► Part 3: #50 – #26
► Part 4: #25 – #1 (coming soon)
50. Francis And The Lights – ‘Friends (feat. Bon Iver & Kanye West) (2016)
Friendship can happen in the most unusual places. Francis Farewell Starlite and his project have played a crucial part in the background of urban music scene before, inspiring Drake and Chance The Rapper before ultimately convincing Kanye West and Justin Vernon as well. The result is one of this decade’s sweetest pop temptations and to this day we still wonder what Kanye actually played in it.
49. Editors – ‘No Harm’ (2015)
Over the past decade the British band continued to grow from being one of many 00s indie rock bands into something more complex, carried by their own dark vision. With a new line-up and new confidence they opened their music for interesting new territory like this slow-burning cinematic goth love song.
48. Villagers – ‘Nothing Arrived’ (2012)
Only a songwriter like Conor O’Brien can make the void feel and sound so tempting. He waited for something and something died and then he decided to wait for nothing, and nothing arrived. There’s a simple yet wonderful poetry in that and there’s something slightly hopeful in this love letter to the lethargy.
47. Damon Albarn – ‘Lonely Press Play’ (2014)
With all the countless side-projects, a Blur comeback and multiple Gorillaz records one could easily forget that the restless British musician released his first pure solo album back in 2014 and it’s tender melancholic stories deserve way more attention. Albarn’s sad voice feels those of a lonely and lost traveller in this chaos called modern life. And that was even before Brexit happened.
46. The Slow Show – ‘Bloodline’ (2015)
One could easily mistake the Mancunian group for a rip-off of The National but that’s slightly short-sighted considering such a brilliant track like “Bloodline” which plays in a league of its own. Cinematic, trembling and emotionally fragile yet somehow majestic. That’s what great songs are made of.
45. Chromatics – ‘Kill For Love’ (2012)
New wave romanticism at its best from Johnny Jewel and his restless gang who brought the 1980s charm back at a time when it wasn’t entirely en vogue. But the world embraced it, so did David Lynch and we as well. Thank god, a follow-up finally arrived recently.
44. Billie Eilish – ‘Bury A Friend’ (2019)
The future of pop is looking weirdly good with leading figures like Billie Eillish leading the way. A song like this would have been labelled as ‘future pop’ ten years ago and now appeals to broader and young audience that’s not even trying to think in labels and genres anymore. The voice of the Generation Z just started to speak up and she won’t be shutting up anytime soon.
43. M.I.A. – ‘Bad Girls’ (2012)
More than many other artists Mathangi Arulpragasam understood that a strong musical message also needs strong visuals to compete in our modern world. It’s impossible to think one without the other. The song itself carries a strong female message and so does the video which reminds us that it’s still a long way to go.
42. Arctic Monkeys – ‘Do I Wanna Know’ (2013)
And suddenly those four British lads from Sheffield turned into a global headliner rock sensation. Well, it wasn’t a total surprise but on their “AM” record it feels as if the Arctic Monkeys finally embraced their pop abilities with this pumping steamroller working pretty great as an opening track.
41. William Fitzsimmons – ‘Fade And Then Return’ (2011)
Ain’t no darkness with a bit of light, right? While Mr. Fitzsimmons’ previous record was carried by the despair of a divorce the follow-up “Gold In The Shadow” saw him embracing lighter sides of life again without losing his sense for melancholic tenderness. His reduced guitar play in this one feels like warm rays of sunlight on a cold winter day and the song hasn’t lost its magic after all these years.
40. David Bowie – ‘Where Are We Now’ (2013)
And then he returned. Out of the sudden on his 66h birthday the icon ended his almost ten year long musical hiatus with a reflective song that was packed with Bowie references to Berlin and a hopeful notion in his still way too majestic voice. It was a haunting final return that ended in three years of wonderful new music before his voice became silent once and for all.
39. Metronomy – ‘The Bay’ (2011)
On “The English Riviera” Joseph Mount perfected Metronomy’s tongue-in-cheek indie pop gems and made them more accessible to a broader audience. To this day this track remains a floorfiller for every good party and even after a decade this Bay feels like a great place to stay.
38. Blood Orange – ‘Chamakay’ (2013)
With every record of his alter ego Dev Hynes dove deeper into his own cultural and musical roots, embracing 80s R&B with African soul vibes and a pop affinity that feels as logical as it is natural. “Chamakay” is a tender and sensual affair in which Chairlift’s Caroline Polachek’s additional vocals also play a crucial part.
