► Part 2: #75 – #51
75. Beyoncé – ‘Formation’ (2016)
You knew that things got serious in the US when Beyoncé finally embraced Afro-American culture and started playing with plenty of loaded symbols in this video and others. “Formation” started a new chapter, woke the fighting spirit in Queen Bey and put her on a level where she’s pretty much untouchable by now. You either love that or hate that but you definitely need to respect it.
74. When Saints Go Machine – ‘Church And Law’ (2011)
Over the years the Danish art pop collective constantly moved away from traditional pop structures to more abstract territory but they were always best when they perfectly balanced these two extremes. 2011’s “Konkylie” record is a prime example for that and this is the track that leaves you fascinated, thanks to this smooth-twisted groove and this haunting voice from Nikolaj Manuel Vonsild which is still one of the most unique ones in contemporary music.
73. Wolf Alice – ‘Bros’ (2015)
Wolf Alice’s debut album “My Love Is Cool” had more hit singles than other bands achieve in their entire career and it showed how easily this band could go from noisy rage rock to a tender pop melody like the one of “Bros”. It’s an honest and wonderful ode to friendship, delivered by one of the UK’s most important bands of this decade.
72. Rangleklods – ‘Clouds’ (2012)
In retrospect the story of Rangleklods is a pretty fascinating metamorphosis. It started as a solo project of Danish musician Esben Nørskov Andersen who later added his partner and singer Pernille Smith-Sivertsen to the line-up. They changed their name to Blondage and later split up again but that also means that Andersen is about to reactivate Rangleklods and we surely can’t wait for that to happen.
71. BOY – ‘Little Numbers’ (2011)
Hard to believe but ten years ago no label wanted to sign Valeska Steiner and Sonja Glas and this song is actually an anthem about this struggle. It’s about waiting for the phone call from the record label and seeing those seven little numbers blinking up on the display. Luckily BOY picked up when Groenland Records called and the rest is history and it’s truly ironic that this charming little tune became their biggest hit so far.
70. Drake – ‘Hotline Bling’ (2015)
Speaking about picking up that phone … Drake got similar problems with the other end of the line. In this case he’s waiting for his girl to give him a call while suffering from a slight overdose of jealousy. There’s a few cringy things about the song’s message and the music video and maybe it’s the meme potential that speaks here but on the other hand it’s a really catchy piece of pop and pretty clever sampling of that Timmy Thomas classic “Why Don’t We Live Together?”.
69. Solange – ‘Losing You’ (2012)
By the end of this decade the younger Mrs. Knowles clearly stepped out of her sister’s giant shadow but at the beginning that wasn’t really sure. Solange’s tasteful choice of collaborators, imagery and non-commercial approaches towards her music already hinted on a shining future. The Blood Orange produced “Losing You” is a prime example of retro-infected alternative R&B that wasn’t meant for the Top 40 but for everyone who really enjoys a good tune.
68. Ry X – ‘Berlin’ (2013)
While the German capital had multiple anthems over the past decades there wasn’t really one defining one although plenty of people from David Bowie to, well, Paul Kalkbrenner tried it. In the past decade Australian songwriter Ry Cuming tried a more intimate and melancholic approach, perfectly capturing the feeling of getting lost in the city as a person in your twenties. Sparse information and lyrics are enough to tell this story. That’s what a great song is about, isn’t?
67. Lady Gaga – ‘Born This Way’ (2011)
Following her sudden rush to superstardom in the late 00s Mrs. Gaga continues to evolve her alter ego into multiple directions, even making her an Oscar winner by the end off this decade. In-between Gaga’s pumping EDM pop delivered one of the most-on-point queer anthems of all time. It’s probably not a subtle one but screw it – sometimes you just need to be loud, right?
66. The 1975 – ‘Sex’ (2012)
Superlatives are a tricky thing and be sure to trigger a shitstorm when you label The 1975 as one of the most important groups of this generation but the facts speak for the Mancunian lads. Within a few years they turned to their home country’s biggest bands, they got something to say and a dedicated fellowship of fans that believes every message leading man Matt Healy says. On top of it they are crafted musicians who can literally play every genre from abstract ambient textures to futuristic autotune R&B right to really old-fashioned indie-rock like this one. “Sex” was actually the starting point of a career pretty much no one predicted to turn out that spectacular.
65. Tiger Lou – ‘Homecoming #2’ (2014)
For a while it felt as if Tiger Lou’s time was over. By the end of the 00s the band that really grew close to a lot of hearts (including ours) but never had their big breakthrough was too exhausted to continue. Luckily after a few years of radio silence songwriter Rasmus Kellerman got the gang back together for a wonderful comeback album and this single that started everything. It’s a song about coming home and whatever the future might bring for Kellerman and his band they’ll surely always have a home here at our place.
64. Chet Faker – ‘Gold’ (2014)
Before he fully embraced his real name Nick Murphy the Faker alias was necessary to make this man a pioneer of a new blue-eyed soul movement that saw an interesting fusion of traditional R&B and soul with modern electronic playfulness, bringing past and future together in a truly fulfilling way.
