The Best Albums of the Decade

Are we ready to shake it off — the 2010s? Just about, but before the decade slaps us on the behinds on our way out the door, here are some of the albums that Variety music critics Jem Aswad, Andrew Barker and Chris Willman couldn’t have made it through the terrible teens without.

(Click here to read Andrew Barker’s list)

(Click here to read Chris Willman’s list)


Jem Aswad’s 10 Best Albums

Even though, like most “critics,” I’ve been doing best-of lists since my early teens, trying to pin down my favorite albums of a year, let alone 10, is a daunting task. Yet after a weekend spent perusing archaic media I hadn’t touched in years (a.k.a. magazines and CDs), and with the benefit of considerable hindsight, this covers most of my favorites of the 2010s.

And although my response to most questioning commentary will be “F— OFF! IT’S MY LIST!,” I will note that the absence of certain artists, particularly hip-hop ones, is usually due to the lack of a great album (which is admittedly a rapidly antiquating art form); the absence of certain others is because their greatest work was done in previous decades. And also, rather than muddle up the list with multiple albums by the same artist, I am going to take the liberty of giving certain artists two albums — truly great artists have hot streaks rather than singles albums (think the Beatles in the ‘60s, David Bowie and Stevie Wonder in the ‘70s, Prince in the ‘80s, Jack White and Kanye West in the ‘00s, etc.), and the perspective of 10 years enables us to recognize that. And yes, they’re in alphabetical order: Trying to rank them would take another 10 years …

The Avalanches, “Wildflower” (2016)

At the beginning of the millennium, a trio of Australian DJs calling themselves the Avalanches served up the greatest masterpiece of sampling brilliance since the Beastie Boys’ “Paul’s Boutique”: “Since I Left You” is a vibrant mashup of densely layered samples that still managed to have actual songs and an album’s arc, all without (as far as I know) a single live vocal or instrument. To do what they do takes so long that the follow-up took 15 years, but “Wildflower” was well worth the wait (and even includes a few live vocals). While these albums can sound at times like you’re in an apartment with stereo wars going on between both of your neighbors, more often it’s a gloriously impressionistic aural experience that stands up to hundreds of repeated listens. I’ve probably listened to these two albums more than any others over the past 20 years.

Beyonce, “Beyonce” (2013) / “Lemonade” (2016)

People tend to bow down before “Lemonade,” and while there’s no question that “Formation” and “Sorry” might be the two best songs Queen Bey has ever done, for my money “Beyonce” is a better album, with a murderer’s row of opening songs that proved she’s much more than a singles lady (sorry).

Charli XCX, “Charli” (2019)

It’s an oddity of this very odd era that the greatest musical innovation has also been in its most popular genres: hip-hop, R&B and pop. Like Sia, Charli XCX is an artist who almost seems too prolific and talented for her own good. While she wrote or cowrote massive global hits ranging from Icona Pop’s “I Love It” to Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello’s “Senorita,” she seemed to spent the past five years doing everything except create a formal third album: She dropped two mixtapes, a flurry of one-off singles and in 2018 toured the world opening for Taylor Swift early in the evening and playing underground clubs at night — and that latter fact may crack the code of this brilliant album. While the singles and mixtapes felt inconsistent or overly experimental, “Charli” finds her combining innovation and commercial appeal as brilliantly as Robyn or Solange, and even Beyonce. With soaring synthesizers, grinding bass, sophisticated melodies and autotune being used as an instrument instead of a crutch, it’s the most forward-looking, futurist pop album since Robyn’s “Body Talk.”

D’Angelo, “Black Messiah” (2014)

The success that followed 2000’s “Voodoo” — arguably the most visionary and organic R&B album made in the past 25 years — messed up D’Angelo so badly that he basically vanished from the mainstream for almost 15 years, obsessing over the same songs year after year. The irony? “Black Messiah” was worth the wait: All of that obsessing paid off, with a studied form of funk that somehow sounds spontaneous, even though it was years in the making.

Lana Del Rey, “Born to Die: The Paradise Edition” (2012)

For an artist with a relatively one-dimensional singing voice, Lana Del Rey has managed to morph her sound into remarkable new shapes over the course of six albums (and a couple dozen singles and guest appearances) in nine years. While she’s made several fine albums since this (her third but the de facto debut of her character), “Born to Die” remains the one that made the biggest impact — especially the “Paradise Edition,” which includes the Rick Rubin-helmed “Ride,” possibly her best song to date.

