Top Albums

We were just kids in 2010; now many of us are almost adults. Below are the Spotlight staff’s picks for the best albums of the 2010s.

We grew up with some of these albums. We just recently discovered others. Some make us dance. Some make us cry. Sometimes both. Enjoy. 

Receiving Multiple Votes:

Frank Ocean, “Blonde” (2016)

This album was released on August 20, 2016, four years after Frank Ocean’s last album, “Channel Orange.” Fans have speculated that the use of “Blond” on the album cover and “Blonde” on the album listing is a reference to Frank’s sexual experiences with both men and women and the themes of masculinity and femininity in his life; with “blond” being the masculine form of the word, and “blonde” being the feminine. This album has many iconic songs such as “Solo”, “Pink + White”, “Godspeed” and “Ivy.” Before I had ever listened to any of Frank’s music, I was told that I should listen to this album from start to finish with headphones in and the lights off: it was one of the most peaceful and impactful things in my life. There is something very soothing about his voice that makes you feel safe and comfortable while listening to his music. Similar to A$AP Rocky, Frank has never been afraid to talk about real issues and tell the truth. My favorite song off of this album would have to be “Skyline To” because of the way it helps me to relax and calm myself down. Frank’s elegant and unique voice flows very nicely and allows listeners to connect their emotions to music.

— CAlvin Postal

On “Blonde,” Frank Ocean just simply didn’t miss. The songs are as catchy as any R&B tracks ever produced, but Ocean sacrifices not an ounce of originality, emotion or meaning. “Nikes” and “Ivy” are retrospective, distorted and beautiful. “Pink + White” is a near-religious experience, like a pure beam of sunlight. There has never been a better album to drive late at night to. 

— Leo Kamin

“Blonde” by Frank Ocean is one of those albums that you can listen to on repeat all day. There are absolutely no skips on this album and not one song that disappoints. in this album Frank shows off his amazing vocal skills as well as beats that are so iconic. But we are still waiting for a new album, though.

— Ashton Granger

Ocean’s 2016 “Blonde” album was certified platinum and Time named it the best album of 2016. His songs flow together as he writes rich melodies and his lyrics are very relatable. His music brings up lots of emotion as he changes his melodies and connects you through his lyrics.

— GaBBy Robinson

Kanye West, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” (2010)

Fashioned with plenty of well known artists and producers, the album successfully delivers a sense of R&B and epic pop vocals, as well as edgy alternative rap hits. With plenty of features spanning from the likes of Rick Ross and even Bon Iver, the album consists of a vast multitude of genres. Imagine a bender of hip hop, progressive rap and even rap/opera ballads.

— Allen Harder

Kanye West is one of the best to ever do it. Although he may not be the best at winning elections, his music is incredible. He has released many albums across multiple decades but “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is definitely the best of this decade. Kanye West talks about his life experiences in this album and his claim to fame, showing a side of him the world has never seen before.

— Teague Roark

“My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” is, in a word, big. The sounds are big, from the gospel choir on “Dark Fantasy,” to the stadium-worthy chants on “Power” and the near-crescendo mid-way through “Lost in the World.” The songs are — literally — big; “Runaway” is nine minutes long. The cast is big, from Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon to Elton John and Jay-Z, with the likes of Nicki Minaj and Rick Ross supplying the best verses of their careers. Kanye has never gone bigger, and the music has never been better. 

— LEO KAMIn

Kendrick Lamar, “good kid, m.A.A.d city” (2012)

It’s simple. This album has no skips. Somehow Kendrick is able to come up with an original flow in each of his songs on this album, with the next song sounding better than the one before. He is able to produce a wide array of catchy songs while also telling a meaningful story of his upbringing in Compton. From fast pace lyrics, like in “Backseat Freestyle” to slower melodies like in “Poetic Justice”, Kendrick was able to prove that he is one of the best rappers of all time because of this album. Kendrick showed that he can master any flow of hip-hop, showing off his wide-ranging musical toolkit.

— yoni manor

This is the second of Kendrick Lamar’s studio albums, the first being Section.80 which debuted in 2011. “Good kid, m.A.A.d city,” abbreviated as “GKMC,” was written while he was finalizing the end of his last album, dropping them only 15 months apart. “GKMC” follows Kendrick’s rise to fame and his attitudes about his own talent. The first song, “Sherane AKA Master Splinter’s Daughter” is a flashback to when Kendrick was just a 10th grader living in Compton taking a trip to the store.  At the end of the song, Kendrick describes seeing two males in black hoodies and the fear that spread throughout Kendrick. Recently one of the songs on the album, “Money Trees”, regained popularity and was trending on Tik Tok.  The reason that this album is so significant to me is because I find myself relating to it despite the fact that these are very different eras and locations.

