The 200 best songs of the 2010s #

You can find this playlist on Apple Music, lovingly sorted into countdown order for optimal listening.

1. I Know It’s Pathetic But That Was the Greatest Night of My Life by Sun Kil Moon (Among the Leaves, 2012). A short but vivid sketch of a poignant encounter. The type of stuff the Koz used to make before he went weird.
1. Smoko by The Chats (Get This In Ya, 2017). An instant Australian classic, equal parts ridiculous and serious and with a proper catchy riff. Great film clip too. Top choon.
1. Shallow by Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper (A Star Is Born Soundtrack, 2018). It might be a little over-engineered to be epic, but it does manage to be quite epic, and a fantastic vocal performance from both artists.
1. Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus (Bangerz, 2013). Miley takes a hammer to her good-girl Disney channel image. Not the only former child star to do this this decade, but certainly the most dramatic and well-marketed.
1. All the Rage Back Home by Interpol (El Pintor, 2014). Not much memorable output from Interpol this decade, but this was a standout for me. Glimmers of their past greatness.
1. Afterlife by Arcade Fire (Reflektor, 2013). One of the dancier Arcade Fire tracks. I prefer their 00s output, but they had a few great songs this decade too.
1. Ukulele Anthem by Amanda Palmer (Ukulele Anthem - Single, 2011). I saw Amanda Palmer in one of her infamous “ninja gigs” in Reykjavik in 2018, and when she played this song it was a really cathartic moment. An indictment of society at just the right time with just the right amount of forcefulness.
1. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) by Arcade Fire (The Suburbs, 2010). This album is the bridge between the artier Arcade Fire of the 2000s and the dad-rock of the 2010s, and this song the cornerstone of that bridge.
1. Sunglasses by Black Country, New Road (Sunglasses - Single, 2019). This is the kind of song I wish I’d written. A chilling account of modern life that also rocks.
1. Man of War by Radiohead (OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017, 2017). Yes, I’m including these songs, which were recorded in the late ’90s, on this list. I waited for them for a very long time, and they didn’t disappoint. The weakest of the three songs released on the OK Computer reissue, that somehow didn’t quite capture the mystery of the well-known live snippets from the 2003 documentary Meeting People Is Easy; probably why it was never released. But without all that context, it’s just a great track.
1. The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness by The National (Sleep Well Beast, 2017). The National moved firmly out of indie cred territory and into Dad rock territory this decade, but there’s a couple of tunes that show they’ve still got it.
1. Hasa Diga Eebowai by The Book of Mormon Cast (The Book of Mormon (Original Broadway Cast Recording), 2011). I was lucky enough to see The Book of Mormon on Broadway in New York City in 2013, and it’s definitely the most clever, catchy and hilarious stage musical I’ve ever seen. This is the highlight for me.
1. Bad Liar by Selena Gomez (Bad Liar - Single, 2017). Catchy garbage pop.
1. Blankets by Craig Finn (I Need a New War, 2019). “When you panic in the city / It feels like one too many walls / When it thunders in the canyon / You get the feeling you’re too small”. What a fantastic lyric.
1. Randy Quaid (feat. Mark Kozelek) by Desertshore (Drawing of Threes, 2011). A quiet, moving little song featuring vocals and lyrics from one of my favourite songwriters.
1. 17 by Youth Lagoon (The Year of Hibernation, 2011). I really liked this guy, Trever Powers, who was only around for about seven years (which is actually the same as the Beatles, which is pretty crazy). A quiet, bedroom sound. Comforting.
1. Lionsong by Björk (Vulnicura, 2015). “Maybe he will come out of this loving me / Maybe he won’t”.
1. West Coast by Lana Del Rey (Ultraviolence, 2014). My pick for the breakout pop star of the decade, but lumping Lana Del Rey, who is a virtuously talented songwriter and artist, as a simple pop star feels like doing her an injustice.
1. All Under One Roof Raving by Jamie xx (All Under One Roof Raving - Single, 2014). Creates a powerfully nostalgic feeling. One of the most epic electronic tunes.
1. Third of May / Ōdaigahara by Fleet Foxes (Crack-Up, 2017). A pretty massive song from the Fleet Foxes, their last great song (so far, hopefully).
1. Leaving the City by Joanna Newsom (Divers, 2015). This track proves Joanna Newsom could have been any sort of musician, even a pop star, but chose her path very deliberately and we should all be very grateful for that.
1. I Follow Rivers by Lykke Li (Wounded Rhymes, 2010). Ubiquitous at the turn of the decade and still catchy as anything today.
1. The Ballad of the Hulk by Bill Callahan (Shepherd in a Sheepskin Vest, 2019). A beautiful reflection on the past and self-growth by a man who has done a lot of it.
1. Green Light by Lorde (Melodrama, 2017). This album was released the year my wife and I got married, and I have happy memories playing this song while driving through the Cote d’Azur. Light and airy stuff.