37. Electric Youth – ‘A Real Hero (with College)’ (2012)
It doesn’t happen often that a song is so closely connected with a movie that you can’t think of it without getting certain images in your head. In the case of this one it’s a more hopeful moment in the life of the nameless stunt driver in Nicolas Winding Refn’s cult flick “Drive”. Electric Youth’s tender synthpop anthem spreads solace in an otherwise pretty gritty movie and it even works great beyond that.
36. Solange – ‘Cranes In The Sky’ (2016)
Carried by a dreamy and sad notion this neo-soul ballad continued Solange’s evolution away from the mainstream approach and into a more profound and artistic dimension, a niche in which genre classifications are no longer of any relevance. What matters is the musical maelstrom.
35. Radiohead – ‘Daydreaming’ (2016)
It sounds so simple, yet so complex. A playful piano motif that slowly builds up to cinematic levels. Thom Yorke’s vocals only play a minor role in the entire equation but he’s nonetheless necessary to make this whole thing work on so many levels. The meditative lullaby is another outstanding masterpiece in the band’s marvellous back catalogue.
34. Cigarettes After Sex – ‘Affection’ (2015)
“This is a song about getting drunk”, Greg Gonzalez once introduced this track during a live show and only he and his band can make a song about hanging our with your best mate sound like romantic and almost sensual affair. Their trippy shoegaze paints the world with soft-focus colours and that’s why we fall for them everytime. Must be affection, right?
33. Jamie xx – ‘Loud Places’ (feat. Romy)’ (2015)
The success story of The xx is also one of three friends who know each other way longer than you might think. Jamie and Romy were skater kids before they started making music together and the clip for their joint single underlines that feeling of nostalgia which might also come from sampling Idris Muhammad’s 1977 funk/jazz tune “Could Heaven Ever Be Like This.”
32. Destroyer – ‘Kaputt’ (2011)
Den Bejar’s turn from slightly weird anti-folk to 80s-inspired soft rock might have surprised everyone but the artist himself. The Canadian songwriter simply shifted his storytelling into new territory and for the title-track of his 2011 album. It’s a personal reflection on life, partly maybe autobiographical but you almost tend to overhear that in the wake of this splendid musical surrounding.
31. Elbow – ‘Lippy Kids’ (2011)
There’s a simple and universal beauty in that imagery Guy Garvey presents here. A middle-aged man watching kids fool around who have their entire lives ahead of them. They can be anything, even building a freakin’ rocket. These days are indeed golden and so is the music of Elbow who continued to release outstanding material throughout the past ten years.
30. Sufjan Stevens – ‘Mystery Of Love’ (2018)
Way too often the best love songs are the simplest ones. In the case of Sufjan Stevens’ song for the wonderful movie “Call Me By Your Name” this ode to the most beautiful feeling of the world doesn’t fail to put all these difficult feelings in the right words. But if there’s one man who’s capable of doing it it’s Mr. Stevens. Like the movie ‘Call Me By Your Name’ its title-track is a reminder why love is still the only wonderful thing to keep us sane these days.
29. ANOHNI – ‘4 Degrees’ (2016)
During the past ten years and way too late humanity realised that it’s working on its own extinction by destroying their home planet. The artist formerly known as Antony Hegarty delivers a hunting piece of cinematic pop that underlines the urgency of the situation. “4 Degrees” sums up the entire catastrophy pretty well and the fact that it’s also a pretty great pop song is one of the many strengths on ANOHNI’S 2016 debut “HOPLELESSNESS”.
28. Lana Del Rey – Video Games’ (2011)
Elizabeth Grant had to step aside because Lana Del Rey needed all the space for her gigantic sad pop anthems. By creating a new alter ego Lizzy Grant was capable of writing a different kind of pop song that felt quite fresh but also strangely familiar. Lana Del Rey became the queen of the millennial blues, a post-glamorous reminder of America’s fading greatness and to this day she’s doing a great job keeping this vibe alive.
27. Kendrick Lamar – ‘Alright’ (2015)
Even before Trump’s election the US couldn’t shake off its racist problem, maybe because it was never fully gone. Over the past ten years Kendrick Lamar became the new ring leader of the rap game, one that got way more to say than just a few gangster clichés and one that got more to offer musically than just a bunch of laptop beats. Kendrick represents a new African-American self-conception one that reminds us again and again that we’re all in this boat together.
26. Daughter – ‘Youth’ (2013)
There aren’t many songs who sum up the dilemma of an entire generation as good as this one by Elena Tonra. In our desperate attempt to find love and guidance in a world that’ clearly lacking of these things the so-called wild youth continues to numb and destroys itself in order to feel something at last. It’s a pretty powerful piece of music but it’s its melancholic simplicity that makes it so timeless.
► to be continued soon
Find a few (but not all) songs from this list in our special 2010s indie playlist on Spotify.