The Student Playlist

Showcasing the Best New Music, Curating the Classics

The Top 200 Tracks of the 2010s

050. Radiohead – ‘Daydreaming’ (2016) (XL)

For all the complexity of their most renowned works, Radiohead have often been at their most emotionally disarming when they’ve kept things simple. ‘Daydreaming’, the simple and desperately sad centrepiece of A Moon Shaped Pool, demonstrated that perfectly, evoking a post-traumatic daze after a devastating tragedy – concerning singer Thom Yorke’s separation from Rachel Owen, his partner of 23 years. It existed “beyond the point of no return,” as Yorke sings, opposite to the idyllic connotations of the song’s title. Absolutely beautiful. (LISTEN)

049. Mitski – ‘Nobody’ (2018) (Dead Oceans)

The hit that finally brought Mitski her well-deserved and overdue recognition, and arguably the catchiest and most up-beat song about profound loneliness, ‘Nobody’ was the sparkling centerpiece to our 2018 Album of the Year Be The Cowboy. (EW) (LISTEN)

048. Jay-Z & Kanye West – ‘N****s In Paris’ (2011) (Roc-A-Fella / Roc Nation / Def Jam)

“I don’t even know what that means” / “No one knows what it means, but it’s provocative” / “No, it’s not, it’s gross” / “Gets the people goingis the sampled excerpt from Blades of Glory that interrupts the song in its latter half and it is also the perfect encapsulation of its greatness: complete bravado dashed with lyrics at times so braggadocious and ridiculous that you genuinely cannot decipher most of the meaning, but damn it all if it doesn’t completely slap. (EW) (LISTEN)

047. Perfume Genius – ‘Queen’ (2014) (Matador)

Grand, poised, operatic and barbed with societally transgressive lyrics like “no family is safe when I sashay”, Mike Hadreas’s all-time Perfume Genius best ‘Queen’ is a lustrous poem for the queer self, regal and yet vulnerable in a rotten world. (AS) (LISTEN)

046. Best Coast – ‘Boyfriend’ (2010) (Mexican Summer)

A languid and generously produced slice of surf-pop, ‘Boyfriend’ was the very best of a string of terrific singles at the start of Best Coast’s career. While its guitars shimmering like a mirage on a hot afternoon were winsome enough on their own, its strongest suit was Bethany Cosentino’s daydreaming voice, strong yet recalling the innocence and charm of the girl-group singers of the Sixties and which propelled the track into the realm of timeless transcendence. (LISTEN)

045. Frank Ocean – ‘Ivy’ (2016) (Boys Don’t Cry)

Frank Ocean is the undisputed master of the form of modern R&B, rounded out by indie influences, and ‘Ivy’ is an absolute staple in that regard. A beautiful story of youthful love, pronounced over reverbed, ambient, muted guitar strumming. (EW) (LISTEN)

044. Lorde – ‘Green Light’ (2017) (Universal)

After a lengthy hiatus following the debut that propelled her into superstardom, Lorde came back with the most artful interpretation of a Taylor Swift song imaginable. As she described it, ‘Green Light’ is “that drunk girl at the party dancing around crying about her ex-boyfriend who everyone thinks is a mess.” Lyrical highlights include: “She thinks you love the beach, you’re such a damn liar” amongst many iconic others. (EW) (LISTEN)

043. Courtney Barnett – ‘Avant Gardener’ (2013) (House Anxiety / Mom + Pop)

Leisurely paced, Courtney Barnett’s ‘Avant Gardener’ wasn’t a typical indie song, but it helped bring her to wider attention outside of indie circles. Narrating an unexpected asthma attack caused by gardening and ending in the hospital, it’s straightforward yet surprisingly stylish in observing and portraying the peculiar everyday, with a memorable groove to boot. (AS) (LISTEN)

042. Sleigh Bells – ‘Rill Rill’ (2010) (Mom + Pop / N.E.E.T.)

With themes of teen popularity, mean girls, friendship blood pacts and braces, Sleigh Bells’ breakout hit ‘Rill Rill’ was a chaotic, riotous chant for everyone who ever had to go through the horrors of middle school. (AS) (LISTEN)

041. Lizzo – ‘Boys’ (2018) (Atlantic)

In a similar vein to Charli XCX’s similarly titled song, Lizzo’s ‘Boys’ is great in that it both elaborates on all the possible great features of men, in addition to being, as ever, a dazzling display of Lizzo’s positivity and confidence. (EW) (LISTEN)

