Top 100 Songs of the Decade So Far (2010-2014)

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top 100 songs of the decade so far

top 100 songs of the decade so far caribou30. Caribou – “Odessa
(2010; Merge)

The press kit takeaway quote on Caribou’s 2010 album Swim found mastermind Dan Snaith wanting to make dance music “that sounds like it’s made out of water, rather than made out of metallic stuff.” This sets us up to find failure in success: The fluid motion of the big hit from Swim, “Odessa,” is nevertheless generated by edgy tactile alchemy. Like a steampunk robot brought to life by a wound key, the melodic lines and percussion squeak, clatter, and ring over a muffled funk bassline. Floating around it all is Snaith’s own voice, delivering a narrative about a woman who’s handled her man and his issues for too damn long. Swim as a whole didn’t connect with me, but four-plus years after its release I will find myself humming bits of this track at any random moment. I suppose that’s evidence that magic exists. – AB

top 100 songs of the decade so far wildest moments29. Jessie Ware – “Wildest Moments
(2012; Island/Universal)

Jessie Ware’s hypnotic, understated vocals can lend even the most chaotic and unstable situations a kind of clarity that a melismatic performance would only muddy up even further. She possesses a sobering sultriness, or a sense of melancholy romance — depending on how you look at it — all of which makes the disastrous love at the center of “Wildest Moments” feel all the more affecting. It can’t work, it won’t work; “Baby, in our wildest moments, we can be the greatest… we can be the worst of all,” she sings, backed by a dreamy R&B arrangement and beats that boom louder than you’d think a song this subdued could get away with. But it’s a big, big love she builds up here, just as it’s a big, big love she’s about to walk away from. Even a cooler head like Jessie Ware is allowed to let a few exclamation points fly now and then. – JT

top 100 songs of the decade so far el-p28. El-P – “The Full Retard
(2012; Fat Possum)

The late Camu Tao isn’t dead — he lives on forever thanks to this ingenious single from El-P. With Tao’s mantra, “So you should pump this shit/Like they do in the future,” sampled and looped throughout, El-P outlines the apocalypse. Named for a Tropic Thunder reference, “The Full Retard” features astonishing feats of wordplay that have to be listened to closely to fully appreciate. For example: “I am Sam/I am known to go HAM/Full retard.” And to top it all off, the booming, distorted beat syncs perfectly with the compelling narrative. For everyone seeking the omens pointing to the world’s end, El-P has already laid them out and made the road to hell bump that much harder. – GM

Sun Kil Moon Benji27. Sun Kil Moon – “Ben’s My Friend
(2013; Caldo Verde)

Very rarely have I been so conflicted about my feelings for a musician’s work vis-a-vis their attitude and behavior, but man oh man, did Mark Kozelek become a hard man to like in 2014. He started off the year with the wind at his back, his February release of Benji taking full advantage of the sad musical heritage sown since his days in Red House Painters. The teaser song for the album turned into the backbone of the full tracklist, a matter-of-fact travelogue ultimately centered around male friendship (this particular one with Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and The Postal Service) and the levels of security and jealousy within. Yet Kozelek spent the rest of the year pissing away any goodwill earned through this creativity — first by insulting concertgoers, then by a protracted, mostly one-sided feud with The War on Drugs, and ultimately by attempting to profit from the former (with commemorative t-shirts) and mine content from the latter (with downloadable music). The stink of this get-off-my-lawn attitude ended up permeating even the best moments within Sun Kil Moon’s best moments. Looking at “Ben’s My Friend” with revised hindsight, you can see, feel, and hear snark and desperation rising to the surface, much in the same way that the sunny-sounding early work of, say, Beck or They Might be Giants had a prickly underbelly. – AB

tame impala top 100 songs of the decade so far26. Tame Impala – “Elephant
(2012; Modular)

Breathing fresh life into modern psychedelic rock, Tame Impala struck gold with Lonerism. Jay Watson and Kevin Parker’s songwriting ability on “Elephant” is one thing, but how Tame Impala conjures up catchy transcending jams one after another from the beginning of the album to its end is truly an impressive accomplishment. “Elephant,” appropriately being the album’s first single, embodies why this band has gone from being a musical underdog to champion heavyweight on the festival circuit. The lyrical ease and instrumentation wielding giant hooks within “Elephant” is the perfect example of how psychedelic rock, when done right, can appeal to more than those who are stoned out of their minds. – DP

