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

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top 100 songs of the decade so far

Deerhunter20. Deerhunter – “Revival
(2010; 4AD)

Bradford Cox isn’t known for his optimism, but “Revival” is a refreshingly cheerful song that justifies it’s own existence within Deerhunter’s typically melancholy catalogue: “darkness, always, it doesn’t make much sense.” “Revival” is the bright spot—albeit a brief one at just over two minutes long. Crisp, acoustic guitar jangles shine on top of the band’s deep, surging rhythms and progressively electronic percussion that highlights so much of Halcyon Digest.  – DG

real estate
photo by Candice Eley

19. Real Estate – “It’s Real
(2011; Domino)

It’s certainly one of the more unassuming singles of the decade so far, a jangle-pop song that’s hiding in the corner with its hair in its face. There’s some simple lyrics about about feeling insecure and pensive (“I feel like I don’t know the deal”). There’s a wordless chorus, punctured by a few repeated exhales of “it’s real.” Even when the song pulls through the fog with a lithe Rickenbacker hopscotching guitar break, you barely notice it. But perhaps that’s the thing that made “It’s Real” and other Real Estate songs such left of the dial staples these past five years — you don’t know they are there, but you notice when they are gone. – SC

18. FKA Twigs – “Two Weeks
(2014; XL)

On “Two Weeks,” FKA Twigs evokes a sense of danger. Tahliah Barnett’s form of sexual come-on looks, on paper, like a praying mantis just moments before eating her mate: “Pull out the insides and give me two weeks, you won’t recognize her”; “Smoke on your skin to get those pretty eyes rolling”; “My thighs are apart for when you’re ready to breathe in.” But in practice, she doesn’t sound so threatening at all — “Two Weeks” is unquestionably one of the sexiest songs to be released in the last five, ten, twenty years — maybe ever. Between the hypnotic trip-hop thud of Arca’s production and Twigs’ own breathy proclamations, it takes focus and concentration to really pick up on the aggression and menace behind the sensuality. It’s so alluring, and so appealing, the darkness takes a while to fully reveal itself. And that’s what makes “Two Weeks” truly dangerous. – JT

St Vincent17. St. Vincent – “Cruel
(2011; 4AD)

If Annie Clark (AKA St. Vincent) isn’t our generation’s great American rock star, I honestly don’t know who the fuck else is. Making full use of her strong-hearted alto croon and her exemplary shredding abilities, Clark leaps across genre boundaries like funk, soul, electronica and alternative, crafting an elusive and dynamic whole. “Cruel” is simple enough at first but doesn’t take long to build into a transcendent anthem, celebrating the singer’s own bombast while observing cruel abuse on both a personal and wide-reaching scale. It’s the sort of anthem that could represent a number of meanings to almost any listener; it’s that powerful songwriting that makes Clark a true superstar. – ATB

16. Kanye West – “Power
(2010; Def Jam)

College Dropout to 21st Century Schizoid Man to Black Skinhead. That’s the evolution of Kanye West, and if “Power” never gets old, then we have King Crimson to thank for predicting this paw getting caught in the iron claw. As much as the Vietnam War was winnable, Kanye West is satisfied. He is a man that has consumed genius, capital, prestige and all sorts of fame, but it is not enough. “Power” rides a huge drum beat with guitar noodles, piano keys, and other pleasing noises buried underneath as West passionately raps about reality trying to take his inner child. And telling SNL to kiss his asshole, or being “on my own dick.” However, the most important part of “Power” is the ending; Kanye decides to let everything go. Instead of falling from grace, he falls from a window because if you’re at the peak of your power, there’s nothing left but descend. For Kanye, true power is the ability to surrender power. He may have a massive ego, but he also has a conscience. – JJM

Phosphorescent15. Phosphorescent – “Song for Zula
(2013; Dead Oceans)

