Photo by Gabriel C. Pérez/KUTX
The 2010s are about to be history, so we managed to track down some Austin music makers. We thought it would be a lot of fun to find out one of their absolute favorite albums of the decade. Um, wrong. We churn out these kinds of lists regularly here at KUTX, so it seemed to us that artists would have a great time chiming in. Apparently, we underestimated the difficulty of picking ONE album from an entire decade. Imagine that! Those willing to take this daunting mission on made comments that ranged from “this is really hard” to “HOLY CRAP! THIS IS REALLY HARD!!”. Others gave in and sent us multiple picks. We commend the fortitude of those who saw this through, getting back to us from as far away as Europe, in the recording studio, asleep on the couch… Your efforts are appreciated. Our unscientific survey reveals picks that range from Pulitzer prize-winners to cool obscurities and everything in between. If we made your lives difficult, sorry, but thanks for playing! The end result is definitely fun!
– Jeff McCord, Music Editor
ABHI THE NOMAD
Freddie Gibbs and Madlib – Bandana (2019)
My favorite album of the year / in the last decade or so. The production on the entire project was incredible, Freddie spills his guts over dusty loops and dirty samples that accompany his adventures as a drug dealer and musician. Coming off his recent legal stint, Bandana is the raw, unadulterated black American experience.
Solange – A Seat at the Table (2016) / When I Get Home (2019)
If there is any album(s) that shifted my perception of musicianship and inspired me to be my true self as an artist and a human being, it would be these albums. They painted a picture of black culture in a way that a lot of us could relate to, especially as Southerners. She broke boundaries, even on architectural levels and with her being from Texas, it just pushed me to become the male artist that could resemble that level of artistry, heartfelt creativity and provide a view from the South that could create national attention. In a way, these albums made a noise like what OutKast did in 1994 for the South in the hip-hop world.
Natalie Prass – Natalie Prass (2015)
I listened to this constantly around the time I was working on my first record. I was so attracted to Natalie’s voice and the production of the album — it inspired me so much while I was navigating recording for the first time. I felt like she was my friend! So cheesy but true Anytime I listen to it now I get nostalgic for that time in my life where I was entering a whole new chapter.
ERIC BURTON (BLACK PUMAS)
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)
(Eric just sent a list of albums. Pimp topped the list but he also listed Good Kid m.A.A.d City by Kendrick, Kamasi Washington’s Heaven and Earth and The Epic, Alabama Shakes’ Sound In Color, Frank Ocean’s Blonde, Kanye’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories).
Jason Isbell – Something More Than Free (2015)
Brilliant songwriting. So many great songs that have a depth and substance to them that few artists can match. It’s also catchy as hell. This record moved me as much as anything I’ve heard this decade. “If It Takes a Lifetime” sums up the quest to keep moving forward as a human being. “24 Frames” is smart and undeniable. “Teach Me How To Forget” is heartbreaking and relatable.
ANDREW CASHEN (A GIANT DOG / SWEET SPIRIT)
Ty Segall – Melted (2010)
This came out a year or so after I watched him open for Thee Oh Sees as a one-man band on the floor of Beerland. I knew he was talented but did not expect the 17 or 18 albums he would put out in the coming decade, and the thousands of bands he would inspire. This album is no longer listenable due to the wear and tear of constant plays it got at the house A Giant Dog shared in the early aughts (if that is what we are calling this era).
Daft Punk – Random Access Memories (2013)
This record broke the sonic mold. It’s everything that I love about music. It dances and takes you on a hella good ride. Nile Rodgers is a guitar funk master disco God too. ⚡️⚡️⚡️
Father John Misty – Fear Fun (2012)
While coming into my own as a songwriter, I stumbled across Fear Fun and my brain was instantly struck with his storytelling and vulnerability.This album has heavy influence on my views of how wordplay, melody and production should snatch a listener’s soul, thus making it one my favorite albums of the 2010’s.
BRITT DANIEL (SPOON / DIVINE FITS)
A Giant Dog – Pile (2016)
This has got to be one of my favorite LPs of the decade. It’s a record made by pure hearts playing pure rock and roll. To me, this record summed up Austin when it came out — trouble, euphoria, rock and roll, love, consequences, boom, and decay. And yes, I sing a little on the second to last song but that’s got nothing to do with it.
JOHN DOE (X / JOHN DOE THING)
Skating Polly – New Trick (2017)
The first track, “Louder in Outer Space” is HIT song that carries on punk rock’s legacy. This record was produced by Louise Post & Nina Gordon of Veruca Salt. They’re celebrating their 10th anniversary as a band & the two sisters Kelli Mayo & Peyton Bighorse are 19 & 24 respectively. If this is the future, count me in.
