A handful of us at IPR have spent entirely too much time obsessing over what we think the best albums of the decade are. After much deliberation, here are our picks.
We also want to know what your favorite albums were! Tweet us @IowaPublicRadio #iprmusic.
"The album that put The War On Drugs on the map remains powerful and thrilling five years after its release. Singer-songwriter-guitarist Adam Granduciel wrote all of the songs for the record while in the midst of a period of depression and loneliness after the band's 2011 tour. It's a record that reveals more of itself with each listen, blending classic rock influences with more modern, ambient sounds. The War On Drugs' follow-up release in 2017 confirmed that this band is here to stay."
- Tony Dehner, Studio One Tracks host
"Josh Tillman’s sophomore effort under the moniker Father John Misty was my most-listened album of the decade. "I Love You, Honeybear" is a brilliantly composed record, combining moments of grandeur with moments of simplicity and words of cynicism with words of love. Written in anticipation of his marriage to his now-wife Emma, the moments of lyrical sincerity and impressive musicianship within the jokes and social criticisms shine bright in contrast to the swaggering persona Tillman has created with his Father John Misty character."
- Cece Mitchell, Studio One Tracks host
"Damon Albarn is the co-creator of the “virtual band” Gorillaz, and the main musical force in the project. His stated intention with "Plastic Beach" was for it to be a big pop album with depth. He succeeded, entertaining while reminding us of all that plastic quietly floating in the ocean."
- Mark Simmet, Studio One Tracks host
"As with much of Calexico’s material all of the songs on this album are written by Tucson duo Joey Burns and John Convertino, except for Fortune Teller, written by Joey Burns and Pieta Brown, and No Te Vayas by Jacob Valenzuela. I think what I’ve always loved about Calexico is their approach to arranging the material. I love the instrumentation they choose to get that spooky, romantic desert sound, and though this record was recorded in New Orleans, it still evokes that Southwestern, border feel. My favorites are "Better and Better," "Hush," and "The Vanishing Mind."
- Al Schares, Music Director
"All the songs are incredible, and the back story is extremely interesting, making the album feel genuine and almost like a concept album. I can always go back to it when I don't know what to listen to."
- Chris Fenton, Production Assistant and Video Producer
"The lyrics are brutally honest and vulnerable all while being set to a beautiful and atmospheric composition. The live tour that accompanied the album was equally spectacular and remains my favorite concert."
- Sean McClain, Broadcast Operations Specialist
"Big Thief followed its debut just one year later with an album that further highlighted how blissfully Adrianne Lenker’s introspective lyrics and cutting vocals blend with this tight band. With “Capacity,” the group hinted at just how prolific they would be in the second half of the decade while releasing the most powerful collection of songs I listened to in the 2010s."
- Clay Masters, Morning Edition Host and Political Reporter
"This album listens like a good novel: Deep interludes punctuated with catchy, playful choruses invite the listener to see the world from Lamar’s eyes while he sings themes of struggle and – ultimately - hope. It is poetic, powerful and socially relevant for the decade with the fourth track off the album, “Alright,” becoming an anthem of sorts for the Black Lives Matter movement."
- Madeliene King, Development Specialist
“Become Ocean” leads you to making lists of opposites. The music is profoundly comforting but also “ultimately unsettling,” to quote NPR, like the rising sea that inspired it. It won awards from experts, including the Pulitzer and Grammy committees, but also love from non-classical listeners, including a swept-away Taylor Swift, who donated $50,000 to the Seattle Symphony when she heard it. And as the New Yorker's music critic Alex Ross said, under its "gorgeous surface" is "heaving motion" that "conveys overwhelming force," yielding "the loveliest apocalypse in musical history."
– Barney Sherman, Senior Music Producer
"When the Black Keys recorded "Brothers," it was the first album recorded at the famed Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in 30 years. Pat Carney and Dan Auerbach hauled a truck of their own gear to the studio, which had been stripped of recording equipment and reduced to an empty building with nothing but a bathroom and an air conditioning unit. The album has a bass-driven sound which the band attributes to the acoustics of the studio. Carney was coming off a divorce as they were making the record, and I think the the album's sound captures the specific angst that comes along with wanting the next chapter of life to be better at the end of an era."
- Lindsey Moon, Digital Producer
"The combination of his clever lyrics, noteworthy whistling and beautiful ballads on this album specifically stick out to me more than any other album he has created. I find myself listening to it on repeat and am always recommending it to my friends and family."
- Gretchen Kasperbauer, Marketing Manager