Jonah’s Favorites of the 2010s
My jaw just about hit the floor when I was asked to rank my favorite music from the 2010s to celebrate the end of the decade.
"End of the decade?" I said. "It isn't still like, 2016?"
It took me a minute to fully realize that 2020 is only a little over a month away, but after a short existential crisis followed by some moderate dry heaving, I was ready to take on the new decade with the enthusiasm of a polar bear about to sneak up on some penguins.
And what better way to celebrate the new decade than by talking exclusively about the previous one? So sit back, relax, and try to forget that the best years of your life are probably behind you as I rank my personal top 15 songs, top 10 albums and top five new artists of the 2010s!
Remember: This is all my own opinion, you dummies.
The Top 15 Songs of the 2010s
15. Holocene (Bon Iver)
Soft, sweet and the perfect supplement to a night of binge crying. Bon Iver will forever and always be the musical equivalent of a pint of Neapolitan ice cream.
14. Waiting for You (Nick Cave)
There was a lot of Nick Cave to choose from for this list. Push the Sky Away and Skeleton Tree were both fantastic, but it was this year’s surprise release Ghosteen that made the biggest impact for me. I went with “Waiting for You” because boy oh boy does it make me feel some red hot feelios.
13. Something From Nothing (Foo Fighters)
I love “Walk.” I really, really do. It sits comfortably in the second spot of my “Top Foo Fighters songs of the decade” list. Above it is “Something From Nothing,” a song so awesome that it reopens the debate over spontaneous generation. While the rest of Sonic Highways was a little mixed, “Something From Nothing” stands well apart. Also, how can you go wrong with a song featuring Cheap Trick’s Rick Nielsen?
12. Skyfall (Adele)
Whoever had the idea to have Adele sing on a Bond Theme deserves the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidency, a $50 gift card to Potbelly and a crisp, well-deserved pat on the back. If you and your friends weren’t spending 2012 blasting this in your car, then you are (all together now) a lizard person.
11. In Any Tongue (David Gilmour)
“In Any Tongue” proves that, even at 73, David Gilmour is still one of the very best musicians out there. Songs about war are nothing new, but none in recent memory have been as arresting as Rattle That Lock’s resident entry. The guitar solo alone cements the track as an instant classic.
10. Lonely Boy (The Black Keys)
The crowd at the United Center just about went ballistic when The Black Keys closed out their show with this legendary banger. You know a song is great when you walk out of a venue covered in other people’s beer.
9. Julie (Rhiannon Giddens)
I have a soft spot for folk musicians, and Rhiannon Giddens is one of the finest out there. Taking inspiration from slavery in the Civil War era, “Julie” is an intimate, unflinching ballad about one of the darkest chapters in American history. This is a song that should not be missed, even if folk music isn’t your thing.
8. Everything Now (Arcade Fire)
Arcade Fire is a band that has continued to push the boundaries of how many people you can fit on to a single stage. All jokes aside, they’re pretty d*mn good, and “Everything Now” is proof of that. There’s no doubt that they’re a songwriting powerhouse, but I will always be skeptical of needing more than one triangle player.
7. The Ballad of Hollywood Jack and the Rage Kage (Tenacious D)
You might have some questions, but hear me out. First of all, this is my list. Second, does the order really matter past the top five?
What might seem like a profanity-filled joke song at first is actually a heartwarming ballad about the everlasting friendship between Jables and the Rage Kage. Meta commentary on the relationship between two comedic songwriters not your thing? The song also has a recorder solo!
6. On Melancholy Hill (Gorillaz)
While there’s no questioning that Gorillaz’s Demon Dayz is one of the greatest albums ever written (I played it on my show “Household Dragons” in full recently. If you didn’t catch the episode, you are definitely a lizard person) it does have a tendency to overshadow the rest of the Damon Albarn led project’s discography. A Gorillaz song is at its very best when it sounds like the lovechild between Britpop, hip hop and electronica with a splash of early 2000s Cartoon Network. Curious about what that sounds like? See below…
5. Madness (Muse)
Muse fans don’t always have to be clinically depressed English Best Buy employees. Some of us are very nice and normal people. Oh yeah, “Madness” is a pretty good song. What were we talking about?
4. Lazarus (David Bowie)
More of a retrospective essay on fame and mortality than a song, “Lazarus” is the crown jewel of David Bowie’s final masterpiece. The song’s groovy intro alone has been stuck in my head for the better of the last few years. The real highlight is the lyrics, which do an entire autobiography’s worth of reflection in only a few verses. It’s hard to make it through to the song’s final minutes without welling up.
3. I Don’t Know (Paul McCartney)
Paul’s still got it! I’ll probably get a George Harrison box set thrown at me for saying this, but “I Don’t Know” might very well be one of the greatest songs that the Beatles never wrote. I genuinely believe that you could shove this song into Abbey Road and nobody would notice. It at least deserves consideration for a spot in the pantheon of great McCartney piano ballads like “Hey Jude” and “Let it Be.” Egypt Station, on the whole, was a very solid record, but this song rises well above its siblings.
2. Don’t Wanna Fight (Alabama Shakes)
The frustrations of an entire generation boiled down into a three-minute track. I think you get the point.
1. Beast (Nico Vega)
I was heartbroken when Nico Vega announced they were going their separate ways after releasing their Wars EP back in 2018. Their discography is one of the most sublime collections of music out there, and I’ve made it a personal mission of mine to recommend it to as many people as I can.
