The Roundtable’s Favorite Experimental Albums (2010-19)

Determining the “best” album of a single year is hard enough, let alone a whole decade. Though I have amassed a great collection of musical experiences over the past 10 years, it’s only fair that I relegate these posts as “favorites” in lists that follow my own arbitrary rules.

“Even a blueprint is a gift and a curse
Cause once you’ve got a theory on how the thing works
Everybody wants the next thing to be just like the first.”

Linkin Park, “When They Come for Me”

10. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach

Year: 2010

I did not want to bog these lists down with explanations, such as why I picked some albums for one genre over another. But for the sake of clarity, these so-dubbed “Experimental” albums are merely unshackled from the bores of convention. They fit nowhere and, thus, appear here together. Solidarity.

Few did it better while allowing mass accessibility than the Gorillaz, with this album featuring blooming electro symphonies, forests of synthwaves and an undergrowth of rap here and there.

Defining Moment: Perhaps it was only unlocked upon seeing the song performed live, but that synth breakdown in “Rhinestone Eyes” (the 2:45 mark) is more dope than it lets on.

For an easy chuckle, ask me about the humorous anecdote from attending their concert.

9. Pendulum – Immersion

Year: 2010

I cannot believe this album made the cut for this decade – it has been so long since I’ve enjoyed it’s rapturous vitality. This album is a ball of kinetic energy. It is a miracle the above video is able to stay in one place once it gets going.

Defining Moment: Oh, has to be “Watercolour.” The song comes equipped with a monumental intro, a filthy bass drop and a heartfelt bridge. I am raiding castles to this song as we await the rapture.

8. James Blake – The Colour In Anything

Year: 2016 (The Roundtable’s No. album of 2016)

There were a few James Blake albums to consider here – take your pick. The man is a wizard with soundscapes, capable of creating entire worlds out of layered instrumentals and cloudy vocals.

I chose this album for the simple fact that I bonded to it. This is true out of any album that makes one of my top 10 lists, whether I like it or not – you are forever etched into my SOUL, James Blake.

Also, my 2016 review of this album prefaced the theme of my 2017 review, so it all comes full circle.

Defining Moment: “I Need a Forest Fire” features Bon Iver, which is just heavenly fodder for avant-garde hipsters.

7. Billie Eilish – WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?

Year: 2019

Spiritually, this album belongs on the Indie list. But aesthetically, Billie is on the forefront of what form pop music will assume in the next decade – textured, beat-driven, full-frontal wallowing.

As a blossoming MEGA DAD, I am OK with this. Her frankness is refreshing and serves a beacon for those going through many of the same issues. Unlike many MEGA DIVAS, Billie is actually relatable. We just need to get her good songs on the radio.

Defining Moment: You have to be a special kind of artist to write “i love you.” That song eradicated any skepticism I had of this girl’s talents.

6. Julien-K – We’re Here With You

Year: 2012

Whatever dark, neon 80s glam rock I was missing in my life was quickly satiated with this album.

This album was also released during one of the hardest points of my life, and will therefore be forever in my debt.

“You’re the sunlight
You’re the feeling
The virtue in it all
The virtue in us all”

Julien-K, “I’ll Try Not to Destroy You”

Defining Moment: Palm Springs Reset” will never stop being a masterpiece to me, and I cannot find a way to justify it. It is steady and sweet and beautiful, which is all a song needs to be.

5. Tame Impala – Currents

Year: 2015 (The Roundtable’s No. 8 album of 2015)

Read the top comment for this video and you will understand this album.

This albums is so slick. From my 2015 review:

‘”Though trippy, psychedelic bands often feed on disorder and letting the music flow, Tame Impala has reinvented their style with precision and articulation. Let (frontman Kevin) Parker’s uprising be a lesson: If you want to make a great album, be talented and do everything yourself.”

I reread the whole entry and it gave me a nice chortle.

Defining Moment: Name a bolder claim of manhood than “‘Cause I’m a man, woman.

4. Benjamin Clementine – At Least For Now

Year: 2014 (The Roundtable’s No. 1 Album of 2015 – not a typo. Must have been released overseas earlier)

I refuse to believe that replay value is a necessary qualification for a masterpiece. I had to justify to one of my peers this album’s top ranking that year even though there are relatively few situations where I turn to this album. I am not reading East of Eden or watching The Shawshank Redemption on the regular either.

Once homeless, Benjamin Clementine was not classically trained in the arts, but he had a message to convey. He chose music and expressed himself in the only way that came natural, however unorthodox. That is the essence of artistic expression and every reason to give this man a listen when you want to appreciate what that looks like.

Defining Moment: I enjoy reading and watching his interviews because that he gets offended when people steer away from discussing his music. That is what this is all about. The man is truly passionate about his craft and I would love to sit down for a cup of tea with him.

3. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

Year: 2016 (The Roundtable’s No. 6 album of 2016)

This is one of the hardest bands to insert into a playlist. Not only does their sound stray from most bands with whom they are compared, but each song is so deliberate and demands a closer look.

Furthermore, as their sound has refined over the years, I daresay they are one of the more audibly beautiful bands out there.

Defining Moment: I saw them live for this tour and on one of the songs, Thom Yorke just put the camera on his eye as he played the piano. His eye was on a giant screen for the entire song.

2. Daft Punk – Random Access Memory

Year: 2013 (Tragically NOT reviewed on the Rountable’s controversial 2013 recap)

Bringing back the funk! Look, robots have emotions, too. And Pharrell just wants to get the ladies going. It is a perfect match, honestly.

BIG MUSIC tried with all its feeble might to ruin “Get Lucky.” I am pleased to say that it failed immensely. Still a banger.

Defining Moment: I am usually not one for dialogue-heavy tracks, but “Giorgio by Moroder” is a captivating history lesson each time.

1. Linkin Park – A Thousand Suns

Year: 2010 (The Roundtable’s No. 1 album of 2010)

You thought I would discuss 100+ albums over the past 10 years and would not mention the band that single-handedly changed my life? Oh, dear reader, you are forgiven!

As someone who dabbles in all the genres, A Thousand Suns is a grand amalgam. No other band can make an album like this: gunky tribal rap, hazy ballads of affirmation and whatever the f*ck “Blackout” is. Linkin Park was capable of almost any style of music (and hopefully still is), and this was the one time they decided to do it all at once.

For at least one listener, this is the perfect album.

Defining Moment: When Chester comes in during the bridge on “When They Come for Me.” My combat abilities jump to John Wick-level whenever that comes on.

And RIP Chester – you showed me how much a song could truly mean.

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