1. Fourth of July by Sufjan Stevens (Carrie & Lowell, 2015). This heartbreakingly personal album by one of the great indie artists had quite a few great moments, like this one, steeped in the grief of losing his mother.
1. FDT (feat. Nipsey Hussle) by YG (Still Brazy (Deluxe), 2016). Political anthem of the decade.
1. Cellophane by FKA twigs (Cellophane - Single, 2019). From her long-awaited second album which did not disappoint, this beautiful closing track is a quiet and chilling meditation on the fragility of human relationships.
1. Bang Bang Bang (feat. Q-Tip & MNDR) by Mark Ronson & The Business Intl. (Bang Bang Bang (feat. Q-Tip & MNDR) - Single, 2010). Wish there was more music like this, really carefree but funky dance pop.
1. Damn These Vampires by The Mountain Goats (All Eternals Deck, 2011). xI really like this song, it has a very unique and powerful feeling to it, a real fuck-you to personal demons.
1. Or Gadol by Amir Dadon (Amir Dadon, 2010). A Hebrew ballad that I sung along to even before I could understand or pronounce the words.
1. On Melancholy Hill by Gorillaz (Plastic Beach, 2010). Proper catchy tune from the Gorillaz, who remain as fantastically enigmatic as ever.
1. CMYK by James Blake (CMYK EP, 2010). James Blake’s weird blend of R&B, soul and dubstep is one of the cooler things to come out of the 2010s. Sounds of the future. Great tune.
1. Lewis Takes Off His Shirt by Owen Pallett (Heartland, 2010). Mostly forgotten hero of the indie years I think, but a really unique talent with some very moving and interesting songwriting.
1. Call Your Girlfriend by Robyn (Body Talk, 2010). One of the best breakup anthems ever. Simple, catchy, sublime.
1. Super Bass by Nicki Minaj (Pink Friday, 2010). For a while there it looked like maybe Nicki Minaj was going to be the female Eminem. A new talent at her best.
1. A More Perfect Union by Titus Andronicus (The Monitor, 2010). I didn’t get a chance to hear a lot of music like this this decade, real old-school rock songs.
1. Quantum Leap by John Maus (We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves, 2011). A very interesting and unique voice. A fun and creepy pace to this song.
1. Codex by Radiohead (The King of Limbs, 2011). The greatest band ever can still make the pretty stuff they made in the nineties.
1. #Beautiful (feat. Miguel) by Mariah Carey (Me. I Am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse (Deluxe Version), 2013). Not the smartest song ever written, but if I’m still singing it to myself six years later it must have something going for it.
1. White Foxes by Susanne Sundfør (The Silicone Veil, 2012). Reminds me of that period when Scandinavian crime dramas were first becoming popular.
1. You Are My Sister by Antony & The Johnsons (Cut the World, 2012). Now known as Anohni, in the early 2010s she was still Antony Hegarty, and this beautiful song really showcases that unique voice.
1. Get Free (feat. Amber Coffman) by Major Lazer (Major Lazer Essentials, 2012). Reminds me a period in my life with a lot of parties, and this playing because this is a great song to play at parties.
1. Chandelier by Sia (1000 Forms of Fear, 2014). The most unique and compelling diva of the 2010s. A really massive song.
1. Rattle at Will by Laura Stevenson (The Big Freeze, 2019). I loved this album of Laura Stevenson’s, from this year, the last of the decade. This song feels like it’s about finally becoming big enough to stand up for yourself.
1. Yet Again by Grizzly Bear (Yet Again - Single, 2012). The Grizz always had a sort of foggy mystery about them, a mood I don’t really recognise in any other band. This is one of their best.
1. Thrift Shop (feat. Wanz) by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (The Heist, 2012). This song was everywhere in 2012. Still good today I reckon.
1. Simple Song by The Shins (Port Of Morrow, 2012). The only really good Shins album of the decade, and this song has its share of their former glory.
1. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together by Taylor Swift (Red (Deluxe Version), 2012). Not sure how it’s possible not to love Taylor Swift when she makes songs like this.
1. Hot Knife by Fiona Apple (The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than The Driver Of The Screw & Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do, 2012). This whole album is genius; one of those really intricate statements that doesn’t make for good placement in a songs list (but would fare very well in an albums list (which I’m not doing, by the way)).
1. The Full Retard by EL-P (Cancer 4 Cure, 2012). The breakout track from El-P, who went on to become half of Run the Jewels, one of the defining rap outfits of the decade.
1. Metal Swing by The Range (Nonfiction, 2013). Fell in love with the simplicity of this song, built around a vocal sample nabbed from some unknown YouTube rapper.
1. Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings by Father John Misty (Fear Fun, 2012). The breakout single for the hugely talented and witty Father John Misty, one of my favourite new artists of the decade.
1. Goldie by A$AP Rocky (LONG.LIVE.A$AP (Deluxe Version), 2012). One of those really dumb but really good rap songs.
1. Cbat by Hudson Mohawke (Satin Panthers - EP, 2011). This is a ridiculous song, a highly requested feature of all house parties I can remember. These guys know how to make stupid music good.
