Best Albums of the Decade

Updated: 2 days ago

In the age of streaming and playlists, these albums prove that the full length is here to stay.

Arctic Monkeys - AM (2013)

Domino


AM is a definitive rock album of the decade. Alex Turner’s visual transformation into a classic, black jacket rocker was matched with the band’s sonic shift to a refined rock sound. Less a musical experiment, more a reconstruction and retelling of the great rock albums that had come before.


Ásgeir - In The Silence (2013)

One Little Indian Records


There is an inexplicable appreciation of the thematic nature of music that seems almost exclusive to Nordic artists. In the lyrics, you can feel the untold history of a legendary landscape that soars over glaciers and mortal hearts alike. Yet it’s achieved by a marriage between the acoustic and electronic by dream-like vocals unheard elsewhere.


Ball Park Music - Puddinghead (2014)

Stop Start / Inertia


Emotional, vulnerable and completely eccentric, Puddinghead captures all the best aspects of Ball Park Music. Indie rock and pop galore, the album seamlessly transitions from tumultuous emotional lows to moments of unexpected joy.


The Black Keys - El Camino (2011)

Nonesuch


Named for the car Dan and Patrick had spent years touring and sleeping in, El Camino saw The Black Keys finally achieve the mainstream recognition and success they so rightly deserved. It had taken six albums, but El Camino was the perfect combination of their blues roots and a timeless rock ‘n’ roll sound.


Blood Orange - Cupid Deluxe (2011)

Domino


The capital of the world. The city that never sleeps. New York. Cupid Deluxe is an ode to Blood Orange’s adopted city. It showcases the best of the world's culture capital through lush synth-pop indebted to the 1980s.


Bon Iver - Bon Iver (2011)

Jagjaguwar


With the addition of more sophisticated instrumentation, Bon Iver elevated their wintry folk-pop to new heights. The sounds are mesmerising, lifted by graceful vocals, through dense yet soft-hearted lyricism. There is a distinct war between silence and tremendous volume - executed perfectly between your ears. It is an album for the quiet, for the uncertain, for the alone.


Chief Keef - Finally Rich (2012)

Interscope / Glory Boyz


It’s ignorant and nihilistic. It’s anthemic and triumphant. It’s the most influential rap album of the decade. With Finally Rich, Chief Keef became the father to drill, mumble rap and hip-hop’s new punk aesthetic.


CHVRCHES - The Bones of What You Believe (2013)

Virgin / Goodbye


It's one of the best debut albums of 2013. The Bones of What You Believe is a seamless collection of glistening vocals by Lauren Mayberry perfectly layered above robust synth melodies. It proves that synth-pop isn't just repetitive loops fit for dance clubs alone. It helped revive the genre in the indie sphere.


Courtney Barnett - Sometimes I Sit and Think...(2015)

Marathon Artists


Like all great albums it's polarising. Somewhere there’s a disdain for the campy drone of the melody lines - for the smart but not book smart lyricism - for the moments where it seems like Barnett forgets she’s singing a song. Even so, this is an album for everyday life. It’s a ‘The Office-eseque’ parody of the mundanity of society where at some point we all look right at the camera thinking "what?". And it's that awkwardness that makes both the show and this album great.


Drake - Take Care (2011)

Young Money / Cash Money Republic


Take Care oozes sincerity. Drake speaks directly to the listener, sharing his thoughts and emotions in a genuine manner. Drake overshares without overburdening. The album is insight into the mind of the decade's defining pop star.


Esperanza Spalding - Emily's D+Evolution (2016)

Concord


This is an artist who stole a grammy from Justin Bieber. This is a jazz album (Mostly). But it might be funk art instead. It's Ebony and Ivy. Dark and Bright. Its creative, confrontational, it’s got cheeky time signatures but most of all it cuts through the preconceptions of what a ‘contemporary’ jazz record can be - which is very very good.