— Calvin postal

MGMT, “Little Dark Age” (2018)

MGMT has an interesting background. They started as two friends in college that made some massive hits. Once the fame got to them, they decided to start making the music that they wanted to make, and unfortunately that drove the fame away. “Little Dark Age” marks their return to mainstream synth-pop. “She Works Out Too Much,” and “Little Dark Age” showcase their ability to make fantastic hooks even after years.

— Harrison Getches

Starting in the small town of Middletown, Connecticut, Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser started their own multi-instrumental group for fun. Eventually, people from their college really started to take notice of the work they were doing, and once they graduated College they received an unbelievable offer from Columbia Records. A year after, with the help of another guitarist in the group, they released their Album “Oracular Spectacular” which became recognized internationally for songs like “Time to Pretend”, “Electric Feel”, and “Kids”. After the success of this album, they released a couple more until they made the album “Little Dark Age” in 2018. This album had great success as the band hadn’t released any music in years. The album consists of dark, but happy lyrics that keep you listening. If you’re looking for meaningful lyrics, this is the album for you.

— Eliot Osborne

The Rest:

Drake, “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” (2015) 

This album was the only thing I was rocking in middle school. “Energy” and “10 Bands” still remain some of my favorite Drake songs, still carrying the lyrical value of Drake even as he dropped massive project after project during this time. “Energy” starts off strong with a verse from Jamacian DJ Jah Walton, “Lickwood means ‘rewind’/ the gunshot means ‘forward’ / You requested it so we rewind.” That verse is sure to put any fan of Drake into a trance as they recite the rest of the smash-hit song verse-for-verse. In his music today, Drake has sped up his music delivery and spit lyrics at a more efficient pace than his earlier albums. But the slow pace of “Know Yourself,” with the infamous “runnin’ through the six with my woes,” stays in the minds of listeners long after they press play.

— Max Brown

Big Sean, “Dark Sky Paradise” (2015)

“Dark Sky Paradise” is by far one of my top four albums. This was a huge album for Big Sean, especially at the time of release. The album is so good that even six years later, I’m still listening and vibing to the album. This album has a mixed vibe but overall, for a rap album, it will make you really want too just sing to the top of your lungs about your ex, sing along about blessings, and then think about how one man can change the world. The album is honestly a masterpiece, and it should definitely be checked out. My top songs I suggest to listen to would be, “Blessings,” “Dark Sky,” “I know,” “Paradise,” “Play No Games” and, lastly, “One Man Can Change the World.”

— Christian Easter

A$AP Rocky, “AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP” (2015)

In 2010, A$AP Rocky dropped one of his best and most influential albums ever titled, “AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP.” This was by far one of A$AP Rocky’s best albums in my opinion. This album holds three well-known throwbacks from A$AP: “L$D,” “Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2” and “Everyday.” At the time of release the album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, with 139,000 album equivalent units and 139,000 copies in pure album sales in its first week. Four years Following that on October 16,2019 the album became certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipments of 2,000,000 units in the United States. This album has some of the best chill and vibey rap songs you will ever hear, and on top of that, A$AP is just a lyrical genius when it comes to word play.

— CHRISTIAN EASTER

Travis Scott, “Rodeo” (2015)

“Rodeo” by Travis Scott was by far one of Travis Scott’s most influential albums with songs that stand out such as “Antidote,” “Apple Pie,” “3500” and 90210. These are some of the top songs on the album and Antidote along with 90210 has some of the best visuals you will ever see, but Travis Scott is famous for that its to be expected. This album has some of the most chill vibes but at the same time will make you want too bop your head and sing and hum along.

— CHRISTIAN EASTER

The Cab, “Symphony Soldier” (2011)

This album is one that I listened to religiously while I was going through my pseudo-emo phase back in seventh grade. The pop-rock band created an album that I have danced to, cried to and really done everything in between to. Favorites include “Grow Up and Be Kids,” “Temporary Bliss,” and “Endlessly”.