Tom Waits – Bad As Me (2011)
This was the first Tom Waits album that I anticipated the release of- as an adult, I’d previously always been catching up on old Tom Waits music. The afternoon it came out, I sat down at the kitchen table and listened to all of it. Tom Waits in real time! (Sort of.) After I listened to the whole album, I went back to track #8, “Back In The Crowd” (my new favorite song!) and kept it on repeat until I learned it entirely. The writing of that song is perfectly heartbreaking, the production feels amazing, and to me, it’s the quintessence of perfect pop arranging. It sounds like a lost Roy Orbison song complete with the odd arrangement.
David Bowie – Blackstar (2016)
David Bowie meant so much to me. His career was prodigious, prolific. It was courageous. Just like Bowie.
SABRINA ELLIS (A GIANT DOG / SWEET SPIRIT / HEART BONES)
Ezra Furman – Transangelic Exodus (2018)
My favorite album of the decade came out last year. It’s a thematic album about a society in which some people transform into angels. The transformed angels are outlawed and hunted by the government. Within the album, Furman threads her coming-out story. The production is awesome. The lyrics inspire envy in me. The first song rhymes “Pasadena” with “Deus ex Machina”. Emotional intensity is turned up to 11 throughout.
JIM ENO (SPOON)
D’Angelo – Black Messiah (2014)
Broke the mold for innovative production, sonics, and vibe. This record has been one of the most referenced by any band I have worked with. “Sugah Daddy” with the great James Gadson drumming on his lap is a highlight.
GREG GONZALEZ (GRUPO FANTASMA / BROWNOUT)
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)
I heard a lot of good music this decade, but this one stands out to me as an album which both redefined a genre and embraced its history. As a fan of hip hop from the golden era I was discouraged to see so many young popular rap artists abandoning the lyrical delivery and style of their predecessors to embrace auto-tune “singing” or more staccato trap style rapping without showcasing a diverse or profound vocabulary that for me exemplified the art of hip hop rapping/lyricism. This album truly bridged the gap for me, showcasing a wide range of styles from party-anthems (“King Kunta”) to spoken word (“For Free”) and social-commentary (“Blacker the Berry” “Alright”) as well as experimental and poetic personal statements. Combine that with a diverse sound palette and production that embraced modern techniques as well as orchestration and moments of musical genius from Thundercat, Flying Lotus, Kamasi Washington and co. The result was an album both timeless and timely. To me, the album is like a Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going on?” type statement.
Tweedy – Sukierae (2014)
A solo record that turns into a father-son record? Soft and hard all at the same time? Catchy and challenging? New and old? This record has it all; a mood and quality that hasn’t stopped inspiring me since my first listen.
Mavis Staples – We Get By (2019)
Maybe it’s just because it’s fresh, but I’m going to say Mavis Staples last record… I mean first…she’s 80!!!!! Beyond that, it is truly a gift – and I’m amazed how she’s stayed on message all these years. Wow. She really goes for it on this record. It’s truly deep and there’s no messing about. You’re getting the real thing. It’s just got great performances and songs. Ben Harper did a great job on the production – super minimal – play great and get out of the way kind of stuff. Sounds like her touring band, but I’m not sure. It makes me cry and I’m so grateful for Mavis!
Rihanna – Anti (2016)
It took me some time to think about. What album do I still play to this day? This album introduced me to the vocal and pen talent of Sza (Consideration). It was the “anti” pop album for Rihanna and ushered in her international domination as a makeup, lingerie, and high fashion mogul. Will we get another album from Rihanna? Who knows. One thing I do know is that this was the last piece of musical work before Rihanna chose to be more than a pop icon. My favorite tracks on this album are “Consideration,” “Same Ol Mistakes,” and “Kiss It Better.”
MEGZ KELLI (MAGNA CARDA)
Kendrick Lamar – To Pimp A Butterfly (2015)
Probably the most perfect album of this decade, at least in my opinion. I don’t know any other album that gets you a Pulitzer Prize. TPAB is important to me because it’s one of the few albums that beautifully explores the state of politics in this country, racial issues, and Kendrick’s own personal problems. On top of it all, it’s entirely influenced by a whole spectrum of black music genres/sub-genres aided by some of the greatest musicians of our generation (Sounwave, Terrace Martin, and Robert Glasper – just to name a few). The discussion is already there, but I think in a year or so people will really start to consider where this album falls in the top 10 Hip-Hop/Rap albums of all time.
Hiatus Kaiyote – Choose Your Weapon (2015)
The lyrics, the production and vibe all the way thru this album is so organic and inspiring. Definitely would be a dream to be a fly on a wall during their creative process!