Kendrick Lamar, “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City” (2012) / “Damn.” (2017)

It’s somehow indicative of Kendrick Lamar’s casual brilliance that he’d drop one of the greatest debut albums in history so seemingly effortlessly, then follow it with what might be the most jazz-heavy hip-hop LP to date, and then distill it all into a seasoned and mature third effort — all without appearing to break a sweat. While he can crank out inspirational bangers with the best of them (see “Alright,” a song we could all use right about now), he can also serve up some of the most brain-twisting innovation that the genre has heard yes (witness “DNA”). Here’s hoping the best is yet to come.

Frank Ocean, “Nostalgia, Ultra” (2013) / “Blonde” (2016)

As beautiful, influential and innovative as Frank Ocean’s music has been over the past few years, he’s arguably been even more influential as a champion for what I guess we can call artist’s prerogative: He does what he wants, when he wants, and everyone just has to wait. He’ll drop two albums in a week, three songs in a month, and even though there are often months of silence, you know he’s working up something great that he’ll share when he’s good and ready. We trust you, Frank. Just don’t make us watch any more videos of you building a staircase …

Robyn, “Body Talk” (2012)

Back in 1997 this young Swede was touted to be the next teen pop star alongside Britney Spears, but within a few years she chose another course for herself, forming her own label and crafting an innovative strain of pop along with collaborator Klas Ahlund and others. While that sound first bore fruit on her self-titled 2005 album (released three years later in the U.S.), it climaxed with 2012’s near-flawless “Body Talk,” a blast of ecstatic pop melodies and deeply sophisticated arrangements that arguably launched a whole new strain of “intellipop” (an insulting and musically prejudiced term). It’s a mantle Charli XCX would soon pick up — and create the next chapter (see above).

The Weeknd, “House of Balloons” (2011)

The mystery associated with this mixtape, which first wormed its way across the Internet in 2011, is hard to imagine now that Abel Tesafaye is a global superstar: Back then, you couldn’t even find a photo of him, and the only info was that he was a Canadian friend of Drake’s. Yet “House of Balloons” is where his and so many other stories began: It arguably spawned a whole new strain of alt-R&B, one that was at times depressive and mined previously untouched sounds and samples. The Weeknd himself worked this vein to a logical conclusion and then unveiled the superstar he’d apparently been hiding all along, but it’s rare to hear an R&B artist — and particularly an R&B producer — today who doesn’t owe this album a monumental debt.

Kanye West, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” (2010)

Setting aside where he is today, both musically and otherwise, there’s no question that Kanye West may be the single most influential and important musical artist of the 2000s so far: Without Kanye, there could be no Drake and so many others. One could view this album and his 2004 debut, “The College Dropout,” as bookends for the arc of his first five years, with the debut setting the tone for the happy, melodic Kanye and “Fantasy” being the ambitious end point — and he reinvented himself yet again with “Yeezy,” which was equally influential but, to me anyway, less likeable. It’s hard to hear any of Kanye’s music now without picturing him in that f—ing red hat, and even in the midst of cancel culture, these albums stand as the work of a true innovator.


Andrew Barker’s 10 Best Albums

1. Kendrick Lamar, “Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City” (2012)

With his subsequent albums, Kendrick Lamar would go on to craft jazz anthems for the Black Lives Matter movement, win the Pulitzer Prize, and turn a Marvel movie tie-in into a genuine work of art, but nothing in his formidable catalog has quite managed to equal the power of his major label debut. Everything that makes Lamar the greatest rapper of his generation is present and accounted for here: his slippery spirituality, his sensitivity to the grayest of margins between good and evil, his nose for hyperlocal yet universally understandable details, his ear for opulent yet unorthodox beats, his appreciation for hip-hop history and his disinterest in retreading that history, his anger, his empathy, his vulgarity, his monastic grace, his sincerity, his humor. From Tyler to Earl, Nipsey, Schoolboy, FlyLo, Jonwayne, YG, Greedo, Drakeo and Vince, it’s truly been a banner decade for LA hip-hop, yet this is the already-timeless masterpiece by which an entire era will likely be remembered.