— Kayla dunlap

Rico Nasty, “Nasty” (2018)

Image result for nasty rico "nasty" album cover

In her sixth public mixtape, rapper Rico Nasty gave us bangers we can fully “Rage” to. Packed with energy, all 14 songs on the album are sure to have you out of your seat and in the mosh pit. Compartmentalizing different aspects of her personality, “Nasty” shows off Rico’s talent as a multi-genre artist, as she dabbles in melodic trap, pop, and anger-filled rap. After the release of her record, she was “Countin’ Up”, having an estimated net worth of $150,000, which has only increased since her newest release, “Nightmare Vacation” (2020). She truly is a “Transformer” of rap and has a bright future ahead of her.

— Maddy levin

The 1975, “I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful Yet So Unaware of It” (2012)

Image result for i like it when you sleep for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it lyrics

Released in 2016, this is definitely one of the best albums by The 1975. It contains a wide variety of sounds including synth-pop, new wave, indie rock and soul, so one of the things that makes it phenomenal is that it’s not limited to one genre, leaving listeners in an ambient, vivid transcendence. My favorite songs are “Nana,” “Somebody Else,” and “This Must Be My Dream.” The record cycles through the themes of insanity, elation, desperation, and addiction, and the band members absolutely fulfilled their mission to cover a wide variety of concepts with great amounts of depth. 

— Ally Yaeger

Joey Bada$$, “1999” (2012)

Joey Bada$$ is one of my favorite artists and in my opinion is still slept on to this day. I can easily compare him to the lyrics of J. Cole and the flow of Kendrick Lamar. If you are still not listening to his music, then that should change soon because he has tons of music and different styles, too. He released “1999” when he was only 17 years old.

— Teague Roark

Chance the Rapper,” Acid Rap” (2013)

This album came out at a time when free music streaming was at its prime via services such as Soundcloud and Youtube. Various up-and-coming rappers from their local areas saw this as an opportunity to put out their own mixtapes for free, giving rise to several new rap artists over time. One notable artist worth mentioning in this context is Chicago native, Chance the Rapper. Chance had dropped out of high school to focus on making music, and released his first mixtape 10 Day in 2012 which caught the attention of local Chicago producers/artists, and even Complex Magazine who mentioned him as one of the “10 new rappers to watch out for.” His second mixtape “Acid Rap” received even more acclaim, and debuted at #63 on the Billboard top R&B/Hip-Hop chart

— Nick virnich

Young Thug, “So Much Fun” (2019)

“So Much Fun” was Young Thug’s debut studio album, and it did not disappoint by any means. I would even go so far as to say that it is his best album ever. Alongside the deluxe, this album is easily one of the best released in 2019. Almost every song is a hit and everytime I end up listening to the album, there is not a song I would skip. Alongside Young Thug’s amazing vocals, beats by Southside and Weezy help this album take the step from great to amazing.

— John Drumm

The Band Camino, “tryhard” (2019) 

The Band Camino is a band that I only discovered during quarantine, but they have quickly risen to be one of my favorites. While “tryhard” is their only proper album, they have plenty of EPs and singles to enjoy. Favorites from this album include “Hush Hush,” “Daphne Blue,” and “Farsighted”.

— Kayla dunlap

Paramore, “Paramore” (2013)

Image result for paramore album cover

This album is one of the best albums to be created, not only because of the lyrics, but because of how hype this band is. Every time I hear the song “Ain’t It Fun,” it really brings joy to my heart.

— Antoinette Barr-Cooper

Tame Impala, “Innerspeaker” (2010)

Tame Impala’s debut album “Innerspeaker” came out right at the turn of the decade in the Spring of 2010, and it has always stood out as my favorite of his albums. I didn’t even discover this album or Tame Impala until the end of the decade, but by then I was truly astonished by the musical creativity of multi-instrumentalist and Australia-native Kevin Parker. Parker’s first studio release perfectly captured his dreamy and beautiful, yet raw and sonically charged world of psychedelic music. This was something that really appealed to me, as I had been listening to older acts with similar approaches such as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. But what astonished me about Tame Impala was how Parker had handled all of the instruments and production of his music, and gave it a new futuristic sound that I had not heard anywhere else. Songs like “Solitude is a Bliss”, Lucidity”, or “Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?” (notably sampled on A$AP Rocky’s “Sundress”) take you through a sonic highway of dreaminess, while song’s like “It Is Not Meant To Be” and “Jeremy’s Storm” give you more of an eerie feeling. All of this accomplished with his electric, space-dubbed, funky sounds coming from his guitar, bass, drums, and, of course, synthesizer. This album is a must-listen.

