Samblage – A Decade in Review

snow on pine trees in Colorado

I’ve done year-end reviews before, but not a full decade retrospective.

I was talking with my friend Geoff, who used to compile what he called ASSEMBLAGE, a yearly compendium of his 100 top songs of the year. He’d send out a zip file with all the songs, and an iTunes formatting file to make sure the list was arranged in the correct order.

Anyway, we talked about doing a decade list, and he dubbed my list “Samblage,” for hopefully obvious reasons.

And then there’s my friend Dan, who dutifully (with joy, as well) releases his top 100 songs of the year, every year, counting down from 100 to 1 (a Kasey Kasem for the new millennium), only one song per artist, accompanied by a blog post that lists each song with a brief comment on why he made his choice for that song. Here’s his 2019 list.

I listen to Dan’s list every year, sight unseen, and comment to him on Google Hangouts about each track as it comes up. (Kind of like how I do my #ReleaseRadarLiveTweet and #DiscoverWeeklyLiveTweet over on Twitter) It’s just a fun way to listen, discover new music, and have an element of surprise. (This method was surely started by our friend Adam, who is big on this kind of formality. 😄)

So I’m copying Dan’s format for the most part. One song per artist for the years 2010-2019. (I don’t understand the people who say the decade starts in 2011 and ends in 2020.) Here’s a link to the Spotify playlist. And here’s a link to the YouTube playlist. Listen how you like, and feel free to let me know what you think!

100. “Easy Money” – Johnny Marr (2014) – His catchiest tune in a long time. No pyrotechnics, but there don’t need to be.

99. “SLOW DANCING IN THE DARK” – Joji (2018)- The first appearance of a song on the list that I learned about from one of my kids (there will be many more). Turns out the guy who came up with the Harlem Shake dance makes pretty good music.

98. “Tennessee Whiskey” – Chris Stapleton (2015)- This isn’t on my list of 15 favorite covers of the decade (+1 standard) because I didn’t know it was a cover when I first heard it. It reminds me of my father. I heard it after he’d died and thought that he’d like it as well. Found out from my mom that he knew this version before he died, and for that reason it feels like the last musical link to/from my father.

97. “Land of the Free” – The Killers (2019)- They haven’t released much lately, and I certainly wasn’t expecting this undisguised defense of progressive ideals from the band. Probably calculated to produce tears, and it delivers.

96. “Visions” – Cécile McLorin Salvant (2018)- Some songs, the lyric gets attached to a moment in time. “I’m not one who make believes/I know that leaves are green/They only turn to brown/When autumn comes around” I heard this while I was raking leaves, and the lyric opened itself to me.

95. “Indian Summer” – Jai Wolf (2016)- I heard this on the trailer to the (excellent) Netflix show Street Food. So many of the hooks that I love in modern electronic music.

94. “BREAKFAST CAN WAIT” – Prince (2014) – A sexy, funky jam by the master. I loved his sense of humor, and the pancake breakfast show at Paisley Park was so playful. He’s so missed.

93. “Holy Shit” – Father John Misty (2015)- The first song of his that I recall connecting with me. I like the Elton John vibe I get from so many of his songs. Great deconstruction of relationships set against the march of time.

92. “Ghost Story” – Charming Disaster (2015)- The best song I’ve heard about having your dead husband’s ghost as your lover.

91. “Deep Wound” – Swervedriver (2015)- One of the best shoegaze bands of the 90s makes a solid return. This is the most uptempo song on their first record back, a gratifying rejuvination.

90. “CIA” – New Politics (2017)- If the chorus of your song is this much of a banger, you bet I’ll love it.

89. “Gangnam Style (강남스타일)” – PSY (2012)- This song and video were everywhere. (The stables? The elevator scene?) I love weird stuff. This qualifies in so many ways. But also? It slaps.

88. “The Writing’s on the Wall” – OK Go (2014)- The masters of the epic video. I could just as easily have gone with “I Won’t Let You Down,” but I like this song a little more. Enjoy:

87. “Brooklyn In The Summer” – Aloe Blacc (2018)- This song came up on a Spotify-generated playlist and I had to listen to it twice in a row. And then so many times since. Ultimate summertime slow jam.

