KJHK’s Top 50 Albums of the 2010s

At KJHK, many of us like to live by the saying, “Go big, or go home.” That’s why we’ve decided to bring you our very own Album of the Decade list. After months of deliberation, giant list-making, and online polls, you (the wonderful fans of our station) helped us crown KJHK’s top album of the decade. Luckily for you, we took care of the rest of the list, based on your polls and the opinions of our staffers (past and present). Without further ado, check out our final list and what our executive and music staffs had to say about our top picks!

1.) Blonde – Frank Ocean

There are many words to describe Ocean’s long-awaited and highly anticipated sophomore album, Blonde: Powerful, beautiful, revolutionary, and complex are some of the few that come to mind, but the most important thing about this album, in my opinion, is the emotions that it evokes in the listener. The release of Blonde came four years after Ocean’s debut, Channel Orange, and it was released very unexpectedly after years of speculation. Needless to say, Frank Ocean delivered an absolutely stunning album that is regarded by many, including myself, as a masterpiece. The feeling I get when I listen to this album is hard to describe. It’s a warm and intense feeling of nostalgia and innocence during the track “Nikes,” which features a simple but powerful chord progression in the form of a low-fi synth. It’s a feeling of self-acceptance with the gospel-influenced track “Solo,” and it’s a feeling of being free and independent on the final track, “Futura Free.” The gorgeous and atmospheric production found throughout the album creates a constant backdrop of nostalgia, and the blends between R&B, hip-hop, and electronic music create variety throughout to keep the journey engaging.  For example, the iconic beat-switch on the track “Nights”’ features a transition from a guitar- and synth- led, electronic hip-hop beat to a minimalistic piano-driven beat with traces of R&B. One of the central themes of this album is coming of age, and this album represents this perfectly. Many of the struggles and topics Frank addresses on this album, such as materialism, failed relationships, depression, self-worth, freedom, reflection, and introspection are things that many of us deal with during our own coming-of-ages. It’s a very relevant album for this current generation, and Ocean’s storytelling and lyricism on this album constantly has me reflecting on my own life and seeing how much I’ve grown as a person through my own hardships with the issues listed above. This album is the album of the decade, and through its ability to convey nostalgic and intense emotion and have us think about how far we have come as people, it’s really not hard to see why.

Recommended Tracks: The whole album. Just listen to it, please. 🙂

– Markus Becerra, Assitant Technology Director

2.) To Pimp a Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly is a generation-defining album that looks critically at America’s actions and structures and demonstrates the toll they take. Over an eclectic mix of hip-hop, jazz, funk, and electronic music, Kendrick traces his growth and success while questioning the institutions that make his loved ones second-class citizens and his place within these institutions. While a very conceptually dense record, he never neglects the hooks and technically precise bars that got him to where he is today. It is clear today that our institutions have neglected people of color and the poor for far too long and that a move towards socialism is necessary; Kendrick contributed his voice to the movement through this masterpiece.

Recommended Tracks: “How Much a Dollar Cost”, “You Ain’t Gotta Lie (Momma Said)”

– Deegan Poores, Programming Director

3.) Flower Boy – Tyler, the Creator

I’ve had a lot of conversations over this album and where it stands with the rest of Tyler’s discography… You can’t deny that, at the time of it’s release, Flower Boy was his most technically-sound record to date and will continue to stand up on its own. Although I’m very partial to WOLF, I can’t find a counter-argument to my friends telling me Flower Boy is his best.

Recommended Tracks: “See You Again”, “911 / Mr. Lonely”

– Cole Billings, Music Staffer and DJ

4.) good kid, m.A.A.d. city – Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick’s Lamar’s sophomore album dropped in 2012 with wide critical acclaim for its rich narrative of a semi-fictionalized version of his younger self as he navigates growing up in poverty and around gang violence. Kendrick’s original 12-track album takes the listener on a journey of reflection through varying topics from alcoholism, loss of friends, and teenage love. Most importantly, it takes us through loving our upbringing for better or for worse — but especially for worse. This story is about a young, immature but well-meaning boy’s conflict with a violent, struggling environment that traditionally leaves the residents unfulfilled and oppressed. It’s a hard hitting statement of the struggle a Compton resident would face. It’s top-tier vicariousness implemented through music. The story concludes with a shootout and death of Kendrick’s friend, and the despair and reactions that arise from that event. Good kid, m.A.A.d. City is a masterpiece of hip hop and the telling of the struggles of black america through a narrative of one boy’s day driving around his mom’s minivan.

Recommended Tracks: “Backstreet Freestyle,” “m.A.A.d. City,” “Sing About Me I’m Dying of Thirst,” “The Art of Peer Pressure”

– Dakota Behrman, Multimedia Director

5.) Channel Orange – Frank Ocean

Ocean doesn’t shy away from the dark sides and the struggles that come with love and sexuality on his Grammy-award winning and debut studio album, Channel Orange. The album presents Ocean in a very raw and vulnerable state, and he leads listeners on a ride through his turbulent psyche. From Ocean’s powerful vocal delivery and the minimalistic instrumental on “Thinkin Bout You,” to the epic and immersive track “Pyramids,” we find Ocean longing for and dreaming about unrequited love, but yet addressing how addiction, sex, and co-dependence can impact a relationship.  Channel Orange incorporates elements from electronic, soul, [op, psychedelic and R&B music to create a very luscious, vibrant, and timeless sound that fits perfectly with the album’s themes. Channel Orange showcases Ocean’s raw and powerful talent for songwriting and storytelling, and kept fans longing for more.