— Nick Virnich

Joe Hisaishi, “The Wind Rises (Soundtrack)” (2014)

Image result for the wind rises soundtrack cover

I’m a huge fan of all the Studio Ghibli films because of the animation and storytelling, but a large part of the whimsical and fantastical charm can be entirely accredited to Joe Hisashi’s musical composition talent. “The Wind Rises,” released in 2014, tells the story of Jiro Horikoshi (through a semi-fictionalized, fantasy-laced lens), the chief engineer of many Japanese fighter designs of World War II. Instead of dwelling on themes of warfare and bloodshed, the film does exactly the opposite, elaborating on how a young boy’s fascination with flight and dreams of designing airplanes translate to the rest of his adulthood. The soundtrack is entirely instrumental, where Hisashi creates the sensations of flight, the grandiosity and intensity of high spirits and dreams, and the melancholy longing for love. This has been a fantastic album to listen to when taking notes for homework, and I strongly recommend you watch the movie too! 

— Ally Yaeger

The Marias, “Superclean, Vol. II” (2018)

Image result for superclean vol 2

This album is filled with soft Spanish and English vocals and instrumentals. Songs like ”Over the Moon” and ”Cariño” gives the entire album a dreamy feel.

— Mia Moreno

David Bowie, “Blackstar” (2016)

With themes of jazz, reflection, and biblical references throughout the album, this compilation of Bowie’s music is the darkest one yet. Released only two days before he tragically died from liver cancer, the album appears to allude at his acceptance of the death that soon awaits him. The songs are slow in tempo and the music feels ominous. In his songs “Lazarus” and “Blackstar,” there are many metaphors and analogies weaved into his lyrics.

— CHANNING icenogle

Kanye West, “Ye” (2018) 

Image result for ye

“Ye” by Kanye West is a very short and sweet album. This album only contains seven songs and after listening to it you wish there were so many more. If you like lyrics as well as amazing soundtrack this album is for you. Most importantly, what makes this album stand out is how he dropped it while he was at his lowest of lows. This album shows his struggles. Life got hard, but he delivered and gave us this album.

— Ashton Granger

Drake, “Nothing Was the Same” (2013)

“Nothing Was the Same” has a lot of emotion to it. It can really put you in your feelings. However, at the same time, you can still vibe to it and relate. This album will forever go crazy.

— Antoinette Barr-Cooper

Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Hamilton (Soundtrack)” (2015)

“Hamilton,” by Lin-Manuel Miranda, was written in 2015 and tells the story of the American Revolution almost entirely in rap. This musical first opened on Broadway, featuring the most diverse cast ever seen in theater history. The music conveys a rich spin on our history, and is a must listen for anyone who likes musicals, music or both.

— Carly Boies

Summer Walker, “Over It” (2019)

Summer Walker is an upcoming artist who wasn’t recognized by people until her song “Girls Need Love” in 2018. This song is what made Summer Walker relevant. In 2019, Summer dropped the album “Over It,” and it blew up. I love and know each song on this album. Summer Walker makes you want to fall in love but also makes you want to be selfish with your love. Her song “Over It”, the starting song of this album which also happens to be one of my favorite songs on her album, is one of her most underrated songs. She sings about feeling like she is like she was too much to handle, because of failed past relationships. Later on she then realizes she is not the problem and starts to notice her worth. Summer’s album has been very empowering for people suffering from failed relationships. This is not only one of the best albums of my generation, but it is also the best album of 2010. Summer worked hard on this album through anxiety. Summer suffers from anxiety, but puts that into her music. The passion she puts into her career is extremely astonishing. The year 2019 belongs to Summer Walker.

— Jermani Howard

Modern Baseball, “Sports” (2012)

For an entirely self-produced album, “Sports” is amazingly well-thought-out, despite often toeing the line between honest and melodramatic. Angsty and angry, the album relies on a relatability that is often difficult to represent well, and pulls it off with amazing technicality. Heavy on both clean guitar riffs and grungy acoustic chords, the album uses both instrumentals and lyrics to depict a story of teenagers who are already absolutely disenfranchised with the world. The first track on the album, “Re-Do” and it’s equally well written counterpart “Re-Done” are a great depiction of the band’s creativity. The use of callbacks and lyrics driven by anger and fear, like “my family and friends would be crushed / but is it enough / (oh no it’s not enough) / oh the future freaks me out / but I guess I could just / curl up in a ball” brings a sense of urgency to everyday fears and panic that allows the listener to really bask in their own emotions.

