We’re half way through the 2010s so it’s the right time to look back at the last five years and celebrate 50 of the finest albums. We’ve ranked the top 50, according to NME, and here you can read about 50 – 26.
50. Katy B - 'On A Mission' (2011)
By combining the underground credos of her Rinse FM tutelage with a childhood raised on soul, Katy B found a sweet spot between the club and the high street. A sort of loveable little sister to the talented but faceless DJs that went before her, nobody else has documented this generation's life on the dancefloor with such energy.
49. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds - 'Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds' (2011)
NG’s High Flying Birds were the last hope for fans of stonking great ladrock in an age when everyone’s pretending to like all this laptop R&B shite. It was the best clutch of tunes Gallagher’s come up with since he started letting everyone else have a crack at Oasis albums. The gaffer was back.
48. Warpaint - 'The Fool' (2010)
Warpaint's 2010 debut 'The Fool', however, took the siren approach, drawing you in like a glimmering beacon of light in the fog. Between the deep groove of 'Bees', the time signature-defying 'Composure' or the deceptively simple sway of breakthrough single 'Undertow', the quartet drew you into an alluring world designed for the cover of darkness.
47. Lana Del Rey - 'Born To Die' (2012)
‘Born To Die’ was an introduction into the faded but still glamorous Hollywood golden age fantasy of Lana Del Rey. A character and a construct for sure, but those who bought into the project were rewarded with tales of love, loss, addiction, pain and, ultimately, redemption that were cinematic in their scope.
46. David Bowie - 'The Next Day' (2013)
The cover art punned on the weight of his legacy by screwing around with the cover of his masterpiece ‘“Heroes”’. Yet it turned out this was a characteristic attempt to wrong-foot us all: ‘The Next Day’ had little interest in looking back. Even as exhibitions about his work opened around the world, Bowie proved he’s no museum piece yet.
45. Jack White - 'Blunderbuss' (2012)
White’s first solo album was the first time he put himself to the fore. Though the trademark fretboard virtuosity was still there, the broken sentiments underneath were fresh revelations. Having spent a decade constructing one of modern music's greatest myths, 'Blunderbuss' was where Jack White started finally revealing the man behind them.
44. Jamie T - 'Carry On The Grudge' (2014)
He always had a killer knack for a pop hook, but Treays couldn’t have written the heartfelt likes of ‘Peter’, ‘Mary Lee’ and ‘The Prophet’ back when he was around the first time. ‘Carry On The Grudge’ was the sound of a 28-year-old artist growing – if not old, then at least up.
43. The Horrors - 'Skying' (2011)
'Skying’ was, unpredictably, one of the most joyous and euphoric albums of 2011. There were The Horrors, looking all moody and gothic in black with barely a facial expression between them, playing music that burst with warm synths, almost sun-kissed (well, sunshine on a wintry day) choruses, and propulsive beats you could dance to.
42. Jake Bugg - 'Jake Bugg' (2012)
Forget Ed Sheeran doing three Wembley Stadiums, Jake Bugg sauntered out of the Nottingham open mic circuit - mildly stoned and brimming with breadline balladry and sinkhole estate serenades - and won over the entire nation with one beaten-up acoustic and the whine of the just.
41. Palma Violets - '180' (2013)
Palma Violets’ 2013 debut '180' was a ramshackle mission statement that set the South London quartet up as a gang to invest your whiskey-soaked heart in. Led by co-frontmen Sam Fryer and Chilli Jesson, they bawled and brawled through their rallying call to arms 'Best Of Friends', a righteous reminder that to be exciting you gotta be excited.
40. Laura Marling - 'Once I Was An Eagle' (2013)
Marling is yet to release an album that's been anything less than excellent but her fourth was positively superlative. 'Once I Was an Eagle' is a breakup album with a difference: it's not some mewling lament for lost love but a record about how being on your own is the only way to discover who you truly are.
39. Beach House - Teen Dream (2010)
Smoky, super-languid, like Billie Holiday for the 2010s, Victoria LeGrand pulled enchantment and disenchantment in equal measure out of her melancholy soul. The pain and the pleasures of the heart have seldom existed so much as the two sides of the same knife. Undoubtedly their most definitive testament.
38. Pond - 'Beard, Wives, Denim' (2012)
‘Beard, Wives, Denim’ was made up of thirteen tracks that destroyed boundaries like someone trying to herd a flock of Godzillas. Bolstered by the level of success that Tame Impala had achieved by the time it was released in 2012, it became their breakthrough record.
