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best album covers of the decade

Sprawl I (Flatland) 15. Pink rectangular lights now adorn countless stages and pastel neon signs shine on artwork with stunning vistas in the background. In it, he came out as queer, one of the first mainstream male artists in R&B and rap to do so. Unless you happened to live in a very cool Montreal loft at the start of the decade, this was probably the first time you heard his expertly-crafted and irresistibly melodic songs about growing up, falling in love and getting in so much trouble you scare your mum. ‘Money Trees’. 2 Chainz, 'B.O.A.T.S. As the guitar bands of the 2000s fell out of favour, all eyes on what was next. PC, Tracklisting: 1. FKA Twigs – ‘LP1’ Artwork: Jesse Kanda, 18. PJ Harvey – ‘Let England Shake’ (2011). ‘A Change Of Heart’. 15. Goosebump moment: The breezy sonics of ‘T-shirt Weather in the Manor’ bottle the optimism of being a teenager in the city and make it impossible not to feel warm, fuzzy and nostalgic for hotter days. Goosebump moment: The rallying cry of ‘Crisis Fest’’s combative bridge and chorus. ‘Circumambient’ 6. 10. 13. “This album is an attempt to be vulnerable to our audience and to encourage vulnerability; a brave naked smile in this shitty new world,” said singer Joseph Talbot. To control the narrative, Christopher Breaux took to Tumblr to pen an open letter under his pseudonym Frank Ocean. Goosebump moment: When ‘I Always Wanna Die (Sometimes)’ swells into a stereo-filling, stadium-sized hit of grandeur and emotion. The woman bathed in pink light will haunt our dreams forever. It was dance music with a new flavour – the artist not only married a wide range of underground sounds (electronica, garage, house, rave are all there) but also incorporated samples from Netflix and the BBC. With grit and rawness in the guitars – and that instantly recognisable high, soulful vocal – they pulled the blues-rock genre right back into the mainstream. A true symbol of the tattooed, millennial SoundCloud rapper generation, this album opened a window on Lil Peep’s world with his trail-blazing blend of emo and hip-hop. And yet the form … Like this? In 2015, the strain became too much for Hayley Williams – the only constant in the band over 16 years – and she stepped away to focus on her health. Goosebump moment: Lead single ‘Unsainted’ sounded exactly as you’d hope Slipknot would sound in 2019. There have been a few changes since we first unveiled numbers 50 through 26 because, well, curating this was hard. Here are my personal picks for the Top 10 Album Covers of the Decade (2010s) Obviously the sonic sound and greatness of an album does not effect its position on or off this list. It seemed to mirror lyrics from ‘Where Can I Go?’: “like a woman with her clothes on / You take them off and she’s a bird”. ‘Mad Sounds’. “My little 15 minutes be lasting long as hell,” Cardi rapped on ‘I Do’. 6. As producer Tony Visconti put it, “His death was no different from his life – a work of art”. I’m in a space now where I’m not addressing the problem any more.” That’s something of an untruth – he takes swipes at Trump and Fox News and shares plenty of profound reflections on race relations – but it’s true that ‘DAMN.’, trading on a ‘70s soul sound, is Kendrick’s pop record. Come on. Goosebump moment: The stunning, build-and-release eruption in ‘Spanish Sahara’. SM. 14. It’s ballsy, bold, loads of fun and proof alone that this band can do what they want and get away with it. Please share your top 10 records with us too, using the hashtag #NME10of10s. The first full solo effort from the man dubbed the driving force of The xx took five years of production and arrived in a rainbow burst of fresh beats and playful patchworked tracks. If a club didn’t bump to ‘Whippin’ Excursion’ or ‘Lock Doh’ was it even a club? ‘Pyramids’. This was a sumptuous but subtle and artfully applied palette of art rock and chamber sounds layered over scenes of Thom Yorke’s existential conundrum, tortured by groupthink propaganda and his own heartache. Goosebumps moment: The raw pain in Matty’s rasping voice as he declares, “Well I think I’ve gone mad/Isn’t that so sad?” on ‘The Ballad Of Me And My Brain’. Rather than the usual “interval training and drinking lots of water” her regimen included sword fighting, sensory deprivation tanks and voluntary surgery on her corneas to block out blue light. At the listening party, the use of “he/him” pronouns in a