1. Bassline Junkie by Dizzee Rascal (The Fifth (Deluxe Version), 2013). A Dizzee highlight with a hilarious clip.
1. Get Lucky (feat. Pharrell Williams & Nile Rodgers) by Daft Punk (Random Access Memories, 2013). Another ubiquitous track from the start of the decade, before streaming completely dominated.
1. The Werewolf by Paul Simon (Stranger to Stranger, 2013). Paul Simon I think has officially retired from music; this is the great opening track from his second-last album, which had a few moments that spoke to the greatness of the man whose career has spanne six decades.
1. The Mother We Share by CHVRCHES (The Bones of What You Believe, 2013). A product of the same indie-lite revolution that gave birth to Haim, this is a great tune from a really solid debut album.
1. Eich Efshar by Jane Bordeaux (Jane Bordeaux, 2014). Another Hebrew track by Tel Aviv indie darlings Jane Bordeaux. It’s a little sugary but it’s a sweet song and the lyrics are very nice.
1. On the Regular by Shamir (Ratchet, 2014). Not sure what else Shamir did this decade, but this is definitely a memorable moment.
1. Little Fang by Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks (Enter the Slasher House, 2014). A cool, fun song from one of the Animal Collective guys.
1. untitled 02 l 06.23.2014. by Kendrick Lamar (untitled unmastered., 2016). I really enjoyed this small album from Kendrick, which I think was mostly outtakes from the To Pimp a Butterfly sessions. Smaller songs, more private.
1. Tuesday (feat. Drake) by iLoveMakonnen (Tuesday (feat. Drake) - Single, 2014). Got the club goin' up / On a Tuesday.
1. Strandbar by Todd Terje (It’s Album Time, 2014). More dopey disco from Todd.
1. Ben’s My Friend by Sun Kil Moon (Benji, 2014). What looks to be Mark’s last great album. A great showcase of his wit and originality as a songwriter, and of his now infamous and exaggerated autobiographical slant.
1. Black Ballerina by Ariel Pink (pom pom, 2014). You’re not meant to take him seriously here, Ariel Pink having a bit of fun.
1. Kill V. Maim by Grimes (Art Angels, 2015). The enigmatic and slightly obnixious Grimes knows how to make a choon.
1. The Blacker the Berry by Kendrick Lamar (To Pimp A Butterfly, 2015). Kendrick’s 2018 Pulitzer Prize was a surprising turn of events; I’ve never been convinced he’s the most lyrically gifted rapper ever. But he certainly is a lyrically gifted rapper.
1. Them Changes by Thundercat (The Beyond / Where the Giants Roam, 2015).
1. How Could You Babe by Tobias Jesso Jr. (Goon, 2015)
1. Stonemilker by Björk (Vulnicura, 2015). More of Bjork’s childlike wonder.
1. Firesmoke by Kate Tempest (The Book of Traps and Lessons, 2019). A beautiful and serene, almost spoken-word track from a very nice album.
1. Bum Bum Bum by Cass McCombs (Mangy Love, 2016). An artist who I somehow never got into more than his big singles; this is one of the best. Need to remember to explore his discography.
1. The Book of Soul by Ab-Soul (Control System [Explicit], 2012). This is a heartbreaking song - a rare example of an emotionally touching rap - about the death of Ab-Soul’s highschool sweetheart.
1. Drew Barrymore by SZA (Ctrl, 2017). Anthem of the struggle for self-acceptance.
1. Drone Bomb Me by ANOHNI (Hopelessness, 2016). This is what Antony Hegarty became - the weird force of ANOHNI, still driven by that same captivating voice.
1. Ful Stop by Radiohead (A Moon Shaped Pool, 2016). A really dark rock song - I followed the development of this song from early live versions, and love how the studio version turned out.
1. Nikes by Frank Ocean (Blonde, 2016). I prefer Frank Ocean’s first album, Channel Orange which seems contrary to the opinions of most of the end-of-decade album lists I’ve seen. But here’s a great track from his second album Blonde.
1. Frankie Sinatra by The Avalanches (Wildflower, 2016). The much-anticipated to follow-up to 2000’s Since I Left You, widely acclaimed as one of the best albums of the last decade, was really good, but not quite as great as its predecessor. I was still humming this lead single for months after I heard it though.
1. Two Thousand and Seventeen by Four Tet (Two Thousand and Seventeen - Single, 2017). Led by a dulcimer sample from an Indian song this is an example of how an entire beautiful song can arise from a single sample with heart.
1. Lift by Radiohead (OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017, 2017). This was my favourite unreleased Radiohead track; I listened to the live bootlegs all the time in the 2000s, and this decade treated us to the old studio version, which didn’t disappoint.
1. (No One Knows Me) Like the Piano by Sampha (Process, 2017). A beautiful, small, heartfelt song that really sounds like it was written, and maybe even recorded, on the eponymous piano in his mother’s home.
