FEATURE: Albums of the Decade: Part II: 2013-2015



Albums of the Decade


IN THIS PHOTO: Kendrick Lamar/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

Part II: 2013-2015


THERE are not many months left in the decade...

 IN THIS PHOTO: Laura Marling/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

and I am pretty sure there will not be many contenders that will challenge this list. Speculated albums from Madonna and The 1975 might be in with a shout of being the albums of the decade - but I am continuing this rundown with a look at the best albums from the three-year period that covered 2013 to 2015. Every decade boasts terrific records but this decade has been really strong and seen some truly unexpected revelations. Here are the fifteen albums that defined and owned the years 2013 through to 2015. Future parts will bring us right up-to-date but here, in this second part, we can see albums that helped make this decade...


 PHOTO CREDIT: The New York Times

SUCH a strong one.

ALL ALBUM COVERS: Spotify/Getty Images



Kanye West - Yeezus

Release Date: 18th June, 2013

Label: Def Jam Recordings

Producers: Various

Key Cuts: New Slaves/Blood on the Leaves/Bound 2

Standout Track: Black Skinhead


...Despite that, Yeezus never sounds self-indulgent. The sonic chaos behind the words seems very precisely rendered, it's an album that's clearly been tightly edited: it clocks in at 40 minutes, which by the standards of your average hip-hop album, makes it the very model of brevity. It all feels intended, which gives further lie to the notion that its maker is either dumb or nuts. Perhaps he just understands better than most of his peers that musical stars are meant to be extraordinary, provocative, divisive, controversial figures. Noisy, gripping, maddening, potent, audibly the product of, as he put it "giving no fucks at all", Yeezus is the sound of a man just doing his job properly” – The Guardian

Vampire WeekendModern Vampires of the City


Release Date: 14th May, 2013

Label: XL

Producers: Rostam Batmanglij/Ariel Rechtshaid

Key Cuts: Unbelievers/Finger Back/Ya Hey

Standout Track: Diane Young


The flip side of “Ya Hey” is “Diane Young,” a psychotically Auto-Tuned, twisted rockabilly song that’s a play on “dyin’ young.” Koenig sings about a well-lubricated Irish girl with the “luck of a Kennedy” (uh-oh) who ends up torching a Saab. Koenig doesn’t judge her, but he sure as hell doesn’t get in the car – it’s almost like he’s torching that whole Cape Cod thing, once and for all, saying goodbye to young adulthood as his band is pushing into awesome new directions. The gloves are off, the wisdom teeth are out. But the kids stand a chance” – Rolling Stone  

Laura MarlingOnce I Was an Eagle


Release Date: 27th May, 2013

Label: Virgin

Producer: Ethan Johns

Key Cuts: I Was an Eagle/Devil’s Roasting Place/Love Be Brave

Standout Track: Master Hunter


I can’t quite pin down this album and that is one of the most appealing things about it. Her songs are liquid and amorphous, prone to shape-shifting, rarely offering up an obvious verse and chorus symmetry, or easy interpretation. Marling is never likely to be a fixture of the pop charts. But Once I Was An Eagle is a masterpiece, and, at 23, she’s still only getting started” – The Daily Telegraph   

David BowieThe Next Day

Release Date: 8th March, 2013

Labels: ISO/Columbia

Producers: David Bowie/Tony Visconti

Key Cuts: The Next Day/Love Is Lost/Valentine’s Day

Standout Track: Where Are We Now?


Tony Visconti says that while making ‘The Next Day’, Bowie was smiling all the time, happy to be back in the studio, and had told him “‘I just want to make records’”. This album is, foremost, about songcraft. Rather than reinventing Bowie, it absorbs his past and moves it on, hungry for more (and indeed, Visconti has hinted that more is to come). It demands that you listen to it in this moment, not that you give it an easy ride because this is the man who made ‘Heroes’; and its songs more than live up to the demand. With Bowie sounding like he’s too busy and having too much fun to worry about the dying of any light, it seems like there’s many more next days to come” – NME

Janelle Monáe The Electric Lady

Release Date: 6th September, 2013

Labels: Wondaland Arts Society/Bad Boy/Atlantic

Producers: Janelle Monáe/Roman GianArthur/Wonder & Lightning/Nate ‘Rocket’ Wonder

Key Cuts: Q.U.E.E.N./PrimeTime/Dance Apocalyptic

Standout Track: Electric Lady


The enraptured liquid glide of "Dorothy Dandridge Eyes," featuring Spalding, recalls "I Can't Help It," co-written by Stevie for Michael Jackson's Off the Wall. Earlier, on "It's Code," Monáe channels the yearning Jackson 5-era MJ. "Can't Live Without Your Love," presumably a paean to human love interest Anthony Greendown has Monáe -- or Cindi Mayweather, aka Electric Lady Number One -- yearning like never before. The album is sure to astound Monáe's sci-fi/theater-geek following. Its second half cannot be denied by those who simply value creative R&B that owes to the past and sounds fresh. Anyone can appreciate the phenomenal interludes, which are close to 3 Feet High and Rising level. Power-up to the Droid Rebel Alliance and the Get-Free Crew indeed” – AllMusic