37. Foals - 'Total Life Forever' (2010)
Foals’ second album expanded their upper-fret noodling to allow for misty atmospherics, billowing emotions and just enough space to let their fingers stop bleeding between flurries of helium riffs. The likes of ‘Blue Blood’ and ‘Spanish Sahara’ were as mature and intricately laced as fine Stilton, and just as nightmare-inducing.
36. Wild Beasts - 'Smother' (2011)
With 2008 debut ‘Limbo, Panto’ and 2009’s follow-up ‘Two Dancers’, Wild Beasts positioned themselves as Kendal’s lewdest romancers. On ‘Smother’, though, the consequences had caught up with them. From the woozy synths and disturbing power-game of ‘Lion’s Share’ to the guilt-ridden ‘Albatross’, ‘Smother’ was sticky with traces of regret.
35. Wu Lyf - 'Go Tell Fire To The Mountain' (2011)
In the space of less than two years, the Mancunian firebrands formed, released this thrilling LP and split. Masters of mythmaking, their first act was to create shadowy fan club-cum-secret society Lucifer Youth Foundation, and the album followed the same tack, a dense blast of youthful hubris delivered with hymnal solemnity.
34. Royal Blood - 'Royal Blood' (2014)
Royal Blood crafted one of the most direct and impressive debuts of the decade, an album that laughs in the face of trends and sticks two fingers up at the notion that rock has had its day. Two best mates burying preconceptions and snobbery and starting a mosh-pit on their graves, 'Royal Blood' is the furious sound of resurgence.
33. Frank Ocean - 'Channel Orange' (2012)
‘Channel Orange’ took the sun-kissed soul wooze of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Songs In The Key Of Life’ and updated it with a cast of over-sexed millennials so debauched they could have been cribbed from a Bret Easton Ellis novel. From gospel ballad ‘Bad Religion’ to epic ‘Pyramids’, Generation Y ennui never sounded so good.
32. Jay-Z / Kanye West - 'Watch The Throne' (2011)
Although hip-hop itself didn’t exactly need ‘Watch The Throne’ to remind the world how exciting the genre can be when at its most arrogant and luxurious, it was probably due a reminder of the power of the collaboration. Jay’s king-of-rap vibe mingled perfectly with Ye’s spoilt brat bits.
31. The National - 'High Violet' (2010)
‘High Violet’ was a portrait of a band who’d reached the peak of their powers. Matt Berninger’s baritone has never sounded more impassioned than when intoning “I don’t wanna get over you” on ‘Sorrow’ and never more deadpan than when coolly explaining “I was afraid I’d eat your brains/’Cos I’m evil” on ‘Conversation 16’.
30. Ariel Pink - 'Before Today' (2010)
Prior to this release, Ariel Pink was an enigma. ‘Before Today’ changed everything. Led by the sublime, joyous ‘Round And Round’ – still his most immediate pop song – it pumped chunky synth lines and bass groove into his crackling lo-fi (‘Hot Body Rub’, ‘Menopause Men’).
29. Run The Jewels - 'Run The Jewels 2' (2014)
Rarely, on any record in any genre, has the sheer force and energy of the music been so irresistible. The first four tracks – the ominous ‘Jeopardy’, the jittery ‘Oh My Darling Don’t Cry’, the funky ‘Blockbuster Night, Pt. 1’ and the Zach De La Rocha-featuring ‘Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)’ – obliterate everything before them.
28. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds - 'Push The Sky Away' (2013)
From ‘We No Who U R’ to the haunting, gentle closer ‘Push The Sky Away’, the Bad Seeds were at the top of their songwriting game on the 15th album. Multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis took a significant role in the album, and his curious musicality chimed powerfully with Cave’s strange, dream-like character sketches.
27. The Maccabees - 'Given To The Wild' (2012)
The Maccabees’ third marked another step in their continued progression from chirpy indie-pop newcomers to purveyors of compositions. ‘Given To The Wild’ was characterised by gradually unfolding gems that aimed to branch out of rock’s usual instrumentation, underpinning glacial guitar lines with brass and glimmering electronics.
26. Savages - 'Silence Yourself' (2013)
Savages were so awash with bold intent that they were almost a parody on meaningfulness. Their debut dropped from the sky like a wrecking ball to the cosy shareable-content slack-is-back vibes of 2013. As though Elastica had re-animated after twenty years spent pickled in salt, ‘Silence Yourself’ was a kick in the shins of an album.