Recommended Tracks: “Forrest Gump,” “Pyramids”

– Markus Becerra, Assitant Technology Director

6.) Currents – Tame Impala

Kevin Parker’s musical genius came together perfectly for his triumphant third album, Currents. Blending psychedelic rock, funk, and R&B, Parker departs from his tried and true 70’s-reminiscent, garage psychedelia with songs like “Eventually,” “New Person, Same Old Mistakes” (which inspired a Rihanna cover), and “The Moment.” The vibrant and glittering production immerses listeners in Parker’s psyche for a trip one will truly connect with and remember, sealing the propulsion of Tame Impala’s stardom.

Recommended Tracks: “Let it Happen,” “Yes I’m Changing”

– Markus Becerra, Assitant Technology Director & Madison Crees, DJ

7.) DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar

DAMN. is where it all came together for Kendrick Lamar; his lyrical abilities, pop instincts, narrative sculpting and production choices were in top shape on this record. Its reception backs this up: it contains his first number 1 single, got critical acclaim, won 4 Grammys, and is the first non-jazz or classical album to win the Pulitzer Prize. With this and the fact that it’s his most mainstream and commercially successful album, a lot of people have since written it off as “overrated.” This couldn’t be further from the truth, as this is the album that cemented Kendrick’s artistic reputation. It proved that he could do it all and do it all well. This album balances all his strengths, with bangers like “HUMBLE.,” pop like “LOYALTY.” with Rihanna, R&B like “LOVE.” with Zacari, extended storytelling like “FEAR.”, lo-fi hip-hop like “FEEL.,” really tight narratives like “DUCKWORTH.,” and much more. He does all of this while constructing a narrative that carries throughout the tracklisting and is meant to be played backwards to get a different narrative. With his star rising rapidly throughout the decade, DAMN. was the album that proved why he belonged at the top of not only rap, but music in general in the 2010s.

Recommended Tracks: “DNA.,” “ELEMENT.”

– Deegan Poores, Programming Director

8.) Awaken, My Love! – Childish Gambino

What happens when a comedian kid-rapper grows up unexpectedly into a serious, mature artist? Awaken, My Love! Gambino’s third studio album marks a massive departure from his prior trademark gimmicks, setting the tone for future genre-bending tracks. Experimental and filled to the brim with soul, Gambino raises funk from the grave in a mix of political call-to-actions and pure, love-soaked sonnets meant for his baby mama. With the overwhelming popularity of hit single “Redbone,” Gambino secured his name as an unadulterated genius in mainstream culture, and through Awaken, My Love!, created a spiritual experience to be shared by the masses at the best live shows Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza have ever seen.

Recommended Tracks: “Me and Your Mama,” “Zombies”

– Markus Becerra, Assitant Technology Director & Madison Crees, DJ

9.) Acid Rap – Chance the Rapper

While Chance the Rapper’s appeal in 2020 can be argued, there is no contesting how much his vibrant mixtape Acid Rap felt like a breath of fresh air in 2013. It combined aspects of golden age hip hop production with modern day trap to make jubilant tracks like the bouncy opener “Good Ass Intro” and “Favorite Song,” which features Childish Gambino. While he is known best for his joyful music, there are darker songs like “Paranoia,” which chronicles the epidemic of gun violence in Chicago, that demonstrate why optimism is necessary to fight against the oppressive forces that try to crush it. Over all of this, Chance’s personality shines through as he shows off his wit and charm.

Recommended Tracks: “Good Ass Intro,” “Acid Rain”

– Deegan Poores, Programming Director

10.) AM – Arctic Monkeys

When I reminisce about how aggressively and exclusively indie-rock I was in high school, the first thing that comes to mind is listening to Arctic Monkeys, specifically AM. For a 15-year-old who thought that she was too cool for school, this album was the soundtrack for my friend group, as we spent our weekdays wishing we were old enough to get the album cover’s wavelength as a tattoo. AM is an indie anthem in my book, from how the group transitioned their sound to a seductive leather rock to how its tones of rebellion and lust left me feeling like I was a heartbreaking biker. The album’s frontrunner “Do I Wanna Know?” perfectly executes the feeling of being paranoid in a new relationship, and the late-night uncertainty that comes with starting something new. The funky guitar riffs carry into the first half of the album, to then segue into an R&B-esque vibe for tracks like “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?”. For someone who wants to feel like they’re lusting for someone that may not even exist, AM has the tunes for you. 

Recommended Tracks: “R U Mine?,” “Snap Out Of It,” “I Wanna Be Yours”

– Kalekidan Yeshiwas, Technology Director

11.) My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy – Kanye West

We don’t need to explain why Kanye is on this list. Kanye West was a household name through this entire decade, starting with the release of, in my opinion, his best work: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in 2010. While the album is a masterpiece musically, it showcases West’s true genius in marketing and business. West released free singles of MBDTF through his program GOOD Fridays; this was in 2010, when the idea of free, immediate streaming was new…and potentially fallible. Adding the album’s allure, West released Runaway, a short film which built a narrative around the album. When the album was finally released, many stores refused to put it on their shelves due to the intentionally explicit cover art. This only helped catapult the album to fame as fans, critics and probably even conservative moms found themselves “So Appalled” and talking about My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The world started the decade trying to understand Kanye West, and in those 10 years, we’ve come to realize only Kanye can truly understand Kanye. 

