada — 99.9% (2016)

As the decade comes to a close, Kaytranada has released his new album Bubba - but in 2016, the Canadian producer released his first release on XL. 99.9% is a sample-based dance project which blended bouncing beats with perfect feature artists such as Syd, Little Dragon, Anderson. Paak and BADBADNOTGOOD to name a few. The producer sampled a range of disco, Latin and electro to create his own unique take on dance music. For me, this project is a natural progression from French House artists like Daft Punk and Sebastian and modern soul/RnB. Kaytranada created his own take on dance music and took the sub-genre further, which is why this project is a very important part of the 2010s. - Joe Marsh

19 Fleet Foxes — Helplessness Blues (2011)

Seattle indie-folk band Fleet Foxes’ self-titled debut album introduced us to their hymnal vocal harmonies, introspective lyricism, and dense, rich instrumentation. 2011’s Helplessness Blues took things even further, adding progressive song structures (“The Shrine/An Argument”) and off-kilter timings (“Battery Kinzie”) in a way that seemed effortless rather than forced. Helplessness Blues’ centrepiece and title track is perhaps the best summary of the album’s spirit - all grand philosophising about life and our place in the world. It’s a testament to the band’s skill that they managed to pull off such an ambitious concept while retaining a sound that is as intimate and personal as it is epic in scope. - Dan Knight

18 David Bowie — Blackstar (2016)

25 albums into his career and Bowie still saw fit to experiment with the form. Abandoning his studio band to instead collaborate with a group of New York jazz musos, Blackstar is unlike anything Bowie had ever done before. The triptych title track, a 10-minute saxophone-led splurge, starts out jazzy before bleeding into a stone groove that tips its hat to his Thin White Duke era before diving back into an orgy of tenor sax flourishes all over again. Other moments like “Tis a Pity She Was a Whore” and “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)” may seem convoluted, but alongside tracks such as “Girl Loves Me”, “Dollar Days” and “I Can’t Give Everything Away” – which border on sublime – they amplify Bowie’s unpredictability and refusal to be pigeonholed even in his dying days. - Danny Kilmartin

17 Radiohead — A Moon Shaped Pool (2016)

A Moon Shaped Pool marks a very strong return to the Radiohead discography, building on their earlier art-rock approach compared to the likes of The King of Limbs. The tumbling story that came out after A Moon Shaped Pool’s release, involving Thom Yorke’s now-deceased ex-partner Rachel Owen, made it an even more tragic listen. Closing track ‘True Love Waits’ packed a bleaker, heavier interpretation in comparison to its Oslo counterpart, and ‘Daydreaming’, with its reversed ending sounding like it says ‘half of my life’, referenced Thom’s long-standing relationship before their divorce. Jam-packed with consistency, it remains one of the best Radiohead records. – Alex Bacon

16 Father John Misty — I Love You, Honeybear (2015)

Josh Tillman’s second album under the Father John Misty name soared over the already-high bar set by his debut Fear Fun. 2015’s I Love You, Honeybear took the singer-songwriter’s established folk/rock/Americana style and wry, self-deprecating lyricism, and combined it with earnestly romantic treatises on love accompanied by dazzlingly rich instrumentation from sweeping orchestras (“Holy Shit”) to synths (“True Affection”) to gospel-inspired choirs (“When You’re Smiling and Astride Me”). I Love You, Honeybear is the best of Misty’s four albums from the decade, intricately exploring vulnerability and the dark sides of love with as much unflinching honesty as it explores its euphoria. - Dan Knight

