2010s: Favorite 100 Songs of the Decade

"Psychadelic Passion" by Devante Xiyon

We are celebrating the end of the decade through lists, essays, and mixes. Join us as we explore the music that helped define the decade for us. More from this series


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PART 10: “BEYOND” mixed by Will Neibergall


“The Totaled Angelica”


[Total Stasis]

On one end of the world, a window cracks. A billionaire unveils an electric truck styled after a 1996 polygon render. A President is removed. A company’s stock rises. On the other end of the world, someone predicts the obsolescence of Human art. After all, machines have been making better choices than humans for a long time. This is just fascist Silicon Valley propaganda, someone replies. You say that all worlds are fake? Well, that is a thought not many can afford. Can you simulate hunger? Oppression? The punishing gaze of the Other? Would you? In the works of Elysia Crampton, worlds ended and spawned. Crystals glistened and found the reflection of beauty. Sparks and blood marked the trail of ascension. Pastures turned gray under the smoke of a machine, then mixed with the clouds. Things emerged transformed. A new time and a new world. A tumult in sound. Lacerating silence. Beyond.

Alex Zhang Hungtai



[NON Worldwide]

“Matrimony” is a timeless piece belonging to no decade. The space, the date, and the location are insignificant footnotes swallowed by the dunes of audio that engulf them. But if they did have some relevance, they would be motionless, life-affirming droplets of anti-gravity; a droplet of space, a droplet of time, and a droplet of spatial awareness that have all been excavated from some teeming synergy of voices. And when we listen, we are not alone. There are our hands that clasp at our open palms, as we stumble over rounded pebbles, broken fence panels, and neat piles of soil. There is no light. We feel unnerved, but we don’t want any more company.

Angelo Badalamenti

“Dark Space Low”



dark space low
    1. a potent dread untetherable to any specific memory.
    2. a violent reminder that you don’t remember whose hand you raised to ring the doorbell.
    3. the weightless whisper the door-opener passes to someone you cannot see.
    4. a pervasive schism: if things aren’t at all right, they are at least all that they are, which is to say neither wholly good nor effectively bad.
    5. a devastating blank stare at the end of time.
    6. a wind that moves across her hair and brings with it a roar of recognition.
    7. the return.
    8. the end.

Jefre Cantu-Ledesma

“Love’s Refrain”


[Geographic North]

A Kodachrome sun beamed throughout Tarentel veteran Jefre Cantu-Ledesma’s solo EP In Summer. The lead track “Love’s Refrain” evoked the humid thud of Dead Can Dance through a shoegazing haze: liquid guitars ricocheted off hollow drums, while a ragged bass drifted from pasture to dance floor. And yet we neither withered nor burned in the heatwave. Tangled in fruit trees, mangled tapes lathered more than lulled, streaking our gothic eyeliner across an August sky. Those seeking the postal code to this golden dreamscape will have to wait. Jefre Cantu-Ledesma is a sonic nomad impervious to the world’s demands. Wherever it is, he’s summered; he can’t hear us from his side of the shore.

James Blake

“The Wilhelm Scream”



This song’s arcane film trope reference may’ve been oddly suitable. But on this side of our brand new decade, Blake’s immaculate rain-streaked tweed sulker was known simply as “Entourage brought me here.” “The Wilhelm Scream” remains the ideal introductory James Blake song, even with the disorienting fever-spike distortion at the end. It masterfully flushed the listener with a numb rush of warmth, too assailing to be just another lament and too chilly to lull. It was a long, buoyed radar blip drift, somehow galvanized in its self-doubt. Not unlike much of what’s brought us here.

Yves Tumor




One of the only constants in Yves Tumor’s career in the last decade is his mastery of shapeshifting. There’s the noise on Serpent Music, the pitch-shifted new age all over Experiencing the Deposit of Faith, and everything in between on Safe in the Hands of Love. “Limerence,” from PAN’s Mono No Aware compilation, was a different kind of shapeshifting. Here, he slithered between memories, obsession, regret, and nostalgia through an intimate conversation between two people, one who wanted to take videos to chronicle their relationship so they could look back at them in old age, and one who was indifferent. I listened once, and I’m the one being asked to smile; on another listen, I’m the one asking. Sometimes I’m watching the conversation happen; other times I’m watching the older couple, now separated, thinking about those videos that could have been, for entirely different reasons.

Laurel Halo

“Light + Space”



Words are just words that you soon forget. At the end of a decade suffocated by empty forgotten words, these ones can’t be forgotten. On “Light + Space,” the stunning finale to her 2012 masterpiece Quarantine, Laurel Halo’s breath poured out in heavy plumes across the frozen tundra of our digital winter. The result was one of the warmest, saddest, most beautiful, and most human works of electronic music this past decade. It stands as a reminder that, somewhere in the cold night, there is a body, and a mouth, and a voice. And this, at least, will not be forgotten.

Panda Bear

“Tropic of Cancer”



In September 2000, a month after Avey Tare and Panda Bear released their first album, my father died. I was 10 years old. I didn’t discover Animal Collective until six years after that, when some friends recommended Feels. Merriweather Post Pavilion created an insatiable need for more, and I listened to track 5 from Young Prayer every year on my father’s birthday. I had a picture of Noah Lennox, his face covered in paint, that I ripped from a magazine hanging in my dorm room sophomore year. My mother asked if it was a picture of me. “Yes,” I responded, “but not in the way that you mean.”

David Bowie

“I Can’t Give Everything Away”



Existing under normal circumstances, “I Can’t Give Everything Away” would have been an excellent album closer, a note of serene uplift capping an album that often alternated between haunted and chaotic. Of course, David Bowie died two days after the release of his now final album, and this song has since become something else entirely. It is a farewell that resonates down to your very core. Major Tom’s final transmission from the great beyond. The reveal that, otherworldly as he always seemed, David Bowie was a fragile human being like the rest of us. In a career characterized reinvention, “I Can’t Give Everything Away” pulled off the act one last time as the curtains came down for good.

DJ Rashad

“Love U Found”



This is the only footwork track that made it onto this list. On one hand, that sucks; nothing is more important to the past 10 years of electronic music than footwork. On the other hand, it’s hard to praise footwork on the basis of individual tracks. That the genre ever left Chicago is thanks to the internet, and it works here for the same reason it works there: it isn’t the province of individual geniuses and their masterworks, but that of performance, the marginal, and the apocryphal. We collect bits and pieces of and tell stories about it; we don’t anthologize. DJ Rashad wasn’t given a lifetime achievement award or greatest hits compilation. His life, like the best footwork tracks, came and went too quickly to process. But at least he left us breadcrumbs like “Love U Found” — the splayed, stuttering Michael Jackson sample; the weird, plastic synth; that snare. Totally flawed and totally perfect.

Click to the next page to view and listen to the entire list.

We are celebrating the end of the decade through lists, essays, and mixes. Join us as we explore the music that helped define the decade for us. More from this series

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