On paper, there’s no reason to think “Song for Zula” should work. For starters, it’s essentially a seven-plus minute folk jam based around a four chord progression that doesn’t really ever move. What’s more, as a folk song, it’s also reverbed-out and layered with synthesizers, not to mention the opening line, which is a bastardization of adult contemporary-friendly “The Rose” and Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” But for anyone who’s felt like love has led them into turning into something they’re not, only to eventually burn them anyway, “Song for Zula” is the ultimate declaration. The ingredients may seem peculiar, but the song is a devastatingly beautiful, if awfully bitter statement. – CK

14. Kendrick Lamar – “Swimming Pools (Drank)
(2012; Aftermath/Top Dawg/Interscope)

It can be easy to hear “Swimming Pools” as a positive anthem for getting hammered drunk, but it’s actually about Lamar’s battle against peer pressure. In Compton, Lamar grew up around people who killed their sorrows with the bottle, or who wanted to fit in, and that’s also his problem. Lamar is sipping on a few shots in a dark room filled with loud music; someone wants to know why he’s “babysitting” on his drinks. Produced by T-Minus and mixed by Ali and Dr. Dre, “Swimming Pools” has one of the better hip-hop hooks in recent memory. Lamar’s conscience tries to save his body from getting too wasted, but conscience doesn’t fare too well: “All I have in life is my new appetite for failure.” Regardless of the song’s message, its hook could bring any party to another level. Just press play and become intoxicated. – JJM

13. Drake – “Hold On We’re Going Home
(2013; Young Money/Cash Money/Republic)

“Hold On We’re Going Home” is an instantly lovable, ’80s-leaning pop jam that shows off Drake’s tender side—on his own terms that is, in contrast with the countless “sensitive Drake” memes that flood internet forums. The video is tastefully cliche and campy, featuring a violent damsel in distress rescue that visually echoes the ’80s aesthetic and boosts Drake’s guarded but vulnerable persona. It’s romantic, catchy, and comfortable upholding the simple, charming pleasures associated with monogamy, belonging, and security—the chorus is a timeless assurance—“hold on, we’re going home.” – DG

Japandroids top 100 songs of the decade so far12. Japandroids – “The House That Heaven Built
(2012; Polyvinyl)

You’ll read a lot of convincing arguments on this list for why each of these 100 songs is representative of the best music of the past five years, but “The House That Heaven Built” is the only song that’s an actual hockey anthem. This is (kind of) important; writing an indie rock song that feels like a classic to a few dozen nerds on the Internet is much easier than creating something powerful and universal enough to hype up the fans on game night. And every play of “The House That Heaven Built” just happens to feel like game night, or graduation day, or your wedding (cheers to that badass couple), or the last weekend of summer, or any other event that needs a suitable level of guitars and gravitas. It might seem like an exaggeration to call the song a new generation’s answer to Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run,” but it’s not, really — it’s a song of joy, earnestness, defiance and youth. When Brian King and David Prowse shout its call and response chorus, “When they love you, and they will/ Tell ’em all to love in my shadow/ And if they try to slow you down/ Tell ’em all to go to hell,” each word arrives like a rush of adrenaline. It’s hard not to feel like you could live forever after hearing “The House That Heaven Built,” and to hell with anyone who says you won’t. – JT

11. Death Grips – “I’ve Seen Footage
(2012; Epic)

Some of the loudest voices after Death Grips’ breakup were those who were cheering on the band/project/art experiment’s inevitable demise. For their part, the Sacramento group never bothered to deter anyone from reacting in extreme fashion — that was kind of the point. As extreme reactions go, however, the kind that “I’ve Seen Footage” is most likely to elicit involves getting the fuck down. Even their impressive 2011 mixtape Exmilitary barely hinted at the group’s ability to unleash something so hedonistic and fun. Stefan Burnett, Zach Hill and Andy Morin sacrifice none of their gnarl or tendencies toward confrontation — the track practically screams in your face its invitation to dance. But it’s also hard to say no with grooves so nasty and hashtag slogans so catchy (“I stay noided!”). After all the major label chicanery and troll-worthy stunts, I can’t say with any certainty what Death Grips’ motives were all along, but I do know this: “I’ve Seen Footage” is the jam. – JT

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