Livewire's Albums of the Decade
Wow, it feels like just yesterday Ed Sheeran & Example dropped 'Nando's Skank' from behind The Waterfront and set the music scene on fire. In that time, there have been countless phenomenal albums that shaped the music we hear today, and while anybody could list off all the most popular or critically acclaimed albums of the decade, we thought, as a music team, we'd go through the ones that defined our personal decades, and left the biggest impact on us.
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs - Trouble (2012)
This album is my shadow. It’s with me everywhere I go and has been for as long as I remember. The only full album ever released by TEED, every single song is a 10/10, 20/10 if it’s dark outside. I remember seeing the video for 'Household Goods' on a tiny phone screen back in high school and not being able to watch anything else for weeks, it’s not even that good, and I wouldn’t even say its in my top 5 tracks of the album. When I listen to it, I can go from floating seamlessly away in complete relaxation to pulling some of the ugliest faces you will have ever seen. If you want to experience this for yourself then just go to 2:20 on American Dream Part 2 and you’ll see what I’m talking about.
Jamie XX - In Colour (2015)
Music was always the ‘cool’ thing in my household growing up, but as much as I enjoyed the playful music videos of Gorillaz or the Yorkshire accents of the Arctic Monkeys, I can’t say I ever really understood why I liked what I liked. In 2015, James Thomas Smith released his debut solo album under the name Jamie XX and away from the comfort and commercial success of the rock outfit The XX, James released a slew of atmospheric, futuristic and genre defining deep house tracks, refining the UK Garage sound and combining it with modern electronic and techno sounds.
My parents’ love of music was always a point of jealousy for me, and I would try to replicate it by listening to the same stuff as them because I knew in their eyes it was ‘good’. This was the first album I can remember recommending to them and having discussions about over dinner. I think it taught me to be confident in my own taste, which is arguably the most important lesson music can teach you.
Fat White Family - Songs for Our Mothers (2016)
Stumbling onto the scene in 2014 with the cacophonous coarseness that was Champagne Holocaust, Fat White Family really hit their stride with second album Songs for Our Mothers. Their titanic chants, iceberg rhythms and spine-shaking guitar-cross-synth work demonstrated genre in a way few guitar-based bands had done in the past decade. Their infamy grew rapidly, as did the scene around them. Bands like Shame, Black Midi, Goat Girl and Sorry broke out, all forming the ranks of a new wave of loosely defined south-London post-punk. Songs for Our Mothers is a hostile, genre-smashing collection of masterfully-crafted hits which opened the door for the intelligent and eclectic guitar music which has quickly asserted itself in the music scene.
Lorde - Melodrama (2017)
Melodrama is one of the few albums to perfectly summarise the Generation Z teenage experience, in all its glory and messiness. Lorde’s second album, produced by Bleachers frontman Jack Antonoff, is a poetical exploration into the rawness of first love, freedom and solitude that comes with growing up and pining for youth when you are still a child yourself. The shimmering piano and pulsating beats of lead single 'Green Light' lead the way for an increasingly vulnerable multitude of songs, with Liability and 'Hard Feelings/Loveless' demonstrating Lorde’s skill in writing the narrative for the outsider and emotional turmoil. Melodrama is an exquisite album, with Lorde’s lyrical prowess combined with Jack Antonoff’s masterful production making it one of the defining albums of the 2010s, and the defining album of the 21st Century teenager.
Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)
This one is going to appear on a lot of people’s best of the decade. This was the album that made me realise what music can really be. This album proved that you didn’t have to play it safe to be popular and I personally feel is responsible for the influx of bolder and riskier artists and albums in the years since its release. To me this album is even more important, because it’s the first rap/hip-hop album I ever listened to and quickly immersed me in the genre.
Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly is the closest thing to a perfect concept album I’ve ever heard. Kendrick knows exactly what every part was doing to contribute to the album as a whole, commenting on fame, success, the music industry and oppression in America. It has remained an album I will go back to and listen through frequently always finding something new that impresses me. The jazz infused masterpieces which are the songs tracks are never dull, nor do they ever lose sight of the albums intentions.
Kasabian - For Crying Out Loud (2017)
This is simply an album full of bangers. Each tune has something different to the last which makes for entertaining and engaging listening. I could waffle on about how good it is from a music and listening perspective but there is something more that makes this album stand out for me this decade.
I feel like this album sums up my decade of music very well: Hard hitting and loud with huge drops. This decade I fell in love with the indie genre and with that came everything from festivals and pits to dark fruits and bucket hats. I remember heading to R + L festival for the first time after my GCSE’s and seeing Kasabian for the first time. They absolutely blew me away with an unreal live set that really pushed on my love for live music. Flares were going off, the crowd was bouncing from side to side, there was no room to breath but I loved every second. Following this biblical set was an intense listening period followed by trips to Scotland, Liverpool, Leicester just to see this band again. They truly are the best live band on the planet and this album is the reason I know that. Cheers Kasabian.
