As we close in on 2020, the Sofar Sounds team (full of music lovers!) voted and reflected on our favorite, most-listened full-length albums of the 2010s.Hot take: the best albums of the decade are the ones you loved the most. “I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes” kind of love. Because critics’ lists are great and all, but we all know the faves are the ones that stick with us the most. We can't wait to discover the future Best of 2020s contenders with you soon!
This album takes you so vividly back in time that you do a double-take when you see it was released in 2016. There's just not a lot of people today that sound like Leon Bridges, and this was his soulful debut. This album is one of the best of the decade not only because it put Leon Bridges on the map; it’s a timeless sound that’s fun to listen to from front to back in one sitting... though you'll likely find yourself dancing!
- Jason, Audience Expansion Director
(Editor note: We got to see Leon Bridges perform "Lisa Sawyer" in a Dallas living room a year before this album was released!)
The Colour in Anything is a powerful diary to heartbreak and depression. James Blake’s third album felt like the final act in a play, inviting the listener into his deepest insecurities and asking us to feel them with him.
- Adam P., Digital Marketing Manager
Jamie XX's In Colour is one of my favorite albums of the decade due to its versatility. Jamie's minimalist approach to electronic music is anthemic and rich while still being intimate and emotional. The album intertwines creative, chaotic and deep melodies with emotional vocals, synth loops and bass, and creates this incredibly magnetic flow throughout the entire album. To me, Jamie's approach to dance music is subtle and almost romantic compared to other producers of the generation. The result is soft, profound and more meaningful than what is usually geared towards the rave culture in Europe. In Colour invites you to explore this vast landscape of electronic sounds, pulsing synths and scattered vocals that grow richer with every listen.
- Amy, Sofar Seattle Director
I’m a huge lyrics person when it comes to music. From start to finish, the way Kendrick wrote this album to tell the story of where he came from and the influence it made on who he is today is just next level and really set the bar for future generations of hip-hop. “Gold mines in these lines,” some may say. (And also, Dr. Dre., you know?)
- Ashley, Sofar Portland Assistant Director
I hadn't heard anything like MBDTF before — it felt like a concept rap album meets a fever dream that I didn't want to wake up from. It’s weird, it’s wrong, it’s beautiful. Plus Nicki Minaj's feature on “Monster” is the greatest of all time, don't @me.
- Asa, Growth Partnerships Manager
From those opening sax notes of the ebullient “Run Away With Me,” Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion makes me feel… so much emotion. Freaking great emotion, at that. It’s served as an increasingly necessary pop balm for me in the messy, confusing, anxiety-inducing years since its 2015 release. I finally got the chance to see her live this year, and it was such an effusive display of happiness from both her and the crowd. If you’re a true Carly stan, you already know. If you’re not, press play and open up your heart to her special brand of Canadian pop.
- Brandy, Global Communications Manager
Blonde is widely seen as one of the best albums of the decade, and for good reason. The 17-track album is intensely emotional, sonically beautiful and reaches almost unparalleled creative depths. I can’t remember ever being so blown away by an album.
- Adam P., Digital Marketing Manager
Melodrama is an album that tells a tale to its listeners they can all relate to, no matter what their age is. There’s the occasional break-up song, but this record mainly outlines the favorable and unfavorable aspects of being alone and lonely, for the first time, while figuring out how to “adult.” Who hasn’t been there? But lyrics aside, what differentiates (and to me possibly elevates) Melodrama is the sound and its production. I mean, this album includes everything from bongo drums to trumpets and the sound of a roaring tiger! Who has ever sampled a roaring tiger for a dancey electro-pop track? Listening to Melodrama is like feasting with a curated multitude of majestically produced sounds.
- Rachele, Sofar London Coordinator
Bon Iver's is-it-a-concept-album wound up being an unexpected summary of the last ten years of listening. I hear big sweeps of everything from early decade dreamy, glitchy vocals to sample-ready lo-fi drums all the way to Lumineers-y, ballady banjos. It's not at all copy-and-paste. It's a focused experimental record that is wholly new, but clearly inspired by a lot that came before it. It's very flighty in its expression of existential themes, too. Every time I listen, I fixate on something different. There's plenty of depth that is worthy of speculation, but it doesn't lose its sense of easy-listening because damn does it just sound nice.
Tl;dr: I liked it.
- Garrett, Sofar Nashville Director
The Suburbs came at a time where droves of Millennials (including myself) were crawling into adulthood from youth, nervously turning the page on a childhood within the “urban sprawl” that many of us were raised. Arcade Fire's award-winning third album evokes vivid memories of my youth, captured in somewhat of a time capsule whenever I return to it — its lyricism and composition simultaneously illustrate the terror and beauty of what it felt like to grow up in a middle-class suburban landscape — the feeling of riding your bike until the streetlights came on, because you had no clue what else to do. A triumph from this past decade of music!