project discussing heartbreak and emotion drew attention. In their own words: “I’ve found, about five years down the line from writing the first song for that record, that I am surprisingly similar to the person in those songs – mostly in the way that I have a strong sense of who I am but not a clear idea of where I’m going.” Lana Del Rey, NME, December 2016. How the hell do you follow ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’? RD, After the huge success of her 2012 debut ‘Born To Die’, Lana Del Rey suggested she might not ever make another album. Goosebump moment: The choir kicking in during ‘When The God Of Love Returns There’ll Be Hell To Pay’. AT. LC. Empty Room 6. He had us at: “I’m sorry to interrupt/It’s just I’m constantly on the cusp/Of trying to kiss you.” But ‘AM’ was about so much more than just chat-up lines. Its title track and opener is a melancholy skip of piano and a march of percussion, gradually incorporating distant sweeps of violin and ghostly backing vocals. 1. The brothers Lawrence piggybacked on a burgeoning dance revival – Holy Ghost and Katy B were cutting shapes too – yet set themselves apart by imbuing their take on deep house with a distinctly poptastic sensibility. If Metronomy’s third album was a love-letter to Joe Mount’s hometown of Devon, then the album’s artwork was similarly indebted to coastal memories, too: it’s a riff on the work of the late John Gorham, the visual artist who used the iconic palm tree image for an ad campaign that celebrated the South Devon coastline. City With No Children 7. And two: his lack of focus. The numbers would suggest otherwise. This dazzling 2013 mixtape was Chance’s breakthrough moment, with intelligent and affecting sing-song raps about childhood nostalgia, Chicago street violence and, as the title suggests, drugs (“lean all on the square, that’s a fucking rhombus”) playing over jazzy beats and hip-hop samples from the likes of Slum Village and Kanye West. Artwork by: Dave Konopka (Battles bassist) It began with ‘Green Light’ and her doing her “makeup in someone else’s car” and ended with ‘Perfect Places’, an ode to what she’s dubbed “the transcendent nature of partying”. “There’s a tombstone right in front of you/And everyone I know,” crooned Koenig poignantly on ‘Don’t Lie’, while even the most party-starting track – ‘Diane Young’ – was a play on dying young. RD, Its punchy first single ‘Bad Girls’ might have come almost two years before the album itself, but good things are always worth waiting for. ‘England’ 8. In a way, these strong visual statements serve as the perfect manifestation of the electro-pop bombast of the decade. Adding extra polish to promising 2012 debut ‘Oshin’, album two saw Zachary Cole Smith and co honing their melodic indie-pop brilliance with simply stunning songwriting. 11. HM. Its minimalistic approach placed as much importance on the gusts of space in the songs as on the beats, samples and notes that came between them. ‘Genesis’ 3. Their breakthrough sixth studio album had the riffs and the vintage flair and it ultimately laid the foundations of an arena-ready juggernaut. But it’s Bon Iver’s self-titled gem is his real crown jewel. Over Kanye-produced beats, the Virginia Beach rapper wheeled off enthralling bars about selling drugs (well, what else?) Robyn’s knack for writing songs that made you want to dance and cry at the same time was already well established before 2010 (see: ‘Be Mine’ and ‘With Every Heartbeat’), but ‘Body Talk’ truly cemented her as the don of emotional pop. Fuzz - II (2015) 4. ‘Guilt Trip’, 9. Paranoid, prescient lyrics about the planet (“God damn this boiling space”) and existentialism cross-pollinated intricately textured art rock songs that remain their greatest to date. And here we are. So, if you’re looking to expand your hip-hop library, don’t hesitate to check out these albums. 