The Student Playlist

Showcasing the Best New Music, Curating the Classics

The Top 200 Tracks of the 2010s

100. Azealia Banks ft. Lazy Jay – ‘212’ (2011) (self-released)

The Banger to end all Bangers, Azealia Banks’ ‘212’ is still played throughout clubs worldwide, and you’d be hard pressed to find any dancefloor that doesn’t completely lose its mind upon hearing the first vocally processed rap verses of the track. (EW) (LISTEN)

099. Girls – ‘Vomit’ (2011) (True Panther Sounds)

Christopher Owens’ sadly demised Girls called it a day just when they were on the cusp of finding a wider audience. The classic rock radio sophistication of their second album Father, Son, Holy Ghost was evidenced by the magnificently observed epic ‘Vomit’, building from a wisp of acoustic guitar to a stately monolith of gospel and acid-fried guitars over its near-seven minute length, pointing to a future never realised. (LISTEN)

098. Daft Punk ft. Pharrell Williams – ‘Get Lucky’ (2013) (Daft Life / Columbia)

Even though they had become one of the most widely beloved, mythologised and critically adored bands in the world during their lengthy absence, not even Daft Punk could have suspected that ‘Get Lucky’ was going to be as enormous as it was. Just like its parent album Random Access Memories, it was an expertly crafted tribute to both their influences and the golden age of the music industry, dripping in Studio 54 vibes and retro pop magic. (LISTEN)

097. Mac DeMarco – ‘Ode To Viceroy’ (2012) (Captured Tracks)

Who else would write an ode to their favourite cigarette brand if not Mac DeMarco? Typically jangly and jolly, it nevertheless sways with a certain sense of melancholy, all the while presenting DeMarco’s inner monologue before nipping for a cig. (AS) (LISTEN)

096. Dua Lipa – ‘New Rules’ (2017) (Warner Bros.)

If you haven’t heard a drunk girl screaming ‘New Rules’ at a club at 2am, you haven’t lived. The pop single that virtually single-handedly made Dua Lipa a household name. (EW) (LISTEN)

095. Kendrick Lamar – ‘HUMBLE.’ (2017) (Top Dawg / Aftermath / Interscope)

Following the plaudits he garnered after To Pimp A Butterfly, Kendrick Lamar stripped back his sound and amplified the pop aspects for his next album DAMN. A taunt to his lesser peers as well as reflection on personal growth and maturity for the world’s most acclaimed hip-hop superstar, and built around that creeping, maddeningly addictive piano riff and spartan 808 bass and beats, its excellent lead single ‘HUMBLE.’ became his first Billboard chart-topping single as a lead artist, and scooped three Grammys the following year. (LISTEN)

094. Jungle – ‘Busy Earnin’’ (2014) (XL)

Featuring one of those great horn sections that really elevate a song into True Bop status, Jungle’s ‘Busy Earnin’’, upon release, was as catchy as it was surprising to see a return of neo-soul to the British charts. (EW) (LISTEN)

093. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – ‘Jubilee Street’ (2013) (Bad Seed Ltd.)

Nick Cave’s Push The Sky Away was one of many albums from veteran artists in 2013 that showed creativity was certainly not dictated by youthfulness. Allusions to hypocrisy and gentrification as well as graphic violence adorned its key single ‘Jubilee Street’, boasting a low-key stateliness befitting Cave’s status. It was also a masterclass in the build-up and release of tension of the kind that he might have been able to compose in his sleep, but was no less impressive for it. (LISTEN)

092. James Blake ft. Bon Iver – ‘I Need A Forest Fire’ (2016) (Polydor)

Proving that pleas for catharsis don’t necessarily have to be communicated loudly, James Blake and Justin Vernon’s much-vaunted “sad boy” hook-up had a prayer-like quietness to it despite the violent and forceful nature of the plea for release and drastic change. (LISTEN)

091. Courtney Barnett – ‘Nameless, Faceless’ (2018) (Milk! / Mom + Pop / Marathon)

‘Nameless, Faceless’ was an observation of the anonymous characters of our lives, both ones that walk/stalk at night and the ones diligently hating on our work on social media, all packaged in a rock song filled with playful anger, summed up with the line “Don’t you have anything better to do?” (AS) (LISTEN)

