When reflecting about those past ten years and its records I really thought about a proper headline to sum it all up and I ended with ‘Trying out adulthood’ which might only get a small piece of it all. I turned thirty, finished university, and tried out that ‘work’ and ‘adult’ life, only to constantly question why I actually should. Maybe that’s the whole point of it, isn’t it? Learning to reflect and question yourself and the world that’s surrounding you. I chose a life in media and music, at least for now, and although many things have changed during this time the music and actually NOTHING BUT HOPE AND PASSION remained constants for me in a world that makes you question the concept of consistency on a daily basis. So, that’s a good thing, isn’t it? I found it nearly impossible to actually list the best albums from 2010 to 2019 so I picked those that are close to my heart and define these past ten years better than others can. And maybe I can get a few of you to discover these albums as well. It would be my pleasure.
Big Deal – ‘Lights Out’ (2011)
I already wrote about the musical legacy of Kacey Underwood and Alice Costelloe a while ago and especially their debut album stuck with me in all these years. It spreads this youthful lightness and intimate honesty of two people falling in love. From distant glances to shy first approaches right to the actual progress of falling in love – the two protagonists tell these intimate tales only with the help of their voices and guitars. Big Deal later added a full rhythm section to their band but I’m really happy they didn’t go for that on this debut album. The reduction helps the record to keep that simplicity alive. But there’s also a delicate melancholy that shines through these songs as if they somehow in the back of their head knew that this love was doomed. Well, or maybe that’s me in my late twenties arguing as I actually fell in love with the record right after I fell out of love with a girl. To this day, no summer passes without Lights Out in my ears. It’s a perfect record for that season, no matter if you are a teenager in love or not.
Destroyer – ‘Kaputt’ (2011)
I find it utterly difficult to really name one favourite album of this decade but the more I think about it the more I think Kaputt by Destroyer got all the qualifications for such a title. It might be the most perfect pop album of the 2010s and that’s probably what mastermind Dan Bejar was aiming for. He sharpened his weird alternative folk/rock, added synthesizers, saxophones and straight melodies to create a progressive pop epos that is as bold and excessive as it is tempting for those who love good melodies and slightly more complex structures. Bejar celebrates the contradiction right here, performing his sophisticated lyrics with his mumbling voice over gentle patterns that reminiscent 70s Yacht Rock as well as 80s New Wave pop. New Order meets Steely Dan. Well, probably even more. The 20-minute long epos The Laziest River (which isn’t include on every release of Kaputt for probably exact that reason) is the peak of Bejar’s ambitious musical plan on his ninth full-length. This record has been a steady companion in my life for the past eight years, regularly taking me through ups and downs. It’s a great album to lose yourself, an epic tale and outstanding piece of music. It never grows tired on me and I’m pretty sure it will continue to do so in the next ten years.
Foals – ‘Holy Fire’ (2013)
Ever since the release of their 2008 debut Antidotes my love for Foals grew with every album, making their first full-length actually my least favourite one. They’ve been quite productive in the 2010s, released four records in this time and a fifth one (the second part of Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost) is still expected to arrive this fall. So, in many ways 2013’s Holy Fire stands as a representative for the outstanding releases of this group. It’s the first one on which Foals took a turn to the harder side on songs like Inhaler and Providence. Back then a brave but pretty good choice. Still, there are also great pop tunes on this one (My Number, Out Of The Woods) and quite emotional moments. Stepson still brings a tear to my eye and the closing track Moon is a haunting lullaby to the planet with Yannis Philippakis waiting for the apocalypse to finally happen. Holy Fire is intense and yet also pretty easily accessible. Like an unwell feeling in your guts its senses that things are wrong in the world, something we only fully realized a few years later.
I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness – ‘Dust’ (2014)
During the ‘Let’s discover post-punk’-phase in my early twenties (partly still ongoing) the 2006 debut LP from I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness became one of my favourite releases. I mean, how couldn’t it with such a band name, right? It’s a massive dark masterpiece but shortly after its release the group vanished without a sign. Well, until they suddenly popped up again eight years later with a second album that did everything right (for me) by simply doing everything as always. ILYBICD picked up where they left, delivering intense and dark indie-rock anthems with a love for gritty widescreen gestures every now and then. I just turned thirty when Dust came out and I pretty much accepted the fact that days were over when I get to feel music the same way I did ten years earlier but then I hit the play button and right at the second song Stay Awake an immense goosebumps shower hit me like I haven’t experienced it in a while. I probably shed a tear or two later on this one as well. These guys knew what to trigger and it partly felt like this record have been a part of my life since 2006 in some weird way. I find it really hard to put it in words, so it must be love, right? It’s okay to artistically repeat yourself if you stay away long enough. So, needless to say I’m crossing my fingers for 2022.