Swans To Be Kind25. Swans – “A Little God In My Hands
(2014; Young God)

In a recent podcast, Jeff Terich and I referred to the sounds Swans concoct on To Be Kind as a twisted, demonic form of Afro-beat. If that’s true, then “A Little God In My Hands” is probably the band’s equivalent to Fela Kuti’s “Zombie.” It’s a bizarre (yet oddly infectious) piece from the start, but the true insanity on this track kicks in around the two-minute mark, when jangly counter-rhythms pop in to add an extra dose of groovy, disorienting goodness to this rabbit-hole of a jam. It’s fitting that Michael Gira makes such an extensive use of the word “forever” on this track; even though this cut clocks in at just past seven minutes, it has the tendency to feel more like a small eternity. – ATB

Daft Punk - Get Lucky24. Daft Punk
Get Lucky” [feat. Pharrell Williams] (2013; Virgin)

The Gallic helmeted duo — with Pharrell Williams on vocals — brought true musical egalité, liberté and fraternité to dance floors worldwide with their 2013 summer disco smash. Like all of Daft Punk’s hit singles, there’s a timeless quality to “Get Lucky,” and it further solidified that the “Song of The Summer” trend, reborn in recent years, is perhaps here to stay. Lucky ol’ us. – SC

top 100 songs of the decade so far autre ne veut23. Autre Ne Veut – “Play by Play
(2013; Software)

Daniel Lopatin and Joel Ford’s synthesizers cascade like a rush of steamy water into a porcelain tub. A chorus of synthetic voices cry out as if they were moans of ecstasy. And Arthur Ashin’s vocals carry more emotion in one syllable than most singers do in an entire song. It sort of goes without saying that “Play by Play” sounds sexy — a lushly arranged R&B song tends to do that. Someone’s getting lucky tonight — it just might not be Ashin in this case. Fully half of the song is just the journey to get to the climax, and it’s drawn out, moving in slow motion and sincere, yet dramatic fashion. If it’s happening, it’ll be worth the trouble, but if it isn’t, at least nothing was left behind, and it was never meant to be. But there is a mighty climax (the song was even inspired by a track of that name), and it just keeps on going for two-plus minutes. There’s no second verse. No bridge. No outro. “Play by Play” is all about finding that sweet spot — as long as it might take to get there — and savoring it for as long as you can. – JT

Deafheaven - Sunbather22. Deafheaven – “Dream House
(2013; Deathwish Inc.)

Oh, the mighty “Dream House” beholding nine-plus minutes full of grace and earth-shattering glory. As if Sunbather wasn’t already near perfection, this song surely stands tall as one of metal’s most exciting moments of the half-decade. Beautiful in its trajectory from shrieking vocals to a somber shoegazing intermission, “Dream House” is as peaceful as it is destructive. Any song opening a metal album bearing a rosy-pink cover would have to be a bold statement. And to no one’s surprise, Deafheaven delivers with one that’s unforgettable. – DP

Lotus Flower top 100 songs of the decade so far21. Radiohead – “Lotus Flower
(2011; XL)

A lotus flower is an exquisite blossom that surfaces from a murky pond. And Radiohead is a wonderful band that does whatever it wants. From the bellows of a synthesizer and the propulsion of the bass, “Lotus Flower” is relatively straightforward, but flawless, like so many other Radiohead classics that bloomed before. But straightforward on Radiohead’s terms probably means complexity for most everyone else. “Lotus Flower” has all sorts of tinkering underneath its thick sensual top layer, as well as some neat drum breaks, too. It features Thom Yorke’s stable falsetto as he sings lines like “there’s an empty space inside my heart where the weeds take root and now I’ll set you free,” which could mean just about anything. I know Radiohead is still a collaborative band, but Yorke’s inner bloom has grown out everywhere, and it’s getting harder and harder to get around it. – JJM

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