86. “Swim” – Surfer Blood (2010)- What’s not to love? Heavy reverb on the vocals, tasty little Sweet Jane motif that runs through, a jaunty interlude, cymbals drowned out by the treble of the shouts. So good.

85. “Under Pressure” – The War On Drugs (2014)- There are a lot of bands I’ve discovered through the Coachella live feed. Some bands I know but come to appreciate more through seeing them live, even though it’s not in person. I caught this song on the band’s twilight set from 2015 and it was transcendent.

84. “Turning The Screw” – Generationals (2017)- My friend Eric had turned me on to the band prior to this song’s release in 2017 and this just hits so many sweet spots for me. The keyboard bleeps, the arpeggiated bass. Catchy as hell.

83. “Paper Napkins” – Benchmarks (2015)- I’ve been following Todd Farrell Jr. for a while now and while he’s got so many great songs, this one connects with me as a former airline brat. I love the ending lyric.

82. “Humbug Mountain Song” – Fruit Bats (2016)- The backing melody along with the banjo riff are unforgettable.

81. “Heart in Your Heartbreak” – The Pains of Being Pure At Heart (2011)- Another song on the list because it reminds me of my kids. Along with that, it’s a great pop song, and Kip Berman’s breathy vocals are dreamy.

80. “Between the Wars (Charleston 1937)” – Mary Chapin Carpenter (2016)- I don’t recall where I first knew of Mary Chapin Carpenter, but what most stands out is her song “10,000 Miles” from the movie Fly Away Home. She makes such beautiful music and writes gorgeous, poignant lyrics, singing out clearly. Her acoustic guitar playing is what initially drew me to this track.

79. “Lost” – Secret Club (2015)- The most earnest song on an album filled with assorted smartassery.

78. “Intranquilité” – Christine and the Queens (2016)- Chris closed their 2019 Coachella set with this song and I love the urgency.

77. “Elephant Head” – Cold Specks (2012)- I still can’t get the phrase out of my head: “I predict a graceful expulsion.”

76. “Anytime” – Snail Mail (2018)- I love the phrasing atop the sparse guitar.

75. “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” – Frightened Rabbit (2010)- Are you fucking kidding me? Scott told us for years. I think we all thought he’d make it. He did, until he didn’t. Swim.

74. “V.A.L.I.S” – Bloc Party (2012)- By the time 2012 came around, I didn’t know if I’d love another Bloc Party song as much as I did from the first two albums. I’m glad I was wrong.

73. “Cruel Summer” – Black Marble (2012)- Not a cover of the Bananarama song (but there is a cover of that on my top covers playlist). Great goth synths, great goth refrain: “Draw the window”

72. “Pretty Pimpin'” – Kurt Vile (2015)- I love the guitar pickin’, and the lyrics are delivered in a lazy, cool shrug.

71. “Last” – Tamaryn (2015)- Stumbling upon this album was like finding water in the desert. I love her ethereal, washed-out, gliding music & lyric delivery.

70. “Appointments” – Julien Baker (2017)- Seeing her perform this live was a highlight of a rough few years.

69. “Addictions” – Lucy Dacus (2018)- Catchy song and love the stick work by the drummer. The video is such a cool concept & great execution, too.

68. “Dirty Sexy Money” – David Guetta & Afro Jack featuring Charli XCX & French Montana (2017)- I don’t listen to a ton of this kind of dance music but something about the orchestral stabs in the chorus & energy drew me in.

67. “Clouds of Saint Marie” – Ride (2019)- This decade also saw the return of the kings of shoegaze, Ride. The music they’ve released over a couple of albums the past few years isn’t following any sort of formula, and they seem to be having a blast. This is another floating tune, so light but captivating.

66. “Cover My Eyes” – Joan Armatrading (2018)- One of my favorite songwriters from when I first heard her music in the early 80s, she hasn’t lost a step.

65. “Diane Young” – Vampire Weekend (2013)- Quite a distance from the world music lean of their first album, this is a sampled & chopped & effects-filled barn burner.