FKA TwigsLP1


Release Date: 6th August, 2014

Label: Young Turks

Producers: Various

Key Cuts: Hours/Pendulum/Video Girl

Standout Track: Two Weeks


“After all, this is an artist whose name itself suggests a fundamental displacement. Spelled out, it's "Formerly Known As twigs," (no) thanks to the lawyers of some other artist named Twigs. (Barnett earned her nickname from her habit of cracking her joints like dried sticks; is it any wonder her beats are so brittle?) That "FKA" is a way of masking the bigger question mark. Formerly known as, sure. But who is she now? Are you that girl from the video? "I can't recognize me," she sings at the close of "Video Girl", but for the rest of us, with LP1, she's zooming into vivid focus, and it's impossible to look away” – Pitchfork  

St. VincentSt. Vincent


Release Date: 24th February, 2014

Labels: Loma Vista/Republic

Producer: John Congleton

Key Cuts: Birth in Reverse/I Prefer Your Love/Regret

Standout Track: Digital Witness


“St Vincent's 40 minutes offer an embarrassment of fantastic songs: the electronic judder of Psychopath, the sumptuousness of I Prefer Your Love. It feels emotionally lighter than its predecessor – last time around there was a lot of sex, some of it a bit painful in every sense, whereas this time there's a lot more love – but Clark still comes up with some startling lyrics. Floating along on a kind of synthesised spectral chorus and blessed with the kind of tune you just want to wallow in, Prince Johnny is a fascinating puzzle: it's hard to work out whether the titular character is male or female, whether or not the song's narrator has slept with him or her, or how much their affection is tinged with contempt. In fact, the words are often ambiguous – Digital Witness isn't the only song about the disparity between public image and reality – but they're the only thing here that is: bold, poised, precise without sounding sterile, St Vincent seems to be a straightforward triumph” – The Guardian   

D’Angelo and the VanguardBlack Messiah


Release Date: 15th December, 2014

Label: RCA

Producers: D’Angelo/Alan Leeds/Kevin Liles

Key Cuts: Ain’t That Easy/Really Love/Back to the Future (Part I)

Standout Track: 1000 Deaths


Black Messiah clashes with mainstream R&B trends as much as Voodoo did in 2000. Unsurprisingly, the artist's label picked this album's tamest, most traditional segment -- the acoustic ballad "Really Love" -- as the first song serviced to commercial radio. It's the one closest to "Untitled (How Does It Feel)," the Voodoo cut that, due to its revealing video, made D'Angelo feel as if his image was getting across more than his music. In the following song, the strutting "Back to the Future (Part I)," D'Angelo gets wistful about a lost love and directly references that chapter: "So if you're wondering about the shape I'm in/I hope it ain't my abdomen that you're referring to." The mere existence of his third album evinces that, creatively, he's doing all right. That the album reaffirms the weakest-link status of his singular debut is something else” – AllMusic

Jack WhiteLazaretto

Release Date: 10th June, 2014

Labels: Third Man/XL/Columbia

Producer: Jack White

Key Cuts: High Ball Stepper/The Black Bat Licorice/Want and Able

Standout Track: Lazaretto


“But then you hear That Black Bat Licorice, an unhinged Nietzsche-referencing folk-funk song about a maddening lover who makes his fingers “histrionic”. White demonstrates the effect this woman has on him by playing thrillingly deranged guitar.

The song is laden with strange effects. It opens with a chilling warped cackle, and whispered female voices throughout urge him to behave himself. It’s exhausting but it’s also exhilarating.

Hidden details reveal themselves on repeated listens. Crane your ear during the last minute of I Think I Found the Culprit and you will hear the most soaring operatic backing vocal since Pink Floyds The Great Gig in the Sky.

Lazaretto is an adventurous album laced with menace.

You suspect that getting on the wrong side of White would be inadvisable. Thankfully, he has channelled his demons in Lazaretto to create one of the great break-up albums of recent years” – The Daily Telegraph

Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2

Release Date: 24th October, 2014

Label: Mass Appeal

Producers: El-P/Boots/Little Shalimar/Wilder Zoby

Key Cuts: Blockbuster Night, Pt. 1/Lie, Cheat, Steal/All Due Respect

Standout Track: Oh My Darling Don’t Cry


“RTJ2 is a steamroller of an album, packed with enough assonance and alliteration to school an AP English literature class. No punches are pulled, because when Mike incites a prison riot on “Close Your Eyes,” he’s committed to righteous violence: “And even if some good ones die, fuck it, the Lord’ll sort ’em.” El-P’s production breaks up the overwhelmingly ominous tone with an allowance of colorful details, including Matt Sweeney’s squealing guitar on “All My Life,” sound-effects master Michael Winslow’s cartoonish robot voice on “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry,” and Travis Barker’s breakbeats on “All Due Respect.” RTJ2 is the rare sequel that bests the beloved original in almost every facet” – SLANT