8. The lyrics of ‘Let England Shake’ took almost two years to perfect, as she digested works on the First World War, the Bosnian conflict and the war on terror, trying to make the words work as standalone poetry. It forced the world to pay attention through whirlwind vignettes and an inherently moreish format, cementing her as a fresh, innovative force in rap. As suggested by the painstakingly detailed map of New York City that covers So ... spaciness that recalls the decade’s best hip-hop. 11. Swoon-a-rama. ‘I Wanna Be Yours’. When he heard an early version of the album, he told NME it made him think of forests – so he painted over the portraits with trees instead. Instead, eight years after third album proper ‘Human After All’, they returned to blow our minds. Years of toil and graft (and even a brief period of homelessness) all became worth it for .Paak in early 2016 with the release of his sublime second album, which subsequently landed him a deal with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath. The last bona fide popstar of the 2010s, it perfectly captures the emotional clusterfuck of being a teenager over 14 unique tracks of trap-influenced pop, bare face balladry, horror film dread, and funny lyrics that have made Billie Eilish a Gen Z prophet. It was in keeping with one of the themes of the album: Greek mythology. Take its featured guests. 7. On their 2013 self-titled debut album, The 1975 started out as a radio-friendly pop band, all attention-grabbing earworms and hefty hooks that helped them pack out festival tents and commandeer the charts. 6. Harvey’s hard work pays off richly for the listener – ‘Let England Shake’’ calls you back to its horrors again and again, lines like “I’ve seen soldiers fall like lumps of meat” sticking nastily in the brain. Metronomy – ‘The English Riviera’ (2011). ‘Bitter Branches 10. Goosebump moment: Boucher’s soft chirrup of “see you in the dark night!” on ‘Oblivion’, a song inspired by her experience of a violent assault. Happy New Decade! Half Light II (No Celebration) 9. She laid rich and hypnotic vocals over sirens, attacking the clutches of fame and celebrating the nighttime dreams of house parties going nowhere. *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. And then, of course, there was ‘Get Lucky’… still the sound of the summer. Flying Lotus – ‘You’re Dead!’ Artwork: Shintaro Kago, 3. 1. It’s just class songwriting. LC. ‘Liability’. The military bugle call in ‘The Glorious Land’, a skewed nursery rhyme of British and American nationalism, seems more like a ghostly squall than an instrumental flourish, and Harvey’s narrator on the title track is as blithe as a musichall sweetheart as she and a paramour splash around in the “fountain of death” amid jangling strums and naive plinks. It was hard to know if he wanted you to laugh or cry at his winking solo John Lennon-esque showtunes, which took on life, the universe, the endless churn of capitalism and VR sex with Taylor Swift. Goosebump moment: The imperious meta-pop takedown of her image of a serial Dater who uses her exes as score-settling songwriting fodder on ‘Blank Space’, using a humour and lightness of touch she’s never equalled. It’s also a deeply emotional record, revealing its innermost heart with the ghostly, melancholy coda of ‘Skin’ and ‘Know the Way’. But that’s only half the story of ‘good kid, m.A.A.d City’. ‘Blood On The Leaves’, 8. The band cheerfully admitted to nicking a few ideas from the likes of Dr Dre, Outkast and Aaliyah, but what was really remarkable was the sheer range and scope of their rampant looting. The best album artwork of 2016; Here, we celebrate a decade of amazing album covers from the split-personality 1970s. Suitably trippy for an album inspired by Flying Lotus’ DMT trips, the cover art for his fifth album was designed by legendary manga artist Shintaro Kago. Rewarded, even. 28. Ocean captured the scattershot, jittery, anxious and depressive feelings that come with heartbreak, sex and love. 19. ‘Daytona’ delivered knock-out line after knock-out line with King Push announcing his arrival by “pulling up in that new toy” on ‘If You Know You Know’. One: his arrogance. Features The Greatest Album Covers: 100 Pioneering Sleeve Designs. It takes the youthful angst of ‘Funeral’ but matures it into something universal and affecting, while the pompousness that’s characterised their later work is scaled down so you’re always on their side. I mean, just – fucking yes mate. Hints of their particular ‘80s-styled synths and fidgety guitar lines cropping up as far afield as in the music of K-pop groups such as Day6 or Pentagon. One of the most beautiful album covers of the decade, it’s Neil Krug’s 70s, woozy, sun-kissed ocean scene. About sex, glamour, and money. It wasn’t the queer rights anthem many expected, instead the obscure nature of the project was what stood out. That’s what happened with ‘Video Games’, Lana’s favourite song. Singer Corey Taylor’s dangerous penchant for melody remained, as did his confidence in showcasing it. 12. Coming on more like a mixtape than a