1. Small Worlds by Mac Miller (Swimming, 2018). Another talented and, by the sounds of it, tortured artist lost far too young to mental illness and self-medication. A really beautiful and melancholy track.
1. Pristine by Snail Mail (Lush, 2018). Part of the late-2010s trend of very young indie artists, careers made possible by the internet and streaming.
1. Love It If We Made It by The 1975 (A Brief Inquiry Into Online Relationships, 2018). Someone had to carry this torch, lit by Oasis and Blur, of angry rocky Britpop, into the 2010s. Turns out the 1975 did it, and here’s a great example of how.
1. Disarray by Low (Double Negative, 2018). A huge left-turn for Low, who are notorious for a very different, “slowcore” sound, and on this album became much more anxious and electronic. Great soundtrack to the tumultuous end of the decade.
1. Suspirium by Thom Yorke (Suspiria (Music for the Luca Guadagnino Film), 2018). The late part of the 2010s will be seen as a triumphant period for Thom Yorke, who had his most successful solo album and also made the music to Suspirium, a remake of an old horror movie that unfortunately seems a bit unpleasant for me (I hate watching horror movies), but was very well received and had this beautiful and uneasy song on its soundtrack.
1. Magic of Meghan by Dry Cleaning (Sweet Princess - EP, 2019). A very cool, Sonic Youth-reminiscent track by an up-and-coming English band, about Meghan Markle. Off with her head of course, but it’s a cool track.
1. Four out of Five by Arctic Monkeys (Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino, 2018). Best track on this weird but imaginative concept album about a casino on the dark side of the moon. Witty and sardonic.
1. Hey, Ma by Bon Iver (Hey, Ma - Single, 2019). Bon Iver went really weird in the middle of the decade and this is the beautiful hybrid of his old folky roots and his newer hipper electronic stuff. x
1. Door by Caroline Polachek (Door - Single, 2019). Feels like a new Alanis Morisette to me almost, a really great artist with a unique voice and vibe.
1. One Bird in the Sky by Robert Forster (Inferno, 2019). The surviving Go-Between is still making solo music, and this is my favourite track of his for a while.
1. As Alone by Florist (Emily Alone, 2019). A really nice, quiet and poignant album from this year. “Emily just know that you’re not as alone / As you feel in the dark, as you feel in the dark.”
1. All Mirrors by Angel Olsen (All Mirrors, 2019). This is a real banger from Angel Olsen, who I never so much got into until her latest album.
1. The Queen Who Stole the Sky by Sarah Mary Chadwick (The Queen Who Stole the Sky, 2019). Just her very direct voice, New Zealand accent and all, and a full church organ. One of the more creative albums I remember from the decade.
1. Eternal by Holly Herndon (PROTO, 2019). A massive song, by a really interesting and different artist. One to watch in the next decade.
1. Make Me Feel by Janelle Monáe (Dirty Computer, 2018). So it’s clearly a flagrant Prince rip-off, but it’s still a certified choon.
1. Father and Son (Live in London) by Flight of the Conchords (Live in London, 2019). Was very happy to hear, and see, these guys again this year. A live album full of their unique humour which feels like it’s from such a happier and more carefree time.
1. I Am Not Afraid by Owen Pallett (In Conflict, 2014). Another nice, powerful song from Owen Pallett.
1. This Is Not Who I Want To Be by Joanna Sternberg (Then I Try Some More, 2019). Haven’t heard anything else by Joanna Sternberg, but this is a really simple and pretty song.
1. Lover by Taylor Swift (Lover, 2019). Really classic catchy tune from the master.
1. In My View by Young Fathers (Cocoa Sugar, 2018). Interesting band I stumbled upon last year after seeing it in my uncle’s Apple Music recently listened list.
1. Practical Arrangement by Sting (The Last Ship (Version Deluxe), 2013). I remember hearing this on the radio at just the right time, as the sun was going down, and spending a few minutes tracking it down before it finished so I would be able to hear it again.
1. Inspector Norse by Todd Terje (It’s the Arps - EP, 2012). Bordering on the comical, this is a fantastically fun song from an artist I’m not sure why doesn’t have more output.
1. when the party’s over by Billie Eilish (WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, 2018). Generation Z favourite (yes, we’re not the youngest generation anymore) who is a really and polished talent.
1. Cruel by St. Vincent (Strange Mercy, 2011). An undeniably great song from St. Vincent, whose broader output somehow never clicked with me.
1. Under the Pressure by The War On Drugs (Lost in the Dream, 2014). Despite what Mark Kozelek says (I saw him play that live in Tel Aviv in 2015), these guys definitely have a valid appeal, maybe not as the Bruce Springsteen of today, but it’s a great vibe nonetheless and this is a really good song.
1. Dancing On My Own by Robyn (Body Talk, 2010). In my mind it features in a lot of soundtracks but I remember one distinctly: one of the mid-to-late seasons of Girls on HBO.
