The 30 Best Albums of the Decade: 21-30

As the 2010s began, pop music was on the brink of a renaissance as a critically-acclaimed art form, hip hop was beginning to stretch its wings into new sonic territory, and the pop punk scene was beginning to fade from public consciousness (or was it?) The past decade has been defined by numerous genres receiving a shot of adrenaline from new artists who are playing by a different set of rules than their predecessors. If you hadn’t yet ditched your CDs for a streaming app in 2010, you certainly have by now.

So what does it looks like as genres begin to blend together and the idea of an album itself begins to morph as artists seek to create for audiences who have no interest in purchasing music? Well, that’s what we set out to capture in this feature on the 30 Best Albums of the Decade.

It’s All Dead came into existence just over seven years ago, and we’ve been fortunate to experience so much thoughtful, introspective, groundbreaking music since that time. The decade was marked by a darker tone, for a number of reasons, but so many great artists have risen to the occasion with something powerful to say. Over the coming days, we’ll be exploring some of our favorite sounds of the past 10 years that have moved us and made us move. We hope you’ll join along and share some of your favorites with us, as well!

30. NF – The Search

If you read my review on this album, it will be clear to you why it belongs in a decade-defining list, despite only being released this past July. Nate Feuerstein’s focus on mental health is still very much needed in a culture that has, in the past, sought cover from such a delicate issue.  What better way to end the decade than with an album that refuses to hide the struggles of mental health away any more? – Nadia Paiva

29. The Interrupters – Fight the Good Fight

Fight The Good Fight pays homage to the sound of punk in the mid-90’s and doesn’t stray far from the path forged by Rancid. However, by retaining such a “classic” punk sound, The Interrupters have become one of the leading punk voices of the decade. They have managed to do what few bands seem to be able to do: revive interest in a scene long thought dead. In the vein of true punk music, every song on the album is irresistibly catchy and fights back against the cultural norm. Fight The Good Fight proves that a particular sound isn’t contained to a certain point in time. If expressed correctly, a genre of music that was cast aside 20 years ago is even more powerful when resurrected. – Kyle Schultz

28. Haim – Days Are Gone

By the fall of 2013, indie pop was due for a shot of adrenaline, and it got one in the form of a slew of debut albums that helped shape the sound of the decade. The trio of sisters that comprise Haim have a keen ear for melody and a penchant for quirky tracks that incorporate everything from bubbling synthesizers to grungy guitars to slick, sing-along choruses. Days Are Gone is a hit factory that oscillates between playful pop numbers and dark, introspective tracks that set the tone for a decade’s worth of underground pop. But the best part about Days Are Gone? It captures the distinct and sincere personality of its creators, ensuring that it can never be fully replicated. – Kiel Hauck

27. Hozier – Hozier

With the explosive, Grammy winning single “Take Me to Church”, Ireland’s Hozier took over the folk scene in 2014. His self-titled album is certainly one of the best folk offerings of the decade, surpassing Bon Iver and Mumford and Sons. It’s accessible and soulful. Andrew Hozier’s charismatic stage presence made the world fall for him and his mournful songwriting. – NP

26. AFI – AFI (The Blood Album)

AFI (The Blood Album) is the first album in AFI’s astounding career to fully capture almost every element of the band’s sound and amplify it. Jade Puget is at his most impressive, making enough sound for two guitarists (“Hidden Knives”; “Feed The Floor”) while singer Davey Havok shows off the insane range of his talents while crooning poetic until the very end (“So Beneath You”, “The Wind That Carries Me Away”). The Blood Album is a rock album that truly makes the disconnection of emotional pain, the fight against faith, and the damaged ideal of love tangible. AFI make good on the promise of this album, as it rages and philosophizes in a way that only they can. – KS

25. Childish Gambino – Because the Internet

In 2013, it was hard to imagine Donald Glover as someone commanding the pop culture conversation, but before all of the Grammys, Emmys, and blockbuster film roles, Glover dropped an album that would kick-start his transition from quirky comedian and backpack rapper to a full-fledged artistic force. Because the Internet is sprawling in nature, rarely pausing on one sound or thought long enough to digest. But that’s the point. The album paints a messy mural of our digital age, complete with early Gambino’s signature smirk. “Everything you don’t say, you Tweet it,” he seethes on one track. His point might be even more poignant six years later. – KH

