This list is not in any particular order and I’m sure that if I thought about it for another hour or two I’d come up with a half dozen things that should have been added. If something hits me after this list goes live, I’m not going to hesitate to add it because that’s okay. Nobody gave me a ten album limit and there were a lot of super talented musicians making really good music over the last decade. Here are my favorites:
Joanna Newsom – “Have One On Me” (2010)
I’ve been a fan of Joanna Newsom since the first time I heard the album Ys in 2006 or 2007. Newsom is polarizing–thirty seconds on any song will let you know where you stand. I happen to love what she does. Have One On Me is a triple album and though some people thought it could be made even better if it were trimmed down a bit, I disagree. I love EVERY heartbreaking and triumphant moment. Standout tracks: Have One On Me, Baby Birch, Jackrabbits, and Does Not Suffice.
We Lost the Sea – “Departure Songs” (2015)
We Lost the Sea’s mid-decade masterpiece, Departure Songs has been in constant rotation since I first heard it. This is, without question, my favorite post rock album of all-time. I use this regularly when I’m in the sensory deprivation tank or on a reiki table. It’s evocative and powerful in ways that I still can’t articulate, but that this review does a good job of doing. Five songs and over an hour. Standout tracks: Challenger Pt. 1 and Challenger Pt. 2.
SAUL WILLIAMS – “MARTYRLOSERKING” (2016)
I find it impossible to explain Saul Williams’ music and I think that’s the point of it. From song to song it escapes genre while maintaining its urgency and vibrancy. It’s three dimensional art and the videos that go with the songs bolster that argument. They are challenging, provocative, and even when understated, impossible to look away from. Though he gets his critical acclaim in the 21st Century, I think Williams is an artist who will be made even more legendary with the passing of time. Standout tracks: Burundi, Horn of the Clock Bike, Down for Some Ignorance, and The Noise Came From Here
RVIVR – “THE BEAUTY BETWEEN” (2013)
Though I didn’t discover them until I was laid off in the spring of 2017, RVIVR are close to the most listened to artists of the decade in my music collection. This is anthem pop punk that makes me hopeful and feisty while always remaining singalong. I saw them three times in the fall of 2017 and if I would have known earlier, I would have seen them a hundred times more. Nothing gives me life like this band. Standout tracks: Wrong Way/One Way, Cut the Cord, Paper Thin, Rainspell and Spider Song
DAUGHTER – “NOT TO DISAPPEAR” (2016)
Daughter has a new album coming out in 2020 and I’m very much looking forward to that because it means I might be able to see them live and with the amount of time I’ve spent watching live shows on Youtube, it’ll be nice to experience it for myself. But I could also live the rest of my life only watching Daughter concerts on the internet and be totally content. This is not happy music. It is crushingly sad and beautifully and poetically sparse in a way that will break your heart even when you know what’s coming next. Standout tracks: Doing the Right Thing, How, No Care, and Numbers
PROPAGANDHI – “FAILED STATES” (2012)
I’ve been listening to Propagandhi longer than any other band on this list. It is the most constant presence in my Favorite Bands~! list since my friend Rachel put them on a mix tape for me back when we were in college. What haven’t I already said a million times? Incredibly smart. Uncompromising. Otherworldly musicians. Bill Stevenson called them the best band in the world. I’m picking Failed States because it’s the oldest album of theirs (this decade) so I’ve listened to it the most. But you can’t go wrong with anything they’ve ever recorded. Standout tracks: Note to Self, Duplicate Keys Icaro, and Lotus Gait
THE WAR ON DRUGS – “LOST IN THE DREAM” (2015)
If you would have described this album to me before I heard it the first time I would have told you there wasn’t any chance it was ending up on my best of the decade. And I would have been very wrong. It is reminiscent of Springsteen or Dylan, but maintains its individuality. It is comforting without ever being boring. It’s gorgeous. It’s also one of those confounding things that bends time. When was this recorded? How does it sound like the past AND the future all at once? Standout tracks: Under the Pressure, Red Eyes, and Eyes to the Wind.
BRAND NEW – “SCIENCE FICTION” (2017)
I took a circuitous route to Brand New. They were introduced to me in the middle of the last decade and I wrote them off as for the kids and derivative of other bands already in my music collection. But I always went back and listened to the same few songs and at some point gave in enough to explore the whole catalog. I’d put the last four Brand New albums up against four consecutive albums from any other band. Science Fiction is a masterpiece. Sometimes quiet. Sometimes loud. Always lyrically brilliant. It’s a mood album that never grows old even as we all do. Standout tracks: Same Logic/Teeth, 137, and Lit Me Up
BLIND PILOT – “WE ARE THE TIDE” (2011)
Blind Pilot is the second band on this list recommended to me by one of my closest friends (Stompermonster) with Daughter being the first. And though there is also a melancholic strain through some of Blind Pilot’s catalog, they are a band that always makes me feel warm and joyous. This is triumphant of the spirit music even when we play it to dust ourselves off and admire our scars. I’m listening to it now as I write this and I can’t help but shimmy in my chair as I do it. This is an ode to resilience! Standout tracks: We are the Tide, New York, and Get it Out
ARTIST – “ALBUM” (2011)
An absolutely brilliant and heartbreaking album. If RVIVR wasn’t my most listened to artist of this decade, then this was probably it. All of that said, the musician behind this project has left the music world for now and has pulled all material. I can’t link you to any standout tracks and will, instead, respect the artist’s wishes. If you followed my social media earlier in the decade you know who I’m talking about and you probably have the album, too. Let’s just be grateful we heard it when we did.