1. Yonkers by Tyler, The Creator (Goblin (Deluxe Edition), 2011). A vicious and hatefilled song that’s hard to sing along with but has a really sick beat.
1. I Wanna Be Yours by Arctic Monkeys (AM, 2013). A moving moment for the ‘Monkeys, which reminds me of a period of my life I recall very fondly.
1. Her Own Heart by Hatchie (Keepsake, 2019). A Brisbane-based songwriter my cousin got me onto, who sounds a lot like the Cocteau Twins. Saw her in Sydney when I was out this year.
1. thank u, next by Ariana Grande (thank u, next, 2018). A blissful pop song about learning to love yourself through your past mistakes.
1. He Would Have Laughed by Deerhunter (Halcyon Digest, 2010). A fantastic title for a fantastic song on a fantastic album by a fantastic band.
1. Kill for Love by Chromatics (Kill for Love, 2011). Really like this band’s quiet but strongly burning feel, like there’s something urgent going on but they’re going to take their time telling you what it is.
1. Violence by Grimes & i_o (Violence - Single, 2019). Yet another massive song from Grimes, whose opinions on the future of music are questionable, but who at least keeps contributing positively to that future with her output.
1. We the People…. by A Tribe Called Quest (We got it from Here… Thank You 4 Your service, 2016). This album really feels like it captures the 2016 zeitgeist of weariness and impotent anger at the dreadful state of American politics.
1. Feels Like We Only Go Backwards by Tame Impala (Lonerism, 2012). Not quite sure when or how it happened, but these Perth guys are one of the biggest rock bands of the decade. Good on them.
1. Nobody by Mitski (Be the Cowboy, 2018). A very raw and unique voice. Very happy to have discovered Mitski this decade.
1. Should have known better by Sufjan Stevens (Carrie & Lowell, 2015). More soft heartbreak from the master.
1. Losing You by Solange (TRUE, 2012). Solange’s breakout single still sounds as haunting and fresh today as it did in 2012.
1. I’ve Seen Footage by Death Grips (The Money Store, 2012). These guys have a pretty insane, almost warzone aesthetic to them. A really vicious and banging track from an album and a career full of them.
1. Blondin Makes An Omelette by Gareth Liddiard (Strange Tourist, 2010). A fairly obscure pick but ten years later I still find this song so beautiful. The story of a wire-walker’s understudy, just an acoustic guitar and Liddiard’s phenomenal voice.
1. Golden Chords by Deakin (Sleep Cycle, 2016). A pretty and profound tune from the “other guy” from Animal Collective.
1. Jellyfish by Laura Stevenson (Cocksure, 2015). Laura’s punkier side.
1. Still Clean by Soccer Mommy (Clean, 2018). Angsty indie pop at its finest. Still alive and kicking in 2018.
1. Your Love is Killing Me by Sharon Van Etten (Are We There, 2014). Sharon van Etten, one of my favourite artists of the decade, broke out with this great song.
1. I Blame Myself by Sky Ferreira (Night Time, My Time, 2013). There’s something very mysterious and very sad about Sky Ferreira. This song tries to explain a bit of that feeling.
1. It’s Real by Real Estate (Days, 2011). A great example of simple but elegant and weighty lyrics carrying a song.
1. Lotus Flower by Radiohead (The King of Limbs, 2011). Radiohead’s most radio-friendly single of the decade, and maybe of the last twenty years. And that’s without mentioning the clip of Thom dancing.
1. UFOF by Big Thief (U.F.O.F., 2019). The first of two Big Thief albums in 2019 was a quiet and otherworldly affair. Such a brilliant band in such a purple patch.
1. Song For Zula by Phosphorescent (Muchacho de Lujo (Deluxe Edition), 2014). Another track that feels made for soundtracks. A wordy treatise about love.
1. Andromeda by Weyes Blood (Andromeda - Single, 2019). I get a bit of a Kate Bush vibe from Weyes Blood, particularly this album and particularly this song.
1. Niggas In Paris by JAY-Z & Kanye West (Watch the Throne, 2011). This track definitely feels like it belongs to a different era. Kanye was still sane and talented and friends with Jay-Z. “No one knows what it means but it’s provocative. It gets the people going.”
1. Not by Big Thief (Two Hands, 2019). Even more incredible to think this was recorded live with just a few small overdubs. A raw and burning rock song from one of the finest rock bands in the world.
1. Harmony Hall by Vampire Weekend (Father of the Bride, 2019). This is the sound of Vampire Weekend, finally making music again. This song made me happy on a large number of occasions.
1. Anthrocene by Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (Skeleton Tree, 2016). Nick Cave’s stillborn eulogy for our new geological era. “All the things we love, we love, we love, we love, we lose.”
1. Seventeen by Sharon Van Etten (Remind Me Tomorrow, 2019). A punchy and heartfelt ballad to her younger self from Sharon van Etten, whose icy voice lends this haunting song another layer of beauty.