040. Alvvays – ‘Archie, Marry Me’ (2014) (Transgressive)

Painting a quaintly traditional view of love and marriage, of the go-straight-to-the-courthouse-and-elope variety, ‘Archie, Marry Me’ is 195 seconds of fuzzed-up and loved-up indie-pop perfection. Molly Rankin’s sweet gauzy vocals stand in stark contrast to the song’s roughly hewn, distorted major-chord rock, and that duality contains its appeal. Instantly making itself as familiar to you as a warm cardigan, Alvvays released the indie-rock love song of the decade, a tricky thing to do in the age of irony. (LISTEN)

039. Caribou – ‘Odessa’ (2010) (City Slang / Merge)

Alive with twitchy, nervous energy from its first notes, Dan Snaith headed in yet another direction for his first Caribou album of the new millennium, having earned so much love with the more straightforward song-based Andorra. Forcing together ‘90s house piano samples, clanging counter-rhythms and the deep-frozen house of early Hot Chip, Snaith filtered everything through his typical hot-meets-cold aesthetic, Swim’s lead single ‘Odessa’ felt like warm sunlight on a clear winter’s morning. (LISTEN)

038. Savages – ‘Husbands’ (2012) (Pop Noire)

The panicked, claustrophobic yelping of Savages’ lead singer Jehnny Beth in the chorus line to ‘Husbands’ reflected the mundanity and violence that can often accompany domesticity. The pulsing motorik bassline and the excoriating blasts of noise at the end of each line of the verse reinforced this push-and-pull dynamic, making for one of the most exciting debut singles of the decade. A more controlled version was recorded for the band’s Mercury-nominated debut album Silence Yourself, but the original wins out for sheer unharnessed expression. (LISTEN)

037. Todd Terje – ‘Inspector Norse’ (2012) (Smalltown Supersound / Olsen)

Opening with a swirling miasma of cosmic effects before settling down into an irresistible house-lite groove, Todd Terje’s calling-card hit ‘Inspector Norse’ was malleable to all kinds of contexts, from background noise at a beach bar to end-of-the-night chillout music. The Norwegian’s eye for composition was sharper than your average techno producer, as was his wry sense of humour. (LISTEN)

036. Christine & The Queens – ‘Tilted’ (2015) (Because)

The simplest of pop song veneers and an innocent, almost child-like metaphor of being out of the ordinary, whether by way of sexuality, physique, or anything else, are the two main building blocks of ‘Tilted’, yet Heloise Letissier’s penchant for pop music excellence manages to propel it into a genuine statement of empowerment for the disaffected. (EW) (LISTEN)

035. Young Fathers – ‘Get Up’ (2014) (Anticon / Big Dada)

At the end of the decade, Scottish hip-hop/indie trio Young Fathers have been continually breaking apart popular music to artful effect. That story truly started with ‘Get Up’, a song of DIY genius that’s equal parts avant-garde and Timbaland. Its success helped its parent album DEAD surprisingly scoop the 2014 Mercury Prize, and the rest was history. (EW) (LISTEN)

034. Stella Donnelly – ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ (2017) (self-released / Secretly Canadian)

Musically almost a lullaby in structure, Stella Donnelly’s stark and defiant ‘Boys Will Be Boys’ is a Trojan horse, discussing consent, victim blaming and rape culture in the form of a borderline soothing indie song, presaging the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements. (AS) (LISTEN)

033. Metronomy – ‘The Look’ (2011) (Because)

With its nagging, irresistible ‘80s synths and staccato groove, Metronomy’s commercial breakthrough ‘The Look’ was a cautionary tale about being trapped in your own constant self-sabotage and melancholy, all the while remaining mysteriously nostalgic. (AS) (LISTEN)

032. Kanye West – ‘New Slaves’ (2013) (Def Jam)

Aggressive and experimental, Kanye West’s Yeezus was a hard pill to swallow for fans of his older, gospel-sampling work, and ‘New Slaves’ with its eery industrialism and repetitiveness was definitely under this umbrella, yet excellent nonetheless, with an homage to the old Ye at the very end. (AS) (LISTEN)

031. St. Vincent – ‘Digital Witness’ (2014) (Loma Vista)

Guitar aficionado and queen of deadpan, St. Vincent’s ‘Digital Witness’ wasn’t the first brilliant song she wrote and won’t be the last, but it’s arguably the one that most completely encapsulates her aesthetic. Its brassiness and guitar wheezes, all the while critiquing our screen-focused culture without sounding passe makes for a modern rock song to remember. (AS) (LISTEN)

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