Recommended Tracks: “Runaway,” “Devil In A New Dress”

– Cami Koons, Community Engagement Director

12.) Saturation II – BROCKHAMPTON

While the entire Saturation trilogy is a masterpiece to behold, BROCKHAMPTON proves they’re here to stay with Saturation II. Coming right out the gates by way of crude buzzer into Abstract’s attitude-driven flow over West Coast synths in “GUMMY,” listeners are promised an album with bangers perfect for moshing. Later found are meticulously crafted verses approaching controversial topics not commonly addressed in hip hop, like Abstract’s verse on queerness and Champion’s on rape culture in “JUNKY,” setting them apart from the competition. Rounding out the album with Bearface’s soulful vocals on the standalone ballad “SUMMER,” America’s favorite boy band lays all creativity on the line in an effort to create a comprehensive portfolio with a song for everyone in Saturation II.

Recommended Tracks: “SWEET,” “GUMMY,” “JELLO”

– Markus Becerra, Assitant Technology Director & Madison Crees, DJ

13.) Ctrl – SZA

CTRL is a prime example of the sound of 2017, the year (in my humble opinion) that began the conversation of what is included when we speak of indie music. SZA’s style is seen as “indie R&B”, yet incorporates bits of pop and hip-hop, leaving many having trouble with how to describe her unique style. With “Love Galore” featuring Travis Scott being on heavy rotation in both the mainstream and alternative radio,  I like to think of SZA as being one of the many pioneers in changing the way people think of R&B music. SZA’s narrative is honest, and one that resonates with many young women, including myself. She discusses body positivity and self-esteem issues (“Doves in the Wind” and “Drew Barrymore”) and the mixed emotions of being with someone who isn’t just yours (“The Weekend”). When I think of this album, I think back to my daily commutes home from my summer job, and finding peace in being insecure and uncertain of what’s to come. 

Recommended Tracks: “The Weekend,” “Go Gina,” “Garden (Say It Like Dat)”

– Kalekidan Yeshiwas, Technology Director

14.) Pure Heroine – Lorde

Ella Yelich-O’Connor, aka Lorde, was only 16 when she released a debut album that would change the face of music for angsty teens around the world. While songs such as “Royals” would gain popular appeal great enough to launch Lorde to superstardom, Pure Heroine was never destined to be one of the typical, derivative pop albums that graced the mid-2010’s. The image of teenagerdom Lorde illustrates throughout the album is gritty, flawed, and undeniably genuine — she effectively reconciles dreamy romanticization with the harshness of reality.

Recommended tracks: “Ribs,” “Buzzcut Season,” “Glory and Gore”

– Jaya Chakka, Music Director

15.) Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves

If heaven has a soundtrack, I am sure it is Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves. Country music for everyone, Musgraves’s music makes you want to fall in love as she provides glimpses into her own blossoming relationship with her now-husband.  The title track, “Golden Hour,” encapsulates listeners in feelings of warmth and all-encompassing comfort. Yet, we get to also see the hardships that come in a relationship in “Space Cowboy,” and forgetting about past lovers in “High Horse.” Musgraves shows us that the path to love isn’t necessarily an easy one, but it is one that is certainly worth it in this country- and pop-infused album that is one to remember.

Recommended Tracks: “Golden Hour,” “Lonely Weekend,” “Rainbow”

– Markus Becerra, Assitant Technology Director & Madison Crees, DJ

16.) The Money Store – Death Grips

Admittedly, it can be very hard to write about or even describe Death Grips, a trio of musicians that when combined create an abrasive, ultra-aggressive combination of punk, industrial rock, noise, and experimental hip-hop. At the time of its release, the only thing sound remotely near The Money Store was the groups first mixtape, Exmilitary, but in the short amount of time between these two releases Death Grips had polished, refined, and perfected their sound to such an extreme extent as to create one of the most influential and innovative albums of the decade. I’ll admit that when I tried to first introduce myself to Death Grips, I was put off by MC Ride’s harsh vocals, accompanied by the fantastical samples and heavy beating percussion. However, as I listened more to “Hacker,” “Lost Boys,” “Black Jack,” and every other song over and over I quickly became engrossed in this new, wonderful sound. Today it’s an endearing sound for me, one that I can clearly see has influenced a plethora of artists and musicians alike and has the staying power of classic rock albums from all the way back in the 60s. The Money Store, like all of Death Grips’s endeavors, ages with each listen and each year like a fine wine, while not sounding aged in one bit. This is most certainly an album of the decade.

Recommended Tracks: “The Fever (Aye Aye),” “I’ve Seen Footage,” “Hacker”

– Matthew Stratton, Music Staffer and DJ

17.) The Suburbs – Arcade Fire

“Coming in at 6-foot 4″, hailing from Canada…. Win Butler!” When I saw Arcade Fire back in 2017, lead singer Win Butler emerged to those words booming over the PA, hoisting a championship belt above his head. After making his way around the stage-turned-boxing ring and basking in the applause, he threw down his boxing gloves, picked up a guitar, and never looked back. Arcade Fire’s typical flair for the theatrical is perhaps more apparent than ever in their 2010 album The Suburbs. The songs were made to fill an arena, and do so without losing their sense of personability. Through the autobiographical lyrics about growing up in the suburbs, Arcade Fire explores highly relevant themes of disillusionment and uncertainty. Tracks like “The Suburbs,” “Ready to Start,” and “Sprawl II” serve as art-rock anthems with just enough danceability to ensure the reflective lyrics are not too despairing to the listener. 

