The Student Playlist

Showcasing the Best New Music, Curating the Classics

The Top 200 Tracks of the 2010s

150. Bicep – ‘Glue’ (2017) (Ninja Tune)

Drawing on the rich history of UK dance music and its multi-faceted sub-genres, Belfast duo Bicep presented a vital and relevant vision for the future with their self-titled debut. Its prime cut was the atmospheric ‘Glue’, evocative of wintry, rain-soaked streets at night. (LISTEN)

149. Superorganism – ‘Something For Your M.I.N.D.’ (2017) (self-released)

Superorganism’s viral success reflected the method of the group’s genesis, co-ordinated from each of the band’s bedrooms scattered all over the world and engineered thanks to technology. Their debut single, the enjoyable and faintly daft art-pop of ‘Something For Your M.I.N.D.’, generated internet-breaking hype at the start of 2017. (LISTEN)

148. Underworld – ‘I Exhale’ (2016) (Caroline International)

Coming on like Remain In Light-era Talking Heads fronted by a depressed Mark E Smith, the sparse abstractions of ‘I Exhale’ made for a brilliant comeback single from Underworld, both arty and immediate. (LISTEN)

147. Chance The Rapper – ‘Juice’ (2013) (self-released)

The song that ended up getting replaced with a brief charitable message on streaming services due to clearance issues, regardless, ‘Juice’ is still a staple from Chance The Rapper’s Acid Rap mixtape that brought him one of the biggest platforms of any independent artist ever. (EW) (LISTEN)

146. Roisin Murphy – ‘Incapable’ (2019) (Skint)

Roisin Murphy’s steady artistic blossoming since the dissolution of Moloko in the mid-Noughties led to an all-time best by the end of the following decade. The effortlessly easy-going funk/house hybrid of ‘Incapable’ was like floating on a cloud. (LISTEN)

145. Billie Eilish – ‘Bad Guy’ (2019) (Darkroom / Interscope)

Possibly the most ingeniously stripped-back pop hit of the 2010s. Already led by a catchy bassline, add to that thumping production and a ridiculous persona, ‘Bad Guy’ sounds like the Yeezus of teenage pop music. (EW) (LISTEN)

144. Kelela – ‘LMK’ (2017) (Warp)

Celebrating straightforwardness in today’s casual hook-up culture, Kelela’s ‘LMK’ is an anthem for everyone who isn’t looking for something serious, but still comprehends basic human decency when it comes to these exchanges. The synth bass and claps with the hint of trap, it was one of Kelela’s stand-out tracks. (AS) (LISTEN)

143. Parquet Courts – ‘Stoned And Starving’ (2012) (What’s Your Rupture?)

The centrepiece of their exceptional breakout album Light Up Gold, New Yorkers Parquet Courts combined the tense vigour of punk with the witty detachment of Nineties slacker-rock on ‘Stoned And Starving’, a moment that allowed the group to show off their technical chops as well as their brutal economy. (LISTEN)

142. tUnE-yArDs – ‘Powa’ (4AD) (2011)

One of the highlights from Merrill Garbus’s reputation-establishing W H O K I L L, ‘Powa’ framed sex as an escape from the violence of modern life, with one foot in R&B with its performative swoops, yet the clipped chords and subtle bassline kept it atmospheric and enervating. (LISTEN)

141. Phoebe Bridgers – ‘Motion Sickness’ (2017) (Dead Oceans)

Interpreted as a break-up track on its initial release, the gorgeous, distorted guitars and quasi-confessional vocals on ‘Motion Sickness’ were actually Phoebe Bridgers’ indictment of the controlling behaviour of Ryan Adams, whom she dated and collaborated with musically in the past. (LISTEN)

140. Autre Ne Veut – ‘Play By Play’(2013) (Mexican Summer / Software)

An eye-popping blast of slickly produced yet undefinably retro R&B, built on a hook that seemed to be constantly peaking right from the beginning, Arthur Ashin’s defining moment as Autre Ne Veut was so spot on that it drew accusations of ghostwriting from Drake. (LISTEN)

139. Gorillaz ft. Peven Everett – ‘Strobelite’ (2017) (Parlophone / Warner Bros.)

With its guest vocal from R&B producer and singer Peven Everett, ‘Strobelite’s intentions were aimed squarely at the dancefloor, its sashaying disco-R&B rhythms and twinkles of melodic light exuding plenty of energy and spirit. Perhaps not the most recognisably ‘Gorillaz’ song, but one of the outfit’s most kinetic. (LISTEN)