15 Tame Impala — Currents (2015)

Shifting from the psychedelic rock that Innerspeaker and Lonerism produced, Tame Impala delivered the 2015 genre-blending classic Currents. Reflecting the Robert Beatty-created album cover, Currents is a melting pot of psych-pop, disco, and R&B, evidence that Kevin Parker set out to prove his range and expertise as a musician. The album received critical acclaim at the ARIA Music Awards, winning Best Rock Album and Album of the Year, and at the Grammy Awards, being nominated for Best Alternative Music Album. Currents depicts the process of personal transformation, a theme that becomes most emblematic in “Let It Happen” and “Yes, I’m Changing”. Like growing up and changing, Currents dove into an unknown territory, with the anxiety and excitement of such bleeding through and leaving a lasting impact on listeners and broadening the horizons of disco and rock in the 2010s. - Frank Tremain

14 Tyler, the Creator — Flower Boy (2017)

Scum F*ck Flower Boy, to be exact, is a 40-minute hip-hop and RnB masterpiece. This album demonstrated a softer side to Tyler, a side that felt more personal and introspective. Fusing his influences and his love for production, Tyler crafted each song with gorgeous instrumentation and used all his features to their full potential. Blending soul, jazz and even indie with his raspy voice, Tyler talks about life and love, and even showcases his singing ability, highlighting his immense flexibility as an artist. For me, Flower Boy proved he was more than a rapper eating cockroaches, he was a brilliant producer full of creative vision. - Joe Marsh

13 Frank Ocean — Channel Orange (2012)

Ocean’s hotly-anticipated debut full-length launched him straight into the stratosphere of celebrity, and for good reason. The album’s themes are not so unusual - drugs, parties, women - but the range of musical styles used to explore them certainly point towards someone who was not your run-of-the-mill RnB artist. Psychedelia, pop, soul, jazz and funk all make an appearance on this remarkable debut. Ocean says he wrote to “keep busy and sane”, and this insight into his mind is a truly unique experience. Also noteworthy is his openness about his sexuality, as his lyrics mention his unrequited love for a man, aged 19. Aside from anything else, this album gave us ‘Super Rich Kids’ and ‘Pyramids’ - and for those tracks alone, it’s worthy of a spot. – Rosie Solomon

12 Daughters — You Won’t Get What You Want (2018)

You Won’t Get What You Want is a tough, uncompromising listen that rewards perseverance. Make it through the buzzing static, dull heartbeat, creaking machinery and anti-rhythm of opener “City Song” and you’ll uncover a complex masterpiece of nerve-shredding tension that unfolds over an uncomfortable three-quarters of an hour. The industrial slasher horror of “Long Road, No Turns” will test your endurance before the first guitar even shows up, growling like a lurking beast on “Satan in the Wait”. Gruelling compositions like “Less Sex” and “The Reason They Hate Me” will leave you battered and bruised yet, once it’s over, you’ll feel compelled to listen again, probably after a long shower. It's on these repeat listens that “You Won't Get What You Want” digs its filthy fingernails into your broken, shattered being. Nobody wants an album that sounds like this, but Daughters gave it to us anyway. Never has an album title been quite so apt. – Chris Sneddon

11 Tyler, the Creator — IGOR (2019)

Tyler, the Creator’s career trajectory across the 2010s is staggering. Beginning with the angst-ridden and wrath-fuelled irony of Goblin, Tyler has completely reinvented himself as the decade comes to a close. IGOR, his latest and most masterful work to date, ditches his taste for violent, misogynistic meme-rap for something sincerer. Though not without a sense of humour, the album is about romantic failure, alienation, and a quest for human connection. Mixing hip-hop beats with unforgettable pop hooks, the album is a maximalist triumph. Tyler’s newfound maturity, manifesting in both its bold production and emotional frankness, is one of the year’s most treasured delights. – Ryan Akler-Bishop

10 Kids See Ghosts — Kids See Ghosts (2018)

Among the middle of Kanye West’s Wyoming album release run in 2018, the Chicago rapper teamed up with Kid Cudi to deliver their eponymous debut album, Kids See Ghosts. While Kanye and Cudi had been advocates for mental health for years, the release of the project came at a significant time for both Kanye’s career, after his public breakdown in 2016, and Hip-Hop, with rising artists bringing mental health to the forefront of the genre’s themes. While a run-time of 23 minutes would suggest the album is only a brief moment for them both, their chemistry shines gloriously throughout every psychedelic and experimental track, creating an epic and full final product. With multi-genred elements and hints of classic Kanye mixed with the meditative humming of Kid Cudi, Kids See Ghosts put each other to the test to create a beautiful and strange piece of work. - Frank Tremain

