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, Aragidi revisits their favorite albums from the 2010s.
10) Racine Carrée (2013) – Stromae
Belgium’s favourite Flemish/Rwandan son entered the global mind withblessings from everyone from Anna Wintour to Kanye West, and, with Racine Carrée, showed that dance can still be political. With tongue-in-cheek references to STIs to a painful number begging for his father who had perished in the Rwandan genocide during his youth, this album’s depth has served as a balm for a world on fire. Try listening to “Humain à l’eau” and sitting still. Even if you don’t speak French, one cannot miss the fury and pain in Stromae’s voice. We are all human, language barriers be damned.
9) We Are the Halluci Nation (2016) – A Tribe Called Red
In a decade that saw the rise of dubstep, deep house, and EDM, it was refreshing to see a rise of indigenous musicians reclaiming our mantle as a musical people. Dance has always been central to our communities across Turtle Island, and with Halluci Nation, A Tribe Called Red illustrate its use as a method of healing and unity. It is a powerful reimagination of what exactly indigenous music can be. With spoken word from the great indigenous activist and writer John Trudell and features from artists from Nunavut to Mexico, A Tribe Called Red are here to remind you that, despite it all, we are still here.To all you festival and rave Pretendians, step aside. We’re reclaiming what you stole.
8) Art Angels (2015) – Grimes
This album to me has always read as a resume of sorts. Grimes began her career making music out of Garage Band with minimal tools, but on this album, she introduced strings, guitars, flirtations with country music and metal. I admire versatility in any artist, and with this album, Grimes flexed her ability as a producer few can match. I remember listening to this album wondering if this would be her break into the mainstream, but, now as then, these songs are futuristic, unageing because the rest of
the world has yet to catch up to whatever dystopian hellscape Grimes has in store for us.
7) All American Made (2017) – Margo Price
9/11 ruined country music. It caused the genre to become a cesspool of hyper-patriotism and toxic masculinity; the folk elements that defined it from its inception largely forgotten as singing about the loss of the American Dream and the trials of rural Americans became tantamount to treason and a celebration of personal failures. Margo Price represents a return to form for the genre. Speaking to the pain of watching farms foreclose around her, learning about the lies taught to us by the government to save its own skin, to wanting to see the country she knows and love become the best version of itself, even if it has never been that before. A fair number of us, like her, were “raised on sports and Jesus and all the usual suspects.” Maybe we can set aside minor differences and work to a better tomorrow, no matter if we be rural, urban, black, white, red, hick, city slicker.
6) Night Time, My Time (2013) – Sky Ferreira
The story of Sky Ferreira’s refusal to become just another curated pop artist, fighting against her label, scrapping her entire album and clawing doors down to create what she wanted is the stuff of legend. Her punk roots and tranquillised musings on love, hatred, and inner turmoil stand against lush landscapes of telephone rings, synths, and discord. And, hey, you don’t get one of the most banned album covers in the United States without a complete disregard for what is deemed “acceptable.” The risks taken throughout this album cemented her position as an artist to follow, even as she keeps us waiting for a follow-up with her characteristic obsession to detail and perfection. Whatever comes next, Sky Ferreira has shown us that she has the wherewithal to create incredible art.
5) Melodrama (2017) – Lorde
There is a lot I can say about this album, but words never quite do justice as to how much this album means to me. Suffice it to say Lorde’s mastery over poetic verse is so powerful and her understandings of human emotion so great, that the first time I heard “Supercut,” I had to pull over on the side on the interstate because I was crying too much to be able to see. The awkward transition from teenager to adult is a messy one that I am still trying to navigate with at least some semblance of grace, but I have never been so thankful as to be able to grow up with someone like Lorde.
4) Blackstar (2016) – David Bowie
The title track mixes EDM beats, jazz percussion, and Gregorian chanting. That’s like half my checklist. Throw in seemingly impossible to decode lyrics and a trippy music video, and I’m even more on board with whatever the hell is going on. Then go on and die the Monday after it’s release just to show everyone that you are Lazarus and that this entire album was an exploration of mortality and what little time you yourself had left? This album still blows my mind. David Bowie managed to turn one of the most paralysingly terrifying things we as humans experience into a truly moving piece of performance art. He was an alien that blessed our little blue planet with so much art, and I will never forget the floods of people in London singing “Starman.” Aside from being an incredible album, this marks the true dearth of a year that was 2016, from celebrity deaths to the death of democracy.
3) The Bones of What You Believe (2013) – CHVRCHES
Three Glaswegians, one soprano and two instrumentalists, all with roots in punk and rock, armed with vintage synthesizers and cryptic lyrics. What the hell were we to expect? I remember picking up a CD of this album my senior year of high school and feeling as though the world around me had shifted. The track list could not have prepared me for the new rave aesthetics that would come to dominate much of indie pop and Spotify. I remember someone complaining to me about their use of synths, stating that guitars and organic instruments were just inherently more artistically pure. I often wonder how he’s doing now, after the rise of the synth came to define much of this decade’s music both on radio and in garage groups. CHVRCHES are truly something special, and their debut, though not my personal favourite of their repertoire, has had an impact that is frankly incalculable.
2) Hopelessness (2016) – Anohni
On her first solo album, Anohni, formerly credited as her deadname on her project Axxxxny and the Johnsons, began experimenting with more anger and fury in her work. Railing against drone strikes with the help of Naomi Campbell to critiquing Obama with droning tones produced by Oneohtrix Point Never, the album has a track list that reads more like a metal act than avant garde chamber pop. Even at her most mournful on this album, Anohni reads as a defiant challenger to the listener, forcing them to evaluate their own actions or lack thereof. The crown of this album to me will always be its title track, a shell-shocked child’s tristiloquy. Daily, I, too, feel the hopelessness that all is lost, and that perhaps I have simply taken too much to be able to return anything to our mother as she dies. However, we cannot let that hopelessness devour us. Take that sadness and use it as fuel to ignite change.
1) Retribution (2016) – Tanya Tagaq
Though her album Animism won her the Polaris Prize over such Canadian giants as Drake and Arcade Fire, Retribution to me remains as the premier work in the Inuk throat singer’s repertoire. Incorporating spoken word, scientific research, hip hop, live dance, and industrial, this album represents the most righteous of indigenous fury and climate grief. There are songs about the beauty that can be found even in the faces of pollution, a reworking of Nirvana’s “Rape Me” for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, songs about naming and finding the souls of those you lost in new generations.We are running out of time to help our mother and our relatives. This past decade saw the rise of climate disasters we thought were worst case scenarios decades away, floods of climate refugees, and natural disasters on a frequency that seems to be telling us that the old gods are awakening. Tagaq on Retribution reminds us of the punishment that awaits us, reminds us that, in these discussions, it is ever more important that we centre indigenous voices. No matter what, we cannot give in to hopelessness.