— Thomas Bohlen

Tyler, the Creator, “Goblin” (2011)

Tyler’s 2011 “Goblin” album debuted at #5 on the US Billboard 200. His album is exciting and different from other hip-hop artists as he broke many hip-hop rules. His songs are dark but beautiful and allow many emotions at one time. His lyrics are highly crafted but also terrifying, using jazz to give feelings and tones of mystery (in a good way).

— Gabby Robinson

Travis Scott, “Days Before Rodeo” (2014)

In Houston, Tex., Travis Scott was an up and coming young rapper, having only released one mixtape that didn’t have much success. He continued to persevere to make it big in the Houston rap scene, and with the release of his free album “Days Before Rodeo,” he started to notice a huge shift in his audience. Ever since then, his albums have only been getting more and more fans. He’s a great artist to listen to if you like good rhythm and lyrics. The album consists of multiple genres that anyone can listen to, and it’s overall some of his best work.

— Eliot Osborne

Drake, “More Life” (2017) 

“More Life” is an album you can listen to that will put you into different moods. Drake has put very uplifting songs in this album as well as songs that can slow things down. This album contains songs that show how diverse of an artist drake is as well as why he is such a successful artist.

— Ashton Granger

Wallows,Nothing Happens” (2019)

Image result for wallows nothing happens

“Nothing Happens” is one of those albums that I’ll come back to continually for the purpose of jamming out to something catchy. It is upbeat and catchy, and every band member is able to master the feel-good indie-pop vibe. All of their songs relate to the joys of adolescence, in addition to young love and the importance of friendships. I was obsessed with this album for most of 2019, and I hope you’ll all give it a listen. A few favorite tracks of mine include “Remember When,” “Scrawny,” and “Ice Cold Pool.” 

— Ally Yaeger

Sorority Noise, “Joy, Departed” (2015) 

The epitome of 2010s nostalgic pop-punk and alt rock, Sorority Noise’s 2015 album “Joy, Departed” introduces gentle vocals and soft acoustics that often evolve into intense electric guitar and near screaming. The band writes lyrics that bring the listener into their own minds, with tracks like “Art School Wannabe” featuring lines like “maybe I’m my own greatest fear / maybe I’m just scared to admit that / I might not be as dark as I think.” The album is reminiscent of a modern day Weezer, and is one of the best examples of current-day indie-rock.

— Thomas Bohlen

Lana Del Rey, “Ultraviolence” (2014)

The only way I can describe this album is melancholy. Every song has a beautiful yet tragic feel to it. Some songs—like “Florida Kilos”—are a lot more upbeat than others—“Old Money”, for example—but they both radiate the same feelings and theme as the entire album. For me, this is Lana Del Rey’s best album, as I think it captures the theme of all of her music perfectly.

— Mia Moreno

alt-J, “An Awesome Wave” (2012)

Image result for an awesome wave

alt-J has been prevalent in the music scene ever since this debut album was released in 2012. They are an indie-rock band from Europe, and have had many hits that crossed the Atlantic. “Tessellate” and “Breezeblocks” had a solid reception, and are songs that remain to impress new listeners even today. After this album, alt-J has produced eight more albums, three of them being EPs. I recommend listening to a couple songs on this playlist if you are looking for upbeat rock that has a calm vibe.

— Harrison Getches

Travis Scott, “Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight” (2016)

Many were introduced to Travis Scott when he released his long-awaited album “Astroworld,” which became his best performing album by far, but his unique hype flow starts with “Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight” in 2016. You can vibe to any song on this album, literally any. Travis’s mastery of autotune makes every song a banger. With features from artists like Young Thug in “pick up the phone”, Kid Cudi in “through the late night”, and The Weeknd in “wonderful”, Travis is able to produce a masterpiece of rager Hip-Hop.

— Yoni Manor

Rihanna, “ANTI” (2016)

Putting the “Work” into this album, Rihanna outdid herself with “ANTI” in 2016. While the musician has since handed down her microphone—opting to start a cosmetics and lingerie brand instead—her music has undoubtedly made a lasting impact on both fans and non-listeners. The record features appearances from Drake and SZA, telling many stories, none alike. The album is anti-expectations, anti-establishment and anti-colonial and it goes against the mainstream pop paradigm, hence its title. While Rihanna may make the “Same Ol’ Mistakes”, “ANTI” will truly “Woo” you.