2. Joanna Newsom, “Have One on Me” (2010)

I don’t cry much. And I’m not saying that to try and burnish my nonexistent tough-guy credentials – I’d probably be a much more emotionally healthy person if I cried more easily – it’s just not a reaction I have too often, especially not in response to something like a song. But I remember the first time I heard “Baby Birch,” the nine-minute waltz that serves as the centerpiece of Joanna Newsom’s “Have One on Me,” and I not only teared up, I had to immediately take a walk around the neighborhood to collect myself. I teared up the second time I heard it, too. And then again the first time I saw her perform it live. I’m not exactly sure why. Maybe it was personal. Maybe it’s just a beautiful song. Maybe, after a decade of wading through countless cooler-than-thou indie bands and first-thought-best-thought songwriting, I just wasn’t sure how to handle that kind of sincerity and intensity – a piercingly direct song about a lost pregnancy by a woman playing a goddamn harp, writing lyrics in perfect Wordsworthian stanzas with archaic diction, blending Appalachian folk melodies with Baroque arrangements, always willing to risk seeming indulgent or pretentious or ridiculous because she knows she has the chops to pull it off. In any case, there are 17 other songs on “Have One on Me”; some are just as long, most are just as good.

3. Kamasi Washington, “The Epic” (2015)

As anyone who’s been paying attention knows, jazz has remained a resilient, endlessly adaptable medium well into its second century. The trouble is, the number of people who’ve been paying attention has never been lower, and it takes something momentous for a jazz musician to regain the world’s ear. Enter Kamasi Washington, who managed to do just that with this three-hour work of jaw-dropping ambition and invention. Equal parts cosmic, acrobatic, playful and melancholy, “The Epic” refused to fit neatly into any of the boxes of an increasingly regimented genre, wrestling America’s greatest art form out of the clutches of academia and shoving it exuberantly towards the future.

4. D’Angelo and the Vanguard, “Black Messiah” (2014)

D’Angelo’s career has followed a fairly straightforward pattern: Release an album, disappear from public sight for a decade or so, then repeat. It may be an A&R nightmare, but when it’s resulted in three consecutive masterpieces, it’s tough to argue with it. More explicitly political and willfully avant-garde than his first two LPs, “Black Messiah” nonetheless hit all of the same pleasure centers. D’Angelo’s inimitable, multitracked vocals soar above continually surprising arrangements and ceaselessly sinewy grooves, with drummer Questlove and bassist Pino Palladino easing back into a pocket so deep it’s almost subterranean.

5. Shabazz Palaces, “Black Up” (2011)

Back in 2011, nothing in hip-hop sounded quite like Shabazz Palaces: the off-kilter, glacial rhythms; the microdoses of atonality; the pointillist rhyme patterns; the use of empty space; the knack for creating subtle — at times almost gentle — textures out of teeth-rattling squalls of sub-bass… Nearly a decade later, so many of the touches that made Ishmael Butler and Tendai Maraire sound so extraterrestrial have become de rigueur on rap radio. And still, nothing sounds quite like Shabazz Palaces.

6. Beyoncé, “BEYONCÉ” (2013)

“Lemonade” might be the Beyoncé album that goes in the 21st century cultural time-capsule; “Dangerously in Love” might have had the biggest hit singles; and “4” might have had the best hit singles. But her self-titled, internet-breaking surprise release was where Beyoncé truly became BEYONCÉ – and not just on the front of the album cover. Complicating her sound and letting her mask of Olympian perfection slip, she revealed a more nuanced, interesting human character behind the flawless public persona. And it was thanks to these moments of vulnerability that her imperial phase began in earnest.

7. Kacey Musgraves, “Golden Hour” (2018)

Was “Golden Hour” really my favorite country album of the decade? My favorite pure pop album? My favorite stoner-folk-rock record? Can it properly be called any of those things? Who the hell knows. All I know is that the 2010s offered no mood-brightener as consistently effective as Kacey Musgraves’ third full-length, and its Grammy coronation as Album of the Year forced me into the uncomfortable position of agreeing with the Recording Academy for the first time in decades.

8. Poliça, “Shulamith” (2013)

On their second album, the Minneapolis synth outfit managed to locate that perfect midpoint between Enya, the Cocteau Twins, and Nine Inch Nails that no one else would’ve even thought to look for. Their debut, “Give You the Ghost,” had plenty of gems, but it was here that Poliça realized their full potential. “Chain My Name” sounds like the hottest club banger in the discos of the ice planet Hoth; “Very Cruel” keeps twisting a creeping synth line into something more and more sinister until you can barely recall where it started; and “Tiff” features the best Justin Vernon cameo of any song this decade (no disrespect to Kanye).