63. Sleaford Mods – ‘Tied Up In Nottz’ (2014)
Just when you thought punk was officially dead, these two lads came out of Nottingham and showed us how it’s done in the 21st century. Andrew Fearn makes the dry bears, Jason Williamson delivers the shouting and that’s it. No gimmicks, no traditional performance, just pure attitude. This refusal lead to a stubborn triumph and lead the way for many other acts to follow in the wake of Post-Brexit Britain. Fok yeah!
62. Big Deal – ‘Homework’ (2011)
We talked about that delicate intimacy on Big Deal’s 2011 debut LP Lights Out before and this song surely is the finest example of this tender musical chemistry between Kacey Underwood and Alice Costelloe. It’s a fragile yet very sensual love song from one to the other, spreading a youthful naivety that’s crucial for these days of early romance. Even if they fell apart later, this moment surely remains forever.
61. The Boxer Rebellion – ‘Diamonds’ (2013)
The British indie rockers have always been experts when it comes to bittersweet indie rock melancholia and this might be their finest moment so far. It’s pure, it’s simple yet got so much to say, shining bright like a diamond in the night.
60. Warpaint – ‘Undertow’ (2010)
Out of nowhere the lush coolness of Warpaint arrived in our lives, promising a vital future for female indie rock. The Californian four-piece makes the complexity of their dreamy fuzz rock sound so easy and shimmering like the accompanying video. Be honest: It’s been a constant in your summer hit playlist for almost ten years now, right?
59. Public Service Broadcasting – ‘Everest’ (2013)
The concept of the ever growing project of J. Willgoose, Esq. sounded so ambitious from the beginning that it was destined to succeed or ultimately fail and luckily the first scenario happened. Every album comes with a sample-based concept and in the case of their debut “Inform – Educate – Entertain” those samples came from the British Film Institute (BFI) and The National Archives. And who would have guessed that a documentary about the first expedition of Mount Everest could to lead to such an uplifting anthem like this one, right?
58. Moderat – ‘Bad Kingdom’ (2013)
The fact that the musical joint venture of Apparat and Modeselektor eventually got way bigger than their own careers speaks for the musical quality of Moderat. Sascha Ring’s tender vocal performance and the producer’s spheric post-techno beats create a perfect symbiosis that attracted techno lovers and, let’s say, Depeche Mode fans at the same time and eventually also lead to pretty catchy pop hooks like this one.
57. Crystal Castles – ‘Not In Love (feat. Robert Smith)’ (2010)
Back then when Crystal Castles still mattered and didn’t fell apart in a really ugly way their electro-clash pop really was a fascinating field for experiments. Their biggest coup however remained the hiring of Robert Smith as guest vocalist for their cover of the 1984 Platinum Blonde single “Not In Love”. The whole premise is still way too obscure but of course the iconic The Cure leader adds its demanded melancholic flavour to this bizarre yet quite effective cover.
56. Rihanna feat. Calvin Harris – ‘We Found Love’ (2011)
In retrospect the entire EDM hype of the past decade will eventually end up as cringe-worthy late capitalistic nonsense but damn… for a brief time it was everywhere. Then almost the entire black music scene jumped on the bandwagon, resulting in plenty of questionable collaborations but well, you can’t ignore the fact that this tune by Rihanna and Calvin Harris is a way too catchy piece of pop. It’s simple, it’s shallow, it’s a straight hands-up dance anthem and nothing else. Don’t even try to deny that.
55. Sleep Party People – ‘Chin’ (2012)
The alter ego of Danish musician Brian Batz arrived in the wake of the chillwave scene, delivering shimmering synthpop with psychedelic flavour, alienated vocals and – well – bunny masks. “Chin” is a dreamy clash of floating soundscapes, a mechanical groove and these really weird voice and when all those elements join forces they create a brilliant little piece of odd introverted pop.
54. Amen Dunes – ‘Believe’ (2018)
Inspired by Damon McMahon’s mother being diagnosed with cancer when he began writing his new album the centre of Amen Dunes’ record “Freedom” is a slow burning piece of spiritual folk. It tenderly builds up to an emotional climax. It’s easily this year’s most honest and heartbreaking piece of music and you are all invited to follow McMahon into the heart of darkness.
53. Michael Kiwanuka – ‘Black Man In A White World’ (2016)
Yes, this is a message as simple and unfortunately as important as it ever was. Michael Kiwanuka throws all his pain, soul but also determination into the ring, creating a modern piece of soul pop that is truly inspired by the genre’s history. The fact that you can still dance to it is a nice twist in all of this madness.
52. Slowdive – ‘Star Roving’ (2017)
If you made your fanbase wait for 22 years you’d better make your comeback a good one. Easier said than done probably but not for a band like Slowdive whose first single since 1995 was a stunning return to form, a powerful and uplifting shoegaze rock anthem that might channelled the band’s past glory but also shows that this second coming wasn’t a pure retro affair.
51. London Grammar – ‘Strong’ (2013)
London Grammar felt like the band that took the millennial blues notion of The xx and mixed it with an Adele-like vibe for big gestures. It did work out in the end because of these stunning songs and the voice of Hannah Reid that carried all the emotional wait with dignity and grace. You actually feel stronger after listening to this.
Find a few (but not all) songs from this list in our special 2010s indie playlist on Spotify.