Best Music of the 2010s

I wanted to put together a list of the top 25 albums I've listened to for the decade. In some cases, these are albums that I didn't listen to before making my annual list, and in some cases they are albums that grew on me. It's impossible for me to rank these albums, so instead I'm just going to list them by year.

I started with a list of 70 albums (no duplicates from any artist), and after struggling to bring the list down to 25, I decided I'd let the rest be here as honorable mentions. Whether the album made the main list or the honorable mentions, know that I believe they're all worth listening to.

Quick links: 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019


Tron: Legacy by Daft Punk

The sequel to Tron wasn't much more than a two hour advertisement for the musical prowess of Daft Punk, set to neon lights and action scenes. And I'm 100% here for that. This is an excellent soundtrack, perfectly marrying what makes Daft Punk great with what made Tron such a part of my childhood memories.

Blood Like Lemonade by Morcheeba

2010 includes two down-tempo bands in my list. Morcheeba's Blood Like Lemonade is not my absolute favorite album of theirs (that would go to 1998's Big Calm, likely), but this comes into the top 3 easily.

Mixed Race by Tricky

I got my first Tricky album almost accidentally, while I was still married. I didn't really know much about trip-hop, much less did I appreciate it at the time, but now I'm a huge fan of Tricky, and this album in particular. The calming down-tempo beats are a great way to wind down after a long day.

Honorable mentions

Marrow of the Spirit by Agalloch

Mirage by Armin van Buuren

4x4=12 by deadmau5

Ki by Devin Townsend Project

The Black Album by Jay-Z

Black Swans and Wormhole Wizards by Joe Satriani


Heritage by Opeth

Heritage represents Opeth's first album after lead singer Mikael Åkerfeldt abandoned the death metal growl. It would take several albums before their transition from extreme metal to progressive rock would be complete. Heritage is all clean vocals, but still much of the rest of the melodic metal sensibilities that drove the majority of their career. Fans either hate this album for what it represent, or love it for what it portends.

For True by Trombone Shorty

My friend Steve and I share a decades-long love of a very brief part of Harry Connick, Jr.'s musical career, encompassed by two albums: "She" and "Star Turtle". Unlike anything else he's done before or since, those albums drove a love of modern pop-infused jazz. Knowing our shared feelings for these albums, he told me I should get "For True" by Trombone Shorty, as the sort of spiritual successor to those albums. He's created an effortless fusion of modern pop, R&B, and New Orleans jazz. I've never failed to create a fan with this album.

Honorable mentions

21 by Adele

Khaos Legions by Arch Enemy

Until Fear No Longer Defines Us by Ghost Brigade

Dystopia by Iced Earth

Omnivium by Obscura

Iconoclast by Symphony X


The Heist by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

I'd be shocked if you didn't know about Macklemore & Ryan Lewis. This album was one of the biggest of the year, for good reason: infection beats and an impeccable vocal flow, combined with some incredibly shrewd collaborations like Ray Dalton, Wanz, and Mary Lambert. Filled with positive messages and happiness, you can't help but get out of your chair and dance along.

Honorable mentions

L'Enfant Sauvage by Gojira

Night Visions by Imagine Dragons

Dark Adrenaline by Lacuna Coil

Clockwork Angels by Rush

Dark Roots of Earth by Testament

Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light by Woods of Ypress


The Afterman by Coheed & Cambria

Originally released as a two disc set (Ascension in 2012 and Descension in 2013), this continues Coheed's progressive rock multi-album Amory Wars storyline. The deluxe edition featuring both albums included a hardcover coffee table book.

Via Wikipedia: "The double album tells the story of Sirius Amory, the namesake of the concept, as he explores the energy source holding together the Keywork (the 78 worlds in which the Amory Wars is set) and finds that it is in fact a horrible afterlife for departed souls."

Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep by Spock's Beard

I discovered Spock's Beard in the early 2000s, just in time for their double album concept record "Snow". Not long after, lead singer Neal Morse left the band to start a Christian progressive rock music solo career; drummer Nick D'Virgilio took over the vocal duties with the blessing of Morse (whose brother Alan remains in the band). They struggled a bit to find direction without Neal's writing, and Nick ended up leaving the band in 2011. Ted Leonard joined, and 2013's "Brief Nocturnes and Dreamless Sleep" finally felt like Beard was back and clicking with their pop-infused prog style.

Honorable mentions

Fortress by Alter Bridge

Surgical Steel by Carcass

Vapor by Yosi Horikawa


The Quantum Enigma by Epica

It's no secret that I have a real soft spot for female-fronted metal bands, and symphonic power metal band Epica is one of my favorites. Clean vocalist Simone Simmons is one of the best around, and this album is the peak of their style. It won't go un-listened for long; when I have the desire for high throttle symphonic metal, this is what I constantly reach for.

Citadel by Ne Obliviscaris

Ne Obliviscaris is a fairly recent discovery for me, so I didn't listen to this album when it first came out. The Australian extreme metal band is best known for both mixing death-style growls and clean vocals, along with virtuoso-level violin. The melodic hooks that permeate their music are incredible and awe inspiring.

The Singularity (Phase 1: Neohumanity) by Scar Symmetry

At this point, it should be obvious that I have a real jones for metal that mixes extreme metal growls with clean vocals, especially with heavy melodic tendencies. Scar Symmetry pretty much own this genre for me. The first in a promised trilogy, the album examines the notion of the rise of AI (which they call artilects) and how it ends up leading to a time of transhumanism, merging artilects and human flesh to usher in an era of post-humanity. The worst part of this album is that we're still waiting for Phase 2: Xenotaph, which had originally been promised for 2017.

Honorable mentions

Interstellar by Hans Zimmer

Hozier by Hozier

Once More 'Round the Sun by Mastodon

1989 by Taylor Swift

Saudade by Thievery Corporation

Hydra by Within Temptation


Traveller by Chris Stapleton

Chris is a perfect blend of classic country and blues, with a voice that is like emotional smoke. He is often accompanied by his wife, whose voice is a fantastic match for his in harmony. He's best known for his cover of David Allen Coe's "Tennessee Whiskey", which had been previously made famous by George Jones. Below is a fantastic duet version between Chris and Justin Timberlake performed at the Country Music Awards in 2015 (where they also covered JT's "Drink You Away"). This album is packed with great songs, especially "Fire Away" with its incredibly impactful video.

Meliora by Ghost

I happened onto Ghost during the period of their second album, the heavily Latin (language, not culture) influenced "Infestissumam". I jokingly described them as "the nicest bunch of Satanists you'll ever meet". The musical style is heavily tongue-in-cheek, as evidenced by their videos styles being heavily influenced by things like 70's horror movies. It was Meliora, though, that turned Ghost from an interesting band into one that could tour stadiums. Their songs are incredibly hook-filled pop metal affairs.

The Book of Souls by Iron Maiden

While Iron Maiden flirted with progressive tendencies in their early career, they've embraced it wholeheartedly in their latter years, in a way that is distinctly Iron Maiden. All the signatures are there: long song length, multiple styles blended together, intricate parts, time changes, etc., but you never forget that it's Maiden. They are monsters of touring and still kicking ass, many decades into their career.

Hand. Cannot. Erase. by Steven Wilson

Steven Wilson is progressive rock royalty. There's no other way to say it: he represents the pinnacle of modern prog. His band Porcupine Tree remains one of my all time favorites. His solo work has a bit more of his personal soul infused into it. "Hand. Cannot. Erase." is a masterwork album, packed front to back with some of the best music ever made in any genre. I dare you not to cry during the video for "Routine".