Lil Ugly Mane - Mista Thug Isolation (2012)
Mista Thug Isolation is a record that pays homage to early Memphis hip hop with its outrageous lyrics, pitched down vocals and busy beats. Ugly Mane satirically portrays himself as the villains and gangstas of the Memphis era, drawing inspiration from the ominous Three 6 Mafia instrumentals to the excessively murderous lyrics of 'Pastor Troy'. From start to end the beats are of the highest quality, whether it’s the jazzy 'Bitch I’m Lugubrious' or the sinister 'Cup Fulla Beetlejuice', the quality never drops. The lyrics are undoubtedly hilarious when considering the context in which they’re rapped but never to the point that makes the record sound like a novelty album. Despite its dark lyrics and spooky instrumentals M.T.I. must not be taken seriously in order to fully appreciate the album to the fullest.
alt-J - An Awesome Wave (2012)
The first album I ever bought on vinyl. An Awesome Wave is UK indie/alt rock band alt-J’s debut record. Frontman Joe Newman’s vocal delivery is an acquired taste but one that is hugely versatile over the varied instrumentals seen on this record, ‘Ms’ and ‘Fitzpleasure’ best displaying the band’s diversity, transitioning from dreamy soundscape, laden with angelic vocal harmonies and intricate guitar riffs to ground shaking bass lines and high energy percussion sections. Mercury Award winning An Awesome Wave is unlike anything you’ve ever heard, and encompasses so many sounds, flavours and influences. It takes you on a journey to so many places and improves on every listen as the record’s intricacies start coming to the forefront.
Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues (2011)
This past decade was largely defined by me trying to find a genre of music that I could fall in love with. Something that was different to the grand discography of rock and synth music on my dad’s clunky old iPod, which little 11-year-old me perceived as being ‘very uncool’. My opinion has since changed but by going off in my own direction led me to folk and more importantly – Helplessness Blues.
In 2011, my friend went to Green Man Festival and wrote me this scrawly letter about how I ‘HAD TO LISTEN TO FLEET FOXES BECAUSE THEY ARE AMAAAAAAZING’ and that’s how this little folk love affair exploded. Every single track on this album is a straight-up treat full of dramatic, complicated guitar picking and harmonies that make your spine tingle. Whether you’re in the bath, in the garden, walking on a frosty winter morning or basking in a field in a summer sunset; this is an absolutely gorgeous album for whatever the weather and whatever time of the day or year. Helplessness Blues makes me wish I could play guitar properly and I will never get bored of it. It led me to finding so many other wonderful folk albums and artists such as Laura Marling and Bon Iver so I am eternally thankful this album exists.
Young Fathers - Cocoa Sugar (2018)
I first stumbled across Young Fathers on the main stage of All Points East in the summer of 2018 and have been completely hooked ever since. Rap had never been my natural choice of music but these guys make it something else. Mixed with the enigmatic sound of gospel, Cocoa Sugar has the electricity of a pop album with a slightly unnerving feel to it and remains firmly rooted in its hip hop origins. Despite their 2014 album Dead unexpectedly winning the mercury prize, Cocoa Sugar welcomed me to a genre of music I never even knew I liked and is what makes it my album of the decade.
Drenge - Drenge (2013)
Their first and best album, the Loveless Brothers lit my 15 year old mind on fire with their mix of grungy bluesy rock in the debut effort. With lyrics infused with the boredom that can only come from living miles from anywhere in the middle of the countryside, the album resonated especially strongly with my country bumpkin self. The explosive 'I Wanna Break You In Half' could make even the most placid of folk flip a table and set fire to their pants. For me it's a perfect album from start to self-destructive finish.
Loyle Carner - Yesterday’s Gone (2017)
Part of me wanted to choose Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which might be a perfect album, but the most important album to me is Loyle Carner’s 2017 effort Yesterday’s Gone. It’s an utterly unique piece in the space of modern rap, a jazz-infused album of confessional music with songs relating to masculinity, mental health, and physical media. Imagine a song about CDs. It’s like a film about DVDs. A novel about books! Unimaginable. I think it’s difficult to express how much something can mean to you when it’s so intrinsic to how you’ve lived with and dealt with some of the most important years of your life, but Yesterday’s Gone is essentially melancholy is music form, an angst-filled testament to how much music can mean. It’s an album of pure catharsis for both performer and listener. To me, the most important album of the decade.
Frank Ocean - Blonde (2016)
For me, Frank Ocean’s Blonde provides a very rare instance of musical nirvana that lies in an emotional no-man’s land, as it holds an almost intangible quality of being able to make me cry tears of joy despite being a resoundingly sad album. The 17-track album explores the depths of the emotions that accompany attraction, romance, relationships, break-ups, and loneliness, but manages to close with a bitter-sweet yet positive outlook for the future – something that I’m sure hits close to home for many human beings alike. Despite having relatively stripped back and slow-paced production, it generates a sound style that is wholly unique and complementary to Frank’s near-flawless vocal performances. In combination, these aspects make the album very accessible both sonically and emotionally, and I would wholeheartedly recommend you set aside an hour of your time, lie down, close your eyes and listen to it front to back before the decade’s end.