64. “Follow Your Arrow” – Kacey Musgraves (2013)- Same-sex kissing and cannabis advocacy in a radio-ready country song? Yep. Her clever lyrics set her apart from an earnest bunch, and she’s delivered on the promise of this early tune.

63. “I’m Not Ready To Go Yet” – Teacup Gorilla (2015)- I was contacted by this band to look into their music and I really liked it. They reminded me of Yo La Tengo a little. This song is a rich, slow burn.

62. “RADIO” – Rammstein (2019)- Did I expect to have a Rammstein song on this list in 2019? No. No I did not. But this song kicks ass.

61. “Long White Line” – Sturgill Simpson (2014)- My dad and I connected over Sturgill’s music, too. Not only is this more in the alt-ish country music that I enjoy, it was faithful to old country sounds as well. I played dad a couple of songs and he took to it quickly.

I think about that, sometimes. The music that will come out that will remind me of him that I won’t get to share directly with him. Although – that’s how people live on. I’ll still get to listen to music with him. He just won’t be here in body.

60. “I Wanna Get Better” – Bleachers (2014)- This might be a little high on the list. But I do like me a good anthem.

59. “You’re Not The One” – Sky Ferreira (2013)- How is Sky not a massive star at this point? This album is so good. Full of weird, dark, classic pop gems.

58. “H.S.K.T.” – Sylvan Esso (2014)- Another band that didn’t really register until I saw them on the Coachella feed. (I should mention that I’ve never actually been *to* Coachalla. Just seen the live feed.) I felt so smart when I figured out what “H.S.K.T.” stood for. 😄

57. “Daylight To Spare” – Miles Wide (2016)- I also forget how I found this Denver band, but this sparse, haunting tune is just beautiful. I don’t even know if they’re still active.

56. “Closer” – Tegan and Sara (2013)- Honestly surprised this song is this far down the list, as much as I listened to it when this album dropped. I was pretty obsessed with this record at the time.

55. “Madness” – Muse (2012)- I worked at a company that had an office in Anaheim when this song was out, and I’ll always associate it with freeway driving in that part of L.A.

54. “Molly” – Lil Dicky featuring Brendon Urie (2015)- More or less the first song with Brendon Urie that I paid attention to. I like Lil Dicky. I just wish he hadn’t worked with Chris Brown.

53. “Lucky Guy” – Greg Humphreys Electric Trio (2016)- I call Greg a friend although we’ve never met. But I’ve always championed his music, and I’ve been lucky enough to interview him twice. One of rock’s true nice guys, he’s also got the talent and chops to back it up. I’m honored to watch his career. One of my favorite artists of all time.

52. “No Promises” – San Fermin (2017)- Someone asked their social network for road trip song recommendations. I recommended this one.

51. “Let Go” – RAC with Kele & MNDR (2014)- I do love Kele & funky jams.

50. “Casa De Mel” – Brad Goodall (2017)- My favorite song about slacker house sitters. I love the little shimmy dance he does in the hilarious low-budget video.

49. “Skin” – Soccer Mommy (2018)- One of my favorite artists of the second half of the decade. “I wanna be the one/You’re kissin’ when you’re stoned” is a great lyric.

48. “Goodnight, Fair Lady” – Coheed and Cambria (2012)- I didn’t listen much to Coheed before 2012 when this song and “Feathers” dropped into my consciousness. The hard pop stylings are right up my alley.

47. “Seasons (Waiting On You)” – Future Islands (2014)- Samuel T. Herring is undeniably one of the performers of the decade. You can’t take your eyes off him. See their performance of this song on Letterman for proof. I love at the end, Dave’s visibly excited, saying “I’ll take all of that you got!”

46. “Chinatown” – Wild Nothing (2010)- The ethereal echos in this song reverberated in my head for years.

45. “How I Remember You” – Matt Wertz (2016)- Matt set the acoustic guitar aside, went to L.A., and recorded an album of songs that by rights should have dominated the pop charts.

44. “Doused” – DIIV (2012)- Too uptempo to be a drone, but that’s what it feels like – a prayer, a poem. Repetition in service of something greater. I almost chose their new song “Blankenship” for this list, but listened back and realized it should be “Doused.”