Jon Hopkins – ‘Singularity’ (2018)
When I rushed to a spontaneous interview with Jon Hopkins (which was quite a privilege considering the fact that he doesn’t like to talk that much about his music) I only had the chance to listen to Singularity one and a half times, barely understanding the entire picture. It’s an album that needs a moment … and the context of the artist who created it. Singularity is the story of Hopkins’ burnout and his way out of it through contemplation and meditation. That’s why it starts so heavy and overloaded, like an endless rave in a sea of strobe lights. Yes, you are allowed to dance to the first half excessively but there’s far more going on here – the beats are abstract and sometimes everything feels a bit out of tune as Hopkins really didn’t want to deliver a standardized techno record here. But then out of the sudden everything falls apart and the party is over. The protagonist tries to regain his strength and that’s when the whole thing turns from amazing to masterpiece. Jon Hopkins tells an emotional story without using one single word. Singularity seeks for the human element in an accelerated and chaotic world in which our inner compass continues to spin around without ever stopping. I can’t recall an electronic music album that has moved me as much as this one did. Following our little chat I’ve never listened to this album the same way again and probably never will.
Kollektiv Turmstraße – ‘Rebellion der Träumer’ (2010)
You all remember the last.fm Plug-In that was counting all the music plays from your laptop and digitally archived them, right? Well, my counter has been running for twelve years now on my home computer and according to the statistics Rebellion der Träumer (‘rebellion of the dreamers’) is my most played album ever! It’s kind of a surprise that actually isn’t a surprise at all. Kollektiv Turmstraße is a Hamburg-based minimal techno duo that’s been making wave in the scene for two decades now. Usually the sound of Christian Hilscher and Nico Plagemann is pretty much four-to-the-floor although they are fans of more mellow moments as well but in many ways their 2010 album is an entirely different affair. It’s really not a club album but more one of tender ambient, chilled breakbeats and downtempo moments. A warm brightness winds through these nineteen tracks and it happens to be a perfect album for lazy Sunday mornings, warm summer days and the moments where you need to start the day a bit smoother. And it’s probably these moments where it remained my top choice which a) explains the high play number and b) says a lot about my life in those past ten years. It’s a dreamy masterpiece and a real hidden treasure. It’s also quite unique within the discography of Kollektiv Turmstraße but I surely wouldn’t mind a follow-up here.
Korallreven – ‘An Album By Korallreven’ (2011)
I’ve never been to Samoa so far but thank god Swedish artist Marcus Joons once went there and returned with plenty of musical inspiration. And luckily, indie-pop band The Radio Dept. went on a longer hiatus which allowed Daniel Tjäder to join the short-lasting Korallreven project. See, it’s all about coincidences and somehow this record landed on my desk at the first proper music journalism internship I got when finished university eight years ago. Otherwise me and this lovely little album couldn’t have started this ongoing relationship that’s still going strong. To quote a track on the album – this record feels like ‘a dream within a dream’. It’s a hazy, tropical dose of escapism, inspired by Samoan sounds, 80s synthpop and also a bit early 90s house and rave pop. Korallreven‘s debut feels both – exotic and familiar as it creates a musical world of its own that lets you forget the actual one surrounding you. I don’t know about you but whenever a record achieves that it’s something really special. To this day I give An Album By Korallreven a regular spin whenever I’m in the mood for a spacey daydream. It’s a hidden treasure from the early 2010s and maybe you’ll fall in love with it as well. The band, however, split up after an okay yet not that brilliant follow-up record and that might have been the best thing to preserve its legacy.
