The 2010s were a tumultuous time for so-called millennials like me. There was teenage angst, a cocktail of confusing hormones and ever-growing internet world to navigate. It was a self-absorbed and anti-climactic time that I wouldn’t experience again if you paid me. But there was some good music. Here are the albums that navigated me through it all.
2000s: Honorary mentions
Despite being released over a decade ago, I kept these albums close throughout the 2010s. Bon Iver for escapism; Amy for a touch of soul; Arctic Monkeys and The Wombats for teenage heartbreak; Paramore and Mayday Parade as an antidote to the angst.
- Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago;
- Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not;
- Amy Winehouse – Back to Black;
- Paramore – Brand New Eyes;
- The Wombats – A Guide To Love, Loss and Despair;
- Bombay Bicicle Club – I Had The Blues But I Shook Them Loose;
- Mayday Parade – A Lesson in Romantics
2010: A Day To Remember – What Separates Me From You
Loud, angry and self-absorbed – A Day to Remember’s What Separates Me From You was the soundtrack to my mid-teens. All Signs Point to Lauderdale had me wishing for the day I could leave town, while If I Leave and Better Off This Way comforted me after short-lived crushes went sour. Everything about this album summed up being young, dumb and naïve. Musically, it’s a long way from the best, but it stuck with me all the same.
“Cause I’m not here for nothing, at least I can say I stand for something”
- Vampire Weekend – Contra;
- Two Door Cinema Club – Tourist History
2011: Bon Iver – Bon Iver
I’d argue that this is one of the best records of the decade. With his self-titled LP, Justin Vernon and co left the claustrophobic cabin in the woods and headed across the barren snowy wastelands around. It’s not as intimate as For Emma, Forever Ago, it has that same rawness and poetic eloquence.
“And at once I knew I was not magnificent.”
- Florence + the Machine – Ceremonials;
- Foo Fighters – Wasting Light;
- The Vaccines – What Do You Expect From The Vaccines
2012: Alt J – An Awesome Wave
Colourful indie nonsense; that’s how I’d describe Alt J’s debut album. We all thought it was the coolest thing ever when it came out. As time has passed and Breezeblocks was been played to death, its swooning sounds seemed a lot less magical. An Awesome Wave is wonderful and addictive, but will be forever remembered as the song that played whenever you visited my tacky little Tumblr blog…
“Triangles are my favourite shape.”
- Lana Del Rey – Born To Die;
- The Maccabees – Given To The Wild;
- Jake Bugg – Jake Bugg
2013: Lorde – Pure Heroine
This was the soundtrack to being 17. Suburban boredom, first loves, social status and the simple pleasure of driving around with friends – Lorde navigated this all masterfully. The album bypasses overt self-indulgence by being incredibly self-aware. It’s not as good as Melodrama, but it’s still brilliant.
“I love these roads where the houses don’t change.”
- Haim – Days Are Gone;
- Arctic Monkeys – AM;
- A Day To Remember – Common Courtesy;
- Biffy Clyro – Opposites;
- CHVRCHES – The Bones Of What You Believe
2014: Taylor Swift – 1989
I have a love-hate relationship with Taylor Swift. But, there’s no denying that 1989 was the highlight of pop in the 2010s. There’s the silly clichés and the lovelorn nostalgia, as always. But, somehow, Swift makes all that awful stuff good. Shake It Off and Blank Space would feel commercialised and empty by any other artists but are sharp and emotional under Taylor. It’s the sparkling, carefree pop we all needed.
“The rest of the world was black and white, but we were in screaming colour.”
- Catfish and the Bottlemen – The Balcony;
- Royal Blood – Royal Blood
2015: Jamie XX – In Colour
Glittering, disco-ball perfection. In his first full-length album Jamie XX seems to play tribute to everything he’s ever created or listened to. There are moody moments, but even in the most joyous dancefloor tracks there’s a sense of vulnerability – but I am a little biased. Hearing Loud Places live in the freezing mud at Bestival was one of the best crowds I’ve ever been in.
“Tonight I fell for the outline of someone I’ve wanted to know.”
- Bring Me The Horizon – That’s The Spirit;
- Courtney Barnett – Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit;
- Wolf Alice – My Love Is Cool;
- Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp a Butterfly
2016: Beyoncé – Lemonade
Before she reinvented headline sets at Coachella, Beyoncé shattered expectations with Lemonade. Famously private, this ‘visual album’ was a voyeuristic look into her marriage. It’s a testament to female endurance in the face of infidelity, moving through anger, apathy, despair before coming to a cadence at forgiveness. Raw and relatable from start to finish.
“Tryna rain on the thunder, tell the storm I’m new.”
- David Bowie – Blackstar;
- Solange – A Seat at the Table
2017: Paramore – After Laughter
I struggled to pick an album for 2017, it was a bloody brilliant year for music. Sampha, Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Loyle Carner, The XX and Laura Marling all released absolute masterpieces. Lorde’s Melodrama is also up there as the 2010s best record, but it just fell into second place.
I hated After Laugher when I first listened to it, it wasn’t the edgy emo band I’d loved growing up. But, like every Paramore album before it, the more I listened the more I got it. It’s regret and heartbreak packaged up in neon-bright 80s pop-rock. As I left university in 2017, I felt a huge dissatisfaction with my life, and Rose-Colored Boy and co helped my dance through that sadness.
“You say, we gotta look on the bright side,
I say, well maybe if you wanna go blind.”
- Laura Marling – Semper Femina;
- The XX – I See You;
- Lorde – Melodrama;
- Sam Smith – The Thrill Of It All;
- Sampha – Process;
- Kendrick Lamar – DAMN;
- SZA – Ctrl;
- Loyle Carner – Yesterday’s Gone
2018: The 1975 – A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships
The 1975 are riotous, apathetic and totally unreasonable at times – that is why they’re so brilliant. The inside of Matt Healy’s mind is a place you both do and don’t want to be. He picks up on the world – its banalities and its emptiness – and voices what he’s seen with undeniable style. It’s serious, but also very much not. With bright, life-affirming loveliness, A Brief Inquiry mocks the modern world with style.
“There’s no point in buying concrete shoes, I’ll refuse.”
- Christine and the Queens – Chris;
- Janelle Monáe – Dirty Computer;
- Rae Morris – Someone Out There
2019: Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
She’s the future of pop, and 2020 will most likely be the year when everyone starts following in the trail she’s blazing. This album was disruptive, dark and addictively good. The cherry on the top was the fact that My Strange Addiction samples The Office (US version, obviously). And, this girl is only 17… SEVENTEEN.
“Make the same mistakes, blame circumstance.”
- Lana Del Rey – Norman Fucking Rockwell
- Maggie Rogers – Heard It in a Past Life
- Ariana Grande – Thank U, Next
- Rex Orange County – Pony
- Lizzo – Cuz I Love You
- Taylor Swift – Lover
- Solange – When I Get Home