Best Songs of the ’10s: #30-21

30. Ezra Furman, “I Lost My Innocence”
Gender-bending glam punk rhymes “Box of Girl Scout Thin Mints” with “Pack of Winstons” within a jaunty ode to deflowering that Dr. Frank-n-Furter could sing in his/her cabaret act.

29. The Ting Tings, “Guggenheim”
I’ve played this curious, bratty ditty to the point of exhaustion and it hasn’t worn me down yet. Debbie Harry wannabe Katie White sings, “I’ll paint my face like the Guggenheim”; it still sounds like “play my bass” and both are magnificent nonsense.

28. The Rapture, “How Deep Is Your Love?”
Not a Bee Gees cover, but much better than that could possibly ever be. That breakdown in the middle just slays.

27. Eleanor Friedberger, “When I Knew”
This ex-Fiery Furnaces vocalist going trad-pop has given me more pleasure than I ever imagined it could. “She was wearing a pair of overalls, so I played ‘Come On, Eileen’” is just one of several terrific lyrics in this disarming declaration of lust.

26. Jenny Lewis, “Late Bloomer”
A throwback to classic-rock story-songs like “Maggie May” but filtered through Lewis’ puckish demeanor, “Late Bloomer” sports a melody and an arrangement both so inviting and generous I remain flummoxed as to why this isn’t more of a standard.

25. John Grant, “GMF”
The title’s a NSFW acronym that’s also too brilliant to reveal; with backing vocals from an interpreter of his work (see #39), this dyspeptic declaration of self is as bold and necessary now as Walt Whitman’s own was in his day (he might’ve liked the lyric, “So go ahead and love me while it’s still a crime.”)

24. Charlotte Gainsbourg, “Deadly Valentine”
Gainsbourg returned from a recording hiatus with this sinister orchestral disco banger that would’ve surely made her father proud. Even though it’s entirely in English, the words barely register or matter—that insistent, loping groove and descending melody (and countermelodies!) steady the song with an aura of an opulent dream.

23. The War On Drugs, “Pain”
I adore the intro here: drumless, airy, all those reverb-heavy guitars just gradually falling into place. As the beat kicks in and the melody, enhanced by Adam Granduciel’s croon keeps circling back to that opening, “Pain” grows richer and deeper, its layers crystallizing into a glistening whole.

22. Orville Peck, “Dead of Night”
A one-of-a-kind voice that nearly stopped me dead in my tracks when I first heard it: sonorous, robust and a bit camp, you could compare Peck to many other baritones (from Chris Isaak to Stephen Morrissey), but this song’s minimalist arrangement and vast sense of space further set him apart.

21. Sufjan Stevens, “Mystery Of Love”
Call Me By Your Name would’ve been great without musical contributions from Stevens, but their presence arguably makes it even better for how well they complement and contextualize the visuals. Still, I could sense how special the film might be when I first heard this weeks before actually seeing it.

Best Songs of the ’10s: #40-31

40. Betty Who, “Somebody Loves You”
Maybe the decade’s greatest one-shot? This Aussie singer has put out other stuff since, but nothing as pitch-perfect as this totally ‘80s dance pop wonder that somehow never became a big radio hit. Perhaps Kylie Minogue should cover it.

39. Sinead O’Connor, “Queen of Denmark”
O’Connor’s had another troubled decade, but she seemed on the verge of a comeback with her pretty good 2012 album, the highlight of which is this gloriously incensed John Grant cover. The original’s fine, but Sinead was born to sing lyrics like, “Why don’t you bore the shit out of somebody else?”

38. Hot Chip, “Let Me Be Him”
Man, these Brit dweebs had so many good singles (and albums!) this decade; out of all of it, I’ll go with this extended, shimmering prog-pop gem if only because it was an album track that should have been everywhere.

37. Jessie Ware, “Wildest Moments”
Ware’s first major single is a breath of fresh air—with a Sade-like presence, only a tad more buoyant, it traverses both pop and r&b and lands somewhere in-between, only “lands” seems incorrect as, despite the resounding beat underneath, the whole thing positively glides.

36. LUMP, “Curse of the Contemporary”
Laura Marling was my artist of the decade until her considerable output actually petered out about 2/3 of the way through it. However, this most recent project, a collaboration with Tunng’s Mike Lindsay, suggests an intriguing way forward, especially on this sinewy, beautifully dark travelogue.

35. Marina and The Diamonds, “I’m A Ruin”
Froot made my top ten albums of the decade, but the track from it I always want to hear most is this miraculous, mid-tempo number where she utilizes the best bits of past weirdos such as Sarah McLachlan and Kate Bush, bringing it all into her own domain.