Even after nearly a decade’s worth of amazing music, “Beast” is a song that transcends. Its message of empowerment is uncompromising, and its energy is palpable. It’s a song that reminds us that we still have the power to make the world the way we want it. There are a lot of protest songs out there, but none have ever gotten it so right.
The Top 10 Albums of the 2010s
10. Concrete and Gold (Foo Fighters)
Let’s be frank; you have no soul if you hate the Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl and friends have proven themselves time and time again that they know how to make a damn fine record, and their 2017 album Concrete and Gold is no exception. Heavy, moody and unafraid to venture into uncharted sonic territory, Concrete and Gold is an album that once again proves that your edge-lord cousin who says he hates Dave Grohl is full of sh*t.
9. The Tree of Forgiveness (John Prine)
If you were to compress a sleepy afternoon at your grandparent’s house into a thirty-minute album, you would get John Prine’s The Tree of Forgiveness. I’m a sucker for wholesome music, and the 10 gentle, earnest and endlessly charming songs featured on the album do not disappoint. If you appreciate a masterfully crafted set of folk tunes, Prine is a songwriter you dare not miss.
8. The 2nd Law (Muse)
And now for something completely different. It might not be everyone’s favorite, but Muses’s The 2nd Law blew my tiny highschooler mind when it dropped back in 2012. It’s been scientifically proven that you are a lizard person if you don’t at least get a little pumped when listening to the opening riff of “Supremacy.”
7. El Camino (The Black Keys)
Blasting these songs while playing video games at my friend’s house will always be one of the highlights of my youth. Ford commercial or not, you can never go wrong with The Black Keys.
6. Live in London (Flight of the Conchords)
Bret? Present. Jermaine? Present. Best live musical comedy album of the decade? Present.
5. Is This the Life We Really Want (Roger Waters)
As a psychotic Pink Floyd fan, my first thought was to throw the band’s 2014 album The Endless River onto this list. While it was a lot better than people say, I couldn’t put it on this list because a) it just wasn’t that great and b) Roger Waters and David Gilmour, the band’s most prolific alumni, both released solo records so fantastic that they nearly render The Endless River obsolete. Water’s solo album is a haunting, intimate and excessively brilliant look at what we are doing to ourselves and the planet we live on. The songs are simple but full of weight, and Water’s voice strikes a sublime balance between commanding and vulnerable. It’s the album equivalent of someone grabbing you by the cheekbones and scolding you for being such a d*ckhead all the time. I mean this in the best way possible.
4. Rattle That Lock (David Gilmour)
Yeah, I threw David Gilmour’s record on here too because it’s beautiful and I love every minute of it. What are you, a cop?
3. Sound and Color (Alabama Shakes)
Hey, I remember these guys. Is it even legal to produce music this good in such a short couple of years? Sound and Color is a sophomore effort so flawless that it makes The Empire Strikes Back blush.
2. 21 (Adele)
If I’m being honest, all I really want to do in life is angry cry into my pillow while Adele’s 21 plays in the background. This album has stuck with me ever since my mom had it on repeat in our old Toyota highlander, and hasn’t left my personal rotation since. There’s no way around it; 21 is a perfect album.
1. Blackstar (David Bowie)
When I was in Berlin over the summer, I made a point to visit the apartment where Bowie lived during his time in the city. It’s hard to really put into words how moving of an experience it was. Let’s just say that I almost broke out into tears in front of a few confused Germans.
Bowie released his final album, 2016’s Blackstar, only a few days before he passed away. It’s dark, moody and often grim, but also vibrant and full of life. It’s the most meaningful piece of music I’ve listened to in years, which is why I’m giving it the top spot.
The Top 5 New Artists of the 2010s
I’ve had the pleasure of rubbing elbows with some really amazing indie bands over the years by playing shows with my own band and through my radio show Household Dragons. I knew that I would be doing the world a massive disservice if I didn’t include at least one of them on here, so I decided that I would roll with a group that I felt represented the very best that the Midwest indie had to offer. Enter Biitchseat, the best thing to come out of Cleveland since Steve Harvey. They brought the house down at a show I played with them in Des Plaines and their new album “To Name All the Bees in the Backyard” kicks 31 flavors of a*s.
Legend has it that Thundercat’s bass was forged in the fires of an ancient funk volcano on the dark side of Venus. While that probably isn’t true, what is true is that Thundercat has been helping to keep the funk alive and well since his debut in 2011. His 2017 record “Drunk” is a masterpiece and would have definitely been on my list of albums if I had better taste. I also appreciate that his name pays tribute to our boys in fur.
3. Gary Clark Jr.
If blues-rock was a dying heart, Gary Clark Jr. was the defibrillator. Nothing more really needs to be said about the Austin native, who has been spreading the good word of the almighty blues since his 2012 debut. I saw him perform at Lollapalooza a few years back and my face is still half-melted.
2. Childish Gambino
I sometimes lose sleep thinking about what might happen if Donald Glover became any more talented. A rift would probably form in the space time continuum, causing the very fabric of reality to collapse in on itself. I also really really like the show Community.
1. Alabama Shakes
I am of the opinion that Alabama Shakes may very well be one of the best things to ever happen to music, so expect to see these fellas pop up a few times on this list. I knew that they were special when I saw them open for Paul McCartney (you know, the former Beatle) and I actually had to think for a moment about which set I liked more. With Brittany Howard’s solo career on the upswing, it’s hard to tell if we’ll ever see the group reunite. Whatever happens, they will forever be the best band to come out of the 2010s.