43. “Wild Motion (Set It Free)” – Miami Horror (2015)- The only terrifying thing about this song is the sense of elation and liberty that it might inspire. You might just chuck it all and go dancing.

42. “Feels Great” – Cheat Codes featuring Fetty Wap & CVBZ (2017)- “Do you remember how it feels to be young?” “It feels great, motherfucker, yeah.”

41. “Birthday Cake” – Emily Kinney (2015)- Some songs come out of nowhere. Emily Kinney’s naked emotion and longing were so refreshing to hear.

40. “Funeral” – Phoebe Bridgers (2017)- So many great songs and lyrics from this debut album. She tells this story so plainly and beautifully, and sadly. “Jesus Christ, I’m so blue all the time.”

39. “Now” – Paramore (2013)- I wasn’t all that familiar with Paramore when I saw the video for this song, sound off, in the early morning dark. The imagery affected me so much that I had to listen, and it still makes me tear up.

38. “From The Outside” – Real Friends (2018)- I sense a theme: catchy riffs, pop guitars. But this song is more than just a confection. It’s a struggle through getting well.

37. “Parked Outside” – The Afghan Whigs (2014)- I was NOT expecting this opening statement from Greg & Co. when they resurfaced in 2014. In hindsight, I should have seen it coming. What a return.

36. “The Wire” – HAIM (2013)- I never don’t think this is “Heartache Tonight” and I’m always so stoked when that guitar squeal gives it away. This decade was rightfully dominated by so many great women in music.

35. “Spanish Sahara” – Foals (2010)- What would Foals do for a follow up to the frenetic math rock of Antidotes? Release a song that takes 4+ minutes to build. It remained the image of them I would hold through the decade.

34. “Let’s Have A Kiki” – Scissor Sisters (2012)- What do I know of NYC gay club culture? Nothing. But after listening to this song, I feel like I know *everything.*

33. “Baltimore” – Coastal Wives (2015)- I worked a day job with one of the band members, but this song isn’t on here because I know a guy. It’s because it’s got a great hook and is a well-written song.

32. “Clumps” – Lydia Loveless (2016)- Do all songs need an explanation? Or do you just need to hear them?

31. “Andrew In Drag” – The Magnetic Fields (2012)- Sometimes simple rhymes are the best. This song is me in my gayest dreams.

30. “Young London” – Angels & Airwaves (2010)- The most AC/DC riff of the 2010s.

29. “Like Sugar” – Chaka Khan (2018)- Refrain from dancing. I dare you. (Another great video, btw.)

28. “The Look Of Lust” – Standard Fare (2012)- “Lightning bursts through my ribcage when we’re close” Now *that’s* visceral.

27. “Bangarang” – Skrillex featuring Sirah (2011)- Dubstep was a genre I didn’t have much use for. Until I heard this song on an ESPN promo. This is craft.

26. “Silhouettes” – American Football (2018)- The repeated refrain toward the end of the song – “Oh the muscle memory”- sweeps me away.

25. “Lovers Come And Go” – Owen (2016)- It’s quite the ego that includes a song on one’s best-of-decade list because the opening line reminds one of a song of one’s own.

24. “TRUE” – Operators (2014)- My benign obsession with all things Dan Boeckner continues.

23. “Transgender Dysphoria Blues” – Against Me! (2014)- Laura Jane Grace is a goddam hero. A hero who rocks your face off while telling you their truth.

22. “Little Fallen Star” – The Lees Of Memory (2014)- Amidst the shoegaze resurgence, John Davis releases the best album of the genre in 20 years. A true classic, out of nowhere.

21. “Party Rock Anthem” – LMFAO featuring Lauren Bennett & GoonRock (2011)- A banger. My kids and I love this song. The video takes a horror/zombie movie conceit and turns it into a freaky dance fest. From Wikipedia: “Choreographed by and featuring Quest Crew members Hokuto Konishi, Victor Kim, Ryan Conferido, Steve Terada, Aris Paracuelles, Brian Hirano and Ryan Feng.”