— Maddy Levin

Mitski, “Be the Cowboy” (2018)

Thought provoking in its presentation, the songs in this album are focused on the human condition, loneliness and the complexities of relationships. While songs vary between pop- and alternative-sounding, all of Mitski’s work in this album holds very strong sentiments that are shared by many people. She allows her songs to properly convey feelings that are difficult to fully put into words. A good choice for a more upbeat song is “Nobody,” while songs like “Washing Machine Heart” and “Me And My Husband” have a more powerful force driving them.

— Channing Icenogle

Chief Keef, “Finally Rich”(2012)

This album is simply a masterpiece. There is not a single album out there that can replace the number one spot. The most impressive part is that Keith Farrelle (Chief Keef) was only 16 years old when he released this album in 2012. He has released the best songs ever written by a teenager all in the same album. Keith Farrelle has verified G.O.A.T status in the rap game.

— Teague Roark

Jesse Jo Stark, “Wish I Was Dead” (2018)

“Wish I Was Dead” by Jesse Jo Stark is a rock album filled with spooky guitar riffs, accompanied by sultry vocals, which can be heavily heard in both “Wish I Was Dead” and “Rot Away”. I just like this album because I feel like there aren’t many out there that have the same feel this one does, so I enjoy it.

— Mia Moreno

Khalid, “American Teen” (2017)

Khalid’s 2017 heartfelt album was certified platinum and received a Grammy nomination for Best Urban Contemporary Album. His raspy voice and sincerity makes his songs flow and his lyrics touch your soul. Khalid wrote these songs about his high school experience, hence why many young people can relate to his songs.

— Gabby Robinson

Daft Punk, “Random Access Memories” (2013)

Arguably the best electronic duo to come out of the 200os/2010s era, Daft Punk continued their strides in 2013 with vibrant tracks on “Random Access Memories.” The usage of vocoders and synths play a large role in building an electronic and funk album that pays tribute to the 80s. If you want a well polished electronic album fused with funk, disco and catchy pop choruses, Daft Punk created just that.

— Allen Harder

SZA, “Ctrl” (2017)

In 2017, SZA dropped the “Ctrl” album. Her song “Weekend” blew up and every radio station and every teen was restarting the song after playing it for the first minute just to hear it again. This whole album is genius. SZA sings about being someone’s side girl to wanting to be a “Normal Girl”. Her song “Normal Girl”, is a song for POC, the LGBT community and especially Black women to relate to. The song is about wanting to fit into society’s beauty standards, because it is hard to have a love life when you don’t fit in and look how America wants you to, about knowing what it feels like wanting to fix things about yourself that you can not change, how she wishes someone would be interested in her and how she also just wants to be “normal” enough to be taken back and meet their family. Besides SZA having amazing original, lyrical and heartfelt songs, she also has beautiful vocals as a young Black artist. SZA has earned everything after working hard. Miss SZA girl, you carried the year 2017 on your back, bare footed, in the desert.

— Jermani Howard

The Front Bottoms, “Talon of the Hawk” (2013)

The Front Bottoms have always been recognized for their lyricism, with constant metaphors and themes, often depicting frontman Brian Sella’s struggle with self worth and problematic relationships with those around him. Some songs, like “Peach” begin with soft lyrics about what seems like a comfortable relationship until later depicting a toxic, unhealthy situation, through lines like, “You say I should think before I talk / You say I should think about my life / Cause once I finally hit the ground / Who’s gonna drag me into the light.” Other songs, like “Twin Sized Mattress” use constant metaphors to depict Sella’s loved one’s struggles with substance abuse, and how it feels to attempt to help them through recovery. The opening line is one of the best examples of this, singing “This is for the lions / living in the wiry broke down frames of my friends bodies / when the flood water comes it ain’t gonna be clear / it’s gonna look like mud / but I will help you swim.” Despite the varying tone and content of the album, however, every song holds in common stunning acoustic guitar and drums and raw vocals that can only belong to a band with such a specific, chaotic sound to them.

— Thomas Bohlen

Taylor Swift, “1989” (2014)

Now, like most of us, I grew up listening to Taylor Swift; I’m pretty much her ideal demographic (with her older stuff at least). Picking just one of her albums was hard, but I settled on “1989” because it is most reminiscent of when I started actively choosing to listen to Taylor Swift, this album being my start. Favorites include “Style,” “I Know Places,” and “New Romantics”.

