It’s 2020 now, so I want to document what I thought was the best music of the 2010’s. However, I don’t really like “best of” lists, as these are the albums and artists that moved me more than others. I’m sure others disagree and there are a lot of albums that are great that I haven’t even heard.
Daniel’s Top 5 for 2010
Witch house wasn’t new, and oOoOO even released a lot of this before, but I remember that phrase being a buzzword at the time. Swans also released, “My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky”, which was the beginning of something new for the band which would shape most of their decade.
oOoOO, “Self Titled”
This little EP is equal parts dark and sensual with a lo-fi vintage edge. A lot of other witch house was appearing at this time, but oOoOO stood out to me as unique and the most well done. It is hard to imagine music with more atmosphere.
The Soft Moon, “Self Titled”
This album was also the birth of an amazing act that helped shape the 2010’s for me. The Soft Moon made industrial style music with a combination of vintage elements and a modern flare. Every album he released since has been amazing.
DEVO, “Something For Everybody”
Look, this isn’t the best DEVO album ever. But it is super fun and I’ve played it to death. Yoo really ought to give it a try!
Swans, “My Father Will Guide Me Up A Rope To The Sky”
Swans had a rebirth for this album and it marked the beginning of a full decade of some of the best music I’ve ever heard.
This album was a little more traditional Swans as it was mostly normal length songs, but the more raw and stripped down approach was there. This would spin off into some of the best albums I’ve ever heard.
Grinderman, “Grinderman 2”
Nick Cave decided a more rockin’ version of The Bad Seeds needed it’s own spinoff, and thus we have Grinderman. This album is amazing, heavy with a vintage edge.
Daniel’s 2010 Playlist
There were plenty of other good albums from 2010, you can see what I had on heavy rotation at Spotify.
2011 had too many good albums and narrowing it down to five picks was truly difficult.
Daniel’s Top 5 for 2011
Zola Jesus, “Conatus”
Zola Jesus wasn’t new in 2011 by any stretch but this album definitely secured her as one of the best artists of the decade. The album has a club friendly post-industrial vibe that is hard to beat, with some of the strongest and best vocal performances in the field.
Deaf Center, “Owl Splinters”
“Owl Splinters” is simply one of the best dark, mysterious and moody post-classical albums of all time. Seriously, when you are alone, put on some headphones and play this in a dark room. You’ll thank me later.
The Caretaker, “An empty bliss beyond this World”
I know it is getting to be a predictable refrain, but The Caretaker’s, “An empty bliss beyond this World” is some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard. It isn’t for everyone, but if you like rich soundscapes, Hauntology and music concrete, seriously, this is amazing. I’ve even dabbled in this style myself, but this is so much better, it leaves me agast in awe.
YAMANTAKA // SONIC TITAN, “YT//ST”
This one is different. A heavy album with a lot of interesting dynamics, strong musical twists and amazing vocal performances. A must include because it is definitely one of my most played albums of the decade.
Exitmusic, “From Silence”
Exitmusic’s introduction was strong, and everything they put out in the 2010’s was amazing. It mostly falls under the postpunk umbrella, but it is uniquely emotive. Also a band that released nothing but good music this decade, but this little EP really stuck with me. It also seems this act dissolved in the 2010’s, which is sad and unfortunate.
Daniel’s 2011 Playlist
There was so much good music in 2011, you definitely should spend some time listening.
Daniel’s Top 5 for 2012
Marissa Nadler, “The Sister”
Marissa Nadler’s music is beautiful and she’s released a lot of amazing music the last ten years. Honestly, I recommend everything but I do love this little EP.
2007’s album “Untrue” by Burial is one of the best albums ever. You know, I think this stuff used to be called dubstep, because of the beat style and warbly bass, but what it became is nothing like what he put out. This is atmospheric electronic music at it’s finest. Most of his out put this decade has been in EPs and the are all good. He compiled them into one release so it is easier to purchase now.
Andy Stott, “Luxury Problems”
Speaking of atmospheric electronic music: holy shit is this album good. I don’t even have any good words, it is mysterious and haunting. Highly recommended.
Earth, “Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light 2”
This album is hard to describe. It is slow, doomy rock, but it isn’t metal and is well crafted. Earth has been around a long time and every album is great, but you definitely don’t want to miss this one.
Greg Haines, “Digressions”
“Digressions” is one of the most intense and beautiful pieces of music I’ve ever heard. It’s classically oriented, but the textures are intense. The piece I fell in love with, “183 times” is a reference to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed being waterboarded “183 times”, and the music sounds like it. I can’t recommend this album enough but be warned: it is intense.
Daniel’s 2012 Playlist
Here is a good overview of what I was listening to in 2012.
Daniel’s Top 5 for 2013
Lustmord, “The Word as Power”
In the early 00’s, I recall Lustmord’s Brian Williams being on some website forums and really trashing the dark ambient term. I don’t blame him, it is a kind of pigeonhole, but I found it a bit ironic since his music grandfathered the whole field. And, at the time, his music was mostly, uhh, ‘ambient’, that was also, umm, ‘dark’. I still understood the point. This album was one of his albums that moved away from being sheer ‘ambient’ in the Eno-esque sense of the word. The vocal performances are invocative and intense. I like everything Lustmord has done, but this is by far my favorite.