24. Lady Gaga – Born This Way

Lady Gaga ushered in a new era to pop music when she released 2008’s The Fame, but really took it over the edge (haha, get it?) with 2011’s Born This Way. With this album, she became truly confident in the image she chose to portray and used this album to bring to the forefront some social issues of the day, largely her support for the LGBTQ+ community. It genre-bends in the best way, and the album, as well as the stunning music videos she created, sent the decade into a new form of expression. – NP

23. I Can Make a Mess – The World We Know

Ace Enders has proven himself adept at writing almost any type of music, however his acoustic songs always seem to be the ones that grab people the most. The World We Know is a world weary album broken down to embrace and appreciate simplicity. Enders’ signature hooks, catchy choruses, and emotion seep through the guitar strings across the record. The World We Know perfectly captures a moment in time we all find ourselves in: the quiet realm of trapped-in-thought and looking to climb out of a personal hole. The album is hopeful, honest and arguably Enders’ magnum opus in a career filled with musical highs. – KS

22. Architects – Holy Hell

By the early part of this decade, modern metalcore had already become a caricature of itself, with many bands leaving the sound altogether for new pastures. Yet throughout the 2010s, Architects held fast, gradually becoming a beacon for the genre. After the tragic passing of guitarist Tom Searle, the band unexpectedly rose from the ashes in 2018 to release their grandest album to date. Equal parts punishingly cathartic, atmospherically expansive, and sonically overpowering, Holy Hell not only solidified Architects as the defining metalcore act of the decade, but set a benchmark that no other band aside from themselves may be capable of reaching. – KH

21. Katy Perry – Teenage Dream

I’m not usually a fan of Top 40 radio, but Teenage Dream made my list because it’s quintessential 2010s pop. It came out in my last year of middle school, and I wasn’t allowed to listen to it. This, of course, made me all the more curious, but even without direct access to the album, I couldn’t help but hear “California Girls” everywhere I went. It was the first album released by a female to have five singles on the Billboard charts, and it cemented Katy Perry’s spot as Queen of Pop. – NP

Posted by Kiel Hauck

10 Perfect Albums for Summer Road Trips

Believe it or not, there used to be a day when you didn’t have access to the entire library of recorded music when you got into your car. Long road trips with friends required preparation in the form of CD collections and discussions about which albums got first dibs in the stereo.

While it’s easier than ever to create endless playlists or simply jump tracks during long rides, there’s still something to be said for albums that can play front to back while you cruise down the highway and serve as the perfect soundtrack to life on the road. With summer in full swing, we’ve compiled a list of 10 albums to consider packing (or queueing up) before you take your next sun-drenched road trip with your friends.

Cartel – Chroma

Rule #1 for road trip albums: Every song has to be a banger. Even 14 years after its release, Chroma is fire from front to back and it’s incredibly easy to sing along to every song. Will Pugh’s voice was made for summer, and so was this album.

Key tracks: “Say Anything (Else)”, “If I Fail”

Underoath – They’re Only Chasing Safety

This is a quintessential summertime album for me and one that was the soundtrack to more road trips than I can count from 2004-06. While it’s a heavy album to be sure, there’s enough melody and pop elements crammed in courtesy of Aaron Gillespie and company that this album was made to be heard with the windows down.

Key tracks: “A Boy Brushed Red, Living in Black and White”, “Reinventing Your Exit”

P.O.S. – Never Better

P.O.S. stole the show at Warped Tour 2009 thanks to the catchiness of his breakthrough album, Never Better. An indie hip hop hidden gem, there’s tracks to nod your head to, wild out to, and rap along with your friends to. It’s a gold mine of catchy (and introspective) hits.

Key tracks: “Let it Rattle”, “Savion Glover”

Boys Like Girls – Boys Like Girls

The self-titled debut from Boys Like Girls was peak scene pop punk, masterfully produced to appeal to just about anyone. Every song could serve as a single and it’s impossible to turn the volume down anytime Martin Johnson’s voice hits those high notes.

Key tracks: “The Great Escape”, “Heels Over Head”

Paramore – Riot!

Riot! is truly one of the greatest summer pop punk albums of all time, hitting all of the high notes that a road trip album requires. Hayley Williams comes into her own as a vocalist as the band writes their catchiest and most infectious songs of their young career.

