My Favorite Music Of This Decade

At the start, we must acknowledge it’s not the end of “The Decade,” which doesn’t happen for another year, since there’s no “zero” year to begin with. But it does feel momentous since we’re changing two digits from 2019 to 2020. Thus, here is “My Favorite Music Of This Decade.”

BONUS: Listen to the entire curated playlist here.

Also, this is not a list of the world’s most important music or critical albums changing the course of music’s history or anything pretentious like this. Of course, that being said, I do listen to a lot of brilliant albums, think critically of musicianship, play live music, and geek out over everything from production and headphones to songwriting and samples.

Some Parameters

Mostly you will find this list contains those albums that have consistently shaped my life and represent the music that I found the most impressive, iconic, and incredible –specifically when compared to the massive amount of other music in the world and in my queue.

Is it subjective? Absolutely. It’s art.

Will you agree with it all? Absolutely not. Fine by me. Be sure to let me know what you would add/remove, though –sharing is caring.

In what order is this presented? Chronological by year –otherwise no sense of hierarchy, with the exception of these first two albums (Hill, Coldplay).

The Favorite Music

1998, Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill

This album was instrumental in my education –and I can’t not talk about Hill’s influence on me and my favorite music without mentioning this forever fact. This album is seemingly timeless in it’s beauty, art, production, and value.

2000, Coldplay, Parachutes

Likewise, this album is thoroughly present when I am listening to new music, dreaming of what music can be, and generally thinking critically of any musician(s). It remains stellar.

2009 | John Mayer, Battle Studies

Continuum (2006) was mindblowing and did not need any “improving upon” –which is great because Battle Studies somehow stands on it’s own as a follow-up record with similar, but experientially different tracks.

2009 | Mumford & Sons, Sigh No More

This album quickly became an all-encompassing soundtrack of my winter-spring seasons. It’s raw, fun, musically “uncomplicated,” but uncompromisingly personal.

2009 | John Mark McMillan, The Medicine

Perhaps the most consistently awe-inspiring start to an album –the first six tracks all had this sense of being revelational in it’s delivery and lyricism. I finished this album with tears, full of gratitude.

2009 | Mat Kearney, City of Black & White

An entire album of heartfelt, relatable songs: this is one of those albums that feels like the friend you always want to reconnect with, you want to travel with, you want to drink coffee with.

2010 | Bruno Mars, Doo-Wops & Hooligans

The album that gave us Grenade also gave us repeat summer singles and the most humble, creative version of Mars to date.

2010 | James Vincent McMorrow, Early In The Morning

Not quite a concept album, but feels very much conceptual –this is one to transcend decades both with content and sonic creation.

2010 | Brandon Flowers, Flamingo

A powerful debut solo studio album by American singer-songwriter and The Killers lead singer Brandon Flowers, it feels like every good part of Hot Fuss and Day & Age reimagined for a distilled, lasting album.

2011 | Ed Sheeran, +

The beginning of a near-unending musical trajectory of clever, smart, winsome albums.

2011 | Coldplay, Mylo Xyloto

This is an expansive, ambient-backed, futuristic album that feels almost deconstructed and distant from 2008’s incredible Viva La Vida, but far more connected and cohesive than 2014’s Ghost Stories.

2011 | The Civil Wars, Barton Hollow

At once all their own and yet also undoubtedly inspired from many years of legendary folk artists and albums before, Joy Williams and John Paul White have created an epic album from beginning to end.

2012 | The Lumineers, The Lumineers

Criticized by a few for being “too simple,” this album was, in many respects, the gateway for all things contemporary Americana and the inspiration for so many future artists.

2014 | Andy Mineo, Never Land

At the time, I argued that Andy Mineo was largely creating new territory, actually doing a new thing. And this album felt every bit as fresh, hard-hitting, and breakthrough as this NYC rapper, producer, and artist.

2015 | MUTEMATH, Vitals

Full disclosure, I have loved MUTEMATH from the start –Vitals was the band’s first album on their own label, Wojtek Records, and seems to capture the pulse of their collective spirit of innovation; every track feels inspired.

2015 | Chris Stapleton, Traveller

Many thought Chris Stapleton “just appeared” on the scene with Justin Timberlake, but this album proves he had been hard at work throughout his life of songwriting and honing his craft. Stapleton’s voice is everything.

2015 | Adele, 25

What else is there to say –she sets the bar every. single. time. This is one of those albums where you just feel grateful that she is making music in this day and age, and we’re recipients of her gift.

2015 | United Pursuit, Simple Gospel

Worship music on the whole is a complicated musicalscape –but United Pursuit have made a holistically joyful record that I have yet to grow tired of after four years.

2016 | Bon Iver, 22, A Million

Here’s another full disclosure moment –Justin Vernon could very well be my favorite artist and 22, A Million shows the “power” Vernon and company have over their music and the way it is reshaped, created, and painstakingly produced.

2016 | John Legend, Darkness & Light

I mean, John Legend has a way of translating emotion and history into song that is reminiscent Lauryn Hill –his voice remains iconic on this album, but the winning factor here is the exact dichotomy of tone and story conveyed through the music.

2016 | Chance The Rapper, Coloring Book

Technically an EP, this record gained absolute and immediate love for Chance’s smarts, his pace, and fusion of both old school musical sensibilities and bombastic futuristic endeavors.

2016 | Macklemore, This Unruly Mess I’ve Made

Pitchfork contributor Jeremy Gordon noted, “[This album is] a blend of juvenile joke raps, inquisitive woke raps, and diaristic contemplations of Macklemore’s life that attempts to prove they belong.” That does sum it up, except to say, this album makes me laugh, cry, and sing loudly every listenthrough.

2017 | Gordi, Reservoir

It’s not too often I am truly stopped in my tracks by a new artist –but Sydney’s Sophie Payten did exactly that, and this album is full of sigur-ros like otherworldly tracks and stunning vocals.

2019 | Bon Iver, i,i

Again, Justin Vernon and company. But this album rises to a new level of sonic aesthetic: the harmony, samples, production, and “voice” of the record is both groundbreaking and familiar –this is perfection. Additionally, it also represents a bit lighter storyline for Vernon and feels as if it’s almost imbued with hope.

2019 | Chance The Rapper, The Big Day

Admittedly, there are a few tracks I don’t get excited about, and the skits seem less than needed, but Chance’s bold declaration of his love of love, his family, his wife, and his journey is the right structure for his collaborative, freeverse hooks and wild exploration of genre, music styles, and sounds. This album is rich, eclectic, and expressive.

2019 | Snow Patrol, Reworked

Long have I been a fan of Snow Patrol’s earliest albums, but then felt very disconnected from subsequent releases: and then came Reworked. On every level this album is works: that it even could successfully re-create their music without making remixes of the songs should be celebrated; even better that each track’s genesis was retained, but the final result would be new, creative, and once again great.

Creative Agency Founder writing on ideation, art, and design. Photographer at unsplash.com/justinpheapco.

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