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, Staley revisits her favorite albums from the 2010s.
10) There Is Love In You (2010) – Four Tet
Borrowing from Brazil, West Africa, London, and more, There Is Love In You is a gentle journey across continents and genres. Four Tet stitches together world rhythms with pastoral soundscapes, juxtaposing the hum of ghost-like fragmented vocals atop each subtly sculpted tune. The remixes of Four Tet’s There Is Love In You are equally as seminal and count as part of the album for my own purposes; serving as an extension of the themes presented in each song, each remix is a distillation of the song’s emotional core.
9) House of Balloons (2011) – The Weeknd
When it comes to the artist that best captures the cultural milieu of the decade, The Weeknd is the clear winner. The Canadian R&B star melded the collective millennial mood comprised of loneliness, anxiety, escapism, and apathy into a sound that’s so unique to the 2010s that no retrospective list could be complete without his music. House of Balloons now feels like a harbinger of what was to come: from the mysterious promotional posts with early iterations of the “Instagram baddie” look to the icy, stripped-back patchwork of electronica and hip-hop elements in the production, the album is a true snapshot of what the 2010s looked and sounded like.
8) Halcyon Digest (2010) – Deerhunter
As one of the most prolific bands of the modern era, Deerhunter’s Halcyon Digest best captures the essence of what make this group so special. Throughout the album, you can feel a sense of purity emanating from the care that Deerhunter takes while crafting each song—this is a band that truly loves music, in all its infinite forms. Halcyon Digest experiments with genre in an organic way, with Deerhunter playing with sound and shaping it into new, abstract compositions. Frontman Bradford Cox’s languid vocals melt atop psychedelic guitars and folksy harmonicas in “Memory Boy,” then seamlessly change into the call of a haunting specter in the moving “Helicopter,” a lush song that beautifies one of the most terrifying experiences we will face: death.
7) VOID (2014) – RL Grime
In his debut album VOID, RL Grime took a number of risks—and they paid off. The album pushed boundaries with moody, dark textures and big ideas, inspired by the sludgy R&B-influenced sound of WEDIDIT and RL Grime’s own ambitious genre-fusing. VOID is almost a concept album that laid the groundwork for Grime’s recently-launched label Sable Valley, as exemplified in the nearly eight-minute composition “Site Zero / The Vault” to the now-classic, all-encompassing bellow of a drop in “Core”. Setting a template for a swath of budding producers in the latter half of the decade, RL Grime’s VOID bottled the stark simplicity of trap music, then shook it up and let it explode.
6) Take Me Apart (2017) – Kelela
If Sade went to the year 3000 and recorded an album, this is what it would sound like. A technical masterpiece and emotional gutpunch all in one, Kelela’s Take Me Apart is a skillful deconstruction of both club and R&B music, tearing open the genres’ tropes one crystalline synth at a time.
5) The Ineffable Truth (2018) – G Jones
G Jones is to bass music now what Aphex Twin was to IDM in 1994—inexplicably talented, with an almost preternatural ability to shape the future sound of electronic music. The Ineffable Truth is an experiential voyage into the depths of electronica; “Arbiter’s Theme” pulses with 90s-rave synths and droning trance vocals that seem to pull apart like taffy, while “In Your Head” plunges headfirst into a kaleidoscope of monolithic bass and the rattle of imploding machinery.
4) Blow Your Head Vol. 2: Dave Nada Presents Moombahton (2011) – Various Artists
This compilation holds a special place in my heart—moombahton was the spark that truly ignited my love of electronic music. The songs on Blow Your Head Vol. 2: Dave Nada Presents Moombahton got several years of heavy play in my car and in my DJ sets, and when I think of what a large part of my decade really sounded like, this is it.
3) Beach House 3 (Deluxe Edition) (2018) – Ty Dolla $ign
The re-release of Ty Dolla $ign’s third Beach House mixtape is a nearly perfect album from start to finish. The singer is a virtuoso that establishes his reputation as the hardest-working man in music with his genre fluidity, using his slightly smoky and unbelievably versatile voice to churn out endless hits. Effortlessly switching from crooning rocker to heartsick lover to R&B lothario, Ty Dolla $ign shows that he’s game for anything—and more importantly, that he can make damn near any song sound fantastic. This is one of very few albums I can listen to without skipping a single track, and I’m already certain I will return to it often in the new decade.
2) Glass Swords (2011) – Rustie
Glass Swords is equal parts genre-defying and genre-defining, with its maximalist exuberance and emotional sonic crests accomplishing a sense of world-building that few other albums are capable of. Sugary synthetic pops burst against huge, surging crackles of bass, enveloping the listener into a swirl of sound and sensation. In terms of importance, Glass Swords could be thought of as the electronic genre’s version of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of the Moon. Though not explicitly labeled as a concept album, Rustie’s debut could be considered one—to this day, his sound is unparalleled, and his ideas completely changed the course of popular electronic music over the decade.
1) Settle (2013) – Disclosure
It’s hard to properly explain just how massive this album was, and still is—seven years later, I’ll hear “Latch” on the radio and turn it all the way up. I was living in Scotland when Settle was released, and for the next few years, I couldn’t go anywhere without hearing a song off of it. In the UK, “White Noise,” and “Latch” were staples of every pregame and night out. “When a Fire Starts To Burn” was a guaranteed stomper any time or place it was played—even when I was stateside, I remember absolutely losing my mind when Skrillex included the song in one of his Mothership set. Disclosure’s debut launched a new era of house music, and on a personal note, was the soundtrack to a large, important part of my youth.