Recommended Tracks: “Ready to Start,” “Sprawl II”

– Kade Schoenfeldt, Music Director

18.) IGOR – Tyler, the Creator

No one was sure how Tyler would follow Flower Boy, but IGOR certainly delivered. IGOR has less of Tyler’s aggressive rap verses and more vocal tracks than his other works, yet the album still hits hard. From the distorted opening chords of “IGOR’S THEME,” it’s clear the album demands our full attention as the fully capitalized titles suggest. My favorite part of this album by far is the fluidity between songs…no shuffle plays with this LP. IGOR was easily my album of the summer…even before I saw it at Governors Ball music festival. Tyler’s latest is gorgeously constructed, unexpected and yet still aggressive enough to mosh with songs like “NEW MAGIC WAND” and “WHAT’S GOOD.”

Recommended Tracks: “GONE, GONE / THANK YOU,” “A BOY IS A GUN*”

– Cami Koons, Community Engagement Director

19.) Modern Vampires of the City – Vampire Weekend

Modern Vampires of the City is the type of album that you can listen to in a single sitting, without skipping a song, and never become bored. It’s cohesive and thematic without being redundant; each song has a purpose and a standalone narrative. The album seamlessly combines themes of religious skepticism, love, and politics — each read of the lyrics reveals another small piece of the intriguing puzzle that is MVotC. Ezra Koenig’s whimsical vocals layer over the sounds of synth-y church organs, insistent drums, and even surf guitar, breathing life and meaning into the cover of a smoggy, bleak New York.

Recommend tracks: “Obvious Bicycle,” “Step,” “Hannah Hunt”

– Jaya Chakka, Music Director

20.) Plastic Beach – Gorillaz

Plastic Beach comes as The Gorillaz’s third studio album, being released at the very start of the decade. Britain’s first virtual band, Gorillaz is the passion project of Damon Alburn of Blur fame and Jamie Hewlett. It consists of four virtual members, given story lines and personalities through clips and music videos; they are 2-D, Noodle, Russel, and the demonic Murdoc. However, with Plastic Beach came a grand expansion under the Gorillaz moniker. The album carries on the sound of Gorillaz, comping indie rock, electronic pop, and hip-hop to this new project while putting a greater emphasis on a funkier groovier poppy sound on songs such as “On Melancholy Hill,” while mixing in songs that kept a traditionally electronic sound and more rap heavy songs such as “Sweepstakes.” The project comes as a conceptual album as well, one that explores themes of environmentalism while creating a vivid world around this plastic beach. As a very big Gorillaz fan, this album has come to grow on me substantially as one of the best of the decade, especially when put alongside their first two albums as comparable in creative vision and, sadly, when compared to later albums such as Humanz that have shown a steep drop in quality. Plastic Beach is the last amazing Gorillaz album, one that shows the last bit of artistic growth for the virtual quartet and one so great that it would be a shame to leave it off of a list such as this one.

Recommended Tracks: “Superfast Jellyfish,” “Rhinestone Eyes”

– Matthew Stratton, Music Staffer and DJ

21.) Born to Die – Lana del Rey

Lana Del Rey released her first full length record in 2012 following her hit single, “Video Games.” Born to Die spent more than 300 weeks on the US Billboard 200, not to mention its European popularity. Most critics were disappointed and threw it into the pile of uninspired pop records. Despite what they wrote, Born to Die made its mark. Born to Die may have been more important in the indie scene, but it had all the essential pop references to sex, drugs, and money. Either way, Lana Del Rey brought that je ne sais quoi that makes pop music, well, popular.

Recommended Tracks: “Video Games,” “Summertime Sadness”

– Miranda Roberts, Communications Director

22.) This Is Happening – LCD Soundsystem

This album features one of the only 9-minute tracks that’s played in retail stores — “Dance Yrself Clean.” Vocalist James Murphy throws in a little bit of everything on This is Happening. The title probably comes from Murphy having to say “this is happening” over and over to the band because of its variety. You’re going to hear synth-pop, new wave, dance, punk, post-punk and a 10-minute rant thrown over a beat. The album was SO good, it caused the band to break up after its release! Just kidding, they only “broke up” to sell more tickets for their farewell tour.

Recommended Tracks: “Dance Yrself Clean,” “I Can Change”

– Karsan Turner, Arts & Culture Director

23.) Twin Fantasy – Car Seat Headrest

Car Seat Headrest might have achieved the indie dream in its purest form – release as many self-recorded albums as you can, hope someone notices, sign a deal with Matador, make a hit record. In 2015, Matador released Teens of Style, a sort of “greatest hits”  from frontman Will Toledo’s Bandcamp discography. Then in 2016, his years of songwriting experience culminated in the breakout success of the album, Teens of Denial, elevating him from backseat recording artist to a leading indie-rock pioneer. That new found place of success gave Toledo and bandmates a unique opportunity to re-record 2011’s cult masterpiece, Twin Fantasy. The original album was full of emotionally complex lyrics, and although its lo-fi DIY sound was endearing, it undoubtedly prevented the songs from reaching their full potential. On the new version, the expertly crafted songs shine in all their sonic glory with arena-rocking choruses in songs like “Bodys,” and complexly layered slow burners like the 13-minute epic “Beach Life-in-Death.” The themes of teenage anxiety and confusion paired with the sonically refined instrumentals of 2019’s re-recording make Twin Fantasy a powerful exploration of art, desire, sexuality, and much more. 

Recommended Tracks: “Sober to Death,” “Bodys,” “Nervous Young Inhumans”

– Kade Schoenfeldt, Music Director

24.) Carrie & Lowell – Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens returned to his early roots with folky instrumentation and minimal production in his seventh studio album, Carrie & Lowell. Stevens is remarkably tender and vulnerable as he tells the narrative of his mom and step-dad. Stevens captures the feeling of nostalgia and pain speaking about his childhood, growing up, and eventually facing the death of his mother in “Fourth of July.” While this album is intensely melancholy, it manages to comfort in a way that a lot of sad music cannot. Rather than complain, Stevens makes us reflect; maybe being left at that video store wasn’t such a bad thing.