9. Vince Staples, “Summertime ‘06” (2015)

He may have only been 22 when he released his major label debut, but Vince Staples was already an old soul. And not an old soul in the selfie-gazing-wistfully-at-Machu-Picchu-on-your-Tinder-profile sense, but an old soul in the sense that he’d seen enough of the world to know exactly how full of shit it is, and he seemed to regard everything – even, and maybe especially, the vicissitudes of his own music career – with a deservedly skeptical eye. But what’s remarkable about Staples is how rarely his skepticism ever sours into cynicism. Even at its darkest (and it gets plenty dark), “Summertime ‘06” never lacks a moral center. “My feelings told me love is real/But feelings known to get you killed,” he raps on the title track, and he’s smart enough to know just how sad that line really is.

10. The Coathangers, “Suck My Shirt” (2014)

How do you make punk rock relevant in the 2010s? If you’re the Coathangers, you do it by forging your own unique sound using the same principles as the earliest punks in the 1970s: play hard, play fast, don’t sweat the details, and don’t take anything you’re doing too seriously. The Atlanta band certainly didn’t take much seriously on their infectiously rough first three albums – sample song titles: “Don’t Touch My Shit,” “Arthritis Sux,” “Haterade” – but they managed to kick things into a much higher gear on their fourth, demanding a greater degree of respect without losing any of their smartass edge. Irreverent, chaotic, catchy, punk AF and occasionally a little threatening, you’re never quite sure if the Coathangers are about to let you in on a joke or pull a knife on you in the parking lot.

Honorable mentions: Sade, “Soldier of Love”; No Age, “Everything in Between”; Kanye West, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”; Vampire Weekend, “Modern Vampires of the City”; Miranda Lambert, “The Weight of These Wings”; El-P, “Cancer 4 Cure”; My Bloody Valentine, “mbv”; Tyler, the Creator, “Igor”; Frank Ocean, “Channel Orange”; Calle 13, “Multi_Viral”; A Tribe Called Quest, “We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service”; Carly Rae Jepsen, “Emotion”; THEESatisfaction, “Awe Naturale”; Roc Marciano, “Reloaded”; Lana Del Rey, “Norman Fucking Rockwell!”

Chris Willman’s 10 Best Albums


1. Taylor Swift, “1989” (2014)

“I swear I don’t love the drama, it loves me,“ Swift swore in another of the terrific albums she made this decade — and whichever way you think the laws of attraction swing in this instance, there can be little doubt that she’s the great pop dramaturgist of her generation. Really, any of the five albums she released during the 2010s could be on a best list, each one with 13 (or more, once she started valuing volume over superstition) vivid setpieces that were little mini-plays unto themselves, reenacting  conflicts with antagonists we can all relate to: self-doubt; careless lovers who won’t return scarves; the Kardashians. So what made “1989” stand out, beyond the unerring musical instincts that make all her records just a bridge or pre-chorus away from pop sublimity squared? It’s partly that it’s the one where she “picked a lane,” as she put it, zooming away from Nashville to welcome herself to New York and L.A. (or maybe, by Max Martin-ized proxy, Sweden) as an unabashed Top 40 stylist. But it’s also the album where she found increased maturity in lightening up a little. In sexier songs like “Style,” she was finding that not every mistake has to feel tragic; as Sheryl Crow once said, you can have favorite ones, too.

2. Brandi Carlile, “By the Way, I Forgive You” (2018)

The most thrilling moment of the 2019 Grammys — maybe any recent Grammys — was in seeing Carlile perform the new song that instantly became her signature one and, as she hit those final high notes, realizing that at that moment, the rest of the world was in on “The Joke,” too. A song that leaps movingly between verses about adolescent gender identity issues and immigrant bias makes a pretty solid mascot for an entire album in which the Seattle native is a proponent for what she calls “debilitating empathy.” Empowering empathy might be the phrase more listeners would pick, but maybe you should just go with her instinct on a record that does, in the end, floor you. There wasn’t anything wrong with Carlile’s previous five albums, but the sixth time was really the charm when it came to making a record that had some cohesion but also really allowed each track a distinctive musical personality, all the way to the epic closer, “Party of One,” which somehow married the sensibilities of two of Carlile’s heroes: Joni Mitchell in the writing, Elton John in the arranging. She has been elevated to their company, but it’s the combination of chops and compassion that lands Carlile on her own shelf.