090. Public Service Broadcasting – ‘Gagarin’ (2015) (Test Card Recordings)

Perfecting their unique art form of marrying up archival sound clips to instrumentals with a coherent theme, Public Service Broadcasting proved they weren’t a gimmick with their second record The Race For Space. Concerning the story of the first cosmonaut’s journey into space and set to a preposterously catchy funk riff with a brass band and string quintet in support, ‘Gagarin’ was the best of many great individual moments. (LISTEN)

089. Skepta – ‘Shutdown’ (2015) (Boy Better Know)

Coalesced around a sample of speech culled from a Vine video from rap superstar Drake, British grime veteran Skepta at last connected with one of his lunging hits for the big-time with ‘Shutdown’. Trim yet muscular, it also signalled the end of grime’s commercial and creative lean years, raising its profile – his success was a rising tide that floated many other boats, providing the foundations for grime’s stupendous expansion into the mainstream in the second half of the 2010s. (LISTEN)

088. Sharon Van Etten – ‘Your Love Is Killing Me’ (2014) (Jagjaguwar)

A track with lyrics on domestic violence as forthright and unflinching as ‘Your Love Is Killing Me’ (sample: “Break my leg so I can’t walk to you / Cut my tongue so I can’t talk to you”) would be difficult to maintain your composure in the face of just if it was written down on paper, but performed with Sharon Van Etten’s raw, tremulous voice on the verge of unintelligibility, it was downright impossible. (LISTEN)

087. Kurt Vile – ‘Jesus Fever’ (2011) (Matador)

Having alerted taste-makers to his talents following his departure from The War On Drugs with 2009’s sprawling Childish Prodigy, Kurt Vile cemented his reputation on the hazy, reflective Smoke Ring For My Halo. Drifting past like a fleeting thought on a tipsy summer’s afternoon, the breezy acoustics of lead single ‘Jesus Fever’ touched upon his childhood and demonstrated Vile’s latent tendencies toward pop hooks. (LISTEN)

086. Kavinsky – ‘Nightcall’ (2010) (Record Makers)

Produced by Daft Punk’s Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and with former CSS siren Lovefoxxx on vocals, Kavinsky’s sultry ‘Nightcall’ served as a brilliant encapsulation of Drive’s twilit, lonely aesthetics, on whose soundtrack it was so pointedly used the following year. (LISTEN)

085. The 1975 – ‘Love It If We Made It’ (2018) (Dirty Hit / Polydor)

An anthem for a generation if there ever was one, ‘Love It If We Made It’ sees Matthew Healy deliver a thrilling vocal performance, screeching tragic news headlines from the past year, accompanied by his signature witticisms and wordplay, as thundering drums clear the path for hope, the only positive sentiment one can have in the face world events these past few years. (EW) (LISTEN)

084. Lizzo – ‘Juice’ (2019) (Atlantic)

One of the most uplifting, feel-good songs we have heard in the past decade, Lizzo’s joyous and self-affirming funk pop monster ‘Juice’ is nothing short of greatness, and could be called the perfect pop track of 2019. (AS) (LISTEN)

083. Anderson .Paak – ‘Bubblin’ (2018) (Aftermath)

Following his slow but steady rise to prominence during the second half of the 2010s, ‘Bubblin’ was a well-deserved victory lap for Anderson .Paak. Departing the soulful, retro-infused sounds of Malibu, the record that did so much to break him, its bouncing, trap-influenced beat and rumbling bass saw the talented singer and drummer embrace a new strategy, and it scooped him the Grammy for Best Rap Performance. (LISTEN)

082. Sufjan Stevens – ‘Should Have Known Better’ (2015) (Asthmatic Kitty)

Hushed and intimate to the point that you feel barely able to breathe in its presence for shattering its mystique, ‘Should Have Known Better’ spanned both the darkness of grief and the lightness of relief, bringing hope to an otherwise hopeless situation by accepting the endless exchange between death and life. (AS) (LISTEN)

081. SZA ft. Travis Scott – ‘Love Galore’ (2017) (Top Dawg / RCA)

Refusing to ‘take shit’ from a guy who can’t make up his mind, SZA’s multi-million selling, chart-slaying ‘Love Galore’ fused relaxed R&B with a trap twist from under Travis Scott’s tongue. (AS) (LISTEN)

080. Vampire Weekend – ‘Hannah Hunt’ (2013) (XL)

A fan favourite, ‘Hannah Hunt’ has that je ne sais quoi of a great indie song, with its gorgeous musical interlude and a still-fully-intact Vampire Weekend masterfully capturing the sound of aimless wandering in song form. (AS) (LISTEN)