Recommended Tracks: “Death with Dignity,” “Fourth of July,” “No Shade in the Shadow of The Cross”

– Cami Koons, Community Engagement Director

25.) Salad Days – Mac Demarco

Salad Days left an impact so big, it ended up creating a sub-genre of upper-middle-class teenagers who wanted to look homeless and develop a chain-smoking addiction. Mac is back with his clean guitar riffs, warm vocals and relaxing melodies that make every track on this album a joy to listen to. I love the catchy bass and simple message on “Let Her Go.” “Chamber of Reflection” is the quintessential “bro do you ever just like…” song, and of course, the catchy “Goodbye Weekend” will relate to listeners as they’re folding laundry on their Sunday evening while dreading yet another 5-day work week.

Recommended Tracks: “Let Her Go,” “Go Easy,” “Treat Her Better”

– Karsan Turner, Arts & Culture Director

26.) Dirty Computer – Janelle Monae

For Janelle Monae, the simple act of existing — and thriving — within the music industry as an unapologetically queer, dark-skinned black woman is an act of defiance in itself. In a way, Dirty Computer is a coming of age album and a coming out album, one in which the clear relief of open self-expression is evident. As she told Rolling Stone, “I want young girls, young boys, nonbinary, gay, straight, queer people who are having a hard time dealing with their sexuality, dealing with feeling ostracized or bullied for just being their unique selves, to know that I see you.” The tracks embrace the best elements of pop, but Monae does not shy away from incorporating elements of soul, rap, and electronica.

Recommended Tracks: “PYNK,” “Django Jane”

– Jaya Chakka, Music Director

27.) Yeezus – Kanye West

A stark left turn into industrial rap in 2013, Kanye West’s Yeezus has become one of the most influential albums of the decade in many different ways. The minor keys and heavy, dark synth atmospheres have gone on to influence the depressing trap of artists like Lil Uzi Vert and Travis Scott. The harsh, industrial percussion went on to influence the likes of JPEGMAFIA and 100 gecs. The atypical song structures that take multiple detours into different genres have influenced albums by Frank Ocean and Tyler, the Creator. While divisive upon release, Yeezus was the last time Kanye released an album that felt like only he could have made it.

Recommended Tracks: “Blood on the Leaves”, “New Slaves”

-Deegan Poores, Programming Director

28.) Wide Awake! – Parquet Courts

Parquet Courts’ fourth studio album (produced by Danger Mouse), Wide Awake!, borders on the absurd, yet still maintains a mature poise. This balance is tested on every song, as lead singer A. Savage bombards listeners with lyrics of political injustice and apocalyptic futures. Standalone lyrics like the frantically yelled “What is an up and coming neighborhood and where is it coming from?” on the song “Violence” demand a thoughtful response from the listener, but are abandoned before they can be fully processed. This creates a dizzying, overwhelming punk experience. This is balanced out by songs like “Mardi Gras Beads” and “Before the Water Gets too High,” where the musical influences of Parquet Courts’ past are allowed to shine. This back and forth between artistic, meandering tracks and non-stop danceable punk (“Wide Awake!”, “Total Football”) make for an awesomely baffling experience.

Recommended Tracks: “Mardi Gras Beads,” “Tenderness”

-Kade Schoenfeldt, Music Director

29.) 2 – Mac Demarco

It’s called “2” because this album’s the shit. On the surface, 2 introduces you to the crazy world of indie pop’s favorite chain-smoking artist, Mac DeMarco. The honesty and simplicity of the album are what makes 2 stand out and win over listeners. 2 was a change of pace because it felt less like an album and more like a “get to know Mac” story. You learn about DeMarco’s family, the havoc he wreaked as a kid, his favorite cigarette brand and his relationships.

Recommended Tracks: “Still Together”, “Freaking Out the Neighborhood” 

-Karsan Turner, Arts and Culture Director

30.) Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Other Times I Just Sit Courtney Barnett

Australian indie-rocker Courtney Barnett’s first proper album Sometimes I sit and Think… was released to much anticipation in 2015, following her breakout double EP A Sea of Split Peas two years earlier. Sometimes I Sit and Think… perfected the self-deprecation, witty cynicism, and mundane everydayness of her previous work, and adorned it with crunchy guitars and even catchier sing-along choruses. She addresses actions as simple as swimming next to your crush (Aqua Profunda!), preparing for a dread-inspiring party (Nobody Really Cares if You Don’t Go to the Party), and even an awkward elevator interaction (Elevator Operator), but spins them with such honesty and introspection, that they feel more like a journey of epic proportions. Courtney Barnett finds consequence in the inconsequential, and the result is a punchy, witty, and impactful debut album. 

Recommended Tracks: “Pedestrian at Best,” “Depreston”

-Kade Schoenfeldt, Music Director

31.) Little Dark Age – MGMT

All eyes were on MGMT’s Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser after their own “Little Dark Age” of the band’s last self-titled album released in 2013 (get it because it sucked).  Four years later, MGMT returned to show that they can in fact make a comeback.  Songs like “She Works Out Too Much,” “Little Dark Age” and “Me and Michael” are reminiscent of the fun pop tracks we heard on Oracular Spectacular while flowing seamlessly much like their second release, Congratulations. Little Dark Age takes everything good about MGMT and packs them into one album.

