Some say indie music peaked in the mid-2000s and they may be right with Animal Collectives brilliant album Merriweather Post Pavilion, Panda Bear’s Person Pitch, Grizzly Bears hot run of albums, and Radiohead’s In Rainbows, but that thinking is that of the oldtimers yelling about how “The music in my day actually meant something!”
Music evolves and keeps pushing forward its not a static thing. Indie has evolved just like every other genre, early in the 2010s we saw albums similar to what came before and more recently we’ve seen it blur the lines between them and pop. It’s a welcoming evolution for those who create, to be recognized by a wider audience. Some snobs may have their nose up at the crossover, but that’s just how music has evolved and it’s why there’s some amazing music that has come out this past decade and it’s what made this list so hard to put together because there was just so much great music created, but in the end, I had to put something together. I would like to say I don’t particularly like saying this is better than this because when it boils down to it, its just one man’s opinion, but without further ado here are my top 50 indie songs of the 2010s.
50. Jessica Pratt – Back Baby
A breakup song filled with regrets, but not from the narrator from the significant other that screwed things up so badly they want to take it all back, “But you can’t go back, baby.” Jessica Pratt’s breakthrough single has an old standards feel with her hauntingly beautiful voice weaved through folksy acoustic guitar. It’s a beautifully arranged song perfect for those rainy days Pratt sometimes prays for.
49. King Krule – Out Getting Ribs
King Krule has perfected taking a jazz or blues riff and making it feel raw and gritty, that’s because his voice just oozes with raw emotional swagger that is unmatched. He has carved out his own style one that isn’t done by any other artists with perfectly elegant guitar lines dragged beautifully through the mud creating a grit and grime by his British accent and vocal styling. He creates feelings that you never thought could be felt at the same time, beautiful grime is about the best way you can describe it.
48. Hurray For The Riff Raff – Pa’lante
A folksy song based on the poem “Puerto Rican Obituary,” by Pedro Pietri, which is an inspirational piece about self-knowledge and self-love, Hurray for the Riff Raff take that inspiration about her home country to heart as singer-songwriter Alynda Segarra looks inward as she sings lines like, “Ah, do your best, but fuck the rest, be something.” It’s a beautifully sung inspirational piece on its own, but coupled with the poem and the troubles Puerto Rico has faced after devastating hurricanes the song now stands as an anthem to Segarra’s people, something unintentional, but she gladly accepts.
47. Mac DeMarco – Ode to Viceroy
Mac DeMarco has slowly built himself into a household name, not by luck, but by blue-collar hard work, and would you expect anything less from a Canadian? DeMarco has also become known for his fun natured live show where the singer-songwriter chugs beers, smokes cigarettes and walks around shirtless in full dad bod glory. How appropriate then that his breakout single “Ode To Viceroy” is a tribute to an infamously dreadful brand of cigarette. It’s the type of song DeMarco has built his brand on. This goofy but sweet-natured tune that has spawned the unlikeliest of indie heroes, but the one we need.
46. Pond – Xanman
Spawned from Kevin Parker’s backing band for Tame Impala, Pond has carved out their own psychedelic path behind psyche pop gems like “Xanman.” Pond may always live in the shadow to Tame like a little brother, but its something they don’t mind as Parker has served as producer on all of their albums. The support and love these guys feel for one another haven’t created a rivalry, but a community. A community of Aussies making amazing psyche rock for the masses and loving every second they get to live out their dreams.
45. Car Seat Headrest – Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales
Car Seat Headrest broke out with his hit single “Something Soon” and took that momentum and created his best album to date, with lead single “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” we saw Will Toledo really grow as an artist with a jump to Matador Records after self-releasing twelve albums. Toledo’s second studio album Teens of Denial was created using traditional studio processes that created a crispness and tightness in the band, a band that had made a living off of Toledo’s lo-fi sound now suddenly had a studio sound with garage rock roots. It’s a sound that appealed to the masses and has sent Car Seat on a trajectory to superstardom. You can look no further for a key example to that newfound crispness than on “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales.”