138. Princess Nokia – ‘ABCs Of New York’ (2017) (Rough Trade)

Rooted in old-school hip-hop right down to its looped piano riff, recalling the gritty street-level narratives of New York’s musical past, Destiny Frasqueri’s love for her home city was rendered in microscopic, nostalgic detail on this crowning achievement from her breakout 1992 Deluxe. (LISTEN)

137. Childish Gambino – ‘Redbone’ (2016) (Glassnote)

Donald Glover’s first massive Childish Gambino hit was so catchy and pervasive that it had no choice but to be turned into a meme (the Kermit one being a personal favourite). Regardless, ‘Redbone’ is definitely one of the smoothest songs to grace the airwaves this past decade. (EW) (LISTEN)

136. Caribou – ‘Can’t Do Without You’ (2014) (Merge)

Leading off the most straightforwardly danceable Caribou album to date, ‘Can’t Do Without You’ saw Dan Snaith playfully subvert and interpret established dance music norms. The hands-in-the-air synth rush, kept behind until the final minute, teasing the listener with warm, tender bass until then. (LISTEN)

135. Big Boi ft. Cutty – ‘Shutterbugg’ (2010) (Def Jam)

Combining a slamming, granite-hard hip-hop beat with a funky, fidgety rhythm and deploying singer Cutty for the chorus, Big Boi emerged from OutKast’s hiatus with one of the most enjoyably timeless hip-hop singles of the decade, full of quicksilver flows and shimmering effects. (LISTEN)

134. Carly Rae Jepsen – ‘Call Me Maybe’ (2011) (604 / Schoolboy / Interscope)

Innocent perfection in every way, this 2011 viral smash hit was the right amounts of bubbly and titillating, memeable to an extreme extent and definitely the earworm of the decade – even if CRJ has had an unfairly hard time defining herself outside of its shadow. (AS) (LISTEN)

133. Wild Beasts – ‘Lion’s Share’ (2011) (Domino)

The sexiest and saddest song on this list, ‘Lion’s Share’ is Wild Beasts doing what Wild Beasts did best –  moody, sensual, and beautiful songs about possibly regrettable sexual choices. (EW) (LISTEN)

132. Low – ‘Always Trying To Work It Out’(2018) (Sub Pop)

Nearly a quarter of a century into their career, Low’s 12th studio album Double Negative was both a radical mutation of their sound and also completely characteristic of it. The harrowing anxiety of ‘Always Trying To Work It Out’ was its prime cut, with its bone-shaking percussion and BJ Burton’s inspired production making it almost vibrate with feeling. (LISTEN)

131. The Horrors – ‘Still Life’ (2011) (XL)

‘Still Life’ was the sound of The Horrors feeling increasingly comfortable in the niche they found for themselves in between indie and electronic dance music, somewhat similar to that of Primal Scream, but more inherently melancholic. (EW) (LISTEN)

130. Rosalía – ‘Malamente’ (2018) (Sony)

Underpinned by a rhythm of bulky beats and handclaps, forging flamenco with pop, reggaeton and R&B, ‘Malamente’ confirmed Rosalía’s rising star power, outlining a fantasy involving the sun, moon and stars into a slick two-and-a-half minutes. (LISTEN)

129. Foals – ‘My Number’ (2012) (Transgressive)

A rush of funk-rock guitars, strident melodies and pop nous, Foals stepped up their sound for their third album Holy Fire without dumbing themselves down or shedding their identity. As a result, ‘My Number’ became their most successful single to date worldwide, shifting well over half a million units in Britain alone. (LISTEN)

128. Cardi B – ‘Bodak Yellow’ (2017) (Atlantic)

The hit that topped many of 2017’s ‘Song of the Year’ lists, ‘Bodak Yellow’ skyrocketed the former stripper straight into the pantheon of the world’s most famous pop stars today, together with her unapologetic attitude, sheer sexual confidence, and signature sneer. (EW) (LISTEN)

127. Alt-J – ‘Breezeblocks’ (2012) (Infectious)

If you didn’t heard this played in a coffee shop in 2012, you didn’t live through that year. The most off-kilter and weirdly arranged hit song in recent memory, ‘Breezeblocks’ was one of the singles that propelled Alt-J into fame and onto the path of their Mercury-nominated success. (EW) (LISTEN)

126. Rhye – ‘The Fall’ (2012) (Innovative Leisure)

The androgynous vocals, the repeating, dynamic piano, the somewhat funky bass line, and the implicitly sexual lyrics are almost too much to take in, but Rhye manages to balance it all for near-perfect, chilled, sexy, lounge jazz-like R&B. (EW) (LISTEN)