3. Billie Eilish, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” (2019)

Eilish’s full-length debut album has been so culturally ubiquitous, commercially successful and inter-generationally accepted that it’s easy to forget, for a minute, just how deeply and wonderfully weird a lot of it is. She seemed just a little scary when she first came out, at least to parents, with the spider videos and epic liquid mascara fails and resting bad-ass face. And then she turned out to be completely warm and lovable, after all. So let’s backtrack for a second, if we still can, to the scary parts of “When We All Fall Asleep,” like deep anxiety, dread, night terrors and suicidal tendencies. That she and her collaborating brother Finneas could wrap all these dark elements up in such an inviting bow was one of the major musical accomplishments of the 2010s. There were moments on the album that were just a little less idiosyncratic and more timeless, too, like the ballads “I Love You” and “When the Party’s Over” — the songs that make you believe she’ll still have everyone’s attention into the 2040s and ‘50s. You can love those signposts of a maturity and maybe normalization to come and still cherish the oddest moments of the album, too, when the low-key combination of buzzy synths, deep bass lines and the sound of Eilish whispering somehow adds up to a transfixing kind of rock ‘n roll.

4. Beyoncé, “Lemonade” (2016)

Even back to her earliest Destiny’s Child days, Beyoncé was more of a confessional singer/songwriter than she was perhaps given credit for at the time. The shine coming off show business’s most spectacular legs can distract you from a thing like that. But there was no escaping it when it came to her sixth solo album, for which she chose not to do any interviews, because, you know, the album was the interview. There were the songs of marital distress, but did anyone ever look so delighted to be brought down to size in a roman a clef as Jay-Z? Of course the narrative of the album moves from personal revenge to scorching the earth with positivity, with “Freedom” and “Formation” as the album’s great singles and climaxes. You could view all this as precursor to Beyoncé’s even greater triumph with her Coachella show, the singular live event of the decade, a celebration of the African American experience that felt like the greatest halftime show that ever just took over and superseded the game.

5. Kacey Musgraves, “Same Trailer Different Park” (2013)

Since her arrival on the scene six years ago, Musgraves has pretty much redefined what a modern country singer can be as well as just what side route they can take to becoming an arena headliner. And maybe all those kids buying “Golden Hour” LPs in Urban Outfitter aren’t thinking of her as a country star at all. As wonderful a wistfully romantic turn for her as that latest Grammy-winning album was, her most defining moment is still the album that brought her to the dance, in which Musgraves could flaunt her mobile-home cred along with her glamour, her tartness with her sweetness, her observational humor with her heartache. “Follow Your Arrow” was the accidental progressive anthem the genre needed; breakout single “Merry Go Round” somehow went top 10 despite being the downbeat antithesis of the hometown pride corkers that still dominate country. But Musgraves is really at her best when she’s doing something as subtle as noting the transactional nature of a dying relationship in “It is What It Is.” Is it too much to ask her to be our modern-day Loretta Lynn, Bobbie Gentry and John Prine wrapped up into one? Apparently not.

6. The New Pornographers, “Whiteout Conditions” (2017)

The benefits of having several lead vocalists — by this point, one male and several female (including Neko Case) — become apparent as you’re listening to any of the recent albums by the New Pornographers, whose songwriter and leader, A.C. Newman, has described the sound they’re going for as something akin to a “Krautrock Fifth Dimension.” That witty thumbnail only begins to get at what’s great about an indie-rock group that channels the synth-y joy of ELO and cheerfully nonchalant harmonies of an ABBA into broodingly amped-up songs about depression, the artist’s role in times of turmoil, the nature of persona, and the impending demise of Western civilization.

7. St. Vincent, “St. Vincent” (2014)

Even before we lost the existing David Bowie, it was clear we were going to need a new one, and that it would probably need to be a woman. Lady Gaga didn’t fit the bill as originally expected: the world really wants, or most needs, her to be a new Tony Bennett. But Annie Clark fit the bill, as one of the true rock stars who came to the fore in the 2010s, and as someone whose considerable gift for vivid visual presentation and reimaging is literally just about the least of her prodigious talents. Her most recent album, the Jack Antonoff-produced “Masseduction,” provided a promising example of how she might be able to ramp up a more grandiose-pop side while retaining her essential avant-garde-iness. But when it comes down to a choice of just one pick, the self-titled album that preceded it is deeply satisfying as a slightly more stripped-down example of her ethos, with a little more allowance given for the lead guitar breaks that suggest she might have taken to Robert Fripp most of all while she was absorbing her Bowie. If at any time her musings on the traps of the digital age risked becoming an indie-rock TED talk, she would always bring it right back with a personal gut-punch that took these songs out of the realm of theory and back into raw emotion. We’re going to need her clear vision in the 2020s.