Key tracks: “That’s What You Get”, “Crushcrushcrush”

Mayday Parade – A Lesson in Romantics

Bonus points for road trip soundtracks go to any bands that utilize two singers, allowing travel buddies to trade off on vocals. A Lesson in Romantics is a perfect blend of summer anthems and memorable harmonies from Derek Sanders and Jason Lancaster.

Key tracks: “Jersey”, “Jamie All Over”

A Day to Remember – Homesick

Homesick is the album that took A Day to Remember to another level and it’s also their most instantly arresting version of easy-core that allows for head banging sessions in the car or embarrassingly loud sing-a-longs for everyone on the trip.

Key tracks: “My Life for Hire”, “Mr. Highway’s Thinking About the End”

Gym Class Heroes – As Cruel as School Children

In 2006, Gym Class Heroes were on top of the world thanks to a collection of hit songs from As Cruel as School Children. Lead man Travie McCoy is able to drop a hot verse but also able to flex his songwriting abilities in unexpected, pop-centric ways. This album is just plain fun.

Key tracks: “Shoot Down the Stars”, “Clothes Off!”

Katy Perry – Teenage Dream

Sometimes after all the whining and screaming, you need to cleanse the palate with a tried-and-true pop record. Teenage Dream is hit after hit after hit, and they’re all fun to sing along to. If anyone on the car pretends they don’t know the words…well…they’re lying.

Key tracks: “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)”, “E.T.”

Yellowcard – Ocean Avenue

In all honesty, there may not be a better pop punk road trip record than Ocean Avenue, an album that bleeds summer from every corner. It’s catchy, nostalgic, energetic and delightful in pretty much every way. Plus, if you let the album repeat after it finishes, no one will complain.

Key tracks: “Breathing”, “Ocean Avenue”, all of them.

by Kiel Hauck

kiel_hauckKiel Hauck is the editor in chief at It’s All Dead. Over the past decade, he has been a contributor for multiple online and print publications and was most recently an editor at PopMatters. Kiel currently resides in Indianapolis, IN with his wife and their imaginary pet, Hand Dog. You can follow him on Twitter.

Most Anticipated of 2019: #5 Taylor Swift Leaves Her Reputation Behind

Though Taylor Swift is one of the biggest names in the world, Reputation left many wanting. Swift claims that each new album is used to document a new chapter of her life. Although Reputation is barely a year old, this chapter seems to be closed after an extremely popular worldwide tour and Netflix Special.

There are already hints that Swift is already hard at work on her next album and there’s no reason to think it will be anything less than a stellar deep dive into the pop ether. Since most of her albums come after about two years, it’s par for the course to expect her seventh album to drop before the end of 2019.

After defending her reputation against feuds with Kanye West, Katy Perry, and public perception, this next chapter is looking to pick of the pieces of what’s left and run free.

by Kyle Schultz

kyle_catKyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and could not be more excited for new music to tickle his ears in 2019.

Podcast: The Art of Music Criticism with PopMatters’ Evan Sawdey

On our latest episode of It’s All Dead, Kiel Hauck is joined by PopMatters Interviews Editor Evan Sawdey to discuss the art of the album review and the role of pop music in 2017’s social conversations. Evan also shares stories of some of his best (and worst) interviews at PopMatters, how the site has retained its cultural relevance and impactful voice through the years, and tells us about his podcast, The Chartographers. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What do you look for in an album review? What matters most? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Taylor Swift Drops New Song “Look What You Made Me Do”

It’s here! Last night, Taylor Swift dropped the first single from her new album, Reputation. The new song, titled “Look What You Made Me Do”, is a dark dance-pop track that takes aim at her enemies, in particular, Kanye West and Katy Perry. Co-written with Jack Antonoff of Bleachers, “Look What You Made Me Do” gives us a glimpse into what could be a much darker affair when her album drops on November 10. Take a listen to the new song below:

You can preorder Reputation through a variety of outlets.

What do you think of the new song? Are you hoping for more of the same on Reputation? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Podcast: Predicting the Song of the Summer

Today marks the first day of summer, and you know what that means – time to sing along to the Song of the Summer! But wait, where did that term come from? And what does it even mean? And does any of this even matter?

Richard Clark joins Kiel Hauck to discuss the history of the “Song of the Summer” and reflect on some of their favorite summertime tracks. They also break down the elements that make a summer song successful and even offer up some guesses for 2017’s song of the summer. Listen in!

Subscribe to our podcast here.

What is your favorite song of the summer memory? Share in the replies!

Posted by Kiel Hauck