It used to take about twenty years for something to count as nostalgia. Now it takes about twenty minutes. A couple of the albums on this list of underrated gems from the 2010s came out in 2019, less than five years ago. But that was still pre-COVID, and it seems like they come from a different world.
Still, there are so many streaming services now that new music quickly eclipses anything from even two months ago. It's easy to forget albums from last year. Unless they are as great as the albums that follow.
Here then, are five rock albums from the last decade that charmed some critics and won some fans, but never got the recognition they really deserved. Some are punky and some are folky, but they are well worth checking out.
Five albums from the 2010s you should still be listening to
THE BRUTALIST BRICKS – TED LEO AND THE PHARMACISTS (2010)
Ted Leo has been cranking out high-octane guitar-based rock and roll for more than thirty years, through a half dozen different bands, in collaboration with Aimee Mann, and as a soloist. The Pharmacists provided his longest-lasting and most successful incarnation, and their final album, released in 2010, shows off everything that Leo does best.
He opens The Brutalist Bricks with zero-to-sixty pop rock (“The Mighty Sparrow”) and doesn’t let up for 45 minutes, through a pure punk banger (“Everything Gets Interrupted.”) OK – there’s actually one tiny blip of weirdness on the swampy acoustic “Tuberculoids Arrive in Hop” toward the end, but that merely puts the rest of album in better relief.
If you just listen to the guitar, which is easy to do, you’ll miss the highly politicized nature of Leo's songwriting. “Mourning in America” is a frenetic political warning. “Ativan Eyes” is a crunching political warning. Truth is, a lot of the tracks here serve as political warnings. You can buy into them or not. Because with the exception of “Tuberculoids…,” this entire album is just a pop guitar train you can ride for however long you like. There are earworms galore – especially the impossibly catchy “Bottled in Cork.” Only Ted Leo could turn the repeated line “We are born in despair” into a catchy pop anthem, as he does in “Woke Up Near Chelsea.”
The Pharmacists have not been active for quite some time as Leo has pursued other outlets. Maybe one day he will put the band back together (Butch Walker did it with Marvelous 3 out of the blue in 2023). If not, The Brutalist Bricks is a pretty strong way to make an exit.