The 30 Best Albums of the Decade: 11-20

You can view part one of our Best Albums of the Decade feature here.

20. Panic! at the Disco – Vices and Virtues

Vices & Virtues is arguably the greatest comeback story in the history of music. After the departure of half the band (including the main songwriter), Brendon Urie and Spencer Smith resurrected Panic! at The Disco to heights that no one could have ever imagined. Urie mastered the art of playing multiple instruments and writing lyrics, while Smith layered each song with hypnotizing percussion. Vices & Virtues reunited the band with the glamorized pop sound that initially made them famous while forging a sound unique to the two albums that came before it. Without Vices & Virtues, it’s hard to see how Panic! At The Disco would have ever found the footing to absolutely dominate the radio in a time when the medium seems almost defunct. – Kyle Schultz

19. CHVRCHES – The Bones of What You Believe

One can argue the true genesis of the decade’s indie synthpop revival, but there is no denying that The Bones of What You Believe served as the movement’s North Star. While the previous decade was overrun with egrieged boys spewing venom over distorted guitars, vocalist Lauren Mayberry flipped the script for the 2010s, with a buzzsaw of dark, emotive (and catchy) hooks over shimmering synthesizers. The 12 tracks of CHVRCHES’ debut worm their way into your brain from the first listen and set a startlingly high bar for a sound that defined the decade. – Kiel Hauck

18. Twenty One Pilots – Blurryface

After two years of silence following their Fueled By Ramen debut, Vessel, Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun released 2015’s Blurryface. The album is arguably their most popular, and put them on the front of every major music publication. Their catchy refrains and energetic live shows continue to fill up stadiums worldwide, and their outspokenness about mental health awareness has kept the band on the tip of everyone’s tongue throughout the back half of the 2010s. – Nadia Paiva

17. My Chemical Romance – Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys

The greatest sin committed by Danger Days is that it faced the monumental task of meeting unprecedented expectations. Taking a massive swing, My Chemical Romance wrote an epic rock fantasy that firmly planted its own distinct sound in the band’s catalog. It doesn’t always stick the landing, such as truly explaining the story concepts that make such a prominent role in the songs and their titles. However, what does work is ambitious, driving, and as catchy as anything the band has ever written. For a band celebrated for music about depression and vampires, Danger Days took us on the adventure the band had always wanted to explore in the first place. – KS

16. letlive. – The Blackest Beautiful

Punk music needed a voice like Jason Aalon Butler’s in the 2010s, and it may have gotten more than it bargained for. The Blackest Beautiful was one of the most ferocious albums of the decade and solidified letlive.’s place among the post-hardcore elite. Across the album’s 11 tracks, we see the promise of a raw, unbridled band coalesce before our very eyes, harnessing an urgency that had been missing in a genre that demands it. That The Blackest Beautiful pushes all if its chips toward its passionate social and political message only solidifies its place as one of the decade’s only punk classics. In hindsight, letlive. may have flown too close to the sun, but this moment of fire was worth it. – KH

15. Paramore – Paramore

The self-titled album was a big comeback for Paramore. Having gone through a rocky cycle with 2009’s Brand New Eyes, the band regrouped and rebranded themselves as a bonafide pop band in 2013.  “Ain’t It Fun” won Best Rock Song at the 57th Grammys, making it the band’s first Grammy award. The album has all of the great things we loved in Paramore’s previous work, but it also paved the way for their 80s-influenced After Laughter. – NP

14. Hellogoodbye – Would it Kill You?

Would It Kill You? subverted all expectations placed on it at release, seamlessly blending modern pop, pop rock and classic pop into a sound unlike anything else in music. Hellogoodbye singer Forrest Kline sounds completely energized, having turned the focus of the music from electronic rock to folk-pop. The songs pulse with energy and sweet emotion, letting the band take chances and push their own boundaries to great effect. The deftly crafted layers of pop music and the blending of genres make this album sound like a true work of art, breathing new life into a band some had already blown off as a one hit wonder. – KS

13. Frank Ocean – Blonde

Four years after the release of his jaw-dropping debut album, Channel Orange, Frank Ocean fans had begun to resign themselves to the idea that there may never be a follow-up. But Blonde came suddenly, and excitement quickly transitioned to awe. Blonde is complicated, mesmerizing and intense – the work of an introverted artist meandering through the halls of his past, dangling answers before quickly replacing them with more questions. Psychedelic and smooth, Ocean explores sexuality, social constructs, and inner truth in equal measure, crafting one of the most immersive and ambiguously beautiful records of the decade. – KH

12. Lana Del Rey – Born to Die

This is definitely more of a personal choice for me, because other than the single “Video Games”, this album was underrated when it was released in 2012. I feel like it has become a gateway for a lot of people (and artists who would later claim the term) to a more self aware, grittier side of music that they might not have been drawn to if it wasn’t for tracks like “Off to the Races” or “Summertime Sadness”. This album is also a prime example of perseverance, because even though it’s not Lana Del Rey’s most critically acclaimed album, it didn’t stop her from releasing incredible music later in the decade. – NP

11. Taylor Swift – Red

Taylor Swift was a phenom before the release of Red, but this album opened her up to an entirely new audience. Combining modern pop songs with country proved to be a bridge between genres that fans could easily grasp onto. While Red prepped Swift for her foray into pop music, it also pulled new fans into the genre of country music even if they would have never been interested before. The album captures the feeling of past loves, with all of the happiness and anger that comes with them, and attempts to find meaning between the two. Hiding between genres, Red harnesses the strengths of country, pop, and rock to unite anyone willing with the same emotions. – KS

Posted by Kiel Hauck

Review: Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell

Lana Del Rey is America’s queen. She’s an expert in mixing the modern with the retro. Her cinematic take on Americana remains fresh with each release and Norman F*****g Rockwell is no different. 