44. Warpaint – Undertow
An homage to Nirvana’s classic song “Poly,” “Undertow” was created when bassists Jenny Lee Lindberg and guitarist Theresa Wayman were jamming on a bassline when Wayman “Started singing the lyrics to ‘Poly’ over the top of it.” It was then decided, “instead of making it a cover why not write your own words to the song.” What Wayman created was the band’s debut single one that had garnered mass appeal. It’s rare for a band to find mass success with their debut record it’s even rarer to find the success with their debut single, but the talent of these women is undeniable and the pop aesthetics like the song’s predecessor is the reason why this song has stood the test of time, becoming one of the best songs of the decade.
43. Cass McCombs – County Line
“County Line” is built upon a sleek jazzy keyboard line that’s complemented by a sexy bass, intermittent guitar licks, and a church style organ that calls back to the softer side of the classic rock era. It’s a change of pace for Cass McCombs who tends to experiment in jarring chord progressions and industrial sounds. Instead, we find a beautifully laid out composition that features subject matter that somewhat juxtaposes its instrumental accompaniment. “You never even tried to love me” McCombs sings as he reaches the county line returning to the place he had left behind after suffering a loss and running away. It’s a raw emotion McCombs leaves us with, one that many of us have felt just like him.
42. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Round and Round
“Round and Round” is a nonsensical anthem created by one of the most acentric weirdoes in indie Ariel Pink. Its catchiness can’t be denied despite its lyrics making almost zero since, but if you squint a little you can maybe start to make out a song about how life just keeps spinning or maybe it’s a song about the musical cycles we constantly find ourselves in. Either way, it’s such a fun track no one really cares what it means.
41. Alt-J – Breezeblocks
Alt-J is one of those acts that you love, but you can’t really put your finger on why. The singing is weird, the lyrics even weirder, and the musical compositions not exactly arranged in standard A B A format. Yet the British rockers blew up onto the scene as soon as the dropped their entertaining first single “Breezeblocks.” With one of the catchiest canon perpetuus that one can find in modern music. It’s a charming, but strange track, much like most of their music and for that matter the band itself, but despite all of that you can’t deny your love.
40. Spoon – Inside Out
As spoon became indie veterans there was a sense of maturity that washed over them, not to say that spoon wasn’t great before or even mature, but there’s something with age that you can’t deny. What’s that old adage “I wish I knew what I know now back then?” Well with spoons graduation came a newfound sleekness. A sound centered on a looped rhythm set up perfectly not for a guitar solo, but an angelic harp solo, something spoon would have never considered in their early days. Accompany that with lyrics about not getting dragged down into the bullshit and one can see the maturity that has come from all those years out on the road.
39. Gorillaz Ft. Mos Def and Bobby Womack – Stylo
Gorillaz have come to be known for their hip-hop infused indie synth-pop since their debut album from the early 2000s. They continued that trend into the following decade with a ready-made road-tripping track featuring Mos Def and Bobby Womack in “Stylo.” However, this was the first time Damon Albarn went out right political with the song’s statement on the mistreatment of our planet and a warning of what we as people are doing to it. Wrapped up in a funky bass synth “Stylo” represents the group’s album as a whole, which is named after the real Island of Plastic that has collected over the years and floats through the ocean.
38. Jungle – Busy Earnin’
Jungle entered into the indie scene at a perfect time when everyone was clamoring for more fun, and something to groove to this English band came in with funky falsetto laden pop songs. With their infectious ability to make you get up and move Jungle have become the go-to upbeat, disco soul, fun-loving rockers. There’s a lot more than meets the eye with these Brits as their lyrics have shown a lot more depth than most dance music acts, and that certainly is the case with their song “Busy Earnin’.” A song centered around greed Jungle have found a way to sound fun around dark subject matter, but what has made Jungle and especially “Busy Earnin’” so special is the music that surrounds the subject matter. With timely samples, funky guitars and drums, and horns that dance around the riffs with catchy melodies of their own that you can’t help but try and trumpet out loud with your lips, Jungle has become one of the best bands around and “Busy Earnin’” is their finest of an excellent catalog.