9 Tame Impala — Lonerism (2012)

This album is a modern psychedelic classic. Kevin Parker created an amazing selection of tracks which fuse the '60s psych sound with modern production. What makes this album so remarkable is how well the tracks link together, despite being written while on the Innerspeaker tour. Parker managed to channel his personal conflicts into his music and create a cohesive story of love, heartbreak and personal emotion. Tame Impala took the world by storm when this album was released (almost 8 years ago now) and has since become a huge influence on various genres including Hip-Hop, Alternative and Electronic. - Joe Marsh

8 Frank Ocean — Blonde (2016)

More than any other artist to emerge from the pop-cultural landscape of the 2010s, Frank Ocean understands the enduring power of silence. Contemplative, languorous, and beat-free on nearly half its songs, Ocean's second album is a major departure from its predecessor. Whereas Channel Orange wove a mosaic out of vignettes told through the voices of multiple characters, Blonde finds commensurate variety and vitality by turning its attention inward. Listening to these songs, it often feels like we're eavesdropping on songs written from the bedroom for an audience of one. In a decade which was in many ways defined by the online public sphere coming of age -- Twitter memes, Instagram stories, Youtube reaction videos, your grandparents joining Facebook -- Frank Ocean dropped one of the most lauded debut albums of all time and then disappeared. Between Channel Orange and Blonde, Frank Ocean rarely spoke to us, but when he did, we were riveted. - Grant Howse

7 Little Simz — GREY Area (2019)

UK rapper Little Simz’s GREY Area is her best work to date. Striking a balance between politics and introspection, the album fuses genres into an eclectic cauldron of varied tones, never feeling redundant. GREY Area is a product of mid-20s anxieties, occupying a space of existential confusion. Yet despite its conflicted emotions, it’s one of the most self-assured hip-hop albums of the year. Simz raps over a series of mostly minimalist beats, her effortless flow fusing wit and passion - yet there is an undeniable restraint. GREY Area benefits from concision, never overstaying its welcome, always calculated for maximum poignancy. – Ryan Akler-Bishop

6 Danny Brown — Atrocity Exhibition (2016)

Many rappers awkwardly fluctuate between drug anthems and social justice, message-centric songs. Very few manage to write both types of songs at once. Danny Brown has a special way of crafting drug bangers that double as horror stories. On one hand, almost every song has a frantic, primal beat that immediately draws you in. But there’s also something sickening about the sour guitar notes, the steady, nervous tap of percussion, and the sleazy, shifting rock samples (all compressed beyond comprehension). All the wild fun on “Atrocity Exhibition” simultaneously feels like desperation, like an upbeat version of hell. The lyrics give you all the ugly details of addiction. Sure, drugs are exhilarating, but intrusive paranoid thoughts that you might be dying, instinctive distrust of the people around you, filth, and sickness all come rolled up with the rush. – Lucy Weltner

5 IDLES — Joy As An Act of Resistance (2018)

Possibly the most important new act in the rock world around at the moment, sophomore effort Joy as an Act of Resistance sees IDLES move away from the grittiness of Brutalism to make an album with a more positive outlook. Tackling issues such as toxic masculinity, austerity, immigration, Brexit and a whole host of other topics so rarely seen in the industry with such a refreshingly productive stance. It’s eleven tracks of cathartic, bare-all rage, but always tinged with love and solidarity, with despair and joy and a beautiful declaration of vulnerability, all in equal measure. The highlight of this album, and one of the highlights of rock over the whole of the 2010s, is the track ‘Television’, giving us the simplistic lyrical genius of “If someone talked to you / The way you do to you / I’d put their teeth through / Love yourself.” – Rosie Solomon

