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Jamie Kim / Gavel Media

The Best Alternative Albums of the 2010s

This week, I will be ranking the top five albums from the alternative genre. Alternative music is defined as any type of music that does not fall completely into a more distinct music genre. This makes for a wide range of subcategories encompassed by this genre, including alternative rock, alternative pop, and alternative indie.

My ratings will be based on both lyrical and melodic scales: particularly, lyrical depth and relatability, and melodic cohesiveness and style. Of course, the overall harmony and beauty of the music will also be taken into account. Finally, the album must have longevity since its release.

1. Arctic Monkeys: AM (2013)

Arctic Monkeys not only write incredibly deep and relatable lyrics, but they also have such a soulful and poetic sound. In this regard, they have formed a truly unique sound. AM in particular is considered to be their best album, as it contains a wide range of songs that somehow manage to fit together perfectly. The album itself touches on hankering love, lust, sex, and desire through its intensely romantic lyrics and slow, seductive sound. The Arctic Monkey’s most famous tracks, “Arabella,” “Do I Wanna Know?,” and “R U Mine?,” appear on this album, all of which express these seductive desires, and epitomize the feelings of the album.

Favorite Tracks: “I Wanna Be Yours,” “Do I Wanna Know?”

2. Tame Impala: Currents (2015)

Tame Impala, like Arctic Monkeys, have a specific and unique sound. They are known for their psychedelic melodies that are almost trance-inducing. Currents, Tame’s fourth studio album, incorporates these trippy aspects while also expressing melancholy loneliness. The entire album is beautiful yet haunting, from the first song “Let It Happen,” to the last “New Person, Same Old Mistakes.” Through this album, Tame Impala perfects the art of creating music that is not only deep and tragic but also catchy and immensely playable. This balance is an incredible feat and it makes Currents iconic.

Favorite Tracks: “The Less I Know the Better,” “Reality In Motion,” “New Person, Same Old Mistakes”

3. Foster the People: Sacred Hearts Club (2017)

There is no way to fully describe the experience that is listening to Foster the People’s Sacred Hearts Club—the album as a whole is a truly mesmerizing experience. Different from anything else that Foster the People had put out before, Sacred Hearts Club is filled with psychedelic beats, hypnotic rhythms, and enticing lyrics. Incredibly, the album manages to be playful and light while still tapping into darkness, depth, and relatability. “Sit Next to Me” and “Doing It for the Money” have received the most praise from fans; however critics agree that each song on the album has something special to offer, from the hip hop-esque “Pay the Man” to techno-pop inspired “SHC.”

Favorite Tracks: “Pay the Man,” “SHC,” “Lotus Eater,” “Static Space Lover”

4. Bad Suns: Disappear Here (2016)

Bad Suns is an indie alternative band that started in 2013 with the release of their first EP, Transpose. Language & Perspective, Bad Suns' first album, introduced the band’s unique, raspy vocals, heavy bass, and intense drums. Disappear Here, Bad Suns' second studio album, is even better than their first, as it showcases their vocal range, musical skills, and storytelling ability in a more prominent way. Not only did Disappear Here reinforce their elusive sound, but also broadened Bad Suns' fan base. The album tells the story of young, turbulent, and eventually unrequited love. In this regard, the album is relatable, raw, and honest. The title track is one of the band’s most well-known songs. “Disappear Here” follows the story of young heartbreak, in its confusion, nostalgia, and sorrow. It's exhilarating and fast, like many other songs on the album, which are contrasted by more mellow tracks like “Swimming In The Moonlight” and “Maybe We’re Meant To Be Alone.” Despite the dichotomy between extremely fast paced, thrilling songs and more subdued tracks, all of the songs on Disappear Here tie together beautifully to create an album that tells an incredible story in poetic fashion.

Favorite Tracks: “Violet,” “Patience,” “Outskirts of Paradise”

5. Frank Ocean: Blonde (2016)

Since his humble beginnings with Odd Future back in 2009, Frank Ocean has become the epitome of a modern inspiration and influencer. Through his uncensored and honest music as well as countless interviews, posts, and podcasts, Ocean is upturning stigmas surrounding sexuality and breaking racial boundaries. Blonde, Ocean’s second studio album, embodies all that Ocean is and stands for. Known to be Ocean’s masterpiece, the album ties together his iconic and distinctive voice, lyrical verses, and psychedelic beats to express his preoccupation with love and romance. Many argue that “Nights” is Ocean’s best song on the album, as it evokes feelings of nostalgia, happiness, and sadness through rhythmic changes and powerful lyrics. “Ivy” is another beautiful melody on the album. The track attempts to encompass the ups and downs of adolescent love. Ocean sings about nostalgia toward a young love that, in its rockiness, caused just as much pain and sorrow as it did joy. In this regard, the track relates to teenagers attempting to navigate through the exciting and turbulent course of their first relationships. From start to finish, Blonde is unique and emotional experience.

Favorite Tracks: “Ivy,” “Self Control,” “White Ferrari”

Honorable Mentions:

Rex Orange County: Apricot Princess (2017)

COIN: COIN (2015)

DREAMERS: This Album Does Not Exist (2016)

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