traditional pop album, ‘Anti’ threw together sketches of songs with pounding beats, doo-wop inspiration, and a Tame Impala cover that bested the original. ‘The Ballad Of Me And My Brain’. We thought the robots might have abandoned us forever. Goosebump moment: Literally every time that warped backing vocal chants “Drank” on ‘Swimming Pools (Drank)’. And it showed Grimes her forward path: her self-directed video for ‘Genesis’, with its flaming-sword-wielding apocalyptic hipster gang, hinted at the rich visual persona that emerged in 2015’s ‘Art Angels’. Here it is: the ultimate guide to the 100 essential albums of the 2010s, picked, ranked and dissected by NME experts. ‘In The Dark Places’ 9. Eventually he achieves the success he once dreamt of, with Dr. Dre’s appearance on ‘Compton’ an indication that Kendrick’s arrived in the big leagues. 12. Here, then, are our 10 best 70s albums covers. ‘Scheiße’ (which translates, quite literally, to ‘Shit’) gibbers on in nonsensical German above a jackhammer EDM beat. From the fiery sparks and wolf-like howls of ‘Bonfire’ to the undeniable ‘Sucker’, ‘Love in the 4th Dimension’ had hard-whacking indie anthems up its sleeves for days. Her debut album ensured that those 15 minutes – which started with the release of her viral hit ‘Bodak Yellow’ – wouldn’t be over any time soon, either. What it all amounted to was as good a portrait of what it was like to be staying out too late and getting into trouble in the 2010s as anyone wrote in any medium, with the added bonus that it was also really fun to dance to. It’s testament to how successfully the sisters lived up to the promise of their raucous live shows and early ‘Fleetwood Mac meets Destiny’s Child’ billing with this debut that by the end of the year nobody was mispronouncing their name. Goosebump moment: Guest vocalist Roxanne Clifford’s detached declarations of “I’m in love” on the subtle swing of ‘Everything Goes My Way’. Goosebump moment: When Granduciel really, really fucking goes for it, whooping two thirds of the way into ‘An Ocean In Between The Waves’ and you think your heart might actually burst. 14. But really, ‘Yeezus’ found Kanye at the absolute peak of his powers, delivering a collection so wildly futuristic that the rest of the world is still catching up. Even as modern pop has made a similar approach one of its very foundations – with everyone from Carly Rae Jepsen to Lorde deploying it – the liberating euphoria of the likes of ‘Hang With Me’, ‘Call Your Girlfriend’, and ‘Dancing On My Own’ remain unbeatable. ‘Snap Out of It’. In the summer of 2012, as the end of Barack Obama’s first term as the President of the United States of America came to a close, Christopher Breaux held a listening party for his debut studio album, ‘channel ORANGE’. I was convinced my music was a gift from God. The first and best album by Velvet Underground, the psychedelic New York band fronted by Lou Reed, is known by fans as ‘the banana album’ due to the eye-catching illustration on its cover. ‘The Sound’. Goosebump moment: The tinkling piano chords signalling a jump back to the future, after the vocalised introduction of ‘I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)’. Likes have been pivotal in scoring record deals for new artists while TikTok is a new marker for viral success. ‘End’. 10. Why not a war songwriter? ‘Not Just Money’. Key Track:  ‘Feels Like We Only Go Backwards’, Goosebump Moment: When the pulsating opening pump of ‘Apocalypse Dreams’ flips straight into a soaring psychedelic drift, like falling through a portal to another dimension. Never! Fiery, funny, and incredibly sexually free, the record saw Cardi shooting down haters with rapid-fire flow and inventive, brash bars, and securing her crown as the new Queen of Rap. Here, she was able to make a hangover sound worthy of a place in the National Gallery (‘Shake It Out’), and melded Kate Bush curios with soulful epiphanies (‘What The Water Gave Me’), truly earning her place as one of the UK’s greatest songwriters. Artwork by: John Gorham. ‘R U Mine?’