1. Pink Rabbits by The National (Trouble Will Find Me, 2013). Maybe the National were always dad rock? Who cares though when the songs are this beautiful.
1. My Baby Don’t Understand Me by Natalie Prass (Natalie Prass, 2014). Natalie Prass occupies some weird space at the intersection of Joanna Newsom and Emmylou Harris. If that comparison doesn’t convince you this track is worth a listen, then it’s not for you.
1. Black Skinhead by Kanye West (Yeezus, 2013). I still remember first hearing this massive song, performed live on some late night talk show, and marvelling at the ingenuity and talent of Ye. How far the mighty have fallen.
1. Cranes in the Sky by Solange (A Seat at the Table, 2016). Solange waxes poetic about all her demons she can’t seem to shake.
1. Drive by Marissa Nadler (July, 2014). The perfect song for driving at night.
1. Salad Days by Mac DeMarco (Salad Days, 2014). Mac DeMarco has a reputation as a bit of a weirdo, including an infamous occasion where he shoved a drumstick on his ass on stage. Doesn’t mean he doesn’t write great songs though.
1. Midnight City by M83 (Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, 2011). This was the moment M83 looked like they could break through to the mainstream, trading their harder electronic edges for some trumpets and catchy hooks.
1. Video Games by Lana Del Rey (Born to Die - The Paradise Edition, 2011). A beautiful song that gave all the nerdy kids hope that they could be with a girl like Lana.
1. Reagan by Killer Mike (R.A.P. Music, 2012). A vicious take-down of Reagan’s legacy by the great political insider Killer Mike, now co-frontman of Run the Jewels, and a key supporter of Bernie Sanders’ 2016 and 2020 campaigns.
1. I Have Been to the Mountain by Kevin Morby (Singing Saw, 2016). Not sure where I stand on his fuller oeuvre, bit weird, bit middle of the road, but this is a really great song.
1. Swimming Pools (Drank) by Kendrick Lamar (good kid, m.A.A.d city (Deluxe), 2012). Kendrick’s breakout track, soundtrack to getting drunk on lethal punch at house parties. Heard him play it live and was very disappointed.
1. Ultralight Beam by Kanye West (The Life of Pablo, 2016). The last cry of a genius. Brilliant song, brilliant ideas, great Chance verse.
1. 212 (feat. Lazy Jay) by Azealia Banks & Lazy Jay (The Heat (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack), 2011). This is a massive tune.
1. Mariners Apartment Complex by Lana Del Rey (Mariners Apartment Complex - Single, 2018). This was such a fantastic surprise when it came out, and ended up being a precursor to an entire album with a similar vibe (though no other tracks that stand out as much as this one I reckon).
1. Slow Burn by Kacey Musgraves (Golden Hour, 2018). Somehow (maybe a combination of her good looks and propensity for recreational drug taking), it’s cool to like this small-town country singer as if she’s an indie goddess. So I guess that means she is.
1. This Is America by Childish Gambino (This Is America - Single, 2018). Obviously the film clip is hard-hitting and ground-breaking and scary. But the song speaks for itself.
1. Open Eye Signal by Jon Hopkins (Immunity, 2013). My favourite new electronic artist of the decade. Really great track off a really great album.
1. This Time Around by Jessica Pratt (Quiet Signs, 2018). Note to self: listen to more Jessica Pratt.
1. The House That Heaven Built by Japandroids (Celebration Rock, 2012). A simple but powerful class in how to make solid rock music.
1. Gosh by Jamie xx (In Colour, 2015). There were a lot of great tracks here, but this is the standout. The moment where the air raid siren sample comes in is huge.
1. Swan Dive by Waxahatchee (Cerulean Salt, 2013). Beautiful little song. A simple poem with simple chords whose whole transcends the sum of its parts.
1. I Love It (feat. Charli XCX) by Icona Pop (This Is… Icona Pop, 2012). This song needs to be played immediately after 212 by Azaelia Banks (#51) in my head, as they both conjure identical images of carefree and energetic summers when I was younger than I am today.
1. Alley Cats by Hot Chip (One Life Stand (Bonus Track Version), 2010). Hot Chip, who are often underrated, can have heart when they want to, and this beautiful song proves it.
1. Oblivion by Grimes (Visions, 2012). The world’s introduction to the 2010s’ principle manic pixie dream princess.
1. Vomit by Girls (Father, Son, Holy Ghost, 2011). Girls only ever had two albums, but they were both really good, really filled a hole of old-school folky rock, and this is my favourite track from both of them. Shame they didn’t stick around.
1. Pedestrian at Best by Courtney Barnett (Sometimes I Sit And Think, And Sometimes I Just Sit, 2015). My, and probably most non-Australians’, favourite Australian artist of the decade. She had a bunch of hits but this one rocked the hardest.
1. Pyramids by Frank Ocean (Channel Orange, 2012). There aren’t enough rap epics - this one can hold a candle to Bohemian Rhapsody in how epic it is. So many different fantastic moments.
