The 10s in Review: A Musical Playlist

What was I listening to during the 10s? Here’s a 40-song playlist on Spotify, alphabetical by artist.

For this playlist, I used the following rules:

1. Every song was put out in 2010 or later.

2. One song per artist; generally speaking, my favorite song from that artist during the 10s.

3. I actually had to have the song in my intentional music rotation, i.e., no putting stuff on that list just because it has cultural cache, even if the artist is otherwise a favorite of mine. So, for example, no David Bowie because I only gave his 10s albums a casual listen.

4. Conversely, no excluding songs that other people might find hopefully corny or unhip, because, well, sometimes one is corny and unhip.

5. No songs that I commissioned to accompany book releases, because that’s awfully self serving, even if the songs were pretty great.

6. No covers of songs, because those songs technically are all from another decade.

This is what we have:

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What do we learn from this playlist? One, that I listened to a reasonable slice of new music in the 10s rather than just merely retreating into old dudeness; two, that while my personal listening is fairly well balanced in terms of men and women, it’s still pretty overwhelmingly white; three, my primary mode of new music in the 10s appears to have been pop and dance, with nods to rock and R&B; four, that my musical tastes are not exactly obscure, although there are some pockets of weirdness in there.

If I had to pick my personal Artists of the Decade, i.e., the ones with work from this decade that I intentionally listened to the most, the titles would go to The Naked and Famous and to Kyla La Grange, which is an excuse to toss in another song from each here, in the form of YouTube videos:

I’m aware that this playlist is deeply at odds with the critical consensus of the most important albums/songs of the decade, but, meh. I’m not here to be impressing anyone; I’m here to tell you what new music I was listening to in this decade.

What new music were you listening to during the 2010s? Share some of your favorites in the comments, if you like.

33 Comments on “The 10s in Review: A Musical Playlist”

  1. TNAF are good live, too. There is probably about a 25% overlap with stuff I listen to on this playlist, I’ll check some of the rest out. Best band of the 2010s for me is Martha, a kind of pop kind of punk queer anarchist band from Northern England, everthing is great but especially their last two albums and the song “Curly & Racquel”:

  2. New music? For me, that means the ’80s, or possibly the ’90s.

    The new music I discovered this decade (which I will put up against anyone else’s list) is simple: The Mavericks. Yes, I know they’ve been around for decades, but I never was familiar with their stuff until a trip to New Orleans when a friend touted them. Raul Malo rules!

    Otherwise, please keep off my lawn.

  3. I’ve spent quite a bit of time this last year with Bastille(Doom Days) and Marina. Her latest album, Love + Fear, is on repeat. I would also add Paramour, well anything Hayley Williams was involved in and then Panic at the Disco. Still and all, this is a fine list and I’ll be listening to some of the unfamiliar groups on your list. Just like books, there is never enough time for all of the possibilities…

  4. I’ve been busy in the past few years fulfilling the stereotype of the middle-aged white guy who’s newly into EDM… more specifically DnB (though I’ve seen genre snobs opining that the stuff I most like isn’t *really* DnB… whatever that means).

    My favorite DnB artist overall is Feint. There are about a dozen tracks of his that I’ve had on a repeating loop at one time or another, including Horizons, Vagrant, Words, Mirror Signal, and Drifters.

    But I suppose if I had to pick one favorite song in this general EDM genre, it would probably be “Foundations” by MitiS:

    I’ll mention one other song. I’ve loved video games since I was a kid and continue to play a lot of them. Some of the music in games these days is friggin’ amazing, a fact that received some wider cultural recognition in 2013 when the soundtrack for the game Journey was nominated for a Grammy for Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media. The song from a game that I’ve been obsessed with lately is Keiichi Okabe’s “Song of the Ancients – Atonement” from Nier: Automata.

    This song, more than most others, benefits from being played loudly into headphones. It also helps if you can find a higher-quality version than this YouTube one, but it is what it is…

  5. I enjoyed Lorde’s two albums: Pure Heroine and Melodrama. But mostly I stick with music from the 90s and earlier.

  6. I have continued my preference for very slightly out of the mainstream but really, if I like it it’s going straight to easy listening radio – Lorde and Aurora (Runaway) are recent standouts for me. I was thinking of that the other day, having been fans from the first albums of Enya, Tracey Chapman and Sarah Mclachlan. Try escaping those three this holiday season :)

    The other thing I’ve been doing is following Above and Beyond, at least online. The weekly “group therapy” playlist is well worth it if you’re into the pop end of electronic dance.

    Sadly the other side of my musical taste is the niche end of a niche interest, and now that Gregorian (the band) have disbanded there’s no popular version of it at all. Tallis Scholars do some of it, but mostly I watch classical choirs and collect occasional releases from them.

  7. Joe P – didn’t realize there was a middle aged guy EDM stereotype, guess I’m part of it then, though honestly my tastes seem to go all over the place, every time I think “I hate this kind of music” I hear a song in the genre that I like. Definitely found some more artists to check out from this though, so thanks for this playlist!