079. Let’s Eat Grandma – ‘Hot Pink’ (2018) (Transgressive)

Produced by SOPHIE, ‘Hot Pink’ saw Norwich-based future-pop duo Let’s Eat Grandma’s sudden eruption into a resonating cascade of pop glamour, sarcasm, affectation, synthesizer-y goodness and weirdo hi-hats in all its glory. (EW) (LISTEN)

078. The Knife – ‘Full Of Fire’ (2013) (Rabid)

Silencing rumours that they had split (although they eventually did), The Knife re-confirmed their existence with this monstrous, nine-minute industrial banger. Messier and more industrial than the precision-guided music that had defined Silent Shout, the ferocious, clanking rhythm track hit fever pitch immediately, and Karin Dreijer’s vocals were outright malevolent. (LISTEN)

077. James Blake – ‘Limit To Your Love’ (2010) (R&S)

One of those covers that nearly overshadow the original, James Blakes’ take on Feist’s ‘Limit To Your Love’ is one of those annoying displays of sheer compositional talent: building tension using only the bare minimum musical tools and a lot of pauses. It’s a clear display of Blake’s talent and vision that has kept him on the forefront of popular music ever since. (EW) (LISTEN)

076. Black Midi – ‘bmbmbm’ (2018) (Speedy Wunderground)

It was difficult to select just one highlight from Black Midi’s astonishing Schlagenheim, but the point where it all began, on the exceptional Speedy Wunderground imprint, truly resonates. Acting as their debut single back in the summer of 2018, ‘bmbmbm’s relentless thud, devilish stabs of distorted guitar and Geordie Greep’s half-asleep vocals were later performed in delightfully chaotic and freewheeling fashion (plus bassist acrobatics) on national television at the Mercury Prize, providing one of those increasingly rare cultural crossover moments pop used to thrive upon. (LISTEN)

075. Real Estate – ‘Had To Hear’ (2014) (Domino)

The opener of Real Estate’s beautiful third record Atlas was the sound of growing up, embracing responsibility and saying farewell to adolescence – with all the anxiety that entails. “I don’t need the horizon / To tell me where the sky ends,” Martin Courtney forlornly sang over his bandmates’ bright, pastel-shaded guitar lines, encapsulating that twin dynamic of gratitude and grief, of not knowing what the future holds but that it’ll be alright, in the end. (LISTEN)

074. Titus Andronicus – ‘A More Perfect Union’ (2010) (XL)

The epic, Springstonian sturm-und-drang of ‘A More Perfect Union’ proved to be the coming of age for Titus Andronicus. Bookended by clips of speeches from Abraham Lincoln and William Lloyd Garrison to kick off a concept album about the American Civil War, Patrick Stickles and his group approached their task with the relish of iconoclasts, stirring up raucous bar-room blues with giddy abandon. (LISTEN)

073. Janelle Monáe ft. Erykah Badu – ‘Q.U.E.E.N.’ (2013) (Wondaland / Bad Boy / Atlantic)

A strident funk workout set to James Brown-esque guitars and fizzing electronic flourishes, ‘Q.U.E.E.N.’ was a match made in heaven. Backed up by Erykah Badu, the track was constructed as a series of questions and responses, with each line of the song featuring Monáe questioning her thoughts and re-asserting her beliefs on sexuality and religion. (LISTEN)

072. Run The Jewels – ‘Close Your Eyes (And Count To Fuck)’ (2014) (Mass Appeal)

Pumped up with anger and injustice, ‘Close Your Eyes…’ exploded out of the speakers like the soundtrack to some futuristic revolution, announcing Run The Jewels’ arrival to mass consciousness. The hype vocal sample provided the song’s urgent, driving hook, while RTJ’s spiritual forefather Zack De La Rocha stole the spotlight even in the face of great verses from both Killer Mike and El-P. (LISTEN)

071. Tame Impala – ‘Elephant’ (2012) (Modular)

Tame Impala’s earlier work might have had that very slight aftertaste of ‘white dudes playing totally authentic psychedelia’, but even then tracks like ‘Elephant’, with its chugging, classic rock swagger and merge of old-school and cutting-edge production, made Kevin Parker stand out in his attention to detail and simply ingenuity. (AS) (LISTEN)