Recommended Tracks: “Little Dark Age,” “Me and Michael”

-Karsan Turner, Arts and Culture Director

32.) Drunk – Thundercat

You want an album about cats, anime, and “beat[ing] your meat”? Well look no further than Thundercat’s 2017 Jazz Pop, Electro Funk, and Jazz Funk album Drunk. Ripe with humorous lyrics (such as “Goku fucking ruined me”), the track listing of this adventurous project contains songs about a cat named Tron, getting lost in Tokyo, among other wacky topics mixed in with more serious funky tracks such as “Them Changes”. The features on the album, especially Kendrick and Flying Lotus, help this album to come alive, but the driving force is the phenomenal bass capabilities of Thundercat himself. Seeing him perform most of Drunk live was eye opening, witnessing a bassist with just an immense love of his craft, expanding and playing his songs improvising like an 80s jam band with his back up band. Drunk seeps with passion and personality and a grand level of artistry that puts Thundercat in the same breath as other great bassists such as Jaco Pastorious.

Recommended Tracks: “Walk on By,” “Them Changes”

-Matthew Stratton, Music Staff and DJ

33.) Die Lit – Playboi Carti

Surprise released in 2018, Playboi Carti’s Die Lit takes the foundation he and producer Pi’erre Bourne forged on 2017’s Playboi Carti and expanded upon it. This meant more guest verses, with standout appearances from Lil Uzi Vert and Young Nudy, and more experimental production, like the spare “Love Hurts” and psychedelic “Foreign”. The album establishes a woozy vibe that Carti adds to with his hooks and baby voice to make an incomprehensible but moving experience, all combined to make the SoundCloud generation’s Loveless.

Recommended Tracks: “Flatbed Freestyle,” “R.I.P. Fredo”

-Deegan Poores, Programming Director

34.) Melodrama – Lorde

Bursting with vibrant hues of violets and blues, Lorde’s sophomore album Melodrama (2017) contains all the growing pains of adolescence that was evident in Pure Heroine (2013) — but with a newfound sense of freedom. Her insistence on portraying the teenage experience with the kind of complexity that society tends to downplay has always set her apart. This album especially, takes the messy, the melancholy, the frustrating and reflects back an honest portrayal of growing up — a reminder that the moments we’d rather forget probably shaped the most important parts of who we are.  Lorde’s signature sound, minimalist and dark, is unmistakable. Drenched with the nostalgia of heavy summer nights, car headlights, heartache induced insomnia, Melodrama still seems to be looking forward. There’s something very hopeful about watching a young artist grow with you, staying honest to herself and her experience every step of the way.

Recommended Tracks: “The Louvre,” “Liability,” “Writer In The Dark”

-Fengxue Zhang, Content Director

35.) 22, A Million – Bon Iver

In a lot of ways, Bon Iver’s 2016 album 22, A Million is one of the most strange, alien albums to come out this decade. The tracks have weird ass names, like “10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄”. It lacks a true internal logic, as there are elements that seem to clash together on every song. The opening track, “22 (OVER S∞∞N)” combines a chopped, looping vocal sample with sparse guitar and saxophone. What lead singer Justin Vernon is saying doesn’t make sense half the time. It’s a very ambiguous album, but it doesn’t use that as a crutch to cover up weak songwriting; the songs on this album are gorgeous. The refrain of “29 #Strafford APTS” is one of the most uplifting and wonderful musical moments of this decade, and the hushed, folky production does a great job of highlighting it. And the album is served by its lack of internal logic when it can grow into explosive “666 ʇ”. This is probably my favorite Bon Iver album, because it captures the sense of excitement and anticipation in the ambiguities of life.

Recommended Tracks: “33 “GOD”,” “666 ʇ”

-Deegan Poores, Programming Director

36.) Helplessness Blues – Fleet Foxes

As the title of the record suggests, Helplessness Blues marked a darker, more melancholy turn from Fleet Foxes’ previously sunnier works. Not a band to fall into the “sophomore slump” trap, their second full-length LP may have been even more impactful than the first. But that doesn’t mean it was produced without struggle; most of the songs originally intended to be on the album were scrapped before they were even finished. But the depth that these obstacles lent to the finished product is undeniable. Songs like the sweeping three-movement “The Shrine/An Argument” showcase some of the most poignant harmonies and instrumentation in contemporary folk music.

Recommended Tracks: “The Shrine/An Argument,” “Bedouin Dress”

-Jaya Chakka, Music Director

37.) Contra – Vampire Weekend

This sophomore album by Vampire Weekend is a staple in any indie kid’s library. If you didn’t order a horchata in December at some point in your life, do you really have the right to wear that beanie? In Contra we heard Vampire Weekend try more experimental riffs and instrumentation than in their self-titled debut. When listening to the band’s body of works, Contra works beautifully as a transition between Vampire Weekend (2008)and Modern Vampires of the City (2013), while still holding its own among the trilogy. Following the 2010 release of Contra, Vampire Weekend was labeled the “whitest band on the planet” and this seems pretty representative of the decade where racial, sexual, economical and physical inequalities were perpetually put on blast.

Recommended Tracks: “Giving Up the Gun,” “Holiday”

-Cami Koons, Community Engagement Director

38.) Rocket – (Sandy) Alex G

Alex G’s Rocket is by far his folkiest record to date, and probably his most “experimental” release since signing with Domino. Alex decided to divert heavily from the sound he’d been working on for nearly a decade, but still able to make it something easily recognizable as his own. Rocket was his most commercially successful record to date (since passed by House of Sugar) and for good reason.

