I’ll take the quarantine as an occasion to look back at what happened in the music world through the 2010s. Both critiques and consumers questioned if the just-passed decade signed the fall of good songs and this is partly true, especially if we look at the charts of commercial music that have become pretty the same despite names and titles change. We see it clearly about reggaeton, that after the ridiculous rise of popularity of Despacito by Luis Fonsi, pushed a lot of popular artists to copycat the formula (and if you ask me this is mainly due to the minds that control the industry rather than the musicians). Apart from that, I don’t understand the point because there’s been a massive presence of gorgeous music that maybe didn’t get the status of “fame” but it’s undeniable that it built wide sections of fanbase over the globe. The nostalgia for the eighties brought us not only things like Stranger Things but also the vaporwave (Macintosh, Blank Banshee), and the subsequent wave of lo-fi hip hop that has now become almost a meme due to the online playlists. I could quote also the neo-soul as a movement, even if I prefer to think of it as a tag to group artists with some similarities but coming from different backgrounds (Moses Sumney, Solange, Jacob Collier). For sure, the style that had the biggest recognition is hip hop, thanks to the talent of many gorgeous rappers (Kendrick Lamar, Tyler The Creator). Anyway, this list will be PARTIAL regarding the names in it and for a simple reason. As a music lover, I’ve always listened to many styles but as an amatorial critic, my activity is very recent. The first time that the alias name Music Pills came out was back in March 2016, my first post on Instagram. I’ve used the platform to post my own collection of CDs and then the same thing on Twitter not so much later. I’ve always been a rock/metal guy and discovering new socials was an occasion to begin the exploration of new forms of the art of the sound (at least the ones that sounded new to me, then). But I haven’t shared thoughts on music until Christmas in 2017, and they were still Instagram posts and Tweets. I started to run the actual blog in July 2018, when my first proper review came out. So, in the end, the list will cover stuff from the beginning of 2016 until the very last days of 2019, with few exceptions. It’s a pity and I know it very well, but I don’t feel confident in putting albums that did not reach me at the moment that they’ve been released. Now that all the points are clarified, here’s my favorite albums of (half of) the decade.
Let’s start with an exception: Blank Banshee 0. This is an album that went all around the internet at the rise of the vaporware movement., together with illustrious colleagues. The name of vaporwave reached popularity in my country a lot of time after the explosion of the style, so I got it late, but this album is the one that got my heart even before my ears. Beginning a journey with tracks like B:/start up in my ears became a leitmotif. About my metal inspirations, the Italian band Destrage got my attention with the release of The King is Fat’n’Old (Metal Blade, 2010) but my love went to the following Are You Kidding Me? No (Metal Blade, 2014) that pushed the extremes of metal to…the extreme as the previous record did but with eccentric details in tone and non-sense without equals. In 2016 came out an independent release that opened my mind to discover things outside of metal, a lot before Blank Banshee. The first pop album that I loved is What Does It Do by DrewOfTheDrew, born from the mind of the homonymous bassist. That record made me realize that even in pop culture there’s space to take a lot of risks and experiment with sound and song structures (also the previous Green from 2013 is dope and pushes even more on experimentation). As written in the introduction, 2016 is the year that convinced me to spread the research of sick and original music and start to run what then became the blog. At the beginning of that year has been released one of the most wonderful sonic testaments ever written: Blackstar by David Bowie. Where do I even begin with this one? The only hint of a style in this album is the jazz/rock instrumentation, but the mix of song structures, harmony, unusual arrangements, and lyrics make it one kind of a ride. While singing about his impending doom, the White Duke makes many steps towards the future, creating what could be a non-existing genre. Just like his past iconic albums, Mr. Bowie made another milestone, impossible to identify with a bunch of tags. In 2017 the blog moved the first steps and my research of peculiar sounds became more obsessive and the artists that got my interests multiplied. Three of the records that I loved the most have been made that year. The re-discovery of punk thanks to Gnod and the thought-provoking jams on Say No To The Psycho Right-Wing Capitalist Fascist Industrial Death Machine, the title covering all the album cover like a printed scream, black upon orange, like an alarm siren, six long tracks with the fury of punk and the experimentation of the form. The thought behind the album will be actual forever I guess. On the intimate side, Moses Sumney did the most heart-breaking album, Aromanticism, questioning the value of love and relationships today with a unique approach to soul, jazz harmonies, symbolic video-clips that would break down even the toughest ones. Another favorite from 2017 is a little EP called Struggle, an invention of an Italian duo based in London. Their style can easily be called “rock” but the approach is so peculiar that it escapes the chains of many genres. Maybe both the lyrical and musical jokes, maybe the changes of atmospheres and the fluid tempo, or maybe one of the most insane electric guitar tones ever created (at least one of my favorites), all of this makes a four-track EP about surviving in a metropolitan city a must-have. 2018 has been a particular period for me because I started the re-discovery of rap, a very popular genre that didn’t get my attention before if not for some popular ones when I was a child. As written in the introduction, Kendrick Lamar, Tyler The Creator, Frank Ocean, the list of rappers who made the 2010s a new golden age is very long. But the one that I loved the most is a little bit more underground, sneaking in and out of the industry. Rory Ferreira alias Milo alias Scallops Hotel alias R.A.P. Ferreira and who knows how many other names, he opened my mind to a new meaning of the word lo-fi. Heavy jazz harmony, dope tones, no clear distinction between rap and spoken word, and above all, the lyrics, so dense with metaphors, deep thoughts and jokes. Every fan picks up a different album as the favorite one due to the ever-changing purpose and style of every release, but he always stays true to the former identity. My pick from the discography is Budding Ornithologists Are Weary Of Tired Analogies. Coming to 2019, I came back to the former passion for metal because of two massive records: Empath and Mordial. The last album by Devin Townsend is monumental as very few other progressive rock ones, with a great message to deliver and dozens of different styles to express it. The second one instead is a great tribute to specific extreme metal acts and, at the same time, great research of unheard sounds. A milestone in the career of Car Bomb.
So here’s my personal top 10 about the 2010 decade. I know that it’s very partial but for this kind of article, I prefer to be guided by my honest, unfiltered opinions rather than following objective criteria. Just to leave you with something more than a simple list, I’ll put a bonus one: REM RAM by Ben Levin. It’s not an actual album but a collection of six songs, each with a related animated video, that became a sort of mini-album under the title of Rem Ram. It’s like entering a dream and living it through the sound and the animation, experimental, weird, touching the pure non-sense and with a unique atmosphere that goes from chaos to tranquillity. Just like some of the above-mentioned, I’ve reviewed it at the beginning of the blog.
I hope you enjoy this little escape through my own taste in my music and that I’ll find equally sick stuff in the new decade. I expect the best.
Listened to and written for you by Music Pills.
Reviews about records quoted in the list:
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