Best Albums of the 2010s – #6
Lemonade – Beyoncé (2016)
Beyoncé’s Lemonade is more than a great collection of songs (though it is that). It is a personal and political statement, at once deeply confessional and universally deep. It is also a “visual album” that links its tracks with spoken-word poetry and mesmerizing visuals.
It’s a project only an artist with the confidence and swagger of Beyoncé could pull off. And pull it off she does, beautifully.
Best Albums of the 2010s – #7
The idler Wheel… – Fiona Apple (2012)
I’ve noted that several artists on this list have had a lean decade, production-wise. Fiona Apple takes first prize in that regard, releasing only one album over the last ten years, 2012’s The Idler Wheel Is Wiser than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More than Ropes Will Ever Do.
Most people just call it The Idler Wheel.
Best Albums of the 2010s – #8
By the Way, I Forgive You – Brandi Carlile (2018)
Brandi Carlile is the artist on this top 20 list I discovered most recently. I started hearing praise for her 2018 album By the Way, I Forgive You in spring of that year and fell in love with it as soon as I played it.
As with Jason Isbell, I immediately dove into Carlile’s back catalog and discovered she’s been putting out great music for 15 years. Incidentally, Carlile is a member of the all-woman supergroup The Highwomen, who released their debut album this year, along with Isbell’s wife, Amanda Shires.
Best Albums of the 2010s – #9
Mental Illness – Aimee Mann (2017)
Aimee Mann did not have a very productive decade. She released Charmer in 2012, then a record paired up with alt-rocker Ted Leo in 2014, before wrapping things up with Mental Illness in 2017.
I can complain about the frequency, but not the content, especially Mental Illness, which ranks among the best releases of her career.
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).