Recommended Tracks: “Bobby,” “Proud”

-Cole Billings, Music Staff and DJ

39.) We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 your service – A Tribe Called Quest

I can’t exactly explain why, but there were always two musician deaths that hit me far harder than any others, David Bowie and Malik Izaak Taylor, otherwise known by his stage name, Phife Dawg. When I first started listening to hip hop I began with the classics and the hits and I sort of worked my way from both ends until one day I found it, A Tribe Called Quest’s “The Low End Theory” and the sound that I came to know as Jazz rap. The instrumentals were infectious the flows were relaxed, yet masterclass with lyrics filled with love, brotherhood, and unity. Then Phife Dawg passed, and shortly after a new record was announced and I waited. Listening to “We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service” was nothing less than spiritual. A reconciliation, the album brought the Tribe back together for one last send off, passing of the torch to the new bloods, while also allowing for Q-Tip, Phife Dawg, Ali, and others come together to complete once again this message of unity and brotherhood. It is almost alien in today’s age, pure unadulterated kindness and generosity. Recorded exclusively recorded at Q-tip’s studio Phife Dawg practically gave his life to complete this final album, to make amends, traveling back and forth from California and New Jersey while battling Diabetes and undergoing Dialysis. “We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service” is inspired, heart breaking, hopeful, endearing, but most importantly inspiring.

Recommended Tracks: “Kids..,” “We the People….”

-Matthew Stratton, Music Staff

40.) Hozier – Hozier

Listening to a Hozier song feels like retreating into the forest to be enveloped by a gentle blanket of sentient moss and dappled sunlight. For a born and bred Irishman, Andrew Hozier-Byrne does a hell of a job of blending diverse genres such as roots rock, soul, and indie-folk. The artist deals in images of death and addiction but makes even the most morbid topics beautiful, imparting the sensations of pain and pleasure in equal measure. His eponymous debut might be one of the most poetic, deep-cutting albums of the decade.

Recommended Tracks: “Cherry Wine,” “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene”

-Jaya Chakka, Music Director

41.) LIVE.LOVE.A$AP – A$AP Rocky

For a free online mixtape mixtape released in 2011, A$AP Rocky’s LIVE.LOVE.A$AP is prescient. Rocky saw how the internet was erasing regional differences in hip-hop, and he took advantage of that when crafting the tape’s sound. Most of its influences come from hip-hop from the south, which has since become the cultural epicenter of rap. Production throughout the mixtape is handled by Clams Casino, SpaceGhostPurp, and other A$AP Mob-affiliated producers, giving the album a woozy, druggy vibe. Tracks like “Demons” and “Wassup” are early landmarks of cloud rap, a hazy subgenre of hip-hop that focuses on psychedelic and spacy samples that has more or less disappeared since 2016 (in my opinion). However, what really shines on this project is Rocky’s swag, which got a lot of attention on pre-release singles “Purple Swag” and “Peso”. While the album doesn’t say anything of much substance, it was an early album that took the “vibe-over-substance” approach that became standard later in the decade. Through sheer charisma, A$AP Rocky established the blueprint for 2010s rap.

Recommended Tracks: “Peso,” “Get Lit”

-Deegan Poores, Programming Director

42.) Sound and Color – Alabama Shakes

Alabama Shakes, fronted by soulful powerhouse Brittany Howard, are known best for their hit single “Hold On” from their 2012 debut album, Boys and Girls. Following the success of Boys and Girls the group released Sound and Color in 2015, and showed the world they were more than just blues-guitar riffs and howling lyrics. Sound and Color features more instrumentation and production, my favorite being the opening vibraphone melody to the title track. The group rose to popularity during the same time as other folk/ blues revivals like Mumford and Sons and the Lumineers, but proved with Sound and Color they could not only capture the blues sounds of old, but also seamlessly integrate modernity. In addition to creating great music, vocalists and guitarists like Howard helped pave the way for many of the other powerful, femme-front bands of this decade.

Recommended Tracks: “Gimme All Your Love,” “This Feeling”

-Cami Koons, Community Engagement Director

43.) Whack World – Tierra Whack

Whack World by Tierra Whack is exactly what it sounds like, whacky. Although classified as an album, it is uniquely short, lasting only a sheer fifteen minutes. Whacks work consists of fifteen one minute long songs that each ingeniously flow into the next. Although the album glides together chronologically, each song also tells its own story and can inversely stand alone as singles just as effortlessly. Through her 2018 release of Whack World, Whack impressively changed the game in terms of creating high quality hip hop in a much more condensed version. The joy of listening to her album comes from the duality of each tune, they almost fly by as fast as her emotions between each song. Most importantly, Whack released her album alongside a visual album on youtube. Each song has its own mini music video that builds into a visually and sonically enchanting fifteen minute journey. With the addition of the visual album, her songs allow you take a step into her mind while also discovering unseen hidden gems to catch each time you watch it. Tierra Whacks Whack World sits as one of the top albums of the decade not only for her creativity, enticing beats, and unique vocals, but as another example of a women of color gaining prominence in the hip hop scene. Whack World has forever changed the game in terms of how creative one can be within the expansive hip hop genre, and in turn stands as a true testament to how women are changing the game.

Recommended Tracks: “Pretty Ugly”, “Hungry Hippos”

-Sophie Johnson, Station Manager

44.) II – Unknown Mortal Orchestra

What gives Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s 2013 album, II its notoriety seems to be this sense of mystique and aesthetic ambiguity. With the familiar hum of mainstream indie pop and a generous dash of old, psychedelic rock sensibilities, this album carries the warm haziness of idyllic summer afternoons — or perhaps distant memories of them. I discovered this album many years after its release, but somehow its sound doesn’t contain them to a specific year or era of music. Instead, it weaves in and out of genres, with a distinctive sound that can only come from this trio of unrelenting dreamers. The fuzzy quality of the sound is paired with a beat that’s always alive and throbbing, giving your thoughts the freedom to wander and live. Absolutely unique in its conception, no wonder II sets itself apart in this recent decade.