— Kayla Dunlap

Current Joys, “Wild Heart” (2013)

“Wild Heart” is a great alternative rock album and perhaps my personal favorite on this list. Released in January 2013, the album has aged like fine wine and still holds up against all more modern indie and alternative rock albums. The album is around half-an-hour long and consists of 10 songs. The album released by Nick Rattigan who is also interestingly the lead singer to another indie beach rock band Surf Curse. the album seems to take some inspiration from both beach rock and 80’s post punk. Overall amazing album, it’s one of my favorites.

— javier Boersma

Vampire Weekend, “Contra” (2010)

Though its subject matter ranges from Tom’s of Maine Natural Toothpaste, to Horchata and the Museum of Modern Art, Vampire Weekend’s “Contra” never strays from what truly makes it great — the vibe. Glittery and playful synths, xylophones and vocal runs make the album irresistible. Clever lyrics make it nearly infinitely replay-able. If summer had an album, it would be “Contra”

— Leo Kamin

Tame Impala, “Currents” (2016)

The incredible bass paired with the smooth melody creates a hypnotic feel to the sound, leaving you mesmerized and slightly calm. This album, unlike Tame Impala’s past few albums, is focused on the idea of change and how life is constantly moving forward. This tone is immediately set in the piece “Let It Happen” as the song seems to be stuck in a loop, yet still changing with time. The album can give an almost nostalgic feeling in reflecting on what has passed with also conveying a feeling of hope for the future.

— Channing Icenogle

Gorillaz, “Plastic Beach” (2010)

Another album filled with a handful of features, notably Little Dragon and Bobby Womack, “Plastic Beach” delivers eccentric vocals for an album focused on climate change issues and a world that is barreling towards a dystopian future. The verses are bombarded with somber and melancholy tones, a bit funkier than most albums at the time but well worth the listen.

— Allen Harder

A$AP Rocky, “LONG.LIVE.A$AP” (2013)

Image result for long live asap

Released on Jan. 15, 2013 and produced by ASAP Worldwide, “LONG.LIVE.A$AP” was the first studio album from Rocky. This was one of the first hip hop albums to use cloud rap, adding in some more melodic pieces to balance out its intense beats. However, this album encompasses many different moods with some songs like, “Wild for the Night” and “F**kin Problems” being much more intense and fast paced, while other songs like, “Phoenix” are much more relaxed. In the song “Phoenix”, Rocky isn’t afraid to talk about suicide, poverty, and depression. This song always really hits me deep and I find myself getting pulled in by the lyrics which is what a good song should do. The reason that this album is so impactful is because Rocky doesn’t rap about guns and fancy watches, but instead he talks about real topics and challenges himself to make songs that have meaning, allowing his audience to really listen and resonate with his lyrics.

— Calvin Postal

Anaïs Mitchell, “Hadestown (Soundtrack)” (2019)

This popular musical opened in 2019 and quickly became a favorite on Broadway. Written about the greek story of Orpheus and Eurydice, the southern inspired music gives a modern twist on this old myth.

— Carly Boies

Lord Huron, “Strange Trails” (2015)

Written by the musician Lord Huron in 2015, this indie-rock album is fun and upbeat. The music gives an interesting take on life, hiking and ghosts, among other things, and it is catchy enough to be an interesting listen.

— Carly Boies

Kanye West, “The Life of Pablo” (2016)

Kanye West’s seventh album, “The Life of Pablo”, is a music revolution. West described his work as “a gospel album with a lot of cussing.” The description is self-evident, combining hymns and gospel singing with his hard-core, in-your-face Chicago lyricism. “Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 1” took the music industry by storm. Even though the song is only about two minutes long, the buildup at the beginning of the song is highlighted by church-like singing and a unique bass, leading to a powerful beat drop followed by an intense regiment of piano. Personally, my favorite song on this album is “No More Parties in LA.” As is typical of Ye, the song descriptions never include the names of the featured artists. The song features a monster verse by Kenrick Lamar, followed by an impressive four-minute adlib. The song is a good representation of the whole album, which highlights West’s ability to draw the listener into a story that has no end in sight.

— Max Brown

Mac Demarco, “2” (2012)

Despite its name, “2” by Mac Demarco has an abundance of songs–11 to be exact–each promising good vibes and blue skies to all who listen. One of the album’s most popular songs, “My Kind of Woman”, depicts the love story of a man and his feminine self–truly groundbreaking for its time. While the Canadian’s other more renowned songs on the album (“Freaking Out the Neighborhood” and “Cooking Up Something Good”) don’t necessarily echo this sentiment, his songs are simple, with the subject matter lying just below the beautiful strum of his guitar.