34. Joe Goddard feat. SLO, “Music Is The Answer”
Goddard’s a member of Hot Chip (see #38); I still have no clue who female vocalist SLO is. Together, they made this cool, catchy and most of all immediate disco/dance throwback whose straightforward but profound lyrics absolutely sell it.

33. Jessica Lea Mayfield, “Blue Skies Again”
If Amy Rigby ever had the resources and gumption to hook up with a member of The Black Keys, the results might’ve turned out like this. Mayfield’s made other, much different music since, but none of it registers like this lovely, slightly warped, twangy power pop.

32. Alex Lahey, “Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself”
I might’ve been more receptive to Sleater-Kinney’s return this decade if their punk-pop was still as catchy and urgent as this, but then, they never would’ve incorporated a rousing, Clarence Clemmons-like sax solo into one of their songs.

31. Tori Amos, “Reindeer King”
Her last two albums have retreated from the wilderness somewhat, but Amos remains a worthy iconoclast open to kicking off an album with a seven-minute mood piece akin to a stroll through endless, foreboding terrain—thankfully, you can still see through to the other side.

Best Songs of the ’10s: #50-41

Having already written so much about albums, I’m counting down my favorite songs of the decade instead. Thanks to downloading and streaming, I’m more inclined to obsess over individual tracks—I still love and seek out albums, but often, a great single or track is simply more accessible and immediate. Here are fifty from the past ten years, ten at a time. Roughly one-third come from my favorite albums of the decade—I wasn’t going to include any crossovers, but then I’d be overlooking some really good songs.

50. Lake Street Dive, “Bad Self Portraits”
This bluesy but warm serving of self-deprecation comes from a quartet of former Berklee students whose vocalist could be a cross between Bonnie Raitt and Fiona Apple, with lyrics nearly as clever as the latter’s.

49. Natalie Prass, “The Fire”
An angelic-voiced chanteuse in the Dusty/Dionne mold, Prass nonetheless refuses to be pigeonholed: this track (among others) from her second album, The Future and The Past recalls highly buffed, late ’80s pop-funk but fully translates it for the here and now.

48. Guster, “Architects & Engineers”
When they lay off the goofiness, these Adult Alternative radio mainstays approach the soaring, melody-rich power pop and smarts of Fountains of Wayne (who’ve been inactive for most of the decade.) The wordless chorus here is aces.

47. Roisin Murphy, “Narcissus”
She’s put out so many divine stand-alone singles since returning from exile mid-decade; this most recent release might be the best of ‘em, a full-blown, Donna Summer-worthy disco epic with Murphy imploring, “Be in love, be in love, be in love with me.” Only the Gloomiest Gus would dare resist her.

46. Kacey Musgraves, “High Horse”
Speaking of disco, it feels like such a logical step for this difficult-to-classify artist, but admit it—did you ever think she’d actually put out a song like this? As with nearly everything else on her applauded, Grammy-winning album Golden Hour, it’s both a summation and an act of liberation.

45. Years & Years, “Shine”
Both nuanced and assured, Olly Alexander’s best song to date also manages to scratch that ridiculously catchy teen-pop sweet spot, and somehow does it with synths nearly straight out of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill”.

44. Washed Out, “All I Know”
Portlandia theme aside, Ernest Green’s chillwave project peaked with this wonderful, neo-psychedelic pop song brimming with texture and layers of hooks but also a strong residue of 80s British guitar-rock—in particular, the moment you could almost dance to it.

43. The Decemberists, “Once In My Life”
Their recent ’80s-drenched phase can be hit-or-miss, but it’s pretty sublime on this good old fashioned anthem, which is melodic, airy and brimming with majestic flourishes. Who knew Colin Meloy could write such a perfect song for an imaginary John Hughes film?

42. Future Islands, “Seasons (Waiting On You)”
Like nearly everyone else, it was that infamous Letterman show appearance that made me fall for Samuel T. Herring and his synth-pop cohorts; dad-dance moves aside, it’s his mighty, primeval roar in conjunction with the key-change on the chorus that still makes me soon.

41. Janelle Monae feat. Deep Cotton, “57821”
As much as I love all of The ArchAndroid’s sideways twists and turns, this gently scintillating, uncommonly hushed, acoustic folk (like “Scarborough Fair” turned inside out) is what I return to most—naturally, there’s nothing else like it in Monae’s small but expansive catalog.

Favorite Albums, 2010-19

Until recently, I was set on counting down my fifty favorite albums of this decade, as I did for the last one and the one before that. However, given that I’ve spent years writing extensively/exhaustively about favorite albums, including eleven from this past decade, I’m weary of saying much more on these long-players. So, in two weeks I will count down my fifty favorite tracks of the decade instead. I don’t buy into the death-of-the-album hysteria that began with digital downloads and seems to have swelled with online streaming, but I will argue that the technology often allows for a single or an album track to make a deeper, obviously more immediate impact than a thirty-to-seventy-minute-long collection of songs.