Lycia, “Quiet Moments”
Pinkish Black, “Razed To The Ground”
Ok, this makes me feel old, but in the 90’s, I remember The Young Gods opening for Ministry. The metal fans there HATED that band because, you know, where the fuck are the guitars? They could hear them, but they saw some dude playing them on a keyboard. I mean, the crowd really did not like them at all, but they shared Wax Trax! history with Ministry.
Anyway. Pinkish Black reminds me of that. Their music has a very dark metal sound, something more appropriate for a gaming night of D&D, but no real guitars. I think it is more well received these days. Anyway: what a great album. They release all good music but this recording is super intense.
Savages, “Silence Yourself”
What a great album. This is contender for the best album of the decade. Every song is amazing. They have a good old school Gothic/dark rock sound, but they aren’t shitting bats. In fact, it comes at you with a punk rock ferocity. So good. Do yourself a favor and listen to this post-haste.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, “Push The Sky Away”
This is the best album Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds have ever done. And I love most of their catalog. This is so epic, raw and emotional. I managed to catch them live in LA in 2014 and got a few photos, though my lens wasn’t ideal for being all the way in the back.
Daniel’s 2013 Playlist
Here is a good overview of what I was listening to in 2013.
Daniel’s Top 5 for 2014
Esben and the Witch, “A New Nature”
It is dark and heavy, emotive and epic. The whole album is flawless.
Tropic of Cancer, “Restless Idylls”
Dark gothiness that reminds me of The Cure in the Faith/Pornography era… but slower, and more melancholic. These tracks have more atmosphere than can be believed.
Ritual Howls, “Turkish Leather”
I usually leave off friends’ bands or artists I’ve released, but I’m going to let this slide. Chris Samuels, who is in the band, is a guy I go back with, when his band di_sect performed at some of my shows in Detroit, and I helped released his band mates album in 2008.
But, I don’t know anyone else in the band and I haven’t talked to Chris for quiet a few years, so I think this is safe. Anyway, if you like dark and gothic influenced rock, it really doesn’t get better than this. “Turkish Leather” isn’t super heavy but it has just the right mood and atmosphere. It really makes me miss Detroit. Also, they have put out quite a few albums and they are all great, so check them out. They are on the felte record label, and just about everything they release is amazing.
Also, pro tip: felte has been sending me a free record every time I order a vinyl record, so that’s cool.
I was introduced to Boris a long time ago, and while I struggle to describe them, their music is always amazing. This is emotive rock that crosses multiple genres, and nearly everyone can find something to appreciate.
Swans, “To Be Kind”
Daniel’s 2014 Playlist
Daniel’s Top 5 for 2015
Helena Hauff, “Discreet Desires”
Really rich and minimal electronic music with a gritty edge to it. It is so well done, I can’t recommend this album enough.
Sextile, “A Thousand Hands”
I always feel like a broken record saying something is dark, but this is dark. And it has good heavy moments. It reminds me a lot of the notable postpunk acts. It is also on felte, so that’s a form of endorsement.
Lycia, “A Line That Connects”
Ok. Lycia appeared on here twice, but this is one of the best albums I have ever heard. It has tip-top production and lush song writing, it is some of the finest work Lycia has ever done.
Chelsea Wolfe, “Abyss”
Chelsea Wolfe is one of those artists who can do no wrong but this album is sheer epicness. The loud-quiet-loud dynamics are strong and the songs are intense.
Sleater-Kinney, “No Cities to Love”
This album is so good. I sort of have a mental association of grunge and punk with Sleater-Kinney. They haven’t really sounded like this for a long time. This album is almost straight up rock but the songs are so well composed and catchy.
Daniel’s 2015 Playlist
Daniel’s Top 5 for 2016
Xiu Xiu, “Plays the Music of Twin Peaks”
I don’t have much to say here: it’s an album recreating a lot of the music from Twin Peaks, and it is lovingly crafted and superbly executed.
Muscle and Marrow, “Love”
What an intense journey. This album is loud yet tender. It hits hard and is gritty. I came back to this one many times.
King Woman, “Created in the Image of Suffering”
This is beyond epic. It is loud and grindy, but the vocals are equal parts beautiful and guttural. Overall, this is very sludgy metal but it remains splendid.
Public Memory, “Wurthering Drum”
Hey, it is more from felte. This is different. It doesn’t have a postpunk vibe, it is way more akin to some triphop stylings. Even then, it is fairly unique. It is dark and very much fits in with the rest of the felt roster, but it definitely different.
Witching Waves, “Crystal Cafe”
I don’t know how I was introduced to this band, but Witching Waves is so much fun. The bulk of it is uptempo tracks with a vague psychedelic vibe.
Daniel’s 2016 Playlist
Daniel’s Top 5 for 2017
Gnod, “JUST SAY NO TO THE PSYCHO RIGHT-WING CAPITALIST FASCIST INDUSTRIAL DEATH MACHINE”
2017 was tough. Trump had taken the oath of office for president in the U.S. The UK passed Brexit. Fascism seemed to be taking a grip all over. On the whole, music took an angry turn. And I love some angry music. Gnod’s album, which has one of the most simple but effective album covers of all time, is an amazing exploration of this anger.