37. Chromatics – Kill For Love
Johnny Jewel has created a synth-pop powerhouse by creating perfectionist pop songs that feature infections synths and Ruth Radelet’s signature voice. On “Kill for Love” the title track to the band’s 2012 album we get Jewel’s tireless efforts on full display. The synth line envelops you from the opening line and Radelet’s voice, though it never reaches for the heights, is on full display with a lush coolness that’s rare to find. By the time the guitar comes in like a line from Joy Division or New Order we understand why Jewel makes sure every note is exactly how he wants it because when every piece is at its very best you create something that goes beyond the individual parts. You create iconic songs that stand the test of time and become instant classics.
36. Sky Ferreira – Everything Is Embarrassing
A breakup song written by Blood Orange’s Dev Hynes “Everything Is Embarrassing” is truly a testament at Sky Ferreira’s ability to take songs written by other people and make them her own. When Ferreira’s character is beaten down in the song by embarrassing moments we feel for her. She has a way of drawing us with every note with every word. Coupled that with Hynes 80s styled funk and the two have created a pop song for the ages.
35. Clairo – Bags
When someone is so talented and garners so much recognition that they’re able to get songwriting wiz Rostam to help produce songs on their debut album, the world has to take notice. Clairo started with lo-fi bedroom pop that showcased her talented songwriting ability and beautiful voice, but she has truly grown into a songwriter as her debut album has given her songs a sense of professionalism and maturity that we rarely see in a debut. Clairo’s “Bags” is the showcase of that album, with production by Rostam, Clairo has found a songwriting ability that is rare for a debut album. It’s an amazing jump and one can’t help but get excited about what this talented singer-songwriter can do with years of studio experience under her belt.
34. Amen Dunes – Miki Dora
“Miki Dora” is an analogy of sorts taking the story of an old surfer from the 60s who has gotten older and watches the young guns coming in and mimicking his style, doing things like him, “You’re copping all my tricks, man, but you don’t do it like me.” Dunes sings over a sleek jazzy rhythmic section. This story of growing old and facing your demise is more of a reflection of the singer’s work. Dunes reflects about his own mortality buttoned up into a story about the old surf legend, but Dunes does leave hope for himself as he eases Miki Dora’s fears by telling him there’s, “Still enough time, to roll around with me.” Don’t worry there are always more waves.
33. Radiohead – True Love Waits
A Moon Shaped Pool is arguably the most depressing album of Radiohead illustrious career. An album filled with dread and loss. A band who long has been warning that if we don’t change our ways we will lose this planet and the beauty we took for granted. However, on Pool Radiohead has given up on the warning and has settled into the realization that their warnings are now coming true and the hope they once had has faded. This realization may have also been helped by the breakup of Thom Yorke’s long partnership with the mother of his children and then her death six months later from cancer. But once we reach the closer “True Love Waits” something flips. A song that had been long in the making, but never fully realized until now gives us a slight glimmer of hope. That maybe love will conquer all, or maybe what they are trying to say is grab your loved ones tight and let them know how much you care for them because we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. I like to think it’s the first one.
32. Jay Som – One More Time, Please
Jay Som’s 2017 album Everybody Works is one of the best indie records of the decade. With clever lyrics about lipstick stains and someone desperately wanting to know if the person they’re into feels the same Everybody Works is a great album from an indie up-and-comer. “One More Time, Please” sits as the heart of the album with an opening piano line that could rival some of the best opening riffs “Time” is a song about a person that just needs to know how the person they’re crushing on feels the same. It’s a nostalgic feeling for those of us a bit older and for younger people, it’s something they probably are feeling right now. It’s something we all have been through and Jay Som has captured that feeling in a brilliant song.
31. Father John Misty – Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings
Josh Tillman found himself depressed stuck behind Robin Pecknold and his Fleet Foxes band mates late into their Japanese tour for their then critically acclaimed second album Helplessness Blues. The Foxes drummer who had originally tried his own solo act, but failed had had enough. For reasons he really couldn’t explain he was too depressed to continue in the band and he quit mid-show in Japan. The depressed artists flew back home to Seattle picked up his things and left moving to Los Angeles with the feeling that the only way he could be happy is if he struck out on his own. What was born from that was Father John Misty. The sarcastic Jim Morrison reincarnated singer-songwriter who has become somewhat of a folk hero. With “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings,” Father John announced himself as a new man ready for new beginnings branching out on his own. Doing music his way with no one else telling him how to do it. He seems to have settled in and found peace with his alter ego a peace he long searched for.