125. Bill Callahan – ‘Small Plane’ (2013) (Drag City)

The glorious, four-minute miracle of ‘Small Plane’ perfectly defined everything brilliant about Bill Callahan’s post-Smog career. A quiet epiphany communicated in laconic, non-linear terms, it seemed like a beautiful waking dream, a portrait of an ageing but still-vital artist embracing his cosmic insignificance. (LISTEN)

124. Arcade Fire – ‘Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)’ (2010) (Merge)

One of Canada’s greatest musical exports, Arcade Fire’s ‘Sprawl II’ – the thematic core of their second career masterpiece The Suburbs – evokes endless possibility, the non-stop synths pushing on as Régine Chassagne sings about shaking off the tight societal clasps of suburbia. (AS) (LISTEN)

123. Sky Ferreira – ‘Everything Is Embarrassing’ (2013) (Capitol / Polydor)

Yet another dream pop bop, Sky Ferreira’s signature track ‘Everything Is Embarrassing’ was full of that peculiarly ‘90s kids anxiety and desire for understanding, love and acceptance, and has become the high-school soundtrack of many to date. (AS) (LISTEN)

122. Kendrick Lamar – ‘Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe’ (2012) (Top Dawg / Aftermath / Interscope)

From Kendrick’s first masterpiece good kid, m.A.A.d city, ‘Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe’ is as good of an exercise of storytelling as it is just a memorable rap beat and catch-phrase, in the vein of ‘Gimme The Loot’ or ‘Life’s A Bitch’. (EW) (LISTEN)

121. Arcade Fire – ‘Reflektor’ (2013) (Merge)

Recruiting a newly retired James Murphy on production, Arcade Fire embraced their dancier side on ‘Reflektor’, the lead single to their 2013 album of the same name, and pulled it off with surprising artfulness. (EW) (LISTEN)

120. Cloud Nothings – ‘Stay Useless’ (2012) (Carpark / Wichita)

One of the defining tracks for 2010s guitar music, ‘Stay Useless’ was the sound of Dylan Baldi’s concepts for his garage-band project Cloud Nothings falling into place. Benefitting from the dry, bare-bones production offered by the legendary Steve Albini, they sounded leaner, more aggressive and even more alienated. (LISTEN)

119. IDLES – ‘Colossus’(2018) (Partisan)

Taking aim at forms of toxic masculinity that was as self-effacing as it was righteously pissed off, this two-part modern punk epic was the centrepiece of IDLES’ deservedly praised breakout album Joy As An Act Of Resistance, spearheading a resurgence of politically switched-on music in Britain at the end of the decade. (LISTEN)

118. Jessie Ware – ‘Running’ (Disclosure remix) (2012) (PMR / Island)

Long before releasing her first solo album, Jessie Ware had already had experience in fronting dance productions, providing vocals for SBTRKT and Joker. Disclosure’s Guy and Howard Lawrence recognised this and brought out those siren-like qualities for their light-footed take on her track ‘Running’. (LISTEN)

117. Charli XCX – ‘Boys’ (2017) (Asylum / Atlantic)

Jangling with Mario coin sounds, ‘Boys’ was a brilliant daydream about – you guessed it – boys. The bad boys, the nice boys, and the ones that do it right – Charli XCX’s colossal pop smash noted them all down. (AS) (LISTEN)

116. Flying Lotus ft. Kendrick Lamar – ‘Never Catch Me’ (2014) (Warp)

A perfect jazz-rap collaboration if there ever was one, ‘Never Catch Me’ sees Kendrick spitting verses over Thundercat’s ridiculous bass playing, and the best bass solo this decade. (EW) (LISTEN)

115. The National – ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’ (2010) (4AD)

While it contained all of the signature musical moves that The National are now incredibly well-known for by 2019, Matt Berninger’s weathered, graceful baritone, broadcasting regret and desperation yet quiet optimism at the same time, was the undisputed star of ‘Bloodbuzz Ohio’. (LISTEN)

114. boygenius – ‘Me & My Dog’ (2018) (Matador)

A supergroup that wasn’t all about the egos, Lucy Dacus, Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker all subjugated their strengths and personalities in service of the entity that was boygenius. ‘Me & My Dog’, guided primarily by Bridgers, was a track that explored their collective youth, recalling the feeling of an early-Noughties emo ballad. (LISTEN)

113. The xx – ‘Dangerous’ (2017) (Young Turks)

The band’s third album injected some much needed change and life into the band’s sound, and ‘Dangerous’ is a perfect example of it – featuring horns, a steady electronica beat, and otherwise electronic samples alongside the band’s already signature hushed vocal performances and minimalist guitar playing. (EW) (LISTEN)

