Best Albums of the 2010s – #10
Lonely Avenue – Ben Folds (2010)
Ben Folds, one of my favorite artists, had a very lean decade. His last solo release was 2015’s So There, an album recorded with the chamber ensemble yMusic that featured a handful of songs plus an orchestral piece. Before that, you have to go all the way back to 2010.
But that 2010 album was a doozy. Written in collaboration with novelist/screenwriter Nick Hornby, Lonely Avenue is possibly Folds’ best work outside of Ben Folds Five (and speaking of that trio, 2012 did see a very good reunion album by the band titled The Sound of the Life of the Mind).
Best Albums of the 2010s – #11
Here We Rest – Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit (2011)
My #11 album of the 2010s is the only one on this list that I didn’t hear when it first came out. Jason Isbell’s Here We Rest eluded me for six years.
I discovered Isbell after reading year-end praise of his 2017 album The Nashville Sound (recorded, like this one, with his backing band The 400 Unit). The excellence of that album prompted me to download the rest of his catalog.
Best Albums of the 2010s – #12
Morning Phase – Beck (2014)
Today’s selection is a great example of how opinions change over time. Back in late 2014, I ranked Beck’s Morning Phase as my #13 album of the decade so far.
Now, five years later, I have it at #12 on my whole-decade list. And a few of the albums I ranked above it back then aren’t on this list at all.
Best Albums of the 2010s – #13
E*MO*TION – Carly Rae Jepsen (2015)
The best pure pop album of the decade came from Carly Rae Jepsen, who two years earlier seemed like the ultimate one-hit wonder following the runaway success of her track ‘Call Me Maybe.’
E*MO*TION proved that Jepsen definitely had the chops as a songwriter and performer to transcend that early spike, even as the album tragically failed to find much of an audience.
Best Albums of the 2010s – #14
Melodrama – Lorde (2017)
Both of Lorde’s albums came out this decade, with 2013’s Pure Heroine introducing the startling young talent to the world and 2017’s Melodrama proving that she was far from a one-album fluke.
I’m a big fan of both albums, but for my money Melodrama is definitely the stronger effort. It takes more risks both musically and lyrically, all of which pay off.
Best Albums of the 2010s – #15
Love in the Modern Age – Josh Rouse (2018)
Josh Rouse became one of my very favorite artists based on his work in the 2000s, specifically his run of albums between 2002 and 2006 (Under Cold Blue Stars, 1972, Nashville and Subtitulo).
His 2010s didn’t live up to that remarkable stretch, seeing him release a Spanish-language album and a side project before a couple of better-than-decent studio efforts.
Best Albums of the 2010s – #16
The Voyager – Jenny Lewis (2014)
Whether it’s because my own tastes have shifted, or because the cultural landscape has become more inclusive, my list of favorite 2010s albums is dominated by women. Thirteen of the top 20 and seven of the top 10 titles are by female artists.
Jenny Lewis emerged as a favorite in this decade, after being on my radar tangentially in the prior one. The sound and perspective of her 2014 album The Voyager feel completely fresh, even as the record hearkens back to folk rock and pop sounds of the 70s.