30. The War On Drugs – Under The Pressure
Formed by Kurt Vile and Adam Granofsky in 2005, The War On Drugs was somewhat of a side project for Vile and some of his backing bandmates, but after Vile left Granofsky took sole possession of the band and made it his own. With soaring guitar riffs and vocals like a cross between Bryan Adams and Bruce Springsteen The War On Drugs found their breakout his with “Under The Pressure.” A song about a man feeling the pressure from the outside world, something most of us can relate to as we grow older, “Under The Pressure” truly soars when Granofsky rips into the solo and the song extends into a long interlude. It’s a brilliant moment that makes for an amazing live show performance. This band may have started out as a side project, but they truly have come into their own.
29. Arctic Monkeys – Do I Wanna Know
Alex Turner has always been a wordsmith, turning a phrase into clever little lines over garage rock/punk rock riffs, but it was on AM where we saw the band turn from young indie rockers to a fully formed arena rock band. The riffs throughout AM call back to the guitar legends of old and Turner’s subject matter and lyrics are as clever as ever, especially on hit single “Do I Wanna Know,” where all of those previous points came together to create one of the coolest songs of the decade. A breakup song about a guy that just wants his ex back, but only seems to crave her late at night, where this song truly shines is its blues riff and pounding drums, highlighted by turners swagger and lyricism. The Arctic Monkeys truly created a brilliant song and album.
28. Phoebe Bridgers – Funeral
Phoebe Bridgers’s “Funeral” is a sadly beautiful song. A song about Bridgers having to sing at a funeral “For a kid a year older than me,” it leads to a larger self-reflection on her own depression. Loss always makes you look inward and help put things into perspective and that’s what this death has done for Bridgers. It’s something that most of us can relate to and it’s why “Funeral” is such a meaningful song to a lot of us.
27. Lykke Li – I Follow Rivers
Lykke Li has been an indie darling ever since she told us she was “A little bit in love,” but she never found mainstream success until her 2011 critically acclaimed album Wounded Rhymes. “I Follow Rivers” is arguably the best song on Li’s breakthrough album, with its pulsating rhythms and catchy musical riff that gives the listener something to grab onto and move “Rivers” featured a maturity in Li’s songwriting we hadn’t seen from her before. The lyrics are not overly complicated love song, but the addicting musical composition just can’t be denied. For us indie lovers who had been following LI’s career from the beginning it was a happy moment for us to see our indie darling get the recognition she deserved.
26. Big Thief – Mary
A sweet ballad that features some of Adrianne Lenker’s best vocals “Mary” is the emotional center to Big Thief’s breakthrough record Capacity. A simple song centered around a beautiful piano and highlighted by a sweet organ, Big Thief have really found what makes them so special with Lenker’s magic for words. A storyteller with a sweet voice never overpowered by the music around her, it’s one of the reasons why her solo work is also so special. Lenker has come into her own as a songwriter and musician and that band around her has only accentuated that ability. It’s a perfect combination of talent and it’s the reason why we’ll be hearing from this band for years to come.
25. Alvvays – Dreams Tonite
A dreamy synth-pop love song that really does give you the feeling of being in someone’s dream Alvvays first single off their second studio album “Dreams Tonite” is a beautiful sentiment of a band coming into their own. Alvvays have never sounded better and Molly Rankin’s vocals shine as the song builds into the final chorus with harmonies, a second vocal line, and a Mariah Carey styled vibrato. It’s what has made Alvvay’s second album stand out and “Dreams Tonite” is the building block that will push them into the next decade as one of the next great acts in indie-pop.
24. The National – Bloodbuzz Ohio
An ode to their home state of Ohio, The National’s first single from their fifth album High Violet, is a slow-building anthem that the band has perfected over the years. Built on a fast turning drum beat “Bloodbuzz Ohio” has lead singer Matt Berninger’s signature deep croon and cryptic words and features the best musical compositions we’ve ever heard from the band. It’s no wonder that the band garnered more attention from critics and gained an even wider audience after over ten years of work they seem to have really hit their stride and now it seems as though there’s a new critically acclaimed National album every year.
