10. The Balcony – Catfish and the Bottlemen
Perhaps the most controversially earned collection on this list, The Balcony has been a source of indie-circuit arguments for years, now. And though the lyrics are not as well-rounded as many others that have come since, and we’ve seen the boys release songs that do verge into melding-together territory, the impact of this album has been unmatched. It’s hard to imagine an album – or band – that single-handedly brought so much life back to the gig scene; that inspired so many kids to pick up a guitar and learn to sing. ‘Kathleen’ and ‘Cocoon’ are the epitome of festival-ready singles, with chorus’ that bands since have been (unsuccessfully) trying to imitate since the release. It’s hard to find a band who have been writing euphoric, easy to remember tracks as well as them – a band so consistent with tracks that are, if not innovative, the most perfect example of what most people evidently want from indie rock today. If only for cultural impact alone, The Balcony has earned a firm place in our countdown.
9. The 1975 – The 1975
It’s hard to believe this album came out in the most recent decade. Since the 2013 release, The 1975 have grown and spiraled into an unrecognizable collective, whose most recent album polarised the opinions of fans and critics entirely. 2013, however, was a much simpler time, and it’s hard to deny that The 1975 were actually once very, very good. Though their lyric matter could be more original, the group knew exactly what the audiences of the time wanted, and created a 16 song collection that somehow encompassed that want entirely. ‘Chocolate’ dominated the indie scene for years, and songs like ‘Menswear’ showed early signs that The 1975 could be something truly brilliant. Despite whatever has happened in following years, the debut release was an exceptional one, shaping tastes and releases for years to follow.
8. Born To Die – Lana Del Rey
It’s easy to forget that before Lana, melancholy music was simply not popular. Producers didn’t want to buy into “depressing” tracks, and audiences were apparently not interested in them, either. It was Lana’s seductive voice and nostalgic lyrics that catapulted this sound into prestigious places – that set a new precedent for women going against the up-beat, easy pop that was expected of them. The album is full of captivating lyrics, sung with an old-era voice that spins beauty into each note. ‘Video Games’ and ‘Born To Die’ dominated the alternative tracks, and thousands fell in love with the unknown artist. Her later albums never quite matched the effortlessly beautiful tone of this album; the captivating ease of each sorrowful track.
7. Melophobia – Cage The Elephant
With a carefully curated ten-song tracklist, Melophobia remains one of the most self-conflicting, beautifully nostalgic albums of the decade. Utterly raw vocals permeate every track, singing back to retrospective reflections and wishes. Rough edges to the guitars ensure their signature sound is not lost; the album still maintains the confident indie-rock tone, despite softer songs such as the rightfully famous ‘Cigarette Daydreams’. This final track evens out the melancholy darkness of other tracks, which look at society in a more bleak manner than the band have previously dared to. By this third album, the lyrics are matured and the tracks themselves are consistently of a beautifully crafted caliber.
6. AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP – A$AP Rocky
The call between AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP and LONG.LIVE.A$AP was a close one. And yes, we know we’re an indie publication, but it was just near impossible to round up some of the best albums of the decade and exclude A$AP. Again, we’ve seen so many indie artists unfortunately regurgitate the same song over and over again – A$AP doesn’t dare. The build of ‘Fine Whine’ is inspired, ingenious; we don’t see a second that hasn’t been handcrafted to perfection. Even tranquil moments, such as in ‘L$D’, don’t allow themselves to grow tepid or boring; the listener is rocked into a hauntingly beautiful appreciation of Rocky’s vocals and lyric craft. We have such a mountainous contrast between tracks – ‘Lord Pretty Flacko Joyde 2’, with its elated and elating brilliance sits among more alluring tracks, such as ‘Dreams (Interlude); the album is, quite simply, a moment of unwavering talent.
5. Drowners – Drowners
Drowners remain criminally underrated, with an album that should have thrown them even further into unquestioned notoriety. The group know how to write a good song, with every track on their self-titled debut release being a stellar one. Though released six years ago, no track grows boring with the age: each one remains as easy to sing along to as it always has been. ‘A Button On Your Blouse’ and ‘Unzip Your Harrington’ remain firm favourites, though it is impossible to pick stand out tracks from a collection that is wholly comprised of only those.
4. No Shame – Lily Allen
There’s a long-dominating idea in the music industry that once over thirty, and or a mother, and exclusively if you’re also a woman, your place in music should slowly be ebbed out. No Shame confronts this expectation head on, with Allen writing explicitly about her experiences as a mother and wife, and the expectations and presumptions that the media have overclouded her life with these past few years. Released in 2018, the album is now reaching its second anniversary, but remains as honest, enchanting, and expository as the day it was first heard. We’ve seen many albums over the past few years comprised of the same male-centric, stale slight variations of long exhausted indie songs, with unimaginative lyrics and even more unimaginative progressions. With features from Giggs and a huge range of tempos and tones, Allen blows these monotonous collections out of the water. ‘Pushing up Daisies’ – perhaps the best track – is entirely different to ‘Trigger Bang’; songs about love juxtapose tracks about addiction and family life in this beautiful, candid album.
3. AM – Arctic Monkeys
Arguably more pop than any of their work before, this album was a shock of a release from the legendary group. However, you need only to hear the opening notes of ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ to know that their indie-rock roots have not fallen into hiding; the group had taken the sound so many loved and matured it into the next natural stage of their progression. The cultural impact of this collection is perhaps the greatest of any on this list; an unparalleled number of people fell head over heels for the album, and the masterfully curated tracks making it up. Turner remains one of the most talented lyricists we might ever have seen in indie-pop, and this album is the iconic writer at his best.
2. Ctrl – SZA
Listening to SZA can be painful in its recognition. She speaks directly to so many people, and communicates so much that the average person cannot. The 2017 album is shamelessly confessional, not hiding at any point from personal recollections and opinions. Colloquial lyrics make tracks such as ‘Love Galore’ iconic among fans of her undefinable genre, and unforgettable in the memories of those who have experienced any sort of similar confusion. ‘The Weekend’ is another stand out track, with closing track ’20 Something’ giving us perhaps the most widely-appreciated commentary on the conflictions associated with age and love.
1. Manic – Halsey
Halsey’s third album is her most brutally candid yet, full of heart-wrenching lyrics that stray far from the unimaginative nature of many others we have seen this decade. Lonely in its self reflection, falling often dangerously close to despair, she opens up about her breakdowns and blackouts in soft notes that beautifully trip over each other. It takes unimaginable skill to make such a manic, chaotic collection of tracks so cohesive, but Halsey does so with ease. Her samples are taken skillfully, and we don’t get the usual desire to skip over them – they perfectly compliment her hurricane of anger and gentility. As she jumps frantically from this anger to soft heartbreak, we can’t help but feel as though we are experiencing it all with her – that we can all somehow relate to the paranoia and sadness that permeates the album. Though she has strayed into pop genres in recent years, the 2020 release does not let mindless chorus’ and painfully broadly relatable words form an easy album: she draws from her own painful experiences to form an album that isn’t always easy to listen to, but is simultaneously impossible to not listen to over and over again.