070. Sampha – ‘(Nobody Knows Me) Like The Piano’ (2017) (Young Turks)

A piano ballad in the truest sense, the marvel of the hushed ‘Nobody Knows Me (Like The Piano)’ provided without a doubt the emotional core of Sampha’s Mercury-nominated debut – and our Album of 2017 winner – Process. (EW) (LISTEN)

069. Chvrches – ‘The Mother We Share’ (2012) (Virgin / Glassnote)

One of the most deceptively simple pop hits of the decade, Chvrches’ debut single was crystalline perfection, making an immediate impact upon release. Layering a twinkling, razor-sharp synth riff on top of walls of padded drums, Lauren Mayberry’s luminescent yet melancholic vocals were the icing on an already delicious pop confection. The last thing anybody would have expected from a band consisting of two miserablist indie veterans and an ex-lawyer! (LISTEN)

068. Japandroids – ‘The House That Heaven Built’ (2012) (Polyvinyl)

Proving that guitar music still had the power to move the spirit and save souls in the 2010s, Japandroids’ calling-card anthem ‘The House That Heaven Built’ was a blistering bolt of garage-punk lightning played with heart-swallowing urgency and primal passion, all cranked up to distortion levels. Brian King and David Prowse hollered the pay-off line “And if they try to slow you down / Tell them all to go to hell” as if their lives depended on it. (LISTEN)

067. Beach House – ‘Myth’ (2012) (Bella Union / Sub Pop)

Bloom may have served essentially as a victory lap for their previous album Teen Dream, but that didn’t mean that Beach House were going to rest on their laurels. As its swooning opener and lead single ‘Myth’ demonstrated, all the elements that had gradually brought them to prominence were present and correct – narcoleptic guitar lines, slow and precise backbeats and twinkling keyboards – but Victoria Legrand’s gauzy vocals and Alex Scally’s pinwheeling guitar riff were somehow more detailed than before. Blissful beyond description. (LISTEN)

066. Foals – ‘Inhaler’ (2012) (Transgressive)

If, canonically, Foals’ third album was them growing accustomed to their now stadium-sized fame, then ‘Inhaler’ is definitely the song that spearheads this transformation. Still a mosher more than five years later, inducing a near-primal feeling every time Yannis screams “space!” and the song erupts into its transcendent chorus. (EW) (LISTEN)

065. SOPHIE – ‘Bipp’(2013) (Numbers)

Sticky, bubbly and childlike with a hint of eerie, ‘Bipp’ was one of the first tracks to introduce the wider public to what a beast of a producer SOPHIE is, and someone who’s now considered one of the most prescient and futuristic artists of our time. (AS) (LISTEN)

064. Sleaford Mods – ‘Tied Up In Nottz’ (2014) (Harbinger Sound)

Sleaford Mods have long been cited as Britain’s angriest band, but they’re also one of its funniest, as ‘Tied Up In Nottz’ – arguably their signature song – attests with barked, snarky comments like “the smell of piss is so strong it smells like decent bacon”. Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn have always wielded anger with glee, but never for its own sake or by way of offering it as a panacea by itself, knowing that directionless rage is futile and dangerous. (LISTEN)

063. Danny Brown – ‘When It Rain’ (2016) (Warp)

On the lead single to the excellent Atrocity Exhibition, Danny Brown established his signature yelp as well as his tendency to mix shocking, barely-coated-in-metaphor lyrical material with beats that have their own tendency to slap really hard. (EW) (LISTEN)

062. Wolf Alice – ‘Bros’ (2015) (Chess Club / Dirty Hit)

By far and above the best indie-rock song about female best-friendship, the shimmering, summery ‘Bros’ was just the very best cut from Wolf Alice’s exceptional debut My Love Is Cool, spearheading a clutch of pigeonhole-defying singles. (EW) (LISTEN)

061. Burial – ‘Street Halo’ (2011) (Hyperdub)

After the deluge of praise and attention lavished on him following the release of 2007’s Untrue, ‘Street Halo’ marked the first solo work from Burial in nearly four years, notwithstanding his collaborations with Thom Yorke and Four Tet. Heading up a three-track EP of the same name, this ghostly, smudged, static-cloaked yet utterly beautiful instrumental music marked the start of Will Bevan’s exploration of longer-form, EP-based music that continues to this day. (LISTEN)