The National – ‘High Violet’ (2010)
Yes, I was already late to the party but it was actually High Violet that made me fall in love with The National (and not Boxer and Alligator, like all the other cool kids). I remember one specific short train ride on a rainy winter day where I first have it a spin and then it just made ‘click’ and I was wondering ‘Where the fuck have these guys been all my life?’ Over the past ten years The National grew to become one of my favourite bands. During that time they released four brilliant albums, one better than the other which is a rare thing to pull of. They’re just keep getting better and better with age and I couldn’t really decide what record to pick here, so I just stick with the starting point. High Violet is the quintessence of what this band is all about. There are the big anthems like Terrible Love, Bloodbuzz Ohio and Anyone’s Ghosts who aren’t really trying to be stadium hits, the heart-wrenching grumpiness of Sorrow and Lemonworld, the haunting ballads like Runaway and Little Faith. Matt Berninger’s voice consumes all the pain and heaviness and turns it into something rather beautiful. It’s like a warm blanket on that mentioned cold winter day. Weltschmerz at its finest combined with a high level of musicality and brilliant songwriting. High Violet is not even their best album (just see this year’s I Am Easy To Find) and it’s still pretty amazing. Truly inerrant, these gentlemen.
Wanda – ‘Amore’ (2014)
Like a wild and stormy love affair the story between me and this Austrian guitar pop record was short, furious and unique and I’m not really sure if any non-German speakers understand it. Okay, I’m trying it anyway. Wanda from Vienna make old-fashioned rock and roll and their debut was packed with anthems about failed love, existential crises, dirty bars, drunken nights, an overdose of cigarettes, death wishes and life’s uglier sides in general. But on the other hand singer Marco Wanda celebrated all the Schnapps and broken hearts with glory and confidence. So, the themes felt real and the music was retro but full of fire – but most of it: the songs are brilliant; each of the twelve ones still is a masterpiece of its own. I immediately fell in love and for weeks I really couldn’t listen to anything other than this album, something I haven’t experienced in a long time (and actually never with an album in German). I managed to see the band live three times throughout 2015, each time bigger and more furious. The also quite good follow-up Bussi arrived just in time to keep the fire burning a bit longer. That’s how it must have felt when Oasis arrived. Within three years the band played really big venues here but somehow lost me along the way. They should’ve split up two years ago to become immortal, now it’s just a lukewarm repetition of outworn patterns. But I’ll remember the intensity of those few months for the rest of my life. Prost!
The War On Drugs – ‘Lost In The Dream’ (2014)
Over the past ten year’s Adam Granduciel’s rise to the A-league of rock and roll was as inevitable as it was deserved. He was already pretty good before Lost In The Dream arrived but this is the album that unfolded his full musical potential and showed his brilliancy. On his third full-length the cinematic Americana rock with shoegaze tendencies reached new heights. Just take the almost ten-minute long opening track Under The Pressure which feels like an endless cruise along the highway towards the sunset. The Springsteen-esque Red Eyes, the psychedelic Disappearing, the laidback Eyes To The Wind … the list goes on and on. Sixty minutes of intense musical escapism await the listener and to this day I still find it quite fascinating how The War On Drugs managed to get me excited about that sort of music because before that I wasn’t really a fan of that sort of sound (and extended guitar solos). But there’s something within his sonic sound that really speaks to me, a romanticized depth that really moves me to this day. The follow-up A Deeper Understanding might even be more on point but Lost In The Dream remains his creative peak so far but I wouldn’t be surprised if he tops this one as well within the next decade.
- Beach House – ‘Teen Dream’ (2010)
- BOY – ‘Mutual Friends’ (2011)
- Chromatics – ‘Kill For Love’ (2012)
- Frank Ocean – ‘channelOrange’ (2012)
- Mazzy Star – ‘Seasons Of Your Day’ (2013)
- Metronomy – ‘The English Rivera’ (2011)
- Rhye – ‘Woman’ (2013)
- Robag Wruhme – ‘Thora Vukk’ (2011)
- Sigur Rós – ‘Kveikur’ (2013)
- Sufjan Stevens – ‘Carrie And Lowell’ (2015)
- Taken By Trees – ‘Other Worlds’ (2012)
- Tiger Lou – ‘The Wound Dresser’ (2016)
- Tycho – ‘Dive’ (2011)
- The War On Drugs – ‘A Deeper Understanding’ (2017)
- When Saints Go Machine – ‘Konkylie’ (2011)