23. Sharon Van Etten – Every Time the Sun Comes Up
Closer to 2014s dark album Are We There was meant to be a joke of sorts. Kind of a throwaway song done in the middle of the night with lyrics that represent what transpired over the course of the night after a few drinks and a little toke, but when the song was released as a single it became a theme for regret of the bad decisions you made the night before. An almost apology to those who had to deal with your mistakes, and at the end after feeling embarrassed about what you had done maybe just maybe it’ll be okay.
22. Caribou – Can’t Do Without You
Caribou has long been a staple of the indie scene. Since his psychedelic roots he has been a critics’ darling, but never reached full blow mass appeal despite his penchant for creating masterful albums. That is until his album Our Love and his hit single “Can’t Do Without You.” An influential dance track that sparked a number of drops in EDM and Indie alike, “Can’t Do Without You” launched Caribou into the center stage of the pop world and has left both sides of the fence clamoring for his next album coming out early next year.
21. Jai Paul – BTSTU
As the legend goes Jai Paul released two singles, had the rest of his debut album stolen and leaked to the world unfinished, but still brilliant, but what came after that we didn’t know until the British artist’s triumphant return earlier this year. Some speculated he leaked it on purpose to gain buzz, some say it was an accidental leak, but what we do know is that he disappeared into the ether like a magical musical fairy with amazing records worth of songs out there for all to download if they knew how to torrent. Among those songs is one he intentionally released the standout single “BTSTU.” A masterpiece that has influenced indie and dance music alike since it graced the radio waves in 2011.
What was lost in all of this mystery was an artist’s struggle. The struggle of loss, the loss of a bright new artist’s dream, and the loss of these songs he had worked so hard to perfect. Just imagine what these unfinished could have been. It’s this loss that propelled Paul to step away from his dream for eight years. But like a story out of Hollywood Paul made his triumphed return with two amazing singles and I letter to his fans explaining his whole ordeal. His return leaves us all hopeful for an album and tour, but it also leaves us hopeful for Paul to live out his dream and become the amazing artist we first heard eight years ago.
20. Deerhunter – Desire Lines
Deerhunter has long found a way to intertwine guitars like no other band has ever done before them. They bounce and play beautifully like lights flickering in the dark. This style is highlighted on their critically acclaimed fifth studio Halcyon Digest standout “Desire Lines.” A breakaway from their standard song that features lead songwriter Bradford Cox on vocals and tells a story about the songwriter’s life, “Desire Lines,” finds guitarist Lockett Pundt as the lead. What really stands out in this track is when the band breaks away from the vocals and leans heavily into the intertwining guitars they have perfected. It’s hypnotizing and peaceful break and plays as an almost interlude between the two halves of the band’s almost perfect album.
19. Joanna Newsom – Good Intentions Paving Co
Calling upon the singer-songwriters of yesteryear Joanna Newsom sings a folksy song built on a piano that kind of sounds like if Joni Mitchell “Big Yellow Taxi” were played on a piano. It’s fun and filled with energy, which the lyrics lead you to believe with a couple heading off to see a concert, but as they get further along on their journey the narrator tells us of the cracks that have formed in their relationship and begins to question their love. Once the song turns a bit mellower the questioning becomes greater and indecision shows through at one end she doesn’t seem to know what she wants and at the other she just wants her lover “to pull over and hold me, till I can’t remember my own name.” It’s a narrator torn at the seams, but concludes that all she wants is the love she feels when in her lover’s arms.
18. Future Island – Seasons
“Seasons” is a breakup song of indie-pop gold wrapped in a perfect analogy of a relationship changing like the seasons. Future Island found themselves in unknown territory after “Seasons” introduced them to the masses and their live act became more well known. What many didn’t know but know do is how wild they can get up on stage. Especially lead singer Samuel T. Herring whose passion and energy is so invigorating it’s hard not to feel the words he’s belting out from the stage. It’s in this “Seasons” best captures that passion. A man suffering from the loss of a love you can help but feel in every note sung over arena synth-pop that Future Island has perfected over the years, but there is none better than “Seasons.’