Priests, “Nothing Feels Natural”
This is a weird one. It is precise, but angry in it’s own way. The music is uptempo and effervescent but this is a really scathing album. On the whole, it is so good it is hard to recommend enough.
Algiers, “The Underside of Power”
The debut album by Algiers was impressive and emotional, but this album is so real, so visceral. It maintains very rich and soulful vocals but the songs jump around genres a lot: a bit of postpunk, a bit of industrial, a bit of noise, a bit of more mellowness but sad, mostly angry. What a journey! This is definitely one of the best albums of the decade and can’t be recommended enough.
Kelly Lee Owens, “Kelly Lee Owens”
So good. Minimal electronic, with solid bass lines and ethereal vocals. Everything is very rich and very moody. It isn’t quite like anything I’ve ever heard before.
Black Asteroid, “Thrust”
More in the “I’m getting old” department: I remember being introduced to Bryan Black’s Haloblack on the Undernet #industrial channel on IRC back in the 90’s.
This is similarly well produced, but it is clean hard hitting techo with a gothy vibe, probably so because there are vocals provided by Cold Cave, Zola Jesus and others. This is so clean and hard hitting. I played this an obscene amount.
Daniel’s 2017 Playlist
Daniel’s Top 5 for 2018
Low, “Double Negative”
There is no way I can describe this album with any justice. It also goes to say this is one of my top picks for the decade… or ever. Low been around for a long time and this carries the highly emotional and beautiful mood from previous work. But this plays out like a noise album, i.e. a lot of the instrumentation is provided by noise and its modifications. What an astounding piece of work!
Nine Inch Nails, “Bad Witch”
Nine Inch Nails has always been one of my favorite acts. I feel “The Downward Spiral” is one of the best albums ever recorded. Thier output in the 00’s was good but not great. This decade, however, has been amazing. Their output has mostly been in the form of shorter EPs and they have been amazing. They are all good, this one is spectacular.
Keygen Church, “░ ▒ ▓ █”
This album was done by the mastermind behind MASTER BOOT RECORD, who would be on this list if he didn’t get squeezed out by other amazing work, including this. This album is amazing. It reminds me of “Castlevania: Symphony of the Night” if it were realized as a metal album. It is largely rich, gothic organs and sharp pianos with crunchy metal guitars, but it is so, so good. It has the spirit of video games in the 90’s and is just so much fun. You really should check out his whole catalog though, it is so great.
Busdriver, “Electricity is on our side”
There isn’t a lot of hip hop representation on this list. And I have a fair bit I liked and listened to, but it isn’t what I’m in love with anymore. As a teen in the 80’s, hip hop was my punk rock. Chuck D’s lyrics were hugely influential and informed a huge part of what I became as a person. In the beginning of the 90’s, popular rap put me off, and the whole West Coast thing, i.e. Tupac et al, was just not my thing. I quit listening to hip hop almost entirely.
In the early 00’s, I discovered Busdriver, and by way of him, I was introduced to a whole new generation of hip hop I loved. I’ll probably write more about this in particular in the future. He’s released a lot of great music, but this album… this album is on another level. It is experimental with jazz influences. The lyrics are amazing as ever but the atmosphere is just too good. Honestly, even if you aren’t a fan of hip hop, be open minded with this. You may not like it, but if you do, it will open up you world.
Grouper, “Grid of Points”
Grouper is the project of Liz Harris who has released an amazing catalog of music. But “Grid of Points” is definitely a highlight for me. It is vaguely ambient, very haunted with classical piano and disembodied vocals woven in. There is so much atmosphere here, I can’t recommend it enough.
Daniel’s 2018 Playlist
Daniel’s Top 5 for 2019
Marissa Nadler & Stephen Brodsky, “Droneflower”
Marissa’s catalog is good but this collaboration album is a sort of departure. It still has a folk sort of quality but it is way more gritty, sort of heavier, and has a lot more atmosphere. This album is solid beginning to end.
Sunn O))), “Pyroclasts”
Sunn O))) released two great albums this year, but I am really in love with one. It is a little shorter and probably not as masterfully composed as “Life Metal” but sonically and texturally it is a masterpiece. Sunn O))) has always produced some of the best drone music but this is on another level.
Lingua Ignota, “CALIGULA”
Dude, this album. I’m not sure if it is beautiful or ugly. It is definitely intense and sends me on a journey. This is not for the feint of heart. This is brutal industrial and noise like it has never been done before.
The Caretaker, “Everywhere, an empty bliss”
HIDE, “Hell Is Here”
Obviously, one of the themes this year is hard noise. This is equal parts post-industrial and noise and is brutal and heavy. As a follow-up to their previous album, it works wonderfully. Again, not for the feint of heart, but highly recommended.
Daniel’s 2019 Playlist
There is no way I listened to everything, and no way I listened to everything that is good, so I am definitely interested in what you love! Leave a comment or share with me on Twitter.