Picking a top ten list is always relative. My list will certainly differ from yours, and neither one of us will be right or wrong. So when it came time to put together my list of favourite albums of the 2010s, I went with exactly that – my faves. Not what some may say are the best or most groundbreaking, but the albums I’ve come back to again and again over the last decade. You’ll notice that the artists skew classic rock, but that’s simply because classic rock is my jam. So without further ado, here’s are my faves of the 2010s.
All You Need Is Now
Duran Duran’s 13th studio album was initially released as a 9-track iTunes exclusive, and that’s the one that makes my list. Produced by Mark Ronson, every song is full of hooks, and John Taylor lays down some funky bass lines on tracks like ‘Safe! (In The Heat of the Moment) and ‘Girl Panic’. All You Need Is Now was a return to form for the band and helped cement their relevance for the ensuing decade.
Fly From Here
The twentieth studio album from my favourite band of all time saw the return of keyboardist Geoff Downes to the Yes lineup along with producer Trevor Horn. Together, the Buggles dominated the songwriting process, as they did when they first worked with Yes back on 1980s’ Drama. The Fly From Here suite is as powerful a piece of music that Yes have ever recorded, and the other songs are strong as well. In 2018, Horn would replace the vocals of Benoit David with his own for the Fly From Here – Return Flight album, marking the second and final album to be recorded by the Drama version of Yes.
A Different Kind of Truth
The first album with David Lee Roth since 1984 and the first to feature bassist Wolfgang Van Halen, Van Halen’s twelfth studio album featured a significant amount of trunk songs that dated back to the band’s earliest days. Diamond Dave touched up the lyrics and the musicians did the rest. Highlights include ‘She’s The One’ that could have fit in on any Diamond Dave-era Van Halen album and ‘Blood and Fire’, which the band should have opened their tour with, but sadly never did.
The final studio album from Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson, and Neil Peart also happens to be one of their best, even if you don’t follow along with the heady concept story Peart developed. Instead, bask in the nonstop riffage, changing time signatures and hooks that make the album a fitting sendoff for one of rock’s legendary power trios.
That’s Why God Made The Radio
The Beach Boys
The reunion album that nobody thought would happen is also the Beach Boys’ best since the early 1970s. The majority of the songs on here are strong, while the Boys (Wilson, Mike Love, Al Jardine and Bruce Johnston and honorary Boy and falsetto singer Jeff Foskett) still have an unparalleled vocal blend. The final four tracks on the album form a suite of music that’s nearly as poignant as anything on Pet Sounds. If this is the last album from America’s Band, they’ve gone out on a high.
Rock or Bust
34 minutes. All killer, no filler. AC/DC’s first album without rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young (he shares co-writes on all the songs with brother Angus) is arguably their strongest since 1980’s Back in Black. A bold comment, to be sure, but everything is in its right place. Angus delivers riffs aplenty, Brian Johnson’s voice still has that sweet rasp, and drummer Phil Rudd is always in the pocket. The title track is as anthemic as anything the band’s recorded and was the perfect show opener on tour, even when Axl Rose had to sub for the ailing Johnson.
Released on David Bowie’s 69th birthday, January 6th, 2016, Blackstar also arrived just two days prior to the Thin White Duke’s passing. Bowie knew he was working with limited time, and his twenty-fifth studio album reflects that with its 9-minute title track and the single ‘Lazarus’. Few musicians have dealt with their mortality in such a clear and memorable fashion. Amazingly, another one who does also makes my list.
To think The Monkees would have recorded a classic album in 2016, let alone one that would be a highlight of the decade, is a testament to the enthusiasm everyone behind the endeavour put into it. Working with the full support of Rhino Records and producers Adam Schlesinger and Andrew Sandoval, along with songwriters like Andy Partridge, Rivers Cuomo, Noel Gallagher and Paul Weller, Mickey Dolenz, Peter Tork, and Michael Nesmith delivered an album full of classic power-pop songs (the late Davey Jones makes an appearance as well). This is The Monkees at their best.
You Want It Darker
Cohen passed away just nineteen days following the release of this, his fourteenth studio album. Like Bowie, Cohen knew his time was short and working with his son Adam as producer, he made the most of the days he had left. While the title track would nab Cohen a posthumous Best Rock Vocal Grammy, it’s the gorgeous ‘Treaty’ that’s the album’s most moving moment.
Is This The Life We Really Want?
Roger Waters’ fourth solo is, to these ears, his best. It helps that producer Nigel Godrich surrounds Waters’ still biting lyrics with a warmth he hasn’t had since the heady Pink Floyd days of Dark Side of the Moon and Wish You Were Here. With Trump’s ascendency to President, Waters was mad as hell and he wasn’t going to take it, as songs like ‘Picture That’ and ‘Smell The Roses’ demonstrate.
Toronto electro-pop singer Bossie (Anne Douris) is probably the biggest surprise entry on my favourite album list, if only because she clearly doesn’t fall into the classic rock spectrum. However, Not Pictured is full of catchy choruses and insightful lyrics that resonated not only with me but with my daughter as well. Fans of 80s synth acts will find a lot to love here, especially on the epic closer, ‘Post Teen’.