Recommended Tracks: “From the Sun,” “The Opposite of Afternoon,” “Swim and Sleep (Like a Shark)”

-Fengxue Zhang, Content Director

45.) Playboi Carti – Playboi Carti

Most people weren’t prepared for the sound Playboi Carti presented to hip hop in 2017 with his self-titled debut mixtape. Playboi Carti is full ofrefreshing melodic flows and clean spacey beats that allow for a renewed interpretation of the triplet cadence. The standout hits of Playboi Carti come early on with “Magnolia” at track two and “wokeuplikethis*” at track four, which also features a star performance from frequent collaborator, Lil Uzi Vert. As the mixtape transitions through its different energies and sounds, it feels as if you could be simultaneously floating through space and moshing with aggressive intent. Playboi Carti is a nostalgic piece of youthful energy and it clearly shows the evolution of hip hop during this decade.

Recommended Tracks: “Yah Mean,” “Lookin”

-Lane Hornback, Live Music Coordinator

46.) A Seat at the Table – Solange

2016’s A Seat at the Table was Solange’s first full-length release since 2008’s Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams. If you can get past the silky tracks and exquisite production, you’ll hear everything from rage, despair, and empowerment. Solange brought her most political record to date and explored what being black in America means today. This 50-minute masterpiece deserves to be listened to as an album, and as an album representative of this decade.

Recommended Tracks: “Cranes in the Sky,” “F.U.B.U.”

-Miranda Roberts, Communications Director

47.) Art Angels – Grimes

Art Angels is the fourth studio album from Canadian Indie electronic pop artist Grimes, second after her breakout hit “Visions”, a turning point in her career. I remember in high school when I first began to branch away from classic rock, I read a profile of grimes in The New Yorker highlighting her talents and discussing her single “Oblivion” off of a “Visions”. From that I explored Grimes is music and fell in love with the groovy beats and excellent production and Grime’s cute high-pitched vocal stylings. I anticipated myself for an excellent new release with her upcoming new album Art Angels but once I got my hands on it I was floored. If “Visions” is Grime’s coping mechanism, then Art Angels is her getting her power back. Over the album she becomes more and more adventurous not only with her style as a producer but as a singer. She explores a more in you face aggressive style that leads the way to every single that has been released since. Art Angels comes as both an important indie pop release and as an important stepping stone for one of the most exciting artists of our time.

Recommended Tracks: “Flesh Without Blood, “Venus Fly”

-Matthew Stratton, Music Staff and DJ

48.) Be the Cowboy – Mitski

When Mitski released her 2018 album Be the Cowboy I was ready to be impressed, but little did I know this album would soar Mitski from an indie rock artist to an indie pop star. Having listened to Mitski dating back to her 2014 Bury Me at Makeout Creek album, I felt I knew her style as an artist, but was overwhelmed with the amount of untapped emotion presented throughout Be the Cowboy. This album resonates chaotic undertones of self discovery, mental health, loneliness, and even the process in which she falls in love. Be the Cowboy did not only showcase Mitski’s growth as an artist, but as a person, all while redefining how emotional storytelling permeates into the lyricism of the indie music scene. For example, one of her most popular songs off the album, “Nobody”, is a simple repetitively eerie tune that quickly brought Mitski’s name further into the spotlight. Originally released as a single, “Nobody” became an anthem for lonely hearts everywhere. “Nobody” highlights the undertones of Mitski’s album by showcasing how simple repetition with darker connotations can still turn into a dancey bop that you can cry to and reversely use to hype yourself up. Mitski’s Be the Cowboy is a staple album in the past decade and one that is still leaving its mark on the indie pop music genre.

Recommended Tracks: “Nobody,” “Two Slow Dancers”

-Sophie Johnson, Station Manager

49.) Lush – Snail Mail

Snail Mail? More like Stale Fail! Just kidding, this shit slaps. Musically, the album evokes touchstones of 90s indie rock like Brand New and Liz Phair, but has enough great songwriting and interesting production touches to keep it fresh. Lyrically, Snail Mail’s Lindsey Jordan channels her experience as a young queer woman into evocative and rousing yet affecting songs. Indie rock has needed a revamp in its diversity for quite some time and this decade has seen huge improvements in that, and Lush demonstrates why this is necessary. It is a vulnerable and beautiful statement, and if there was not as much a focus on diversity in music promotion, it could have been neglected or forgotten. Thank goodness it hasn’t. With Lindsey Jordan being just one month older than me, I’m really excited to see what the next decade has in store for us from the voices of artists our age.

Recommended Tracks: “Heat Wave,” “Golden Dream”

-Deegan Poores, Programming Director

50.) Random Access Memories – Daft Punk

I owe a lot of my music taste to Random Access Memories. At the time of release, Daft Punk fans were disappointed with the lack of experimentation but were soon pleased when the success of Random Access Memories propelled Daft Punk’s music career. The duo collaborated with numerous artists. Bringing in a new generation of fans for everyone to enjoy. This album served as my template for finding new music. While I was already a fan of Julian Casablancas, Random Access Memories introduced me to Panda Bear and Giorgio which eventually led to my synth-pop addiction. Thanks, Daft Punk.

Recommended Tracks: “Touch,” “Doin’ It Right,” “Lose Yourself to Dance”

-Karsan Turner, Arts and Culture Director

KJHK 90.7 FM