4 Death Grips — The Money Store (2012)

Enigmatic, controversial and hostile, The Money Store was Death Grips’ full-length studio debut album and major-label debut. Released against a backdrop of huge internet buzz, it grabs the listener’s attention from the outset. A slight departure from the extremity of previous mixtape Exmilitary, but by no means radio-friendly, this 41-minute aural assault is full of dark, menacing beats (“Lost Boys”) blended with killer grooves and hooks (“Hustle Bones”, “I’ve Seen Footage”), all driven by the furious, intense vocal stylings of Stefan Burnett (or rather his persona, MC Ride) and his stream-of-consciousness lyrics. Loud, brash and way left-of-centre, it’s a postmodern take on hip-hop's classic tropes; a record by, of, and for the 21st Century. - Danny Kilmartin

3 Kanye West — My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

Never one to undersell his accomplishments, Kanye West has called this album "perfect". My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is a maximalist hip-hop journey, with West using countless recording artists from Raekwon to Elton John as pieces of his symphony. Everything here is high-grade—West’s rapping has never reached such heights, tackling racism, fame, love and on occasion doing all simultaneously. With the record, Kanye anointed himself a hip-hop king and then added a Damocles sword hanging over his head for good measure. Because for every bit as bombastic as it is, 'Dark Twisted Fantasy' remains an introspective tale into the psyche of one of music’s most interesting figures. ‘Runaway’ is a self-aware ode to being an asshole and its outro is incredible despite being three minutes of vocals distorted beyond comprehension. It’s perhaps the perfect metaphor for Kanye’s struggle with expressing himself outside of the music. The album may end in a smattering of applause but outside of the ‘fantasy’, we collectively raised a toast to the douchebag who made one of the finest albums of the decade. - Jay Fernando

2 Kendrick Lamar — good kid, m.A.A.d. city (2012)

What set the bar for 2010s hip-hop was good kid, m.A.A.d. city. A gritty, candid, story-focused record set in Lamar’s teenage years in Compton, this sophomore release blew the doors open for creativity, as well as accessibility in hip-hop. The majority of the tracklist can immediately be recalled from knowledge through its popularity, whilst channelling various older hip-hop scenes such as Outkast, Dr. Dre and Mobb Deep. To this day, tracks like ‘Backseat Freestyle’ and ‘m.A.A.d city’ get the biggest crowds hyped up, whereas ‘The Art of Peer Pressure’ and the 12-minute epic ‘Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst’ present excellent storytelling of Lamar’s youth that sucks the listener in, where every line feels like a best-selling story. Brilliantly executed, planned and materialised, good kid, m.A.A.d. city holds up as one of the best major-label debuts of all time, and its influences are still heard across the hip-hop scene today. - Alex Bacon

1 Kendrick Lamar — To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)

What else can be said about To Pimp A Butterfly? The introspective yet universal opus of Kendrick Lamar defined Black American discourse since before its release. The jazzy sprawl recalls hip-hop greats, as well as the imprint of African-American culture on not only Kendrick himself but the modern climate. Tracks like ‘u’ and ‘For Free’ take on the dual narrative of being personal documents of Kendrick at the time, and dispatches pertaining to the state of the nation. Generational anthems undeniable to anyone abound here, with the chorus to ‘Alright’ becoming a chant of unity and resistance. A gallery of all-time great production work and features that each perfectly complement the album’s flow and structure, led by the high watermark of Kendrick’s lyricism and storytelling. There isn’t a low moment to be found here, and every listen reveals more depth in its narrative. No other album has dared since to aim as high in regards to its ambition, because To Pimp A Butterfly stands alone as one of the best albums in its genre and as a document to its historical context. Nothing was off the table in this fearless release, and its shockwaves can be felt today. No wonder why it’s taught in universities. – Dylan Donnelly

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