  8. My artist of the decade is Sara Barielles and she is the only artist with 4 songs in my top 100. I have songs from almost every genre (no Jazz). But very little hip-hop (Beyonce, Janelle Monae(who coincidentally, made the best sff short film of the decade for me), and Childish Gambino, really). And the metal is almost all goth/symphonic metal (Lacuna Coil/Within Temptation). The amount of “country” music surprised me, but when I look closely, well, Chris Stapleton is country/blues cross over and the rest is “alt country”. Pop music dominates the 2010s for me. Rock music faded a lot, and I only found 1 real art rock/prog rock album that I enjoyed.

  9. New to me this decade that I have really dived into:
    Within Temptation

    Oldie that I only really discovered this decade:
    Stan Rogers

  10. Mike B- I suppose maybe not so much middle-aged as just white guy in general. I’m pretty sure EDM would have made it onto “Stuff White People Like” in the 2010s sometime if that blog was still going. :-P But then again, maybe I’m just less stereotypical than I think I am…

    Glad I could point you to something you liked!

  11. You missed the date target on at least one song. The version of Kids by MGMT in the playlist was released in 2007 on their first full album, Oracular Spectacular, and issued as a single in 2008. An earlier version was on their 2005 EP, Time to Pretend.

    Great song, though!

  12. I made a YouTube playlist specifically for this post. The last four are novelty songs but I still love them and listen to them regularly. But the Katie Herzig (first on the list) is the one that can cheer me up no matter what’s going on. The way the accompaniment builds for each verse just makes me smile. :)

  13. I’ve discovered and listened to a ton of Chvrches and Haim as well, and a little of The Naked and the Famous. In that vein, I simply must recommend Sylvan Esso, a duo from Durham, NC that I adore in equal measure.

  14. Wow, I can sort by year in iTunes! This makes it easier to figure out what I have from the past decade.

    Definitely soundtrack heavy. The soundtracks to SPY and SPIDERVERSE get heavy rotation. “Bad Seed Rising” by the band of the same name, “Cold Blooded” (Ida Maria), and “GO!” (Santigold) are my picks from SPY, and “What’s Up Danger” (Blackaway & Black Caviar), “Elevate” (DJ Khalil), and “Start a Riot” (DUCKWRTH & Shaboozey) are my Spiderverse picks. I’m also picking “Let It Go” by Idina Menzel from the Frozen soundtrack, shut up, it’s a good song, and I can sing the hell out of it, so there.

    Outside of soundtracks, I’m clearly a rock fan. Foo Fighters’ WASTING LIGHT is a nearly perfect album. If I have to pick one song from it, it’ll be “Walk.” Other rock choices would be “The Light” by Disturbed, “I’m Not Alright” by Shinedown, “Effigy” by Seether, “Satellite” by Rise Against, “The Perfect Cure,” by the The Nearly Deads, “I Need Never Get Old” by Nathaniel Rateliff and The Night Sweats, and “Monarchy of Roses” by RHCP.

    Pink’s THE TRUTH ABOUT LOVE is another favorite album. Picking just one song off it, I’ll go with “The Great Escape” because it’s in my sweet spot for singing. “Run the World” by Beyoncé, “No Light, No Light” by Florence + The Machine, “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon because I swear that fell through a time portal from the 1980s, “Black, White & Grey” by Khalil Fong. My TSwift pick has to be “Shake It Off.”

    I have a pile of random stuff I picked up on a trip to Iceland in 2013. My fave off those is “Út” by Ylja. I have not the slightest idea what they’re saying, but it’s tuneful and mellow. Thanks to the TV show VIKINGS, I discovered Wardruna. Again, no idea what they’re saying, but “Solringen” is one of my faves for the harmonies and rhythm.

  15. I happily retreated into old dude-ness ages ago. Luckily there is a ton of older music that is still new to me. Some of it is even good, too.

    Lately exploring the music of ‘Prefab Sprout’.

  16. Most of, if not all of the new music I was exposed to was on college radio. Different jocks had different tastes which lead to be exposed to different artists and music. Usually if I really liked a song by an new artist (for me), I would buy the c.d. that the particular song was included on. A very enjoyable way to explore new music.

    Some examples would be a very haunting cover of “In Bloom” by Sturgill Simpson. The c.d. itself is absolutely fantastic and the cover seems to be mesh perfectly with the overall theme of the c.d.

    “Down The Road” by C2C. I first heard this song on a college station that often went automated due to not having enough student jocks and the song would often be played as a bridge from one genre to another. Never really got into techno as a youth or as an adult, but the song was catchy enough to buy the c.d., which was overall very good.

  17. I don’t listen to songs per se, I listen to complete albums. Some of my recent favorites are Dream Theater’s The Astonishing, Opeth’s Sorceress (haven’t picked up the new one yet), David Bowie’s final 2 albums, Black Sabbath 13, and Obsidian Tide’s Pillars of Creation.