While initially very skeptical of Lana’s brand, these days, I call myself a die-hard fan. Born to Die came to me in a time where I was really desperate to branch out and I had started to really look at women in music and embracing artists like Marina Diamandis and Lorde. My background in music is very male oriented, and I listened to a lot of rock and indie bands – genres that, in the mid 2000s, were generally devoid of female talent. As I’ve gotten older, it’s become a personal goal that I openly support women in music. So I started listening to Lana Del Rey.

You can buy or stream Norman Fucking Rockwell on Apple Music.

My favorite thing about her music is how she seamlessly moves from genre to genre and era to era. She’ll have Jazz Age influences in one track and then in the next it’s like you’ve been transported to Woodstock. I’ve always had a thing for oldies, and the fact that she can pull it off so authentically has always intrigued me. With each album, I feel like we’re moving further in time, and with Norman F*****g Rockwell, we’re arrived in the late 70s, early 80s.

It opens with the title track, one of the softer, but no less hard hitting, songs on the album. Her goal with the album is to draw parallels, something she does through referencing pop culture. She said of the title in an interview with Vanity Fair that, “[She and Jack Antonoff, they] just joke  around constantly about all the random headlines [they] might see that week…but it’s not a cynical thing, really. To [her], it’s hopeful, to see everything as a little bit funnier.”

With that being said, the album isn’t necessarily lighthearted. I would argue that it’s her most personal album yet, from the line in “Mariner’s Apartment Complex” where she refers to an interview she did where the publication titled it, “I wish I was dead already.” To use such a statement as a way to get clicks isn’t fair, and the actual context of what she said has nothing to do with any of those sentiments. 

The album gets more personal about her career than any of the previous five albums before it, but it also pushes the envelope of that career more than the other albums as well. One of the singles, “Venice B***h”, is almost 10 minutes long, and is one of the best tracks on the album. I know I often say this about female artists, but she’s not afraid (and has never been afraid) to take control of her creativity. I feel like that’s because women have to work 50 times as hard to gain any artistic control at all, so the best way is to just keep all of your decisions close, and it’s something that, as unfortunate of a concept as it is, makes for the most authentic and raw music. She’s set the precedent of having complete control, which at the end of the day, gives her the most freedom.

This album is the culmination of everything she’s done up until now. From a little bit of the jazz influence seen in her first two albums, to the transparent lyricism from 2017’s Lust for Life, we have little pieces of each of her past releases showcased here. The closer, “Hope is a Dangerous Thing for a Woman Like Me to Have, but I Have It”, is the most poignant of all of her closers. She’s brought everything full circle. Throughout all the difficulties in her life and career she’s still always believed in her art and keeping her creative license. And that’s what makes Norman F*****g Rockwell explosive.

5/5

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.

Reflecting On: Florence and the Machine – Lungs

I was recently talking to Kiel about some of my favorite albums, the ones that truly impacted me as a music fan and as a person, and how a lot of those albums are hitting their release anniversaries this year. One of those albums is Lungs by Florence and the Machine. It’s an album that’s no doubt left a lasting impact on the musical culture of 2009. It’s been one of my top albums for as long as I’ve been listening, and I still think it’s Florence and the Machine’s best.

“Dog Days are Over” is probably the best known track that Florence has released, and it starts Lungs off strong. The entire album’s exploration of emotion hadn’t been done before in such a drastic, theatrical way. From beginning to end, Florence impresses us vocally, musically and thematically. 

My favorite tracks from Lungs are “Cosmic Love”, which brings me to tears almost every time I listen to it, “Between Two Lungs” for its lullaby-esque lilt and harmonies, and “My Boy Builds Coffins” for the way it describes an effortless and simple yet all-consuming love.

The way Florence uses literary references, nature imagery and a pre-Raphaelite muse is one of the main reasons I think she’s stuck around. Her creativity is boundless, and she’s willing to push the envelope to get her point across. Her label asked her to write an “upbeat” song for the record and the result, “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)”, is about ritual sacrifice and King Midas. It seems like she tries to wriggle past authority; she holds her right to create tightly.

As a woman who enjoys music, and watches women in the industry get stepped on or stepped over, I appreciate the fact that Florence walks her own path. She has paved the way for other female artists to feel the freedom to do the same, and I think that if Lungs hadn’t succeeded the way it did in 2009, the music world would be vastly different. If Florence Welch hadn’t come along and garnered the success she did, I doubt that Marina Diamandis and Lana del Rey would’ve felt the confidence they do now in their unconventional music endeavors.

From the first track of Lungs, Florence Welch brings us into her world — a place where we can identify with each theme she creates but also escape to at the same time. Between her instrumentation and her ethereal stage presence, Florence’s music constantly raises the bar for art pop, from 2009 until now. Happy 10th birthday, Lungs.

by Nadia Paiva

kiel_hauckNadia Paiva has been a music enthusiast since she can remember. Going to shows is her main pastime. The other is being upset when she can’t go to shows. This is her first official venture into writing about music. You can follow her on Twitter.