As the decade comes to a close, the Saint Audio team is sharing the top ten albums that defined the 2010s for them. This week, Elisha Chauhan revisits his favorite albums from the 2010s.
10) A Moon Shaped Pool (2016) – Radiohead
As a reflection of Thom Yorke’s recent divorce and societal issues, such as climate change, A Moon Shaped Pool may very well be a movie score on a much smaller scale. Sealed in an ambient soundscape, frantic rhythms and somber tones provide the listener with a sense of urgency juxtaposed with a subdued undertone. Notorious for implementing orchestral instrumentation, fragmented, hollow production represents Radiohead’s perspective on the state of the world.
9) Black Messiah (2014) – D’Angelo and the Vanguard
Seeking redemption from his past demons, D’Angelo’s surprise return was met with critical acclaim from critics and listeners alike. Concocting a blend of funk, soul, R&B, and jazz, the R&B icon reemerged into the spotlight with raw emotion and passion poured into every track. Lending his vocals over acoustic instrumentation highlights D’Angelo’s talent and legacy as a musician.
8) Astroworld (2018) – Travis Scott
In a whirlwind of crunchy synths and autotune-laced melodies, Astroworld draws inspiration from an amusement park of the same name during Travis Scott‘s childhood. The song structure is pertinent for listeners to experience different points of an imaginative roller coaster ride through Travis’ mind. Abrupt transitions and outros may be analogous to entering and exiting different rides of an amusement park. Compared to other trap-influenced rap artists, hip hop connoisseurs may latch onto the Houston native’s songwriting ability and interwoven flows.
7) Flower Boy (2017) – Tyler, the Creator
As a surprising twist in the narrative of Tyler, the Creator, Flower Boy recants controversial remarks through the artist’s vulnerability and exploration of his sexuality. Compared to his previous work, a notable shift from dark and ominous tones to bright and glossy production spotlights Tyler’s artistry. Hypnotic synths and layered percussion force the listener to revisit the album in its entirety.
6) Take Care (2011) – Drake
Serving as a precursor to the burgeoning mumble rap phenomenon, Drake’s fusion between R&B and hip hop capitalized on the bubbling alternative R&B scene. In an attempt to bolster the stock of upcoming artists, the album showcased The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar, and other musicians on the cusp of stardom. Ambient-infused production with mottled samples is a prominent feature that provides replay value for the listener.
5) MAGDALENE (2019) – FKA Twigs
Carving out a niche as a singer/songwriter, FKA Twigs breaks the mold amid a pop-saturated era. The English songstress cuts through an unconventional song structure with her angelic voice. Inspired by Biblical connotations, FKA Twigs uses Mary Magdalene as a metaphor to describe her perspective on love. As a dichotomy between heartbreak and true love, the album is a cathartic journey of finding strength through fragile circumstances.
4) Random Access Memories (2013) – Daft Punk
After a decade-long hiatus, Daft Punk took the world by storm by paying homage to West Coast 70s and 80s music. Citing influences ranging from Fleetwood Mac to Steely Dan, the French electronic duo puts their stamp on disco and funk with infectious vocoder samples. Funky grooves and an array of synths reinforces the album’s premise as introspection to the past.
3) channel ORANGE (2012) – Frank Ocean
Once considered an underground genre, the alternative R&B scene was bursting at the seams in the early 2010s. As a member of the Odd Future collective, Frank Ocean sought to redefine his artistry over minimal production. Crooning an emotional love letter of sorts, Frank’s vocal prowess embellishes the album’s bluesy aesthetic.
2) My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (2010) – Kanye West
Sprinkled with grandiose production and braggadocious lyrics, Kanye transports the listener into a cinematic experience filled with ego and materialism. Although the production is chaotic, gritty vocal samples, distorted guitar, and clashing percussion are threaded together with tight melodies and catchy flows. Similar to orchestral elements and sample-based production utilized in previous projects, the album differentiates itself from the fray by emphasizing on Kanye’s bravado and confidence in his delivery.
1) To Pimp A Butterfly (2015) – Kendrick Lamar
As a departure of his signature sound, Kendrick Lamar utilizes jazz and funk to delve into a social commentary on race, depression, institutionalism, and economic status. Assuming different characters across the album, his animated voice breathes new life on groovy drum patterns and murky production. Based on Kendrick’s capability as a creative writer alone, unpacking a complex project, such as To Pimp A Butterfly, is a treat for fans and critics alike.