This post starts off my deeply personal and heavily subjective list of the my top 20 favourite albums of the decade. These albums all take on some form of personal importance to me that may be hard to interpret from the outside but I’ll try my best. Writing and researching these posts also made me realise just how much changes between teenage years and mid-20s.
20. FRANK OCEAN – CHANNEL ORANGE (RELEASED JULY 2012)
Ostensibly, Channel Orange is a vibey and blurred love-struck project featuring a collage of stories surrounding Ocean’s attempts at finding and securing love in his life. The depth lies in some of the avant-garde instrumentals, as well as the depth of some tracks’ lyrical themes such as “Pyramids,” and, for me the best track on the album, “Bad Religion.” For a debut album to sound so expansive and dynamic is a testament to Ocean’s skills as a songwriter and his ear for melody. On top of all of this, despite being more than seven years old at this point, one
STANDOUT TRACKS: Crack Rock, Pyramids, Bad Religion
19. DEATH GRIPS – THE MONEY STORE (RELEASED APRIL 2012)
Having been put onto “Guillotine” from Death Grips’ 2010 album/mixtape Exmilitary by the internet’s busiest music nerd himself, Anthony Fantano, my 17-year-old brain could not wait to hear what wacky and aggressive sounds would be conjured up on The Money Store. Even the album cover is intriguing. Stylistically it is an odd mixture of lithography and possible anime fantasies. As soon as the rhythmically chaotic yet hypnotising, seemingly Asian synth start wailing on the opening track “Get Got,” you know you’re in for a hell of a ride (no pun intended). The lyrical themes are cryptic, dark and even demonic at points, ushering the listener into MC Ride’s mind of paranoia and turbulent pleasure, and yet this is arguably Death Grips’ most accessible album to date. It can also be seen as a massive step forward for some aspects of industrial hip-hop and noise music crossovers such as JPEGMAFIA, which have since garnered more popular acclaim than if The Money Store had never existed.
STANDOUT TRACKS: Get Got, Hustle Bones, The Cage
18. THE WEEKND – ECHOES OF SILENCE (RELEASED DECEMBER 2011)
When you start a project off by remaking arguably one of the greatest songs from one of the greatest catalogues of all time (Michael Jackson’s), an artist truly has some balls. While Echoes of Silence may lack diversity both instrumentally and lyrically, it serves as a perfect finale to The Weeknd’s 2011 trilogy of anonymous mixtapes. A finale should ideally be a summation of what has happened before in a series thematically and this serves as just that. From the vast, booming drums on “D.D.” to the yelpy faux-vulnerability and choral harmonies on “Next,” this mixtape features everything that fans fell in love with since the beginning of House of Balloons. It features the same outdated misogynistic, victim-blaming theories and yet they somehow the eerie melodies are more haunting than ever. A massive portion of my love for this album comes from the production. Nevertheless, the lyrics are, at times, questionable at best, both in terms of logic and political correctness, but The Weeknd’s voice remains a staple of this decade and as powerful as you will hear for decades to come.
STANDOUT TRACKS: D.D., XO / The Host, Initiation
17. APOLLO BROWN & GUILTY SIMPSON – DICE GAME (RELEASED NOVEMBER 2012)
Some may say that Apollo Brown’s production skill levels rival that of a first year music tech student. To this I would argue that there is beauty in being able to arrange record scratches, 4-beat sample loops and allow room for MCs to dominate. Guilty Simpson is not going to blow you away with lyrical miracle spirituals; he is not going to bar you to death or even switch up his flows that much. What he is going to do is sound as smooth as a baby’s warm bottom and give you a flavour of the life of a Detroit MC. Dice Game is an unskippable, head-bobbing adventure that is effortlessly gritty and will not disappoint you if you think you are a true Hip-Hop head.
STANDOUT TRACKS: Change, Lose You, Nasty (feat. Planet Asia)
16. THE WEEKND – MY DEAR MELANCHOLY (RELEASED MARCH 2018)
If the 2011 trilogy of EPs demonstrates The Weeknd’s willingness to reveal harrowing details of his drug/women addiction and all the negatives that go into them, then My Dear Melancholy, is the truly vulnerable, karmic evolution of this psyche. Said to be written about past high-profile relationships, this EP/Mini-album positions The Weeknd as a bitter, heart-broken and genuinely emotional artist searching for answers. The opener “Call Out My Name” swells into an epic chorus, (also portrayed in an excellently minimalist music video) in which you almost hear The Weeknd straining his vocals for one of the first times in his career. “Try Me” features similar synthy, spatial production as on Trilogy, however, it lacks the bite, especially in the drums, which sound like a cheap basic FL Studios function. The reasons why it is not higher on my list come mostly from this and the song “Hurt You” which is a truly painful Starboy throwaway. Thankfully the closer “Privilege” picks the listener up and delivers the line “Enjoy your privileged life / ‘Cause I’m not gonna hold you through the night”; something that every bitter ex can get behind.
STANDOUT TRACKS: Call Out My Name, Wasted Times, Privilege
Let me know what you think of the list so far and what your list would look like. Part III coming soon!