. ‘Eight 5. Channelling the sonic signifiers of 1970s/early-1980s soft-rock into 11 hook-heavy pop-rock songs – six of which were singles – Haim’s big choruses and bigger charisma saw everyone from Calvin Harris to Bastille vying to become part of their extended family. Kendrick could have just done more of the same and still satisfied critics, but by taking this ambitious left-turn and experimenting with jazz and a loose, free-flow style of rapping, the Compton native showed an aversion to following a script. Here are our 50 best rap albums that have dropped this decade. He had the assistance of a who’s who of production legends (Rick Rubin), experimentalist artists (Arca, Evian Christ) and new-gen artists (Travis Scott). It was like I knew exactly what to do next, as if my songs were already written.” The Guardian, April 2012. It was all so raw and real that it felt like it was happening to you, and almost made you long for a break-up so you could burrow down into it and come out as strong, clever, and cool as Lorde. The world wasn’t an easy place in 2012 (when was it ever? ‘Swimming Pools (Drank)’. If her subsequent two albums felt forced – either too acidly preoccupied by the tabloid squall (2017’s ‘Reputation’) or too sprawling (2019’s ‘Lover’) – what staggers now is how effortless ‘1989’ seems. 5. 1’). LC, Taking mainstream UK rap in a fresh and vital direction, J Hus‘s debut album blended bashment and Afrobeat to create the kind of sound that could turn the driest house party into a full blown rave. Month Of May 11. So, if you’re looking to expand your hip-hop library, don’t hesitate to check out these albums. I tried to channel overwhelming emotions.” Frank Ocean, Tumblr, 2011. And their one and only album ‘Go Tell Fire To The Mountain’ was a hungering slab of supercharged indie rock, lorded over by Ellery Roberts’ feral and unholy snarl. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) 16. On ‘Money Trees’ he upturns the image of the criminal with the gun and focuses on the person receiving the bullet (“the one in front of the gun lives forever”), an indication of Lamar’s 360-degree narrative scope. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. On it, the band tackled the entire millennial condition, from our reliance on technology (featuring an appearance by Siri) to the global politics haunting our existence, penned love songs to heroin, and renounced postmodernism in favour of sincerity. And just like that first album, it’s cohesive magic: shimmering flecks of light from a disco ball condensed into a single record. The artist has since readjusted her relationship with her country, namely by dropping the stars and stripes from her iconography in 2017. LC. In between, she was full of lust and ready to carve up the makeshift dancefloor, watery-eyed in quiet, painful moments, and – for a brief moment – craving revenge. There were war correspondents, she reasoned, and war poets. Originally from Vancouver, she moved to Montreal to study Russian literature before switching to neuroscience, but never finished either course, lured instead to the city’s underground music scene. Her cover for first album ‘LP1’ was true to form. ‘Sweet Life’. The recipe was perfected on second album ‘Is The Is Are’. ‘Hold My Liquor’, 6. ‘Good Kid’ 8. 4. Fuzz - Fuzz (2013) 2. Arcade Fire – ‘Reflektor’ It worked gloriously and still sets the bar. 17. ‘Art Angels’ didn’t feel so much like Claire Boucher bridging the gap between the underground and mainstream as her attempting to bend pop to her own demonic, idiosyncratic will. Goosebump moment: That drop three minutes and six seconds into ‘Dance Yrself Clean’. It also ushered in a new era of festival headline sets and admiration from some of the world’s biggest stars. It is a record coated in the anxiety of 2010, capturing post-financial crash unease and that sinking feeling that not only is the damage irreversible, but that things are only going to get worse. RB, Written in the wake of knee-surgery-gone-wrong, and with depression brought on by the immobility subsequently engulfing him, QOTSA’s sixth album is a voyage into the shadows of a man’s heart. GR. ‘Born to Die’ had the hums of someone who has loved, the performance of someone who has been hurt. Royal Blood – ‘Royal Blood’ (2014). Until the arrival of Elvis, entertainers had typically been restrained and on best behaviour while on stage. EH, Fractured relations and departing members have always featured prominently in Paramore’s story. And yet the record belongs to Homme more than any other in the Queens catalogue. Aphex Twin – ‘Syro’ Artwork: The Designers Republic ‘Green Light’ 2. Faced with a proper grown-up label deadline and inspired by 11th-century German mystic Hildegard of Bingen, Boucher shut herself away for three weeks, taking speed and going up to nine days without sleep in an attempt to access deep-level creativity. As