17. LCD Soundsystem – Dance Yrself Clean
“Dance Yrself Clean” can be argued as the best dance song of the twenty-first century. With a number of peaks and valley’s LCD Soundsystem’s brilliant opener to their third and arguably best album This Is Happening is a culmination of a band at its very best, taking influences from the 80s bands they grew up on and modernizing their styles LCD catalog can say they have two albums in the top ten in back to back decades. Where LCD gets flack is This Is Happening was supposed to be their last with a farewell tour and a grand send-off at MSG their home stadium to boot, but there’s no argument that it’s a brilliant album and “Dance Yrself Clean” a brilliant song. Even their comeback album is amazing and “oh baby” almost made this list. So hate them all you like, but LCD Soundsystem knows how to make amazing records and songs and I look forward to what comes next.
16. Courtney Barnett – Avant Gardener
Courtney Barnett has been a brilliant storyteller and lyricist since the beginning and none better is her story about her struggle with not being very good at breathing. An artist that is done up in the same vein as those old folk heroes such as Dylan and Cohen, Barnett’s talk-singing storytelling has never been better than on Avant Gardner. Avant Gardner is Barnett’s breakout hit for many reasons including her brilliance in her lyrical details and her pop culture reference with her Pulp Fiction line, Barnett has only taken the groundwork she laid down on “Gardner” and expanded upon it, growing into one of the bigger indie acts out there.
15. Perfume Genius – Queen
On Too Bright Mike Hadreas found his project Perfume Genius make the leap from critically acclaimed indie darling to mainstream indie-pop genius. Featured in this deep cut indie-pop gem of an album was Hadreas lead single “Queen”. A song described by Hadreas as the “gay panic” he still faces in America, something he probably still feels nearly six years later, “Queen” seems to take that fear and turn it on its head into an anthem. With this song Hadreas plays into the old feelings of homophobia with lyrics like “Cracked, peeling, riddled with disease,” but he looks those people staring in judgment right in the face and says “No family is safe, When I sashay” followed by a triumphant “oomph”. It’s an attitude of “I was born this way and if you don’t like it fuck you, I’m going to continue being me!” It’s an amazing feeling he inspires into a community that is always looking for heroes to stand out and be unafraid to be who they are. That’s what makes “Queen” such a brilliant song, for its strong statement and amazing musical composition.
14. Angel Olsen – Shut Up Kiss Me
A girl group power-pop song Angel Olsen’s “Shut Up Kiss Me” is a makeup song built around a catchy hook that gets deep into your brain and makes you want to scream the words when the chorus comes around. A song built upon a classic theme Olsen poses to her significant other whom she’s been fighting with since the opening line to just forget it all and make some more “sweet memories” with her. Where the song really hits its stride is when it breaks down and the relationship starts to falter, she pleads to her significant other to just let go, but ultimately concedes “It’s all over, but I’m still young.” She screams as we hop back into the chorus and a guitar rips over the top like the blade through the heart. It’s a depth rarely explored in a song about kissing, but that’s the brilliance of Olsen’s writing and it’s why she continues to shine in the indie scene.
13. Lana Del Rey – Video Games
Centered around an angelic movie styled orchestra Lana Del Rey’s breakout single “Video Game” announced the singer to the world. With her old-timey vocals and modern theme, Del Rey became something of a cult pop star and indie darling, which she soon grew out of as she grew as an artist and moved more into pop style. Indie fans can’t help but have a soft spot for the singer as she becomes more and more of an icon because of “Video Games” indie roots and her starting as one of our own. Hopefully, she remembers the little guys of the indie world and comes back to us someday.
12. Foals – Spanish Sahara
Foals breakout album Holy Fire came out in 2013 and its lead single “My Number” became a regular on the radio rotation. Every time I hear that song I can’t help but get up and move to it, but it’s a song from Foals’ previous album Total Life Forever that made the top 50 list for reasons I will explain. “Spanish Sahara” is a slow-building ambitious ride with vibrant echoing guitars, complementing synths and crashing drums that Foals has perfected over the years. The theme of an ugly dying world trying to be left there is perfect for the climate we find ourselves in today, but what truly makes this song so great is its beauty which is why it stands out among the rest of Foals’ brilliant catalog.
