Mylo Xyloto by Coldplay (2011)
Many fans see this as a turning point for not only Coldplay, but alternative music in general. It's true that many other previously alternative rock bands attempted to replicate the success that coldplay had created with Mylo Xyloto by incorporating more synths and electronic effects into their work, but few would succeed in matching the creativity and flow that Coldplay created here. Those that failed were branded sell-outs, and I'm partial to agreeing with that classification in some places (I'm looking at you, Maroon 5). The sonic palette Coldplay utilized for this album brought in an almost pseudo-retro-80s sound married with modern beats and catchy pop choruses. The sound of Mylo Xyloto would go on to define much of the 2010s in music, particularly in the alternative scene. However, even though the electronic textures of Mylo Xyloto can be compared with many of its contemporaries, a simple truth sets it apart from the rest of them: Coldplay captured this sound first, and they did it best.
Top Tracks: Hurts Like Heaven, Charlie Brown, Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall
Pure Heroine by Lorde (2013)
What can I possibly say about this album that hasn't been said already? Lorde's minimalist sound and hip-hop beats coupled with her biting, starkly honest lyrics make this thing a masterpiece in every sense of the word. There are pop hits, slow ballads, and plenty in between here. This album gave words to how myself and I dare say a lot of people my age felt in 2013. Did I mention that Lorde was only 16 years old when she released this album? If I could pick one album to sum up the 2010s, I'm pretty sure it would be this one.
Top Tracks: Ribs, Team, Tennis Court
Pray for Rain by Pure Bathing Culture (2015)
This is an album I actually didn't discover until 2017, two years after its initial release. I saw these guys open for the Shins at a concert that year and they really impressed me. Pure Bathing Culture are a Portland-based indie/dream-pop band that haven't reached high levels of fame, but have put out a consistent level of quality indie pop records. Pray for Rain is by far my favorite one, not only because it's the one that made me fall in love with these guys, but also because I like pretty much every single song on it. There's this beautiful gauzy drifting feeling that I can when I listen to this record, and I really like how cohesive it feels and how the songs all flow together. It is dream-pop, but don't let that fool you; some of these tracks can really get a wallflower moving.
Top Tracks: She Shakes, Pray for Rain, Palest Pearl
I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it by The 1975 (2016)
The title might be a mouthful, but this record will leave you craving more. After their solid but slightly unfocused self-titled debut album, the 1975 returned with a sophomore offering that was both more experimental and more streamlined than their first outing. Some tracks have no lyrics at all, and some are so fast-paced it can be hard to understand what Matty Healy is singing (especially with that unapologetically thick British accent). This album is both a rebuke and an acceptance of the indie pop-rock niche that the band operates in (for the most part, anyway; these guys can be pretty hard to pin down with a solid genre). I think this album also very much captures the essence of the 2010s. The speed of the sound of the record is really up to snuff with modern consumerist culture and many of the lyrics reference things that are directly dated to this decade. Simply put: this album is the exact kind of weird that sums up most of this crazy decade.
Top Tracks: The Sound, She's American, Somebody Else
The Desired Effect by Brandon Flowers (2015)
This is my favorite album of all-time, by a huge margin. I love literally every song on this album. They're all so different, but they come together perfectly. Brandon Flowers is probably best-known for being the lead singer of the band The Killers, but on the side he has put out two solo albums. This is his second one, and it's amazing combination of that retro-80s new wave feeling The Killers are so well-known for, the heartland rock Americana vibes that they are equally well-known for, and a distinct 2010s flavor that Flowers seems to have best captured on this solo record. This album was instantly nostalgic for me and has always been since. I know this review is incredibly subjective, and I'm fine with that. I love this thing to the moon and back.
Top Tracks: Dreams Come True, Still Want You, Lonely Town