— Maddy Levin

Lil Uzi Vert, “Luv Is Rage 2” (2017)

Many see “Lil Uzi Vert vs. The World” as Uzi’s best album but overlook his following project, “Luv Is Rage 2”. The sequel to Uzi’s debut album, Uzi exemplified his development as an artist over the years and it’s impressive, to say the least. “The Way Life Goes” had people across the world in their feels, “XO Tour Llife3” had fans raging for days, and “20 Min” catchy flow had thousands dancing to it on TikTok. “Luv Is Rage 2” cemented Uzi as a Hip-Hip artist who is here to stay.

— Yoni Manor

Cavetown, “Cavetown” (2018)

Image result for cavetwon by cavetown

“Cavetown” is a self-titled indie album by the artist Cavetown, released in November 2015, the album consists of 8 songs and is nearly half-an-hour long. Cavetown is a instant classic with its soft beats and vocals and seems deeply personal as for example Devil Town seems to talk of being a child with two parents going through a divorce, overall the album is a great album to listen to when driving or whenever else you need.

— Javier Boersma

Kendrick Lamar, “DAMN.” (2017)

“DAMN.” was my first introduction to the storytelling power and prowess of Kenrick Lamar Duckworth. While “HUMBLE” dominated the airwaves for a good six months, the rest of the album serves a good reminder that Kung-Fu Kenny is one of rap’s leading storytellers. On “XXX,” featuring U2, Lamar tells the story of “Little Johnny,” a character Lamar alludes to in other songs and uses as a catalyst to portray some of his experiences and the general story of a kid growing up in Compton. There is no shortage of earth-shattering lyrics, like in the last song on the album “DUCKWORTH.” The song tells the story of Lamar’s father, who was working at a KFC in Los Angeles before Kendrick was born. The store was robbed, but because Lamar’s father was friends with the robber, his life was spared, securing Kendrick Lamar’s fate. The album takes a different approach from Lamar’s previous albums like “Good Kid M.A.A.D City” and “To Pimp A Butterfly,” but the lyrical genius is still evident.

— Max Brown

Drake, “Take Care” (2012)

If I could go back and relisten to Drake’s “Take Care” for the first time again, I would take that chance and run with it. Whenever I listen to this album it makes me feel like a little kid, driving through downtown on our way to pick up my step-dad up from work. Drake’s song “Take Care” would be blasting on radio and speakers at 9 p.m. at night. Throughout his whole album, Drake allows us to feel all his past pain and see his healing process through his lyrics. One of my favorite songs from this album is, “Shot For Me” because in the song Drake has finally healed from a relationship and calls out a few exes, letting them know that he made them and they will miss him, so take a shot for him. This whole album carried the year 2011.

— Jermani Howard

Frank Ocean, “Channel Orange” (2012)

I love this album, from the rhythm to the lyrics. A lot of the songs Ocean writes are touching and beautiful at the same time. This album really connects to real world problems as well.

— Antoinette Barr-Cooper

Tool, “Fear Inoculum” (2019)

Tool’s album “Fear Inoculum” was the first album from the band after their thirteen-year hiatus after releasing “10,000 Days.” “Fear Inoculum” is an amazing album, capturing all the great elements of a Tool album with songs like “Pneuma,” “Invincible” and “Descending.” Tool created a masterpiece with this album, sounding almost primitive throughout. It is an amazing album to listen to if you’re interested in Tool.

— John Drumm

Kodak Black, “Dying to Live” (2018)

Kodak Black has had a troubling legal history, but with a recent pardon from former president Donald Trump, he is a free man once again. Regardless of this, his album in 2018 showcased the way Kodak can tell a story through his music. “Calling My Spirit”, “ZEZE”, “Gnarly”, and “If I’m Lyin I’m Flyin”, were all massive hits, and songs like “Testimony” highlighted his troubled background and the impact it’s had on him.

— Harrison Getches

Boyscott “Goose Bumps” (2015)

Image result for goosebumps boyscott

“Goose Bumps” is an indie rock album released in November 2015, the album consists of 10 songs and is around half an hour long in total. “Goose Bumps” is the perfect relaxed and carefree album for your summer and seems as though it belongs in a coming-of-age movie. Overall, it’s a great album.

— Javier Boersma