20. “How To Be Mean” – Palmdale (2010)- I wish the band were still putting out more music like this (catchy riffs, pop guitars again). The song shift to coda at 2:15 drives me wild.

19. “Metroland” – Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (2013)- If you’d told me as a teenager that one of my favorite bands of all time would still be making really good music well into the new millennium…well, I would probably have believed you, because lots of artists do. But I didn’t expect the road that OMD would take would lead here. Nice guys making great synthpop? Still? Believe it.

18. “Lucid Dreams” – Juice WRLD (2018)- Fuck. I was really looking forward to hearing this guy’s music for decades to come. I never knew what the future of hip hop would sound like, but this is as good as I could have conceived.

17. “Juice” – Lizzo (2019)- Amazing album. Amazing live show. The build was so organic, and she deserves every success that comes her way.

16. “Tout oblier” – Angèle featuring Roméo Elvis (2018)- It’s a great song but that absurdist video was my initial hook. What can I say? I’m an MTV kid.

15. “Dance Yrself Clean” – LCD Soundsystem (2010)- I remember streaming this album on the NPR website and freaking the fuck out when the song kicked in at 3:04. What a fucking jam.

14. “Mars” – Hello June (2018)- That feeling of wanting to get away. To get to something better. However it takes to get there.

13. “Me & My Dog” – boygenius (2018)- Absolutely gorgeous. This whole project is fascinating and wonderful.

12. “Elephant” – Jason Isbell (2013)- I don’t know that I’ve listened to this song more than a handful of times, because it reduces me to a shell of tears every damn time. It came out after my dad was diagnosed with cancer, had surgery, and had chemo almost kill him. So that’s part of my perspective.

11. “Apple Of My Irony” – Maritime (2011)- On an album full of catchy songs, this may be the catchiest. Likely my most listened-to album of 2011.

10. “King Kunta” – Kendrick Lamar (2015)- The best hip hop of the 2010s. I’m sure some would argue, but you’d have to show me a lot to convince me otherwise. Reading the Genius annotations on this song showed me how much is going on here than just a hook lifted from Halloween and Kendrick’s rapid, relaxed flow.

9. “Hold On When You Get Love And Let Go When You Give It” – Stars (2012)- Danceable, blissful, and true. The best New Order/Peter Hook bass line since the 90s.

8. “This Is Gospel” – Panic! At The Disco (2013)- Another band permanently linked to my kids. I’d dismissed them as Fall Out Boy soundalikes but Brendon is his own talent. Hearing my kids cover Panic! songs will always be a source of joy.

7. “Lazarus” – David Bowie (2016)- His last album, delivered on his 69th birthday, two days before he died. A soundtrack to the many deaths in 2016. When’s the rebirth? Will there be one?

6. “Chocolate” – The 1975 (2013)- Lots of songs I could pick from this band that continues to evolve, but I went with the original.

5. “Olive Oyl” – Richard Edwards (2018)- I stayed at the Ace Hotel in New York City in 2014 and this song brings back many memories, and also a sense of nostalgia for things that never happened. That’s quite a trick.

4. “Judy French” – White Reaper (2017)- Fuck this song is catchy. Great riffs, impassioned singing. And the best lyric video I’ve ever seen.

3. “Grow” – Delorean (2010)- The best dance album of the decade. Euphoric. And that drop at 3:20? COME ON. You gotta listen LOUD, though. LOUD.

2. “We Can Get Together” – The Hold Steady (2010)- I knew of The Hold Steady before this album, but this was the one that got me hooked. And a yearning song about the joys of staying in and listening to records? That’s me.

1. ” Your Best American Girl” – Mitski (2016)- When I decided to do this decade list, there was only one choice for me for song of the decade. This song topped Dan’s list for 2016 and I hadn’t heard it until it came on that day in my headphones. I was in the office and tried to not show that I was crying by the end of the song. Soaring pain, searing acceptance.

And that’s it, my favorite songs of the decade spanning 2010-2019. I know I missed some. I have a short list of runners up on this playlist:

Do you have a list for this year or the decade? Let me know about it! I wanna hear what *you* like.

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