060. Vince Staples – ‘Norf Norf’ (2015) (ARTium / Def Jam)

A curious sonic dirge constructed primarily from a ghostly drone, a skeletal trap beat and very little else, ‘Norf Norf’ initially seemed like one of the more innocuous moments from Vince Staples’ name-established album Summertime ’06, but it left its impression on the subconsciousness. The minimalist production, courtesy of Clams Casino, made a perfect platform for Staples’ defiant yet resigned lyrics of self-justification, its muttered central line “I ain’t never run from nothing but the police” encapsulating it. (LISTEN)

059. Miguel – ‘Adorn’ (2012) (RCA)

Sung sweetly and vulnerably over a sparse yet rough drum machine and some underplayed synth chords, the key to ‘Adorn’s brilliance was that it played up Miguel’s secret weapon – modesty. There was a sweet naivety to his style, summed up in the song’s chorus line “let me love adorn you”, which gave it an extra level of sincerity and took the whole package beyond mere lustfulness. (LISTEN)

058. Kamasi Washington – ‘Truth’ (2017) (Young Turks)

Historically an often-ridiculed genre, jazz has enjoyed a resurgence in critical and popular circles in the second half of this decade, spearheaded by the wonderfully talented Kamasi Washington. Serving as a side-long closer to his 2017 bridging EP Harmony Of Difference, and featuring melodic and thematic elements that would be echoed in his brilliant Heaven And Earth double-album the following year, ‘Truth’ is an utterly perfect condensation of Washington’s technical skills as an individual and as a bandleader. (LISTEN)

057. Bombay Bicycle Club – ‘Shuffle’ (2011) (Island)

Having detoured and recorded a folk album for their sophomore effort, Jack Steadman and co. headed straight for the indie-pop jugular with their third album A Different Kind Of Fix. Leading it off was the dangerously catchy ‘Shuffle’, matching an earworm house piano loop with a baggy rhythm section of loose drumming and funky bass guitar. Finally, Bombay Bicycle Club had hit upon the jumble-sale aesthetic they’d always been after. (LISTEN)

056. HAIM – ‘The Wire’ (2013) (Polydor)

Vocal harmonies, catchy hooks, and an eclectic mash-up of pop influences are what make up HAIM when the sisters are at their peak, and ‘The Wire’, the country-pop aping fourth single from their debut LP Days Are Gone, is a perfect encapsulation of their appeal. (EW) (LISTEN)

055. Father John Misty – ‘Chateau Lobby #4 (In ‘C’ For Two Virgins)’ (2014) (Bella Union)

On ‘Chateau Lobby’, we saw the usually sardonic Josh Tillman at his softest and most unabashedly romantic. Written to illustrate the coming together of a couple destined to marry (him and his wife, Emma), it’s saccharine yet beautiful, touching in its over-the-top string and brass arrangements. (AS) (LISTEN)

054. The Weeknd – ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ (2015) (XO / Republic)

Sure to receive excited white girl whooping in the club, The Weeknd’s ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ brought a slower sensuality to the dancefloor, featuring Abel’s signature dark sound. Whether it’s about coke or oral sex, we’ll never truly know, but it was definitely a banger! (AS) (LISTEN)

053. Tyler, The Creator – ‘Yonkers’ (2011) (XL)

“I’m a f***ing walking paradox – no, I’m not” is the opening line to one of the songs to propel the Odd Future collective into its culture-shifting, controversy-stirring limelight. Though Tyler, The Creator has since stated that ‘Yonkers’ was made as a joke (with its traditional New York beat and random lyrics), there’s no denying its impact in the cultural landscape of the time and his career. (EW) (LISTEN)

052. Squid – ‘Houseplants’ (2019) (Speedy Wunderground)

One of the most exciting and innovative new British bands to emerge at the end of the decade, borne up on a wave of renewed interest in the underground alongside other experimental bands like Black Midi to Crack Cloud, were Brighton five-piece Squid. On the juddering, frantic ‘Houseplants’, their second excellent single in a row, drummer/singer Ollie Judge boasted a yelping punk cry that fell somewhere between Black Francis and Mark E Smith, railing against the pressures towards home ownership, domesticity and conformity that his generation can barely afford to realise anyway. (LISTEN)

051. Angel Olsen – ‘Sister’ (2016) (Jagjaguwar)

Trying to cope with an unexpected attraction to a woman, something which has shaken her pre-existing beliefs of herself, Angel Olsen sang about a newfound love on My Woman highlight ‘Sister’ with increasing dynamism. (AS) (LISTEN)

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.