Kendrick LamarTo Pimp a Butterfly

Release Date: 15th March, 2015

Labels: Aftermath/Interscope/Top Dawg

Producers: Various

Key Cuts: King Kunta/Hood Politics/The Blacker the Berry

Standout Track: Alright


“To Pimp a Butterfly pivots on the polarizing lead single, "i". Upon release last autumn, the sunny soul pep talk came off lightweight and glib. When it appears deep in the back end of Butterfly, though, "i" plays less like the jingle we heard last year and more like the beating heart of the matter. To push the point, the album opts for a live-sounding mix that ditches out midway through, giving way to a speech from the rapper himself. In tone, the speech is not unlike the legendary 1968 concert where James Brown waved off security and personally held off a Boston audience’s fury after news broke that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. "How many niggas we done lost, bro?" Kendrick shouts over the crowd. "It shouldn’t be shit for us to come out here and appreciate the little bit of life we got left." Underneath the tragedy and adversity, To Pimp a Butterfly is a celebration of the audacity to wake up each morning to try to be better, knowing it could all end in a second, for no reason at all” – Pitchfork

Courtney BarnettSometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit

Release Date: 15th March, 2015

Labels: Marathon Artists/House Anxiety/Mile Records!/Mom + Pop Music

Producers: Courtney Barnett/Buke Reid/Dan Luscombe

Key Cuts: Elevator Operator/Dead Fox/Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party

Standout Track: Pedestrian at Best


“When called upon, Barnett and her band can be furious -- "An Illustration of Loneliness" and "Kim's Caravan" both work themselves up to a knotty, gnarled head -- but they can also slip into a soothing sadness ("Depreston," "Boxing Day Blues"). Usually, they're punchy but not precise, hammering the hard hooks of "Aqua Profunda!" and "Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go to the Party" into place, giving "Elevator Operator" and "Pedestrian at Best" an urgency that mimics Barnett's cloistered, clever words. There are no frills here but there is a distinct, compelling voice evident in Barnett's songs and music alike. That's what makes Sometimes I Sit and Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit. so invigorating: it may have roots -- perhaps even some inadvertent ones -- but it's music that lives thoroughly in the moment” – AllMusic

Tame ImpalaCurrents

Release Date: 17th July, 2015

Labels: Modular/Universal (Aus.)/Fiction (Europe)/Interscope (U.S.)

Producer: Kevin Parker

Key Cuts: Let It Happen/The Moment/Cause I’m a Man

Standout Track: The Less I Know the Better


“...This is why "Let It Happen" leads off Currents rather than serving as its climactic laser-light show. It's a dazzling, impossibly intricate song about resisting the temptation to micromanage your life. And it may be a companion piece to "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards". Notice that Parker presciently phrased the lyric with *we—*whether it's about a partner, a fanbase, or just the construct of one's self, there's always the tendency to seek comfort and stability rather than dealing with the dissonance between two entities that are inevitably subject to changing at different frequencies. The kicker was even more prescient—"Every part of me says, 'go ahead'." And so Currents ends up being Parker's most convincing case for solitude yet—he knows that perfection can only be achieved inside the studio and progress is the ultimate goal outside of it” – Pitchfork      

GrimesArt Angels


Release Date: 6th November, 2015

Label: 4AD

Producer: Grimes                                    

Key Cuts: California/Pin/Realiti

Standout Track: Flesh Without Blood


“Or SCREAM, which pits a whispered-punchy Taiwanese rap against a springy nu-metal groove and ends with military drums. This may make it sound like a difficult record, but the perfect polish of  Grimes' s production enables listeners to surf her quick-fire tangents as easily as an aural internet.

As she opens windows of sound and then clicks them closed before boredom has a chance to settle in, you catch snatches of Taylor Swift, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Prodigy, Aphex Twin and many, many more scudding past.

All the while, she is delivering her own big, melodic hooks (Flesh without Blood) and club bangers like feminist Venus Fly (featuring Janelle Monáe) with its haunting, gallic instrumental break. all adds up to a fearless and fascinating record” – The Daily Telegraph

Björk – Vulnicura

Release Date: 20th January, 2015

Label: One Little Indian/Megaforce/Sony

Producer: Björk/Arca/The Haxan Cloak 

Key Cuts: Lionsong/Black Lake/Mouth Mantra

Standout Track: Stonemilker


“"Lionsong" brilliantly captures the nauseating anxiety of an uncertain relationship, its warped harmonies and teetering strings evoking a high-stakes game of "he loves me, he loves me not." Even though Björk crawls out of the abyss on the album's final third, which culminates with the relatively hopeful "Quicksand," that agonizing middle section is Vulnicura's crowning achievement and crucible. The ten-minute "Black Lake" allows Björk the space to let everything unravel, and as the strings drone and the beats tower and topple, her straightforward lyrics ("You have nothing to give/Your heart is hollow") perfectly distill the moments of purging and clarity that eventually point the way out of heartache. Here and on "Family," where Haxan Cloak's claustrophobic production makes Björk's anguish (the way she sings "sorrow" contains multitudes) all the more wrenching, the purity of her expression is both highly personal and universal. Vulnicura honors her pain and the necessary path through and away from loss with some of her bravest, most challenging, and most engaging music” – AllMusic