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Top 25 Rock Songs of the 2010s

on November 12, 2019, 12:30pm
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15. Kurt Vile – “Pretty Pimpin” (2015)

kurt vile b lieve im down album stream listen Top 25 Rock Songs of the 2010s

I’m not saying I need the chaos and bad news of the day sugarcoated or told to me with a smile … but it doesn’t always hurt either. Throw in a dusty beat that feels like it could stretch out forever, and you have Kurt Vile’s “Pretty Pimpin”, a song that understands perfectly well that some days are so fucked up or exhausting or confusing that you’re liable not to recognize the person staring back at you in the mirror. And while that may not be a positive thing, it’s where we are. To think back upon the 2010s, especially since the 2016 election push started, is to remember a lot of mornings where you didn’t recognize the person, the people, or the country right in front of your eyes. Hell, some mornings it’s been more than I can muster to try and sort it all out. But that stranger’s clothes? Pretty pimpin, I must say. –Matt Melis


14. Cloud Nothings – “I’m Not Part of Me” (2014)

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Every singer-songwriter has an anthem in them. “I’m Not Part of Me” is something Dylan Baldi had been working up to for years. The closing track off of 2014’s Here and Nowhere Else finds the Cleveland rocker chewing on the universal. Hampered by heartbreak and hamstrung by the past, Baldi is hungry for a new future, trying desperately to contend with what came prior. Who isn’t? In an age of constant reminders and living records, the past has never felt more exhausting, following our every footstep with every haunting move. So, when we hear Baldi snarl, “I’m not, I’m not you/ You’re a part of me, you’re a part of me,” it’s easy to relate: We all want that kind of elation for ourselves. –Michael Roffman


13. Arcade Fire – “The Suburbs” (2010)

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The third album by Arcade Fire was a breakthrough commercially and exposure-wise for the band, and its title track encompasses what 2010’s The Suburbs had in store for us. It’s “neither a love letter to, nor an indictment of, the suburbs — it’s a letter from the suburbs,” describe Win and Will Butler as they explore their childhood in surban Texas. Like their other work, the record is concerned with growing up and shines light on some of the darkness and hidden fears in a seemingly idyllic childhood and introduces some of the album’s themes, including war, youth, and loss of innocence. The song is about growing up in the suburbs and about becoming an adult in the suburbs — a methodical wasteland of barren strip malls, gaudy advertisement, and chain restaurants — and absorbing all the morals and aesthetic that a suburban life embodies. –Samantha Lopez


12. Sharon Van Etten – “Seventeen” (2019)

Sharon Van Etten - Remind Me Tomorrow

“I see you so uncomfortably alone/ I wish I could show you how much you have grown,” sings Sharon Van Etten on the lead single off this year’s Remind Me Tomorrow, a fitting sentiment to round off the end of the decade: Who were you 10 years ago, and how does it compare to who you are now? The standout “Seventeen” exudes a harmonious mix of despair and nostalgia for the naive teenage feeling of invincibility with the “grown-up” anxiety-ridden feeling of what that younger version of you would make of you now. She taunts, “I know what you’re gonna be,” at a bone-chilling vocal level: “You’ll crumple it up just to see/ Afraid that you’ll be just like me!” Do things really get easier or better? Or are we always that same insecure, head-strong teenager — only with more developed coping mechanisms? –Samantha Lopez


11. Angel Olsen – “Shut Up Kiss Me” (2016)

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There is arguably no better sound than a woman, confident in herself and what she wants, directly asking for what she wants, and that sentiment is embodied in absolute perfection on the track “Shut Up Kiss Me” from Angel Olsen’s fourth album, MY WOMAN. It opens with a refusal to stand down as Olsen sings over even strumming, “I ain’t hanging up this time / I ain’t giving up tonight” and climaxes with Olsen’s voice breaking cathartically into the lyrics, “It’s all over, baby, but I’m still yours / I’m still yours”. Built atop the chorus’ consistent demand to “shut up kiss me hold me tight”, Olsen’s directive is a love song for the end of the world, for those acutely aware of time, for those with no moments to waste reading between the lines. –-Erica Campbell


10. Lucy Dacus – “Night Shift” (2018)

 Top 25 Rock Songs of the 2010s

In an era that will be fondly remembered for its rise in female songwriters, Lucy Dacus stands firmly as one of the most captivating artists to arrive during the 2010s. On “Night Shift”, her tremendous talent for atypical compositions of dazzling quiet-loud dynamics is on full display. Here, she uses it to highlight the dichotomy of emotions stirring in an anguished but resolute heart, at once dejected and defiant. An impassioned declaration of self-worth delivered with Dacus’ graceful honesty, it’s a fitting theme for a culture more concerned than ever with addressing toxic habits. –Ben Kaye


09. Tame Impala – “Let It Happen” (2015)

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Tame Impala have quietly been setting a tone over the past decade for the trajectory of “rock” music. After 2012’s Lonerism was released to critical acclaim and received a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Music Album, Kevin Parker and band had a lot to live up to. “Let It Happen”, the first taste off their following album, Currents, finds them recombining their love of electronics and ’70s guitar grooves to remarkable new levels. The single is the musical embodiment of ease and relaxation, coupled with gorgeously produced bass nods and tight keyboards. During the opening verse, the music begins to fade as Parker effortlessly whimpers, “Just let it happen, let it happen,” and when the chorus picks up, he’s aided by gorgeously honest backing vocals and translucent synths, which add a layer of depth to already expanding horizons. –Samantha Lopez


08. Portugal. The Man – “Feel It Still” (2017)

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It’s rare that a band breaks into the mainstream eight albums in, but with the mass appeal of the contagious “Feel It Still”, Portugal. The Man did just that. At first glance, it’s a fun pop jaunt, but the band infused inspiration from political movements, the early hip-hop movement, and being a “rebel just for kicks” into the sound and lyrics of the track. Back in 2017, I asked lead singer and guitarist John Gourley about the crossover success of “Feel It Still” and if there was a foreseeable recipe when conducting such a hit. He responded, “It’s not about the beat. It’s about the lyrics, end of story. Tell your story, be honest, be true. Don’t give me another song that just says exactly what you think you’re supposed to say. There’s no time for it. There’s no point.” –Erica Campbell


07. Arctic Monkeys – “Do I Wanna Know?” (2014)

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The first time I heard “Do I Wanna Know?” live, Alex Turner looked out into the crowd as if to size each of us up. It felt more like the beginning of a match than the beginning of a song, and I don’t think I’d ever been so elated over the prospect of a fight. But guitar riffs, blues sonics, and daring frontman aside, at its core, “Do I Wanna Know?” is a love song. No amount of leather, bravado, or machismo can deviate from a line like “Maybe I’m too busy being yours to fall for somebody new,” and that’s the true treasure of the song, auditorily confident, lyrically diffident. –Erica Campbell


06. Car Seat Headrest – “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” (2016)

car seat headrest teens denial album new Top 25 Rock Songs of the 2010s

Will Toledo’s story will be one of indie rock’s most interesting when the history books on the 2010s are written. Signing to Matador after coming up as a DIY artist with notably knotty lyrics, the Car Seat Headrest mastermind made his songwriting skills evident on “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales”. It’s an improbably thoughtful examination of the internal struggle against external expectations, relating that dangerous constraint to both the captivity of orcas at SeaWorld and driving home drunk after a party. Making such a poignant point out of such disparate concepts — all tucked into such a rollicking track — takes some fascinating genius. –Ben Kaye

Click ahead to see the best of our Top 25 Rock Songs of the 2010s…


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