Flume - Skin (2016)

Future Classic


Compare the shiny 'Never Be Like You' and snarly 'Wall Fuck' and you can see the versatility of this album and why it presses so many buttons. Clearly testing the waters for more intriguing experimentation, Flume hits a home run with the sonic version of MDMA.


Foster The People - Torches (2011)

Startime / Columbia

Yeah, 'Pumped Up Kicks' is fucking awesome, but Torches has plenty more to offer. The debut album from Foster The People is an inspired collection of indie rock, setting the mould for the indie scene for the decade to come.


Future - Monster / Beast Mode / 56 Nights (2014 / 2015)

Freebandz


Future was the fifth most streamed artist last decade. He is not a pop star. His music is not made for the charts. Its commercial success is the result of a steady work ethic, consistent output and an epic three mixtape run that started it all.


Gang of Youths - Go Farther in Lightness (2017)

Mosy Recordings / Sony Music Australia


Go Farther in Lightness is the magnum opus of contemporary alt-rock. It deserves to be listened to from start to finish. It's an intricate saga of poetry, emotion and music that forces you to listen - not just hear - to appreciate - in which its phenomenal construction pays off again and again in subsequent plays. Its fourth single ‘The Deepest Sighs, the Frankest Shadows‘ in particular, creates the perfect build in a song, it begins sombre but ends in painful triumph.


Grimes - Art Angels (2015)

4AD


It seems grotesque, experimental and artsy at first. But look closer and its synth-pop. Really good synth-pop. Every track is a highlight and there’s nothing else out there like it. At least not this well produced.


Gotye - Making Mirrors (2011)

Eleven


Making Mirrors feels relatable even if you’ve never experienced the memories or emotions it conveys. In that way it's simultaneously a self-reflection but also a reflection of the experiences of its listeners. Although at the time shadowed by its lead track ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ the album itself is the perfect soundtrack for the greatest film never made.


Joanna Newsom - Have One On Me (2010)

Drag City


Its predecessor Ys was disturbing in its beauty like an impressionist artwork to be admired from a distance. In Have One on Me, Newsom sings with more clarity, more purpose, (and alongside marginally less harp). Yet her music remains an unsolvable puzzle much like overhearing a deep conversation between strangers. It’s folksy but bluesy, it's meticulously designed but structurally elusive, it's the most approachable of Newsom’s work but utterly impenetrable without an open mind. Avant-garde could be one way to describe it. One of the greatest albums ever produced could be another.


Kali Uchis - Isolation (2018)

Rinse / Virgin EMI / Universal


Genres are fluid. Some of the decade’s best albums play with disparate sounds from around the world. Kali Uchis’ Isolation juggles R&B, soul, funk, reggaeton and bossa nova, with confidence and flair.


Kanye West - My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010)

Def Jam / Roc-A-Fella


A masterclass in how to use samples to create a new sound, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is one of the most influential albums of the decade. Kanye West used one of the most turbulent times in his life to create his greatest record to date.


Kanye West - Yeezus (2013)

Def Jam / Roc-A-Fella


The dark horse of his discography, an industrial hip-hop album obsessed with sex. Yeezus made experimental hip-hop accessible. It made the sacred profane. It made Kanye West a God.


Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)

Top Dawg / Aftermath / Interscope


Kendrick Lamar's third album uses a noisy and complicated sound to convey a simple message. To Pimp A Butterfly is a cultural moment, it's a record for the ages.

Lana Del Rey - Norman Fucking Rockwell (2019)

Polydor / Interscope


Coming in at the end of a long decade this album has become an icon of pop-rock. Beyond the themes of American culture it seems to tackle its a tack sharp cut of jams and ballads that rely just as much on emotive piano riffs as Del Rey’s gorgeously sepia sadcore. It’s elegant, it's brash, it’s an instant classic in it's genre.