11. Weyes Blood – Movies
Titanic Rising is Weyes Blood’s critically acclaimed fourth studio album and was a breakout for the 31-year-old singer-songwriter Natalie Laura Mering. The album as a whole is a cinematic epic in the same vein as M83’s Hurry Up We’re Dreaming in terms of its cinematic beauty. “Movies” is the centerpiece of the cinematic soundscape Mering created. The name is perfect for the synth masterpiece as one could easily see the musical composition on the big screens, but is a hypercritical look at its namesake for their disillusionment and false hopes they gave a teenage Mering. Mering’s voice beautifully plays with the synth that leads the track and is highlighted by harmonies and oohs and ahhs the singer added in herself. By the time the synth gives way to drums and a symphony, we as a listener are aw struck by her voices power and goosebump creating beauty.
10. Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
An epic folk song about the struggles of a person deciding whether they should do something for the greater whole or pursue their talents and be special like they’ve been told their whole life. “I was raised up believing I was somehow unique… and now after some thinking, I’d say I’d rather be a functioning cog in some great machinery serving something beyond me.” Robin Pecknold’s vocals shine and the harmonies have never been better as the song ebbs and flow from soft to loud with the story twisting around the idea of serving the whole rather than the individual. It’s a song of a man craving a simpler life, one with a bit more meaning, but knowing his talents are not something that everyone has. It makes sense “Helplessness Blues” was also the name of the album and was followed by a long hiatus by the band. One that saw Pecknold go off to college in search of maybe a simpler life. Thank god Pecknold came to his senses just like the character in the track and came back to grace us with that silky voice. Maybe we should have known that would be the case after the closing line to the track, “Someday I’ll be like the man on the screen.” A realization to embrace the talent he was given and pursue a different path from that of the common man.
9. St. Vincent – Prince Johnny
“Prince Johnny” is an emotional look at one’s struggle with gender identity in a world that asks you to be “Normal.” “And so he prayed to all to make him a real boy,” St. Vincent sings over a chorus synth and electric drum. This is cause singer/songwriter Annie Clark herself holds dear as she has come out as sexually fluid and has had high profile same-sex relationships with Cara Delevingne. An anthem to the LBGTQ community that has found themselves relating to the characters struggle with the loss of family and just wishing to be made normal “Prince Johnny” has become important to a community that is still fighting for recognition. At the end of the song, Clark lets the listener know that this is her struggle as well as it switches from Johnny’s point of view to hers. You can hear the pain in her voice as she sings “And so I pray to all to make me a real girl.” It’s in this moment when that song’s meaning hits you and you feel for her struggle and the struggle of all who have felt this way.
8. Tame Impala – Let It Happen
Since Tame Impala’s third album Currents came out in 2015 Kevin Parker has found his solo project become the biggest band in the world, something that didn’t happen overnight. Instead, it was a slow build and as his Currents tour wound down Parker still was a critically acclaimed indie act who was a main-stage act but not a headliner. But as he went into hiatus something happened. The pop world started to take notice of his talent. He produced songs for Lady Gaga, Rhianna covered his song, and Donald Glover (Childish Gambino) used his songs in commercials for his hit show Atlanta. Now on the eve of his next studio album Parker finds himself as the leader of arguably the biggest band in the world and it was Currents psyche disco-pop that grabbed the world’s attention with lead single “Let It Happen” leading the way. An almost eight-minute jam that takes you on a journey through synth builds and falls when finally Parker’s crunchy guitar rips in the song has boiled to its peak leading into the brilliance of the rest of the almost perfect album with other hits such as “Eventually”, “The Less I Know The Better”, “Cause I’m A Man” and “New Person, Same Old Mistakes”, but the eight-minute epic stands out among the rest. It’s a culmination of a brilliant career, one that’s just getting started.
7. Vampire Weekend – Hannah Hunt
‘Hannah Hunt’ sits as the best song on Vampire Weekend’s best album to date. Built upon upright bass, slide guitars, and a beautiful piano line “Hannah Hunt” is a microscopic look at a couple trying to survive in America on their own terms. “Though we live on the US dollar, you and me we have our own sense of time.” Ezra Koenig sings, but as the music picks up we hear Koenig at his most vulnerable and raw we’ve ever heard, lose stability in everything after his trust of Hannah is shattered. If he can’t trust her then who can he trust? It’s a real sense of loss we feel for the narrator a feeling we can’t help but relate to.