1. Ferris Wheel by TORRES (Sprinter, 2015). I really love Torres, who didn’t seem to get a huge amount of attention that I reckon she deserved. This is a really beautiful song about not knowing how to open yourself up to other people.
1. Masterpiece by Big Thief (Masterpiece, 2016). Simple but expertly crafted lyrics from Adrienne Lenker, one of the most gifted songwriters currently working, worked into a really great rock song.
1. Seasons (Waiting On You) by Future Islands (Singles, 2014). Huge song, reminiscent of 2000s-era TV on the Radio.
1. Bombay by El Guincho (Pop Negro, 2010). A really fun and nostalgic song, with a great video, that immediately places me in 2010.
1. Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes (Helplessness Blues, 2011). My favourite Fleet Foxes song. My dad likes it too.
1. Honey by TORRES (Torres, 2013). Angry, bitter and rocking track. A fine example of what I sometimes, perhaps a bit disparagingly, “angry girl music”.
1. Small Plane by Bill Callahan (Dream River, 2013). Bill Callahan has been around for a while, and this album from 2013 accompanied on a lot of frozen jogs along the river during a four-month study trip in Oregon. A really beautiful and mysterious song.
1. Two Weeks by FKA twigs (LP1, 2014). What a fantastic song by a brilliant artist. Lots to explore in FKA Twigs’ short but intensely varied catalog. This is the most accessible and radio-friendly.
1. The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apt. by Father John Misty (I Love You, Honeybear, 2015). Brutally sarcastic lyrics about a fairly unpleasant sounding encounter with a woman that ends with the phrase “I obliged later on / When you begged me to choke ya.”
1. About to Die by Dirty Projectors (Swing Lo Magellan, 2012). In that arty spirit of Fiery Furnaces or Modest Mouse, the Dirty Projectors were one of my favourite indie rock bands of the decade.
1. Avant Gardener by Courtney Barnett (The Double EP: A Sea Of Split Peas, 2013). Courtney paints a vivid picture of a summer in Australia, one of those days where it’s too hot to even breathe.
1. Little Bubble by Dirty Projectors (Dirty Projectors, 2016). Same as above (#27), but with Amber’s vocals more prominent, and a bit more feeling. Beautiful song that sounds to me to be about the amicable end of a relationship that’s lasted a while.
1. You Let My Tyres Down by Tropical Fuck Storm (A Laughing Death in Meatspace, 2018). The Drones were reincarnated by Gareth Liddiard into Tropical Fuck Storm, who sound basically the same as The Drones but have a more ridiculous name and are a bit noisier. This song and especially the clip make me very homesick.
1. Step by Vampire Weekend (Modern Vampires Of The City, 2013). Beautiful song from the masters of melody - or more accurately probably the master, as I’m not convinced Vampire Weekend is anything but a front for the super-talented Ezra Koenig.
1. Kaputt by Destroyer (Kaputt, 2011). Interesting to see Destroyer’s (a front for Dan Bejar of Wolf Parade) evolution into this album, which sounds a bit dadrocky, but has another mysterious dimension to it as well.
1. Yafa ceLevanah by Eviatar Banai (יפה כלבנה - Single, 2013). Unfortunately you need to understand Hebrew to truly appreciate the beautiful words in the song, but hopefully everyone can appreciate it anyway.
1. Myth by Beach House (Bloom, 2012). A great band, who took a long time to finally sound like how I think they always wanted to sound. It’s very good to hear guitars still being used in innovative ways today, because sometimes I fear for the future of guitar music.
1. The Wilhelm Scream by James Blake (James Blake, 2011). This seems like James Blake’s most accessible song, until in the second half everything starts coming off the rails, you can hear his dubstep influence, still very fresh in 2011, destroying the song in front of your ears.
1. Dermatillomania by Laura Stevenson (The Big Freeze, 2019). Literally about her lifelong battle with mental illness that makes her pick at her skin incessantly as a coping mechanism, this song is a striking and brave example of the power of music, and of songwriting in particular, to free you from your demons.
1. The Barrel by Aldous Harding (The Barrel - Single, 2019). I only discovered Aldous Harding this year through a friend, and immediately fell in love with her voice and her words and her weird songs. It’s the mark of a truly gifted songwriter if they can make you feel like you understand the meaning of their nonsense.
1. Everything Is Embarrassing by Sky Ferreira (Night Time, My Time, 2012). I’ve never quite understood what exactly it is about this song that I love so much - it’s not like there’s a whole lot to it - but it makes an impression on me, a feeling I identify with, and it’s stuck with me for years, brings me comfort, and what else can you ask for from a sequence of audio waves beamed into your ears from a computer in your hand.
1. Your Best American Girl by Mitski (Puberty 2, 2016). An angry and desperate song about the coming-of-age immigrant experience, about being different to everyone else and wanting nothing more than to be the same. What a forceful artist.