Last Dinosaurs - In A Million Years (2012)

Dew Process / Universal Music Australia


Without a doubt, In A Million Years is one of the strongest debuts by an Australian indie-rock band. It's stood strong for a decade, a long time in music. It contains an extremely coherent selection of songs with remarkably tight production and timelessly catchy riffs. Last Dinosaurs deploys some of the best bass lines in indie-rock with a unique flavour to boot.


Lorde - Melodrama (2017)

Universal / Lava / Republic


A young woman coming of age and a menacing psycho are the two extremes of this rather maximalist album. A departure from the straightforward layers of the hip-hop influenced Pure Heroine, Melodrama stays true to its name. Amid the bold vocals there’s melodic elements to this album that represent the reckless intensity of the young that inevitably crashes and burns. It’s a neon light on a night out that draws you in but gives you something completely different.


M83 - Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming (2011)

Naïve / Mute


It's a total cliche to refer to an album as a journey, but that is truly the best description of M83’s massive double album. From emotive synths and spoken word, to the soaring 'Midnight City', M83 seems to try and accomplish everything. An album where the intro and outro are musical achievements in their own right.


Matt Corby - Telluric (2016)

Mercury Records / Universal Music Australia


A lush, impressive and cohesive neo-soul foray - this album gives you the feeling you get when the air-conditioning is just right and you’re coming in from the blistering heat. There’s tinges of gospel, R&B. There's tension amid the cool space that is this album’s soundscape. Sit down for this one.


Of Monsters and Men - My Head Is An Animal (2011)

Record / Republic


Iceland is a country with less people than just one of Sydney’s suburbs and yet out of it comes (consistently) some of decade’s best music. You’d be fooled to think these were simply campfire songs - they’re actually rather grand visions, with deep metaphors grounded in the natural world - that just happen to be set to infectious indie pop. They all tell a story worth being sung.


St Vincent - Strange Mercy (2011)

4AD


Do you like chills? This album gives you chills whether you like it or not. The vocals are powerful, and emotional, drowning amid a swirl of guitar and retro-synth. There’s anger and pain but it's elegant, it almost makes you smile before reminding you how upset you really are. You want to escape but it doesn’t let you. You give in.


Sticky Fingers - Land of Pleasure (2014)

Sureshaker


Although the band’s journey has been turbulent it’s undeniable that for a time their brand of reggae rock bought them a place in the spotlight. And like Sticky Fingers itself, Land of Pleasure features dizzying highs (‘Velvet Skies’) and heart-wrenching lows (‘Rum Rage’). The velvet tunes of an album where each individual song earns its merit became the Australian soundtrack to a good time.


Sufjan Stevens - Carrie Lowell (2015)

Asthmatic Kitty


Equal parts happy equal parts sad, but all at the same time. This is Stevens' seventh album. He writes through his personal experiences, yet you feel singled out. It's sublime but small. For an artist who has refined his craft over decades this is the carefully distilled ambrosia.


Tame Impala - Currents (2015)

Modular / Fiction / Interscope


The third album that finally married Tame Impala's universally acclaimed psychedelic rock to the pop palette. Currents showcases more emotional writing and narrative whilst still maintaining Kevin Parker's trademark enigmatic ambiguity. An aggressively melodic release that's as much the world's obsession as it was Parker's.



Honourable Mentions

Beyoncé - Beyoncé

Billie Eilish - When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?

Fiona Apple - The Idler Wheel...

Florence and the Machine - Ceremonials

Flight Facilities - Down to Earth

Frank Ocean - Blonde

Kate Miller-Heidke - Nightflight

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard - Nonagon Infinity

Montaigne - Glorious Heights

RÜFÜS DU SOL - Bloom

Sia - 1000 Forms of Fear

Solange - A Seat at the Table

Thelma Plum - Better In Blak

Two Door Cinema Club - Tourist History

Violent Soho - Waco

Hiatus Kayote - Choose Your Weapon


This list is compiled as opinions by Australian contributors from various backgrounds and experiences.