More about that in two weeks. I will never stop loving albums and ranking my favorites, but compared to the past two decades, nothing from the 2010s has hit me so powerfully as Automatic For The People, If You’re Feeling Sinister, Apartment Life, Since I Left You and Riot On An Empty Street did upon arrival. Of course, I first heard all those records in my 20s and it’s only natural that as I age, I should grow more critical and less susceptible towards the new, especially in how it relates to an already established artist’s body of work.

However, I still firmly believe in the possibility that my favorite album (or song) of all time might be something I haven’t yet heard. At the end of 2009, I knew nothing of Laura Marling, Nicole Atkins, Field Music, The Clientele or Future Islands, even though they all had records out. Then, there are the new talents that emerged and are represented below: Christine and The Queens, Natalie Prass, Michael Kiwanuka, Lana Del Rey, Haim—all of whom I suspect will continue releasing vital music in the next decade.

As for the list below, I struggled a bit with the order, for everything’s prone to change from month to year to day. Thus, I focused on albums I could see myself most wanting to listen to again and again, even after having already heard them dozens of times. Home Counties fulfills such criteria more strongly than anything else I could think of—I’m not sure if it’s even Saint Etienne’s best or second-best (or even fifth-best) album, but its breadth and scope effortlessly draws me in; as a reaction to Brexit, it’s also one of the more timely albums here, certainly up there with Running Out of Love, Record and My Finest Work Yet as something that one could’ve only conceived of in the past three-to-four years.

Some surprises here and there: Edge of the Sun not making 100 Albums but placing so high as it became one of my most-listened-to records ever; Random Access Memories‘ stature in my mind slipping somewhat, as its retro-isms still delight but no longer innovate; a handful of records from the first half of the decade showing up, despite not making my half-decade list in 2015 (most notably Tales of Us, Transference and The Voyager); only three artists (Saint Etienne, Tracey Thorn and Hot Chip) appearing more than once, as opposed to Sam Phillips, who had three slots in the ’00s list.

In any case, at the end of this particular decade, here’s how I’d rank my favorite albums from it:

  1. Saint Etienne, Home Counties
  2. Emm Gryner, Northern Gospel
  3. Calexico, Edge of the Sun
  4. Jens Lekman, I Know What Love Isn’t
  5. Destroyer, Kaputt
  6. Tracey Thorn, Record
  7. The Radio Dept., Running Out Of Love
  8. Roisin Murphy, Hairless Toys
  9. Andrew Bird, My Finest Work Yet
  10. Marina and the Diamonds, Froot
  11. Daft Punk, Random Access Memories
  12. Laura Marling, I Speak Because I Can
  13. Christine and The Queens, Christine and The Queens
  14. Raphael Saadiq, Stone Rollin’
  15. Nicole Atkins, Goodnight Rhonda Lee
  16. Natalie Prass, The Future and The Past
  17. Florence + The Machine, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
  18. Holy Ghost!, Work
  19. Hot Chip, One Life Stand
  20. Field Music, Open Here
  21. Tracey Thorn, Love and Its Opposite
  22. Goldfrapp, Tales Of Us
  23. The Clientele, Music For The Age Of Miracles
  24. Robert Forster, Inferno
  25. Michael Kiwanuka, Love & Hate
  26. David Bowie, Blackstar
  27. Saint Etienne, Words and Music By Saint Etienne
  28. Janelle Monae, The ArchAndroid
  29. Fiona Apple, The Idler Wheel…
  30. Robyn, Body Talk
  31. Imperial Teen, Now We Are Timeless
  32. Sufjan Stevens, Carrie & Lowell
  33. Lana Del Rey, Norman Fucking Rockwell!
  34. Pet Shop Boys, Electric
  35. Belle and Sebastian, Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance
  36. Jill Sobule, Dottie’s Charms
  37. Alison Moyet, Other
  38. Sam Phillips, World On Sticks
  39. Future Islands, Singles
  40. Spoon, Transference
  41. Vampire Weekend, Modern Vampires Of The City
  42. The New Pornographers, Brill Bruisers
  43. Hot Chip, In Our Heads
  44. Fitz and The Tantrums, Pickin’ Up The Pieces
  45. Rufus Wainwright, Out Of The Game
  46. Tegan and Sara, Heartthrob
  47. Haim, Days Are Gone
  48. St. Vincent, St. Vincent
  49. FFS, FFS
  50. Jenny Lewis, The Voyager