8. Elvis Costello & the Imposters, “Look Now” (2018)

This is a top 10 with, as you may have noticed, a lot of great female perspectives in it. The same goes for Costello’s “Look Now,” actually: at least half the songs on it are from a woman’s point of view, oftentimes in the first person, a p.o.v. the veteran rocker obviously feels comfortably slipping into. He maybe had an advantage with that, in how a number of the album’s songs derive from unproduced musicals he’d spent the decade working on, which provided Costello ample opportunity to try on a gown, as it were, as a writer. But this wasn’t a completely abrupt shift; even some of his earliest records had him wanting to protect women from the wolves at their door, even if his lyrical angle may have been motivated more by jealously romantic self-interest at the time. At this late stage in the game, Costello is almost completely a sympathetic character writer… and “Look Now” has a lot of musical character to it, too. This ‘60s pop-influenced collection puts a fresh spin on his ‘90s collaboration with Burt Bacharach (who did co-write a few songs here): What if Dionne Warwick were backed by a band with a good deal more nervous energy to it? Popular music doesn’t get any better crafted, or — even with all the story-songs and character sketches here — any more deeply felt.

9. Aimee Mann, “Mental Illness” (2017)

She could just about claim a spot on this list for having the best album title of the 2010s alone. But even more than that was required, and Mann delivered it with a quiet set of exquisitely frowny chamber-pop. The inherent joke of the album’s name is that we’re just about all pretty effed up, or diagnose-able, in the way we return to the patterns that serve us least. “I can see your light on, calling me back to make the same mistake again,” she sings in the album’s closer. “My heart is a poor judge, and it harbors an old grudge.” Of course, anyone who knows Mann knows she really harbors the ability to make all this clinical dysfunction sound very, very, very pretty. And “Mental Illness” is uncompromising in just how uncommercial a style it picks as a delivery system for that down-on-luck loveliness: acoustic guitars and pianos accompanied by a string section that lends even more solemnity to the whole beautifully sorry affair. It’s not really that much of a bummer, in the end: Mann is too deadpan in her observations to wallow in melancholy, and damn if that potentially morose orchestration isn’t its own kind of pick-me-up.

10. Leonard Cohen, “You Want It Darker” (2016)

As our favorite boomer rock stars and singer-songwriters push the envelope further into the territory of how close you get to the dying of the light and still make a compelling record, we see some actually acting their age. In the Who’s “Who,” Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend sounded oddly vigorous in the midst of a record about being angry old men. Cohen, of course, was not destined to convey either vigor or anger, whether or not he knew illness would make this album the last he would complete during his lifetime. As a writer, he faces the near-end courageously — which is to say, with as little cockiness as possible. There are songs in which the one-time ladies’ man acknowledges that lust is no longer the point of pride or problem that it once was. But what’s most interesting is how, in the title track and others, he wrestles with a God he doesn’t necessarily believe in — not just taking issue with his own mortality but with the humanity that’s fashioned itself in his image. (In that, this album has something in common with another top-shelf ‘10s album, Father John Misty’s “Pure Comedy,” although Misty is more direct about his divine argumentation.) You may or may not believe in the concept of a “good death,” but Cohen’s earthly finale proved it’s possible to fashion a good end in art, at least.

And not to forget: Cecile McLoran Salvant’s “Dreams & Daggers”; Jason Isbell’s “Southeastern”; A Tribe Called Quest’s “We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service”; “Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording)”; Lucius’ “Nudes”; Father John Misty’s “God’s Favorite Customer”; Dawes’ “All Your Favorite Bands”; Miranda Lambert’s “Four the Record”; “Heathers (Original Cast Recording)”; David Bowie’s “Blackstar”; Pistol Annies’ “Interstate Gospel”; the Raconteurs’ “Help Us Stranger”; Maren Morris’ “Hero”; Ariana Grande’s “Sweetener”; Muse’s “The 2nd Law”; Bob Dylan’s “Triplicate”; Robyn’s “Body Talk”; Robbie Fulks’ “Gone Away Backward”; Adele’s “21”; Randy Newman’s “Dark Matter”; Lorde’s “Melodrama”; Sara Bareilles’ “What’s Inside: Songs from ‘Waitress’”; Ryn Weaver’s “The Fool”; Tom Waits’ “Bad as Me.”