5. Melophobia – Cage the Elephant
Cage the Elephant is, in every way, a product of millennial culture, particularly, our short attention span. The group is eclectic to a fault, boasting indie-folk gems like “Cigarette Daydream,” along with new-age brit-rock jams like “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” as well as a multitude of hits all along that dichotic spectrum. My biggest criticism of Cage was and still is that their projects are about as coherent as a Now That’s What I Call Music compilation, skipping randomly from one style to the next seemingly without a plan. With Melophobia, however, the group reigns their musical ADD in just enough to strike gold. The record is unpredictable and exciting, but retains a sort of tone in its lyricism and production that doesn’t leave listeners feeling bewildered. Most importantly, perhaps, each sound and style is executed flawlessly. When the crunchy “Come a Little Closer,” wraps up, listeners feel some closure. You’re ready to move and try the next door, as it were, on this track listing, unlike other Cage efforts, which leave listeners feeling as if each particular sonic path they take isn’t necessarily fleshed out enough to move on. Melophobia will live on for years as an example of the eclectic tastes that define our generation.
4. X – Ed Sheeran
X is one of the few albums that is actually quite a bit better in its deluxe form than its original. The 16 song, 65 minute project packs quite a bit into its runtime, delivering a dense and personal record. Interestingly, most of the added tracks, as well as a few from the original tracklisting seem, at first glance, only to pad the runtime of the piece, but the closer you listen, you begin to feel seriously connected to Ed, as not only a fan, but a friend. When he sings about stumbling home drunk and being alone on “I’m a Mess”, you feel for him, when he tells the story of love lost on “Nina,” your heart breaks with his, and when he professes his love on the undeniable highlight of the album, “Tenerife Sea,” listeners fall in love with the nameless woman he sings to along with him. Of Sheeran’s three studio efforts, “X” is by far the most real and visceral, touching on issues like losing family and searching for purpose in the world, issues that plague our generation to this day.
3. Hozier – Hozier
I quite literally can not exaggerate how much I love this record. The amount of confidence that radiates from Hozier is jarring, considering this is his first and only studio album to date. He knows you’ll be back to listen again and again, and because of that, he’s built this album as bottomless pit of quality music. A listeners first few visits reveal a fundamentally sound record that lashes out at targets like religion, institutional discrimination, and rape culture among others. These lashes, though, don’t come from eye-liner-ed punks like they have in the past, but instead a solid footed, long haired, wise man. Every instrument on this piece is played perfectly, the vocals are incredible, and the atmosphere is consistent and intriguing. The Records opening protest track sees the lyrics “No masters or kings when the ritual begins. There is no sweeter innocence than our gentle sin,” preceding a wonderfully sung chorus of “Amen’s.” With each visit, listeners uncover new lyrical masterpieces, subtle backing harmonies, symbolisms in tones and themes, and, from a production standpoint, nothing but good choice after good choice. This is an album made by a man who knows exactly what he’s doing and it will stand the test of time, comparable to the best projects of any generation.
2. Vessel – Twenty One Pilots
As the story goes, if you say “I don’t like Twenty One Pilots” three times into your bathroom mirror, two tween girls in “Normal People Scare Me” shirts will climb out at you and pierce your septum. The point of the joke, of course, being that the TOP fanbase, or Clique, as they call themselves, is massive and objectively annoying. This is a real shame though, because the music is actually quite impressive, Vessel especially. Think back to the first time you saw the video for the records main single, “Car Radio,” and tell me you didn’t feel just a little bit of pride in your generation. When this record, the bands first release with the tween-angst powerhouse label, Fueled by Ramen, hit the shelves, its fame spread rapidly by word of mouth and social media. The duo became an overnight sensation in a way that only the social media age can produce and for good reason. This album is awesome. Period. The wide array of sounds make it a sonic rollercoaster, and while its extremely accessible, the record still makes the listener work in a few parts. Tracks like “Run and Go,” and “Guns For Hands” don’t present their melodies or lyrical premises as openly as most of the record does. On the whole, The project discusses the issue of mental health in a well written and intelligent way. And if all this wasn’t enough, “Ode to Sleep” is probably the second best opening track to any album in the last decade.
The Future Is Cancelled – Captain, We’re Sinking!
How To Be A Human Being – Glass Animals
Coloring Book – Chance the Rapper
Outgrown Things EP – Movements
Strange Desire – Bleachers
Pure Comedy – Father John Misty
- To Pimp A Butterfly – Kendrick Lamar
Anyone who didn’t already know this has clearly not listened to this record enough. Where do I even begin? “Wesley’s Theory” is THE best opening track in the past decade and may the best of all time. Musically, TPAB brings together the absolute best jazz artists alive today, namely, Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, George Clinton and plenty more. From a production standpoint, Derek Ali, a relative unknown, along with Dr. Dre, who need no introduction, put on a masterclass in sound engineering and stereo imaging that we haven’t seen in fifty years, the ambition of “Dark Side of the Moon”, with the execution of “OK Computer.” The themes on the record cover institutional racism, gender inequality, deterioration of modern black culture, police brutality, sexual and domestic abuse, substance abuse, and family betrayal, and thats just the first half. The runtime comes in just under 80 minutes, and as far as I’m concerned, K-Dot could’ve stretched the record out another three hours. The overall concept of the record focuses on a poem that Lamar composed. He reveals two lines at a time throughout the album before using his next few tracks to explain those lines in detail, and culminating in a full reading of the poem midway through the epic closing track “Mortal Man.” This album is modern masterpiece of writing, weaving massive sociopolitical ideas into a very grounded, yet complex narrative and featuring one excellent character after another, many of whom are brought to life by Kendrick himself. I have no shame in saying that this is my generations answer to “The Wall” and that it will stand the test of time for a hundred years. This kind of masterpiece belongs in a museum. This kind of commentary belongs in a college textbook. But instead, it can be found on iTunes for ten dollars, and if that’s not something my generation can take pride in, I don’t know what is.