Yelawolf – Love Story (2015)
This is a tough one as so much music from 2010 to now has helped mold me. This decade is when I really started listening outside my comfort zone of familiar genres I grew up on. But I think my pick for this decade is going to be Yelawolf. Up to that point the Alabama native who resided on the Shady Records imprint had been known for southern beats with equally southern lyrics, but on this LP, he mixed in sounds of outlaw country, and even experimented with folk. It was exactly what I was looking for in 2015 when I was at a pivotal point in my artistry.
ALEX MAAS (BLACK ANGELS)
Clinic – Free Reign II (2013)
I chose this record because I feel like Clinic channeled cyborgs looking for understanding freedom and emotional stability in the near future. They are trying to understand love and human connection, with only images of jungles, the animal life and the planet earth that once was through a time capsule they found somewhere in space. I’m always left standing hypnotized until the record needle stops and I’m brought back to reality. Time travel is real.
BETO MARTINEZ (GRUPO FANTASMA / BROWNOUT)
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – II (2013)
This record has been a constant for me since it came out in 2013. Great sounds and overall vibe. Really inspired me as a sort of bedroom recording. And no cymbals! (Beto also listed runner-up’s: Sturgill Simpson – Metamodern Sounds in Country Music and Altin Gün – Gece).
TOPAZ McGARRIGLE (GOLDEN DAWN ARKESTRA)
Khruangbin – The Universe Smiles Upon You (2015)
One of my favorite records of the decade. I love how they blend world music, funk and psychedelic grooves. Interestingly it really borders on easy listening which I think says a lot about how noisy our world has become, sometimes it’s just really nice to breathe and get into some stripped-down mellow vibrations. Also, they’re from Texas!!!
TREY PRIVOTT (LOS COAST)
D’Angelo – Black Messiah (2014)
The timeliness of his message seemed so urgent as a comment on police brutality, while he still managed to make a super accessible and danceable record. The musicianship is top-notch and his voice is near perfect. It is and will always be a go to for me.
ADRIAN QUESADA (BLACK PUMAS / BROWNOUT)
Michael Kiwanuka – Love and Hate (2016)
It’s hard to pick just one but one album of the last decade but this is the one that impacted me the most in recent memory. I didn’t fully digest it until a year or so after it came out but it has remained in steady rotation for me. I had been a fan of his previous releases but this felt like a statement/concept rather than just a collection of songs, his sound was the record felt grand and cinematic, and had some poignant themes throughout. He spent a few months living in Austin, so bonus points for the ATX connection too.
Teho Teardo – Music for Wilder Mann (2013)
Teho Teardo first came to my attention as a film composer. I listened to his score for Diaz on the way to Marfa when I was working on a commission out there in the desert. It was inspirational. Digging deeper into his catalog I discovered Music for Wilder Mann, based on the photographic book by Charles Freger. The main instrument featured on the opening track is the spring reverb! That got me hooked. Then come the strings, guitars, keyboards, and various electronic and other miscellanies. This is an album I wish I had made.
Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker (2016)
I would have to say Cohen’s You Want It Darker – his last record released just days before he died. It’s clear he was aware of his impending departure from the world. And he made this his final farewell. Then stuck around just long enough to make sure it was properly realized. The weight of the songs is not without humor and love. Truly a collection of wisdom and reassurance to those of us who follow behind. His music and poetry will live forever.
LESLIE SISSON (MOVING PANORAMAS)
Josh T. Pearson – Last of the Country Gentleman (2011)
Josh is a longtime close friend since we were teenagers in DFW and has been like a brother to me through the years. He even starred in the first Moving Panoramas music video. This album was released days before my mother’s death. I have vivid memories of seeing Josh perform at SXSW that year and spending time with him and our friends after one of his shows when my mom called me asking if we were still meeting up for lunch that day, which I totally spaced on and felt massive guilt for, wishing I’d spent that entire visit with her nonstop in retrospect. I’m immensely grateful for what I didn’t know at the time would be my last days with my mom the month this record came out and every time I hear it now, I think of her…. and how proud I am of my brother from another mother, Josh Pearson.
STEVE TEREBECKI (WHITE DENIM)
Cass McCombs – Mangy Love (2016)
My selection for best record of the 2010’s. I think that Cass is the best songwriter of our time. Today’s Bob Dylan. His lyrics are thoughtful, humorous and filled with deeper meaning, which is getting incredibly hard to come by lately. His music is rooted mainly in rock n roll, but it’s more art rock, with carefully considered arrangements and instrumentation. It was hard to pick my favorite of his 6 records that came out in the 2010’s.