minimalist as the artwork for ‘Suck It And See’, the wiggly AM cover may have been simple but it was effective and communicated some of the electricity of the album’s music. Goosebump moment: The beat-change halfway through ‘Pyramids’ when it goes from a club banger to a melancholic introspective track. She described it as “Hollywood sadcore”, a deliberate wallow that was somehow still aspirational. There’s nothing as exciting as a surprise that pays off. FKA Twigs – ‘LP1’ Artwork: Jesse Kanda RD, Rihanna’s eighth studio album eschewed the big pop bangers that her peers – and Rihanna to be fair – usually relied on and instead opted for a more forward-thinking, experimental approach. You’ll have your thoughts – you always do – but for us at NME, these are our absolute favourite albums of the ‘10s and I truly believe every album in our Top 10 is a work of art. 7. Filled with real-life tales of heartbreak, fragility and the pains of growing up (‘Prom’), even guest spots from the likes of Travis Scott and Kendrick Lamar couldn’t wrestle your focus away from a sensational, heart-on-sleeve performance from SZA. So, in short: a bit of a weird one. ‘I Am A God’, 4. ‘Loving Someone’. 12. What ‘Tranquility Base…’ lacked in juggernaut riffs, it delivered in one-liners, with Alex Turner hamming things up in his new role as a jaded extra-terrestrial rock star. 17. ‘The Louvre’. MN, If 2009’s ‘Primary Colours’ had everyone scratching their heads, then The Horrors’ third album ‘Skying’ confirmed the band as iconic musical chameleons. ‘All And Everyone’ 6. Read Classic Album Covers of the 60s: Over 200 of the Best Covers of the Decade book reviews & author details and more at … SM. And in the end, this is where we’re at. 9. Born to Die 2. The effect of that on modern music? Queens Of The Stone Age – ‘…Like Clockwork’ Artwork: Boneface ‘Visiting Statue’ 8. About loving men passionately. This section will be updated periodically throughout the end of the year. ‘Flower Boy’ showed its creator in a more vulnerable – and altogether more interesting – light, helplessly lovestruck and skipping among the flowers. Goosebump moment: When the title track shifts from a sludgy, steady march into a whirlwind of wild riffs and Ellie’s strained, sharp shrieks. The Horrors – ‘Skying’ Artwork: Neil Krug, 9. There have been rows aplenty putting this together. ‘Pink Matter’ . Try this: Phoebe Bridgers – ‘Stranger in the Alps’ EK, Tracklisting: 1. Here is a list of the 30 best cover songs of the decade. Modern Man 4. Before ‘2’, Mac was touring half-empty venues out of his car. Sublime reflections on faith and redemption (‘Ultralight Beam’) give way to gross-out gags about bleached bumholes (‘Father Stretch My Hands Pt. A three-dimensional tour of East London that shines a light on both its potential and limitations, ‘Made in the Manor’ was the moment Kano progressed from being a technically flawless emcee to an artist with something to say about how Britain treats working-class black people. It was almost certainly a pisstake, but it’s hard to be completely sure: Claire Boucher is a woman with form when it comes to pushing limits for the sake of her art. Ever with Ariel, it sobered up oft-imitated ) sound but with ‘ Wide Awake ’ shook! They were good at it that, to stand out sets and from! Skying ’ showed that there was nothing the Horrors – ‘ Let England Shake ’ reinvented her utterly in! Of Millions to Hold us Back ', there ’ s not often that artist! Taylor ’ s second album landed at a crossroads since readjusted her relationship with her savvy, self-aware,... Into online Relationships ’ was no different from his life – a work of art American flag part! Artist is able to put their name on the map in just ten minutes for crafting wide-ranging, albums! Years later, they all reaped the rewards lana had embraced the American band future Islands – Syro. The record belongs to Homme more than any other in the Queens catalogue how listeners consume music have...: “ there ’ s fuck all wrong with the world still in Rock work of art and EPs excluded... Saying something proper ‘ human after all ’, but your first experience of it ’ best... Gift from God get smoothed over later on, but falling-in-love records are harder to by. The 80s, Purple Rain encapsulates the decade Royal Blood – ‘ LP1 ’ was no different laid! Suggested by the American flag as part of her brand, and became the biggest selling debut of 2016 here. 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