6. M83 – Midnight City
One can argue that M83’s song “Midnight City” singlehandedly brought back the 80s. With its synth-driven new wave style, M83 made everything from that decade cool again. Now you can’t find an indie track that doesn’t feature a synth line and a main stage at a festival that the French band doesn’t grace (when out on tour). The sax solo that dominates the end of the track has also made it okay to feature the sax on songs again. Anthony Gonzalez visionary record Hurry Up We’re Dreaming should be found in everyone’s best albums of the decade list and “Midnight City” is the song that made sure we all took notice. Now we can enjoy his back catalog and act like we knew of him before everyone else did, but secretly “Midnight City” is the song that first tuned our ears into this amazing band and artists.
5. Bon Iver – Holocene
An ode to his home state of Wisconsin Holocene speaks of how small we are when surrounded by the beauty of the world. A Christmas night with his brother during an ice storm sparked the chorus as ice formed on trees and on streets the lights illuminated off of everything Justin Vernon said: “He could see for miles.” In that awe-inspiring instance, he had an epiphany maybe we as people aren’t significant. Maybe there is something bigger at work here. From there he took his experiences with the people he loved from around the city and a nod to having a little too much fun in Milwaukee and a classic song was born, a major standout in an illustrious catalog that has moved away from his small beginnings a bit, but Vernon stays grounded by the people and the home he loves and Holocene will forever be for them.
4. Mitski – Your Best American Girl
An arena-rock ready jam Mitski’s “Your Best American Girl” is the idea of a Japanese-American girl raised far different from her All-American boy trying to fit in with his ideals but ultimately accepting who she is and where she came from. The intimate moments are what shine here when Mitski’s vulnerability shows through over a quieted bass line. It’s these moments that really make the heavier moments pop and the theme of the song really resonates with our culture today. Its what makes Mitski’s songs and albums stand out among the rest. She’s never afraid to speak from her perspective which is why she has stood out as one of the best singer-songwriters on the planet.
3. Grimes – Oblivion
Grimes 2012 breakthrough album Visions is arguably one of the most influential albums of the decade across a multitude of genres especially dance-pop and the flagship song from that album was “Oblivion”. Based on a an assault Canadian singer, songwriter Claire Boucher described as “One of the most shattering experiences of my life” Oblivion transforms that experience and turns it into an anthem of empowerment, with production well beyond its years Boucher flipped the script and turned the experience into one of the best tracks of the decade.
2. Beach House – 10 Mile Stereo
“The heart is a stone and it is a stone that we throw.” Victoria Legrand sings over Alex Scally’s lilting guitar on 10 Mile Stereo the emotional center of the band’s breakout album Teen Dream. Claimed by many critics to be the best song of 2010 the song has stood the test of time as Beach House amassed more and more fans by following the same blueprint that this song and album laid out. A crescendo of emotion that builds from the idea that we as people throw our hearts out there for all to have, none more than a fragile artist who is putting their feelings into a song to be judged by all. What makes this song so brilliant is the idea of the 10 Mile Stereo. A song carried by sound waves into the future. A song echoing over time, with Legrand’s words complemented by Scally’s ringing guitar, “Loves like a pantheon, it carries on forever.”
1. Arcade Fire – Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
Sprawl II is Arcade Fire’s climax track to one of the best albums of the 2010s, but really it feels like the climax to a trilogy of albums that dominated the indie charts and introduced them to the masses. A post-apocalyptic, dystopian story that spanned three amazing records that turned the page on the band’s early style, one that we all still long for, but that’s for another article.
Instead, let’s focus on Sprawl II an indie dance track that gave you light at the end of the tunnel after being stuck in darkness for so long. Regine Chassagne sings about this 1984 styled suburb the band can’t seem to escape, one they had been trapped in since Funeral. But this time it’s different. This time it’s a hopeful feeling they leave us with as if they finally escaped the chains that held them down and, as we know, they did as their style changed and lyrics focused on something different. Little did we know how prophetic they would be with the political climate we now find ourselves in. Maybe this new world will inspire a Sprawl III, but for now, I’ll be satisfied with the climax to one of the greatest run of albums to start a band’s career.