In a decade of music dominated by the melodically challenged posturing of Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West there were some high points. Here are 10 of them with highly commended mentions to Kate Bush for her 50 Names For Snow (2011) and concert package Before The Dawn (2016) along with the Queens of the Stone Age album Like Clockwork (2013).
The Suburbs – The Arcade Fire (2010)
Before festival headlining superstardom and the resultant dimming of the creative spark in favour of shiny suits there was this fight against the dying of the light – a bridge between the brilliant Funeral and Neon Bible to the disappointing Reflektor and Everything Now, which suffer from a dwindling contribution from violinist Sarah Neufeld.
Have One On Me – Joanna Newsom (2010)
Double CD follow up to the wonderful Van Dyke Parks collaboration Ys in which the helium-voiced harpist extraordinaire stretched out, including piano into her armoury without going the full Tori Amos or Kate Bush. With only 2015’s Divers before a sabbatical and parenthood, Have One On Me remains a high point.
Sonic Highways – Foo Fighters (2014)
An interesting and mostly successful experiment where the band visited eight different cities to record songs worked on the previous year in Dave Grohl’s home studio. Grohl directed a documentary on the music scene in each of the cities and finished the lyrics to each song immediately before recording them. Guests include Rick Nielsen, James Murphy and Joe Walsh.
The Epic – Kamasi Washington (2015)
A three-hour work of jaw-dropping ambition and invention which drags jazz kicking and screaming out of the past and into the present and beyond.
Blackstar – David Bowie (2016)
Released on his 69th birthday and just two days before his death, Blackstar saw Bowie at his strongest with a swansong of reflective, jazz-tinged genius that stands up against any of his best. Writing your own eulogy doesn’t get any more profound than this.
A Moon Shaped Pool – Radiohead (2016)
After the dire disappointment of King of Limbs, Radiohead managed to hide Thom Yorke’s laptop on a high shelf to create an album distinguished by Radio 3 composer in residence Jonny Greenwood’s incredible strings arrangements.
Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – The Beatles (2017)
The first in a project to reclaim the greatest catalogue in pop history for the modern listener as Giles Martin is given the responsibility of remoulding the work of his late father. With the exception of Abbey Road, Beatles recordings were mastered first in mono, the stereo mix suffering from the limitations of studio technology. Martin’s work not only creates a new benchmark for how to listen to the Fab Four, but with the extra disc there’s an insight to how it was done.
OKNOTOK – Radiohead (2017)
This 30-year anniversary remix of OK Computer with an added CD of extra material was the second example of improving on perfection in 2017. Every instrument part had become clearer, separated in a mix that managed to show not just the importance of every constituent part, but the genius of their piecing together.
When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? – Billie Eilish (2019)
The last bona fide popstar of the decade with a mission statement for the 20s crafted in her brother’s bedroom that hits all the teenage angst targets. Like a more twisted Lorde.
Norman F***ing Rockwell – Lana Del Rey (2019)
The decade began with this part ingenue, part waif’s reverb laced torch songs, announced by the song Video Games, and it ended with her best outing to date including a contender for the best opening line on an album since Patti Smith’s Horses.