1. I Promise by Radiohead (OK Computer OKNOTOK 1997 2017, 2017). I didn’t expect this to be my favourite of the three long-withheld Radiohead recordings released on the 20-year anniversary of OK Computer. But there’s something about this song, simple and powerful and present.
1. Pure Comedy by Father John Misty (Pure Comedy, 2017). An epic treatise on humanity and it’s shortcomings and the pessimism Father John Misty feels for its future. It all seems like it’s going to be pretty funny though, and I hope FJM is around to guide us through it.
1. Sugar for the Pill by Slowdive (Slowdive, 2017). The first album from Slowdive in 22 years sounds like a concentrated refinement of the great band, an instruction set of how shoegaze can be in the 2010s, honey sweet and buzzing with feeling. This is a stunningly beautiful song.
1. I Think Ur A Contra by Vampire Weekend (Contra, 2010). My favourite Vampire Weekend song. Simple, heartfelt and real, with some glorious melodies bringing it and the album to a close.
1. Kindred by Burial (Kindred EP, 2012). Burial didn’t release an album in the 2010s, but as his single and EP collection Tunes 2011-2019 demonstrates, he was definitely not idle during the decade, simply preferring not to invest in creating a single album-length statement and focusing on small vignettes like this, my all-time favourite song of his, showcasing his haunting samples, hiss and clicks, and that feeling of loneliness that he has immortalised.
1. Where Are We Now? by David Bowie (The Next Day, 2013). I was blown away by this song when it came out, after two decades or more of pretty disappointing and uninspired output from Bowie, that the man was making beautiful and unique music again. And the most amazing thing was to hear his voice, filtered by nothing but the passing of time. A heartbreaking song, particularly now that he is gone.
1. Carissa by Sun Kil Moon (Benji, 2014). When Mark Kozelek gets things together he has no equal as a songwriter. This is a deeply personal and painful account of the death of his second cousin, with whom he wasn’t at all close but whose death inspired in him a range of thoughts and emotions that he kindly committed to the eternal musical record of humanity. A gift.
1. Holocene by Bon Iver (Bon Iver, Bon Iver, 2011). My favourite song from the decade to play on the piano. This is my favourite Bon Iver song too, where so often he can be a little too obscure, famously writing his lyrics to fit the melody and not the other way around, here he conjures a sharp image of realising your place in the world, and being humbled by it, for better and for worse.
1. Sapokanikan by Joanna Newsom (Divers, 2015). This beautiful song is about the inevitable and unending progress of time, how we build layers upon the past, physically sometimes, like in New York, where parts of New Amsterdam are literally undernearth the modern city. A soaring and ducking melody, full of twists and turns and raw emotion. “Look and despair”.
1. Dawn Chorus by Thom Yorke (ANIMA, 2019). Thom Yorke had a very difficult decade. He split with his long-term partner, and mother to his son, who died less than a year after their split. You can hear the grief in this song, it’s all over it, the monotone, the slow cresendo, the words: “In the middle of the vortex / The wind picked up / Shook up the soot / From the chimney pot / Into spiral patterns / Of you my love”. Beautiful.
1. Formation by Beyoncé (Lemonade, 2016). My all time favourite track from the peerless Beyoncé, whose voice has no equal in its technical prowess. And what a song, guttural, quick and catchy, and touching on some of the deeper rifts in a changing America.
1. True Love Waits by Radiohead (A Moon Shaped Pool, 2016). Lifelong Radiohead fans like me who have been following the band since following bands on the internet was a thing have already loved True Love Waits for almost twenty years, and have had to suffice with the live version on 2002’s I Might Be Wrong EP of live recordings. There were rumours of abandoned studio recordings, which actually surfaced in 2019 in the leak of eighteen of Thom Yorke’s minidiscs from the OK Computer sessions. But this reworked version is hauntingly beautiful, completely 2010s Radiohead but carrying all the weight of their history. I didn’t expect such a satisfying end to this story.
1. Lazarus by David Bowie (Blackstar, 2016). David Bowie must have known he was about to die when he recorded Blackstar, his final studio album, which was released just days before his death in January 2016. The first words on this song, one of the best of the great man’s six-decade-spanning career, are “Look up here / I’m in heaven”. The rest of the song paints a cryptic picture, made a little clearer by the fantastic film clip. It was sad to lose Bowie still so young and still creating, but at least we got Blackstar and Lazarus.
1. Good Intentions Paving Co. by Joanna Newsom (Have One On Me, 2010). Joanna Newsom released two albums this decade, 2010’s Have One On Me and 2015’s Divers. Have One On Me is the superior album, and it contains my favourite song of the decade, Good Intentions Paving Co.. There’s so much emotion in this song, so much feeling in the words, and the music complements it perfectly. The end of the song is both hopeful and heartbreaking. There’s one point where a single drum beat happens at exactly the right moment which is probably my favourite moment of music this decade. A beautiful achievement of songwriting from one of the all-time greats, whose output is scarce (where is the fifth album!?) but treasured for life.