112. Kaytranada ft. Anderson .Paak – ‘Glowed Up’ (2016) (XL / HW&W)

With Anderson .Paak rapping about his personal change for the better, on ‘Glowed Up’, the indie scene’s favourite beatmaker Kaytranada laid down an oozing, fluid yet tight foundation to move your body to. (AS) (LISTEN)

111. Gil Scott-Heron – ‘Me And The Devil’ (2010) (XL)

A spoken-word adaptation of Robert Johnson’s iconic 1938 blues original that he recorded right at the end of his life, it was beautifully and sadly appropriate that cult hero Gil Scott-Heron should have done so just a couple of years before his passing as well. (LISTEN)

110. Bon Iver – ‘33 “GOD”’ (2016) (Jagjaguwar)

Expertly toeing the line between disarming simplicity and wilful yet charming nonsense in his lyrics , the first cut from Justin Vernon’s third Bon Iver album effected yet another revolution in his sound, marrying soulful samples and spiritual themes with an electronic pulse. (LISTEN)

109. Thundercat – ‘Them Changes’ (2015) (Brainfeeder)

With thwarping bass and smooth vocal delivery, Stephen Bruner’s bridging single ‘Them Changes’ illustrates having your heart ripped in half, all under the guise of funk nonchalance. (AS) (LISTEN)

108. Disclosure ft. Sam Smith – ‘Latch’ (2012) (PMR / Cherrytree / Interscope)

This simmering, unusually constructed dancefloor smash (it’s in 6/8 time, not a conventional 4/4 house rhythm) unlocked the door to the mainstream not only for Guy and Howard Lawrence, but also for Sam Smith, whose swooping, full-bodied vocals were the most ear-catching element. (LISTEN)

107. Mount Eerie – ‘Real Death’ (2017) (P.W. Elverum & Sons)

Intensely uncomfortable at first yet peculiarly inviting, ‘Real Death’ was essentially Phil Elverum experiencing grief in real time, with specific aspects of his daily routine triggering memories of his departed beloved. Critically, it was also a reminder of music’s healing qualities. (AS) (LISTEN)

106. Deerhunter – ‘Helicopter’ (2010) (4AD)

An unutterably lovely highlight from Bradford Cox’s career highlight Halcyon Digest, ‘Helicopter’ came across like some kind of heartsick lullaby, with its shimmering pop melody embedded in woozy atmospherics and reverberating noise, and Cox’s pristine voice swimming to the surface. (LISTEN)

105. Kanye West – ‘Blood On The Leaves’ (2013) (Def Jam)

Commenting with genuine heart and insight on the corrosiveness of fame on personal life and relationships, ‘Blood On The Leaves’ sampled Nina Simone’s take on Billie Holiday’s ‘Strange Fruit’ for an ugly yet utterly riveting listening experience. (LISTEN)

104. Laura Marling – ‘Sophia’ (2011) (Virgin)

Her first two records had hardly been tentative, but Laura Marling certainly grew in confidence and emotional maturity for her third album A Creature I Don’t Know, whose jazz balladry recalled greats like Joni Mitchell. This was evidenced by its lead single ‘Sophia’, a full-band affair whose kiss-off line “Where I’ve been lately is no concern of yours” spoke to an artist fully realising her potential. (LISTEN)

103. Marie Davidson – ‘Work It’ (2018) (Ninja Tune)

It was hard to tell if Marie Davidson was being tongue-in-cheek or straight-faced with her lyrics about sweat and work, like she was leading a gym class, but one thing was for sure – ‘Work It’ was a total banger, a dancefloor monster replete with skittering synths, robotic jolts and pounding, four-to-the-floor rhythms. Soulwax’s skeletal yet amped-up remix gave the track a much-deserved second life in 2019, too. (LISTEN)

102. Lykke Li – ‘I Follow Rivers’ (2011) (LL)

The anthem of desire, ‘I Follow Rivers’ is the quintessential thirst song for the indie kid, blending electronica and pop to transcendental perfection and being Lykke Li’s most well-known song to date. (AS) (LISTEN)

101. St. Vincent – ‘Los Ageless’ (2017) (Loma Vista)

Annie Clark’s guitar playing on ‘Los Ageless’ perfectly reflects the mood of the song and the veneer of the city it references: luscious, gritty, distorted, sensual. A song that reflects the best parts of Clark’s songwriting talent. (EW) (LISTEN)

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