  18. iTunes tells me that I’ve listened to Abney Park, Steam Powered Giraffe, Mr. B, Professor Elemental, Meg Myers and Mike Oldfield … and that’s about it for this decade. Guess I find what I like and stick to it!

  19. For this decade iTunes shows me a lot of country/Americana (Sturgill Simpson, Tyler Childers, Kacey Musgraves, Elizabeth Cook, Lori McKenna, Kasey Chambers, Fred Eaglesmith, I’m with Her, Mandolin Orange, Sarah Jarosz, the Civil Wars, Ashley Monroe, etc.), some pop (Hold Steady, Sasha Sloane, Reina del Cid, Jonathon Coulton, Dawes, Lorde, Metric, Sara Barielles, The Weepies, The New Pornographers, etc.), and some miscellaneous (The Hot Sardines, Kat Edmondson, Alice Kristiansen, Allison Young, Blackie O’Connell). The last one is an Irish piper I heard in a small, crowded Irish pub sitting about 10 feet away and had to order a CD from Europe after I got back. I still listen to music from my youth (yesterday was devoted to The Beatles) but I probably listen to new music 75% of the time.

  20. Laura Stevenson is my favorite singer ever and I hadn’t even heard of her 5 years ago. So it’s been a pretty good decade in that respect. Mitski is also great and was pretty much unknown 10 years ago. The other big one is Cigarettes After Sex which is corny but also very relaxing which is exactly what I need these days.
    I could go through the rest of the list, but they’re all indy rock groups like Warpaint, Katie Crutchfield, Metric (very good decade for them), Field Mouse, Land of Talk, Lucy Dacus. So alot of white girls singing about stuff. Which is what I like *shrug*.

  21. I’ve been burrowing through the past for the last forty or fifty years–some of it has already been curated for me, and some is still being exhumed from the midden-heap of world culture–I keep being suprised by, say, late 17th-century Italian string music or a pop vocalist from the 1930s or a honky-tonk singer or jazz player from the 1950s I’d heard of but not actually heard. Meanwhile, Louis and Ella and Frank and Tony and Keely and Rosie and Patsy and Mel and Steph & Django and Duke and Count and Bucky and Zoot remain in heavy rotation. I’m not nearly finished with the 20th century yet–time enough to worry about which current musicians turn out to be keepers when I’m dead.

  22. Unless (long shot, but not impossible) I start working at a record store again after nearly 20 years doing other stuff for a living, my days of discovering new music for myself are pretty much over. Most of my faves of the decade I found through critics polls such as the “Pazz & Jop” poll at the Village Voice; I don’t want to present a list of faves that merely cherry-picks the high finishers there. However, there were four new albums I encountered this past year that I’ve enjoyed as much as anything since my teens – Vampire Weekend’s “Father of the Bride” and Sleater-Kinney’s “The Center Won’t Hold”, which put new spins on their creators’ old tricks, and Lizzo’s “Cuz I Love You” and Billie Eilish’s “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”, which follow very different but equally effective strategies for young women to make themselves heard.

    (My favorite songs from each – as of today – are “This Life” (Vampire Weekend), “Like a GIrl” (Lizzo), “I Love You” (Eilish) and “The Center Won’t Hold” (Sleater-Kinney).)

    I’ve also been immersing myself in pop/rock/etc. from the early 1970’s this past year; two “new” faves I’ve acquired this way are Delaney & Bonnie & Friends’ “On Tour” (an already terrific white r&b-singing couple go over the top when they enlist Eric Clapton as sideman) and Tom T. Hall’s “In Search of a Song” (a legitimate candidate for greatest non-compilation country album of all time, even after nearly 50 years).

  23. I fell into the Kpop well in the 10’s and still can’t find a ladder to climb out. I’m certain this is a minority position, but there’s some fun stuff going on over there.

  24. “Fire Drills” by Dessa is amazing and I love it and it makes me so angry. I heard her sing it live. She’s fantastic.

    “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done)” from the Hamilton Remix album, by Riz Ahmed et al is one of my favorites.

    I was introduced to “Antipatriarca” by Ana Tijoux by fanfic and don’t regret it for a second, and have since hunted down everything of hers I can find.

    “You should See Me in a Crown” by Billie Eilish is pretty great. I enjoy what she does with vocals and bass lines.

  25. I would definitely second the choices of CHVRCHES, Lorde, Of Monsters and Men, and Muse on the list. I don’t really have a regular playlist, mainly jumping around on Sirius XM in the car (I really love the feature where you can skip back to hear the whole song if you change channels and come in after it has started). I’d add in David Byrne’s American Utopia (go see it on Broadway if you can, I only saw the Coachella live stream and wished I had caught the show on tour). I still remember first hearing Lorde’s Royals on the low power independent station and liking it to begin with and then being surprised six months later when it became THE song.

  26. I was doing a hundred “best” (representative would probably be a better term) albums list for the twenty-teens a few weeks ago and while I’m open to revisiting my favorites for the second half of the decade Dum Dum Girls and Best Coast were certainly my top favorite bands of the first half.

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