Honorable mentions

Purple by Baroness

Haven by Kamelot

Endless Forms Most Beautiful by Nightwish

Love, Fear and the Time Machine by Riverside

Chronicles of the Immortals by Vanden Plas


Proponent for Sentience by Allegaeon

Allegaeon is a technical death metal band from Colorado that has a hard time taking itself seriously in its videos. The music is brutal in execution and precision, and yet it doesn't create boredom like some technical metal can. It's very difficult to pick a favorite album, so I basically tossed a five-sided coin. 😁 This album includes an excellent cover of Rush's "Subdivisions", which seemed like an appropriate choice given the recent unexpected passing of Rush drummer Neil Peart.

Winter's Gate by Insomnium

This album is a single 40 minute track. A melodic death metal masterpiece. Need I say more? The record company split it up into 7 parts on YouTube, so here's the first 6 minutes. If you have even a vague affinity for this style of music, this is likely to become a favorite album.

Honorable mentions

Jomsviking by Amon Amarth

Atoma by Dark Tranquillity

King by Fleshgod Apocalypse

Dystopia by Megadeth

Hardwired...To Self-Destruct by Metallica


E by Enslaved

Enslaved are a staple of the melodic black metal community; "E" is their fourteenth studio album. Much like Opeth, they have become the standard bearer for the mixing of brutal extreme vocals and clean vocals. Their musicianship and song-writing here is the best of their career, and this is one hell of a memorable musical treat.

Everybody by Logic

I was a pretty big fan of "The Incredible True Story", the album that precedes "Everybody", so I was really anticipating this release. It blew my expectations out of the water. Logic has some of the most incredible flow in rap, and this song writing is more than up to the standard.

Ballads by Paula Cole

Paula Cole is best known for "I Don't Want To Wait," the song from her second studio album that ended up as the title music for the TV series "Dawson's Creek." The front end of her career was definitely filled with pop-radio friendly hits that garnered her great attention. In truth, though, Cole's heart has always belonged to the jazz standards that she grew up loving, and she yearned to do covers that did those songs justice.

Honorable mentions

Damn by Kendrick Lamar

Legends of the Shires by Threshold


Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe is a fixture of 2000/2010s pop radio with her blend of R&B and funk with hip hop styling. In 2016, she starred in the Oscar nominated Hidden Figures as Mary Jackson, one of the trio of NASA "computers" that helped get John Glenn into space. She followed this up with the absolute knock out 2018 album "Dirty Computer," a concept album that she described as an homage to women and sexual identity.

Where Owls Know My Name by Rivers of Nihil

I missed this album when it first came out, or else it surely would've made my list for 2018, possibly at the top (as you'd expect for an album on this list). It's hard to describe the style of the band and album, other than to say that it has some of the best saxophone ever recorded in metal. You heard me. Check out the psychedelic-infused video for the title track.

Devouring Radiant Light by Skeletonwitch

This was actually my pick for my favorite album of 2018, and it's still in regular rotation. It came to my attention based on a mediocre review that lamented the change in vocal style, but it was definitely something that now resonated with me. Two years later, I still can't get enough of the incredible melodies and writing on this album.

The Wake by Voivod

Voivod is a Canadian metal band that's been around for nearly 40 years. Their early career was marked mostly by their punk-tinged political metal. Their modern sound is more clearly rooted in progressive metal, and The Wake offers a sound that's distinctly Voivod, as though it's been pulled through a time machine from 100 years in the future.

Honorable mentions

Queen of Time by Amorphis

Firepower by Judas Priest


Norman Fucking Rockwell! by Lana Del Rey

This album has absolutely gotten under my skin during 2019, and even more so as we've gone into 2020. Though I've listened to some of the more metal-focused albums more in 2019 (especially those from Jinjer and Insomnium), I find that I've grown almost emotionally attached to Lana's incredible voice and song writing. Her cover of Sublime's "Doin' Time" is one of those rare treatments that outshines the original, slowing it down slightly and infusing it with an incredible down-tempo underlayment. The nine and a half minute "Venice Bitch", though, remains my absolute favorite. I debated moving this higher in my 2019 picks, and I should've listened to that instinct.

Honorable mentions

The Atlantic by Evergrey

Micro / Macro by Jinjer

The Verdict by Queensrÿche

Lotus by Soen