- Billy, Artist Community Manager
I just love this album so much! It came at a time where something fresh was really needed in the genre, and bam! Anderson .Paak comes out with Malibu. I managed to catch him performing in London a couple of times, the last time being hosted by none other than Dr. Dre announcing Anderson .Paak as someone to keep an eye on — that felt pretty damn special. .Paak is a real musician, leading one hell of a band, taking his live shows to that next dimension. Malibu is one special album that remains amazing from beginning to end, and ever since it came out, it has been on repeat for me and will continue to get frequent play.
- Adam M., Sofar London Director
I love everything about this album. Chance's ability to easily incorporate elements of jazz, soul, gospel and many other influences into his music keeps you hooked. The beats are fun but the lyrics don't shy away from the violence affecting his hometown. Chance remains hopeful for change and never gives up on his city making this record a perfect representation of Chicago for the decade.
- Christina, Sofar Portland Director
I remember hearing Alt-J for the first time and stopping in my tracks. This was different. This was weird, in a good way. I liked the nerdy nod to the fact that “Alt-J” is the keys you type on a keyboard to get the delta (triangle, ∆) symbol. Damn, this album still slaps. It’s full of eerie vocals like I’d never heard before, dissonant noises, and dark themes, but Alt-J brought it all together in a fully polished package. These London guys certainly made a splash with An Awesome Wave that won’t soon be forgotten.
- Shannon, Sofar Seattle Assistant Director
For me, a sign of a good album is an album that has no bad songs — channel ORANGE definitely lives up to that. From the tender “Thinkin Bout You” to the melancholic “Forrest Gump” to the upbeat “Sweet Life,” Ocean takes you on a journey of R&B, rap and soul and fuses these together in such a brilliant way from start to finish! This album was also the soundtrack of my time at university. I'd listen to it in the car on long rides from my hometown, and it's one of those albums I constantly had on repeat. Ocean's lyricism is up there with the best in the world!
- Josh, Sofar London Assistant Director
Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour is a radiant, accessible and fresh 45 minutes that feel like sitting on the front porch with an old friend. A genius combination of pop, country and at least 10 other genres (including disco), Musgraves settles refreshingly well into our post-genre world. I hear “Slow Burn” wafting out my roommate’s room nearly every morning, and it is truly the best way to start the day.
- Grace, Sofar NYC Assistant Director
Bon Iver was the soundtrack to so many special moments of my 2010s, from Sunday morning brunches to scenic road trips to foggy walks in the mountains. I may not understand every word being said, but I sure can sing along to every horn, guitar solo or string line on this album! I know the music and transitions between tracks inside and out, and I'm so glad it made our favorites list because that must mean I'm not alone on that!
- Britt, Sofar Vancouver Director
The first time I heard this album I was mind blown. It felt like I had been taken through a vision — a tunnel of time and space and storytelling that was so raw and real, it was like I had been immersed in the music. It’s probably my most listened to album, and every time I listen to it another layer unfolds or message is revealed. The political, cultural and social depth of this album, combined with the insanely talented composition and Kendrick's flawless lyricism make it honestly one of the most revolutionary albums of the decade and a landmark for hip-hop music.
- Clare, Finance Consultant
AM is about as far from Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not as I am from the 16-year-old kid that played “Fake Tales of San Francisco” to death. The lyrics are still irreverent, but the themes are more mature. The guitars are still running the show, but they've swapped punky speed picking for slow, catchy riffs. Alex Turner has held onto his Sheffield accent, but his vocal lines are more confident and complex. That's why I love this album — it showed how a band can maintain their identity as they grow up.
- Mike, Senior Product Analyst
Breaking with Lonerism, musically and personally, on Currents, Kevin Parker finally shed the label of “Beatles-tinged retro rocker” and announced to the world the arrival of his own, distinct voice. The swirling synths and ethereal vocals remain, but Currents offers the listener a new sonic discovery with each spin, even 100+ plays later.
- Conor, Sofar Toronto Director
Sofar staff's favorite album of the 2010s matches my own: Vampire Weekend's Modern Vampires of the City. To me, MVOTC is about coming to terms. Ezra Koenig's songs are about coming to terms with aging, with living in a frustrating-but-exhilarating city, with post-recession life. But while his lyrics are dealing with some pretty heavy material, Rostam Batmanglij's production and instrumentation supports him on these fact-finding missions with bright, catchy, lush songs. Add Chris Tomson and Chris Baio's rhythm section, the steady heartbeat behind it all, and you get a complete portrait of what it looks like to come to terms with living in the 2010s.
In a decade that felt fragmented, fractured, and largely all over the place, this album is a perfect representation of what happens when we play to our individual strengths to create a greater whole.
- Jordan, Head of Content Operations
We can't wait to hear what the next decade will bring! Press play on these amazing albums as you apply to an upcoming Sofar to discover incredible new artists and future Best of the 2020s contenders 🎶.