Best Albums 2011-2021

Last year was the tenth anniversary of this website, and I mostly let it pass without much acknowledgement. Yesterday I did a quick top ten ranking for Wes Anderson’s films because it was his birthday, and that got me thinking about a new list. I’ve done some fun ones before, most notably the best 100 songs 2010-2014. A lot of my workday yesterday was spent completing my tasks while thinking about which albums from the last decade would make my final ten. Some surprises, maybe.

10. Flying Lotus-You’re Dead

This album came out, and upon hearing it I laid on the floor and hit the repeat button. Probably listened to it 5 times in a row and my brain was fried from the brilliance. (October 2014)

9. Josh Ritter-Fever Breaks

A fool’s errand, trying to pick which Josh Ritter album of the last ten years is his best. Fever Breaks was produced by Jason Isbell, and he was able to bring out the best in Ritter’s sound without losing any of his amazing storytelling. (April, 2019)

8. Janelle Monae-Dirty Computer

Janelle Monae might be the closest we get to another Bowie. She fully commits to character and story, building her albums like a movie. She doesn’t rush her work, so there have only been two albums released in the last ten years. Here’s hoping for more in the next ten. (April 2018)

7. Conor Oberst-Salutations

It’s crazy that an album that is mostly rehashing material from an album released only a year before could be so good. Throw in a few new tracks and The Felice Brothers playing as backing band, and you’ve somehow created an instant classic. (March 2017)

6. Kendrick Lamar-To Pimp A Butterfly

It’s my understanding that a lot of people prefer Damn. to this album. That’s fine. Damn. is a great album, and it’s sure as heck a more fun album, but TPAB is such a beautiful piece of art it sets itself apart from everything else. (March 2015)

5. Lizzo-Cuz I Love You

I heard Lizzo for the first time in 2015. Thought it was great and wanted to hear more. Saw her perform for the first time in the summer of 2016. Amazing! So fun and full of energy. I was already a big fan, but I was not prepared for Cuz I Love You. Of course, it’s been a couple years now and Lizzo has become inescapable as a pop culture icon, which turns some people off. The new songs sound good, though, so I’m hoping the next album brings something new but equally enjoyable. (April 2019)

4. Fiona Apple-Fetch The Bolt Cutters

Every few years we get a new album from Fiona Apple, and every single time she delivers something brilliant. It’s hard to believe that in a career that’s gone over 25 years, she’s only released five albums. I guess you don’t need to put out a lot when everything you do is perfect. (April 2020)

3. D’Angelo and The Vanguard-Black Messiah

When I was a teenager I was bumping D’Angelo’s “Brown Sugar” in my car. It wasn’t like any of the other R&B/soul I was hearing on the radio. “How Does It Feel” was a whole other thing and that catapulted him to the top for a while. Then he went away. For a long time. How he was able to return with such a provocative, meaningful album like Black Messiah is a testament to his mind and his innate musical ability. Saw him twice on the Black Messiah tour and it was two of the best shows I’ve ever seen. (December 2014)

2. Ezra Furman-Transangelic Exodus

Being able to follow Ezra on her path in life and musically has been such a treat. An absolutely amazing singer/songwriter, there is no musician I can think of who so easily articulates their personal thoughts and feelings through song. It’s raw and it’s beautiful and I thank the music gods every day that we have her around. (February 2018)

1.Frank Ocean-channel ORANGE

From the second this album came out, it has been considered a classic. When he hits that first high note on “Thinkin Bout You” everything else in the world goes quiet. Frank has a singular vision, and it is fully realized right out of the gate on his debut album (mixtape, whatever). (July 2012)